General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

stick n move

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Weekend Commuter Rail Ridership Now Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Volumes

While transit ridership in general is still below pre-pandemic levels, weekend traffic on the MBTA’s commuter rail system has bucked that trend, thanks to key operational changes like improved schedules and more frequent service.

Weekend ridership on the commuter rail system on December 17th and 18th was 8 percent higher than weekend ridership during February 29 and March 1, 2020, just before the pandemic shut down travel across the state.

https://mass.streetsblog.org/2023/0...l-ridership-now-exceeds-pre-pandemic-traffic/

 

737900er

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Weekend Commuter Rail Ridership Now Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Volumes

While transit ridership in general is still below pre-pandemic levels, weekend traffic on the MBTA’s commuter rail system has bucked that trend, thanks to key operational changes like improved schedules and more frequent service.

Weekend ridership on the commuter rail system on December 17th and 18th was 8 percent higher than weekend ridership during February 29 and March 1, 2020, just before the pandemic shut down travel across the state.

https://mass.streetsblog.org/2023/0...l-ridership-now-exceeds-pre-pandemic-traffic/

I'd love to know what share of weekend Commuter Rail riders use the $10 pass.
If the weekday trains are underutilized they should be exploring fare rationalization like they've done on the weekend.
 

Stlin

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So... The Legislature (Joint Committee on Transportation) recently published a report on the T's safety practices, and their oversight thereof, and contained within as one of several floated reform proposals from one of the chairs is the idea of breaking up the T- The T would retain rapid transit functions (subway and bus), while the Commuter rail and Ferry operations would get spun off.

In principle, that strikes me as a particularly bad idea given the value in an integrated transit system, especially given the future move towards a regional/urban rail character for the CR which all but demands systemic integration with the core network, though I do concede that presently the ferries do very much feel like an afterthought.
 

Brattle Loop

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In principle, that strikes me as a particularly bad idea given the value in an integrated transit system, especially given the future move towards a regional/urban rail character for the CR which all but demands systemic integration with the core network, though I do concede that presently the ferries do very much feel like an afterthought.
Absolutely agree. The ferries do feel like an afterthought, which to me is all the more reason not to hive them off into something separate, because how would that not make them less of an afterthought unless Beacon Hill is planning a massive expansion of water transportation? (Aren't the ferries all contract-operated anyway?).

With the Commuter Rail, the last thing we need is to have it structurally separated from the rapid transit arm. Regional Rail or no, the T would be entirely at the CR-segment's mercy for trying to schedule transit and bus links properly, which is no sane way to run a transit agency. I'll note that that report also suggests moving/leaving Fairmount to the MBTA's jurisdiction as "functionally a part of the subway system", which...uh, would be interesting given that Fairmount has to stay FRA-jurisdiction, so that would be fun. (I mean, I assume Keolis or whoever replaces them would keep operating things, but I question how sane it would be to have one contract operator answering to two masters...and if the CR entity's primarily paying the bills, all the equipment shortages are going to get dumped on the one line they won't, structurally, have to care about.)
 

RandomWalk

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They’re slicing along the wrong axis. They should slice the CapEx off and put it back under Mass DOT.
 

Jahvon09

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I bet that the T still won't hire him back. They are still saying that he was going too fast!! :unsure: :unsure:
 

Riverside

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I went through and tried to plot an MBTA frequencies map, as it currently is on Sundays. It's quite cumbersome, and I believe there is a much easier and faster way to do this than I made this map.

While most public transit frequency maps point to rush hour service or Monday - Friday service, it doesn't really tell the full story on how much frequency there is evenings, weekends, or Sundays. A route could run every 5 minutes rush hour, and every 20 minutes during the day, but have NO service on Sundays, such as the 7 bus (service is every 45 mins midday). The MBTA doesn't publish a frequency map of their services at all, as it as currently.

A frequency map showing Sunday service, shows where service runs 7 days a week, and which service is frequent, even on Sundays, all days. Using a Sunday frequency map, one can hop on a transit at 10:30 p.m. Sunday evening, and know transit is running at least that frequent until 12:00 a.m. midnight Sunday evening, 7 days a week, 7am - midnight, frequent service. Rail and subway routes are marked by frequency alongside buses, regardless of the mode of transit. The single purpose of this map is to show frequency, and nothing else. Transit mode doesn't matter as much as the frequency. The map should show the minimum frequency (i.e. the worst possible), in other words, all day Sunday service frequency.

