Monday, June 30, 2008

Crowded Commute

It was a crowded commute this morning on the P508. For some reason, I thought more people would be on vacation this week, since the Independence Day holiday is this Friday.

Overall, status quo commute, although we stopped outside of Yawkey and sat there for a few minutes before heading in, and ended up arriving at Back Bay at 8:19 a.m. and South Station at 8:26 a.m., so 3 minutes behind schedule. I am glad that the AC was in full working order today...on steamy days like today, I wish I took a commuter boat so I could take advantage of the cool ocean air!

Over the weekend I received the following email from Grafton Train Rider:
Dear Train Rider,

I returned from a business trip and took P513 home this afternoon (Friday). While awaiting my ride home, I noticed that at least 2 cars had tickets issued by the MBTA police. I peeked at one, and the notice was for $15 unpaid parking along with the "standard" fine envelope. I wonder if this person had accumulated unpaid parking fines? The envelopes have some vague warning "repeat unpaid violations are subject to ticketing and towing by MBTA police." Of course the warning does not provide guidelines about frequency and timeframe.

An update on the weekend trains/new bicycle schedule: the additional time added to the schedule seems to be 10 minutes, maximum rather than my original feared guessimate of 25 minutes. Also, I noticed that P513 from Framingham (first "rush hour" train) allows bicycles, which would not have been allowed under the previous policy. However, a train departing at 5:40 AM stretches the limits of "rush hour," doesn't it?
I guess if you're getting parking tickets at the T station, you probably should consider paying them.

The Effects of High Priced Gas on the Suburbs

Yesterday's Boston Sunday Globe's "Starts and Stops" column was a follow-up to last Sunday's article about how some people are moving from the outer suburbs closer to their job. Now that we're seeing record gas prices, urban planners are trying to forecast how this could ultimately effect the suburbs.

The national average of miles driven in a year equaled 14,862 in 2006. In 1970 that figure was 9,949. Massachusetts drivers logged 11,702. The Commonwealth is below the national average for a few reasons, including the size of our state and the fact that we actually have an extensive transportation network.

While people may be driving fewer miles today, the 70s gas crisis did not have a long term effect on the number of total miles driven. So nobody knows if this current reduction in the amount of miles driven will be a temporary or a permanent one.

Ultimately, the only big reduction may come with commuters who have to drive 50 miles or more to get to and from work.

In other news, an interesting article about share-van rides ran in the Globe's North/New Hampshire edition last week. Back in the early 1990s, long before the Worcester commuter rail line existed, I rode a Caravan vanpool to and from Boston. It was a cheap, efficient way to commute. We could park for free at the park and ride lot at the Millbury Mass Pike exit (this was so long ago that the 146 exit didn't exist on the pike). Before the commuter rail, you used to see a lot of vans riding on the Westbound Pike. They were white vans. With the cost of gas, it will be interesting to see if more vans pop up - especially in areas where there may be fewer transportation options.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I've Been Working on the Railroad

TGIF! I'm glad it is Friday. I actually thought yesterday was Friday. So did Commute-a-holic. Maybe we're just pining for next week's 4th of July holiday.

Funny story. Last night I was waiting to get off the train in Grafton. So I was standing in the vestibule. There was a conductor in the vestibule with me and some other folks. The conductor was whisting "I've Been Working on the Railroad," which I though was funny. It definitely put a smile on all of our faces. What a great way to end a train ride home.

I'm heading up to New Hampshire after work, so I drove in today. I got an update from one of my co-workers who takes the P508. She said the train was on time today, arriving to South Station around 8:20 a.m.

Commute-a-holic heard that Channel 5 was reporting delays this morning on the Middleborough commuter rail line.

Read the following article in today's Telegram & Gazette. State transportation officials are planning two projects that could ease congestion around Rt. 495. One project, already started, will add a lane to the eastbound and westbound on-ramps from I-495 to the Mass Pike. I know that they're doing this work at night, so if you exit the Pike to 495, you may want to avoid the construction. Commute-a-holic got caught in some traffic there a few weeks ago. This project is slated to be completed by Labor Day.

The state Highway Department is proposing a project that would reconstruct the I-495 interchange and Interstate 290 on the Marlborough-Hudson lines.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What's Going on with the T?

A special thanks to Fitchburg Train Rider for notifying us about the latest bad news regarding the MBTA.

For the third time this week, the T just hit a stat that no entity that serves the public wants to hit. A person was struck and killed by an Orange Line train near Sullivan Station in Charlestown this morning. As a result of this tragedy, The Boston Herald reports that the MBTA is busing commuters between North Station and Oak Grove in Melrose until the accident scene can be cleared.

This has been an awful week for the T.

The fatalities are pretty horrific. Couple that with some just plain p*ss poor (sorry - there is no other appropriate word choice I can thing of) service issues of late and you know you don't want to be working in a T office right now. Seriously, the service issues need to be addressed. Some of our readers have some good suggestions for how they would try to avoid some of the service issues.

Our sympathy is with the accident victims and the crews who have to deal with the aftermath. Not pleasant at all.

When Commuting, Uneventful is Nice

Good day! I'm back to riding the rails again this morning, back on the P508 to be specific.

My train ride was uneventful. The train arrived to Grafton at 7:11 a.m. (two minutes later than the scheduled arrival time) and we were at South Station 1-minute head of the 8:23 a.m. arrival time - 8:22 a.m. to be exact.

While I often look to avoid the common banality in life (through vacations, special occasions, etc.), I will say that a banal commute is nice. Commutes need to be common and plain. When we have something unexpected happen to us during a commute, it isn't usually a good thing.

So I'm hoping my outbound commute home is just as boring . . . and prompt . . . as my inbound commute this morning was.

Association for Public Transportation Urges Rail Infrastructure Investment

According to an article in today's Telegram & Gazette, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis is frustrated that the Commonwealth's public transportation system is not as adequate as it could be.

Not wanting to say, "I told you so," but certainly implying that, Dukakis was quoted as saying:
"Twenty-five, thirty years ago, it was obvious that we were heading for this."

What's this, you might ask? Well it is the rising cost of gas that is causing residents to seek alternative transportation options which aren't as robust as they could be.

Dukakis was the keynote speaker at last night's Association for Public Transportation's annual meeting. The article noted the following:
The former governor and his wife, Kitty, recently visited Europe, a trip that
reminded him that the United States has “underinvested” in rail. “You come back
to the United States and it’s embarrassing,” he said.

I know that Mr. Dukakis is not just a big advocate, but he follows what he preaches. Back in 2005, I ended up on the same flight that Mr. Dukakis and his wife Kitty were on. We were flying from Madrid to Amsterdam. Assuming that most people with anytime of celebrity cred would fly first class turned out to be just that - an assumption. Mr. Dukakis, his wife and the other couple they were traveling with sat behind me in plain old regular coach.

The article continued to mention the challenges in extended commuter rail service between Worcester and Boston because the tracks are owned by CSX. As we all know, the state is trying to purchase the rail tracks that are between Worcester and Framingham.

While last night's meeting focused on commuter issues, the attendees also noted that transit agencies must work with freight companies to be successful.

Transportation infrastructure is aging, increasingly congested, and unable to
accommodate the current population,” said keynote speaker Frank J. Busalacchi,
secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation. For decades, public funds
for transportation have been devoted to highways, but that model no longer
works, he said.

“We need the same commitment to mass transit as we make to highways,” he said. “It’s going to be very costly.”

In other news, there was another fatality on the tracks yesterday. Last night an outbound Fitchburg commuter rail train struck and killed a person on the Concord-Lincoln town line.

