Friday, February 29, 2008

"Grafton Train Rider" Submits a Concern to the MBCR

"Grafton Train Rider," who I wrote a post about last week, just submitted a "concern" to the MBCR this morning. The concern involved the fact that fares were not collected the outbound P533 train last evening.

Here is what "Grafton Train Rider" wrote:
Concern Information:
Concern #: 1971-5790515
Date Created: 2/29/2008 10:59 AM EDT
Date of Incident: 2/28/2008
Line: Worcester
Station: South Station
Departure Time AM/PM: 7:15 PM
Train Number: P533
Subject: Conductors did not collect fares
Details: Again, I experienced lack of fare collection - this time on P533 outbound 2/28/08. Your new schedule added 12 minutes to the arrival time to Grafton yet the conductor doesn't seem to have time to check passes and collect tickets on a half empty train?! I validated lack of fare collection with another passenger while departing in Grafton. He commented "Yeah, that is why I don't buy a monthly pass. I priced it out and it's cheaper for me to buy a 12-ride when half the time, the conductors don't collect fares."
I was on the same train as Grafton Train Rider last night. I actually don't know who Grafton Train Rider is, even though we depart from the same station. I know the conductor on the car I rode on did collect fares last night. Nonetheless this is such a frustrating issue - the lack of consistency in regards to fare collection. I would think that every dollar would count when you are a transit system running with a budget deficit.

It would be interesting to see statistics on the number of riders compared to the number of dollars collected.

Thanks for sharing, Grafton Train Rider.

Train Stopping Featured on's "New England Blogs"

This is certainly a Leap Day treat.

Train Stopping was featured today on's "New England Blogs" blog roll. I've created a mock-up showing the mention.


Kudos to the Feb. 28th P533 Conductor and My Leap Day Commute

I want to commend the conductor on the Worcester-Framingham line's P533 outbound train that left South Station at 7:15 p.m. train last night. Apparently one of the supervisors wanted to cancel the 7:15 p.m. train (it was late getting to the station), but the conductor really pushed to have the train run on time since there are about 400-600 people who take it. I thought that was great of her to stand up for us passengers like that. She's a great conductor.

I wish there was a way to recognize great performance on the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail lines. More often than not, most of us just have complaints ready to be filed (such as the following).

Now my complaint for my commute last night: when I got to the Grafton station, the parking lot was icy. Someone slipped in front of me, but didn't fall. Well I wasn't as lucky. I went right down and banged up my knee. I was lucky in that I wasn't seriously inured, but I'm concerned for other people who might not fare so well. Whomever is responsible for that parking lot needs to do a better job of sanding. The Grafton station is isolated and fairly desolate at night. If someone were to be injured, it could be a scary situation.

This morning, the P508 inbound was 10 minutes late getting to Grafton, but we arrived at Back Bay at 8:17 a.m., which is the scheduled time. Looks like the new schedule is right on target. (ha ha). Either that, or maybe Leap Year has an impact on the commuter rail's performance. Perhaps since today is Leap Day (February 29th), the train was able to "leap" a few extra minutes.

The on-time performance reports for the commuter rail lines should be published sometime over the next few days. We'll have to wait and see what the Worcester-Framingham line's performance was.

Happy Leap Day!

Driving into Boston and Amtrak News

Last night I had to drive into Boston. I was meeting friends at Audubon Circle in Kenmore Square (a great little bar/restaurant). The traffic on the Pike Eastbound was extremely heavy from the 128 tolls through the Allston/Brighton tolls.

I sat for a bit on the Newton portion of the Pike. I noticed an outbound commuter rail was also sitting at a stop. I think I saw the P527 Local outbound train. I always get my Newton commuter rail stops confused, but I believe it was the Newtonville stop. It was a bit past 6:00 p.m., so perhaps last night's outbound P527 was running late. Anyho, I noticed that the train was definitely sitting for a good minute. I was basically parked for about a minute until traffic moved again.

Watching the commuter rail train from the Pike, I was curious about why an outbound train would be parked for what seemed like a long period of time. It is too bad the MBTA/MBCR isn't better at communicating some of the "whys" as the "whys" pertain to the commuter rail. Maybe if commuter rail rides understood some of the reasoning behind different actions, people would be less likely to critique the MBTA/MBCR. Case in point - the last comment made to this post.

I know Train Rider is not critiquing the MBTA/MBCR just to be a critic. Train Rider is just trying to understand why a commuter rail line that used to run consistently without incident.

Since I, fortunately, do not have to commute into Boston all that much during the work week, I can handle traffic on the Pike. One other Pike-related observation I noticed last night. Since when has the Allston/Brighton exit become a three-lane exit? That exit has always been a two-lane exit, so I don't understand how it suddenly becomes three lanes. Drivers are way to aggressive - if drivers let everyone merge, then the back up wouldn't be as bad. It took me over 20 minutes to get off that exit and onto Storrow Drive (where I hit more back-up). Driving anywhere in Boston during rush hour is a crap-shoot. I could have gotten off at Allston and meandered into Kenmore Square via Harvard Street and Commonwealth Avenue, but that can be pretty dicey too.

While I was sitting in traffic last night, I heard a news story on WBZ-1060 AM radio about Amtrak. Here is the scoop from today's The Boston Globe: "Amtrak riders may face new hassles." Concrete crossties, that were supposed to last 50 years, are crumbling under the tracks the Acela high-speed trains ride on.

To address this issue and other maintenance work, Amtrak has decided to shut down the MBTA commuter rail track between the Back Bay and Readville stations for a four-day period from June 14th through June 17th. This will impact commuters who use the Attleboro-Providence, Franklin, Needham, and Stoughton MBTA/MBCR commuter rail lines.

Along with shutting down parts of the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail line, Amtrak will not be running trains between Boston and New Haven, CT. Bus shuttles will move passengers between those cities.

Here is what commuter rail riders will be interested to learn:
Pesaturo said T officials and their commuter-rail contractor will get more details next week and make plans for alternative June service for passengers at Hyde Park and Ruggles stations. "The project has benefits for MBTA customers, because replacing the ties will allow Amtrak to lift the current speed restriction" of 60 miles per hour to as high as 79 miles per hour, reducing travel time, Pesaturo said.

When maintenance work will be done south of Readville was not clear. Amtrak officials said yesterday they have no idea how many ties between Boston and Washington are affected, where, or how long they will take to fix.

Amtrak expects to spend $24 million over the next two years replacing cracked concrete ties in the Northeast Corridor. They have already replaced 5,000 cracked ties. In 1978 Amtrak began replacing wooden crossties with concrete ones. The concrete ones were supposed to last 50 years, but they haven't.

In other train-related news, I noticed this story about one of the Winchester MBTA commuter rail stations. Hundreds of pounds of concrete fell from the ceiling of the Waterfield Road commuter rail station. The MBTA is responsible for the maintenance of this station. Patricia Jehlen (D), A state senator representing Winchester, has contacted MBTA GM Daniel Grabauskas "expressing her concern" about the situation.

I hope everyone has a great Leap Day!


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Deja Vu Commutes

Last night's commute started the same way as Tuesday night's commute. This morning's commute was the same as yesterday morning's commute. So it is a "deja vu" commute.

Again, all of the doors, except for the ones on the first car were locked when we got to South Station for the P529 outbound train. They announced the train, still the doors were locked. There was a conductor on the track, just walking back and forth. Finally, the majority of us standing on the platform, went through the front door and then back through the cars to get to a seat. While we were walking down the aisles, one of the conductors was coming through and getting angry (p*ssed) that the conductors couldn't get up the aisle. I said, "well, this wouldn't happen if all of the doors were open." Not sure they appreciated that! We got to Grafton at around 7:19 p.m., so right on schedule.

This morning, the P508 inbound train was on time as well. We arrived ahead of schedule to Back Bay Station at around 8:12 a.m. I got off and took the Orange Line to my office. The Orange line was packed! Thankfully I didn't notice any disgusting public displays of affection on the Orange line. When I was on the Orange line the other day, a couple was really going at it. "Get a room," it is way too early in the morning to view that type of behavior. The T shouldn't be Skinamax.

The only drama during today's commute involved the parking lot at the Grafton station. I
I slipped this morning in the parking lot. I think they didn't sand well yesterday and it was cold overnight, so whatever is underneath the inch of snow now is icy.

It just goes to show how inflated the new schedules are. Yesterday The Daily Worcesteria blog posted a comparison of the "new" Worcester-Framingham commuter rail schedule. I encourage everyone to check this comparison out. Daily Worcesteria is absolutely right in that the new schedule amounts to lower standards for the trains. It's so infuriating as a commuter.

