Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Status Quo P508 Commute This Morning

I can't believe this is the last day in April. Where did the month go? It seemed to completely zip by.

I took the P508 train in this morning. A totally uneventful commute. The train arrived in Grafton at 7:11 a.m. We were one double-decker car short this morning. In lieu of the normal double-decker car, we had a single car at the end of the train. We were at South Station for 8:21 a.m. It was a nice morning to walk from South Station to my office.

One of my co-workers lives in Canton and takes the Providence-Stoughton line into work. She said that her train has been delayed by at least one hour every morning this week so far. That would drive me crazy.

I think I would also be going crazy if I had to rely on the Franklin Forge line. Commute-a-holic told me that this train has had delays every day this week . Well at least according to the SmarTraveler updates which air on WCVB-TV Channel 5 each morning. I wonder if the MBTA/MBCR are planning on changing schedules for either of these lines? I also wonder if the Providence delays are due to Amtrak rail work - I know that Amtrak announced rail work last month.

Here's to some better commmutes for the Providence-Stoughton line and Franklin line commuters.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Humid Yet Chilly Tuesday Morning Commuter Rail Commute

Well today is certainly a weird weather day. It feels humid and concurrently chilly. Strange!

My commute today on the P508 went was without incident. The train didn't seem as crowded as yesterday. I think yesterday felt crowded because we were a car short, whereas today we had the right number of cars. We pulled into South Station at 8:23 a.m. and then I splish-splashed my way to work. I feel like a duck!

The MetroWest Daily News published this article yesterday about the South Coast commuter rail extension.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rainy Monday Morning Commute

It is Monday. I guess the nice weather had to end sooner or later. And I supposed we need the rain.

This morning's commute was fine. I took the P508 in. The train was packed and we crawled through Ashland. But we must have made up time somewhere along the line as we arrived to South Station at 8:21 a.m.

So I read this article about "Who Taught You To Drive" and I thought it was appropriate enough to include on Train Stopping. It ran in yesterday's Sunday Boston Globe. The article is about a worst-case driving scenario - having your car stall out on the train tracks while an incoming train is approaching.

Some interesting tidbits were included in the article. Did you know that a million cars traverse railroad tracks in Massachusetts every day? I didn't - that's some interesting trivia.

If you didn't already know this, should your car stall on train tracks when a train is coming, remember these simple two steps:

1) Get out of the vehicle and get as far away from the tracks as you can. Try to signal the conductor from a safe distance.

2) To avoid being hit by debris, run in the direction the train is coming from.

Also, instead of calling the police from your mobile phone, make a call from the silver box that makes the crossing arms go up and down. The phone in this box goes to a train dispatcher.

In other news, The Herald News published a timeline yesterday of the history of the long-debated South Coast commuter rail line extension. This project has been in the discussion stages since 1991. That's a long history.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

TGIT for Me

TGIT!! Yes, I know it is normally TGIF, but I'm taking tomorrow off. So it is TGIT. Doesn't that look like a dirty word?

This morning's inbound commute on the P508 was fine. Geesh - I don't even know what time we arrived to Back Bay Station as I neglected to look at my watch. I took the Orange Line to my office.

Last night I received some MBTA text alerts that all the Worcester-Framingham trains were running 15-20 minutes late because of switch problems. But my train was right on time. Weird.

However, not all the trains are running smoothly on the Worcester-Framingham line. AJ was kind enough to add a comment to yesterday's blog post.

Also, things do not sound like they are running well on the Franklin Line. Charlie on the Commuter Rail had two posts from yesterday about incredibly hot cars and unprecedented issues on the Franklin #715 train. Yikes!

In other T-related news, published a report today about how the MBTA Transit Police are practicing if the Homeland Security threat level rises from Yellow (where it currently remains) to Orange.

Have a good Thursday (and a good Friday too). Isn't this weather amazing?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sleepy Wednesday Commute

I have returned from my one-day business trip.

I took the P508 train in from Grafton. I totally slept on the train this morning. Oh, the train was on time. We arrived to Back Bay station at 8:14 a.m. and I got off to take the Orange Line to my office.

Keith sent in an article that I didn't see in yesterday's "Earth Day" edition of the Boston METRO. The MBTA is embarking on a number of green initiatives. Click here to check the article out.

Keith - thanks for sharing the article!

Boston Herald Letter to the Editor Gives the T an "F"

The following Letter to the Editor appeared in today's Boston Herald:
Thank you for exposing the fiasco of the Kenmore Busway project (April 19). The solid, fully-enclosed brick and concrete bus station, along with interior windbreaks and long-gone heaters, was needlessly destroyed on the pretext of making it handicap-accessible (as if you had to demolish it to add elevators).

This MBTA rider/transit activist has passed through here, and the lower level subway station, through years of construction and probably never has seen more than six to 10 workers. This has to be why construction is taking so long.

The MBTA has wasted taxpayer money and scarce transit funding to provide a far inferior station. How could the MBTA have been so inconsiderate of riders in its new station design, so wasteful of resources by demolishing a good station, and so inept at managing the construction process of this inadequate replacement?

Frederick J. Maloney,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day. Riding the rails is one way to help save resources and cut down on car traffic.

Train Rider did not ride the rails today. Instead, Train Rider had to fly to an out-of-town meeting. So we do not have any updates about the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail. And neither does the traditional media/blogsphere - there is nary a story today.

I hope everyone gets to enjoy this lovely spring day. Usually it rains on Earth Day.

Happy Commuting.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Marathon Monday Commuter Wasn't On Time

What a beautiful Marathon Monday it turned out to be. Did anyone catch the 112th Boston Marathon zip by their office? Commute-a-holic was there for the start.

Well today is Patriots Day here in Massachusetts. Normally, the MBTA would be running a holiday schedule, however even though Patriots Day is a state holiday it isn't a MBTA-recognized holiday. Why you might ask - well of course today is the Boston Marathon and since many roads are shut down and there are a lot of spectators, the T was running a regular commuter rail and subway schedule (buses are on a holiday schedule).

