MBTA Commuter Rail (Operations, Keolis, & Short Term)

The EGE

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Weekend Commuter Rail returns on Needham Franklin, Kingston, Greenbush Haverhill, Lowell and Fitchburg from July 3rd


Apparently Needham had a hearing the other week about whether weekend service should run to Needham Heights, or only to Needham Junction. The issue is train horns at the crossings (which of course Needham hasn't done anything to make them eligible for a quiet zone...)
 

DBM

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I don't know why I'm only picking up on this now, for all the hundreds of times I've taken the CR--but I just noticed for the first time, recently, that when trains are negotiating the curve to get into/out of South Station to/from Back Bay, as the individual cars flex and segment themselves--A LOT of air space opens up between the cars' portals.

Thus, unless I'm totally missing something, the cars are suddenly very poorly insulated, for a considerable period of time, as they negotiate curves.

That's a big heat/AC waster in January or July (or any other temperature extremes between). Why aren't the junctures of the cars, where the portals couple, more sealed-off from the elements to prevent that? Or again, am I missing something?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I don't know why I'm only picking up on this now, for all the hundreds of times I've taken the CR--but I just noticed for the first time, recently, that when trains are negotiating the curve to get into/out of South Station to/from Back Bay, as the individual cars flex and segment themselves--A LOT of air space opens up between the cars' portals.

Thus, unless I'm totally missing something, the cars are suddenly very poorly insulated, for a considerable period of time, as they negotiate curves.

That's a big heat/AC waster in January or July (or any other temperature extremes between). Why aren't the junctures of the cars, where the portals couple, more sealed-off from the elements to prevent that? Or again, am I missing something?
It's a big energy waster if the door separating the passenger area from the vestibule is always open, and has lost its ability to self-shut from the centrifugal forces of the train moving. The single-levels with their double sliding doors are especially bad for that. Don't see it as much with the bi-levels and their single sliding doors, unless some passenger is actively propping it open (which the staff discourages when they see it). The bi-levels tend to fare better when there's a temperature extreme outside because they chose a better sliding door mechanism design, and with all of them being newer and/or way more recently overhauled than the flats maint thoroughness also plays a selection role. There are way fewer 'loose' sliding doors on the bi's because the mechanisms are uniformly newer, whereas they simply don't give a crap what minor fittings are worn out this week on the flats. To the extent it's taxing their electricity usage, that's a thing stepping up the sliding door maint practices would probably cure quite effectively enough. But good luck finding an enforcement mechanism in Keolis' contract to entice them to go that extra mile. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Vestibules aren't supposed to be perfectly climate-controlled to begin with. Conductors delay the door closings for safety lookout points when the train is in motion, for instance. And those closing delays are usually longer when the doors are being manually instead of automatically closed, so purging the last of the manual-door cars (Bombardier flats, mostly) and getting more all- level-boarding lines on the schedule would help there. More fully-insulated articulation starts getting expensive when commuter trainsets are being pulled apart and mashed together for length-to-schedule matching on a daily basis. The rate of splitting/combining would wear out those fortified plugs a bit quick. Amtrak has much more overbuilt car-to-car portals because of the higher service class and the climate extremes that any given car in a continent-wide fleet could be subjected to, and much more precise attention to HEP electricity budgeting given how much their HVAC gets taxed by single schedules passing through multiple climate zones. Simplest explanation for that: it pays off for Amtrak and Amtrak-usage HEP electricity budgets to invest extra for the vestibule climate regulation, doesn't pay off for most Commuter Rail operators in the country who end up buying very nearly the same handful of generic coach livery configurations across their service class.

We can do a bit better culling the systemwide cruft (old cars, slacky maintenance, un-upgraded platforms that force manual-door usage), but vestibule redesigns are probably not going to help nearly enough to be worth the cost/maint premium.
 