In other news, I missed this "Letter to the Editor" published in Monday's Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Since it appears that the T&G archives their articles after 14 days, here is the letter in it's entirety:
MBTA should be held accountable

The MBTA continues to demonstrate a remarkable lack of interest in improving service on the Worcester line or communicating effectively with customers. On Feb. 19, I arrived at the Westboro station for my usual train after being away from home on a business trip for a week. Imagine my surprise to discover that not only had my train (the 6:23 a.m.) been moved over 20 minutes earlier, but that the next available express was not until 7:14 a.m. These changes were made without meaningful advance notice or opportunity for comment. The 6:23 a.m. train that I have been using was consistently full and clearly well used. In addition to the inconvenience on Feb. 19, the new schedule, with Worcester express trains leaving over an hour apart at the height of the morning rush, doesn’t serve my work schedule well and will lead to a much heavier reliance on my car.

It is long past time that the MBTA was held accountable for its approach to planning and providing services on the Worcester line. Much has been written about the poor service, limited schedule and large number of late arrivals. The MBTA’s response this week was to reschedule trains without providing notice to its customers.

Honestly, if I didn't have this blog (and if I didn't ask Commute-a-holic to post news updates), I would have been in the same boat as Mr. Butterworth. My first day back commuting after a two week business trip and a holiday was on the first day of the new schedule. I agree that there should be a formal process in place that requires the MBTA/MBCR to plan ahead of time new schedule changes. Announcing a new schedule 1 1/2 weeks before it goes live is not acceptable. Most commuters are used to formal schedule changes that occur at prescribed periods.

Mr. Butterworth also raises some key points that a lot of us have discussed concerning the amount of time in-between trains on the Worcester line.

When will our elected officials and business leaders start to work to improve mass transit in Massachusetts?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Latest Worcester Line Commuter Rail Commutes

So, my commute last night was pretty much on time. The P529 departed South Station at 6:15 p.m. and I think we got to Grafton at 7:17 p.m. (scheduled arrival time 7:19 p.m.). That's not bad, especially since it was slushy outside. I heard it had been snowing in Central Mass earlier yesterday afternoon. By the time I was in my car, the snow had turned to rain and the roads were slushy at best.

This morning, the P508 departed Grafton at 7:09 a.m. and we were at Back Bay at 8:13 a.m. (scheduled arrival time of 8:17).

Sweet! Two on-time commutes ... knock on wood!

I know Commute-a-holic wrote a post about this while I was away on my extended business trip. But since it is near the end of the end of the month (and because I was away when the article first came out), I would like to revisit something the Worcester Telegram & Gazette wrote about on 2/5/2008. Plus, I noticed that the T&G only keeps their articles live for 14 days.

The article was title "On-time T trains pick up steam; Commuter service to Hub cuts delays." I found another site that appears to archive some of the T&G articles.

Here are the things I would like to highlight (and again, sorry if this is repetitious):
In 2007, 66 percent of commuter trains on the Framingham-Worcester line arrived on time, according to the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which runs the Commuter Rail for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
In 2006 and 2005, about 86 percent of trains on the Worcester line arrived on time. MBCR calls trains on time if they arrive within five minutes of their scheduled arrival time.

Officials could not pinpoint what caused delays to soar 20 percent last year, but blamed everything from bad weather and extensive track work to unproductive employees.

Over the last few months, on-time performance has improved for all rail commuters. Performance on the Worcester line, though still lagging behind the rest of the system, has improved from only 58 percent of trains arriving on time in November to 69 percent arriving on time in January.

CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said CSX initiated the now-regular phone conversations between transportation officials to improve on-time performance on the Worcester line.

He declined to elaborate what has surfaced in those meetings and directed questions about any specific changes made to improve service to MBCR.

"The important thing is MBCR, the MBTA and CSX started meeting, basically, daily to review the performance of the trains," he said. "At that point the objective is to find out ... what the issues were. There were a lot of issues."

The Framingham-Worcester line stops 17 times from Union Station in Worcester and South Station in Boston. It is one of the best-traveled lines on the Commuter Rail, carrying more than 18,000 passengers each weekday.
I wonder what the February 2008 on-time performance stats for the Worcester line will be? Will the 29 days of February show an improvement over January 2008? I don't know, but we'll know in a few days.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

MBTA GM Daniel Grabauskas Will Be Interviewed on Radio Boston on Leap Day

Thanks to Anonymous for this tip.

MBTA GM Daniel Grabauskas will be interviewed this Friday, February 29th (Leap Day) at 1 p.m. on RadioBoston. The segment is called "Is the T on Track?"

You can listen to RadioBoston on WBUR 90.9 FM

Here is the abstract about Friday's RadioBoston show:
The litany of woes is as long, and as old, as the MBTA itself: An $8 billion debt. Aging trains and buses. Maintenance backlogs. Fare increases. And now, the admission from MBTA general manager Daniel Grabauskas that the T has been secretly cutting trips from its published schedules.

The hope, Grabausaks says, was that cutting trips would cut costs.

That hasn’t happened. The MBTA is still saddled with a debt load among the largest in the nation for a public transit system. Riders say service has been declining for years. And this is one of the few issues where everyone on Beacon Hill seems to be in agreement: the T is in trouble.

But what to do about it?

This week, get on board as we search for the answer to that question. And another, one of Boston’s most famous: “Should we walk, or do we have time to take the T?”

RadioBoston is looking for personal comments from MBTA riders and bloggers on "how's your ride?" Posts can be made directly to the "comments" section on this RadioBoston page. Note: You must be logged in to post a comment.

Outbound/Inbound Commutes

I really hated the MBTA/MBCRC yesterday.

My inbound commute was late. And then last night, my outbound commute got even better. Get this - we got to the P529 train (which now departs South Station at 6:15 p.m.) and ALL OF THE DOORS ARE LOCKED!!! Honestly, the only thing I could think was a derogatory "WTF??!!??" I'm not sure what time we got to Grafton last night. . . I would say it was on time.

Not that this is really new news, but last night at South Station I noticed that they posted the on time performance for January. I already knew that the Worcester-Framingham line had the worst performance, but it was interesting to see that the Greenbush line had the best. When the media reports on the monthly on-time performance stats, I guess I tend to focus on the worst performing lines because that seems to be where the Worcester-Framingham line falls.

What I find really interesting is that neither the MBCR nor the MBTA post the monthly on-time performance rates for the commuter rail lines. I tried looking online to see if either agency posted these results to their website, but I couldn't find any links. Only the Boston bloggers are consistent in reporting the stats. I think it should be mandatory that both the MBCR and MBTA post the on-time performance stats to their websites. I just don't understand why there isn't a greater amount of oversight for these two agencies?

I took the P508 train for my inbound commute this morning. For the second day in a row, we were delayed. The train was 10-13 minutes late because of a medical emergency at the West Natick stop. I feel bad for the medical emergency, but really, can't we just get to work on time? Two mornings, two late arrivals this week. I ended up arriving to work around 8:41 a.m. So much for being at my desk by 8:30 a.m.

Mass Pike Proposes a Single Pass for Cars, Trains and Parking Lots

Officials from the Massachusetts Turnpike, looking to increase revenue, are proposing that a mass transit pass good for Pike tolls, the MBTA and access to state-run parking facilities be implemented.

In an article from today's Boston Herald, Mass Pike head Alan LeBovidge said he
"wants to establish electronic links between the Pike and other agencies that would allow people to travel seamlessly across transportation modes, instead of digging for change or different passes."
The Pike is looking to hire a firm that can create these "links" and make changes to the Pike's Fast Lane automated collection system. The T has met with the Pike to discuss this system. T riders who use a Charlie Card would be able to pay tolls and ride the T with funds being automatically withdrawn from the user's bank account.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Wormtown Taxi and I'm From Worcester

Commute-a-holic and I would like to thank Jeff of the Wormtown Taxi blog and Claudia Snell of I'm From Worcester each individually recognized Train Stopping on their "excellent blogs" list.

Wormtown Taxi said the following about Train Stopping in the "Excellent Blogulation" post:
Commute-a-holic and Train Rider tell it like it really is in the Train Stopping blog. You can read about the Worcester to Boston commuter rail PR in the T&G, but when you read this blog you find out what's actually going on.
I'm From Worcester made the following comments:
Oh my... this one made me totally re-think my previous thinking about possibly using the commuter rail to get to Boston for work. I'm not loving the Pike but it doesn't look like the train will cure everything either. Great information and much more realistic than stuff written by folks that don't actually use the thing.

