Commuter Rail questions

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

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Commuter Rail questions

Postby chupsas » Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:38 pm

I happened to ride the commuter rail (Lowell line) recently, which I don't often do, and had some questions about it, and I figured you all would be the best people to ask.

1. (At North Station) How do people know which track to go to before they're announced? Especially when multiple trains are going to depart at the same time.

2. What's the point of having Winchester Center and Wedgemere so close together? They must be within walking distance.

3. Do conductors just have to remember who paid what, or what? I don't think it's a big deal inbound, but outbound, I feel like it would be easy to game the system.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby sery2831 » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:35 pm

chupsas wrote:I happened to ride the commuter rail (Lowell line) recently, which I don't often do, and had some questions about it, and I figured you all would be the best people to ask.

1. (At North Station) How do people know which track to go to before they're announced? Especially when multiple trains are going to depart at the same time.


Not sure I understand the question. You are not allowed to board trains that are not posted on the board for boarding. The board can display many trains at the same time.

chupsas wrote:2. What's the point of having Winchester Center and Wedgemere so close together? They must be within walking distance.


Wedgemere as I understand it was basically created to serve for people that needed to drive to the Commuter Rail as there was no room for a parking lot in Winchester Center.

chupsas wrote:3. Do conductors just have to remember who paid what, or what? I don't think it's a big deal inbound, but outbound, I feel like it would be easy to game the system.


Inbound trips Conductors use seat checks. On the outbound it's way easier as tickets are lifted out of North Station, and very few board after North Station.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby BostonUrbEx » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:44 pm

chupsas wrote:1. (At North Station) How do people know which track to go to before they're announced? Especially when multiple trains are going to depart at the same time.


It's pretty common for passengers to become accustomed to having certain crew members work the same train day after day. They'll keep an eye out for their train's conductor and go wait at the doors to whatever platform they go to. This isn't always accurate though, as crews can, and do, change. But its a safe bet.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby octr202 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:14 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:
chupsas wrote:1. (At North Station) How do people know which track to go to before they're announced? Especially when multiple trains are going to depart at the same time.


It's pretty common for passengers to become accustomed to having certain crew members work the same train day after day. They'll keep an eye out for their train's conductor and go wait at the doors to whatever platform they go to. This isn't always accurate though, as crews can, and do, change. But its a safe bet.


[sarcasm]

Shh...we keep that quiet. That's one of the privileges of being part of the MBCR Frequent Commuter Program - priority boarding for those with silver, gold or platinum status. ;-)

[/sarcasm]
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby Steve Wagner » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:58 pm

Seriously, frequent riders of Fitchburg Route trains know that they usually -- but not always -- depart from one of the two southernmost tracks (at the far left as you face toward the tracks from the waiting area), because the tracks those trains have to travel veer left from the others quite soon. I would guess that trains that will travel the line to Beverly that divides to serve points north to Newburyport and northeast to Rockport would generally leave from one of the northerly tracks (to the right) because that line heads east of all the other commuter lines from North Station.

At South Station trains to Framingham and Worcester nearly always leave from one of the two northerly tracks (to the right as you face the tracks from the waiting room) because they're the only ones that follow the ex-Boston & Albany and later New York Central line that parallels the Mass Pike, while nearly all the other lines head southwest at Back Bay Station.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby Steve Wagner » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:06 pm

As to how conductors and assistant conductors (who used to be called trainmen) keep track of which riders have paid, when they have time they use cardboard seat checks to mark the seats of those who have paid. This system can break down when the cars are so full of people standing that the crew can't get past them and/or when understaffing forces each crew member to work more than two cars.

A rider who buys a round-trip ticket on the train gets a traditional paper receipt punched to show how far he or she is entitled to ride.