Some routes run 10 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Sundays, and some run from 5:45 a.m. until 1:15 a.m. As such, I simply counted the number of trips, rounded up, needed to run a full 20hr+ service day (5:45a - 1:15a) on Sundays to determine average Sunday service frequency. Service that runs for a shorter span of service is penalized as less frequent service on Sundays on the map, even if service is more frequent than listed below, during it's shorter operating span of service. Routes that do not operate Sundays are not displayed at all and removed from the map entirely (example: 92 bus in Charlestown).

The number of trips operated in both directions on Sundays is as follows:

1 - 10 trips -> Every 2 hours or less frequent. (thin yellow line)
11 - 20 trips -> Every 1 - 2 hours. (thin pink line)
21 - 40 trips -> Every 30 - 60 minutes (thin green line)
41 - 60 trips -> Every 20 - 30 minutes (medium yellow line)
61 - 80 trips -> Every 15 - 20 minutes (medium brown line)
81 - 100 trips -> Every 12 - 15 minutes (medium blue line)
101 - 120 trips -> Every 10 - 12 minutes (thick dark blue line)
121+ trips or more -> Every 10 minutes or better (thick black line)

I can't make a smooth color code since Google Maps only allows a few select colors. So I opted to use black, blue, and darker colors up until it hits hourly, then use red and yellow for less frequent service. It'll be interesting to compare this map to BNRD bus network redesign, which is supposed to begin a phased rollout in summer 2023, 5-7 months from now.

There must be an easier way to plot updated MBTA Sunday frequency service maps, every time Bus and Subway schedule changes every 3 months (next change is March 11, 2023). If anyone is willing to update this again in mid-March (last bus schedule change before BNRD, pending/tentitively), please do so/set a reminder. Map URL, (duplicate/copy & fix/update the map come mid-March https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1iC1bt0iRJH0lH4ScbqT5lTA9IyKYcqQ )

East Boston ferry isn't currently operating, nor does the Hingham/Hull ferry run on Sundays. As such, all ferry service is omitted from the map.

The full Sunday service frequency map, Commuter Rail is only shown where buses run, for visibility of Boston area routes, not much changes with CR frequency outside of the buses. EDIT: Trying out orange for the >=2+ hourly routes.
View attachment 32826

Service every hour or better all day Sunday from early morning until late night:
View attachment 32799
A closer look at hourly Sunday service or better in the inner core of Boston. More detail in the downtown area and surrounding areas. Fascinating.
View attachment 32808

Service every 30 minutes or better all day Sundays. The Green Line Extension added a huge swath of Somerville with every 30 minute service or better.
View attachment 32805

Every 20 minutes, 15 minutes, and 10 minutes, Sunday service.
View attachment 32802View attachment 32803View attachment 32804
Red Line runnning 18 minute headways on individual branches doesn't do it for every 15 minute Sunday service. It will need at least 81 trips on individual branches to meet the 15 minute threshold using my map due to my crude calculation formula, even if actual headways are lower than 15 minutes all day using only 74 trips for the day Sunday. Note the 15 minute frequency map for Sundays, much of Somerville is now served with the new GLX.

One other unique example is the 134, where headways are longer than 1 hour midday, but headways of 40 minutes in the mornings and evenings to Medford Sq., causing the Medford Sq. portion to appear as "every 60 minutes or better", since more than 21 trips are operated to and from Medford Sq., combined.

I tried to aggregate shared corridors with somewhat coordinated headways for the 71/73, 87/88, 94/96, 104/109, 116/117, 441/442, Red, Green, and Newburyport/Rockport Lines. Some use existing short turn runs to calculate the shared corridor, other shared corridors had to be manually compiled. The 111 is marked as an express bus route.
This is excellent and fascinating. Using Sunday service as a "minimum guaranteed service" framework is a really interesting idea and a very thought-provoking prism through which to view the network.

I think those last three maps are particularly interesting. The last one is course an indictment of the current service levels. (I half-heartedly wonder whether there's an equity lawsuit there, given that it does look, broadly, like highest frequencies have been maintained in areas that are on average whiter and/or more affluent.)

That 20-min map seems like a pretty good articulation of the "bones" of the network, and of course maps pretty cleanly on to the Key Bus Network and the BNRD's high-freq network. I'm not sure I have anything particularly insightful to say but I do think it's interesting that "services that run at least every 20 minutes on Sundays" seems to map on to what "feels" like the "bones" of the network.

But that 15-min map is really interesting for drawing attention to the 1 and 111 sitting in a tier above the other bus routes. We know they're important, but this is another articulation of that, which is quite striking.

