IT HAS BEEN SUPERSEDED BY THE RELEASE OF THE ENTIRE DRAFT SCHEDULE.
This blog post has not been removed / deleted, since many of the comments are still applicable. But all of the information in this blog post is now repeated in the blog post detailing the entire new draft schedule.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE CURRENT BLOG POST FOR THE ENTIRE 5/22/2017 SCHEDULE.
Original blog post for historical reference only:
As many of you know, the Worcester Line Working Group was formed in late September. We've been meeting regularly since then with a focus on developing a new schedule for May 2017. I'm pleased to announce we're ready to release the draft proposed new schedule for the morning rush hour inbound commute. Click on the image below for a PDF.
1) Caveats: This is the official draft proposed schedule, which the MBTA and Keolis have agreed can be implemented in May 2017. But that also comes with a bunch of caveats:
a) This is the initial draft, so there might be some minor tweaks to some times as the final draft is finalized over the next few weeks. But the concepts shouldn't change - there won't be any stops added to or taken away from particular trains, locals and expresses will stay where they are, and trains won't be shuffled around before the draft schedule is published.
b) The intent is that in a few weeks, the entire draft / proposed new schedule for the entire weekday service will be formally published by the MBTA. That will be followed by a formal public comment process. More on that below.
c) This is only a PROPOSED schedule, and the public comment process may result in changes being made before it is implemented in May 2017. There is no way to predict if those changes could be substantial or not.
2) Other parts of total schedule: The Working Group is continuing to work on all other aspects of the schedule, including the PM rush hour outbound commute, the AM & PM "reverse commute," and the off-peak schedules. We're not ready to publish those yet - still some tweaking, negotiating, arguing, arm twisting, horse trading, and disagreeing to push through. Ok, actually it's just tweaking, but it sounds better to imagine us yelling and screaming at each other, right? It hasn't been like that at all...it's been very informal, open, and productive.
3) Publication of this draft: All members of the Working Group agreed that the draft schedule could be published here on my blog to offer everyone a 'sneak preview' before it gets published officially by the MBTA and the public comment period starts. So if you see something you hate, don't get too fired up yet - remember, this isn't cast in stone.
Enough with the disclaimers... more after the "read more" break:
4) Schedule Details: This is essentially my proposed schedule from the petition that many of you signed, with two major changes:
a) the Heart To Hub train is NOT eliminated; and
b) P510 stops at Natick Center & 3 Wellesley stations.
4a) Heart to Hub: How did they keep the Heart to Hub? Easy - we're getting another train set. Currently, the AM peak service is serviced by eight train sets. With the addition of another set to increase the number of sets assigned to nine, the Heart To Hub can stay on the schedule. Or another way to look at it is new train P586 (7:48 AM departure from Framingham) can be added to the schedule with the ninth set.
As you can see, there will now be 12 inbound trips between the start of service and 10:00 AM arrival at South Station - 13 if you include the P512 'shoulder service.' It's relatively easy to see how 9 train sets can make 13 trips - the sets from the first four trips go back outbound and then come back inbound. Those turns would theoretically be:
P500 goes back out to Worcester and is 're-used' as the Heart to Hub.
P502 goes back out to Framingham and is 're-used' as new P586.
P504 goes back out to Framingham and is 're-used' as new P590.
(P580 goes back out to Worcester and is 're-used' as P512, but P512 is outside of rush hour, so it doesn't count towards the 12 inbound peak trips.)
As previously noted on other blog posts, 4 train sets start the day in Worcester after spending the night in the layover yard. The other 5 sets come from storage in Boston.
Where do they get a ninth train set? How do they get more equipment when they have been struggling to maintain set sizes recently? The MBTA & Keolis have recently undertaken some relatively drastic steps to increase the availability of locomotives & coaches, and the expectation is those projects will be complete well before May 2017. This includes:
a) Off-site overhaul of 10 existing out-of-service locomotives. The request for proposals for this project was recently published and bids are due in mid-December.
b) Overhaul of additional out-of-service locomotives by Keolis and other local repair facilities.
