Friday, November 30, 2007

Lt. Governor Tim Murphy Said Worcester Train Line Announcement Forthcoming

Lt. Governor Tim Murphy is quoted in an article that ran in today's Worcester Telegram & Gazette that "an announcement about improved Worcester commuter service will be made in the a few days. "

I can't wait to hear what this announcement will be all about. I hope that they will (1) guarantee that trains will run according to schedule and (2) increase the number of inbound and outbound trains on the Worcester - Framingham - Boston commuter rail line.

The article was mainly about efforts from some Fitchburg and Leominster elected officials regarding improved commuter rail service to those communities. It sounds like the Fitchburg line riders face much of the same issues that impact the Worcester line - mainly extremely long commutes into Boston because of numerous train stops.

Fitchburg and Leominster are located west of Boston and they are very close to Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. Beyond the commuter rail, Route 2 is the main travel route into Boston for Massachusetts residents who live in the Fitchburg/Leominster area.

I hope my elected state officials (Jennifer Callahan and Richard Moore) will be advocating for improved service on the Worcester line!

MBTA out thousands in refunds

This morning's Boston Metro published a lengthy article about how the MBTA has had to issue thousands of dollars because of ongoing service issues.

For September and October 2007, the T refunded $262,142 to commuters mainly because of the dismal performance of the commuter rail lines.

As part of the T's "On-Time Performance Guarantee," 10,570 commuters received refunds in October and 12,659 commuters got refunds for September. I'm one of those commuters who has submitted refund requests! I would gladly trade in my refunded fares for better on-time performance.

The bad buzz for the T continues. Along with shelling out $262,142 in refunds, the T has had to deal with irate commuters (this blog is just one example of how angry we are). In today's article, the Metro noted that they are receiving hundreds of emails from commuter rail riders just in the past month. Commuters have said that the delays range from 10 minutes to over an hour.

Unfortunately, if your delayed train is only 25 minutes late, you can't receive a refund. The "On-Time Performance Guarantee" is only good for trips delays longer than a 1/2 hour. And the T has been very slow to process the claims.

Overall, the T is running at a 9 billion deficit. That's crazy money, huh? To help manage their debt, the MBTA fines the MBCR (the lovely organization that runs the commuter rail) each time commuter rails are delayed. Since July, the MBCR had to pay $782,324 in fines for poor on-time performances. In October and November, about 30% of all commuter rail trains ran late.

Everyone has an excuse. The T has excuses for having such a large deficit. The MBCR is blaming the new Greenbush line and "aging" equipment for train delays. Blah, blah, blah.

Of course, I don't understand why they needed to add the Greenbush line. Residents in Hingham and other South Shore towns were against it and commuters South of Boston already have a wonderful ferry service and they are in driving distance to both the Red Line and other Commuter Rail lines. If you ask me, Greenbush was one big waste of money.

As a Massachusetts tax payer and a commuter who would like to rely on public transportation, I would obviously like to see the deficits go away and the services improve. Please do this without raising my already outrageous monthly commuter pass!

Train Pet Peeves for Friday, 11.30.2007

Well the last morning commute for the month of November left a lot to be desired.

My top three annoyances with the commuter rail this morning are as follows:
  1. The Worcester - Framingham - Boston inbound train was 15 minutes behind schedule because the train in front of us broke down.
  2. There was absolutely, positively no heat in my car. To make it worse, the "heat" was actually blowing cool air. Too bad there isn't cool air in the cars in the summer. And it is brisk outside - only in the 30s.
  3. We had an old car. You couldn't see out the windows. Which is pretty sad because it was such a bright and sunny morning.
To think, it costs me nearly $15.50 a day to ride the train , not counting what I have to pay for parking at the Grafton station ($2.00 a day). For $250 a month, I should receive more than just a mediocre trip into the city.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

At Least This Wasn't My Train

According to an article in today's Boston Business Journal, last evening's commute for North Shore commuter rail riders left a lot to be desired.

Due to switching equipment repairs, commuters faced 2-hour plus delays!! The delays were caused when a Beverly train crossed over the North Station drawbridge and ran through a stop sign. Ooops!

There were 250 people on the train that ran the stop sign. Those riders ended up on another train. But hundreds, if not thousands, of riders weren't so lucky. Commuters who rely on the Haverhill, Newburyport, and Rockport line were stuck at North Station.

The MBCR claims they offered stranded commuters the opportunity to take a bus home. But a lot of those stranded dispute the MBCR's claims.

According the MBCR, an "engineer" caused the problem. Seriously!

I feel like I have to worry about a lot in regard to commuting - I'm either riding on a train that is really out of date OR I'm riding on a train where the trains employees may not be at 100% par.

Well, I'm sure the MBCR is happy November is almost over. It would be pretty bad to start the month of December with a 2-hour delay deficit!

The Train is Late! The Train is Late!

Well the November commuter rail performance reports were released yesterday. I'm not surprised by the results.

