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.

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.