Finally, WickedLocal-Boxborough published an article about the MBTA's funding issues.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reason for the P508 Delay Today

I received this as a comment, but thought it would be beneficial to everyone to add it as a post as well, this is from a fellow Worcester rider:

I was on that very P508 train. I got on in Worcester at roughly 6:47, and didn't get off until 9:47 or so. THREE hours one way!

I was forced to ride (illegally, I might add) in the "boarding" section of train, squeezed in like sardines. Luckly, I was near one of the conductors, and she was able to explain everything to us.

Apparently, the MBTA has known for weeks that the P508 train has "flat wheels." Flat wheels can cause the train to de-rail. The maximum "Wear and tear" that's allowed by law is 1 1/2 inches. Some of the wheels on this train had flat spots of OVER three inches. So, they forced everyone off in Framingham and made us switch trains. I got into the office at 10 AM.

Two things REALLY bother me about this:
  1. If the MBTA knew that our train has been running dangerously for weeks, why didn't they do anything?
  2. Why would they allow us to ride illegally from Framingham to South Station? If we had crashed, I easily would have died. I had nothing to hold on to, and was using the backs and fronts of my fellow passengers as support.

Today will go down in history as the worst commute of all time. It was laughable, and you better believe I'm getting my $15 claim.

I Would Have Been Late to Work Even if I Took the Train In Today

In case you can't decipher my headline, I drove into work today. I needed to run an errand before work this morning. I just arrived into the office about 20 minutes ago. My lateness was due to auto traffic. Traffic, traffic everywhere. I'll get to my story in a second.

Since Train Stopping was created to discuss riding the rails, I'll share some third-party feedback about the Worcester line commuter rail train. My co-worker, who takes the P508, JUST GOT HERE! Yes, it is about 10:00 a.m. and she just arrived to our office. She said the P508 train broke down and they were transferred to another train, which sat outside of Natick for awhile. Then the train they were transferred to finally started moving . . . at 10 MPH the whole way into Boston from Natick to Boston.

I am so glad I wasn't on the train today, I would be steaming mad. I know my colleague is ripped and I can just imagine how all the other passengers feel right now, as they stumble into their offices.

Now we can get back to my commute. I took the Pike to Rt. 128 to go to a friend's house. My friend is battling breast cancer, so a group of us bring her meals on a regular basis. Today was my turn. Getting to my friend's house was fine. But leaving her house to get to work was another story. I took Rt. 128 to Rt. 93 North to get to my office on the Boston Waterfront. What a cluster. Honestly, I can't tell that there's a gas crisis with all the traffic on Rt. 128 or Rt. 93.

It makes me believe more than ever that they need to start subsidizing the 128/93 loop with tolls. I find it incredibly unfair that those of us who live along the Pike end up seeing our toll monies used to subsidized the other highways in Massachusetts. And I think it is ludicrous that they want to re-instate tolls on the Western exits of the Mass Pike. Honestly, unless it is a summer weekend with people driving to and from the Berkshires or leaf peeping season, the Western Pike is like a deserted country road compared to the highways in the rest of the Commonwealth.

The bill for our roads should be more fairly split.

I know if I lived North or South of Boston and I could drive into the city without a toll, I think that it is a pretty fair deal. And sure, adding tollbooths to parts of 93 or 128 could be a logistical nightmare. But why is the burden for funding highways in our state placed unfairly on those who live West of the city? Because I just don't believe the Mass Pike gets to keep all the revenue they generate JUST for use on the Pike.

Here's to a better trip home for all of us tonight!

In the News - Teen Struck, WiFi, New Worcester Schedule and Lots More

Why oh why do people still walk on the train tracks? Yesterday another fatality occurred, when a 15 year old was struck and killed by a train on the Needham line. This was a pure accident, but it touches so many people. The teen's family, the conductor at the helm of the train, the passengers. Just stay off the tracks - they are not a short cut to get somewhere quicker unless you're actually riding a train.

Train Stopping extends their sympathies to the teen's family and to the train staff involved with the accident.

On to some lighter news. The MBTA has annouced that WiFi will now be available on the commuter boats. There are 11 commuter boats that travel to Boston, Logan Airport, Quincy, Hingham and Hull. Along with the commuter boats, the WiFi is currently available on the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.

So it looks like the T has extended the WiFi program to the commuter boats because there has been a decrease in the number of commuters using the boats. In the WiFi article published in today's The Boston Globe, Dan Grabauskas was quoted as saying:

Wireless Internet, is a "difference-maker," Grabausaks said, adding that he hopes new riders will enjoy the wireless enough that they continue to take the boats if gas prices fall. The boats cost passengers between $6 and $12 each way. Monthly passes cost at least $198.

It cost between $1,300 and $1,500 to outfit each of the 11 boats for wireless, Grabauskas said. He said he hopes to expand the wireless service to other commuterlines by the end of the year.

Hey Dan, here's an idea - just provide reliable service and people will consider public transportation as an alternative to driving. The bells and whistles might make a nice press event, but is that really the best way for a cash strapped agency to be spending its budget?

So in this time of high gas prices, why are the commuter boats transporting fewer people? WickedLocal Hingham says that the Greenbush line has taken passengers away from the commuter boats. I know we harp on this topic a lot, but why did our state let the Greenbush commuter rail extension get built, when the towns immediately south of Boston had numerous options for getting into Boston, including the Red Line and the commuter boats? I remember in the early '90s when people in Hingham and other towns were fighting the state over this extension. This is an example of public transportation strategy run amok. The money used to build Greenbush could have been spent in other parts of the state. Right now, people are looking favorably to public transportation as gas prices continue to climb. But it is still a hard sell.

Since the T can't admit failure, the "positive" story about the Greenbush line is that it has seen its passenger growth increase from "the hundreds to 2,000 daily riders." That is pathetic. OK, I'm done ranting for now.

In other news, the Telegram & Gazette finally ran an article this morning about the "new" weekend schedule on the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line. This schedule will impact Central Mass residents who consider using the commuter rail to get into Boston for Red Sox games at Fenway and other events. The new schedule is "realistic," just like the weekday schedule that went into effect in February. However, though it is more realistic, it won't be able to adjust for heat delays that often occur in the summer.

This is what the T&G had to say:

Transportation officials say the schedule change will reflect what already occurs. “Most changes to arrival and departure times are within a few minutes of the prior schedule, and have been made to accurately account for travel times,” states a press release from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and its contractor, MBCR.

Earlier this year MBCR listed several reasons why trains are slower than they used to be. Ridership has increased at least 40 percent since the line opened in 1995, causing the trains to linger a few extra minutes at each of the 17 stations between Worcester and Boston.

The combination of recent federal regulations and restrictions from CSX Corp., which owns the track from Worcester to Framingham, also has forced trains to slow down on some stretches of the line. Commuter trains share the track with freight trains.

More updates about the Amtrak bridge replacement project going on in Connecticut.

Finally, yesterday's nasty thunderstorms caused delays on the Fitchburg line. A tree fell near the West Concord commuter rail station, causing both the eastbound and westbound trains to literally stop in their tracks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

MetroWest Companies That Offer Commuter-Friendly Perks

As a commuter (albeit, one with a pretty short commute), I'm interested in the different ways that companies offer to make their employees daily commutes a little easier.

Yesterday, The MetroWest Daily News, published a nice article that highlights different companies based in the MetroWest area that offer commuter-friendly perks.

Intel, with offices in Hudson, leads the pack. They've offered tele-commuting options to their employees for years. That's the cool thing about tech companies - they sometimes extend different work-friendly perks. One of my friends works at Google and she gets to ride to work for free because Google offers carpool vans that commute from San Francisco to Mountain View, CA every day. My friend started using the vans a few years ago during the first steep gas increase. Not only can she take advantage of the van's wi-fi, she gets to miss out on the aggravation of driving along the 101. A cynic could say that Google just wants their employees to work more, whereas an optimist would say that Google just makes it easier for their employees to live life.

