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

Riverside

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A last minute equipment swap at South Station between the Providence and Worcester Lines, combined with serious crowding on the Providence, caused some frustration among riders tonight. (As I’m sure did the fact that we didn’t let anyone onboard at Ruggles!)

The rumor was that the original Providence set failed some mechancial check that is necessary for the Northeast Corridor, but not for the B&A — hence the switch.

I’m not sure I can think of anything that would fit that criteria — or the reverse, for that matter. Any ideas?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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A last minute equipment swap at South Station between the Providence and Worcester Lines, combined with serious crowding on the Providence, caused some frustration among riders tonight. (As I’m sure did the fact that we didn’t let anyone onboard at Ruggles!)

The rumor was that the original Providence set failed some mechancial check that is necessary for the Northeast Corridor, but not for the B&A — hence the switch.

I’m not sure I can think of anything that would fit that criteria — or the reverse, for that matter. Any ideas?
Amtrak regs, for sure. They have a lot of above-and-beyonds you have to live by in order to get permission from the NEC dispatcher to run on the Corridor. Used to be compliance with their PTC system was the main limiting factor because not all T equipment had the right signal units for the job, but now that they're on the home stretch installing that very same system on all their lines and rolling stock that's no longer a factor. I couldn't even guess what other minutiae they might've gotten dinged for; Amtrak holds their Corridor roommates to reams of very tiny fine-print over all kinds of stuff.
 

Riverside

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Amtrak regs, for sure. They have a lot of above-and-beyonds you have to live by in order to get permission from the NEC dispatcher to run on the Corridor. Used to be compliance with their PTC system was the main limiting factor because not all T equipment had the right signal units for the job, but now that they're on the home stretch installing that very same system on all their lines and rolling stock that's no longer a factor. I couldn't even guess what other minutiae they might've gotten dinged for; Amtrak holds their Corridor roommates to reams of very tiny fine-print over all kinds of stuff.
Ah, makes sense. I'm a little surprised that the T hasn't started pinning delays from those equipment swaps on Amtrak; delay alerts over the last few months have gone to some trouble to explain that delays due to holds for Amtrak are because "Amtrak dispatches the Providence Line and gives priority to its trains." Not exact quote -- it's usually a bit more diplomatic, but there's a clear passing of the buck.

Perhaps the look of "Our equipment isn't up to Amtrak specs" isn't one they want to broadcast.
 

Randomgear

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Just spotted an outbound train 11:30am on the Needham line passing through Roslindale on a no-service Sunday (and returning to Boston at 12:50pm) with the last coach in holiday livery. Does anyone know if the interior is also fitted out in a holiday theme?
Also, in the past month or so I've spotted a number of late night trains passing thru Rozzie heading towards needham, sometimes 12:30ish AM and 1:30ish. Is Keolis just moving trains to Needham to have stock for the morning?
 
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Arlington

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Winchester's elevated CR stop (Lowell Line) is getting rebuilt with high-level platforms. They're at 60% design and I can't tell how they intend to keep the required wide-freight clearance?
Choices seem to be:
1) Retractable platform edge of unprecedented length (9 cars) that you'd interlock with the signals?
2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gauntlet_track
3) some kind of "on one side only" implementation of a combination of the above (a crossover is shown at the end of the station in some concepts

 

The EGE

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The 15% design report said that a gauntlet track was possible. I haven't heard anything about it since then; it may be that they've decided that running 5mph past the platform is doable. That same report said that the interlocking north of the station (a remain of the old Woburn Branch) might be moved south of the station.
 