DBM

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It's a big energy waster if the door separating the passenger area from the vestibule is always open, and has lost its ability to self-shut from the centrifugal forces of the train moving. The single-levels with their double sliding doors are especially bad for that. Don't see it as much with the bi-levels and their single sliding doors, unless some passenger is actively propping it open (which the staff discourages when they see it). The bi-levels tend to fare better when there's a temperature extreme outside because they chose a better sliding door mechanism design, and with all of them being newer and/or way more recently overhauled than the flats maint thoroughness also plays a selection role. There are way fewer 'loose' sliding doors on the bi's because the mechanisms are uniformly newer, whereas they simply don't give a crap what minor fittings are worn out this week on the flats. To the extent it's taxing their electricity usage, that's a thing stepping up the sliding door maint practices would probably cure quite effectively enough. But good luck finding an enforcement mechanism in Keolis' contract to entice them to go that extra mile. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Vestibules aren't supposed to be perfectly climate-controlled to begin with. Conductors delay the door closings for safety lookout points when the train is in motion, for instance. And those closing delays are usually longer when the doors are being manually instead of automatically closed, so purging the last of the manual-door cars (Bombardier flats, mostly) and getting more all- level-boarding lines on the schedule would help there. More fully-insulated articulation starts getting expensive when commuter trainsets are being pulled apart and mashed together for length-to-schedule matching on a daily basis. The rate of splitting/combining would wear out those fortified plugs a bit quick. Amtrak has much more overbuilt car-to-car portals because of the higher service class and the climate extremes that any given car in a continent-wide fleet could be subjected to, and much more precise attention to HEP electricity budgeting given how much their HVAC gets taxed by single schedules passing through multiple climate zones. Simplest explanation for that: it pays off for Amtrak and Amtrak-usage HEP electricity budgets to invest extra for the vestibule climate regulation, doesn't pay off for most Commuter Rail operators in the country who end up buying very nearly the same handful of generic coach livery configurations across their service class.

We can do a bit better culling the systemwide cruft (old cars, slacky maintenance, un-upgraded platforms that force manual-door usage), but vestibule redesigns are probably not going to help nearly enough to be worth the cost/maint premium.
Wonderfully detailed description of the phenomenon, as usual--and yes, obviously I neglected to mention, this gets me irked because it's happening with the sliding-door mechanism chronically failing, such that the outside air is infiltrating. Clearly Keolis must be shamed into action--this calls for some aspiring tech ninja to covertly install thermal imaging gates at the curve betwixt South Station and Back Bay, and then somehow find a way to capture footage of the passing CR trains, showing just how bad the energy wastage is....

speaking of conductors delaying the door closings for safety lookout points: I've had the privilege during the pandemic of watching a few hapless would-be boarders sprinting through CR parking lots and up platform rampways, trying desperately to catch the train I'm on before the doors close and it departs. It's such vivid theater. In each of these cases they've arrived, huffing and puffing, to the platform, just seconds late. And of course they wave at the conductor frantically and beg them to open the door and gesticulate and grimace and rage and hoot and holler and generally behave in a less-than-composed fashion. It's so fun to watch (anyone who claims otherwise is not human).

I'll give credit to the conductors I've witnessed on these occasions: however much they may sympathize with the just-seconds-late, would-be passengers, they maintain perfect composure and do what they are obligated to do--i.e., ensure the train continues to depart the station safely. I imagine if one of them actually tried to stop the train and reopen the doors to let on a late passenger, it'd be grounds for instant firing?
 

393b40

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I imagine if one of them actually tried to stop the train and reopen the doors to let on a late passenger, it'd be grounds for instant firing?
I have seen this happen countless times on the Worcester and Providence lines... usually for a woman or group of teens/students. Conductor radios the engineer and they stop and let her or them on then continue away.
 

HenryAlan

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speaking of conductors delaying the door closings for safety lookout points: I've had the privilege during the pandemic of watching a few hapless would-be boarders sprinting through CR parking lots and up platform rampways, trying desperately to catch the train I'm on before the doors close and it departs. It's such vivid theater. In each of these cases they've arrived, huffing and puffing, to the platform, just seconds late. And of course they wave at the conductor frantically and beg them to open the door and gesticulate and grimace and rage and hoot and holler and generally behave in a less-than-composed fashion. It's so fun to watch (anyone who claims otherwise is not human).
Back in the old days when they weren't so strict about door and trap openings, it was not so uncommon for those sprint to catch the train people to be able to board after it had already started to move. I did that a few times, running along side an open door, then stepping quickly on to it! One time a conductor yelled at me, but the rest of the time, they either didn't notice or didn't care.
 

ceo

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It's always amazed me that the inter-car portals don't have any kind of walkway over the two doorframes osculating against each other. Seems like a great way for a careless person to get their foot badly injured.
 