Now back to Intel. Why do they offer their employees the ability to tele-commute? Here are some reasons:
"Everybody at Intel, except perhaps for people who work directly in the fabrication, have notebook computers they can take home with them," said company spokesman Patrick Ward. "I live in Arlington. I work four days in the office and one day at home.

"It works well at Intel, and it does reduce commuting, as well as stress on employees."

Though he wasn't sure exactly how many of the company's employees work from home on any given day, Ward said the number is "definitely growing."

"When you combine the gasoline with the time in the car and the wear and tear on the car, I think the rising price of gasoline may be something that tips the balance," he said.

Of course, employees at different companies want to be able to either tele-commute or more hours spread over fewer days for different reasons, including saving money on gas costs and adding an extra day to their personal life. I know some of my friends who work at companies along Route 128 or in the Maynard area like to be able to work from home because it gives them extra time - time not spent waiting in traffic or sitting on a train or bus.
It's a benefit more and more employees want to get in on, said Dinah Cardin, outreach coordinator for the Northshore Transportation Management Agency and a spokeswoman for MassCommute.

The Boston-based group works with dozens of companies throughout the state to promote carpooling and tele-commuting as ways to ease congestion on roads and make commuting easier on workers.

The article also mentioned that EMC encourages carpooling. As of May 2008, they had 139 commuters registered as carpoolers; 40 of the commuters signed up in May alone.

The CEO of the Milford Chamber of Commerce predicts that more companies will offer flex-time. "The price of gasoline isn't going down. They've got to work with employees."

My Train Car was Packed

I'm on the lookout for a wrapped commuter rail train. I wonder what line got to have the train first? I tried to find some photos, but nothing has been posted yet.

My morning commute was fine. I was on the P508 train. We got to South Station at 8:21 a.m. As the headline says, it was packed on my car.

Massachusetts Moves Badly in Transportation-Related Issues

The Boston Globe published an editorial this morning about the state of transportation in Massachusetts titled "Mass. moves -- badly."

Massachusetts Transportation Investment Coalition, a coalition of public-spirited groups, issued a report yesterday about transportation in Massachusetts.
According to a report commissioned by the Massachusetts Transportation Investment Coalition, 585 bridges in the state are structurally deficient, the most heavily traveled being the Interstate 95 span that crosses the Newburyport Turnpike in Lynnfield. A stretch of North Road in Westfield is number one on the list of deteriorated highways. There may be no immediate safety hazard, but with truck and automobile transportation essential to the state economy, no highway should linger in substandard condition.

With the spike in gas prices, ridership on public transit has increased markedly, and the MBTA has worked hard to accommodate all its riders. Years of inadequate investment, however, have meant that 82 percent of the transit rolling stock is in poor or marginal condition, and 84 percent of commuter rail coaches are in similarly poor shape. Continual repair keeps most of them going, but the threat remains of unreliable service.

The coalition comprises 21 groups ranging from the American Automobile Association, Conservation Law Foundation, Construction Industries of Massachusetts, and the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council. Its members will spend the next few months going around the state explaining the extent of the problem. The coalition's findings ought to encourage legislative candidates to make transportation finance an issue this fall.

The Globe noted that this is a hard sell topic, due to the cost. Last year, the Legislature said it would cost $15 to 19 billion to fix all the transportation-related issues plaguing the Commonwealth. Increases in gasoline tax could fund the fixes, but then voters might become angry. That leaves increasing transit fares or toll hikes, which would be a few commuters would be contributing revenue to be used for state-wide transportation issues.

In other news, two consecutive commentaries published by The Salem News about commuter rail-related issues. Yesterday the paper wrote an editorial about attempts made on the North Shore back in 1978 for extending commuter rail options. If only you could go back in time, huh? The idea 30 years ago was to build electric LRVs to run along existing commuter rail and Blue Line tracks to move people from the North Shore to Boston. The editorial also touched upon the bad experience many North Shore residents had last week in attempting to use public transportation to get into Boston for the Celtics parade.

Today's editorial was about the lack of parking at the MBTA's Beverly Station lot. There is a lack of parking at the commuter rail system's second busiest (Salem) and third busiest (Beverly) stations. However, new stations have been built in Lynn and Lawrence. Yet these stations are not busy and the demand for parking is not as great.

It seems like the T was trying to satisfy some urban communities while ignoring some other suburban/urban areas. Where's the leadership? Who is making the decisions? Will we always have to ask these questions?

On a lighter note, be on the lookout for wrapped commuter rail trains. Boston Daily wrote about the unveiling of the first-ever wrapped commuter rail train we mentioned last week. The newly wrapped train was unveiled yesterday. We'll try to find some coverage about the event.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Moving on to Mass Transit Because of the Cost of Gas

The weekly "Eyes on the Road" column, published Monday's in The Wall Street Journal, ran a great profile this morning about a Detroit resident's efforts to move to mass transit. You should be able to access this article this week, as it appears to be part of the Journal's free web content.

Yup, it is true. The cost of gas is causing Americans to rethink their commuting habits. We're lucky here in Massachusetts - we may not have the greatest mass transit system, but at least we have one. Cities such as Detroit, which eliminated most of their public transportation options after World War II, are in a pickle now that gas is expensive and citizens want different options.

The cost of gas will no doubt continue the dialogue about public transportation. On the one hand, Americans don't want to spend so much of their disposable income towards transportation costs. On the other hand, everyone wants the public transit to fit their schedule. There may need to be some compromises, but it would be great to see a system that fits a lot of different needs and helps us conserve our resources.

P512 Inbound Train for a Change

Instead of the P508 train I normally take, I took the P512 train this morning. We arrived to South Station at 9:10 a.m., two minutes behind schedule.

In regards to the "new" weekend commuter rail schedule, effective today, Grafton Train Rider sent me the following comments:
I also received this message about the schedule change. My first thought was - so what is new? The commuter rail always allowed bicycles on non-rush hour trains (check out the "old schedule").

Then, I asked myself, "what has changed?" Comparing the new schedule travel times with the old schedule indicates that some trains have increased by about 25 minutes in total travel time! In my opinion, this message is a marketing ploy/diversion so that folks pay attention to the bicycle symbols rather than diminished service.

I haven't had time yet to conduct a side-by-side comparison, but offhand, P563 inbound seems to have the most additional time added to the schedule. Unfortunately, I have had first hand experience with this train, which is nearly always late. In fact, the last time that I took P563, which arrived in Grafton ~15 minutes late, the conductor had a surly (and useless) response "isn't this train always late," when I inquired as to why the train was tardy. I didn't bother submitting a complaint about the conductor and/or train, though.

Since Grafton Train Rider rides the rails on the weekends, I really appreciate this feedback. I do find it interesting that the Worcester line always seems to have something like this happen when a "new" schedule is put into place.

I would like to thank Grafton Train Rider and everyone who frequently shares their own commuter rail experiences (especially AJ, Keith, and all the Anonymous posters). I think the comments help frame the situation on the commuter rail lines.

Before I leave, I wanted to share this comment that came in over the weekend to a post I made on June 12th. I think the T and the MBCR should make a mandate that their employees need to use the system they work for. I've worked at companies that have required me to engage with our product. The same should be true for the MBTA's employees.

Hot Worcester Line Tracks = Slow Commute

Yesterday's Boston Sunday Globe's "Starts and Stops" column contained a lead story about when the weather heats up, rail tracks can cause a slow down - especially on the Worcester line. Why is only the Worcester line impacted? Well, that's because CSX owns the rails that comprise the Worcester line. Sometimes the Providence line is impacted, because their tracks are owned by Amtrak. But Amtrak has higher speed limits than CSX.