Thanks Jeff and Claudia!

Train Rider

Monday Morning Commuting Rail Blues

You know it is going to be a bad commute on the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail's Worcester-Framingham line when . . .

... the train crawls through most of the stops on your route (even prior to the slow zone of Ashland).

... you have to go to the MBTA website from your Blackberry to determine what the problem is with the delay, as opposed to hearing it from the conductors themselves.

My P508 train finally got to South Station at 8:43 a.m., 20 minutes after the scheduled arrival time of 8:23 a.m.

The conductors finally made an announcement around Southborough. I mean, I could tell something was wrong the minute we left Grafton! The problem is ... if there was an announcement on the message board, I never saw it because it's located at the opposite end of the platform from where I stand.

As anyone who has been to the Grafton station knows, the stop is pretty desolate and the platforms are very long. The inbound track is across from the parking lot - you have to walk across a long bridge to get to the inbound track's platform.

There really should be more than one message board at stops such as the Grafton station.

And, as I expected, the train was PACKED this morning. It was the first Monday back since the end of the February public school vacation.

Good times!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Boston Globe Commuter Rail Article

The Boston Globe published an article about the commuter rail in Sunday's comparing the speeds of trains years ago to the commuter rail today. Even with modern progress, today's trains are slower.

Below are the best highlights from the article:
A few weeks ago, 6 to 12 minutes of travel time was added to the
Worcester/Framingham routes after complaints about tardy trains. The fastest
train from Framingham that took 36 minutes last month now takes 43 minutes
officially. A 76-minute train from Worcester now takes 88 minutes, according to
the new schedule. And so on.

Beyond the modern politics of train schedules, there are logistical
reasons why service has declined in some cases. In the old days, there were more
express routes, part of a schedule with built-in diversity for an era when
people relied more on trains. Overall, times on the old trains were less
consistent than today's standardized routes and some took a great deal

"We've moved this [far] along," said Mark Pazdyk, 31, a financial analyst
from Weymouth. "And the train system's still archaic."

Rick Patoski, Marblehead's representative on the MBTA advisory board, has
been looking at old train schedules for more than a decade. He says today's slow
scheduling is deliberate. He said he believes that many of the schedules are
padded with about five minutes of wiggle room, the way airlines change their
schedules to improve on-time performance.

The MBTA uses a private contractor, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad
Co., to run the
service and charges it $100 to $500 in fines for each train arriving more
than five minutes late.

John D. Ray, director of railroad operations for the MBTA, said that there
is no deliberate attempt to pad schedules, but that there are extra seconds
between stops because the schedules are rounded up to the highest minute. The
MBTA and Mass. Bay Commuter Rail said the recent changes on the
Worcester/Framingham schedule were made to reflect reality, not to doctor
on-time performance statistics.

Older private train companies saw a more direct relationship between
service and success, Patoski said. "They wanted to make a profit from the fast
As service has declined, "it's the wasted time for all the
commuters on the line, a huge economic cost to the region."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Missed T&G Editorial: New MBTA/MBCR Worcester Line Schedule Does Not Address Commuter Rail Needs

Thanks to Richard for calling our attention to an editorial about the new commuter rail schedule that appeared in today's Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Schedule shifts don’t address commuter-rail needs starts out with the following:
An adage holds that “two out of three ain’t bad,” but when it comes to on-time performance on the Worcester-Boston commuter rail line, two out of three isn’t nearly good enough. It’s not just about consumer convenience: Commuter rail service with an adequate number of trains and reliable on-time performance has the potential of becoming a powerful economic development driver for communities all along the line.

I absolutely, 100% agree with the above statement. The rest of the editorial is as follows:
There is no doubt that the demand for expanded service exists. Some 9,300 commuters use the line each weekday, including 1,200 who board in Worcester. Stations in Southboro, Westboro and Grafton also are heavily used. Commuters’ patronage of public transportation helps untangle Greater Boston’s infamous traffic puzzle and provides a two-way flow of workers and their dollars that promotes economic growth at every stop along the line.

Recent adjustments in the commuter-rail schedule should help align official arrival and departure times with actual arrivals and departures, easing the frustration of regular rail commuters. However, it does not address longstanding demands from area officials and commuters for an increase in the actual number of trips available to working men and women who want to use mass transit, whether their destination is Worcester or Boston.

For full two-way service, doubling weekday service to 20 trips is a must. That means city and state officials, working with the MBTA, must conclude negotiations with freight carrier CSX, which controls the rails, for acquisition of the crucial rail corridor with all possible speed.

Well written, T&G.

Friday's Commute on the Worcester Commuter Rail Line

This morning's commute was fine. Although the P508 train wasn't really crowded on the train this morning, it took longer to get in. Meaning for most of the week, we've been arriving at South Station at 8:20 a.m., where as today we got in at 8:24 a.m., one minute after the scheduled arrival time of 8:23 a.m.

We stopped outside of the Natick stop for a few minutes, although I don't know why, there was no explanation given.

The snow came on faster than I think they anticipated. It will be like that storm in December that snarled the roads for hours and hours.

Attleboro Sun-Chronicle's Assessment of the MBTA and MBCR (and other news updates)

It is snowing in Central Massachusetts. I hope that everyone has a good commute today. At least traffic on the roads appeared lighter - probably because it is a Friday of school vacation week with a snowstorm in the forecast.

Ted Nesi of the Attleboro Sun-Chronicle wrote a great column today about the MBTA and the MBCR. He profiles the T's former GM, retired from one T job but working in a different job. The T lets their employees retire with a full pension after 23 years. This isn't a bad gig. Maybe I should have skipped college and followed this route.

It helps explain why the transit agency is in such a terrible financial state - Michael Mulhern retired as GM in 2005 at 46 years of age. Since he had put in 23 years with the T, he started to collect a full pension - $130,000. He also accepted a job as the executive director of the MBTA Employees Retirement Fund. This job gives him a yearly salary of $225,000. Mulhern's annual compensation from the T (in both pension dollars and actual paychecks) is $350,000.

I'm not knocking Mulhern - he played by the T's rules. But something should be done to reel in the T's spending. $350,000 isn't a small amount of cash when you're $75 million in debt.

Nesi's column continued with this:
As commuters know all too well, MBCR, the private consortium that operates the suburban train lines, has hardly covered itself in glory since it took over management of the rail system in 2003. As of last fall, 30 percent of the trains were arriving late. On the Worcester/Framingham line, the problem was so acute that MBTA officials were forced to take action - not by fining MBCR but by changing the schedule, a sleight of hand that turned MBCR's tardy trains into timely ones. Last week's late is this week's on-time.

Despite all that, last December the MBTA board voted unanimously - after only 15 minutes of debate - to pay MBCR $700 million to run the trains for another three years.

There were conflicts of interest all over the boardroom. The board's chairman, Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, had to step outside; he was an MBCR employee only a few years ago. Cohen had also worked for MBCR boss James O'Leary in the 1980s, when O'Leary was general manager of - you guessed it - the MBTA.

It looks as if the only piece of the state transit system in good working order is its revolving doors.

On top of all that, the T is loaded with debt - for every dollar the MBTA spends, 27 cents goes to pay off old debts. Some of that debt comes from the Big Dig and should never have been the MBTA's in the first place.

Nesi saved the best for last. He closed his column with this thought:

There's no good reason why the people of Massachusetts can't have a decent transit system, just as residents of other states do.

Try as they might to foist the MBTA's problems onto so-called independent agencies and private companies, Beacon Hill lawmakers bear final responsibility for the transit authority's failings - there's a reason it's called public transportation. It's past time for Gov. Patrick and the Legislature to get the MBTA back on track.
Worcester's Telegram & Gazette published an update about the Department of Corrections employee who sent MBTA GM Daniel A. Grabauskas the derogatory emails. The employee resigned yesterday. His hearing over this issue was scheduled for today. The situation occurred because the DOC employee was frustrated over the commuter rail performance issues that have plagued the Worcester-Framingham line.

While Train Stopping does not condone using inappropriate language to attack a person, we do support writing in to the MBTA, the MBCR, and local and state elected officials to express concerns related to mass transportation - specifically the commuter rail line. We also understand how frustrating it is to experience such inconsistent service on the Worcester commuter rail line.

The Gloucester Daily Times also published an editorial this morning about the MBTA. They even came up with a terrific title for the editorial: "MBTA's next project: Rebuilding trust after admitted shortcuts."

