I did go out to Worcester to see the inaugural event and participate in the "First Ride." There was plenty of media reporting about the trip...
Boston Globe article here
Worcester Telegram article here
Mass Live collection of live tweets here
Mass Live article here
Official reports indicate that the first inbound "Heart to Hub" carried about 300 passengers. I walked through the entire train and although there was a large contingent of media, politicians, WPI students, and "Action Worcester" participants, the majority of passengers appeared to be 'normal' commuters and/or 'normal' single trip riders (i.e. not daily commuters) - some who clearly had no idea the train would be the subject of a massive PR blitz!
Based on rider observations, ridership for subsequent "Heart to Hub" runs was:
Monday PM outbound: ~40 passengers
Tuesday AM inbound: Unclear. One rider reported 40+ passengers "in his car" indicating other coaches also had passengers.
Tuesday PM outbound: ~47 passengers
Observation / thoughts on the "First Ride:"
1. The speeches at both ends were predictably boosterish. Nothing groundbreaking or particularly noteworthy from my perspective. Appropriate thanks given to relevant players and the Lt. Governor held a very respectful moment of silence for the recently murdered Auburn police officer.
2. "Jake" the Worcester Braveheart lion, "Charlie" the MBTA mascot, and the oversized custom Charlie Ticket presented to the Lt. Governor were all proof that the event was the biggest political event in Massachusetts since the signing of the Mayflower Compact or the 2004 Red Sox World Series victory.
3. The festive atmosphere aboard the train near the gaggle of politicians was pleasantly contagious and genuinely amusing. Although it was funny that all the politicians piled into the quiet car which the conductor sheepishly announced while everyone was boarding, but then probably quickly decided really didn't need to be enforced. One of the Worcester politicians was celebrating his birthday...I wasn't quick enough with my phone camera to record the Lt. Governor leading the quiet car coach in singing "Happy Birthday" to him. It was hard to be cynical about the mood, but maybe that's just because I don't spend too much time in these type of situations. I did remind myself a couple of times that it was only a train...
4. I spoke with all of the politicians on the train and they were all very pleasant and approachable. Some of them seemed a little surprised when I vocalized my concern about the "Heart to Hub" service, but we had some good discussions. As always, the MBTA and Keolis senior staff aboard the train were very engaging and tolerant of my technical questions and observations. It was fun hanging out with them and my various media friends.
5. The equipment for the bullet train starts the day as inbound P500 from the layover yard at Worcester. As soon as it arrives in Boston, it immediately turns and runs outbound as a non-revenue deadhead express to Worcester. This outbound leg isn't used as a revenue service train because of the quick turn time in Boston. For the inaugural run, the set was loco 2037 with five flats (control coach 1522). Testing continues on a possible 3 coach set for this run. Initial tests indicate that the braking characteristics of a three coach train set are acceptable, but further testing is needed to verify that the block signal system (especially on the Fairmount branch) can accommodate a short train (a short train might not be long enough to close the track circuit to indicate that the block is occupied). So don't be surprised to see a four coach set and perhaps a three coach set eventually. Especially if ridership stays as low as noted after the inaugural run...
6. I documented our arrival time at Yawkey as 4 minutes late. The delay between Worcester and Yawkey appeared to be in Framingham - we went through at much slower than the authorized track speed. Rumors were that there was an issue at the Bishop Street grade crossing, but I'm not sure about that. I was disappointed to see some politicians suggest that our late arrival at South Station was due to a longer dwell time at Yawkey due to folks taking pictures. The station stop at Yawkey did seem a little longer than necessary, but since we arrived at Yawkey late the overall delay for the trip was not there.