Thursday, August 5, 2010

MBTA News Round Up

Some odds and ends in MBTA news to share:
  • The MBTA has agreed with federal regulators to reduce emissions from commuter rail trains by installing new equipment and changing fuel to ultra clean diesel. Costs to implement this program are about $2 million.

  • A new ferry service from Winthrop to Rowes Wharf was instituted this past week. There are 6 total trips, 3 in the morning and 3 in the evening at a cost of $6 for a one way fare.

No updates on the commute this morning as I drove in due to an early meeting. Hope trains were cool and on time!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another Late Commute

Posting a bit late today, but the trains were all screwed up again this morning. I think I finally got to work at 9:30.

What the heck is going on lately w/the Worcester-Framingham line? Seems like more delays than "usual?"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Paying for Parking with your Cell Phone

I've been out of town for a couple of weeks on vacation, but saw a flyer this morning touting a new way to pay for parking at MBTA lots.

Utilizing the Parkmobile service, you can pay for parking using a credit/debit card and either call, text or use a mobile app on your iPhone or Blackberry (Droid app is coming soon) to provide the space/lot/location of your car.

I think this might be a very convenient option, especially when I don't have the correct bills or change to jam into the slot. And also when I'm running late and barely get the train on time ... I'll have the ability to pay for parking from the train itself. That seems like a win-win.

I started checking out the Parkmobile website, but I'm confused by the transaction fees. I'm curious ... has anyone tried this out yet?

One of the Worst Commutes this Year

What a wake up call! Thought I'd get on the train and go to work like nothing has changed? Thought I'd still be in vacation bliss, all relaxed and happy? Well ... not so much thanks to this morning's commute.

The p508 started off well enough ... until we came to a halt outside of West Natick. Then we were informed that the train in front of us (the p506) broke down and we had the pleasure of pushing them into Boston. So, that would likely result in a delay.

THEN, we had the pleasure of having our lights and AC shut off for 25 minutes while we tried to link up with the train in front of us.

THEN, we got the great news that we would be making all local stops, since, as you know, the p506 was a local whereas we were an express.

FINALLY, we also had to make two stops at Yawkey and Back Bay to let both the front and back train people off.

I don't think my butt has ever been so sore from sitting in one position for about three hours straight.

I think I might go back to driving!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Smash n' Grab in Grafton and Westborough

It looks like the vandals are at it again ... smashing windows on cars in the Grafton and Westborough parking lots to grab what they can like GPS units, iPods, laptops, etc. This is similar to a problem that has been persistent in these parking lots since they're quite isolated and set back from the roads.

Grafton and MBTA police have been stepping up surveillance, but unless they're sitting there 24/7, it's going to be difficult to catch these vandals in the act. In fact, it might have been two weeks ago when I stepped off the train and there were 3 Grafton police cars in the lot. I couldn't really tell what was going on, but their presence was felt.

So, this begs the question ... why aren't there video cameras at MBTA parking lots? Especially in rural ones like the Grafton lot? This might help the police do a better job of patrolling the lots and it would give us commuters peace of mind. Especially since we pay $80/month to park there.

The Greater Grafton blog has a great post with pictures regarding these break-ins. You can go here to read it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

MBCR Train Schedule for 4th of July Holiday

Can you believe Independence Day is nearly around the corner. This is one of my all-time favorite holidays. First - I love being American. Second - it is great to have something to celebrate in the summer.

The 4th falls on a Sunday this year. Which means that many organizations will be closed on Monday, July 5th as their official holiday date. However, some companies will be open business as usual on 7/5. What does this mean to commuter rail riders? Holiday Service!!

The MBCR released the following information regarding the 4th of July Holiday weekend:

On Sunday, July 4th MBCR will operate on the SATURDAY schedule, typical for the observance of this holiday. Please see the online schedules or the handhelds that are available at North, South and Back Bay stations. Here, you will also find the trains that may be held following the conclusion of the 4th of July fireworks.

