It seems like we've been talking about this for months now...because we have. To recap:
Back in October, MassDOT held a press conference to announce a new express service direct from Worcester to Boston. At that press conference, they also leaked the entire new draft schedule. My blog post about that is here, and the draft schedule published in October is here.
That schedule was supposed to be implemented in November. However, they decided to roll out the revised North side schedules first, with an effective date of December 14. After a mountain of pushback and criticism, those schedules were withdrawn and taken back for 'tweaking.' Which brings us to where we are now: new schedules for all the lines (except the Old Colony lines), with a planned implementation date of May 23, 2016.
The official Framingham-Worcester draft schedule is linked from this page. However, I think the official version is really illegible. So I copied all the times onto a more legible format and that version is here.
Before we get to my comments on the draft Framingham-Worcester schedule, there are three topics to discuss.
Due to a snowstorm on Monday 2/8/2016, two public meetings were rescheduled to 2/22/2016. Therefore the MBTA decided to extend the public comment period for the Commuter Rail schedule changes to 2/22/2016. The end of the public comment period for the fare changes was kept at 2/12/2016. The original notice is here, but it was replaced with a changed version here detailing the public comment period changes.
1) How do YOU get your comments to the MBTA on the proposed schedule changes?
a) Visit a kiosk at Back Bay or South Station. See this flyer for details, but the schedule is:
Back Bay: Tuesday January 19, 5 PM to 7 PM.
South Station: Wednesday January 20, 5 PM to 7 PM.
b) Go to one of the public meetings. See this flyer for details, but there are two meetings which are probably most convienient for Framingham-Worcester line passengers:
Worcester Union Station: Monday, February 1, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Walnut Hill School, 12 Highland Street, Natick: Wednesday February 3, 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Twitter user Claire created a map of all the meetings here. (See my comments way below about these meetings.)
c) Fill out this on-line survey: http://mbta.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1M65Hstpi45jX5b
While I took the survey, I captured each screen. Clearly the survey is dynamic, so your answers may result in different screens, but you can get the idea of what to expect by taking a look at this PDF.
The survey deadline is February 22, 2016.
d) Write a letter to:
MBTA, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116, Attention: Commuter Rail Schedule Committee
The deadline for written comments is February 22, 2016.
e) Call the MBTA at (617) 222-3200 or TTY (617) 222-5146
The deadline for comments is February 22, 2016.
f) Send an email to email@example.com
The deadline for written comments is February 22, 2016.
g) Probably the most important idea: Write or contact your state legislator. It appears they have been instrumental in providing feedback to the MBTA on this process.
h) UPDATE 1/16/2016: Please see the comments below; there is at least one change.org petition there. If I find out about others, I'll add them to the comments section - and feel free to add your own!
2) How were these schedule changes announced?
The official MBTA announcement page is here. I saved a PDF of it here, for future reference.
3) What other helpful documents have been published about this process?
a) Public Meeting Announcement is here.
b) Frequently Asked Questions document is here.
c) PowerPoint presentation about changes is here (more about this document below).
d) All of the old, new, draft, and comparison schedules are available in my archive here.
e) New Framingham-Worcester draft schedule is here.
f) Comparison between old Framingham_Worcester schedule and new schedule is here.
OK, onto my thoughts on the new schedule....followed by my random complaints about the process after that.
First here is the new schedule (Click on it for a legible PDF):
1) Logical naming pattern
As I noted in my blog post about the October draft, I'm a serious geek, and I got excited that there is now a better pattern to the naming convention for the trains:
500 to 538 (even numbers) = Worcester to Boston
580 to 592 (even numbers) = Framingham to Boston
501 to 539 (odd numbers) = Boston to Worcester
581 to 589 (odd numbers) = Boston to Framingham
5001 & 5002 = Bullet trains.
That's it, that's my only comment. Good job MBTA! Just kidding....
2) No leapfrogs
This schedule carries the concept that I first noticed in the October draft schedule: there are no 'leapfrog' moves any more. All the trains arrive in Boston, Framingham, or Worcester in the same order they depart. This is a pretty nifty change, and maximizes the two tracks we have. While the leapfrog trains were a cool way to get express trains over the line, they are very disruptive to the process of moving trains inbound and outbound at the same time, especially given the limited number of crossover switches available to move trains from one track to another. This will potentially help mitigate cascading problems from delayed trains, and allow for some operational flexibility to implement leapfrogs 'on the fly' to deal with problems.
