Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Importance of Dessert Blog: "Talking to the Director of the MBTA Commuter Rail" Post

Helen, the blogger who writes "The Importance of Dessert" blog, wrote an informative post last night about her participation with the MWRTA meeting.

I encourage everyone to take the time to read Helen's post. Here are the highlights:
  • MBTA does conference calls with CSX 3 times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to go over every train delay and determine the cause of the problem.
  • Most of the problems now are caused by mechanical failure
  • There is no spare equipment. In other words, in cases of a mechanical failure, there are no spare locomotives, coaches, etc to put in place of broken ones. According to Mr. Stoetzel, the industry norm is to have a 10-15% equipment surplus. However, MBTA has historically chosen to operate under a "if we own it, we use it" policy, with virtually no excess equipment.
  • The train crew, including conductors, has to know the reason for a delay. It is the conductors’ responsibility to report the delay to the dispatch and provide the reason. The conductors are supposed to make announcements every 5 minutes on the status of the delay.
  • Since December, it is now inappropriate for MBCR to blame a delay on CSX.
  • New passenger information system is coming in approximately 2 years, that will be utilizing GPS and satellite technology to provide updates in real time. The current electronic display boards are updated via a series of phone calls initiated by the engineer of a delayed train. This system fails often.
  • Customer Service emails submitted via the MBTA website are handled by MBCR, not by MBTA staff. Mr. Stoeztel does not have routine access to either the complaints or the MBCR responses. Up until 2 or 3 years ago these emails were handled by MBTA directly.
  • Regarding the new Worcester-Framingham line commuter rail schedule, a study was conducted starting in December, pushed by State Representative, Alice Peisch, to help determine where the problems are.
  • Many delays were caused by what is usually referred to as “residual delay”: if one train is delayed, the train following it has to travel with decreased speed, because it catches up with red signals left behind the delayed train
  • To avoid the residual delay, the new schedules increased the time between trains to be at least 20-25 minutes. [I think this may be more relevant to peak direction trains].
Helen -thanks for attending the MWRTA meeting and sharing this information.

1 comment:

AJ said...

While the train being on-time is ultimately the most important thing, by other rally point against the MBTA is the lack of info. I find it appalling that the conductors are supposed to give us updates and don't! I always tell anyone who will listen that people would rather a 10 minute delay if they are expecting it, than wait 10 minutes thinking things will change any second.

That said, while the P508 was right on-time Monday morning, I had to laugh because the ticker in Grafton read: All trains on or near schedule for Friday, March 7 2008. If you see something...."