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."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One thing which I did not see mentioned in the article was the smaller number of track miles as compared to 50-100 years ago. The Franklin line, which I use, is single track between Norwood Central and Forge Park so one delayed train can affect the entire rush hour. Worcester, at least, is double track except through the Allston freight yard, but in the bygone days it was probably triple or quad track.

A lot of the new commuter rail construction or restoration in the past 10-15 years has been single track, which as we now see was penny wise but pound foolish.