3) Wellesley Square loses express service from October draft
The odd "limited" (semi-express) service to Wellesley Square that was present in the October draft schedule has been removed. I complained about this in my blog post about the October draft. Wellesley Square is much to close to Boston to get any express service when passengers west of Framingham have a much longer commute. Each station stop costs time, and that time should be shared amongst all passengers. More in the "headway" section below.
4) Natick Center and West Natick have changes to express service
Natick Center and West Natick passengers lose some express trains as compared to the current schedule, but not as much as was proposed on the October draft schedule. Details:
Current schedule: P508 stops at West Natick and Natick Center at 7:50 AM and 7:55 AM respectively.
New schedule: P510 (new express) stops at West Natick and Natick Center at 8:16 AM and 8:21 AM respectively.
No loss of service, but the shift to 25 minutes later will probably not satisfy those customers. The October draft schedule had eliminated the inbound Natick Center express completely.
Current schedule: P527 stops at West Natick at 5:34 PM. The new express train at a similar departure time skips West Natick. The October draft had ADDED 'express' service to Wellesley Square and Natick Center for the ~5 PM South Station outbound departure. See #3 above.
5) Framingham benefits from all of the trains (except the bullet train), as it always has and always will.
There is a serendipitous confluence of factors that make Framingham the center of our universe:
a) configuration of switches makes it the only practical place to have a mid-point termimal on the line
b) second highest ridership (after Worcester)
c) freight yard / sidings just to the west of the station offers places for trains to be 'stored' between trips (or overnight)
d) presence of freight yard and Concord Street crossing requires all trains to travel slow through the area. So skipping Framingham with an express train is of minimal incremental benefit, since trains have to go slow there anyway.
e) it's my stop. ;)
6) The "bullet" train is almost useless.
The new Worcester to Boston uninterrupted express train was nicknamed the "bullet" train at the October press conference. The inbound leg departs Worcester at 7:55 AM and arrives at South Station at 8:57 AM. Allowing 5-15 minutes to walk to your office after the train arrives means that this train won't get most workers to their office until after 9 AM. My guess is this is too late for the majority of employees. I'm sure there are some people who can benefit from this train, but the time appears to be too late.
And the outbound leg departing South Station at 7:35 PM and arriving in Worcester at 8:42 PM is outside of anyone's rush hour definition. Again, somebody will find this useful, but I'll bet half the people on it will mistake it for the next train which is a local and end up unhappily in Worcester. This outbound leg is a waste of valuable equipment, especially when there are no express trains after 5:40 PM. I would guess that more passengers would be happier with an express train servicing Framingham to Worcester and departing somewhere between 6:00 and 6:20 PM.
This "bullet" concept appears to be a public relations / politically driven idea, so that they can claim Worcester to Boston service in under one hour. Doesn't matter that the vast majority of passengers will not be well served by it. Not only does it use up a valuable set of equipment, but it also means that the tracks need to be clear before it can start its long run. This means a forced long gap in service for intermediate stations. Bad idea. Make it go away and forget about silly sound bites for political campaign speeches (anybody want to guess the chances of that happening?).
In addition, the "bullet" train only saves 10 minutes vs. an express train that goes express from Framingham to Worcester. So skipping 4 stops (and all those passengers) is not worth it in my analysis, especially considering the issues above.
To properly implement a 'bullet' train in the middle of the peak rush hour that could add value to the Worcester passengers, there would need to be a third track for a majority of the line. There actually is room at many places along the line for a third track - most of the line was actually four tracks wide a long, long time ago. But we'll never see three tracks in my lifetime.
7) Expanding the definition of Rush Hour allows them to claim more Rush Hour service.
I didn't fully understand this when I analyzed the October draft schedule, and I made a passing remark about it in that blog post. This issue is kind of nit-picky on my part, and I don't think it is a big deal, but we'll have to see how they spin this at the meetings.