The P508 train ran a bit behind schedule today. It was five minutes late arriving to Grafton. We got to Back Bay Station at 8:19 a.m. and South Station at 8:28 a.m.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Benefits of Public Transportation

If you’ve been near a gas station in the past few days, you know that prices are soaring upwards of $3.45 in some places. I live near Worcester and gas was $3.42 this past weekend. On my way home tonight, I noticed it went “down” to $3.39. The bad news is, gas prices are expected to go up still throughout the rest of the spring and summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if we pay more than $3.75 a gallon soon.

This surge in prices has directly affected my driving habits. I am less likely to take trips in the car now, especially since it’s at least $50 a pop to fill my tank. In fact, as Train Stopping posted on Friday, April 4th, even the T has noticed a correlation in the uptick of gas prices with increased ridership. The T reported that overall ridership increased from 27 million in February 2007 to nearly 30 million in March 2008. This increase is in line with a national trend as "More Americans rode public transportation last year than at any time in history, according to the American Public Transportation Association, which also cited gas prices as a major factor."

That’s why I am so happy to have access to public transportation. As Earth Day approaches, I’m struck by the impact mass transit has on the environment by reducing energy consumption. According to the CBS Evening News (March 10, 2008), commuters with access to bus and rail lines reduces driving by 4,400 miles per household, saving 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline and 37 million metric tons of carbon. That’s pretty impressive and I’m glad to do my part, however small. And thankfully, with more people using mass transit, this all adds up.

Yes, the MBTA has not been perfect, but with the recent schedule changes, performance has been better. The Wi-Fi installation on the Worcester-Framingham line allows me to get some work done on the train, conversely I can sleep, read or relax, but mostly let someone else do the driving and worry about the gas prices.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Train Stopping Readers Share Information

Grafton Train Rider sent an email with the following:
Are you aware that the MBTA seeks volunteers for their Rider Oversight Committee? The link is posted at,_Events_and_Press_Releases/Call%20to%20Action%20Letter.pdf.

Riders should submit interest by 4/30/08. I am considering volunteering since I use a lot of their services (MBTA parking lot, commuter rail, bus, Green/Red Lines and occasional trips on Orange/Silver Lines).

Also, Fitchburg Train Rider shared the following about an article that appeared in today's Telegram & Gazette
"The governor also told city councilors at the meeting that he continues working on problems standing in the way of expanding commuter rail.

District 2 City Councilor Philip Palmieri told the governor it is vital “to every business and college” in the city.

Mr. Patrick said the administration had come up with cost estimates and ways to fund the expansion.

But CSX, which owns sections of the track that have to be upgraded to add commuter trains, demanded indemnity for liabilities from passenger rail accidents as a condition of expanded sharing of the rail lines.

The governor cited the recent collision in Stoughton of a commuter train with a runaway freight car as an example of why he could not “in good conscience” agree to the indemnity demand.

While Mr. Patrick said it is too soon to provide details, he is now looking at what he described as “a very aggressive” approach to allow the expansion that could also help extend commuter rail to western parts of the state and to the South Shore. "

It always AMAZES me they can come up with money to EXPAND commuter rail, but NEVER money to buy the necessary infrastructure (parking lots) and general maintenance of the train car's seats, etc., so passengers can actually use the train services, and in relative comfort! I think the State's naivety is boundless and frankly relies on grossly incompetent research.

Thanks Grafton Train Rider and Fitchburg Train Rider for this information!

Lovely Spring Day, Lovely Morning Commute

TGIF!! Boy, this weather definitely causes me to have some "spring fever."

I didn't post yesterday because I missed my train and had to drive into Boston. The traffic on the Mass Pike was horrendous. Totally awful. When I was stuck in traffic, inching my way towards Boston, I wished I had been riding on the train instead.

This morning's commute was drama free. I arrived to the Grafton train station on time and took the P508 train into the city. We arrived to Back Bay Station at 8:15 a.m. and I jumped off to take the Orange Line to my office.

I am hoping to be able to spring out of work early today. If all goes well, I want to be on an early train home.

In MBTA-related news, read this article about a Concord town meeting that was attended by the MBTA-Fitchburg line project manager.

The Boston Herald reports that the MBTA is suing CSX for last month's accident in Canton.

Finally, WBZ ran a story about how MBTA buses are using more environmentally friendly gas.

Even though Monday is a Massachusetts holiday, the MBTA will be operating on a regular schedule due to the 112th running of the Boston Marathon!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Out Sick Yesterday, Normal Commute Today

Good afternoon. What a lovely day, huh?

Yesterday was a sick day. I was battling a spring bug, so I slept a lot. If I am able to sleep 12+ hours and recharge nicely, I can usually conquer most illnesses. I guess maybe I sound like I'm a laptop battery, huh?

Enough about my health, on to today's commute. It was healthy to say the least. I took the P508 train in from Grafton. We were crawling a bit through Westborough, but managed to arrive 1 minute ahead of schedule! Sweet. I got off at Back Bay Station at 8:16 a.m. and took the Orange Line to my office.

Read the following in today's Telegram & Gazette. I've embedded the article because the T&G only archives articles for 14 days.
CSX: New yard key for commuter boost


WORCESTER— While political leaders continue to point to disagreements over liability as the biggest obstacle to increasing commuter rail service to the city, representatives from railroad giant CSX Corp. yesterday said relocating the company’s 80-acre rail yard in Allston is the bigger hurdle.

In a meeting with the Telegram & Gazette editorial board, three CSX representatives called themselves “fans of commuter rail” and said they are committed to expanding commuter service, as long as that expansion doesn’t hamper freight service.