It is one thing for a public transit service, such as the MBTA, to fail to deliver on its promised schedule because of weather, equipment failure, infrastructure problems or even incompetence. It is another thing entirely to promise something it has no intention of delivering.

The editorial provided an analysis about the "hidden service costs" that have taken place over the last few years. While the editorial board does not attack Grabauskas, he doesn't exactly get a free pass either:

It is good of Grabauskas to own up to what has been going on, but he is apparently still fudging the truth, since he suggests that this was all in the past. It is not. It is still going on, although at a reduced rate.

The editorial closed with this thought:
Still, Grabauskas should have done better. It is unreasonable to expect that he could have solved a long-standing problem with staffing the moment he arrived on the scene. But he could have, very quickly, revised published schedules that were intentionally misleading.

Government leaders frequently say the public trust is important to them.

The way to gain and keep that trust is to tell the truth.

Deceit is bad. What is even worse - the Governor and the state's leaders have not stated how Grabauskas and the T will be punished for their deceit. Will they even be punished? If Grabausaks were the CEO of a private company, I'm sure shareholders would be outraged by lies and deceit. Maybe if the private company were profitable, shareholders would look the other way. But the T is in a $75 million deficit and service is consistently bad on the rapid transit, bus lines and commuter rail trains. So what gives? Will anyone be held accountable?

The MetroWest Daily News essentially ran the same article as yesterday's Worcester T&G regarding the Westborough parking lot vandalism.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Dear Train Stopping" - A Grafton Train Rider's Letter to and Response From the MBCR

I received the below email from a Grafton Train Rider.
Dear Train Stopping,

I read about your blog in Worcester Magazine. I think it is great and now subscribe.

Fortunately, I am in Phoenix this week and don't have to deal with the new horrible schedule. I work in Cambridge and will likely have to take the 5:57 AM from Grafton. I can't believe how much this train was pushed back! Apparently, the people working in the Longwood hospital area complained about wanting in earlier train due to their shifts (probably they get off at Yawkey). I typically walk from Yawkey since I work near MIT. Usually, walking and taking Bus #1 (if in sight) across Mass Ave bridge is faster and more reliable than South Station, Red Line to Kendall and walking from there (I am sure you can relate). I am also angry about the 7:15 PM and subsequent local trains that added 13-14 minutes for the arrival time to Grafton. What gives here?!? These trains are rarely busy/late. I will be very upset if I miss the 6:15 PM express and get stuck on one of these slow boats to China!

I thought that you would appreciate this comment from Linda Dillon. I have started to report lack of fare collection as often as possible. There was no excuse for this incident as the train was not overly crowded as is typical.

A Grafton Train Rider
This is the response that Grafton Train Rider received from the MBCR:
I am in receipt of your e-mail concerning the lack of fare collection on your train (P508) on February 7th.

I agree that the lack of fare collection is a matter of great concern. I know you have received one response already, but would like to tell you that we will have people monitoring this trains specifically, and if necessary will assign a spotter over a brief period to ensure that the conductors are in compliance with procedure.

I am sorry for this shortcoming and I want to assure you that we are taking this very seriously, and appreciate your patience during our investigation.


Linda Dillon
MBCR Customer Service Manager
Thanks Grafton Train Rider. I appreciate the feedback.

I also agree that we should all be tracking when fares aren't collected. I've begun to do some research on issues that have plagued the MBCR/MBTA commuter rail lines and the lack of consistent fare collecting has been an ongoing issue. Seriously - for an agency (the T) that is basically bankrupt, you would think that they would be trying to get every dollar they can get. I can understand the occasional "free ride" (especially if the train is really late). Heck, I wish the Mass Pike would wave us through on peak travel days like Thanksgiving (when traffic gets backed up from Boston to Stockbridge). But not collecting fares on a consistent basis is a travesty!

Westborough Station Parking Lot Woes

There was an article in today's Worcester Telegram & Gazette about some recent vandalism. Nine parked cars were vandalized at the Smith Parkway MBTA lot.
More than 400 commuters pay $2 per day to park at the train station; many ride the train to their offices in downtown Boston. The parking lot, which includes a main lot visible from the road and a side addition surrounded by trees, is owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which oversees the commuter train system.

Chief Gordon said the parking lot falls under MBTA Transit Police jurisdiction, but they are rarely seen patrolling the lot.

So the MBTA contracts with the MBCR to run the commuter rail lines. But the T runs the parking lots? This is just really whacked.

It is a shame that the T doesn't do more to ensure that the parking lots are safe places to park. I know that I've been charged a "parking fee" after I paid my $2 because sometimes you accidentally place your parking fee into the wrong slot. Those boxes we have to use to pay our parking fees are a bit antiquated. The T is around to "double dip" on parking fees, but they can't ensure that our cars will be safe from vandals.

The Smith Parkway lot is an overfill lot.

One of the vandalized cars belonged to a Shrewsbury resident. He was quoted with the following:
“My expectation is just to have my car be in the same condition I left it in the morning,” he said.
I think we all have the same expectations.

1 1/2 Good Commutes Then a Bad Commute on the "New" Commuter Rail Schedule for the Worcester-Framingham Line

Ha! Not even two days go by on the new schedule and there are already issues on the commuter rail.

Last evening I arrived at South Station at 6:10 p.m. for the 6:15 p.m. P529 Worcester-Framingham train, only to be met by a swarm of people. Due to "equipment failures" the majority of the trains weren't even in the bays.

We departed late and I arrived to the Grafton station around 7:30 p.m. Overall, the train was about 10-15 minutes behind schedule. This isn't enough for a fare reimbursement, but this will affect the line's "on-time performance" rating for February 2008.

The commute was on time this morning. The train was definitely less crowded than yesterday. I bet people are taking off today and tomorrow for the end of the school vacation week. I don't think the heat was working all too well ... my car was lukewarm. Blah.

In other news, the big MBTA story yesterday and today was in regards to the new cars that were launched on the MBTA Blue Line. The Boston Globe wrote an article about the new cars yesterday and an editorial about the cars today. The editorial lead off with this sentence:
The T needs a financial renovation to match the quality of the cars.

"We're broke," said General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas earlier this month, explaining that the T faced a $75 million deficit for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. So how could it afford 94 cars costing $172 million? The federal government defrayed 80 percent of the cost, and the rest came from the T's capital budget. But federal aid won't pay the cost of maintaining the cars and stations, nor work down the $8 billion debt that consumes 27 percent of the T budget every year.

The Legislature thought it had solved the problem of T financing in 1999, when it allotted the authority 20 percent of sales tax revenue. That revenue source hasn't grown as expected. By maintaining the heavy burden of T debt and keeping in place expensive labor contracts, the Legislature guaranteed it would need to revisit the problem. At the least, the Legislature should consider moving some T debt to other state accounts, and reexamining the relationship between the authority and its employee unions.

The Patrick administration is also looking for new approaches to transportation funding, for highways as well as the T. While new cars are fun to ride and easy for public officials to celebrate, as they did at the Aquarium station yesterday, there is little glory in providing money to keep up day-to-day service.

Then the editorial board provided a bit of history of the MBTA Blue line. The editorial closed with the following:
Seventeen months after the Orient Heights gala, on Saturday, Dec. 6, 1980, the entire MBTA system shut down because of a lack of money. An energized Legislature got it back in operation in time for the Monday commute. The political leadership of Massachusetts shouldn't wait for a crisis to put the MBTA on a sustainable financial footing
I agree - the political leadership AND the business leadership in Massachusetts needs to ensure that the MBTA is on a "substantial financial footing." There is too much at stake to not ensure that the Commonwealth has an adequate public transportation system that serves citizens. Cities and towns are reliant on this transportation. Not to mention that our crowded highways can't endure more congestion.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why On Time Commuter Rail Performance Matters

My company just announced a new starting time policy. In the past, while we had "official" hours, my company was lenient in terms of when people arrived at work. With the new policy in place, employees will need to arrive at the office at a specific time. This means that, more than ever, I need to be sure that the Worcester-Framingham line runs consistently on this schedule. This will especially become pertinent if my employer changes office locations in Boston. It is anticipated that we are going to move to another neighborhood, causing my commute to be extended.