Previously, the definition of rush hour has been somewhat inconsistent, so the idea of standardizing it is a good idea. If they don't make a big deal about the added number of trains in the "peak" then this criticism should go away. But if you hear them talking about the number of trains, take a look at the schedules and compare for yourself.
The prior definition of the inbound "peak" was from the start of service until somewhere around 9 AM. Now, the "peak" box is defined as the start of service through and including all trains which arrive in Boston prior to 10 AM. This doesn't change anything for the Framingham-Worcester, but on the Providence line, one existing train moves into the "peak" period with this change in definition.
On the outbound side, "peak" service includes all trains departing Boston between 3:30 PM and 7:00 PM. This is a much bigger window than the current 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM definition. Again, no effect for us on the Framingham-Worcester line, but applying this rule to the current Providence schedule adds two "peak" trains without changing the schedule at all.
Unfortunately, redefining the outbound evening "peak" period to be earlier seems to have shifted the express trains to earlier in the rush hour period, meaning that the express trains END earlier in the rush hour period. For some reason, the schedulers are favoring the earlier side of the rush hour for express trains (in my opinion). The P523 5:40 PM South Station departure is now the last express train (and yes, I'm ignoring the silly later bullet train). A number of years ago, there was a 6:15 PM express departure from South Station that many people found convenient and many people still mention missing in the current schedule. More on this below in the 'headway' comment section.
8) Correction of lack of 8 AM - 9 AM service (somewhat)
One of the biggest complaints we heard about the October draft schedule was the lack of inbound departures for a two-hour window in the 8 AM to 9 AM window. Some of that lack of service was due to needing to keep the track clear for the inbound 'bullet' train - you can't have the track occupied by a local with the bullet screaming through from behind. This new draft somewhat corrects that problem, but it shuffles trains around in the earlier slots with some negative effects (more in the headway comments below).
9) Newton changes remain from December 2015 schedule, and inbound evening service is expanded.
See items #1 and #2 on this blog post. The Newtons get outbound AM service around 5:20 AM (new on new schedule), but then no outbound service until after 10 AM. This is an unfortunate but good concept that keeps track 2 clear for inbound trains. In the evening, the new schedule includes inbound service at the Newtons at ~7:30 PM and ~9:10 PM (and other later times), which differs from the current schedule which had no inbound service for those stations between 4:15 PM and midnight.
10) Headways and transit times
Ok, here it is. This is the heart of my analysis.
First, my viewpoint:
Obviously everyone wants express service to/from their station at the time that is most convenient for them. And obviously that isn't possible. So for me, it's about balance and fairness. What's my definition of fairness?
1) Frequency of service - a train to each destination every 30-40 minutes seems to be a fair metric for rush hour. That's an arbitrary metric, but it also seems to be achievable with the service we've had on this line.
2) Are the durations (transit times) distributed fairly - i.e. is there balance between express trains to distant stations and local service to closer stations.
3) Are departure and arrival times 'reasonable?' For example, having no inbound service for anyone in the ~8 AM to ~9 AM period in the October draft schedule is NOT fair by this metric.
So, my criteria doesn't address:
1) Shifts in specific departure and arrival times that might be beneficial for some and detrimental for others. For example, if you have a hard deadline (e.g. day care), then even a minor change that meets my 'fairness' criteria may be a nightmare for you.
2) Distributing train service by ridership values. Some would advocate for 'better' service at stations with higher ridership. I don't think that is needed or appropriate for our line. Just my opinion.
So, for my analysis, I will focus on two issues: Headway and transit times. "Headway" is a term used to describe the separation of departure times, usually for subway lines. Since our trains are a mix of local and express, I'm not looking precisely at the "headway" of all the trains on the line, but rather the "headways" of trains leaving for a particular destination. Transit time is just the amount of time from departure to arrival at a particular station.
All of my analysis assumes "Boston" means "South Station," just for ease of analysis.
For transit times, the baseline is easy. A local train making all stops takes about 1 hour and 28 minutes to travel between Worcester and Boston (and about 50 minutes between Boston and Framingham). The closest suburban stations to Boston (the three "Newtons") are only about 20-25 minutes from Boston. So all riders have a minimum transit time of 20 minutes and a maximum of 1 hour 28 minutes.
