Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Day, More to Pay

Train Rider is still away on business, so we do not have a Worcester commuter rail update this morning.

Based on comments received by Train Stopping yesterday, it looks like the first day of the new parking fees caused fewer people to part at the MBTA stations. It will be interesting to see if people find ways to avoid parking or if they just stop taking the trains all together.

Yesterday blogger Jeff Korzenik wrote about how the parking increase could cause people to not use the T in his blog (in)efficient frontiers. Jeff made some great observations and some excellent points on how consumers behave rationally.
This morning offered a good lesson on the rationality of consumers of energy and transportation. Today was the first business day that parking rates increased at MBTA (Boston’s regional transit authority) train station parking lots. My small station has a limited number of spots (about 150). As fuel prices rose earlier this year, drivers chose mass transit over driving in to Boston, and the lot filled earlier and earlier. When gas prices were at their peak, the lot generally filled by about 6:45 a.m. As gas prices have declined, the lot generally didn’t fill until about 7:00 a.m. Starting today, the higher parking fees will raise the annual train commute cost by $500. At 7:00 a.m. this morning, the lot was a third empty. As the relative cost of fuel-efficient mass transit increased, and the cost of driving has decreased, consumers have acted rationally and switched back to driving.

CommonWealth magazines CW blog used the recent issues plaguing transportation entities in Massachusetts as a reason to provide links to a number of current and past articles about transportation.

Over the weekend, the By any media necessary blog published an excellent letter written to Governor Deval Patrick, calling for the resignation of MBTA GM Daniel Grabauskas. The author Cara Lisa Powers, commutes from Worcester to Dorchester via the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line and the Red Line. That's a super long commute, huh? She cited a number of reasons why she chose to commute via commuter rail, including the "new" Worcester line schedule and the T's highly touted free Wi-Fi. She points out that, if you rely on the Worcester line, there really isn't a good schedule if you do work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and she even shared Customer Service's feedback:
I made this decision with two key MBTA advertisements in mind: (1) That the trains on the Worcester/Framingham line now have wireless and (2) that the Worcester/ Framingham line was adding four new trains to the schedule just days before my November 1 move. Since the beginning of my commute, just 2 weeks ago, I have been increasingly stressed, irritable and astounded at the MBTA’s blatant lack of regard for the needs of its riders. First, I found that the trains added to the schedule were at the beginning, middle and end of the day, and not at peak travel times like extending the 5:15 train from South Station to Framingham or the 8:00am train that runs from Framingham to Boston to run at approximately 7:19 from Worcester. Given that there seemed to be no practical commuter schedule for someone working a regular 9 to 5 schedule in Boston, I called Customer Service to complain. I was told by the Customer Service representative that they obviously could not cater to everyone’s schedule, he was not sure what I would like for him to do. After citing my 9-5 schedule, I recommended that the additional trains be revisited. I was given no way to follow up and see how my complaint was recorded or would be acted on.

Cara is singing Train Rider's song. A lot of us have thought the same thing and have voiced similar complaints.

However, unlike many commuters, Cara is fortunate to work for an employer who will create a flexible schedule for her. Even with her commitment to ride the rails, Cara noted:

With constant price hikes, little accountability, and continuously deteriorating service, I have to seriously consider driving to work. It would save me at least 2 hours a day, which in my line of work as a community organizer is precious. There are very few days that I am able to leave work on time, and on those days I want the dependability to know that I can get home when I plan to. Three times this week, a late train, either on the Commuter Rail or the Red Line which takes me from JFK/ UMASS to South Station has caused me to get home later than anticipated, today by a full hour because of a late train on the red line. This is incredibly frustrating when I already have a 12 hour day and little time to even eat dinner and shower before having to go to bed to get up for an early train.

She moves on to say that, in her opinion, the MBTA has forgotten it serves the people of Massachusetts. Cara continues to make some excellent points and I encourage everyone to read her full post.

Finally, a Live Journal post by Christopher Parker contains his post made to the Boston Metro's Q&A with Dan Grabauskas. Christopher is a bus rider who also had some interesting observations.


AJ said...

I've been good about keeping the glass half-full instead of half-empty, but not today. It really pissed me off knowing as I stuffed $4 in my parking slot, knowing I just bought 2 gallons of gas for Dan Grabauskas' agency-issued Escape so he can drive to work. A-hole.

Cara Lisa Powers said...

Thanks for the cite. I am sending off the letter today. I'll let you know if I hear back.

Anonymous said...

I think the Governor should make Dan Grabauskas and all the MBTA employees who have "MBTA Cars" turn them in and use the MBTA.

