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.


Anonymous said...

First as way of a compliment, I think your blog is great, I read it everyday...the blogger filling in for you did great job as well, you two should team up in the future. In terms of the schedule changes what saddens me is the removal of any incentive for the trains to run on time. These realistic time changes some more in way of an acceptance of inadequacy rather than a pursuit of optimum performance. By way of example, I use the train running to Worcester at 8:10pm it has been on time within 5 mins every day this month yet they pushed back the expect arrival time 12 minutes from 9:30 to 9:42. This is a ride that has consistently proven to be on time at the current schedule and yet now there's a disincentive to get us to our homes faster. I'm mystified by the lack of accountability. It also strikes me that there is no quick fix to these systemic problems the reality seems to be that it will take years not months to fix the problems that ail our embarrassing commuter rail service.
thanks again

Train Rider said...


Thank you for the feedback. Even though the topic (the Worcester commuter rail line) has been very frustrating at times, I've enjoyed working on this blog. Commute-a-holic enjoyed covering for me and I'm sure Commute-a-holic will be posting some articles from time to time. I've found that venting about those really bad commutes has been a bit therapeutic.

That being said, I absolutely agree with your comments that the "new" schedule serves mainly to absolve the MBTA/MBCR from ensuring that the Worcester-Framingham line has reliable service. I still cannot understand how the Worcester-Framingham line is the most used line, yet it seems to be consistently ignored by the MBTA/MBCR. I know in my business, we tend to reward the customers that are providing the most profit to our company.

I just hope that the buzz about the commuter rail system continues to be maintained. It sure looks like the commuters who reside in North Shore towns are sick and tired of dealing with second rate service. I look at the North Shore situation as being similar to the Worcester line's - you have a large segment of the population that would prefer to rely on mass transit if it were easier to use. No one is looking for a personalized experience. But people want to be able to park their car, ride in a train coach that is well maintained, and arrive at their destination on time.

There is gridlock on most of Massachusetts - the North & South Shores through Central Mass. and the upper part of the Route 2 area. People have moved farther away from Boston for both financial and personal reasons. A lot of people would like to live a "greener" life and perhaps save some money on gas. People are willing to spend money to commute.

Driving into Boston from the Worcester area isn't a great solution - between the rising cost of tolls on the Mass Pike and the cost of parking in Boston, this isn't a great solution. But the commuter rail continues to be a disappointing alternative.

I know I will be continuing to do my part by trying to raise everyone's awareness of the plight of commuting on the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line. I hope the elected officials representing my town start listening to my opinion, as it is not a solitary opinion. I know a lot of people are concerned - even people who do not need to rely on the commuter rail system.

We all want the best for our state. We should have the best commuter rail service, not one of the worst.

I hope you visit again.

Train Rider

Anonymous said...

As a commuter, I'm frustrated as well by all the issues on the commuter rail (and the T in general), but the new schedule was as good as it going to get for now. I just don't see how they are going to make everyone happy. Quite frankly, I'd like a stop two feet from my house that takes me express to South Station, but it's not going to happen because it's mass transportation.

The biggest issue with the W/F line is that there is a good chunk of the line where there is only one track for in-bound trains, out-bound trains, CSX trains, and anyone else to use. Then you have another bottle neck once you get to Back Bay where several other lines fight for use of only two tracks.

Also keep in mind they aren't changing the schedules for the other lines at this point. They may not have space to put more trains on these lines when the system is at capacity. That's the bottom line. The system doesn't have any slack. One problem creates other problems. We should all be advocating for more investment in the system. Only then will there enough flexibility to make any meaningful changes.

Anonymous said...

I work for MBCR. As someone who deals with the situation on a daily basis, let me make it really clear for all of you:

CSX controls all the rail traffic on the Framingham/Worcester line, not MBCR. If CSX tells one of our trains that it has to wait for a freight train to move before a commuter train (which it often does, by the way), there is NOTHING we can do about it. If we had our way, these freight trains would be told to clear out for our commuter trains. In fact, I can't wait for the day that MBCR actually gets to take control of this line rather than leaving it to some dispatchers sitting in FLORIDA.

MBCR can be bashed for amny things, but it's really unfair to dump the Framingham/Worcester mess on our laps. We have no control over it.

Anonymous said...

This is the same thing that happened the last time MBTA changed the Fitchburg line schedule. They were always running late, so they just adjusted the times - to leave earlier and arrive later. That is their definition of a schedule change. Sad.

Fitchburg Rider

Train Rider said...

Anonymous from 3/15/2008 at 3:54 p.m. -

Thanks for visiting. Good point about the fact that all
the trains on the Worcester-
Framingham line use one track.

But, really, the solution (i.e., the new schedule) isn't a good one at all. Yes, it's mass
transportation, and it can't be customized for every rider, but instead of addressing the issues with poor performance, the T just changes the schedule so that we can't complain about the abysmal performance.

And because this is mass transportation, I think it is awful that the commuters who rely on the early trains are now being forced to adjust to a totally different schedule. The early inbound trains and the later outbound trains don't seem to be the trains with the biggest performance issues. The performance issues really seem to impact those trains, especially the inbound trains, at the peak of the morning commute.