HelloBostonHi

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Also, in the past month or so I've spotted a number of late night trains passing thru Rozzie heading towards needham, sometimes 12:30ish AM and 1:30ish. Is Keolis just moving trains to Needham to have stock for the morning?
That would line up with the overnight PTC test trains. According to the MBTA website: https://mbta.com/projects/commuter-rail-positive-train-control-ptc/update/ptc-weekly-activities

Commuter Rail LineNeedhamOngoing PTC ActivitiesDay and night operations. Overnight test trains Sunday – Thursday.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The 15% design report said that a gauntlet track was possible. I haven't heard anything about it since then; it may be that they've decided that running 5mph past the platform is doable. That same report said that the interlocking north of the station (a remain of the old Woburn Branch) might be moved south of the station.
It's to be a gauntlet, but that's signal dept.'s task to do because of the required interlocking work so the construction schedule is probably well-detached from all else with the station reno. Design only has to deal with it in terms of reserving the clearance envelope (i.e. no center fencing between tracks).

There's no way the T trusts Pan Am staff enough to obey a situational sub- 10 MPH restriction on total engineer discretion or trusts their ops/maint standards for boxcars with shot suspension. Maybe the gauntlet comes dead last, but over their dead bodies are they going to keep patching a platform edge that accumulates as many dings and scrapes as PAR is likely to rack up. They're already at war over the number of times the N. Leominster and N. Billerica mini-highs get damaged by their rolling ruins swinging outside the clearance envelope.
 

ceo

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The report says that a gauntlet track will be hand-thrown. If they go to full-high platforms on the entire line as part of Regional Urban Rail, they'll have to have them at every station, right? In which case it would make more sense to have them controlled by the dispatcher, so the train doesn't have to stop four times at every station to set the switches.
 

stefal

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Isn't part of the point of high-level platforms to decrease boarding times? Seems counter-intuitive to not have a dispatcher do it...
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The report says that a gauntlet track will be hand-thrown. If they go to full-high platforms on the entire line as part of Regional Urban Rail, they'll have to have them at every station, right? In which case it would make more sense to have them controlled by the dispatcher, so the train doesn't have to stop four times at every station to set the switches.
Pan Am very rarely has any Plate F cars on its freight manifests to Somerville, so the relative rarity of such moves is why they'd be choosing hand-throw. Most of the high-and-wide cars that trawl the Lowell Line are 60-ft. boxcars dropped off every night at the busy Tighe Warehouse on Montvale Ave. just north of Winch Ctr. I think Boston Paperboard in the Innerbelt is the only actual high-and-wide customer in town, and they only get spotted big boxcars a couple times a year. So right now they don't even need to flip the retractable edge on the Wedgemere mini-high all that often, which requires comparable number of personnel movements. The gauntlet's necessity is mainly so Pan Am has ops flexibility to play catch-up on late schedules by dragging some high-and-wide empties from Tighe's yard down into Somerville then lash up with whatever they parked overnight in Somerville so they can scramble back out with cleared backlog on one single northbound train. They're always parking stuff from Everett and Peabody overnight in Somerville when they run out of crew hours, so while not an everday occurrence they do somewhat often need to scramble from out of town to flush out a previous-day's car backlog. That plus contractual obligations to always keep the Lowell Line clear for high-and-wides, future large-dimension growth considerations if Massport reactivates the Mystic Wharf Branch to Moran Terminal, and eventual likelihood of Everett Terminal getting cleared for high-and-wides since the current "Plate E"-restricted Cambridge St./Maffa Way/Mystic Ave. overpasses in Sullivan Square only miss by inches (and would be cheap/easy to undercut if MassDOT found a related bridge project to tack the cost onto).

Places north of Winch Ctr. it's definitely heavy enough high-and-wide traffic--mainly driven by that Tighe customer--that hand-throws won't do. Wilmington and North Billerica can feasibly be reconfigured with center passers and any/all infill station sites under consideration have the room to do passers from Day 1. But the need to do a signal-controlled gauntlet interlocking at Mishawum for daily high-and-wide traffic in order to raise those platforms probably ends up being the death knell for Mishawum as a continued station...as simply finishing the west entrance to Anderson and running some buses there is too much easier than the P.I.T.A. it would be to maintain two powered interlockings at that nothingburger of a intermediate station.