An express train that goes express from Framingham to Boston (no Natick, Wellesley, or Newton stops) results in transit times of about 32 minutes to/from Framingham and 1 hour and 10 minutes to Worcester (I'm ignoring the bullet train since I don't think it is fair use of equipment).
So, from a fairness perspective, I think that most (if not all) rush hour service to stations west of West Natick (and including West Natick) should be via express trains which bypass all stations east of West Natick. Therefore, all stations east of West Natick would only be served by 'local' trains. What does this mean?
Passengers west of West Natick will have transit times of ~31 min (West Natick) to 1 hour 10 min (Worcester).
Passengers east of West Natick will have transit times of ~20 min (Newtons) to 41 min (Natick Center).
Placing the cut-off at Framingham would be the only other logical choice - and that puts West Natick passengers at the end of a 46 minute transit 'local' service. I would completely accept the argument to put West Natick in the local service - 46 minutes is still a reasonable duration for a train ride on this line. It also should be noted that it is not possible to terminate local trains in West Natick. Due to the configuration of switches and signals, all the local trains have to terminate in Framingham. So keeping West Natick on 'local only' service might make sense since all the local trains will be stopping there anyway.
I won't accept the argument that Natick Center needs express service. The duration of a local trip from Natick Center at 41 minutes seems reasonable to me - and stopping an express train at Natick Center to provide a 27 min express trip does not seem reasonable to me.
One of the issues I have is that the choice of where to have express service and where to have only local service should be consistent. Although it might be 'nice' to offer express service to Natick Center sometimes, it doesn't make sense (at least to me) to only have one express train stopping there during the rush hour. Simiilarily, it doesn't make sense to me that one or two express trains would skip West Natick (if you accept my idea that West Natick is all express service).
With my 'transit time' concept in mind, we can take a look at the other two fairness criteria, starting with the AM commute. (I won't be evaluating the reverse commute, mid-day service, or late evening service, primarily because all of those look pretty reasonable to me, even without a detailed analysis).
Note that my analysis essentially ignores 'interzone' passengers - and not because I don't like them, but because with the draft schedule as published, interzone passengers are provided with plenty of options to get off an express train and switch to a local at Framingham (if needed) with a minimal wait. So they are serviced adequately at all times.
The first train (P500) is so early that I'm not even sure it qualifies as rush hour service, even though that's how the MBTA classifies it. Having it as a full length local seems reasonable.
For the stations between Worcester and Ashland (inclusive), express service is provided on five of the six departures after 5:15 AM. The service is regular, with a train every 30-40 minutes. However, the big problem is the conversion of P506 from an express (as previously proposed on the October draft schedule) to a local on this draft schedule. This appears to be caused by reassignment of one set from before the bullet (on the October schedule) to after the bullet (on this draft schedule). P506 now becomes an oddity and a problem for passengers between Worcester and Ashland. First, for these passengers, there are no opportunities to arrive in Boston between 7 AM and 8 AM. The only options are P504 (departing around 6 AM to 6:25 AM, depending on your stop), which arrives in Boston at 7:07 AM, or train P506, departing around 6:30 AM to 7:00 AM, and arriving at 8:03 AM. But the usefulness of P506 is limited, because if Worcester to Ashland passengers wait and leave 30 minutes later and take P508, they can arrive in Boston only 9 minutes later at 8:12 AM.
The other way to look at this is from the perspective of 'arrival headways.' For passengers boarding between Worcester and Ashland, their arrival time options at South Station are:
6:32 AM (15 min later)
7:07 AM (35 min later)
8:03 AM (54 min later)
8:12 AM (9 min later)
8:49 AM (37 min later)
8:57 AM (8 min later - this is the bullet, so only Worcester passengers eligible for this arrival).
Clearly this is not an even distribution of arrival times.
The current arrival options for passengers boarding between Worcester and Ashland are:
6:48 AM (24 min later)
7:20 AM (32 min later)
7:27 AM (7 min later)
8:14 AM (47 min later)
8:28 AM (14 min later)
9:08 AM (40 min later)
As you can see, both schedules have 7 trains with arrival times in the same general window (6:15 AM to 9:00 AM). The differences are:
1) The bullet train is only an option for Worcester passengers. Grafton to Ashland customers actually lose one train with the new schedule.
