EDIT 10/22/15: Be sure to read the comment from "CH" in the comments below regarding the potential implementation date for this schedule.
Don't you love the internet and twitter?
It turns out that the MBTA actually had a poster with the draft schedule on it at the press conference on October 7, 2015. Cyrus Moulton snapped a photo of it and tweeted it out. I didn't discover this until all the twitter chatter about my blog post earlier Wednesday. With his permission, here is his tweet with his photo.
Kind of hard to read on the side. So I rotated the photo....
1) Yellow shading indicates 'rush hour' service.
2) The poster included the 3:30 PM and 3:55 PM outbound trains as part of 'rush hour.' I think that is a typo on the poster, but I have kept them in the 'rush hour' category just so I'm matching the poster as it was displayed. Doesn't really matter for most of us - the most important rule about rush hour trains is that full size bikes are not allowed on rush hour trains.
3) This is my reproduction of something which was publicly displayed. It isn't 'inside information' and it doesn't appear to have been embargoed.
4) It is still DRAFT and therefore there may be changes on the final version when it is published. We have no way of knowing how 'draft' it is. Maybe it is close to final; maybe there will be a lot of changes on the final version that is published (get your comments up early?).
5) As I noted, I extrapolated times from a fuzzy picture. Don't focus on the precise times - there might be mistakes of a few minutes either way on my table. But it should be pretty close.
6) If you want to compare the new schedule to the 'current' schedule, the only fair comparison is to the 7/1/2014 version. The actual current schedule in place as of 6/8/2015 is a temporary schedule implemented to accommodate the construction on the line (rail destressing project). Note that rush hour service on both the 7/1/2014 and 6/8/2015 schedules is exactly the same. The 7/1/14 schedule is here (click on it for a PDF of it):
My thoughts / analysis on the new schedule:
1) Most of my analysis and reactions in the blog post from earlier Wednesday are still valid. Read that blog post for more details on a variety of relevant topics. For example, my explanation of 'why May 2016?' for the bullet train is still valid (and still just my speculation).
2) I'm a serious geek. I got excited that there is now a better pattern to the naming convention for the trains:
500 to 538 (even numbers) = Worcester origination
580 to 592 (even numbers) = Framingham origination
501 to 539 (odd numbers) = Boston to Worcester
581 to 589 (odd numbers) = Boston to Framingham
That's the most important part of this new schedule, right?
[They actually have 'bullet' as the name of the 'bullet' train on the draft schedule. Doesn't it need a number?]
3) As I predicted, West Natick and Natick passengers are losing most of their express trains. I've previously stated my thoughts on this issue. I won't invite more hate mail from Natick residents here. But shoot away in the comments.
4) There are no 'leapfrog' moves any more, as far as I can tell. 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.
5) Wellesley Square gets two outbound 'limited' (almost express) trains stopping there. Very interesting, and will probably only serve to infuriate the Natick passengers even more. I really can't understand this concept. Those trains will be heavily utilized by passengers traveling west of Framingham, and slowing their transit down for stops at Wellesley Square, Natick, AND West Natick certainly seems to go against the approach of the AM schedule. Wellesley Square passengers have an under 40 minute ride on a local train. Do they really need a 'limited' train to get that duration down to around 25 minutes when passengers west of Framingham have a commute of at least 40 minutes even on an express train? Can somebody check the real estate transactions and see if Charlie Baker is moving to Wellesley?
6) 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 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. ;)
7) With the full schedule on display, the 'bullet' trains look even more silly to me. Political additions to the schedule, in my humble opinion. As someone stated on twitter, the evening bullet train will probably be a deadhead move. And having the bullet train skip Yawkey must be only to get the duration under 1 hour.
8) The even, regular, and predictable frequency of the AM rush hour and most of the day in both directions is nice. Compare our line to other lines, or to the Framingham / Worcester of years past - use my schedule archive to find lots of schedules. We're probably getting the best schedule of anyone with this new schedule. We certainly have the most express trains. Although we'll have to see what changes other lines get.
9) There is a long gap on the inbound schedule in the ~8 AM to ~9 AM period for all stations. After the last inbound rush hour train (at any station), the next train is not for 1.5 to 2 hours later. And with the last inbound train relatively early (for example, before 8 AM for everything west of Framingham), this is a problematic gap in service. Much of it is due to the bullet train - have to 'clear the decks' so it can go screaming through. The lack of an arrival train in Boston between 9 AM and 10:40 AM is too big a gap for that time of day. Maybe there just isn't enough equipment to support another set(s) at those times, but I anticipate lots of complaints about this issue.
10) Other than my critiques above, which are not necessarily minor, I'm impressed with the new schedule. I think it offers good options for most riders - and balances the needs of distant passengers with those closer in (for the most part). Trying to give all commuters a reasonably quick ride, while eliminating the REALLY quick ride for some (e.g inbound Natick express), seems to be a fair trade-off or balance from my perspective.
What are your thoughts?
By the way, this post and much of the information I'm getting wouldn't be possible without the assistance of the news media. They are going to the events and contacting managers and getting information, which they are letting me use here for my more detailed analysis. So kudos to them for sharing their stuff with me. Everyone needs to go out and renew their subscription to their local paper. I did. I guess we should also buy something we see advertised during the local television news? Not sure how to support them. Maybe just say thanks.