As I've said in previous posts/comments, the reason I created this blog is because I'm incredibly concerned with the less-than-stellar experiences I had riding the MBTA's/MBCR's Worcester-Framingham line. While most of my commutes up until mid-2007 were consistently normal, a number of different (perhaps interrelated, perhaps not) factors started to negatively impact the train's ability to be a reliable source of transportation. I would like nothing more than to see the commuter rail operate at a 95% on-time performance rate. The Worcester line is not even close to that metric yet and I believe many of us who are commuting on this line are skeptical that the "new" schedule is going to get us to where we need to be on time.

The great thing that this blog has been able to do, beyond serve as a place to document my commutes (and sometimes vent), has been to engage other commuters in discussing the issues at hand. Some thought-provoking comments were posted to a February 15th post I wrote. If you have some time, check out what other visitors have had to say.

One other thing I've been thinking of lately is the Back Bay Station stop on the Worcester-Framingham line. For some reason, I think it takes a long time to unload the passengers at Back Bay. Part of the reason is that the vestibules are so crowded, it creates a bottleneck to actually exit the train. I'm not too worried about it now, but if my office location is moved, I could see this issue adding an extra 10 minutes to my commute. That would not be good. In fact, that would be bad. Blah!

Good Commuter Rail Commutes

So my commutes were good last night and this morning.

For both commutes, my train arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule. This is good because the evening P529 train is now leaving at 6:15 p.m. instead of 6:05 p.m. In the scheme of things, that is a huge difference in time because typically the 6:05 p.m. trains ran pretty much on schedule.

Not to be a "Negative Nelly," but I will bet this scenario will happen. The Worcester-Framingham commuter rail trains will perform well for the next 6 months. Then the MBTA will raise fares and not expect a lot of backlash because, "hey - the on-time performance is actually good!" I hope this doesn't happen, but there really hasn't been a lot to cause me to be enthusiastic and positive about the commuter rail service. Blah!

Trying to remain positive this morning, I saw the following post on BostonNOW. This is a list of different ways the MBTA could try to increase ridership by launching a campaign that shows the benefits of using public transportation, especially since the cost of gas continues to rise.

I also saw an article in today's The Boston Globe regarding some changes underway at the Mass Pike. Hey - if the Pike can overall their structure, why can't the T?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MBTA Updates Via Email and Greenbush Art

Two more articles from this morning's newspapers.

The Boston Herald wrote an article about the official launch of the MBTA delay alert system. This system had been in a three month pilot test.

An art gallery near the Greenbush line is hosting a showing of art related to the Greenbush MBTA commuter rail line. This article ran in today's Boston Globe.

First Commute - New Worcester-Framingham Commuter Rail Schedule

I rode in on the commuter rail for the first time in over two weeks.

Update on commute with new schedule: the P508 train arrived promptly to the Grafton station at 7:09 a.m. this morning.

It was pretty crowded from Framingham onward.

We arrived at South Station at 8:20 . . . 3 minutes AHEAD of the scheduled arrival time of 8:23!

Perhaps this is a sign of good commuting to come?!? We'll see how the new evening commute is.

It's weird to be back at work in my office (and not working in a remote office on a different continent)! I also can't find my work badge ... weird!

Worcester-Framingham Line's New Schedule - News Roundup

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the MetroWest Daily News each published an article about the new Worcester-Framingham commuter rail schedule.

The T&G's headline was "New schedule drops one train - Early start, longer trip time in quest for on-time service."
This is the reality for most of the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail riders:
This train is scheduled to arrive in Back Bay at 7:19 a.m. It finally pulls into the station at 7:29. It reaches its final destination, South Station, about 8 minutes later. That’s 13 minutes after the time printed on the schedule.

The passengers are used to it.

“We can reliably count on it being late,” said Richard W. Curran, a Northboro resident who boarded the train in Westboro to get to his office at Liberty Mutual in the Back Bay.

Lawmakers and transportation officials have been pilloried for what commuters say is poor service on one of the Massachusetts commuter rail’s most-traveled lines, while other lines, including the Fitchburg line, enjoy upgrades. Still, 18,000 daily passengers continue to ride trains on the Framingham-Worcester line for the obvious benefits: no need to drive, to get stuck in traffic or to look for parking.
Trains on the Worcester line are notorious for being, on average, later than all other commuter trains, politicians say, because national railroad company CSX Corp. controls the line. The trains are old; the tracks are older. The late morning and early afternoon options are limited. Rain, snow and heat are frequently named as sources of delays. Passenger trains often are left by the wayside as freight trains receive priority.

And fares have continued to rise. Last year, round-trip tickets from Worcester to Boston went from $12 to $15.50, and monthly passes jumped from $198 to $250.

Last week the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced a new schedule, beginning today, for weekday trains on the Worcester line. The new schedule gives trains traveling between Worcester and Boston about 10 extra minutes to reach their destination, effectively changing the parameters of tardiness. Transportation officials say the new timings are more realistic than the old ones, because they factor in the time it takes to wait for signals and accommodate passengers at each station.
The reporter who wrote this article rode the commuter rail on Friday. Passengers interviewed were not happy with the new schedule.
Passengers interviewed on the 6:06 a.m. inbound train to Boston last Friday were disgruntled at the prospect of having to get to the station even earlier to catch the first train.

“It means you have to get up even earlier,” said Thomas J. Corrigan, who commutes from his Worcester home to his office at John Hancock Financial Services in the Back Bay. He pointed out the window to the pewter sky. “Look at it, how dark it is.”

Mr. Corrigan has been taking the train to work since commuter rail service to Worcester debuted in 1995. He said he hasn’t heard from a single person who was looking forward to the schedule change.

For a while now, he has been frustrated by frequent delays and steep fares, because he remembers when things used to be better. “This train used to be on time,” he said.
The T&G interviewed the MBCR. The MBCR played the "blame game:"
The MBTA’s contractor, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., says ridership has increased 40 percent over the last 13 years, which means trains take longer to load and unload passengers at each station. Other problems are blamed on CSX or the weather.
Former passengers are finding other options:
“The fares have gone up while the service has decreased,” said John Corrigan, Thomas Corrigan’s son, who rides from Worcester to work at Kaufman Rossin Fund Services in Boston’s financial district. “Frustration has increased over reliability. There’s a limited amount of trains, and even with those they can’t seem to be getting it right.”

Thomas Corrigan said he knows many commuters who quit taking the train to take a bus or drive into the city themselves. One of the familiar faces he used to see on the train, Jim Kinderman, joined a carpool in July 2006.

“We have a lot more flexibility this way,” said Mr. Kinderman, an account manager at Liberty Mutual who rides to work with two other commuters. The three men take turns driving, and divide the $100-per-month cost for their downtown parking space.
The T&G ran a secondary article about the new WiFi system. The article was mainly positive. I guess they couldn't find passengers who can't seem to access the WiFi.

The MetroWest Daily News wrote an editorial today about the new train schedule. The editorial addresses some of the issues related both to the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line and the T's recent admissions of "falsifying" schedules.

North Grafton Commuter Rail Rider's "Letter to the Editor" Published in Today's Boston Globe.

Is this any way to run a railroad? is the title of North Grafton resident Alex Edleman's excellent letter to The Boston Globe editorial board. Alex - Train Rider would not have been able to articulate any better your concise argument about the "new" MBTA schedule that became effective today for the Worcester-Framingham line.

Here is the letter in it's entirety:
I WOULD like to congratulate the MBTA on raising government-think to a level even the old Soviet bureaucracy would be proud of ("T Tweaks a train schedule to reflect reality: Says added minutes are due to longer stops," City & Region, Feb. 13). Instead of working to fix the problem of habitually tardy trains on the Worcester/ Framingham line, the T decided to extend the scheduled arrival times, and in essence pretend to have reliable service. This is analogous to turning up the volume on your car radio whenever the engine makes a strange noise. But for T executives, appearing to solve the problem is just as good as solving it.

In a year, no one will remember this little con, and the T management will congratulate themselves for achieving a 95 percent on-time performance - at which point they will promptly raise the fares. Bravo, comrades!
ALEX EDELMAN, North Grafton

The Globe also published a letter written by Doug Tillberg of Somerville who is the Director of the Association for Public Transportation. This was also an excellent letter addressing the issues surrounding the MBCR. Here is Doug's letter:
SOMETHING WAS missing from the article about the MBTA's decision to relax some commuter train schedules to account for the chronic tardiness of its contractor, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. Since as early as 2004, Mass. Bay Commuter has paid penalties in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for its consistent inability to run on time.

Now we see a crude fix for the problem: Train performance will not change; the scheduled time will.

The decision raises questions. Among them: Will the contractor, Mass. Bay Commuter, receive a windfall from avoided late-train penalties?