(I think you might be able to do this automatically somehow using Tableau plus Blue Book data?)
 

Riverside

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So... The Legislature (Joint Committee on Transportation) recently published a report on the T's safety practices, and their oversight thereof, and contained within as one of several floated reform proposals from one of the chairs is the idea of breaking up the T- The T would retain rapid transit functions (subway and bus), while the Commuter rail and Ferry operations would get spun off.

In principle, that strikes me as a particularly bad idea given the value in an integrated transit system, especially given the future move towards a regional/urban rail character for the CR which all but demands systemic integration with the core network, though I do concede that presently the ferries do very much feel like an afterthought.
That litany of safety events from 2015 to 2022 on pages 4 through 7 really is striking. And damning. I had forgotten about some of those, which is quite notable given the severity of several of them. (And my goodness what is happening at Caddigan Yard?? Three runaways and two in the last year?)

It really does seem like a lot of the problems are fundamentally blocked by staffing limitations. A lot of them seem to originate from staffing problems as well, but even the ones that stem from management decisions all seem to require staffpower that the T does not have and likely will not have in the future.

With that in mind, I'm not entirely sure that breaking up the T really accomplishes much. It doesn't seem like the T's problems really stem from management being, for lack of a better term, "distracted" by covering so many divisions or modes. And while I'm fuzzier on this point, I also don't think there's a whole lot of fungibility of employees between divisions -- I don't really see any commuter rail employees getting transferred over to bus or rapid transit, so it doesn't seem like a "Leaner T" would have much better luck on the staffpower front.

That being said, there may still be benefits to transferring the commuter rail to MassDOT, for its own sake. The report briefly alludes to the potential integration of East-West Rail, which I think speaks to the larger possibility of the state taking responsibility for creating a statewide regional rail network. (I want capital-R Regional Rail as much as anyone else, and I don't think having it run under a separate agency necessarily has to stand in the way of that. The biggest hurdle would probably be a unified fare system, but on the other hand perhaps this could be used as impetus to create a statewide unified fare system including all the RTAs.)
 

Brattle Loop

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That being said, there may still be benefits to transferring the commuter rail to MassDOT, for its own sake. The report briefly alludes to the potential integration of East-West Rail, which I think speaks to the larger possibility of the state taking responsibility for creating a statewide regional rail network. (I want capital-R Regional Rail as much as anyone else, and I don't think having it run under a separate agency necessarily has to stand in the way of that. The biggest hurdle would probably be a unified fare system, but on the other hand perhaps this could be used as impetus to create a statewide unified fare system including all the RTAs.)
There's definitely good reasons to have some unification of the various state-run passenger rail operations, and I don't think that it'd necessarily be practical or advisable for the MBTA service district to progressively assimilate all the new territory that would be added, say, by East-West. (There would be resistance, likely not futile.) And I do wonder to what extent it would be better for all these services to be under one passenger rail umbrella rather than under the various transit agencies (like, the CapeFlyer works okay as a CCRTA creature operated by the T a bit like their mercenary-operator gig for Rhode Island service, but how far can that extend before it causes its own problems?).

That said, simply slicing off the CR into its own MassDOT operating unit or "Regional Rail RTA" doesn't strike me as a good idea. Apart from the unnecessary risk to integrated fare systems and intermodal schedule optimization that would be introduced, it seems to me like it'd be ripe grounds for turf wars, competition for funding, and a big risk of winding up in the kind of dysfunctional relationship that MBTA/MassDOT have at times had with Amtrak, except only in-state.

It's worth noting that Chicago/Illinois and New York both have their subway/bus systems and commuter rail systems under separate organs that answer to the same entity. Metra and the CTA answer to the RTA in Chicago in a similar way to how NYCTA and Metro-North/LIRR answer to the MTA in New York, even though they're separate entities dedicated to their specific modes. So, a model like that, with a super-agency (even if given some breathing room from MassDOT) given oversight, policy direction, and interagency supervision over the subway-MBTA, the CR-RTA, and the various other RTAs might not be a terrible idea if we're talking about how to operationally separate CR and RT. Might also be a good way to bootstrap a unified fare system across the RTAs too.