2) The new schedule has five express trains, including the bullet, while the old schedule has only three.
3) The lack of an arrival in the long gap from 7:07 AM to 8:03 AM on the new schedule is probably going to get complaints, and rightfully so.
4) The close arrival times of P506 (a local) and P508 (an express) is a less than ideal scenario.
Finally, we can break this down by guessing where current passengers will go (again, focusing on the Worcester to Ashland passengers):
Current passengers of P500 have no change
Current passengers of P502 have only a minimal change.
Current passengers of P504 will probably take advantage of the new P504 express
Current passengers of P582 will probably switch to the new P504 express
Current passengers of P506 and P508 have minimal changes
Current passengers of P512 can switch to the new P510 express with minimal changes
And the bullet train is just dumb, but does fill a large gap on the current schedule, so I have to give it that.
This last analysis is interesting - passengers between Worcester and Ashland don't have many changes...but I think it means they're just continuing to endure a somewhat less than ideal schedule.
What about passengers between Framingham and Worcester?
First, if I ever hear a Framingham passenger complain, I'll kick them in the shins and tell them to shutup. The inbound options from Framingham to Boston are 10 trains between 5:26 AM and 8:40 AM, with the longest wait about 30 minutes, even with the silly bullet train blowing by at the breathtaking track speed limit of 30 mph through the Framingham station. This is second to only the Route 128 station on the Providence line for the most train options of any commuter rail station anywhere on the MBTA Commuter Rail system.
The passengers at West Natick and Natick Center are special cases, since they have had some express service in the past. The new schedule has somewhat irregular service for them, with 'headway' gaps of between 10 minutes to a maximum of 41 minutes. There isn't much change for West Natick and Natick passengers before ~7:50 AM - those passengers might have changes of ~10 minutes or so to their current schedules, but they should be able to find similar service on the new schedule.
The big change for them is that they lose the P508 express, which is heavily used by West Natick and Natick Center passengers. That is replaced (somewhat), with the new P584 local, but that arrives at South Station at 8:42 AM vs. the current P508 arriving at 8:28 AM. In addition, the West Natick and Natick Center passengers can use new P510 express, which boards ~20 min later than the current P508 / new P584, but arrives at South Station at 8:49 AM (only 7 min after P584). I expect this loss of the P508 express at West Natick and Natick Center to be a point of contention for those passengers. As stated above, I don't think Natick Center should get any express service, but it's hard to take it away after they have had it for so many years.
Removing the P508 stops from West Natick and Natick Center appears to me to be a load distribution issue - the current P508 uses the largest set on the system (8 doubles), and it is usually completely packed. Moving the West Natick and Natick Center passengers off that train is almost a necessity at this point.
And finally, we can take a look at our friends boarding at the three Wellesley stations and the three Newton stations. Pretty easy analysis - no reason for them to get express service, and none is proposed (or on the current schedule). Headways are fair with most gaps at 40 minutes and one gap at 25 minutes. Six trains provide service between 5:41 AM and 8:54 AM. Comparing the old schedule to the new reveals that the number of trains has not changed, but the new schedule has a much more even distribution of service. The current P504 schedule falls right in a gap on the new schedule, so P504 passengers will have to leave ~20 min earlier or ~15 min later. Not a big deal from my perspective. The current P512 schedule also falls right in a gap on the new schedule, and this one is a bigger inconvenience - current P512 passengers will have to move to P584 (~30 min earlier) or P586 (20 min later). This could be a contentious issue for those passengers.
How would I fix the inbound rush hour schedule?
1) Eliminate the bullet train.
2) Change P506 to an express after Framingham.
3) Use the bullet train equipment as a a local train, departing Framingham soon after P506 passes through Framingham (departure time from Framingham of ~7:20 AM), so it is between P506 and P508 on the current draft schedule. Similar to what is on the October draft schedule.