Until two or three years ago T Commuter Rail passes for a particular month had at least one side a different color from that of one side of the passes for the previous month. That must have made the crew's work a little easier than it is now, when they actually have to look at the abbreviation for the month on passes.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby chupsas » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:26 pm

Thanks for the answers guys! Very informative.

octr202 wrote:
BostonUrbEx wrote:
chupsas wrote:1. (At North Station) How do people know which track to go to before they're announced? Especially when multiple trains are going to depart at the same time.


It's pretty common for passengers to become accustomed to having certain crew members work the same train day after day. They'll keep an eye out for their train's conductor and go wait at the doors to whatever platform they go to. This isn't always accurate though, as crews can, and do, change. But its a safe bet.


[sarcasm]

Shh...we keep that quiet. That's one of the privileges of being part of the MBCR Frequent Commuter Program - priority boarding for those with silver, gold or platinum status. ;-)

[/sarcasm]


I seriously considered that this was the case!

Some more questions if anyone has the time:

* What's up with Mishawum? Wikipedia claims it is going to be redone, but I didn't see it anywhere under T Projects on their website. I also don't understand why it is how it is to begin with.

* The Commuter Rail seems to be put in pretty high regard especially compared to Boston's other transit modes as far as reliability and such. But how does it compare to the systems in other cities?

* Any interesting facts about the system?
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby AEM7AC920 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:24 pm

Seat checks are not used based on time, they are only used on inbounds primarily with the exception of Fitchburg outbound between Boston or Porter Square.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby Red Wing » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:07 am

Mishawaum, was the Woburn station before the more expansive Anderson RTC was built. It is still used today for a couple of trains. Man I miss my conductor calling out that stop! Mishhhhhhhaaaaaaaawwwwaaaaauuuuuummmmmmmmm! I'm sure some of the other members can give you way more information than I just did.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby wicked » Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:18 am

Seat checks were used on the last outbound run of the Middleborough line last night, and it wasn't particularly crowded.

The new mobile phone ticket app may be one of the best things the T has done in a while. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like too many are using it (at least on my recent trips), as it would speed up fare collection greatly.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby Diverging Route » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:42 am

Red Wing wrote:Mishawaum, was the Woburn station before the more expansive Anderson RTC was built. It is still used today for a couple of trains. Man I miss my conductor calling out that stop! Mishhhhhhhaaaaaaaawwwwaaaaauuuuuummmmmmmmm! I'm sure some of the other members can give you way more information than I just did.


There was talk of expanding Mishawum from its current peak-only reverse-commute status from a proposal to further develop the parcel to its south, that formerly housed the Logan Express. It was proposed to have mixed-use development, including residences, retail, and commercial space. That all died with the downturn in the '00s.

When Mishawum was the primary Woburn station (i.e. before Anderson), it had very limited parking. If I didn't get there before train 306 at 7:13, the lot would be full. Anderson is a blessing with its enormous lot that has spots available any time during the day.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby boblothrope » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:28 pm

Diverging Route wrote:Anderson is a blessing with its enormous lot that has spots available any time during the day.


Whatever happened with the plan to provide a pedestrian crossing to the west side of the tracks at Anderson?

Is there any way across today, official or unofficial?
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby The EGE » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:52 pm

Official, no. Unofficial crossing would require getting off the high-level platform, crossing the tracks, and going through industrial lots. While there's probably someone who does it, it's a Bad Idea and quite illegal.
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Re: Commuter Rail questions

Postby jonnhrr » Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:44 pm

The Commuter Rail seems to be put in pretty high regard especially compared to Boston's other transit modes as far as reliability and such. But how does it compare to the systems in other cities?


Compared to larger cities such as Philly (the one I'm most familiar with) the service frequency is nowhere near as good. For example when I lived in a suburb west of Philly we had half hourly service off-peak and about every 15-20 min peak with express and local service. Almost rapid transit frequency. Most SEPTA regional rail service was similar. On the other hand Philly has a slightly smaller rapid transit network than Boston with about 4 times the population so some of the commuter rail tends to compensate for that.

Boston also suffers in reliability due to the age of the motive power.

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