On Monday, July 5th MBCR will operate on a SUNDAY schedule in observance of the Federal Holiday celebration. Please note the limited train times if you plan to travel on Monday.

Monday, June 21, 2010

MBCR: Safe Boarding Practices

New Safer Boarding Procedure All Trains, All Lines.

Effective Monday, June 14th, 2010, every train must have all exterior doors fully closed before the train can move away from the station platforms. Therefore customers on all trains must board and exit their train only where a conductor is present.

This new, safer boarding process was initially tested on some off peak trains during 2009 and rolled out across the system on all Off Peak Old Colony and Fairmount lines on February 1, 2010. Beginning Monday, June 14th, 2010 the closing of all exterior doors while a train is in motion will become mandatory across all Commuter Rail lines. The closing of all exterior doors is common on passenger railroads across the country and will improve the level of customer safety. By having a set number of doors in use, train crews can ensure that passengers board and exit the train safely and prevent customers from boarding or exiting a moving train.

Passengers MUST NOT open their own doors or traps and we ask that you board only where a conductor is present. Conductors will be required to open adjacent coach doors allowing access and egress to two cars per conductor. The practice of passengers opening their own doors will delay trains as train crews will no longer be able to walk through the train while it is in motion to close the doors, but will instead have to walk along the platform or though the train to close doors before the train can depart the station.

We recognize that change is not always easy and wish to thank you for your cooperation. We would like to assure you that we are monitoring train on time performance and boarding issues , so that any adjustments to schedules can be considered if necessary.

Please allow time to board your train at the appropriate door as the closest door will not always be available.

For more information regarding these changes, we encourage you to watch our new informational video on “Commuter Rail Boarding Procedures” by opening the following link:

We would like to thank you in advance for your cooperation, while we continue our efforts to improve the level of safety for our customers.

Thank you for riding the commuter rail.
Customer ServiceMassachusetts Bay Commuter Rail
Operating the Commuter Rail on behalf of the MBTA

More MBCR Mail

I guess this post is kind of moot since the delay was a week ago (and luckily I had driven in that day) ...

To All of our Worcester Line Customers

We would like to extend our apologies for the delays some of you experienced the morning of June 14th. There was a mechanical failure on train P508 at Framingham that unfortunately resulted in delays to subsequent service during the morning peak hours of operation today.
The on-board crew worked with our remote technicians but was unable to fully resolve the problem, requiring the train to travel at reduced speed. Upon arrival at South Station this train set was sent to the yard for immediate repairs. Again, we apologize for any delay or discomfort you may have experienced today.

Thank you for riding commuter rail.
Customer ServiceMassachusetts Bay Commuter Rail
Operating the Commuter Rail on behalf of the MBTA

Lots of MBCR Communication

Hello Fellow Trainstoppers! It's been awhile since I've visited the blog, but I wanted to pass along a bit of correspondence that I've received from MBCR ... and to apologize for the lack of posts. Sadly, my company is now blocking websites with a log in and Commute-a-holic is unavailable as well, so my good intentions are falling by the wayside.

First off, I want to ask what you all think of the new "board/depart only where there is conductor" policy? It doesn't seem to have adversely impacted the schedule, which is what I feared when it first started ... and everyone seems to be doing a good job for the most part.

One thing that is kind of annoying ... the looped announcements at the Grafton T stop thanking us for riding the MBTA. One day last week when the train was late, I would have expected the announcement to change, advising us of the delay, but it did not.

Here is post #1 from MBCR regarding a new commuting survey:

To all of our Worcester Line Customers

Commuter Rail Newsletter and Survey results are now available!

We are pleased to announce that the summer edition of the MBCR customer newsletter, the “Commuter Express” is now available. We hope to provide these informational pamphlets quarterly to provide our passengers with the latest information. If there is anything special that you would like to see addressed in future editions, please feel free to send your comments/suggestions to:

The newsletter is available online and can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

You may also pick up a copy which can be found at the information booths at Back Bay, South and North Stations.