No doubt, this column certainly resonated with frustrated riders of the Worcester line:

Regulars on the Framingham-Worcester commuter line have it rougher than almost anyone who depends on the rails to get to work in Massachusetts. They have suffered a history of delays and, more recently, were subject to changed schedules built around chronically slow service.

Add this to their lament: hot tracks, the scourge of summer traveling.

Earlier this month, when regional temperatures hit the 90s, Framingham-Worcester passengers were stuck with four days of speed restrictions that did not affect other commuter lines. Those slowdowns added 20 minutes to a commute to Worcester that routinely takes more than 1 1/2 hours.

Since we're now officially in summer, Worcester commuter rail riders can expect more hot track delays - especially between the hours of 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on those super steamy days. The past two summers there have been nine days of temperatures in the 90s.

The "Starts and Start" column also had an update about the Blue Line construction.

That wasn't all the news in yesterday's Globe. There was a cornucopia of transportation related stories.

The front page ran a story about Boston-area residents who are selling their homes to move closer to their offices. Even though this is a pretty bad real estate market, some people want to cut down on their commutes. This may cause them to reduce the size of their home.

The Boston Globe Magazine published an article about some of the short-sighted transportation decisions our Commonwealth has made over the years. One was the new U-turn they added to the Pike in Boston. Another was the Greenbush commuter rail line. New big-budget transportation projects could ultimately make sense, but our state's transportation leaders need to consider if spending billions of dollars is ultimately worth it.

Along the same lines, The Boston Herald ran an article yesterday about how Massachusetts' poor roads and bridges are costing the average drive $156 in repair costs, increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Yikes~

Friday, June 20, 2008

We're Back . . . on That Is

OK, I know, this is like the zillionth post by us today.

But I'm so excited. I just noticed that Train Stopping was featured again under New England Blogs on


Worcester Line Rail Work and Weekend Schedule Change

Wow! It has been a busy day here at the Train Stopping blog.

I just received two emails from the MBCR RailMail. One email pertains to some rail work occurring on the Worcester-Framingham line this Sunday, June 22nd. The other email was about a new weekend schedule on the Worcester line.

Here are the emails:

Rail Work (what I can't deduce from the message - is the rail work just this Sunday or is it ongoing?).

To all our Worcester/Framingham Line customers:

Beginning Sunday, June 22 , 2008, CSX will be performing rail replacement on the Worcester Line for the entire day. During this work, trains will be bused between Grafton and Worcester affecting the following trains:

SUNDAY JUNE 22, 2008
Inbound Trains:
  • P552 - Bus from Worcester (departing at 9:25am) to Grafton.
  • P556 - Bus from Worcester (departing at 2:15pm) to Grafton.
  • P560 - Bus from Worcester (departing at 6:05pm) to Grafton.
  • P562 - Bus from Worcester (departing at 8:15pm) to Grafton.
Outbound Trains:
  • P553 – Bus from Grafton (departing at 8:57am) to Worcester.
  • P557 - Bus from Grafton (departing at 1:49pm) to Worcester.
  • P561- Bus from Grafton (departing at 5:39pm) to Worcester.
  • P563- Bus from Grafton (departing at 7:07pm) to Worcester.
We apologize for any inconvenience you experience because of this project.

Commuter rail service information is available on the MBTA website at by calling the MBTA Customer Support Services Center at 617-222-3200.

Weekend Schedule:
To all of our Worcester Line Customers
Exciting changes to your Weekend schedule!

We are pleased to announce that beginning Monday, June 23rd, 2008 we will introduce a new weekend schedule for the Worcester Line. We have added, for your convenience, a “bicycle symbol” to the trains that will now allow bikes to be brought on the commuter rail.

The new schedule is attached for your convenience.

This schedule may also be found on the MBTA’s website at

Thank you for riding the commuter rail.

I've posted the weekend schedules below.

And here's the link to subscribe to the MBCR's RailMail.

A Sea of Green on the T

All subway lines and commuter rail lines pointed towards downtown Boston yesterday. Celtics fans, who waited 22 years and endured a rash of team-related tragedies on the road to our 17th NBA Championship, used the MBTA to the fullest of its capacity.

Noah Bierman wrote a great wrap-up on yesterday's transportation-related stories for today's Boston Globe.

For fans and commuters, the packed-to-the-gill trains made for some trying commutes.

A No Brainer? I'm Not So Sure.

While I applaud the T's efforts to increase ridership and promote public transportation in Massachusetts, I think they need to fix what's wrong first before they can handle increased capacity. Because, frankly, I'm not sure they can.

Case in point, last night's commute, post Celtics parade. I figured most of the people who had come into town for the parade headed home on the trains departing South Station at 4:00 or 5:00. I took the p529, which is supposed to depart Boston at 6:15. By 6:20, the train still hadn't shown up. I think we finally got an announcement about 6:24 that inbound trains were delayed due to heavy traffic. We did board finally and departed at 6:28. I figured we'd make up the time due to the 10 minute cushion in the schedule (much like pilots can make up time in the air), but we arrived in Grafton at 7:38, almost 20 minutes after the scheduled arrival time of 7:19.

A frustrating commute to say the least. It's too bad that there weren't additional trains added to the some of the more populous routes to accommodate the parade riders. If the MBTA cannot handle that sort of capacity, what makes you think they're going to be able to handle more and more daily commuters? Does this mean that late trains will start to be the norm again?

This morning's commute was better, departed Grafton at 7:19, arrived at South Station at 8:21.

Although I got held up trying to board a bus on the Silver Line again. I think it's interesting to note that on the Silver Line, the buses tend to get bunched up, so you can stand there for 3-4 minutes with no buses in sight, then all of a sudden, 4 of them show up at once. That doesn't seem like the best schedule to me.

Traffic Gridlock in Central Mass

On the front page of today's Telegram & Gazette there was an article about gridlock in the Central Mass region, especially around Interstate 495. Two planning agencies, the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission and the Metropolitan Are Planning Council, are joining forces on a study to determine what the future growth for the 495 area will be.

About 100,000 cars travel every day on some parts of the Central Mass stretches of 495.

Well getting into Boston yesterday on the commuter rail wasn't just a tough trip for riders on the Worcester line. North Shore residents got stuck when that dreaded bridge between Beverly and Salem was closed to traffic yesterday between 10:05 a.m. and 11 a.m. The bridge, which had a bunch of operational problems earlier this year, was stuck in an open position. Gosh, not a good time for something like that to happen. You can get the full scope in this article from today's Gloucester Daily Times.

There was yet another article about the increase in ridership across the T. South Coast Today published an article yesterday, written with an emphasis on Middleboro/Lakeville commuters.

Finally, the MBTA continues to garner publicity about their new promotional efforts aimed at getting more people to use public transportation. The DMNews, a publication geared towards the marketing community, wrote an article about the campaign.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Everyone Loves a Celtics Parade

In case you have been living under a bubble somewhere, the Celtics "Rolling Rally" is today. Hip hip hooray to the Celtics! That was a nice championship victory.

Altering my schedule a bit, I took the P512 this morning. Maybe that was a mistake. It was PACKED with Celtics revelers. Maybe it wasn't a mistake - who knows, my regular P508 may have been packed too.

The conductors gave up collecting passes around Framingham. I'm perturbed by this for a few reasons.
  1. The MBTA needs the revenue.
  2. It is unfair that some people had to pay for their train ride in and others didn't.
  3. The T and the city have been promoting the use of the whole system as an alternative to driving in - why didn't they staff up for this? Could they not staff up? I mean - if you aren't going to collect the much needed fares, don't collect it for the entire ride in.