This will never happen, because the Worcester politicians will never let me take away their bullet train. Or maybe we can convince them this makes more sense and actually provides more benefit to Worcester passengers than the bullet train? My solution does a number of things:
1) Helps with passenger loading on P506 (currently a SRO train in the Newtons);
2) Improves transit time for P506 passengers from west of Framingham - P506 would probably arrive at South Station around 7:40 AM, a savings of ~20 minutes; and
3) More evenly distributes arrival headways at South Station for Worcester to Ashland passengers in the critical 7 AM to 8 AM window.
It also eliminates an inbound option for Worcester passengers between 7:30 AM and 8:40 AM, which is a large gap. But that gap exists on the current schedule, so it is NOT a loss of service. I'd love to add another express (true 'express' - not bullet) in that gap, but we would need an additional set of equipment to do that, and that doesn't exist.
The epic blog post that will never end continues with the analysis of the outbound rush hour service.
This time I won't ignore 'interzone' passengers, because they don't have adequate opportunities to travel to Framingham and make a reasonable switch from a local to an express train. The wait times at Framingham range from 9 minutes to over 30 minutes. I'm not sure how to fix that, because reducing that wait time would mess up the departure headways at South Station. The system just isn't ideal for interzone passengers. There is one group of interzone passengers that I'll single out - the students who board the current P521 at Auburndale to travel outbound to West Natick, Framingham, and points west. The loss of this P521 train at the current 3:20 PM time (with replacement service provided by 'full length' local P515 at 2:26 PM) will probably be a problem for these students. Only a dozen or so passengers, but it does highlight that there is some legitimate interzone usage that will be inconvienienced by the new schedule.
Moving on to service for passengers destined for the Ashland to Worcester stations, current service is provided by six trains, three of which are express. The new schedule has seven trains, with four express. This doesn't include the bullet train, since it falls outside the definition of rush hour. It does include a new express at 3:30 PM, which I'm not comfortable considering 'rush hour,' but that's what the MBTA says.
Departure headways for these passengers are quite irregular:
4:25 PM (55 min later, but maybe that's OK this early in the 'rush hour')
5:05 PM (30 min later)
5:40 PM (35 min later)
5:50 PM (10 min later, but a local)
6:20 PM (30 min later, also a local)
6:50 PM (30 min later)
The arrival headways range from 24 min to ~40 min (after the first 58 min gap, which is probably OK since it is very early in the expanded 'rush hour' definition).
Let's use our guessing game again and take a look at where the current passengers will move to (still focusing only on passengers destined for Ashland to Worcester):
Current passengers of P523 need to leave 35 min earlier or 20 min later. This will probably generate complaints.
Current passengers of P527 have little change
Current passengers of P583 will probably switch to P523 (10 min later)
Current passengers of P531 can switch to P523 (5 min later)
Current passengers of P533 need to leave 15 min earlier or 15 min later. But they're still stuck on a local.
Current passengers of P535 will probably switch to P529 (10 min later).
So the big switch is P523. But the lack of expresses after 5:40 PM persists.
There is no outbound express service currently provided to Natick Center. They get one new express option with train P519. Not sure why, and as I have stated before, I don't think Natick Center should have any express service.
West Natick currently has two outbound express trains stopping there. The new schedule provides them with three express trains stopping there, but one of the most popular trains, the current P527 (5:00 PM South Station departure) loses its express stop at West Natick. Again, this may be for load distribution, as the current P527 has a heavy passenger load with the largest set used on the system (8 doubles). Eliminating the West Natick stop from P527 forces probably a few hundred people off that train and theoretically onto the 5:15 local, which does not carry a heavy passenger load (at least comparatively). I expect the loss of the express service to West Natick at this time to be a point of contention for West Natick passengers.
Once again, we're down to looking at our friends at the three Wellesley and three Newton stations. Express service is not appropriate, and none is provided on the old schedule or proposed on the new schedule. [Does anyone remember the ~1 year where an outbound express made a random stop at Wellesley Hills and then continued express from there? Rumor was it was a politically or MBTA management driven special stop, but I've never been able to confirm that rumor...]