With that in mind, I'm not entirely sure that breaking up the T really accomplishes much. It doesn't seem like the T's problems really stem from management being, for lack of a better term, "distracted" by covering so many divisions or modes. And while I'm fuzzier on this point, I also don't think there's a whole lot of fungibility of employees between divisions -- I don't really see any commuter rail employees getting transferred over to bus or rapid transit, so it doesn't seem like a "Leaner T" would have much better luck on the staffpower front.
That's the part I don't really get. CR's basically run, to some degree, as its own fiefdom under a progression of mercenary operators. (Anyone know if any ex-B&M or ex-Conrail CR crew made it to the Keolis era? Even if not, I know some of those employees worked for B&M, Amtrak, and MBCR contract operators, on the same territory that whole time under those three. Regardless of whether or not they answer to the same people under the Sec'y of Transportation or are separate entities, there's no way the system as a whole can avoid the "some of this is FRA, some of this is FTA" different regulatory flavors. Sure, the T wouldn't have to do it and the FTA stuff themselves, but someone would (and, uh, Keolis ain't gonna do that paperwork for free.)
 

FK4

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Transit app does this for Boston and many other cities and so is very helpful in my experience
Thanks! Ok now I see, I use Transit but when you select an actual T station, it’ll show you on the map each approaching train. I don’t think it does that for buses. But what I didn’t realize was the tab at the bottom still shows listed the buses that are approaching and their ETAs. Cool, got it now.
 

Riverside

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There's definitely good reasons to have some unification of the various state-run passenger rail operations, and I don't think that it'd necessarily be practical or advisable for the MBTA service district to progressively assimilate all the new territory that would be added, say, by East-West. (There would be resistance, likely not futile.) And I do wonder to what extent it would be better for all these services to be under one passenger rail umbrella rather than under the various transit agencies (like, the CapeFlyer works okay as a CCRTA creature operated by the T a bit like their mercenary-operator gig for Rhode Island service, but how far can that extend before it causes its own problems?).

That said, simply slicing off the CR into its own MassDOT operating unit or "Regional Rail RTA" doesn't strike me as a good idea. Apart from the unnecessary risk to integrated fare systems and intermodal schedule optimization that would be introduced, it seems to me like it'd be ripe grounds for turf wars, competition for funding, and a big risk of winding up in the kind of dysfunctional relationship that MBTA/MassDOT have at times had with Amtrak, except only in-state.

It's worth noting that Chicago/Illinois and New York both have their subway/bus systems and commuter rail systems under separate organs that answer to the same entity. Metra and the CTA answer to the RTA in Chicago in a similar way to how NYCTA and Metro-North/LIRR answer to the MTA in New York, even though they're separate entities dedicated to their specific modes. So, a model like that, with a super-agency (even if given some breathing room from MassDOT) given oversight, policy direction, and interagency supervision over the subway-MBTA, the CR-RTA, and the various other RTAs might not be a terrible idea if we're talking about how to operationally separate CR and RT. Might also be a good way to bootstrap a unified fare system across the RTAs too.



That's the part I don't really get. CR's basically run, to some degree, as its own fiefdom under a progression of mercenary operators. (Anyone know if any ex-B&M or ex-Conrail CR crew made it to the Keolis era? Even if not, I know some of those employees worked for B&M, Amtrak, and MBCR contract operators, on the same territory that whole time under those three. Regardless of whether or not they answer to the same people under the Sec'y of Transportation or are separate entities, there's no way the system as a whole can avoid the "some of this is FRA, some of this is FTA" different regulatory flavors. Sure, the T wouldn't have to do it and the FTA stuff themselves, but someone would (and, uh, Keolis ain't gonna do that paperwork for free.)
Agreed all around. You brought up the service district, which raises another question: if commuter/regional rail is sheared off, presumably those communities leave the district too -- along with their monies; I'm sure the answer is available somewhere, but I have to wonder whether that would impact funding for the rapid transit and bus systems (i.e. do the suburbs subsidize the subway?).
 

bakgwailo

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Agreed all around. You brought up the service district, which raises another question: if commuter/regional rail is sheared off, presumably those communities leave the district too -- along with their monies; I'm sure the answer is available somewhere, but I have to wonder whether that would impact funding for the rapid transit and bus systems (i.e. do the suburbs subsidize the subway?).
A good question. I haven't seen updated info in awhile, but pre-pandemic the Commuter rail had by far the highest per ride subsidy of all modes (excluding The Ride). Latest I can quickly find:


Which I think, if it still holds true shows that the suburbs do not subsidize the subways, and that in fact very much the opposite is true: the commuter rail is extremely expensive to operate, inefficient, and has a much more limited ridership than other modes resulting in very high subsidies. Just think about how expensive passes get at zone 1 and above, and how much they really would have to cost to fully cover. Really the concept of a "commuter rail" with push pull diesels that have some of the lowest reliability ratings in the country/world is antiquated at best.
 