Thank you to all those who participated in our last survey; please log on to the following link to see the results:

Thank you for riding commuter rail.
Customer Service Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail
Operating the Commuter Rail on behalf the of MBTA

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Flooded Tracks and Speed Restrictions

Due to the massive rain storms and floods over the past few days, the Worcester/Framingham line has a 40 MPH speed restriction on the tracks, resulting in delays across the entire line, in addition to the subway.

On the commuter rail, the weather impacted yesterday's morning and evening commutes, as well as this morning's commute. In fact, when I got on the train this morning at 7:09, it was actually the P506, which is the local train. So we made all stops on the way into Boston and finally arrived at 8:45 AM. Not sure how much longer the speed restrictions will be in effect.

On the Lowell line, the Wilmington station was flooded, causing the closure of that station and delays on that line. All other lines were experiencing 15-20 minute delays.

On the T, there was a large sinkhole between the Chestnut Hill and Newton Center stations which shut down the Green Line's D train. Buses replaced the train service on the Green Line, as repairs are expected to take a few days. Flooding was also a concern at Park Street, among other stations.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Late Trains on a Friday Morning

It figures that the one day this week I take the train (two days off, two days driving), that the train is late by almost an hour. I hopped on the train at about 7:20 at Grafton, only to find out it was the p506 (usual departure time is 6:44 AM), so we made all stops into Boston, arriving at 9:00 ...

I wonder what happened to the p508? Did it ever pass the p506? I recall hearing an announcement in Natick that the p508 was behind us, but I don't recall another train passing us, so waiting for the express wouldn't really have helped.

Hope everyone enjoys the long weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The P508 was Late ... I Assume

This morning was quite an adventure. While standing at the Grafton T stop, I got a T Alert saying that the p508 which usually departs Grafton at 7:09 AM was delayed by 1/2 hour. A few minutes later, a train arrives, so we all board and we head into Boston.

Not until we're in Framingham do we hear that the train is actually the P506, which is running on the p508 schedule ... but making all stops to Boston. So really, it wasn't on the p508 schedule at all, because the p508 doesn't stop after Natick. Semantics! We arrived at South Station at about 8:40. I definitely submitted for reimbursement today.

I'm not sure what's been going on at night lately, but the P529 (the 6:15 PM departure from South Station) has been all single cars this week, which results in us being jammed into the train like sardines.

Hopefully this isn't a sign of bad commutes to come!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Commuter Rail Schedule Changes and On Time Performance Statistics

Effective Monday, January 11, there will be schedule changes for the following commuter rail lines: Fairmont, Fitchburg, Greenbush, Haverhill, Middleborough/Lakeville and Plymouth/Kingston.

Updated schedules can be found at or you can pick up paper copies of the schedules at North Station, South Station and Back Bay Station.

Ah, these must be consistently late trains in terms of on-time performance, hence, let's make a schedule change! (Do I sound bitter?)

I will say that the MBCR website has been recently updated and there is a lot of new information on it ... which FINALLY includes On Time Performance statistics! No more searching out the posters in South Station. The November performance stats can be found here

Overall for November, trains were on time 83% of the time, down from 88% in October and 93% in September. On the Worcester line, on time performance in November was 89%, 84% in October and 89% in September, with YTD on time performance at 87%.

The best performing line continues to be Greenbush, with YTD on time performance at 95%. The worst performing line is Middleborough, with YTD on time performance at 82%. However, for the month of November, Middleborough only had 26% on time performance. That is completely unacceptable. If I rode the Middleborough line, I would be livid!

Also, MBCR now posts the reasons that on time performance was not reached:
  • November 2: Crossing Failure on Fitchburg line- 10 delays
  • November 3: Train 129 Mechanical problems- 11 delays
  • November 5: Train 442 fatality on Fitchburg line line- 12 delays
  • November 6: Broken rail at Beverly- 13 delays
  • November 7: Train 1703 fatality on Franklin line- 5 delays
  • November 9: Train 328 mechanical failure- 17 delays
  • November 13: Train 006 mechanical failure- 11 delays
  • November 24: Lowell line signal failure- 14 delays
  • November 28: Train 1165 fatality on Newburyport line- 1 cancelled train
  • Ongoing Speed restrictions on the Middleboro and Plymouth/Kingston Lines due to concrete tie deterioration causing delays.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

MBCR Announcement Re: Departing Trains

Received this MBCR Rail Mail today regarding changes to boarding/departing commuter trains.