Not only that, I think these people should have to buy their monthly T passes full value. No discounts.

Then they can see how the rest of us suffer using this system.

MassDriver said...

I like how Menino makes city employees live in city confines, so why not do the same for T employees? Make them use the service as much as possible so they can get a first hand account of what we commuters go through on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Massdriver -

Great point.

Anyone who is proud of the company they work for want to use the companies products. My guess - T employees aren't proud to be working for the T. But they like their paycheck.

I would love to have a company paid car to drive to work. Less wear & tear on my car and no need to pay for gas.

Kidney Stones said...

Agreed with all of the above comments.

As an aside, the P508 was shockingly on time this morning, pulling into South Station at 8:22.

Anonymous said...

You want more rush hour service on the commuter rail, but you haven't given a single thought as to if it's a possibility. Maybe you should stop and think before continuing your whine.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick and tired of seeing obvious MBTA employees yell at the readers of this blog for asking about rush hour train service (RE: anon 5:06 p.m.).

Seriously - all the other transit systems in this country seem to be able to accommodate rush hour trains. Heck, I've taken different transit systems during rush hour. You seem to be able to go where you need to go when you need to get there.

I've even paid a premium for this service. Paying a premium to the MBTA isn't worth it until they can prove they can get me where I need to get to when I need to be there.

The MBTA has run the Worcester/ Framingham line as a "bait & switch" since it launched it. "OH LOOK - more trains." "OH LOOK - WiFi." Aren't we awesome!?! And the stupid media and our stupid Lt. Governor buy whatever the T says hook, line & sinker.

"We're adding more trains" turns out to be utter bullsh*t. They just moved trains around to seem like they added more.

Is it so wrong to not want to be away from home for over 12 hours? Because, most days, I'm "working" over 12 hours. By the time I leave home to get onto a train to get to my job in Boston, I'm already a good three hours into my day. Nevermind the return trip home. It would be great to not roll into my house after 7:30+ p.m. (since that is the earliest train I can get on).

And, just so you don't say what I think you are going to say next, "no - I didn't choose to work in Boston for more money because I'm a greedy yuppie." My employer consolidated offices and moved my position to the Boston office. So I didn't have any say in the matter. Sure, I could have looked for another job, but good luck finding one.

So sorry for being so "whiny" and wishing for alternatives to this crappy mass transit. If the gas prices continue to go down, I'm almost at a point to saying "screw being nice to the environment" and I'll drive into Boston. Because - frankly - the cost isn't all that much different. So my friends & I will all drive in and the T can go out of business.

Richard said...

I concur with anonymous (5:45pm) that there is a lot of room for improvement. Why shouldn't there be better service at the rush hour. Why can't the 5:30pm train to Worcester be an express? Also, why hasn't there been any thought about getting rid of the Newton stops. The people in Newton have mnay more options to get into Boston than those of us west of Framingham (local bus, green line). I think it was very mean and thoughtless to call us whiners when all we want is better service, basically one more express train in the morning and one in the evening.

I thought Cara's letter was great. I hope someone listens to it. I also have a flexible schedule, but late trains in the morning mean I have to stay later in the day.

Anonymous said...

You just can't add trains at rush hour when the system is at capacity. There are lots of bottlenecks and shared track on the MBTA's system that prevents that. You don't have to be a MBTA employee to recognize that, you just have to have some critical thinking skills.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous (9:52am): Yes, you can add more trains at rush hour if the infrastructure is managed correctly, which it currently is not. But don't take my word for it. Look at what New York has done: www.mta.info. Their Metro North and LIRR commuter rails offer more service at a lower cost per distance traveled (fares and parking) to a far greater number of commuters on a daily basis. Their system greatly improved under the Guiliani administration and continued through the Bloomberg era, and even came out with a surplus several years ago! Sure, they're $1.5 billion in the hole now, but that's nothing compared to the bottomless pit the MBTA is in. The real life lesson here is that improvements ARE possible if the right leadership is in place. However, I'ved observed that Massachusetts seems to revel in doing things their own way, even to the detriment of its citizens. The Fast Lane fiasco is another example of this (and dont't think the re-ordering of the lanes will help), but that's a different discussion.

Anonymous said...

To anon (at 10:59 AM)

You are incorrect. You can't add more rush hour trains unless more tracks are built or you take away some other lines' rush hour train.

The reason the NY can run more trains at rush hour is because they have more infrastructure available. Ever notice those four tracks between the platforms?

Again... put your thinking cap on before you espouse false information.