Technically speaking these projects are a mix of true 'overhauls' and more modest comprehensive repairs or proactive component replacement, but it's easier for me to just say 'overhauls.'
c) Off-site execution of 4-year inspections for 19 coaches which have been out-of-service awaiting those inspections. This work will be done in Delaware by a railcar maintenance company.
When complete, these tasks will result in growth of the overall fleet size for the South Side Commuter Rail operations - allowing us to get a ninth set and allowing everyone to benefit from better equipment availability.
4b) P510 at Natick Center & 3 Wellesley stations: My original proposed schedule converted P510 to an express train with similar service as the other express trains - express from West Natick to Yawkey. However, it was pointed out that Natick Center and the 3 Wellesley stations have had inbound service with stops in the 8:20 to 8:30 AM time frame for many years. I went back and checked and it's true - the ~7:30 AM departure from Worcester making all stops to Wellesley Farms has been on the schedule for at least 16 YEARS. So there is something to be said about not removing long-established service that people have built their routine around. From a purely schedule fairness perspective, I'm not thrilled that these 4 stations end up with better service than any other stations, but keeping those 4 stations on the P510 schedule only adds 8 minutes to the duration of P510.
5) Boston Landing: Adding Boston Landing to the local Framingham-originating trains actually allows everyone to get to Boston Landing relatively easily without adding more time to the duration of the express trains. For anyone west of Framingham wishing to go to Boston Landing, they can de-board in Framingham and transfer to the next inbound local train. Each Framingham-originating local departs Framingham only about 8 minutes after the express, so the transfer wait is not onerous. This transfer process actually allows reasonable service for anyone west of Framingham going to any of the stations between Natick Center & Boston Landing.
6) P506 now an express: The major element of my proposal and petition was the conversion of P506 to an express train, with a new local Framingham-originating train right behind it. That's what we wanted and that's what we got! Our hope is that this change moves some passengers from P508 to P506, thereby alleviating some of the overcrowding on P508. So if you are a P508 passenger, start thinking about what you can do to move to P506!
For more comments & thoughts on my proposed schedule and the petition, be sure to read the blog post about the petition.
7) Public Comment Process: The current conceptual plan for implementing the new schedule is:
a) Worcester Line Working Group completes finalizing entire weekday draft new proposed schedule by Christmas.
b) Early January: Formally publish draft schedule and begin 6 week public comment period. We haven't talked about what that would look like - if it would include public meetings or just gathering of comments.
c) Mid-February: End of 6 week public comment period.
d) Mid-February to Mid-March: MBTA, Keolis, and Worcester Line Working Group reconvenes to review public comments & finalize new schedule.
e) Mid-March to early April: Keolis builds final equipment & crew rotations for new schedule.
f) Early April to mid-May: Crews choose new assignments (this always happens for 6-8 weeks prior to every new schedule being published in May or November).
g) May 22, 2017: New schedule implemented.
ALL OF THAT IS DRAFT AND SUBJECT TO MAJOR REVISION
This is a pretty exciting example of activism and everyone coming together behind a petition with a government agency responding and making the requested change. Our voices did matter and we're on the way to a better schedule!
Even though we're not done, it's important to note that the Working Group included many people who all contributed and engaged very constructively. It has been a very collaborative process. The Working Group includes Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Rep. Alice Peisch (D - Wellesley), Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D - Southboro, Westboro), Rep. James O'Day (D - Worcester), Brian Shortsleeve (MBTA General Manager), Jody Ray (MBTA Assistant General Manager in charge of Commuter Rail Railroad Operations), two Deputy Directors of MBTA Railroad Operations, David Scorey (Keolis CEO/GM), the Keolis Manager of Operations Planning, and another general public member / commuter from Wellesley.
Stay tuned to this blog and I'll publish the other elements of the schedule as soon as I can! Subscribe to get e-mail updates when the blog is updated.