We got to South Station at 9:06 a.m., a few minutes ahead of schedule. It looks like it will be a fairly nice day for a parade - I hope the forecasted rain stays away until the parade is over.

Thank you Celtics for bringing home another championship to Boston!

Dump the Pump Today

Another day in Boston, another rolling victory parade. Will these parades ever get old? I doubt it. I hope people decided to use public transportation to head into Boston for today's Celtics' parade. I heard that the city is going to start closing downtown streets around 9:30 a.m. this morning.

Beyond the Celtics' parade to celebrate their 17th NBA Championship, today is Third Annual Dump the Pump Day. Dump the Pump is designed to raise awareness about the benefits of using public transportation - both from a personal economic standpoint and an environmental standpoint. With gas over $4.00 a gallon here in Massachusetts and in other parts of the country, I think there could be a captive audience listening to ways to "dump the pump."

Even the MBTA is getting in on the action. Did you notice the fancy graphic they created to "dump the pump"?

The MBTA is using "Dump the Pump" to kickoff a promotional campaign designed to encourage more residents to ride the rails (or use the buses and commuter boats). According to Progessive, the MBTA's campaign components include interactive elements along with radio ads and commuter-rail train wraps. Oh, seeing a commuter rail train wrapped with a message could be cool. I wonder if the wraps make it even harder to look out a window?

I heard on Channel 5 this morning that the MBTA will begin modernizing Blue Line stations starting this Saturday, June 21st.
  • Phase I will run from June 21st through July 3rd. The Wonderland station will be closed.
  • Phase II will be from July 5th to August 1st. The Wood Island station will be closed.
  • Phase III will be from August 2nd to August 15th, closing Revere Beach station.
  • Phase IV will be from August 16th to August 29th, shutting down the Beachmont station.
The MBTA will be using buses to transport riders between stations. In some cases, riders may have to take a Blue Line train to a different station. It seems a bit confusing, but I'm sure people will figure it out.

Amtrak has rescheduled the Connecticut Bridge Replacement project. The project will now start on June 24th and end on June 27th. You can read about it in this article posted yesterday afternoon to

Finally, here is an interesting editorial that was published last Friday (June 13th) in The Milford Daily News. The editorial is about different mass transit options for the Metro West area.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Celitcs Parade Information Announcement from the MBCR

Received the following email from the MBCR's RailMail service.

Congratulations Celtics!
Parade Notification and Special Announcements

We would like to take this opportunity to remind our regular customers that due to the parade for the Celtics there will be increased ridership on the commuter rail system. We will be running a normal weekday schedule. All available coaches will be in service for this event making it possible to have additional coaches on some trains; however, customers should anticipate crowded trains and delays throughout the day.

Due to the size and layout of our stations, we will have boarding procedures in place. This will include dedicated lines for each line of route. Please see the attached information for your departing station. Our priority will be to board trains as early as possible to minimize delays and to ensure your safety.

Customers are encouraged to buy a round trip ticket on their inbound trip to Boston either from the local vendor at their departing station or from the conductor on the inbound train. This will expedite departures and minimize lines at the ticket office, as we will be carrying out pre-boarding checks and we will ask to see your pass or ticket for your outbound trip.

Additional staff will be available throughout the day to assist in managing lines, fare collection and boarding.

There will be signs posted at North, South and Back Bay stations offering additional details.

Thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation and thank you for riding commuter rail.

South Side Information
Thursday June 19th 2008

Customers are advised that we expect that all trains will be crowded today with Celtics supporters traveling to and from Boston for the Celebration Parade.

Please take into consideration the increased ridership when planning your commute today. It will be important to note that there will be special arrangements at South Station and a “queuing” system in place at Back Bay Station.

Outbound Departures
Trains will be operating as close to schedule as possible. When trains are at capacity, they will depart.

Worcester line Customers are advised that train number P517 (2:45p.m. departure) will make all stops to Worcester.

South Station
We ask that you do not arrive at South Station more than 20 minutes prior to your train’s departure time. This will prevent overcrowding of the station and allow ease of access to tracks and platforms. On arrival, please remain in the station and listen for announcements. Please ensure you have purchased your ticket prior to boarding your train.

Back Bay
A “queuing” system will be in operation for commuter rail customers.
  • The East Berkley/Clarendon exit will be closed.
  • Customers will enter through the Clarendon Street entrance into a “queue” for the Franklin, Needham, and Providence/Stoughton Lines.
  • Framingham/Worcester Line Customers will be directed to tracks 5 & 7.


There were some tired folks on the p508 this morning, me included. But man, was it worth it. Wow, what a game last night. And how lucky are we Boston area sports fans to be able to bask in yet another championship! I remember the last Celtic championship in 1986 and last night’s victory has been a long time coming.

I had the fortune to meet Paul Pierce a few years ago, as my firm participated in his celebrity softball tournament. He was very nice and down to earth for someone who had the weight of the franchise on his back. I’m so happy for him that he was able to win a Championship … and gain the Series MVP title as well. Congrats!

While the riders of the p508 were tired, the train itself chugged along to Boston on time and we arrived to South Station at 8:19 AM.

I have some random commuter rail musings, probably influenced by sleep deprivation, but that’s okay:

1.) Apparently when it rains heavily (like it did on Monday evening) and the commuter rail cars sit outside at night, the rain pools and then gets trapped in the roofs of some of the older cars. Yesterday on the p508, the trapped water was leaking through the light fixture onto the seats and floors below. Since I usually sit in the upper level, it was very noticeable. I can't say whether it happens on the lower level (but I would imagine not). Nothing like getting dripped on inside a train car. Thanks MBTA, I already took a shower when I got up this morning.

2.) Why must people use the seat as leverage to hoist themselves up? I mean, generally needing leverage is fine. But more often than not, people grab the seat and shake it back and forth as they try to get up. And conversely, when people sit down, why do they (for all intents and purposes) throw themselves into the seats?

Either of these maneuverings causes commuters who are already seated to either: spill their morning beverage, pitch forward/backwards/sideways in some strangely contorted angle, lose their place in the book/paper/magazine they were reading or be awakened from a nap due to the sheer force of the jolt.

(You know, this happens on planes as well which is actually worse. At least on the commuter rail you’re either in a 2 or 3-seater, whereas on the plane, it’s just your own seat and the jostling is so much more pronounced.)

3.) I’m just going to mention this once and then never again because even the thought of it makes me shudder. Do. Not. Clip. Your. Nails. On. The. Commuter. Rail. EVER. It’s unsanitary, it’s gross and if I have to hear the clip, clip, clip sound one more time … well, let’s just say the MBTA police are going to have to pull me off of you ...

Anyhoo, Train Stoppers, bask in the Celtics glory, root for those Sox and enjoy those commutes.

Boston #1 in Basketball, #8 for Worst Commutes

How about those Celtics, huh? Their 17th Championship scored on June 17th. Sweet.

While Boston may be on of America's top sports cities, we are also tops on a notorious list. Inrix, a company that produces traffic systems, just came out with a ranking of the Top 10 worst commutes in the United States.

Los Angeles may not be tops in basketball, but they are #1 for having the worst commutes. Boston came in at #8.

Here is the list of the most congested areas in the US:
1. Los Angeles, CA
2. New York, NY
3. Chicago, IL
4. Washington D.C.
5. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
6. San Francisco, CA
7. Houston, TX
8. Boston, MA
9. Seattle, WA
10. Atlanta, GA

I'm actually surprised that Houston and Atlanta aren't higher on the list. And I had no idea that Seattle had horrible congestion. Every time I've been there, driving has seemed a lot easier than navigating through Boston.

According to a report on the Today show this morning, the worst commute in the US is a strip of road outside of Honolulu, HI from 6 to 7 p.m. on Fridays. This 20 mile stretch can take 2 hours to drive through. Yikes.