Particularly in light of the MBTA's distressed financial condition, perhaps the contractor should not receive an effective monetary reward for failing to abide by existing schedules.
The writer is a director of the Association for Public Transportation.

Alex and Doug - well done!!

Train Rider and I encourage commuters who are not satisfied with the new Worcester-Framingham commuter rail schedule to write letters to their local newspapers, their elected officials, the MBTA, and the MBCR. If you're shy - just post an "anonymous" commute here to the Train Stopping blog. The noise needs to continue - the MBTA and the MBCR should not be "congratulated" for implementing a "realistic" schedule. These entities - designed to serve the public commuters - need to work with CSX to design a truly "realistic" schedule that meets the needs of commuters who rely on the commuter rail as a form of transportation.

I found the "Starts & Stops" column that Train Rider mentioned yesterday. The Boston Globe's "Starts & Stops" column is published on Sunday's. It can be found online at Worcester-Framingham commuter Rail rider Christina O'Neil contacted "Starts & Stops" regarding the new WiFi available on the this commuter rail line. Christina's comments, published in the Sunday, February 17 issue of The Globe, can be found below:
Christina O'Neill was excited when the MBTA announced last month that it launched a free wireless Internet program on her commuter line from Worcester to Boston. She spends nearly three hours a day on the train and likes to get a jump start on work.

But O'Neill has not been able to log on for long, even when she finds a train with a Wi-Fi sticker identifying it as a wireless carrier.

"Consistently, I can't get connected until around Wellesley," about an hour into her 90 minute inbound trip, she said.

O'Neill has been checking every day, and asking her neighbors, but the system has been sluggish even when it works, she reported in a series of e-mails.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority says riders should expect some bugs as the project remains in its pilot phase. General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said in an e-mail that the vast majority of the 90 people who have e-mailed the T have been successful connecting. Other data gathered by the T shows 1,407 different visitors have logged on for an average of 32 minutes.

If you have a Wi-Fi problem or a suggestion, and want to e-mail the T, be sure to include the coach number, the date, time, and a full description of the issue. (

If you have a complaint, comment or story idea related to transportation issues, contact

I am sure that Train Rider will have an update about the first commute on the "new" schedule.

Thank you!

Monday, February 18, 2008

News Wrap Up: The Boston Sunday Globe Article About Commuter Rail Line Extensions

Happy President's Day. I return to work tomorrow.

The Boston Sunday Globe wrote an interesting article about how the commuter rail impacts the economies of the regions it serves. The article was mainly about the proposed line commuter rail line extension for Fall River and New Bedford. If the commuter rail line is extended to these communities, the expected price tab is $1.4 billion. The lines were most recently extended to Brockton, Newburyport and Worcester.

On Saturday, The Boston Globe published a short editorial about the Worcester-Framingham line commuter rail adjustments. The editorial notes the following:
Mass. Bay needs to do better, to avoid a monthly penalty - $195,324 in January - and to demonstrate that its parent, Veolia Environment, Europe's largest passenger transport company, can handle a complicated American system.

Casey Ross of The Boston Herald published his third article inside a week about the MBTA. "Bus-ted: T lied to cut costs." If the T is lying to try to minimize budget cuts, then will our state leaders do something to fix this agency? This is absolutely not acceptable.

T GM Dan Grabauskas seems to be on a PR tour, trying to improve his image. The Gloucester Daily Times published an interview with Grabauskas yesterday. "Running the 'T': Grabauskas finds it's sure no Registry." Grabauskas claims that he has made "progress" in running the T. Honestly, I know my experiences on the commuter rail have gotten worse, not better. So I'm dying to know where the "progress" is being made. He also blames riders for some of the issues.
Can Grabauskas be interviewed without blaming commuters, the state, the MBCR, the rising cost of commodities, the weather, etc., etc.,? What about assuming some responsibility for the MBTA's contributions to the ongoing issues plaguing mass transit in Massachusetts?

In yesterday's WEST version of The Boston Sunday Globe there was a good quote from a Worcester-Framingham commuter rail rider regarding the new wifi service. I can't seem to find an electronic version of this article. Essentially, the commuter said that she often can't pick up the wifi signal until she reaches the Wellesley stops. Since she gets on the train in Worcester, this is a good hour into her commute.

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Worcester-Framingham Commuter Rail Schedule Finally Posted to

I'm back from my extended business trip.

Thank you to all the Train Stopping visitors who shared their commuter rail experiences and insights over the past two weeks.

I noticed that the new Worcester-Framingham commuter rail schedule, effective on Tuesday, February 18th, was finally posted to the website. It was posted as a PDF.

My observations:
  • Funny - the 7:19 a.m. (P508) inbound train will now leave Grafton at 7:09 a.m. and apparently will arrive at South Station at 8:23 a.m. Um, 1 minute earlier than the old schedule? That's such a change!!
  • The P512, which now departs Grafton at 7:49 a.m., still departs Grafton at 7:49 a.m. but will now get to South Station at 9:08 a.m. as opposed to 9:00 a.m. Huh?
  • At night, the outbound P523 now leaves at 4:58 p.m. It's new departure time is 5:00 p.m. and it will arrive to Grafton at 6:05 p.m. the 5:30 p.m. (P527 - the local train that stops at every stop) will now leave at 5:35 p.m. and won't arrive to Grafton until 6:58 p.m. The 6:05 p.m. (P529) will now depart at 6:15 p.m. and it is supposed to get to Grafton at 7:20 p.m.
This is crap. Sorry for the harsh language, but this new schedule is crap.

The onus is on the riders now. We really need to let our voices be heard to let the Governor, the MBTA, the MBCR, and our state and local elected officials that this new schedule is not acceptable.

Why should the Worcester-Framingham line be a second rate line?

Train Rider is back and I'm ready to for some action. I would like to thank Commute-a-holic for maintaining the blog in my absence.

MBTA Chief Grabauskas Email Issue

Train Rider finally returned to Boston very late yesterday. Due to the extra day of travel, Train Rider will not be commuting into Boston today. Train Rider anticipates returning to the rails on Tuesday - the day the new schedule goes into effect on the Worcester-Framingham line.

Most of today's news surrounds the brouhaha over the nasty emails Dan Grabauskas received from an irate MBTA commuter rail rider who also happens to be an employee of the State of Massachusetts.

It is unfortunate that the press has chosen to focus on the fact that the person lodging the complaints is a state employee instead of honing in on the issue at hand: the commuter rail lines are not running even close to an optimal standard and no one who is in charge seems to really care about that.

This could be a perfect opportunity for the media to focus on the issues that have plagued the Worcester-Framingham line for nearly a year. Of course, the media probably thinks the issues have been "resolved" since a new "accurate" schedule will be implemented on Tuesday. What the media is failing to miss is the fact that this new schedule may cause more cars to be on already congested highways because the new times do not jive with someone's schedule. Plus the riders who are going to remain may still be riding on trains that don't arrive at their destination on time, may or may not have heat, may be overcrowded, and may not have their fares collected.

Here is the media run down on the Grabauskas controversy this morning:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is the "Realistic" Schedule Fair to Riders of the MBTA/MBCR Worcester-Framingham Commuter Rail Line?

Train Rider is still abroad. Due to airline schedules, Train Rider did not arrive back into the US last night. I do not have an ETA for when Train Rider will return to the states. My guess - sometime today (meaning Train Rider may not be riding the rails tomorrow due to the time zone changes).

Even though Train Rider is still away, there was a lot of news in today's papers about the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail.

"New" Worcester-Framingham Commuter Rail Schedule:
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette published an opinion piece in today's paper about the "new" MBTA/MBCR train schedule for the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.

The new train schedule will go into effect on Tuesday, February 19th, the day after the President's Day holiday.

The T&G's editorial staff "agrees" with the new schedule:
We agree with MBCR officails who said the new schedule is "more realistic" and should help to decrease passenger complaints about on-time arrivals.
While the new schedule may be "more realistic" is it a fair compromise for riders? It looks like riders, especially those who live in the greater Worcester area, will face longer days. The trains are departing earlier in the morning for the trip into Boston and later in the evening for the return trip home.

Can the MBTA/MBCR deliver "on-time performance" results with the new schedule? That remains to be seen.

The editorial staff also noted the following:
The schedule changes are most welcome. The next step the MBTA must take is to bring the Worcester-Boston line to its long-promised full schedule of 20 round trips each weekday.
Central Massachusetts residents deserve reliable and efficient commuter rail service. Now is the time to work with elected officials to (1) establish "reasonable" schedules and (2) ensure that the commuter rail is an efficient service for the cities and towns located west of Boston.