I absolutely agree we should be advocating for more investment made by Massachusetts for mass transportation. That is part of the reason why I started this blog - I really want elected officials, the media and business leaders to pay attention to mass transit. We need a sound transportation system.

It would be great to be able to retire this blog because our commuter rail system is outstanding. But we aren't there yet. More attention needs to be paid to mass transportation. And more attention needs to be paid to the issues that consistently plague the Worcester-Framingham line.

I hope tomorrow's commute goes well, but I'm dreading the new schedule.

Thank you for your comments.
Train Rider

Train Rider said...

Anonymous who works for the MBCR

I absolutely understand that the MBCR does not own the Worcester-Framingham tracks and that CSX plays a large role in the on-time performance.

By no means has this blog blamed MBCR for the issues plaguing the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.

However, I've been riding the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line for about 5 years. CSX has owned the tracks the entire time I've taken the train from Grafton into Boston. The train used to run on a fairly predictable time schedule. We would face occasional delays, but mostly the trains just ran.

I started to notice serious performance issues in 2007. So what happened in 2007 that has suddenly caused the trains to not run well. Maybe something has been happening with CSX, but the issues appear to be even larger.

The conductors waged a "silent strike." Whether or not the conductors work for MBCR, perhaps MBCR should have been more involved to make sure the "silent striek" was ending.

The T owns the trains. Yet the Worcester line has awful cars. Again - why can't the MBCR do something to improve the quality of the experience.

As a partner to the MBTA, the MBCR will need to accept both the accolades and the negatives.

I would love to see the MBCR come out ahead on this issue. Perhaps the MBCR can work with elected officials and the media to share with the public the things you are doing, so we don't bash you.

I don't enjoy "bashing" people. However, I am finished with being a passive train rider.

Thanks for visiting.
Train Rider

Train Rider said...

Fitchburg Rider,

Thanks for visiting. Did you notice any improvement in the Fitchburg line once the T put through the new schedule?

It is sad that the T thinks of this as a schedule change.

Train Rider

Anonymous said...

Train Rider, I don't think you get it. They changed the schedule because it was taking longer to get to South Station in reality than what the previous schedules said. Those extra 12 minutes needed to be added to the beginning of the trip time because if they added it to the end, the train would just end up being delayed or delaying some other train because the track that it would need to travel on would be occupied.

As pointed out, the schedules for other rail lines using that same track between Back Bay and South Station aren't being changed at now, so you have very limited options. It's probably a lot more complicated than you think. Looking at the schedule myself, I can't find any better alternatives. Maybe you can suggest some times that would be better and wouldn't conflict with other trains?

It all comes down to one thing for me. I'd rather know what time I'm going to get to South Station. Waking up 10 minutes earlier sucks, but not knowing when I'm getting to work is worse. I don't know about you, but I got to work on time today and that's a good first step and the best workable solution right now.

Train Rider said...


Yes I do get it. The MBTA/MBCR changed the schedule on the Worcester-Framingham to ostensibly make arrival times more realistic. In fact, this morning, we arrived three minutes earlier than the scheduled time. Hallelujah!

I have been a commuter on this line for over 5 years, these trains used to be reliable and run like clockwork up until mid 2007. Sure, there were the inevitable delays, but that was the exception rather than the norm. You can't tell me that all of a sudden adding 10 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening to my commute will make my arrival times realistic, all it does is put the onus on the rider instead of really addressing the issues at hand.

I understand CSX owns the tracks from Worcester-Framingham. I understand that the commuter rail is at the mercy of the CSX controllers and that the T does not take precedence over freight trains. However, I refuse to sit back and not bring it to the attention of my local congressman and state representatives.

Given the increase in gas prices, the cost of commuting on the Mass Pike and the cost of parking in the city of Boston, more needs to be done to alleviate the problems with the commuter rail so that it is a reliable form of public transportation. And that doesn't even take into mind the benefit to our environment if more people seek alternative commute methods other than a single passenger driving in a single car.

That is the purpose of this blog: to raise the issues and provide a forum where commuters can post their thoughts and experiences with the commuter rail.

Change only comes with action and this blog is a call to action.

Thanks for visiting and sharing your opinions.
Train Rider

Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog. I've been commuting from Newtonville for 8 or 9 years now, and I agree that for a long time the trains ran like clockwork.

One comment about the new schedule and it's additional built in time to get to Boston. Being early is just as bad as being late. While it is great to arrive in town early, if a train arrives to a suburban stop early, drops off/picks up passengers and then departs, that is problematic for people who relied on the schedule and got to the station at the right time, only to find they missed the train!

Train Rider said...

Anonymous from Newtonville,

Thanks for visiting and commenting on your commuting experience.

You raise a very good point about the early schedule. In fact, if you take a look at the new schedule, it breaks out some train routes into F stops (in red) and L stops (in blue).

If you're an F stop, you have to notify the conductor that you want to get off at certain stations.

If you're an L stop, it's a regular stop whereby passengers load/unload, but if the train is there earlier than the scheduled time, it can leave right away.

Looks like that is what is happening to Newton riders. That's ridiculous as well!