Inrix also provided a best/worst day for commuting list. Here it is:
  • Worst Traffic Day: Friday
  • Worst Week Day Commute: Friday PM
  • Worst Commuting Hour: Friday 5-6 PM
  • Worst Morning Commute: Wednesday AM
  • Best Week Day for Traffic: Monday
  • Best Week Day Commute: Friday AM
  • Best Week Day Commuting Hour: Friday 6-7 AM
  • Best Week Day Afternoon: Monday PM

The Boston Globe published their own list of worst bottlenecks in the Boston area. The list basically focused on traffic tie-ups that occur inside the Rt. 128 loop.

Happy trails indeed, huh?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On Time Train but the Silver Line Was Packed

The P508 was on time this morning. We arrived at South Station at 8:19 a.m. The Silver Line was mobbed, though. I had to wait for three full buses to pass before I could get on.

Read the following article in today's MetroWest Daily News regarding how the state plans to balance the needs of the commuter rail commuters with the needs of automobile drivers in high traffic areas such as the intersections of Routes 126 and 135 in Framingham. Framingham officials are concerned that increasing the number of commuter rail trains will only increase the bottleneck situation that occurs in some areas along the rail line.

Some Worcester line commuters were quoted in the article:
Grafton resident Kevin McCarthy, who takes the commuter rail to his job in Boston, correlated the train's occasional tardiness with the CSX ownership of the tracks.

CSX freight takes precedence over the commuter train, which sometimes throws the train's schedule out of whack, said McCarthy.

"They always put themselves first," he said. "It never runs early, I'll say that much."

Robert Van, a 44-year-old jeweler from Hopkinton, who uses the commuter rail to get to his job in Boston, concurred.

"(CSX) should work with the MBTA," he said.

In other news, Governor Deval Patrick was recently on the North Shore, where he made some announcements regarding the Beverly Depot commuter rail station project, according to the Gloucester Daily Times.

Finally, major upgrades are planned for the Rockport commuter rail station, according to

Monday, June 16, 2008

Corporate Communicators and the High Cost of Gas

For my "day job," I am a marketer for a high tech company. As a result, I subscribe to a lot of different newsletters regarding marketing/communications.

I read the following article in today's, a website for professional communicators. Since I've worked in corporate communications in past jobs, the article made me chuckle (only because internal communications is tough). Since Ragan sometimes requires an account to view articles, I'm posting the article in its entirety.
Employers help workers handle high gas prices
By Sarah McAdams

With three in 10 workers looking for jobs closer to home, communicators must get the message out that the company cares

U.S. gas prices are hovering around record $4 per gallon across the country, and people are panicking—and looking for jobs they don’t have to commute to.

And that’s got employers concerned.

A new Robert Half survey revealed that higher gas prices have affected the commutes of 44 percent of professionals—and 30 percent are looking for jobs closer to their homes.

Not wanting to lose valued employees, many companies are exploring ways to ease their anxiety— and internal communicators need to get this message to their audiences.

“Employers may be missing an opportunity to improve morale and reduce turnover by helping their staff cope with the burden of rising gas prices. Often, it can be as simple as communicating to employees what programs are already in place,” says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "Companies can build loyalty and motivation by showing employees that they are empathetic to their concerns during challenging times.”

The survey also reports that workers are more frequently carpooling or ridesharing (46 percent), driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle (33 percent) and telecommuting more frequently (33 percent).

Meanwhile, TransitCenter, a nonprofit that promotes the use of mass transit, found that deployment of tax-free commuter benefits programs by U.S. employers in major metropolitan areas has grown 57 percent, jumping from 28 percent in 2006 to 44 percent in 2007.

“Today, it is the No. 1 program that employers plan to add to their benefits package in the next year,” Larry Filler, CEO and founder.

Not surprising, considering that the American Public Transportation Association reports that workers took more than 10.3 billion trips on public transportation last year, the highest level in 50 years.

Technology makes telecommuting easier; the environment benefits

Many companies are taking advantage of technology to help keep costs down. Hewlett-Packard Co. plans to quadruple its videoconferencing room by next year, reports The Wall Street Journal. The company’s communicators have also sent newsletters to employees reminding them that about the benefits of car pools, company shuttles and bicycles.

Many other organizations are offering increased telecommuting options.

JHG-Townsend, a public relations agency in San Diego—where gas prices are more than $4 a gallon and rising—is responding by launching a pilot program called “Virtual Fridays.” Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the company’s 33 employees will work remotely on Fridays while using the latest technologies to communicate with their clients and each other.

Another PR firm, HCK2 Partners in Dallas, is doing something similar by creating a rotating “work from home” program this summer.

Employees—most of whose commutes are between 30 minutes and an hour each way—are encouraged to work from home one Friday per month. The firm’s leaders say they will revisit the program in September to determine whether it will continue

Such programs will also benefit the environment.

Using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies calculator, JHG-Townsend found that by implementing “Virtual Fridays” it will save:

  • 30 gallons of gas each week;
  • 420 gallons of gas during the entire summer program;
  • 18 barrels of oil (assuming 23 gallons are refined from one barrel of oil);
  • 3.64 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

“Just think, if 10 San Diego companies of our size did this, we could save 4,200 gallons of gas this summer and take some profits away from oil companies!” says Michelle Brubaker, a senior account executive at the firm.

Other employers are suggesting workers take Fridays off altogether.

Michigan’s Oakland County, for instance, is considering transitioning public employees to four-day workweeks, reports The Wall Street Journal.

County leaders are currently awaiting approval from the commissioners to create a four-day, 40-hour workweek that would remain in place for "the foreseeable" future. They estimate that up to 1,500 of the county’s 4,000 employees would take advantage of thus option; however, if only 800 did, it would save about $300,000 over the course of a year.

Rainy Day Drive to Work

Due to a post-work engagement today, I needed to drive into work. What a bad day to drive.

Traffic this morning on the Mass Pike was awful. It is so frustrating that a backup on Rt. 128 causes the entire Pike to back up as well. Crazy, huh? The backup this morning was in the Natick area.

I guess I wasn't the only one suffering a lousy commute today. Richard submitted a comment today. It sounds like he took my regular train in, the P508. Not only was the train late arriving into Union Station in Worcester - without any announcements regarding the delay - but it was late in its arrival to South Station. For the folks who get on at some of the earlier stops, their commute was a 2 hour ordeal. Yikes!!!

I also hope the nice commutes we have had over the last few months weren't some sort of mean tease.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Friday Train Pulled In On Time

Happy Friday!

At times, hasn't this week's commutes seemed long? There have been a lot of responses to different blog posts this week about delayed trains. Check out Jennifer's update about yesterday's P504 train on the Worcester-Framingham line. AJ has also added in some feedback for the lack of announcements for some of the stoppages this week.

Today's commute was a good one. We were on time. There was no random stopping on the Allston/Brighton border or sitting on the tracks for 10 minutes without any announcements. The P508 arrived at South Station at approximately 8:21 a.m.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

MBCR/MBTA Commuter Rail May 2008 Performance

Train Rider just sent me an email. Live from South Station. . . some May 2008 Performance Results for a few MBCR/MBTA Commuter Rail Lines:

  • On-time performance for all of the South Division lines for May 2008: 84.75%
  • Year-to-date on-time performance for the South Division: 81.08%
  • The Greenbush and Plymouth lines met the "on-time service guarantee" with a 95.78% and 96.05% performance respectively.
  • The Worcester line: 93.39%
  • The worst performing line - Franklin: 56.83%

Late, Late, I Can't Be Late

It figures. The one morning that I absolutely, positively need to be in the office by a specific time, I'm not. I took the P508 train in this morning. Instead of arriving to South Station for 8:23 a.m., we didn't pull in until 8:32 a.m. I hope this isn't the start to a long summer of delays.

