The Dog that Never Returned


Well, let me tell you of the story of a dog named, Oscar

To his groomer in Southie Oscar rode the Uber

In the winter of 2015 on a tragic and fateful day

Came record snowfall and nothing gave way

Nothing except for the Redline of the MBTA


Later Oscar was put on the Redline in Andrew Square

But he couldn’t get off not for lack of fare

It was lack of service that was his misfortune

Well, he never returned

No he never returned and his fate is still unlearned

He was lost forever 'neath the streets of Boston

And he's the dog that never returned


This little ditty was taken from the lyrics of the song the Kingston Trio made popular titled “The Man that never returned.”  The original song depicted a fictional man named Charlie that didn’t have the money to get off the subway when the MBTA (Formerly MTA) raised the cost of a ride by making people pay a fee to get off the train.  The new fee became very unpopular among the ridership, but it made the MBTA financial solvent for a many years.  In the mid-1960s things started to change rapidly and the MBTA went on a twenty-year acquisition spree and grew very large expanding from just subway services to buses, trains, and water ferries.  However, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts funded any deficiency in order to promote public transportation and reduced automobile pollution.

In the new millennium the Commonwealth changed the rules again giving the MBTA a set contribution that did not cover either operating expense or capital projects.  This caused the MBTA to take on huge debt compounded by their obligation to cover some the costs of Big Dig.  This cause delayed maintenance, upgrades, and other operating issues.  This effect was highlighted in the recent series of snowstorms and service outages. Now it will take billions to get the MBTA back to proper operations. The MBTA system wanders through and under the streets of Boston.  There are many duplicate services, overlap routes, and excessive manpower costs. There is little optimization or modernization. 

Now think of this as your legacy application.  A 30 to 40 year old application will have wandered with many twist and turns.  Technology changes will make it hard to add new features and functions while 90% of the current functions will not be used. Costs continue to rise and IT management cannot even tell you what their staff members are doing, other than they are supporting the mission critical application. In upcoming CHAOS Tuesday titled “Recipe for Success” we will present one of these types of applications that went from 120 people supporting it down to 6 people.  In addition, Jim Crear and I talked about the MBTA and legacy systems in last week’s CHAOS Tuesday.




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Subject Matter

Optimizing Scope

About the Author:


Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson is chairman of The Standish Group. He has been professionally involved in the computer industry for over 40 years and has a long list of published books, papers, articles and speeches. He has a combination of technical, marketing, and research achievements focused on mission-critical applications and technology. He is best known for his research on project performance and early recognizing technology trends. Jim is a pioneer of modern research techniques and continues to advance in the research industry through case-based analytical technology.

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