Effective January 11, 2010, except in the case of emergency, customers will no longer be allowed to enter or exit from the “operating end” of the control coach. The engineer operates the train from this location on inbound trips. Upon arrival into Boston, there are mandatory safety duties for engineers to perform which do not allow for foot traffic through the operating end of these coaches.

Signs will be placed on the coach door on that end of all control cars to remind customers of this rule. Please enter and exit only through a door that is attended by a crewmember.

We appreciate that there will be some inconvenience to our passengers that are accustomed to using the control car exit door, but for safety reasons we must enforce this new policy. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Commuter rail service information, including updated commuter rail advisories/alerts is available on the MBTA website at, or by calling the MBTA Customer Support Services Center at 617-222-3200.

I always sit in the first car, so this will make for a bottleneck once we get to South Station. I wonder why all of a sudden it's a safety concern though? I've been taking the commuter rail for six years and this is the first I've heard about it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday On Time Commute

Two for two with on time commutes so far this year as the p508 was on time to South Station this morning, arriving at 8:23 AM.

In other MBTA news, three former MBTA employees plead guilty to filing false time sheets at their MBTA construction/engineering jobs. In essence, they submitted time sheets and were paid for work they did not do because they never even showed up to the work sites. One of the former employees will spend a year in jail and have to pay a $10,000 fine. The other two received two year suspended sentences and two years' probation. Frankly, they should also have to pay back the money they made during this scheme.

Also, MBTA unions have been trying to stop changes to scaled back retiree benefits that were implemented under the new transportation law signed this past summer. The unions have been seeking an injunction on the changes that would reduce health care for retirees. A state judge has rejected the bid, stating that former contracts guaranteeing free health care for life no longer apply. This is a big step in reducing overall costs at the MBTA.

Monday, January 4, 2010

First Commute of 2010

Now that the holidays are over and work has calmed down somewhat, I'm back to riding the rails on a regular basis. This morning's commute on the P508 was right on time, arriving at South Station at 8:22 AM. We did have some minor heating issues in the first car, but other than that, it was a pretty smooth trip.

Passing along some MBCR news that came into my Inbox a few weeks ago with respect to safety ... interestingly enough, this email arrived just after the news broke about that hidden break room in Somerville ...

Commuter Rail “Putting your Safety First”

Winter is here, thus “tis” the season to be train safe. At MBCR our number one priority is the safety of our passengers and employees. The winter season is upon us and we would like to offer you a few safety tips and reminders:

  • Please arrive at the station and be on the platform 5 to 10 minutes prior to your train’s departure time. To keep your train on time, our conductors must adhere to the departure time shown in the timetable.
  • Please be aware that once a conductor has signaled to the engineer that the train is safe to depart, he cannot stop the train to allow you to board, even if he sees you running from the parking lot.
  • Customers are reminded that they must never open their own traps and doors, but instead MUST board or exit at a door where a conductor is present.
  • Please watch your step when you are boarding and exiting the train; the platform and train stairs could be covered in freshly fallen snow or it could be slick from rain which has turned into ice. Use the handrail at all times!
  • When you are on the train, please be aware that the floor of a coach could be wet from passengers boarding and exiting; this could create a slipping hazard.

Following basic safety rules is very important and we ask all passengers to board and exit trains carefully and responsibly. We need everyone’s cooperation to ensure both a safe and pleasant commute.

Most of the this list is just common sense, but I have to comment on the third bullet point. There is no reason why an entire train full of commuters should exit from 1 or 2 doors. At the most, there are three conductors on the train and they cannot monitor every door. This reminds me of the silent strike when they used to make us herd out of 1 door, that delayed train times by almost 20 minutes.