This is really going to be hard, BTW, on the outer Haverhill Line. Ballardvale and Andover don't have room for passers, have 24/7 high-and-wide freight traffic, and abut grade crossings where it is really unwise from a maint and speed limit perspective to thread the extra gauntlet rail through a crossing surface and have the automatic interlockings + crossing gate signals all wired-up in tandem glitch-free. Those, plus possibly Haverhill station itself which abuts too close for comfort to the bridge, may have to stay forever mini-highs from lack of available full-high passing design hacks that don't create more problems than they solve.
 
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BostonUrbEx

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Just to clear something up, Plate F does not require any additional attention for width, only height. The most recent Pan Am moves to Boston which required some attention to width were some scrap gondolas that were so beat up that the sides of the gondolas were bowed out. Even on the Freight Main Line, wide moves aren't that common. The high level at Lawrence is avoided as a very cautious rule of thumb, just in case something in the consist was missed or in case a car rocks out to far and catches the platform, but most trains should be able to pass without incident.

That said on how rare the moves currently are, last I heard Winchester interlocking would be reconfigured with a power switch for one end of the gauntlet track, and a new interlocking south of Winchester station would be the other power switch for the other end of the gauntlet track.
 

jass

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Commuter rail ridership on a new service from Gillette Stadium has been less than expected in its first seven weeks of operation, but officials say the pilot program needs more time.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation said Thursday that an average of 70 people per day are using the station outside the stadium.
There are 10 round trips between Foxboro and Boston each weekday.


A report issued before the service began Oct. 21 estimated ridership would be about 210 people per day.

“Foxboro Station customer counts for the month of November show an approximate weekday average of 70 boardings and 70 alightings,” spokeswoman Lisa Battiston said. “Given that the Foxboro pilot service is less than two months old, it’s too early to determine if or when the pilot would be made permanent, though staff continues to closely monitor the pilot’s progress,” she said.

....

The Kraft Group, which owns the stadium and the New England Patriots, had long advocated for the train to its property and is subsidizing a portion of the operating costs. A report for the state estimated the operation costs would be $1.68 million a year.

Dooley said infrastructure improvements cost between $40 million and $50 million, but the MBTA said a full "build up" to a permanent service would cost less than $40 million in improvements.
 

jass

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EDIT: Apologies I was looking just at the buses not ridership overall.
Yes the post I linked to has a full analysis. Additionally, your chart appears to be for a single run.

The Foxboro comparison is 7 riders per run, or 3.5 individuals per day.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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RE: Foxboro...the trial has had the unfortunate effect of cratering Franklin Line OTP into the mid-70's% from the schedule rejiggering and also trying to triage PTC installation work around perpetually late schedules. The reduction of trains stopping at Walpole has also had direct negative effect at inducing extreme parking overcrowding at Norwood Central and "full lot" signs many days, as the diverted Walpole trips unfortunately landed on slots where parking utilization crests to daily peaks. That's reducing Norwood's ridership by capping it the days the P'nR overfills way too early. All of this, plus general lack of promotion, has blunted a lot of would-be encouraged utilization of Foxboro.

#1...it's way too early to evaluate the station's performance vs. trial targets as they've got a whole lot of troubleshooting to do with the mainline scheduling first to stabilize the works. Right now the wretched OTP and direct conflicts in Pn'R capacity at peak are clobbering the monster Norword and Walpole catchments to each other's demerit, and that's Problem #1 to address before worrying about the end of the line. Foxboro's getting diminishing-returns service by the induced instability inbound, and that's taking a predictably oversized cut of the momentum away from the pilot. Fish that OTP out of the gutter by tweaking the schedule to avoid bad-luck conflicts. Then schedule around the car-count surges at the Norwood and Walpole lots so the specific selection of dropped Walpole trips isn't sending a carpocalypse to Norwood that turns riders away. If the Walpole v. Norwood scramble and late trains are no longer sucking the oxygen out of commuters' decision-making, then Foxboro has some actual room to draw first-time users. Today you aren't netting that initial "maybe I'll try Foxboro today and see how it works" curiosity because all these other problems are too much more important. Those 70 daily riders are probably today overrepresented by people more hyper-local to Foxboro or who have prior knowledge of that platform from the Game Train...and not so much by the diverted Pn'R trips they were hoping for. You need to clear out some of the outright worries that are clogging rider bandwidth before the curiosity bait has any chance to work.