Transportation officials and lawmakers in Massachusetts have been negotiating with the railroad company to purchase the 22.8-mile section of railroad between Framingham and Worcester in an effort, eventually, to double the number of commuter trains to Worcester. They have said they will not sign a deal that, in the case of an accident, would require that CSX and the state pay for damages to what each owns, regardless of fault.

CSX, meanwhile, says it will not sign a deal that introduces a new risk — passengers — to its existing liability system.

The liability hang-up has caught the attention of federal lawmakers, including Sen John F. Kerry, D-Mass., who has threatened to file legislation regulating freight and commuter rail contracts if CSX doesn’t budge.

Yesterday, Lisa A. Mancini, CSX’s vice president of strategic infrastructure initiatives, said train operators don’t care about liability policies, they simply operate as safely as possible at all times. She dismissed the notion that making the state liable for its own passengers means CSX wouldn’t have incentives to be safe.

Ms. Mancini said moving CSX’s operations in Beacon Park, on the western edge of Boston, to a location closer to Worcester would help free up track for more commuter trains.

“Most of our customers are west of Framingham, but we bring our trains (to Boston) because our yard is there,” she said.

That means tons of cargo go to the Boston facility every day, then tracks deliver much of that cargo to locations west of Boston.

The yard is part of a nearly two-century-old rail infrastructure, and its location made sense at the time it was built. Today the yard takes up 80 acres of prime real estate that Harvard University is interested in acquiring, Ms. Mancini said. If Harvard paid CSX for that land, it would allow CSX to give the state a better deal, she said.

CSX has considered a few locations in Central Massachusetts for a new rail yard, but so far, none of them has been promising.

In response to Mr. Kerry and others threatening to take action, Ms. Mancini said, “That’s their prerogative, but that can’t create the capacity (for more trains). We’d get to an answer faster through negotiations, I think.”

CSX officials stressed that they communicate constantly with Massachusetts rail officials, and said on-time performance for commuter trains on the Worcester line has shot up to the 90 percent range since the train schedule was tweaked in February. The new train schedule is “more realistic” because it allows more travel time for peak-hour trains, CSX and state rail officials say.

CSX attributes less than 3 percent of commuter train delays to conflicts with freight trains, while the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which operates commuter rail service for the MBTA, maintains freight trains are more disruptive than CSX claims they are.

CSX representatives yesterday acknowledged that signaling upgrades could allow for one or two more commuter trains to Worcester, but did not portray that as one of their primary goals. Signaling upgrades between Boston and Framingham would be costly and would be the responsibility of the MBTA, they said.

“If we add more trains, we don’t want on-time performance to go from 90 or 95 percent to 85 percent,” said Maurice J. O’Connell, CSX’s vice president of public affairs.

If the state purchases the Framingham-Worcester track from CSX, the rail company would pay a fee to use the line for its freight.

Mr. O’Connell, Ms. Mancini and company spokesman Robert Sullivan yesterday said if the sale is approved, CSX would ask the state to help clear obstacles so trains with one container atop another — known as double-stack trains — can travel under highway bridges and through tunnels across the state.

That project would cost several million dollars.

Contact Priyanka Dayal by e-mail at

Monday, April 14, 2008

Follow-up to Grafton Train Rider's MBCR Submission

We received an update from Grafton Train Rider on a response to last week's MBCR submission. Here is what Grafton Train Rider sent along.

Dear Train Rider,

I think that the GPS systems are at least a year away. Linda never addressed the other concern "Most trains operating on or near schedule" (see below comments).

Grafton Train Rider

From: Commuter Rail Customer Service - Customer Service
Subject: Concern #1971-5959414: Closed (no late train message, useless message on other days)
To: Grafton Train Rider
Date: Friday, April 11, 2008, 3:32 PM

Thank you for your concern.
Comment(s): Grafton Train Rider

I have read your email regarding the lack of delay information while you were traveling on the 5th of April.

I am sorry that you needed to write to us about this situation. The station VMS message boards have been subject to a series of difficulties over time. While dispatchers continuously update information as it becomes available, there are times when the information becomes stuck in "queue." On our end (communications department), it appears that the information has been correctly transmitted, yet our customers don't see the change. At the moment, until we hear from our customers, we have no way of knowing that the relayed update does not reach its intended destination.

I am pleased to report that efforts are underway to replace the current LEDs with a new GPS messaging system that will have service information generated directly from the locomotive and relayed in "real time" to passengers at stations awaiting trains.

I do apologize for the inconvenience that you have experienced and thank you for contacting us.


Linda Dillon
MBCR Customer Service Manager

BostonNOW - RIP

Sad news . . . BostonNOW is no longer. The foreign investor of the free commuter paper has pulled out of the operation. Read all about it on

As a paper for commuters, BostonNOW was always a good recent for MBTA/MBCR commuter rail news.

Perfectly Fine Monday Morning Commute

My commute this morning was perfectly fine, totally uneventful. I took the P508 train in from Grafton. We were actually at South Station for 8:19 a.m.!!! That's 4 minutes ahead of schedule. I have no idea what time the train pulled into Back Bay Station . . . I must have been dozing.

It's funny that we were so ahead of schedule too. I thought we were supposed to be delayed this morning because of track work.

There hasn't been a lot of news about the MBTA/MBCR in the papers or on the web. I noticed in the West edition of The Sunday Globe the Starts & Stops column had a small write-up of the on-time performance results for March 2008. They only listed the best and worst performing lines.

I did read the following article about the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority in this week's issue of the Worcester Business Journal.
The year-old MetroWest Regional Transit Authority wants to run shuttle buses along Route 9 during morning and evening commuting hours, stopping at a few key locations before heading directly to a Green Line stop.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Week Ends with a Friday Morning Status Quo Commute

After a pretty intense workweek of early morning meetings, I returned to my regular schedule today.

I took the P508 out of Grafton this morning. My train arrived at Back Bay Station at 8:14 a.m. I disembarked at Back Bay and took the Orange Line to my office. Good times!