According to the Boston Globe, 3 out of every 10 suburban commuter rail trains ran at least five minutes late in November, matching October's dismal performance.

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. (MBCR) has apparently outlined 10 steps that aim to improve the commuter rail's performance. I went to the MBCR's web site (, but I didn't see the 10 steps that they're promoting.

According to the article, some of the 10 steps have already been implemented and some of the steps are still under negotiation. Why all the secrecy? Does this 10 step thing exist or is it just puffery because the MBTA and MBCR has been under increasing scrutiny by the Boston media?

James F. O'Leary, the general manager of the MBCR, was quoted in the article as saying ""I think it's going to take several more weeks, but I think we're already seeing improvement on some lines." O'Leary also noted that trains are only "officially" counted as delayed if the delay is longer than five-minutes. I would love to know if O'Leary (1) rides the commuter rail and (2) if he has been on the Worcester - Framingham - Boston line. Because I think he would be irritated if he had to incur daily delays.

The Globe article noted that 72,000 riders take daily round-trips. For November, nearly 1 in 4 trains were late coming into or out of North Station. Nearly 1 in 3 trains were delayed either coming in or leaving from South Station.

O'Leary goes on to blame the conductors. Both O'Leary and Daniel A. Grabauskas (the T's GM) note that employee issues are the reasons for the delays.

The Worcester line has always had delays. I can't imagine that delays from past years were all a result of employee issues. If your employees are that bad, then you need to correct their behavior. If it is something else, then don't just blame the conductors and train personnel.

Of course, Grabauskas was quoted in the article as saying "a high degree of confidence in the attention that [Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company] is paying to this."

How about the MBTA and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also try working to help solve the issue? If the commuter rails can improve their performance, more people will use them to commute. This will help reduce the number of cars on the road.

It all seems so simple. I just want the trains to run normally. I can handle an occasional delay, but I can't tolerate delays every day.

At Least I'm Not Alone

An article in today's Boston Globe about the Needham Commuter Rail line. At least I'm not alone in my train woe's. But I'm jealous that the commuters on the Needham line have an answer for their delays.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Old Choo-Choos

From today's BostonNOW. . . even though more than half of the locomotives servicing the commuter rail are past their intended service life cycle, the T says the trains are OK enough to provide "adequate service."

"Adequate service." Does anyone who works for the MBTA actually commute to work on a commuter rail? Maybe they're not taking the Worcester - Framingham - Boston line. Because I wouldn't call the service "adequate." I would define the service as "sub par."

BostonNOW found that 43 of the 80 engines currently in service were built 27 years ago. That is nearly 54% of all the trains currently being used - so 1 out of every 2 locomotives servicing the 12 commuter rail lines should probably be retired.

The stats get even better. Twenty-five of the locomotives (31%) in service were built between 1973 - 1975. The T feels that these engines are "new" because they were rebuilt in 1997. That's crazy. If I were driving a car from 1973 and rebuilt it in 1997, it would still be considered a classic vehicle today.

Yup. The T doesn't think that the on-time performance of the commuter rail lines has anything to do with the age of the locomotives. On-time performance for October 2007 dropped to 68.2%, with the worst performing lines running less than half their trains on-time. If the commuter rails were being graded in a school, they would have received a D+. I know my parents weren't thrilled when I brought home D pluses, so I don't understand why the T thinks that a 68.2% on-time rate is satisfactory.

Here's the best quote from the BostonNow article: ""The age of the fleet is not a factor as long as the equipment is properly maintained," MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

Well Joe, if the age of the equipment isn't the factor, then what is? You should be able to tell the commuters and tax payers why the commuter rails are performing at dismally low rates.

According to Joe, the maintenance of the fleet is the MBCR's responsibility. Nice way to pass the buck!

The MBCR did not provide a comment for the article.

Maybe the T can aim for a passing grade of 70% in November. But from my commutes this past month, I doubt that they'll get a C-.

Outbound - Inbound

I took the 6:05 p.m. Boston - Framingham - Worcester outbound train last night. When I arrived at South Station, the 5:30 p.m. train was still sitting there. So while I got to ride home on the normal 6:05 p.m. train, this wasn't a good thing. Instead of the 6:05 p.m. being a normal express train (meaning it doesn't stop at Yawkey, Newtonville, West Newton, Auburndale, Wellesley Farms, Wellesley Hills, Wellesley Square, and Natick), it turned into a local train and stopped at these eight stations. Instead of my commute being a 1-hour train ride, it turned into a 1 hr., 15 min. train ride. Not fun.

The good news about this morning's commute - the conductors collected fares and checked passes. But the train reverted back to only opening a few doors.

I'll be submitting a reimbursement for last night's extra long train ride.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Posted yesterday to Globewatch on A commuter rail rider who picks up the outbound train at the Back Bay Station, said that it is very difficult trying to figure out which train is the one you need to get on. Of course, the announcements for the trains make it even more confusing. Everyone is passing blame, but no one seems to be doing anything to fix the system.