It's not over by a longshot. These are fixable issues they can address in the next schedule revision. Though I'm curious to see what gets presented to the FCMB on which rush slots are causing all the overflow problems at Norwood Central, because the options for swapping Walpole-skip slots probably aren't all that diverse. The pilot ridership target for F'boro is 210 daily, which is worth reiterating because in scale this bears no resemblance to other trials like bus late night. That's a flat-out wretched example to use for trying to pound a "why did they do X when they weren't willing to do Y" into a total flat-world comparison. If these mainline problems have prevented most of the load diversions from ever happening in the first place, making up the +140 difference to farebox recovery target isn't a big hurdle because to the real-world commuter this trial hasn't for-real started yet until they stabilize the schedules and stabilize Norwood capacity. 210 is just a proof-of-concept target for what the station can attract on a limited schedule with Walpole being a diversionary target. In the real world what they're predicating the full-build Foxboro up/down decision on from those vital signs is:
  • doubling mainline service to Walpole and what exponential effect that has on mainline ridership
  • having Walpole featured on all 36 daily round-trips and what exponential effect that has on station ridership
  • being able to backfill Foxboro-diverted mainline P'nR loads at Walpole+NC with brand new ridership (incl. bus shuttle service to Walpole from places like Medfield/Millis), and how much additional draw that brings. That is, Walpole's catchment can skew further north into under-served communities if its lot capacity were freed from some 495 load.
  • what giving Foxboro the full contingent of Kraft-land TOD public-private frills does to top off that stop's ridership, since the existing parking capacity + parking management starts it off with a very low farebox recovery target. If 210 is a stable break-even on the limited trial, then 500+ post- mainline load-shifting is the healthy revenue target for 18 dedicated round trips (the official feasibility study ranges it as high as 990/daily if Kraft opens up more of the parking capacity and encourages some bus drop-offs @ Patriot Place, so the 'gravy' potential past break-even is also high if the private side of the coin steps up).
So we're about 140 riders of post-tweak gains away from satisfying all those feasibility metrics. Low target considering all the stubbed toes out the gate with these scheduling problems. Fix the schedule to stability and start a re-promotion effort from there and that ground is easily made up during calendar year 2020. Yeah, it's unfortunate there's been some harm to mainline service...but trial starts do have that inherent uncertainty to them. Efficacy of the trial isn't based on what it looked like after Day 1 or Month 1, but rather after they show their ability to make first-wave adjustments.


EDIT: And not surprisingly a new "Franklin Line Working Group" is now convening public meetings to troubleshoot the OTP plunge and other unintended side effects in hopes of getting a corrective schedule change enacted.
 
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FK4

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We really need a Commuter Rail specific thread, but I’m not going to kick off this question by creating a new thread.

what is the point of offering Wi-Fi? It’s not slow, it just actually doesn’t work 99% of the time. I’ve only written the Needham line so I can’t speak for any others… Is the quality better? It’s just yet another really fucking frustrating thing. If you’re going to offer a service, make sure it works. I would rather not have it at all.
 

HelloBostonHi

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What is the point of offering Wi-Fi? It’s not slow, it just actually doesn’t work 99% of the time. I’ve only written the Needham line so I can’t speak for any others… Is the quality better? It’s just yet another really fucking frustrating thing. If you’re going to offer a service, make sure it works. I would rather not have it at all.
The MBTA got it for free that's why. It's a free perk they pay nothing for. https://blog.mass.gov/transportation/mbta/mbta-new-wifi-system-announced/

Jesus Christ.................

Insanely old news they announced this over 9 months ago and included those exact renderings in their announcement, it has already been discussed at length on here.
 

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