So it looks like yesterday's weather was just a tease, huh? We're back to the lower temperatures. And it seems like the sun is rapidly disappearing. Oh well, I guess this is why everything turns a nice shade of green in the spring.

The only news report this morning is from The Boston Herald. They published an article about the MBTA's pension system.

Have a good Friday!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

MBCR's Spokesperson Shares March 2008 Commuter Rail Performance Results and Press Release Announcing Worcester Line Track Work

Train Stopping has been contacted by the MBCR's spokesperson. Periodically we will be publishing press releases and other information provided by the MBCR.

Today we have two pieces of informaton. One pertains to the March 2008 on-time performance stats for the Commuter Rail lines. The second is an announcement about track work beginning this Sunday on the Worcester line.

According to the MBCR's spokesperson, the MBCR (not the MBTA) is responsible for releasing the on-time performance data. The MBCR will release the data each time a reporter has requested. However, the MBCR does not have any control over whether or not reporters actually publish the on-time performance information.
Along with releasing the data to the media, the MBCR's customer service department also publishes the numbers as part of its Clockwork program. The MBCR's spokesperson said that he believes the data is published at the major stations (North, South & Back Bay).
The spokesperson also told Train Rider and I that on-time performance improved in March. Ongoing bridge work on the Dorchester Branch and Franklin via Fairmount Branch continues to have a significant impact on service performance throughout the South Side.
Since I'm not a web developer, I can't figure out how to place this information into a nice graph.
Here is the data:
  • Newburyport/Rockport: Mar.-88% Feb-86% Change-2%
  • Fitchburg: Mar.-92% Feb-83% Change-9%
  • Gloucester Branch: Mar.-90% Feb-87% Change-3%
  • Lowell: Mar.-94% Feb-86% Change-8%
  • Haverhill: Mar.-87% Feb-84% Change-3%
  • Haverhill via Wildcat: Mar.-90% Feb-79% Change-12%
  • Providence: Mar.-79% Feb-80% Change--1%
  • Dorchester Branch: Mar.-58% Feb-58% Change-0%
  • Franklin via Fairmount: Mar.-56% Feb-47% Change-9%
  • Franklin Branch: Mar.-82% Feb-77% Change-5%
  • Greenbush: Mar.-97% Feb-96% Change-1%
  • Kingston: Mar.-89% Feb-89% Change-.07%
  • Middleboro: Mar.-90% Feb-81% Change-8%
  • Needham: Mar.-89% Feb-82% Change-7%
  • Plymouth: Mar.-96% Feb-86% Change-7%
  • Stoughton: Mar.-75% Feb-75% Change-0%
  • Worcester: Mar.-92% Feb-85% Change-7%

Note: System on-time performance (OTP) in March was 85.5%, an increase of 5 percentage points over February. Worcester Line weekday performance was at 96% for the month, making this the second strongest weekday line for the month, after Greenbush. Worcester Line service operated at 100% on 9 of the 20 weekdays in March. The performance on the Dorchester Branch and the Franklin via Fairmount Line has been significantly impacted by the MBTA's Columbia Road Bridge replacement project. This project is scheduled to last at least three years. The location of this bridge project and the resulting impact on this heavily traveled line affects both scheduled trains and movements to and from the south side maintenance facilities and occasionally impacts other services.

Press release:

New Rail Tie Work To Create Short-Term Delays On Worcester/Framingham Commuter Rail Line

(Boston, MA) – The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and its provider of Commuter Rail service, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR), today announced that CSX, which is responsible for train dispatching and track maintenance on the Worcester/ Framingham Commuter Rail Line, will commence an eight-day rail tie replacement project beginning on Sunday, April 13.

Between April 13 and Wednesday, April 16, CSX will undertake a tie replacement project between Westboro and Worcester between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. As a result, commuter rail trains operating during this time period may experience delays of up to 20 minutes while travelling through the work zone. Trains operation after 6:30 p.m. and before 8:30 a.m. may experience shorter delays as the result of speed restrictions related to the work.

Work is expected to resume the week of April 20 through April 23 in the immediate Worcester area. This schedule is expected to significantly reduce work-related delays.

Further information about this project, which is part of CSX’s ongoing maintenance program to ensure safe and efficient rail service, is available at the MBTA website ( Daily updates will be also displayed on station LED monitors and available from Train Crews.

The MBTA and MBCR wish to apologize to customers on the Worcester/Framingham Commuter Rail Line for any inconvenience they may experience as a result of this important

Further information about this project is available at the MBTA website ( Daily updates will be also displayed on station LED monitors and available from Train Crews.

The MBTA and MBCR wish to apologize to customers on the Worcester/Framingham Commuter Rail Line for any inconvenience they may experience as a result of this important maintenance activity. The MBTA and MBCR thank these customers for their understanding and continued support of commuter rail.

About MBCR
The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company, LLC (MBCR) is a partnership of Veolia Transportation, one of Europe’s largest passenger transportation companies; Bombardier Transportation, the world’s leader in the manufacture and maintenance of passenger rail vehicles; and Alternate Concepts, a Boston-based transportation operations and consulting firm with expertise in the design, operation and maintenance of rail transit systems. MBCR operates and maintains the fifth largest commuter rail network in the United States under a contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. MBCR provides service to 40 million passengers a year in nearly 80 cities and towns in Massachusetts, as well as Providence, RI.

An Update about the MBTA/MBCR March 2008 On-Time Performance Reports

First, Train Stopping has reached a milestone. We posted our 200th post today!!

I received the following email from former MBTA employee Bob Stoetzel providing some insight into how the MBTA prepares the monthly on-time performance reports. Bob said we could share this information.

As Commute-a-holic and I have mentioned, neither of us have been able to find the March 2008 on-time performance stats. Who knows - perhaps the latency of the March report is tied to staffing changes at the MBTA. If anyone comes across the March on-time performance report, feel free to email us at either worctrainrider AT or commuteaholic AT

Thank you.