HelloBostonHi

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Back in the old days when they weren't so strict about door and trap openings, it was not so uncommon for those sprint to catch the train people to be able to board after it had already started to move. I did that a few times, running along side an open door, then stepping quickly on to it! One time a conductor yelled at me, but the rest of the time, they either didn't notice or didn't care.
I've done it a few times even just in the past few years at south station, I've got told off but my opinion is if the doors are still open then it's still free game, any civilized country (Europe) closes and locks all doors before the train is in motion...
 

anthtucker312

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This is somewhat of a random question, but what's the story as to why the formerly proposed Millbury commuter rail station was never constructed? I've heard that it was proposed in the late 90's during the restoration of service to Worcester, but I've always been curious as to what exactly stopped it from becoming a reality. It seems like such an obvious spot for an infill station.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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This is somewhat of a random question, but what's the story as to why the formerly proposed Millbury commuter rail station was never constructed? I've heard that it was proposed in the late 90's during the restoration of service to Worcester, but I've always been curious as to what exactly stopped it from becoming a reality. It seems like such an obvious spot for an infill station.
NIMBY's.
 

anthtucker312

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Is commuter rail service going to return to Foxboro station anytime soon? A few news articles from September 2020 mention that the Foxboro pilot was planned to resume service in May 2021.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Is commuter rail service going to return to Foxboro station anytime soon? A few news articles from September 2020 mention that the Foxboro pilot was planned to resume service in May 2021.
It's punted out because of Franklin Line Double Tracking. The original F'boro pilot did too severe a number on Franklin Line on-time performance, and brought the line down into the mid-80's percentile on OTP to considerable customer gripes. They may wait until DT Phase III (Norwood-Walpole) because that would 100% guaranteed support any/all branching frequencies here and forever, but they could opt for earlier in Spring '22 when the Phase II (Norfolk-Franklin) DT is expected to open if that leg does enough unto itself to fortify Forge Park OTP prior to Phase III. Still TBD.


Plymouth/Cordage Park was just announced a few days ago as a Spring 2022 reopening, BTW. It's tape-delayed because of something arcane about fiscal year reporting, but is now officially confirmed.
 

anthtucker312

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Thanks for the clarification.

They may wait until DT Phase III (Norwood-Walpole) because that would 100% guaranteed support any/all branching frequencies here and forever, but they could opt for earlier in Spring '22 when the Phase II (Norfolk-Franklin) DT is expected to open if that leg does enough unto itself to fortify Forge Park OTP prior to Phase III.
Was there any indication as to when construction on DT Phase III would commence? And doesn't Phase III include the reconstruction of Windsor Gardens as well?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Thanks for the clarification.



Was there any indication as to when construction on DT Phase III would commence? And doesn't Phase III include the reconstruction of Windsor Gardens as well?
T hasn't updated their project page in awhile. Phase III was supposed to go out for design in "late 2020". Guessing COVID had other ideas.

Phase II is cranking right along, per recent Google satellite imagery. Completely graded, and sections of new track going in between Norfolk and Franklin. Again...they might be OK to resume Foxboro without OTP demerits strictly because Phase II clears the air that much. Phase II leaves such luxurious margins south of Walpole that won't be backfilled until real-deal :30 Regional Rail service goes down there that they can simply revise the Forge Park scheduling to eliminate all potential conflicts with Foxboro trains and not have to risk chancing the OTP like the original trial unfortunately did. For the T's purposes it's more a dilemma of how much more it's going to cost on Phase III to schedule construction windows around fuller combo Forge Park + Foxboro schedules vs. delaying the Foxboro restart until after substantial work is done. Given that Phase III design slipped from its original intended date, we still don't know the answer to that call.
 

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T signs $28M design services contract (0-100% design) for tri-tracking everything on the Worcester Line between Route 128 and Framingham Jct. Will include renovations of the 3 Wellesley stops + West Natick (excluding Natick whose shovel-ready rebuild is already pre-designed for tri-track). 10.2 miles total and will include a new midpoint crossover pair just west of Wellesley Sq. station.

This will be a massive step forward for proliferating the express vs. local layer cake on Worcester schedules, for substantially speeding travel times from Worcester by making express runs their own breakaway service tier, for taming the accessibility backlog on the inner half of the line, and for proliferating future Amtrak schedules. Also signifies an intent to build, as part of this deal involves staging the contractor auditions at the end for who actually gets to build this thing.

Total program costs range from $399-406M, with the 4 stations from Wellesley Farms to West Natick costing $34M, $43-45M, $31-35M, and $37M respectively.
 

The EGE

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Along with the Natick Center rebuild (well under way for a 2023 completion) and the planned Newton station rebuilds, this will make the Worcester Line 100% accessible. That will leave 5 stations on the Franklin Line (two of which will likely be rebuilt as part of double tracking) as the only non-accessible southside stations. Hopefully it will also put pressure to convert Back Bay and Framingham to full-length high-level platforms as well.
 

anthtucker312

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That will leave 5 stations on the Franklin Line (two of which will likely be rebuilt as part of double tracking) as the only non-accessible southside stations.
Which two stations are you referring to? I'd assume one is Windsor Gardens, but I hadn't heard about any other stations being planned for reconstruction as part of the double tracking.
 

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