Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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.

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