Train Rider

Here is Bob's email:
I am surprised by the MBTA's delay in making commuter rail on-time performance for March, 2008 available to the public. As the person who was formerly responsible to provide this information to the General Manager's Office, as well as to Secretary Cohen, I was required to have on-time performance for the month available by the close of business of the first business day of the new month, accompanied by text that highlighted specific impacts, both positive and negative, to on-time performance during the month.

My interest in this information is two-fold. First, I am very interested in obtaining this information out of personal curiosity as I am no longer associated with the commuter rail information. Second, I am also aware of the complexity of determining the accurate on-time performance on the Worcester Line as it was my experience that many outbound trains (and a smaller number of inbound trains) were not being reported by MBCR crews to MBCR dispatchers. It was therefore necessary to obtain train delay information directly from CSX dispatchers. This information was then compared to the data provided by MBCR with necessary corrections made prior to submitting the "official" numbers.

As a subscriber to your very informative blog, I am awaiting your posting of this information as, as you know, the MBTA does not provide this information on its website and MBCR does not make it available until they post it at North Station, South Station, and Back Bay Station.I am encouraged by what I assume to be performance improvements on the Worcester Line, As I advised you previously, a large reason for these improvements has been the continued focus on the line by CSX personnel. This is extremely critical due to the upcoming track work. The extensive efforts in New York, Jacksonville, and, most critically, on-site with the track crews were the primary reason for the minimal service interruptions from the trackwork in March; efforts which, as usual, were not highlighted by MBTA and MBCR press releases.

Bob Stoetzel

Mass. Congressional Committee Stands Up to CSX and a Letter to the Editor

According to an article from today's The Boston Globe, all twelve members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have sent a "strongly worded letter" to CSX "threatening legislation if the rail-freight giant continues to insist that it should not be held liable for the human cost of train accidents, even when it is at fault."
Despite repeated criticisms of its no-fault arrangements with Amtrak and passenger rail services in other parts of the country, CSX has demanded the same deal as a nonnegotiable part of a proposed sale of its tracks running between Worcester and Framingham.

Massachusetts officials, who are eager to buy the tracks and expand passenger rail service linking Worcester and Boston, have termed the provision outrageous and have labeled it a deal-breaker. Now federal lawmakers have stepped in and are threatening hearings and legislative remedies.

Under the proposed no-fault arrangement, if one of the MBTA's commuter-rail trains crashed and CSX were determined to be at fault, the company would be liable for train and track damage, but not for passenger injuries or deaths. Critics say the provision would protect CSX even if one of its employees was found to have been drinking or using drugs on the job.

"That is a stupid deal to get into," said US Representative James McGovern. "It's nuts."

The letter, sent by Senator John Kerry and signed by the entire delegation noted:
"Expansion of commuter rail service is enormously important to us and our constituents, and we believe that an agreement can be reached without the need for federal interference. However, in the event that no progress is made in the short term, we are prepared to consider congressional action, including potential legislative solutions mandating what is acceptable in freight-commuter rail contracts."
Why is this important? Well, for riders of the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line, if this issue can resolve it could mean more service between Worcester and Boston.
State officials, led by Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, are pushing to double the number of commuter trains serving Worcester, Grafton, Westborough, Southborough, and Ashland. The Worcester-to-Framingham corridor, however, is one of the few stretches of track used by the MBTA's contractor, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., that is not controlled by the state.
In other news, also from The Globe, a Lynn resident sent in a "Letter to the Editor" about the April 6th Globe article on the proposed Blue Line expansion.

My Super-Early Super-Long Delayed Commute This Morning

This has been a busy week at work. I needed to get into Boston early this morning.

I got up early (which is something Train Rider loathes to do) to get ready so I could take the P506 train in. The P506 train departs Grafton at 6:39 a.m. Much to my surprise, the P506 was canceled. When the next train, the P508, showed up it was two cars short. The P508 departs Grafton a 1/2 hour after the P506 at 7:09 a.m.. So after waiting more than a 1/2 hour, I had to ride on a train that was two cars short that needed to accommodate the riders from two trains.

Once I boarded the train, I noticed that passes were not checked and tickets were not created. Around Ashland, the conductors made an announcement that they spoke to dispatch (CSX I presume?) and obtained permission to have the train go express from the Framingahm station. So, even though the train was packed, it worked out well from a time perspective because we didn't have to stop at West Natick and Natick and deal with even more passengers.

We arrived to Back Bay Station at the P508's scheduled time of 8:17 a.m. I jumped off the train to take the Orange Line to work.

It is really sad when you've already had a long day and it isn't even 8:30 a.m. At least it is nice outside. The question is - will I be able to step out from my endless meetings to enjoy today's taste of spring?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Grafton Train Rider Experiences Some Bad Commutes

Hello! Sorry for being out-of-touch the past few days. I've been tied up with a lot of work meetings/training sessions, so I haven't had time to blog about my commutes. Which have been fine.

Commute-a-holic hasn't noticed any recent news articles about the MBTA/MBCR/Commuter Rail. So that's why the blog has been quiet.

However, I would like to share some feedback from Grafton Train Rider. Special visitor Grafton Train Rider has sent us some updates on recent commutes into Boston. The first update pertained to a commute this morning:
I have an event tonight at Babson College so I decided to take P504 inbound from Wellesley Square. A sign was posted that the train was running 10 minutes late but arrived closer to 18 minutes late. The train was so tardy that we ended up picking up passengers expecting to take P506 (which was also subsequently delayed), the local train departing from Worcester. Thus, folks were standing by the time we pulled into Wellesley Hills, and no further passes were checked or fares collected. The conductor announced that the delay was caused by signal problems upon departing from Framingham. I managed to catch the #1 bus, which was also packed, across the bridge to MIT so my door-to-door commute Grafton to Cambridge via Wellesley - 2:05 - not a new record but very annoying.