The new schedule provides these stations with six trains versus the current five. Headways are reasonable, with gaps from an initial 55 min (again, early in the rush hour), down to 40 minutes for the height of rush hour. Late in the rush hour, the Newtons lose a set of station stops (P527 on the new draft schedule), which stretches the headway to 60 min between the 5:50 PM and 6:50 PM South Station departures. This is somewhat odd since there is not an
opposing inbound train making the Newton stops at that time, so skipping the Newtons just shaves a little time off that train's transit time.
So except for that anomaly, the outbound service provided to the Newtons and Wellesleys is very similar to the current service.
How would I fix the outbound hour schedule?
1) Eliminate the bullet train. (Anyone notice a theme here?)
2) Change the new P527 (6:20 PM South Station departure) to an express (skipping the Newtons, Wellesleys, and Natick Center). Perhaps move its departure time up to 6:10 PM.
3) Use the bullet train equipment as a new local train that departs South Station soon after my new express at 6:10 PM. This local can terminate in Framingham or Worcester - service on this local from Framingham to Worcester would be duplicative of the service being provided by the express. But maybe the set is needed in Worcester to become an inbound train.
4) The new 5:50 PM local (P525) can also be terminated in Framingham, since Framingham to Worcester passengers can just wait for my new 6:10 PM express and get express service. But again, maybe that set is needed in Worcester to turn as an inbound, so there is no harm having it continue as a local to Worcester.
1) Why are they combining the public meetings about schedule changes with the fare hike issue? Most people care about both issues, but discussing them both at the same time is going to be distracting, confusing, and frustrating. Maybe they think they're being efficient by combining the two (so we don't have to go to two separate meetings), but I don't think so.
2) Why has the roll-out of these draft schedules been so quiet and confusing? They were first leaked out on the Fiscal and Management Control Board web page, and then an MBTA announcement page appeared (without much notice). The public meetings were announced on a Friday afternoon, which is a time honored traditional way of burying press releases when nobody is paying attention. A MassDOT public relations person did reach out to me individually (presumably as a result of this blog and my presence on Twitter), which I found surprising, ego-filling (wow, they noticed me!), slightly scary, but also pleasantly satisfying ('they're trying to do the right thing!').
But most notably, on Wednesday 1/12, a good week after these had been out on the street, I approached a purple vested Keolis Customer Service agent out on the platforms at South Station. She was handing out flyers about the "Severe Weather" plans. I asked if she had or if Keolis was going to distribute any printed copies of the new draft schedules. After she tried to give me the current schedule, and my attempts to explain what I was looking for, it was clear she had no idea what I was talking about. That's frustrating, but I wonder if it is also a result of the new draft schedules being driven and rolled out by the MBTA, NOT by Keolis. Keolis really has not much to do with these new schedules, which is understandable if you reconsider the contractual arrangement between the MBTA and Keolis. Keolis may be providing data and answering operational questions, but I'll bet the MBTA has most of the data they need for this exercise. It will be interesting to see who attends the kiosks and meetings - I'll bet it's mostly MBTA and MassDOT folks.
3) Why in the world didn't they start the process with this kind of roll-out (published draft, public comment gathering, public meetings, etc.). How did they think that these kind of changes could be implemented without public backlash, leading to political pressure? At least we're on the right track now. It will be interesting to see what kind of changes they can make - they will have a lot of stakeholders to answer to who will have conflicting requests (Natick Center passenger: "I want more expresses!" vs. Worcester passenger: "Please shave off as many minutes from my commute as possible!"). It won't be possible to please everyone. And everyone will be coming in with a chip on their shoulder after the recent failures and the general negative perception people have about the Commuter Rail.
4) The PowerPoint that was presented to the Fiscal and Management Control Board is very interesting. I don't like the way they parsed out some of the data (just high level 'number of trains' to a particular station), but it does have some revealing operational details such as the effort to avoid interlining trains. In fact, on that point, I'm not sure that is a good idea. That is forcing problems on one line to STAY on one line, meaning the one line experiecning problems will just get worse. Interlining trains may spread the pain amongst different lines, but that might be a good thing - avoid having one line take all of the pain.
5) I didn't find the comparison document that they prepared very helpful. But you might. It's here.
I look forward to meeting some of you at the public meetings! I hope to be at both of them.