And what does the T have to say - the Back Bay station is "outdated." They're spending $4 million to upgrade Back Bay, South Station and North Station (which call me crazy, but didn't North Station get upgraded when the new Garden was built???).

Since conductors are suppose to announce the arrival of each train as it reaches Back Bay Station, the T has asked for feedback from customers IF their trains aren't announced.

If you have feedback on anything related to commuter rail service, I encourage you to write to the General Manager of MBTA:
Daniel A. Grabauskas
General Manager
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
10 Park Plaza
Suite 3910
Boston, MA 02216

Tuesday Inbound Commute

Ah, late fall in New England. The warmest part of the day will be this morning. It was a balmy 60 degrees out when I arrived at the Grafton train station this morning.

I noticed something curious on the train this morning. . . all of the doors on all of the cars were open. Hmmm, so either "safety" is no longer a concern OR the conductors are taking some heat for the reports published last week about their working strike.

Well, Train Girl is happy that all of the doors on all the cars opened this morning for the inbound commute. I just hope all the doors are open tonight for the outbound commute.

However, Train Girl is not happy that the Worcester inbound train still arrived to South Station 18 minutes later than it's scheduled. PLUS the conductors didn't collect passes this morning. So I wonder how many people got a free ride into the city? I should be reimbursed $7.75 because that is the cost of a one-way ticket from Grafton to Boston on the Worcester commuter rail line.

Take one step forward, but you're still going backwards.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Your Train is delayed

The MBTA announced a new T-Alerts system this morning. Basically this is a pilot program where the T will send out updates regarding train, bus or ferry routes. Only 3,000 people can be selected for the pilot program. Messages about transit delays will be sent to a subscriber's email, mobile phone or wireless devices.

I wonder if this will work? I wonder if I'll be selected as one of the 3,000 pilot participants. The program will not be rolled out to everyone else until early 2008.

If I get this update in the morning, it will help me decide to either (1) drive to another train station or (2) drive all the way into the city. If I get this alert for the evening commute, I can always find a favorite watering home to call my own.

Commuting in Massachusetts

From MassPIRG's Transportation agenda:
74% of commuters drive to work alone in Massachusetts, while only 10% take public transit.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has 15 regional transit authorities that provide public transportation to 231 cities and towns across the state. While public transportation extends across the Commonwealth, I've noticed that within Massachusetts more and more businesses seem to be moving to the suburbs. I have quite a number of friends who live in metro-Boston but work in the suburbs. They've said that commuting on the Mass Pike to the Western Suburbs (including Waltham, Framingham, Hopkinton and Westborough) has become more and more difficult. Unfortunately, most of the suburban office parks are not located near commuter rail stations. And the commuter rail schedule is far too limited to encourage "reverse" commuters.

MassPIRG also noted that the MBTA is facing a downward spiral in which the transportation authority cannot generate the revenue necessary to achieve a state of good repair. This means that the T is unable to improve the service and quality needed to retain and attract riders and increase revenue over time.

No wonder I seem to maybe make it ontime to the office 2 out of 5 days during the week (on those weeks when I am only taking the commuter rail).

Back to Work Monday

So returning to work after a long holiday weekend can be tough enough. But a rainy Monday morning commute can usually be the worst way to start a work week. Today it actually wasn't that bad. I made it to work at a decent hour AND they actually put a newish train car on our line. I could actually SEE out the windows. I haven't been able to do this for a long time. Let's hope this isn't just an early holiday present.

The T Speaks

Posted in Saturday's (11/22/2007) "The Quotes of note" from The Boston Globe:

"Our customers are upset to irate."
general manager of the MBTA, on the frequent commuter rail delays

I'm irate . . .that's why I've started Train Stopping. I think everyone who relies on the T and especially the commuter rail should be irate. We are spending too much money to be receiving such a poorly run public transportation system. When I travel to other cities with better public transit systems (especially Washington, DC's Metro), I become so jealous of those lucky riders. Massachusetts is a wonderful place to live . . . our public transit system should be wonderful too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Perhaps there isn't a better day to launch a blog about the trials and tribulations of commuting by commuter rail in Massachusetts than on the busiest travel day of the year.

I've been commuting into Boston on the Worcester-Framingham-Boston Commuter Rail line for close to five years. And I'm tired of the delays. I'm tired of paying $250 a month for what amounts to second class service. If I could only get paid back the time and the money spent traveling into Boston on the Pike, sitting in traffic - perhaps I wouldn't have to commute into Boston anymore.

This morning I read two articles that have angered me and inspired me. The Boston edition of the Metro confirmed what I have known for months - that the commuter rail employees are actively waging a silent strike (

The second article, from today's Boston Globe, published yet another article on commuter rail delays (

I'm tired of waiting on delayed trains or sitting in traffic in my attempt to get into work. I'm motivated to take action and I hope I can inspire some of my fellow commuters to engage in a conservation that will improve commuter rail service in Massachusetts.

Happy Thanksgiving and here's to finding a blissful commute.

Train Rider!