The other commute took place over the weekend. Here's the saga:
Check out my Saturday outbound commute fiasco. At least the conductor announced the reason for the delay and encouraged folks to submit for the on-time service guarantee. The conductor said that CSX had to complete some "important paperwork". I also saw track crew on the tracks between Yawkey and Back Bay. I'm not certain if their presence was related to the "important paperwork", though.

--- On Mon, 4/7/08, Commuter Rail Customer Service - Customer Service wrote:

From: Commuter Rail Customer Service - Customer Service
Subject: Concern #1971-5959414: Created (no late train message, useless message on other days )
To: Grafton Train Rider
Date: Monday, April 7, 2008, 12:14 PM

Thank you for your recent communication. Your comments are important to us. A customer service representative will handle your email and respond to you shortly.
Concern Information:
Concern #: 1971-5959414
Date Created: 4/7/2008 12:14 PM EDT
Date of Incident: 4/5/2008
Line: Worcester
Station: Yawkey
Departure Time AM/PM: 1:30 PM (~40 min late!)
Train Number: P557
Subject: no late train message, useless message on other days
Details: P557 was approx 40 minutes late arriving at Yawkey. Why was the sign about the train being 40-45 minutes late not updated until 2 minutes prior to the arrival of the train? I also called SmartTraveler, which had no information about delayed trains. On some other days, why do the signs state "Most trains operating on or near schedule". Using the description "most" in this context is useless. Commuters need to know exactly which train(s) are running late. Or, on the Worcester line, is the list too long?
One other thing - Grafton Train Rider virtually swears that there were handouts for on-time performance stats for March 2008. According to the handouts, the Worcester-Framingham line's on-time performance for March came in at 92%. What's more shocking . . . that there was such a marked increase over February 2008 or that the Worcester line can't seem to hit the 95% on-time mark?

Well at least the Red Sox won yesterday's Fenway Park Home Opening. And supposedly it is nice in Central Mass. today, so I might get to experience some "spring like" weather before the day is over. Because the weather her in Boston has left a lot to be desired.

Train Rider

Monday, April 7, 2008

CSX Trackwork

I signed up for commuter rail updates from MBCR/MBTA and received the following email this evening with respect to upcoming track work between Worcester and Westborough:

To Our Worcester / Framingham Line Customers


Beginning Sunday, April 13, 2008 CSX will be performing tie replacement on the MBTA commuter rail line between Westborough and Worcester. Crews will be working from 8:30a.m. to 6:30p.m. Sunday through Wednesday. This project will be performed in two phases as follows:

Phase 1 (April 13th – April 16th) – all Worcester inbound and outbound trains may experience up to 20 minute delays between the hours of 8:30a.m. and 6:30p.m. while operating through the work zone. From 6:30p.m. – 8:30a.m. trains may experience delays of 5-10 minutes as a result of speed restrictions imposed following the days track work.

Phase 2 (April 20th – April 23rd) – the project will resume; we anticipate that the work will be confined to the immediate Worcester area; delays will be significantly reduced through this phase. We will provide updates if there are any changes to the project plan.

Passengers are encouraged to log on to for updates as they relate to this project. We would also recommend that you consider signing up for the MBTA’s “T – Alerts” program.

Thank you for riding the commuter rail.

Customer Services
Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail
Operating the Commuter Rail on behalf of the MBTA

My Monday Commute Was Fine

Wow - it is nice to see the sun again. What miserable weather we had this past weekend, huh? I mean - I guess April Showers bring May Flowers, but it would be nice if the temperatures could exceed 35 degrees.

My inbound commute was fine this morning. Although not every Worcester-Framingham line commuter could say that. I heard the P500 that leaves Framingham at 5:40 a.m. had some performance issues.

I took the P508 from Grafton. We were at Back Bay Station at 8:17 a.m. and at South Station for 8:23 a.m. So yet another commute that was right on time.

I still haven't noticed any published On Time Performance Results for March 2008. I did read an interesting article in yesterday's Starts & Stops column in the West version of The Sunday Globe but I can't seem to find it online. I did find this article from yesterday's Globe about the proposed extension of the Blue Line to Lynn. I guess this is something that has been debated since 1947!!! In 2008 dollars, an extension would cost $600 million and probably only provide marginal benefits to the greater Lynn-metro area. Lynn is served with transportation to Boston via both commuter rail (the Newburyport-Rockport line) and bus lines.

I don't live on the North Shore, so I can't speak as a citizen who could be impacted by the Blue Line extension. However, it seems like a lot of money to spend within a transit system that is running out of money. Plus, a lot of Massachusetts cities need an economic boost. This could be interesting.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Another Day Taking the P502 to Work

I was at the office pretty late last night. Maybe I should have just slept under my desk because I was back on the P502 this morning. I had to be in the office for a very early conference call. Yes, one would think I could conduct the conference call from the luxury of my home, but I also had to host a webinar and I couldn't do that outside the confines of my corporate IT environment.

Today's commute, in the rain, was fine. The train was right on time. Although, I cannot be sure of the exact time we rolled into Boston because I stumbled blindly off the commuter rail and onto an Orange Line train to get to my house. I wonder if I was even awake?

With two early mornings and a late night, I'm hoping I'll be on either the P519 or the P523 train home tonight!

Just a reminder . . . for riders of the Fairmont, Franklin, Greenbush, Needham, Plymouth- Kingston, Middleboro-Lakeville, and Providence-Stoughton lines . . . your new train schedules go into effect this coming Monday, April 7th.

Higher Gas Prices Mean More T Riders and CSX Update

The Boston Globe published an article this morning about the correlation between an increase in users of the MBTA's services and the rise of gas prices in Massachusetts.

The T reported that overall ridership increased from 27 million in February 2007 to nearly 30 million in March 2008. This increase is in line with a national trend - "More Americans rode public transportation last year than at any time in history, according to the American Public Transportation Association, which also cited gas prices as a major factor."

