Thursday, December 11, 2008

Systematic Failure

A December miracle!!! The P508 arrived on time today. We got to South Station around 8:22 a.m. I made it into the office around 8:30 a.m. That's amazing, isn't it?

Based on my own personal experiences riding the Worcester line this week, not to mention the experiences of both posters (and individuals who correspond via email with either Commute-a-holic or myself), the MBTA/MBCR seems to be on a Systematic Failure this week (hence the title of today's post).
  • On December 8th, it was the start of the work week and the start of the woes plaguing the Worcester line. This is not just me, Train Rider, complaining. Many people are impacted when a train does not arrive at its designated time. You can expect delays from time to time, but not every day and not for a run of different trains. And I'm not complaining for the sake of complaining. I would like nothing than for the commuter rail to run at a 95 % to 100% on-time performance rate. Then maybe I would stop blogging. But until then, we have a lot of work to do. The breakdowns impact a lot of people.
  • Of the 19 comments to the "MBTA/MBCR - Late Trains are not a Joke" post, one person thanked the MBTA for helping her decide to leave her Boston-based job and work in the 'burbs (thus avoiding MBTA services), someone posted about how bad the Red Line has gotten, someone else said that the service delays will cause them to go from a monthly pass to a 12-ride commuter rail pass (since fares aren't collected), the Providence line has pretty poor performance, the Green Line isn't functioning, someone got fired because they didn't have a car and relied on the T to get to work, and the Worcester line has pretty much just sucked this week. To boot - most of these comments were made on Tuesday, December 9th. One day - 19 mostly not-so-great stories.
  • So you have a few horrific commutes and who's in charge? It seems like the MBTA takes credit whenever it is a good story - there are more riders, we got funding, etc., etc. But when it is a bad story, it is definitely "pass the buck." The MBCR runs the commuter rail lines, but the MBTA owns the stations.
  • Why can't we just have one authority run everything? Also, if the trains were running with such great delays on the Worcester line this week, why couldn't buses or other stop gap measures be implemented? If the trains aren't running and we need to drive into work, why can't we get our refund for parking? When parking was $2 a day, you just sucked it up and drove a way. At $4 a day, now we're talking cash. It is a bad economy, everyone needs to try to retain as much of their cash as possible. When I drive away because the train isn't there, I would like my parking refunded.
  • Why did it take the MBCR (because they usually are the bearer of the really bad news) nearly three days to address the issues on the Worcester line? As Anonymous at 4:23 PM on 12/10 noted, we only got letters from the MBCR on Wednesday afternoon at 3:34 p.m. EST. Why the delay?
Here is the letter in its entirety:

To Our Worcester Line Customers;

We have received many emails regarding the service experienced by our Worcester passengers this week, and understand that many of you have been affected on each train that you commute on. We want you to know that we are in agreement with the many letters and phone calls that we have received expressing your dissatisfaction with the current level of service; we concur, it is completely unacceptable.

We could provide you with chapter and verse on the reasons for each delay but we are certain that at this point it would be nothing more than an empty gesture when there is no way to justify being delayed daily. The problems are the result of a myriad of mechanical breakdowns. These issues have been raised to the highest level of management including, the General Managers from both MBCR and the MBTA. We have been assured that there will be a mechanical department management and technical presence at the Worcester facility both tomorrow and Friday to ensure that all locomotives are serviceable and ready to depart for their scheduled trips.

We are aware also that many of our customers have stated that the LED monitors at the various stations along this line were not displaying any indication of delays but rather that service was on or near schedule, which was clearly not the case. The communication logs have been thoroughly reviewed by our Chief Dispatcher which shows the times and updates for all train delays were indeed transmitted. That said we have a crew out in the field to determine why this information is not being displayed on the station monitors; this system is unquestionably outdated and in need of replacement. The MBTA is in the process of procuring a new GPS messaging system which will greatly enhance our ability to provide this information in real-time, without the glitches that has resulted in the current lack of information reaching its intended destination.

In closing, we want to assure you that MBCR will do everything in our power to restore the service on this line to a level that you can rely on.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with this explanation and apology and thank you for riding the commuter rail.


Framingham Rider said...

Haha, the one morning I could have used a late train and it was right on time. I was a couple minutes late getting out this morning, and with the weather I guess my walk took a few more minutes longer than usual, too. So a 5 minute delay wouldn't have been the worst thing for me today, but alas, it was right on time, even with the weather conditions. So my hat goes off to the T this morning, and I guess this falls into the "be careful what you wish for" category, haha.

JZP said...

What was the vector for that letter? The email address I use to get the extremely-regular "on time guarentee" refunds didn't receive one.

Speaking of which, I'm filling that form out here on the idle p508 delayed by flooded tracks. I think it is quite sad that their "guarentee" is designed to disincent anyone from using it. A page with just the rules, click through to a page with legalese to scare off the ignorant, then three separate pages of forms (about your pass, about you, and about the train delayed). Of course, this form filling just has them mail a token to you -- you have to then wait for that, open the URL mailed and ... wait a few weeks for snail mail.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else ready for a fare boycott yet??

P508 over an hour late again today.

Commute-a-holic said...


I believe Train Rider and other commuters receive updates from the MBCR via the MBCR Rail Mail Service.

Sorry to hear that the tracks between Worcester and Framingham were flooded. I know there were massive road floods in Ashland. Yes, it is disturbing that the reimbursement form is not very user friendly.

Thanks for the inquiries.