I don't know what is going on, but there seem to be some signal issues occurring on the Worcester line this week. I can understand how Monday's and Tuesday's hot, hot, hot weather could impact the trains. But the temperature today is near perfect.

Of course, the one day I really need to get to the office, I wasn't there. Argh!!!!

Mass. Congressmen Ask GAO to Study Railroad Liability

U.S. Reps. James McGovern (D-Worcester) and John Olver (D-Amherst) are part of a group of Congressman asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on how much railroad liability agreements cost taxpayers in the US. An article about this appeared in today's Telegram & Gazette. This directly ties to Massachusetts' ongoing negotiations with CSX regarding train tracks on the Worcester line:
The proposed study comes at a time when officials in Massachusetts are trying to speed up negotiations to purchase sections of track from railroad company CSX Corp. The 22.8-mile track from Worcester to Framingham is one of the few pieces of railroad that is used for commuter service, but is not owned by the state. Politicians say acquiring that track is the best way to increase commuter service to the area.

The letter that McGovern, Olver and Kathy Castor (D-Florida) and James Oberstar (D-Minnesota) sent asked the GAO to "examine liability and indemnity provisions of existing and pending commuter-freight rail agreements, and to study the effects those agreements have on federal and state governments. "

In other train-related news, the MBTA is on track to set a new ridership record for the fiscal year that ends June 30th, according to an article in today's Boston Globe/ The current record was set in 2001 with 354,162,000 riders. Ridership is up on subway, commuter rail, bus, and the commuter boats with the biggest jumps in riders occurring on the subways and buses.

The T also reported that the 10,000th person recently signed up for the T Alerts system. This may not be that shocking - most of the subscribers to T Alerts are commuter rail riders.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Survey Says Workers Willing to Telecommute

On the heels of my earlier post regarding the state of mass transit in the US, I wanted to share this article released on Reuters today. Since I've been employed in the high tech industry for over a decade and I'm interested in commuter-related issues, the survey's findings were of interest to me.

More than a third of US technology workers would be willing to accept pay cuts of up to 10% to work from home and avoid commuting costs according to a survey released yesterday by Dice Holdings Inc. About 7% of all technology workers already telecommute, but most of the people currently telecommuting work in a consulting-related job function.

Keep in mind that the average technology professional earns $74,570 a year (according to Dice), so a 10% paycut may not hurt as much for these workers as professionals in other industries.

I'm still interested in seeing if any municipalities or companies here in Massachusetts will offer an extended 1o-hour day schedule instead of a traditional 8-hour workday. I, for one, would love to go to my town hall after traditional hours.

When Gas Gets Expensive, Americans Use Public Transportation

So it looks like our first heat wave of 2008 might have broken. It feels a lot better today than it has over the past few days.

How did everyone's commutes go last night in the horrendous heat?

Due to a post-work meeting tonight, Train Rider did not take the commuter rail into Boston this morning.

At the risk of dating myself, I would like to reference the 1992 movie "Singles." In this movie, about a bunch of 20-somethings living in Seattle in the early 90s, actor Campbell Scott portrayed Steve Dunne. Steve worked as a transportation architect and he was pitching the idea of adding a monorail line to the city of Seattle. The city decided they didn't want to add a monorail line.

Now if "Singles" were real life and Seattle still decided to pass on funding a monorail line in the early 1990s, I bet if they could roll back the clock and fund it now, they would. Because guess what, Americans not only want mass transit, they're using it. And our municipalities are having a tough time funding our transportation systems and keeping up with the demands of new riders.

With the rising cost of gas, it seems like public transportation is becoming an emerging issue. Too bad so many metropolitan areas never made public transportation an important service. That is probably because tax payers didn't see the need to fund it. MSNBC ran an interesting article this morning about "Jammed transit systems running on fumes."

Boston/Massachusetts was mentioned in this article.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, mass transit ridership is at its highest point in 50 years. Why? It has become too expensive to drive. This is a trend that is happening coast-to-coast. For the first three months of 2008, Americans took 85 million more trips via bus, subway, commuter rail, and light train rail than during the same period in 2007.

The American Public Transportation Association is concerned that our nation's public transportation systems may not be handle the rising amount of passengers.

While some metropolitan areas have been investing in their public transportation infrastructure, other areas have not. Now that there is an increased demand for public transportation, the infrastructure to provide it might not be there.
“We’re seeing it in a lot of other metropolitan areas where there just [aren’t] viable transit options — places like Indianapolis, Orlando or Raleigh,” said Robert Puentes, a transportation and urban planning scholar with the Brookings Institution, a public policy association in Washington. “They haven’t put the money into it. They haven’t put the resources into it.”

“There are major challenges in most of the older, established transit systems, places like New York or Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston — places that are really starting to show their age,” he said.

The article even mentioned that Washington, DC's Metro system (which I think is one of the best transit systems in this country), is one of the systems showing its age.

For the first time since 1980, the number of miles driven last year fell. This is the point of public transportation - to get cars off the roads.

The rising cost of gas can impact public transit in another way beyond more additional riders. Many transit systems are funded through gasoline taxes. If fewer drivers are filling up, that could mean less money for transportation systems. Some states are increasing their gas tax to help fund their public transit operations. Plus, with more riders, it costs more money to fuel the buses, trains, etc. that the public is using.
It all adds up to a conundrum for government officials — high fuel prices send passengers to mass transit but drive down tax revenue and strain fuel budgets.

Answers aren’t expected any time soon, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. He added:

“We need a dramatically different energy policy for our country, and that’s not going to happen overnight.”


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MBCR Weather Related Speed Restrictions

I just received the following email from the MBCR's "Commuter Rail Customer News" updates I subscribe to.

To all of our Worcester Line Customers
Weather related speed restrictions

With the warm weather in full swing we would like to take this opportunity to explain the reason for speed restriction delays on this line.

CSX generally goes by a different standard than the MBTA commuter rail operation because of the large geographical territory of their railroad as well as the different maintenance standard they adhere to in non-MBTA territory. In those areas, there is no guarantee that a piece of track will have daily inspection or train service, so they have adopted a more stringent policy for heat restrictions. Unfortunately, CSX does not allow for "regional" variances that would allow the MBTA trains on the Worcester Line to operate under the same policies as the rest of the MBTA’s commuter rail system. This has been a topic of much discussion between the MBTA and CSX (owner/operator/maintainer of this line) in the past, but when operating on their railroad we must adhere to their restrictions.

With the current high temperatures please be assured that the MBTA/MBCR have maintainers continually surveying the condition of the rails on which we operate to ensure the safety of our passengers.

We do apologize for the inconvenience as a result of this situation.

Thank you for riding commuter rail.

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

Another Day, Another Scorcha

It's going to be another scorcha today! Knock on wood, the trains (well at least the Worcester line commuter rail cars I've been in) have had AC.

It seemed like we were behind schedule this morning. Since the trains were recently running about 5 to 8 minutes ahead of schedule, the train seems like it's late even when it's really on time. Anyhoo, my P508 train arrived at South Station around 8:24 a.m., about 1 minute behind schedule.

The Silver Line was packed. When it is this hot, this early in the day, I'm guessing a lot of people didn't want to deal with the heat during the walk from South Station to the Waterfront.