The price of gas in Massachusetts has increased about 50 cents per gallon over the past year.

Ridership is up for all of the T's services except the commuter boats. The commuter boat ridership's decrease is being attributed to the introduction of the Greenbush MBTA/MBCR commuter rail line.

In other news, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported on negotiations between the state and CSX to purchase the railroad tracks between Worcester and Framingam. Since the T&G's articles archive after 14 days, here is the article in its entirity:

CSX told no-fault is a no-go
Rail liability issue

By Priyanka Dayal

While state transportation officials continue negotiations with CSX Corp. to buy the railroad tracks between Worcester and Framingham, the state’s congressional delegation is threatening legislative action if CSX doesn’t accept a liability policy based on fault.

CSX, the company that owns and controls 21,000 miles of railroad across the country, including 22.8 miles that connect Worcester and Framingham, is demanding a liability policy based on property, not fault. State lawmakers and transportation officials say that is unreasonable because it would force the state to pay for accidents caused by CSX negligence.

Every member of Congress representing Massachusetts signed a letter sent Wednesday to CSX President and CEO Michael Ward in Jacksonville, Fla., that says CSX’s conditions “would put taxpayers and fare-payers at undue risk and prevent the MBTA from adequately ensuring safety.”

No-fault liability would unfairly hold taxpayers responsible for CSX’s negligence, according to the letter. The letter adds that if the issue is not resolved soon, lawmakers will consider filing legislation that would regulate freight and commuter rail contracts. CSX wants a no-fault policy, in which the company and the state would be responsible for its own property, regardless of who is at fault in an accident. The state says setting that kind of gross negligence standard is unreasonable and irresponsible.

“Our hope is we can get the CSX folks to work with the state to avoid congressional action,” Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., said in an interview yesterday. “The economic well-being of our community is really dependent on this kind of public rail system.”

CSX is asking to keep liability on the Worcester-Framingham tracks as it is now, with each party responsible for its own property and passengers. To buy the tracks, the state would have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars.

“If the state purchases the tracks, of course we have a right to demand the situation changes,” Mr. Kerry said. He said he will wait for CSX’s response before deciding if and when to file legislation that would mandate standards for freight and commuter rail contracts.

In a written statement released yesterday, CSX said the company understands the concerns expressed in the letter from congressmen, and will respond in “a timely manner.”

“A no-fault insurance system… puts the public first by ensuring that payments are made quickly and efficiently when the need arises, rather than having them tied up in litigation as often occurs in at-fault insurance mechanisms,” the statement reads.

“This is an industry standard used with other commuter and passenger rail systems and between and among the freight railroads when they operate on each other’s systems.”

Last night, Mr. Kerry’s office had not received a statement from CSX. CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said the statement was released to the media, not to the
congressmen who sent the letter. CSX will send a response to the congressmen later, he said.

In an interview yesterday, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, knocked CSX’s argument that it is simply asking to maintain an industry standard.

“It is bad public policy for the Commonwealth to give no-fault liability to CSX or any other railroad,” Mr. McGovern said.

He pointed to the company’s contracts with Amtrak, which, he said, have forced taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for liability claims that were caused by CSX negligence.

“CSX is being unreasonable here,” he said. “It’s nuts, it’s crazy to enter into this kind of agreement.”

The letter prodding CSX to rescind its liability clause was the first written message all 12 Massachusetts congressmen have sent to the railroad company. It was signed by Mr. Kerry, Mr. McGovern, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and U.S. Reps. John W. Olver of Amherst, William D. Delahunt of Quincy, Edward J. Markey of Malden, Barney Frank of Newton, John F. Tierney of Salem, Michael E. Capuano ofSomerville, Stephen F. Lynch of Boston, Richard E. Neal of Springfield and Niki Tsongas of Lowell — all Democrats.

The track from Worcester to Framingham is one of the only pieces of railroad used for commuter service that is not under state control. Lawmakers say buying that rail is the only way to increase commuter service between Worcester and Boston, in the long-term, to 20 trains in each direction. CSX’s priority is freight, and freight trains traveling between Worcester and Boston frequently cause delays to existing commuter service.

State lawmakers from Worcester met with CSX officials last month; after the meeting, they all said the dispute over liability has led to stalemate.

The 20.9-mile railroad between Framingham and Boston is owned by the state, and liability on those tracks is based on fault, according to a 1985 agreement between CSX and the state Executive Office of Transportation. In 1994, the year before commuter service to Worcester was launched, state officials agreed to give CSX complete indemnity on the Framingham-Worcester tracks as a trade-off for providing commuter service.

In Florida, transportation officials recently struck a deal to buy tracks from CSX to provide commuter service. Several Florida lawmakers have complained about CSX’s liability conditions, which stipulate that in the case of an accident, each side will be liable for damage to its own property and passengers, regardless of fault.

I'll end with this diddy from BostonNOW about a not-so-great MBTA Green Line trolley ride.

We still haven't seen anything about the March 2008 on-time performance results for the commuter rail lines.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Is the Cost of Gas Causing You To Seek Out Alternative Transportation Options?

The Boston Globe is looking for people who have recently switched to taking public transportation as a result of the increase in gas prices. You can read their inquiry here.

If you have started taking the commuter rail or a MBTA bus/train, you can contact Noah Bierman at nbierman AT

This is the impetus for the inquiry:
High gas prices may be sending more commuters to public transportation, with a nearly 10 percent spike in MBTA trips in January and February compared with a year ago.

Almost every category – commuter rail, subway, bus – saw big increases this year in the number of riders, according to statistics released by the MBTA. Commuter boat traffic was the exception as some riders probably fled to the new Greenbush commuter rail line.

Thankfully I Don't Have to Ride the P502 Train Everyday

I had an extremely early meeting this morning. To make sure that I absolutely, positively arrived into the office on time, I took the Worcester line's P502 train.

