Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chilly Thursday Commute

It's pretty cold out there this AM ... not as bad as a few weeks ago when it was -4, but close enough. Luckily, the train was on time and quite warm this morning. The p508 arrived at South Station at 8:22. It's been a good week so far for the morning commute. (Knock on wood!)

A few posts ago, I commented on the increased ridership stats for 2008, attributable to rising gas prices last year. While ridership may have increased, not everyone's experience is always good and it seems that we commuter rail riders bear the brunt of poor service and delays. I've been saying this for months, it's a good week when only one train is late. Today's Boston Globe expounds on the commuter rail experience in the article: "Late commuter trains threaten ridership gains."

According to the article, over the past six months, during a time when the MBTA was trying to show new riders the wonders of mass transportation, one in five commuter trains arrived at least five minutes late, and many were much later. In December and January, the problem worsened - in part due to weather, maintenance problems, and track construction - with nearly a quarter of the trains failing to arrive within the five-minute window.

I find it interesting that the Globe can post MBTA on time statistics online, but the MBTA themselves cannot do it. There is a great graph linked from the Globe article about on time performance, you can find it here. Interesting to note, only the Greenbush line has met on time performance statistics for the year, with their on time average being 95.1%. The worst performing line is Fitchburg with 71.7%. The Worcester/Framingham line stats are 88%.

The system itself is broken and needs major overhaul; but given the current economic situation, I'm not holding my breath that anything will change soon.


Commute-a-holic said...

Train Rider -

We're both fired up - we totally crossed-posted!


Richard said...

These are interesting statistics. I have a couple of comments. It's important when examining the chart to remember the change that occurred in Februaury 2008 when the MBTA added 12 minutes to the (now) 6:55am train to improve performance. It's pretty amazing that January 2007 boasted a 93% on time arrival record when the scheduled commute time was, in my case, 12 minutes shorter. I have also noticed a bit of a decline in service that corresponds with the current state administration. It would be interesting to see a correlation between on time arrivals and who is in power in the state.

My other comment was how do they figure in cancelled trains. Are these released? I had to deal with 7:35am train being cancelled twice in January.

Framingham Rider said...

It seems like with the numbers they post there is no difference between a train that is 5 minutes late and a train that is an hour late. In the real world we all know that there is a huge difference between the two. I wonder if it would be asking too much to get a performance report that breaks the numbers down into several categories, such as "on time (within 5 minutes), between 5 and 15 minutes late, between 15 and 45 minutes late, over 45 minutes late". For me, personally, a train that is 15 minutes or less late getting into South Station isn't a big problem, a train that is 15-45 minutes late is a minor problem, and a train that is 45 minutes late or more is a significant problem.

Train Rider said...


I know exactly what you mean. If you think about it, performance is actually worse, since they used to be able to make the trip in about an hour (from Grafton to Boston that is). So, they increase the schedule by 12 minutes ... and they still cannot consistenly get the trains in on time? Plus, it's not just our line ... it's across all commuter rail lines.

Framingham Rider,

I think that's a great idea in terms of breaking out the delays. I wonder if the MBTA/MBCR tracks that? I am goign to send a message to customer service to see if we can get an answer either way.

Thanks for the comments!

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Haverhill line has the worst performance with an on-time average of 70.6% according to the chart chart to which you linked, not the Fitchburg line...