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!


AJ said...

First off, welcome back Train Rider. Commute-A-Holic did a great job in your absence. I would have loved to comment on some of these blogs sooner, but this is the first chance I've had. I too was getting ready to write a letter about the new schedule's to anyone who would listen. A point that no one has brought up yet that dawned on me was this. The MBTA/MBCR argue that the 40% increase in ridership fro 1995 on is the cause for delays. More people = longer stops. However, less than 14 months ago, there was a front page article in the Globe that I remember seeing about how the Worcester-Framingham line was their on-time beacon! At the time, I believe it was somewhere in the April-area, the morning trains were running in the lower 90th percentile, and the afternoon in the upper 80th percentile for on-time trains. All the other lines were way behind us, so much so that the MBTA/MBCR felt the need to publish this information, I'm assuming to show others that their trains problems were isolated incidents. My question now is, did this increase in ridership over 13 years all of the sudden catch up with them over the last 6 months? The problems consistently plaguing the Worcester line are recent. I don't think people would complain if service were anywhere in the 90th percentile. As I've said all along, it's people like you that I feel the worst for; people who have more strict work guidelines and whom a late train could really effect.

Train Rider said...


Thanks for visiting and thanks for the complements.

Your comments got me thinking. I'm going to do some research to write a more in-depth post about the Worcester line. I definitely agree that people focusing on this short-term schedule change are missing the larger picture: the Worcester-Framingham line wasn't always this bad.

In a quick search, there were a lot of articles written back in August 2006. That is when O'Leary became the head of the MBCR. Seriously - it seems like since O'Leary took over, things have gotten worse not better.

I wish Lt. Governor Tim Murphy was as harsh in critiquing the T's leadership as he was back in December 2005. This is a great article:

And here is a great quote from the same December 1, 2005 article: ''I guess you'd have to believe that it's only a coincidence that the Worcester/Framingham line has -- and has always had -- the lowest on-time performance rate of all the lines in the commuter rail system," he added. From July 2004 to June 2005, commuter trains on that line were on time an average of just under 87 percent of the time, according to MBTA figures." Joe Pesturo, MBTA Spokesperson.

It is amazing the level of deterioration the Worcester line, in particular, has gone through in only a two year period. It is sick.

The performance improves then it radically dips down again. I just don't understand it.

I would love to have a job where I could not hit bare performance levels. I should have gone into the public transportation sector.

Train Rider