MBTA GM Daniel Grabauskas Accuses Governor Deval Patrick of "Inaction" Over Inappropriate Emails

In today's Boston Herald, Casey Ross wrote a piece about how Grabauskas claims the Governor has been slow to react to a string of emails that used derogatory and obscene language to refer to Mr. Grabauskas.

A commuter rail rider turned to using derogatory language over the course of a seven-month period of contacting Grabauskas over the late service and other problems plaguing the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line. This rider works for the Department of Corrections and he has been placed on paid suspension.

While Train Stopping does not condone the tactics employed by this rider, we whole heartedly understand the frustration of increasingly poor service without any response from the MBTA. Once again, we think Mr. Grabauskas should commute for a period of time from Worcester to see how poor the experience is. Even with the new "adjusted" times, there isn't a lot of optimism about the effectiveness of the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.

Honestly, I think a lot of people probably agree with the emails this rider sent in:

“Fire the (expletive) Grabauskas, as he is as useless as (expletive) on a bull,” Roberts wrote in one e-mail sent Jan. 14, according to a copy provided to the Herald.

In another message dated Dec. 11, 2007, he allegedly wrote, “Run the (expletive) trains on time or fire someone, how about starting with Grabauskas(?)”

Commuter Rail Issues for Lines North of Boston

The Gloucester Daily Times reported on the meeting held earlier this week by the MBTA and local North Shore community officials for residents who rely on some of the northern commuter rail lines.

Riders in attendance at the meeting complained "about late and dirty trains, rising ticket prices and unresponsive officials." All the lines seem to have similar issues, huh?
"I pay $168 per month to travel into Boston from Salem, and I've seen nothing but poor quality," said Beth Curley of Peabody.

The everyday commuters at the meeting, however, did not accept MBTA officials' explanations for the more basic problems with train service. They said trains are regularly late, don't have enough ticket-takers and are filthy.

Mary Anne DiAnno of Beverly waved a written list of trains she said had arrived late. She said she was so fed up at the lack of response to her complaints that one day she walked into the Boston office of Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, the private company that runs the trains for the MBTA.

DiAnno said the woman she spoke with blamed everything on the MBTA.

"You guys are fighting each other. You're supposed to be working together," she said. "It's all lies and miscommunication. We're fed up."


North Shore riders even complained that the South Shore seems to get all the new trains. The MBTA claims that 70% of the commuter rail's ridership is out of the South Shore. I wonder if that stat can be verified?

The Salem News published an editorial about how people have stopped riding the commuter rail because of issues ranging from parking to latent service.
There's one group MBTA officials failed to hear from when they came to Beverly Tuesday night to talk about service on the commuter rail lines. Those are the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who have given up on the train for lack of parking.

The result is that many potential riders — despite the complaints heard Tuesday, the train is generally a cost-effective and reliable means of getting into Boston — don't even bother trying anymore.

In recent years, political pressure has prompted the construction of large parking facilities in places like Lynn and Lawrence. Yet these stand empty, while commuters arriving at the Beverly or Salem depots after 7 in the morning are hard-pressed to find a place to put their vehicles.

There have been promises galore over the years, yet not a single shovelful of dirt has been moved for the construction of a new garage in either place. Yet such facilities could play a major role in both cities' downtown revitalization efforts, would yield new revenue for the T and might cut down on the number of cars using our overcrowded highways to get to and from work. Construction of these garages should be a priority

Perhaps the time is now for the Governor and state leaders to really take a look at mass transportation in Massachusetts. The problems are systematic. If the state could improve mass transit, especially the commuter rail system, more drivers would opt to take the commuter rail than drive on traffic congested highways.Publish Post

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Rumors are True: MBTA/MBCR Changes Train Times on the Worcester-Framingham Commuter Rail Line

The rumors riders have been alluding to are true. The MBTA/MBCR will be adjusting the times for the Worcester-Framingham trains to make the departure/arrival times "realistic."

Inbound trains running from Worcester to Boston in the morning will now depart 10 to 20 minutes earlier. Outbound trains running from Boston to Worcester will depart 5 to 10 minutes later.

The MBCR's GM James F. O'Leary was quoted in both the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and on Boston Globe as saying the new schedules are "more realistic."

From the T&G article:
MBCR listed several reasons for modifying the schedule. Ridership has grown 40 percent since the Worcester line opened in 1995, and the increase in passengers has increased the amount of time trains linger at each of the line’s 17 stations. Federal regulations enacted in 2005 require trains leaving a station to reduce speed until they observe the next controlling signal, which MBCR says adds several minutes to travel time. And since 2006, railroad company CSX, which owns the tracks and controls signaling between Worcester and Boston, has restricted the speed of trains leaving and entering Union Station to 10 miles per hour.

Wellesley state rep Alice Hanlon Peisch (D) was quoted in both The Boston Globe and on BostonNOW:
"If these trains are never going to be on time, it is far better for the commuter to have the time reflect the reality," Peisch said.

The new Worcester-Framingham schedule is now available on the MBTA and MBCR websites. The MBCR also plans on emailing riders and making announcements at the stations.

Thanks also to Train Stopping reader DJHeini for a comment about today's announcement.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Issues on the Haverhill Commuter Rail Line are Similar to the Worcester-Framingham and Franklin Lines

From last week's North edition of The Boston Globe, an article about the issues on the Haverhill commuter rail line.

Even though the Haverhill line goes into North Station, the issues sound really similar to the same ones that plague the Worcester-Framingham and Franklin lines. These issues include:
  • Lack of consistent collection of fares.
  • Difficulty in getting on/off the train - passengers are sometimes limited to only using a few of the train's doors.
What did the MBCR have to say in regards to the fare situation:

When notified of the complaint, Mass. Bay Commuter Rail spokesman Scott Farmelant said, "An operations manager has been alerted to the concern. The performance of the train crew will be observed to ensure that fare collection is completed."

Maybe the MBCR/MBTA needs to monitor all of the commuter rail trains. Revenue collection should be a priority.

Train Rider returns to the United States tomorrow. If all goes well, Train Rider should be back riding the rails this Friday.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Editorial: Beverly-Salem Commuter Rail Bridge

There was an editorial this morning about the Beverly-Salem commuter rail bridge that ran in a number of dailies in cities and towns north of Boston.

Friday, February 8, 2008

MBTA Board Greenlights New Commuter Rail Coaches

Just like BostonNOW predicted, the MBTA's Board of Directors voted yesterday to spend $190 million to purchase 75 new double-decker coaches. The new coaches are slated to have washroom facilities and they will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act law.

The Boston Globe didn't even dedicate an entire article to the MBTA Board's vote. They only included this information with their "Local Round-up" news.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

MBTA/MBCR Commuter Rail News from the Websphere

Train Rider missed an article that ran in the January 31st issue of The Boston Globe about commuters who are using the real-time alerts to help them cope with late commuter rail trains.

I know Train Rider has mentioned this blog before, but Dave of The Franklin Line does a great job posting updates about late trains and other comical situations he encounters as a MBTA/MBCR commuter rail rider on the Franklin commuter rail train. Dave and fellow Franklin line commuters are even Twittering about their commutes. So if you ride the Franklin line, you may want to follow Dave and company's Tweets.

Another blog about the Franklin commuter rail line that is worth checking out is Charlie on the Commuter Rail. The Franklin line sounds about as much fun as the Worcester-Framingham line.

Train Stopping has received some great comments during Train Rider's absence.

AJ recommends that MBTA chief Dan Grabauskas get an apartment in the Worcester area and start commuting into Boston on the Worcester-Framingham line. Train Rider picked a good week to be away on an extended business trip. The P527 train on Monday night ran 20 minutes late and the P508 train on Tuesday morning didn't have heat.

Anonymous gave some props for Train Rider's response from the MBCR.

Anonymous (could be the same person or a different person) felt that the MBTA/MBCR conductors need to collect fares. Fare collection could be a way for the T to get out of their fiscal deficit.

MBTA Board Votes on Commuter Rail Improvements

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Board of Directors meet today. On the docket - plans by the T to replace the aging single-level cars with new bi-level cars. The T is requesting 75 of the double-decker cars, to be placed into full service by 2012 at a cost of $190 million. Read more about this in today's BostonNOW.

The Salem News is reporting that the MBTA will spend $1.6-1.8 million to fix the railroad bridge that links Beverly to Salem on the Newburyport and Rockport lines.