notthemonthaugust

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Thanks! Ok now I see, I use Transit but when you select an actual T station, it’ll show you on the map each approaching train. I don’t think it does that for buses. But what I didn’t realize was the tab at the bottom still shows listed the buses that are approaching and their ETAs. Cool, got it now.
I personally use Citymapper over Transit, I find it to be a little easier to use and it also does what you're asking for well (you can have it show any approaching mode of transit to your current location from the main screen).
 

jklo

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Which I think, if it still holds true shows that the suburbs do not subsidize the subways, and that in fact very much the opposite is true: the commuter rail is extremely expensive to operate, inefficient, and has a much more limited ridership than other modes resulting in very high subsidies. Just think about how expensive passes get at zone 1 and above, and how much they really would have to cost to fully cover. Really the concept of a "commuter rail" with push pull diesels that have some of the lowest reliability ratings in the country/world is antiquated at best.
I've kind of assumed that the CR peak trains (and only in the peak direction) are super profitable (at least in 2019)... but every other train run is more or less empty so it'd be hard for it to not require massive subsidies.
 

HenryAlan

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So... The Legislature (Joint Committee on Transportation) recently published a report on the T's safety practices, and their oversight thereof, and contained within as one of several floated reform proposals from one of the chairs is the idea of breaking up the T- The T would retain rapid transit functions (subway and bus), while the Commuter rail and Ferry operations would get spun off.

In principle, that strikes me as a particularly bad idea given the value in an integrated transit system, especially given the future move towards a regional/urban rail character for the CR which all but demands systemic integration with the core network, though I do concede that presently the ferries do very much feel like an afterthought.
I can see the logic of separating commuter rail in to some larger, state wide focus regional rail agency. I don't think anybody wants the MBTA operating trains in Springfield, even if they originate in Boston. And what of a future in which there are some regional routes that don't involve Boston at all?
 

JeffDowntown

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I can see the logic of separating commuter rail in to some larger, state wide focus regional rail agency. I don't think anybody wants the MBTA operating trains in Springfield, even if they originate in Boston. And what of a future in which there are some regional routes that don't involve Boston at all?
The only way to have seamless transit integration around metro Boston is to have a single agency responsible for the system. Breaking up the operations destroys the system nature of the network. These modes are supposed to work together.
 

malabari

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A good question. I haven't seen updated info in awhile, but pre-pandemic the Commuter rail had by far the highest per ride subsidy of all modes (excluding The Ride). Latest I can quickly find:


Which I think, if it still holds true shows that the suburbs do not subsidize the subways, and that in fact very much the opposite is true: the commuter rail is extremely expensive to operate, inefficient, and has a much more limited ridership than other modes resulting in very high subsidies. Just think about how expensive passes get at zone 1 and above, and how much they really would have to cost to fully cover. Really the concept of a "commuter rail" with push pull diesels that have some of the lowest reliability ratings in the country/world is antiquated at best.
Wouldnt subsidy per passenger mile be a better comparison than per passenger?
 

Koopzilla24

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I'd love to know what share of weekend Commuter Rail riders use the $10 pass.
If the weekday trains are underutilized they should be exploring fare rationalization like they've done on the weekend.
I’d love to see the state implement a version of the UK’s Railcard. Over there, you can purchase an annual pass that discounts all rail travel in the UK. The passes are different for different groups and come with different levels of discounts. For example, anyone aged 16-25 can get a year long Railcard for £30 (£70 for 3 years) that gets you 1/3 off the price of most rail tickets for that year. MA could have something similar. Say if you’re a Boston resident or employed in the Inner Core you can buy a year-long Rail Pass for $60 that gets you 25% off CR rail fares that start or terminate in the state. The UK’s Railcard has different types like family cards that allow multiple adults and children on one card. This could be implemented as well for people that frequently travel to and from destinations on the CR system for leisure. This could be extended to Amtrak as well them permitting.

I’d imagine making something like this available would encourage a lot more people to take the train or those that do to take it more regularly. We’ve seen what a discounted weekend pass has done for weekend travel
 

FK4

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Wouldnt subsidy per passenger mile be a better comparison than per passenger?
What about a scoring system that captures number of new passengers, distance, cost? You could have that as one metric, and then an additional form of the same metric that also includes social and environmental justice scores? That seems like the most rational way to find out if a project is worth it or not. Probably, top rational.
 

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