As dga kindly pointed out this morning, The Boston Globe did add a retraction to their article published last week about the bridge being repaired on the Greenbush line. Here is the retraction:
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an article in Friday’s City & Region section about a bridge that needed to be replaced as part of the Greenbush commuter rail line project incorrectly reported the bridge's age. The bridge being rebuilt in Scituate is more than 100 years old and is downstream from a three-year-old rail-crossing bridge.
In the "boy does time fly fast" file. The Amtrak rail repairs, first mentioned on Train Stopping back in February, are upon us. As reported yesterday on the The Boston, all Acela Express service and all regional train service between Boston and New York City will be canceled from Saturday, June 14 through Tuesday, June 17 to replace part of a 90-year old bridge that spans the Thames River in Connecticut. Regional trains between Boston and New Haven will also be canceled on Wednesday, June 18th. Amtrak has added a trip that will go through Springfield, MA to accommodate the cancellations.

I hope everyone can stay cool today!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Muggy Monday Morning Commute

Here's to the first Heat Wave of 2008. It is another scorcha here in Boston. I can't believe it is only the 9th day of June and we're already in the hot, hot, hot weather. At least it hasn't been too hazy or too humid yet.

I had to mix things up this morning. Due to an early morning meeting at work, I took the P506 from Grafton today. We arrived to South Station at 8:13 a.m., about 8 minutes behind schedule (or 10 minutes ahead of the P508, depending on how you look at it).

Commute-a-holic told me that the SmartRoutes reports on WCVB-TV Channel 5 this morning reported that the Franklin Line was running 15-minutes behind. Yikes! I hope those commuter rail cars had working AC.

Here's an article about train passengers from

Since it is so hot outside, I'm actually glad to be in the office today.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rainy Day Commute on National Donut Day

Today is National Donut Day. Who knew that we had a national day to celebrate donuts? Actually, the day doesn't celebrate donuts - it was originally set up by the Salvation Army to honor the "Lassies" from World War I. But if you check out the information on, it is all about the donuts.

For this morning's rainy day commute, I took the P509 out of Grafton. We arrived to South Station at 8:20 a.m.

According to an article that ran on the front page of today's The Boston Globe, the new Blue Line cars have slippery seats. The seats were selected because they are harder to vandalize. While a lot of the people interviewed for the article didn't like the new seats, some people actually prefer them to the old Blue Line car's seats. The new seats are wider.

Stay dry today and stay cool over the weekend. It sounds like it could be our first "summer" scorcha!

MBTA's Greenbush Line Needs a New Bridge and new MBCR Contract

While I was watching WCVB-TV Channel 5's morning news this morning, I nearly spit out my coffee when I heard a report about the 1-year old Greenbush line. The line that took years to build because some South Shore residents didn't want the commuter rail extension (they already had commuter boats and access to the Red Line).

The T, which was already in a financial budget crisis, is "being forced to spend more than $5 million to tear down and rebuild a 3-year old bridge on the Greenbush line." That's nuts, huh? This bridge debacle will now drive up the overall cost of the Greenbush line to $532 billion.

The bridge needs to be rebuilt because it does not meet state and federal environmental requirements. The current bridge could make flooding in this area worse during powerful storms.

According to Channel 5, the T's board also approved a 3-year, $738 million contract extension for the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Company (MBCR) to continue to run the commuter rail lines. The new contract calls for increased penalties for late commuter rail trains.

In a similar article from today's The Boston Globe, the MBCR's contract had an average increase of more than $50 million a year compared to the original 5-year contract. Along with the increased penalises, the new contract will add a bonus for each day 98% of commuter rail trains arrive no more than 5 minutes late. The new penalties/bonuses are capped at $1.9 million a year.

Rounding-up this news round-up, a fun article ran in yesterday's

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Presenting the New South Station Announcement Boards

Took a photo of the new announcement boards at South Station last night ... they're very bright and easy to read ... but the automated announcements leave a lot to be desired (as previous posters have mentioned).
Today's commute update: took the p508, left Grafton at 7:09, arrived at South Station at 8:25, a minute or two behind schedule.

Trying to Call All Commuters at South Station

Natick Train Rider shared the following feedback with Train Rider and me:
I don't know about you, but I am less than impressed with the new announcement system installed at South Station. While the T has made long overdue improvements with visual displays, the announcements leave a lot to be desired. It's some sort of computer voice, and often times the syllables of certain words are run together too fast to make the words almost unintelligible. On top of that, the volume level is too low and seems a bit muffled. During during busy times like rush hour, you can barely hear the announcements. Most of my fellow Natick passengers have agreed with me about not being able to understand or even hear the computer voice. I wonder how much the T spent on this poor announcement system.
What do other South Station commuters think? Is the new announcement system working or does it need to be improved? We have a mini-poll running where you can share your answer about the new announcement system.

Frequent site visitor AJ has already shared his observations about announcements at Back Bay Station.

Natick Train Rider - thanks for the email!

Increase Number of Commuters Using the MBTA

This news story is similar to the one that appeared yesterday on that Train Rider wrote about.

Today's The Boston Globe, an article about the increase in ridership on MBTA trains and buses in April 2008.

Compared to April 2007, 5.5% more passengers used the T in April 2008. There was also a 6.1% increase in ridership in the first four months of this year.

In April, the T counted 1,337,000 trips on weekdays, which includes the commuter rail, subway, trolley, commuter boat, bus systems, and services for disabled riders. The three subway lines (Blue, Orange and Red) averaged more than 500,000 passengers per weekday trips - the third time this year that this metric has been hit.

This is somewhat priceless:
Grabauskas said the T will have "a difficult time during peak periods" accommodating all the new passengers because of limits on the number of buses, subway cars, and trolley cars owned by the financially struggling system. He said he hopes many of those who shift to transit will use the T for midday and weekend trips.

Shouldn't the T and state be working together to retire less used lines and ensure that popular lines are in service?

New jumbo boards for commuter rail and Amtrak train arrival/departure information were revealed at North Station, South Station and Back Bay Station. The new boards cost $4 million.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

$4 Per Gallon Gas Brings About Increased T Ridership

It looks like more and more commuters are turning to the T in order to combat expensive gasoline prices. According to this article, "the MBTA says that the number of riders on the system's subways, buses, trains, and boats has shown another increase..." and not only is this a trend in Boston, it seems to be a trend nationwide.

The biggest ridership increases were on the bus and subway system, but commuter rail and ferries also saw an increase.

Additionally, MBTA revenues also are on the rise, with a $4.4 million jump in fares collected in April 2008 compared with the prior April [2007].

Commute updates for June 3: took the 7:49 out of Grafton and arrived at South Station at approximately 9:03.

I also wanted to let readers know that if you would like to contact me directly without posting comments, you can email me at worctrainrider AT Commute-a-holic can be reached at commuteaholic AT Remember to use the @ in place of the AT. (so it is

Monday, June 2, 2008

Grafton News Article About Grafton Commuter Rail Station Break-ins

I finally located the issue of The Grafton News with the article about the break-ins at the MBTA's Grafton Commuter Rail station. This article ran in the May 21, 2008 edition.

Police Urge Owners to Lock Vehicles as Break-ins Continue

The Grafton Police Department continues to receive reports of breaks
into vehicles parked at the MBTA Commuter Rail Station lot on Pine Street and at various locations throughout the Town.

The breaks at the Commuter Rail Station involve the vehicles driver's side window being broken to gain entry. In other areas of Town, suspects are entering unlocked vehicles. Taken were personal belongings of value including GPS devises, laptop computers, radar detectors, cell phones, keys, purses, wallets, cash, etc. that were in plain view in the vehicles. The Grafton Police Department is working with the MBTA Police to investigate the incidents at the Commuter Rail Station.

As a precaution, the Grafton Police Department strongly urges everyone to secure their vehicles, including the glove box, remove any items of value and take the keys.

Anyone who observes suspicious activity in their neighborhood or who may have information regarding these incidents is asked to call the Grafton Police Department at 508-839-2858 or the MBTA Police at 617-2221-1212 for incidents at the Commuter Rail Station.

All calls will be kept confidential.