Finally, this article from The Ipswich Chronicle details how the poor performance of the commuter rail can impact people dependent on commuter rail riders to purchase goods and services.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

MBTA/MBCR January 2008 On Time Performance: Worcester-Framingham Line 2nd Worst Performing in System

Yesterday BostonNOW published the on-time performance stats for January 2008 for the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail lines.

Franklin via Fairmont was the worst performing line with an on-time performance rate of 57.1%.

Worcester-Framingham was the 2nd worst performing line with an on-time performance rate of 69.3%.

Overall, the commuter rail system generated a 77% on-time performance rate in January 2008. That seems pretty surprising, especially with all the bridge issues that plagued the Newburyport/Rockport lines. Newburyport had a 75.1% on-time performance while Rockport's was 75.8%.

Maybe Train Rider should move to an area where bridges break, yet the on-time performance rate is only 2 points lower than the entire systems!

Fitchburg Line Gets $75 Million in Federal Funding for Enhancements

According to an article from today's Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the $75 million in federal funds will be matched by $75 million in state funding. The enhancements to the Fitchburg line are expected to bring additional trains and faster service that will accommodate 700 new riders by the time the project is finished in 2012. This project was one of only 13 approved by the US Department of Transportation.

Train Rider Receives Response from MBCR Regarding a Recent Complaint

Even though Train Rider is on a different continent, the commuter rail situation is still a major concern in Train Rider's life.

Train Rider sent along the following - a response received from the MBCR (below).

In other news, the Train Stopping blog just published its 100 post. The MBTA/MBCR commuter rail system has certainly provided a lot of different things to discuss.



From: "Commuter Rail Customer Service - Customer Service"
To: Train Rider
Subject: Concern #1971-5598989: Closed (Delays with no announcements)
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2008 08:55:32 -0500

Thank you for your concern.

Comment(s): Dear Train Rider

Thank you for your email. I apologize for the delay in my response.

I can certainly understand your frustrations, as our service has been anything but adequate over the past few months. Though I am fully aware that it may not seem this way, our management team is actively working to restore service to where it should be.

On the morning of January 18th, train P508 was cancelled due to a bridge strike on the Worcester Highway. Until CSX personnel could inspect the bridge and declare it safe for trains to use. Train P512 was the next train due out of Worcester, and departed 10 minutes late, which was the train you were on.

I'm not pleased to learn that the crew was not performing their assigned duties. There is no excuse for the lack of fare collection or announcements, and managers in the Transportation Department have been notified.

Please know that we are working with CSX and the MBTA to improve the service on your line, beginning with a new "revamped" schedule due out within the next month. We also participate in daily conference calls with CSX to identify problem areas in service, so as to determine how best to make improvements.

We are also continually working to improve the communication of delay and cancellation information to our website as well as station signage. On those occasions when we are experiencing service delays, our commitment is to notify the public in the most timely and accurate means possible.

I am sorry for all the frustration you have been experiencing. Thank you for writing.


Linda Dillon
MBCR Customer Service Manager

Concern Information:
Concern #:1971-5598989
Date Created: 1/18/2008 9:41 AM EDT
Date of Incident: 1/18/2008
Line: Worcester
Station: Grafton
Departure Time AM/PM: 7:19AM
Train Number: P508
Subject: Delays with no announcements

: I am a daily rider of the commuter rail on the Worcester/Framingham line. For the past 6 months, service has been terrible. I honestly can't say when the train last arrived to either Back Bay or South Station on time.

Today's delay is even more upsetting for a number of reasons:
All morning trains are delayed due to a "roadway" problem. What is that exactly?

When the P508 (scheduled to depart Grafton at 7:19 a.m.) showed up to Grafton, it was already 7:55 a.m.. I was on my way to my car to drive in, but heard the train so went back to the platform.

All of the doors were shut, so passengers had to open them to board the train. There were no conductors to be seen outside during the stop and once on the train, there were no conductors to be seen to either explain the delay or collect passes.

The biggest issue is the fact that NO ONE made any announcements the entire trip, but especially to say the train became a local, so we stopped at every station, including all of the Newton stops and Yawkey, further delaying my arrival time to Boston. No doubt the P508 turned into a local train because the P510 was delayed due to the P508 delays. But why not TELL US!!!

I am very fortunate that my boss also is a commuter rail rider and thus subject to the same delays. I would submit that not all employers are as understanding and frankly, service needs to improve so that it can be a reliable form of transportation for the 50,000 plus riders daily.

I am beyond irritated. Sure, I'll get $15.50 back in 6-8 weeks, but really, I just want to get to work on time.

The T is Financially Broken - $75 Million Budget Deficit

The Boston Globe ran an article on the front page of the CITY section (Section B) titled "T chief declares system 'broke' despite fare hikes."

MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas' big quote was "we're broke!" The T is $75 million in the hole in terms of it's $1.4 billion budget.

Here's the skinny:
His deputy, chief financial officer Jonathan Davis, said last week that the T could refinance some of its $8.2 billion in debt and interest payments, but cautioned that it would push future costs even higher and may not fill the entire gap.

The T is stuck in a harsh cycle of institutional poverty wrought by decades of borrowing. Of every dollar it spends, 27 cents goes to pay off debt. Because fares pay for only about a third of operating costs, the transit system has relied on state subsidies to keep the trains and buses moving. The deficits are only expected to grow in the coming years.

In the 2006 and 2007 budget years, the agency dug into its rainy day budget for a total of about $15 million. This budget year, thanks to the fare increase, it narrowly avoided doing so. Davis said that even without a deficit right now, the T has unhealthy finances, with little money set aside for emergencies, and a dependence on borrowing for major maintenance projects.

"It seems to be an annual, very difficult challenge, to meet our bottom line, while trying to maintain our level of service and the quality of service," Grabauskas said.

The T has also been a victim of rising energy and labor costs as well as slow growth in the collection of state sales tax, its primary source of money.

The T's Board is expected to meet tomorrow to discuss the budget issues. The T does not want to continue increasing fares, as it will discourage people from riding the rails.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Worcester-Framingham Commuter Line January 2008 Performance

An article about the Worcester-Framingham MBTA/MBCR commuter rail line ran in today's Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

The Worcester line's January 2008 on-time performance rate was 69%. While the on-time performance rate for November 2007 was a dismal 58%, the Worcester line still lags behind other lines even though January's performance increased substantially over November's.

The other commuter rail line's generated a 77% on-time performance rate in January 2008. So even though Worcester's rate improved from November to January, it is still pretty poor.

The T&G interviewed MBTA GM Daniel A. Grabauskas. Here are some quotes:
“The good news is it appears to be paying off in on-time performance across the system, and particularly on the Worcester line. It’s not happening as quickly as I’d like to see — and certainly not as quickly as our customers would like to see — but we are seeing movement in the right direction,” he said.

State transportation officials have long voiced frustration at what they consider CSX’s priority to freight trains over passenger trains on the Worcester line.

“It’s always an extra battle to get on-time performance on the Worcester line,” Mr. Grabauskas said. “Our staff has been working cooperatively but making it clear that we were unhappy with the way things were going with on-time performance. … We’re moving in the right direction after six months of decline.”

He said improved service is a result of many factors, including better weather conditions, some additional staffing and more reliable mechanical equipment. Disgruntled union employees who caused a “work slowdown” last year now are being more cooperative, he added.

CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said CSX initiated the now-regular phone conversations between transportation officials to improve on-time performance on the Worcester line.

He declined to elaborate what has surfaced in those meetings and directed questions about any specific changes made to improve service to MBCR.

“The important thing is MBCR, the MBTA and CSX started meeting, basically, daily to review the performance of the trains,” he said. “At that point the objective is to find out … what the issues were. There were a lot of issues.”

The Worcester line is one of the most used commuter rail lines - there are 18,000 every weekday.

In 2007, while the other commuter rail lines generated an 83% on-time performance rate, the Worcester line only managed to generate a 66% on-time performance rate.

Monday, February 4, 2008

MBTA's Finances and More Charlie Card Complaints

The Eagle-Tribune out of Lawrence published an editorial today titled "Our view: T's finances as shaky as its bridges." This is their commentary on the announcement made last week by Massachusetts State Auditor Joe DeNucci.

BostonNOW published a report on the Charlie Card fiasco that occurred on February 1st.

I'm sure Train Rider is crushed that the Patriots lost the Super Bowl.

Feel free to share your commuter rail updates with me. I can be reached at commuteaholic AT