Thursday, July 28, 2011

The On Time Service Guarantee is No Longer

Due to a family matter, I had been driving a lot these past few months, but have recently returned to the commuter rail.

Imagine my surprise when I went to put in for a late train and could not find the On Time Service Guarantee form anywhere ... very quietly it seems the MBTA has phased this program out.

It's disappointing ... I'm not saying I lived or died by that extra $$, but it was at least some form of accountability for late trains ... especially in a system plagued by on time service.

Here is the official announcement from the MBTA website:

As discussed and reported during this year’s budget process, the MBTA will stop processing refund requests for service-related delays when the new fiscal year begins on July 1st. By eliminating the only program of its kind in the United States, the MBTA anticipates realizing savings of up to $1 million annually.

“While some customers may be disappointed with the program’s elimination, it’s important that people know that this money will be put to very good use,’ said MBTA General Manager Richard Davey. “By reallocating these funds into the development of more customer service enhancements, we expect a greater number of T riders to benefit from this money.”

Among the initiatives to be rolled out in the coming weeks and months are:

  • Smart phone apps for Commuter Rail that will provide customers with the answer to the question: ‘Where is my train?’

  • Countdown clocks that provide subway customers with ‘next train’ information for the Red, Orange, and Blue Lines.

  • The ability to use a CharlieCard for parking at Alewife, Braintree, and other stations.

  • Discounted parking rates of just $3 at nine stations throughout the Commuter Rail system and along the Mattapan Trolley Line.

I think they need to extend discounted parking to all of the commuter rail lots, not just some of them. It doesn't seem fair that certain lots (like mine) has to subsidize parking for the rest of them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blah, Blah, Blah

Received this email from the MBTA/MBCR about Monday's delays ...

It's kind of interesting to me that this apology email turns into "the fleet is old, we can't really do anything about it, even though we ordered new cars, it won't really help ..." where is the leadership in this organization that will affect change?

These issues are not new, heck, this blog has been complaining about the MBTA for at least five years and in that time, nothing has really changed except our fares have increased, parking fees have increased, they've changed the schedules to make the run times longer (and to meet their "on time" requirements) ... but delays are still occurring and impacting people's lives.

To all of our Worcester Line Customers,

We realize that many of our customers traveled on both train P508 in the morning and P523 last evening and that a large majority were impacted by, either one of these trains, or at the very least effected by residual delays because of their mechanical failures.

My personal acknowledgement is indeed sincere and we cannot imagine that we could say anything that you would want to hear. Many of you have written in to say that you are aware that the locomotive that broke down on your inbound commute was the same used for the evening return trip home; this is regrettably the truth. While the mechanical department staff repaired the problem that caused the failure in the morning, the evening brought with it a different mechanical issue. Please know that this locomotive has been removed from service and one of the two new locomotives will be added to the train set that leaves this evening as train P523.

This is indeed evidence that the lack of investment in the commuter rail fleet is becoming difficult to overcome with regular maintenance. The winter season certainly took its toll on an already aging fleet of locomotives. While the two new locomotives delivered recently is a positive note it will not have much of an impact on the 483 trains in and out of the city everyday and we welcome the delivery of the five additional locomotives which are enroute from New York; once tested, they will be added to the fleet.

We cannot offer any apology that would justify five additional hours of commuting time in one day; however we do deeply regret the impact that this had on you, your families and your employers.

Members of the MBCR management team will be on the platform in Worcester tomorrow morning, March 2nd from 5:30am until the departure of train P508 to Boston at 6:55am. Please feel free to speak to us with your comments and concerns.

As always, we thank you for riding the commuter rail.


Gillian Wood

Chief Customer Service Officer
Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail

Operating the Commuter Rail on behalf of the MBTA

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Commuting on 2/28/11

I can't even begin to express my frustration with the MBTA for the commute that had to be endured yesterday.

The p508 arrived in Grafton on time at 7:09 and we boarded the train ... then never left until the p512 came at 7:49 to hitch to us and push us into Boston. The delay was was due to engine failure on the p508. The engineer and conductors were great with communication, but it was just a frustrating experience. I don't think we ever left Grafton until 8:15 or so. To make matters worse, we then had to become a local, stopping at all of p512 stops. We finally got to South Station at 10:10 or slightly before then. A three hour commute.

All I have to say is THANK GOODNESS I was not on the p523, which is the express 5:00 train, from Boston to Worcester last night. It seems that train also experienced engine issues (though a different issue from the morning) and did not arrive to Worcester until almost 9:00 last night. A FOUR HOUR COMMUTE. Can you imagine? I would have been going crazy if I was on that train. As it were, I wouldn't have been able to take that train anyway since I was so late in the morning.

According to an article in the Globe this morning, MBTA officials feel our pain:

Farmelant said the problems "reflect the age of the commuter rail locomotive fleet" and were "extremely frustrating for everybody involved with MBTA passenger rail service."

"Both the T and MBCR recognize the need for renewed investment in equipment and are actively pursuing opportunities to lease additional locomotives," Farmelant said in a statement.

Well, I sure hope so. This is one reason why I am driving most of the time now, though with gas prices back on the rise, I wanted to return to the commuter rail, but if yesterday's commute was any indication, I guess I'll just stick with my car and all of the Pike traffic.