The P502 train departs the Grafton station at 5:57 a.m. Yes, that's right, for Train Rider 5:57 a.m. is a most ungodly hour. The train arrived at Back Bay Station at 7:03 a.m., three minutes ahead of its scheduled 7:06 a.m. arrival time. I got off at Back Bay and took the Orange Line to my office.

I am not a morning person. In my mind, I basically got up in the middle of the night to make sure I arrived to the Grafton station at 5:57 a.m.

Enough about my commute and my theories about morning.

Read in today's BostonNOW how a lot of riders are receiving complimentary rides on the MBTA's Green Line. Hey - that sounds like the commuter rail line too! I just don't understand how an agency that is in such financial trouble as the MBTA can have passengers not pay for rides? Call me silly - but if the fares don't help the bottom line, then why collect them at all?

Still on the Green Line, an article ran in yesterday's WickedLocal Arlington about the proposed Green Line extension into Medford.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Inbound P508 Train Late Due to Mechanical Issues on the P506 Train

As I was pulling into the Grafton parking lot at 7:02 a.m. this morning (for the P508 7:09 a.m. train), the whistle was already sounding and the train arrived right after that. People were at a dead run to the platform, even bypassing the parking lot fee slots. The train pulled out at 7:05 a.m. I didn't even attempt to run to the train.

This turned out to be the p506, which looked to be about 25-30 minutes behind schedule. I checked my Blackberry for service alerts on the MBTA website, and sure enough, both the p506 and p508 were delayed. The announcement for the p508 said to expect a 20-25 minute delay.

The p508 arrived at 7:29 a.m., just about 20 minutes after the scheduled departure time. The train was about 3 cars short, which would mean we could expect a packed train. Some of my fellow passengers were joking that it would probably be made a local as well (it wasn't, thank goodness!). I sat in the first car and didn't have my pass checked. Around Ashland, the first announcement was made about the delay, due to mechanical problems on the p506 (the train right before mine), so because they were delayed, we were as well.

We arrived at Back Bay at around 8:25 a.m. I got off and took the Orange Line to work. So, today's delay was not enough for reimbursement. But in the "olden" days before the schedule change, we definitely would have been at least 1/2 hour late and I would be submitting for a reimbursement. Now it seems that delays have been built in to the schedule, so we weren't really too too late.

Since it looks like a number of other lines, including the Franklin line, have been experiencing delays, the MBTA/MBCR announced last week that new schedules for five South Side commuter rail lines would be going into effect this coming Monday, April 7th. The schedules have finally been posted on the MBTA's website.

Commute-a-holic and I will both continue watching for the March 2008 on-time performance stats.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fools Day Commuter Rail Ride

The train was 3 hours late this morning! April Fools! Ha ha, I'm a riot.

Today's P508 train was right on schedule. We arrived at Back Bay Station at 8:13 a.m. and South Station at 8:21 a.m. Both stops were ahead of schedule.

This weather is crazy! March definitely goes out like a lamb, huh? I wonder if it supposed to rain all day. I had to run back into my house this morning to change my outerwear because it was so warm outside. Though I heard the temperature is supposed to drop again. Ah, spring in New England . . . there is nothing else like spring here.

Now that we've crossed over into April, I wonder when the on-time performance stats for March 2008 will be available?

Parking at MBTA/MBCR Commuter Rail Stations

I'm not clever enough to write an April Fools diddy about trains running on-time 100% or some other thing to twist your arm. I'm just about the facts.

Two separate articles - one from The Sunday Globe and the other from today's Boston Globe about parking at MBTA/MBCR stations.

The Northwest version of "Starts and Stops" profiled commuter and public transportation support William Elliott's quest for parking. Elliott relies on the Fitchburg line or the Red Line to get into Boston from Action. He finds accessing parking at the Action station and at Alewife to be a challenge. So much of a challenge that he is considering forgoing public transportation. Here is Elliott's story:
William Elliott of Acton is a supporter of public transportation who has had his patience tried. He said the problem for "those of us living in the outlying areas" is parking - in Elliott's case, parking for the commuter rail (Fitchburg) and the subway. "I get on at Alewife, if I can. I have such limited parking that I hardly try to use them anymore. We're paying huge amounts of money to support a system that refuses to address the core problem: how to access it. I've tried so many times to find a parking space in Acton and at Alewife with no success, and, after getting tickets for parking in Concord, I've just about given up on the MBTA.

"I used to be a huge supporter when I lived in Cambridge (I got rid of my car at one point), and in fact grew up in Braintree in the '40s and '50s, routinely taking the bus to Quincy to get the T to Boston, and to my relatives in Watertown (bus out of Harvard Square). Now, it simply frustrates me to drive to the South Acton lot (it's full), then to Alewife (it's full, by about 8:30 a.m. sometimes), at which point there's no alternative but to drive into town, the ultimate frustration.

"It's hard to believe that after all these years of talking about public transportation no one seems to be addressing the central problem of how to access the system unless one can walk to the station."

With more than 43,000 spaces in 150 locations, the MBTA claims to be the largest owner of off-street paid parking in New England. In 2007, more than 9 million vehicles were parked at an MBTA-owned surface lot or garage.

But MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said parking lot expansion is a problem, particularly along the Fitchburg line, because the stations and platforms are owned by the T, but the parking lots are not.

He said there were plans several years ago to add a second deck to the parking lot in South Acton that would double the 287 available spaces, but the Acton Transportation Advisory Committee decided not to proceed because abutters were concerned about congestion in the area.

As for Alewife, where 2,733 parking spaces are now available, Pesaturo said there are no plans for an increase in parking, because "the T is not in a financial position to acquire land for parking."
In other parking-related news, a battle may be brewing in Salem over the construction of a parking garage that could deplete a $20 million state fund that was created to encourage housing and walking paths near T stations. Two North of Boston legislatures did some behind the scenes maneuvering to secure $15 million to build the proposed parking garage. It sounds like the garage may be needed.