10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Globe

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

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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby jscola30 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:55 pm

That is true in general, but there are some pretty old subway cars on the NYC subway, the R32/32A date from 1964-1965, for the most part (except the summer), they run on the C line. The fact that they're still running says that they're still needed. The R42s are from 1969-1970 and they do the whole J and Z trains (in fact the older R32s were added to those lines). The R44s from 1971-73 do the entire Staten Island RR. NJT does operate old diesels as well some from 1968. I will say too, I get MTA alerts for most of the subway lines, they're are many incidents and delays everyday (although perhaps they can handle them better), I've also heard the LIRR has delay issues too, I have a few of those alerts too. I think overall the MTA/MN/LIRR and NJT are better systems, but they have problems too.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby jscola30 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:58 pm

But let me be clear that I do think you're right, they absouletley must flex their political muscle, these reforms are way over due, they should have been done a while ago.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby bozepravde15 » Sun Oct 27, 2013 12:54 am

Gotta agree with the fare increase comments. I used to take the Commuter Rail from Lynn and Salem fairly regularly. Now I pretty much never do, it's way too expensive. I'll take the 426/441-442/450/455/459 to Haymarket/Wonderland/DTX instead, it's cheaper and while the trip might be longer, there are more options (don't have to plan for a train that only comes once an hour...if that) and Gvt. Center and Haymarket are more convenient than North Station is. I also used to take the Commuter Rail on occasion to see friends in Worcester and Providence, but now I find it much cheaper to just drive there instead, driving from the North Shore to Worcester and Providence both ways costs less than the $20 round trip that it'd cost me to take the Commuter Rail. I think they should *at least* offer free weekend parking.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby Arborwayfan » Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:45 pm

Are there any specific opportunities for growth in interzone CR ridership, or at least CR ridership to places other than BON, BOS, and BBY? I guess a fair number of people ride to Ruggles, too, but I'm really thinking of places further out. Are there any stations in/near big centers of employment beyond the urban core that might have potential riders who work there and live further out along the same line? Or stations that could be easily connected to such centers of employment by short bus rides?

I realize this is a bit of a strectch because of the part about having to live and work along the same line, but with the right targeted advertising maybe some more pax to be gotten there.

What about reverse commuting? Could the T increase ridership by cutting fares on morning outbounds and evening inbounds, increase it enough to end up making the same or more money in fares on trains that have to run anyway? Special reverse-commute passes?

What about connections? Are there places either out on the lines or at Boston stations where those could be improved or better advertised?

(Yes, reliability is a big deal, I agree.)
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby NH2060 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 2:57 pm

Arborwayfan wrote:Are there any specific opportunities for growth in interzone CR ridership, or at least CR ridership to places other than BON, BOS, and BBY? I guess a fair number of people ride to Ruggles, too, but I'm really thinking of places further out. Are there any stations in/near big centers of employment beyond the urban core that might have potential riders who work there and live further out along the same line? Or stations that could be easily connected to such centers of employment by short bus rides?

Lynn, Salem, and Beverly come to mind. Salem ranks 5th in boardings -1st among non-NEC stations- and is only likely to increase. Having been to Salem myself it is definitely not just another suburb of Boston. It is more or less it's own center of tourism, commerce, etc. And with Revere and Lynn to the south and Beverly to the north the Boston-Lynn-Salem-Beverly area (clustored around the Eastern Route) becomes it's own Metro area, if not an extension of the greater Boston/Cambridge/Brookline/Quincy area. Add to the fact that there is no single freeway/limited access highway that directly serves Chelsea, Revere, Lynn, Swampscott, Salem and Beverly (in the same manner that the CR passes through those areas) ridership is almost certainly guaranteed to increase over the next few decades.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby djlong » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:24 am

BrandeisRoberts wrote:In a perfect world, it seems the solution would be to move towards transforming some of the lines into an RER-style network of trains running at CR speeds with rapid transit headways to allow for quick and easy travel between Boston's many growth areas. The problem seems to be that you'd need some variation of the North-South Rail link to make it happen.


I agree. The answer was demonstrated in Philadelphia. It's a series of huge projects. Electrification alone could take long enough to retire all the diesel power including the ones still on order.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby NRGeep » Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:34 am

It would be prudent from a cost/fuel angle to use DMU's for off peak service on shorter lines as covered more thoroughly by Brandeis Roberts above.
Last edited by NRGeep on Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby NRGeep » Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:59 pm

BrandeisRoberts wrote:
NRGeep wrote:It would be prudent from a cost/fuel angle to use DMU's for off peak service on many lines it seems.


And it would let the T keep off-peak frequency up enough to make the CR a convenient alternative to driving.


And would decrease locomotive and coach maintenance costs plus reduce wear and tear on ROW's.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby Lincoln78 » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:55 pm

Possibly relevant to the discussion (Chicago experience):

http://www.npr.org/2013/10/29/241350699 ... y-slog-too

I'm still not grasping a simple root cause as to why Boston ridership is declining (evan as Metro area population increased slightly). I see a lot of little problems -cost (fare and parking), reliability, lack of parking, and less-than-optimal schedules all add up. Traffic is certainly bad enough to cause people to want to reduce their hassle.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby NH2060 » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:31 pm

BrandeisRoberts wrote:http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2013/10/28/take-train-into-city-thanks/EtMYF7MHjWtJxO0tIpZIKL/story.html

Just saw this, kinda drives home the point we're seeing about the CR being too slow, too espensive and too unreliable.

I can't say I disagree with this. The Eastern Route is a prime example. In spite of the fact that there is rather frequent service BON-Beverly on weekdays with.. I'll say somewhat decent service on weekends the cost of a ride in is just too much for people on tight budgets and terribly inconvenient for those who actually want to take in everything Boston has to offer after dark. The last weekend trains leave for Fitchburg, Lowell, Haverhill, and Rockport at 11:30. That's right, 11:30. Even for a city where the bars close at 2:00am and subway service shuts down at 12:30ish that's ridiculously early.

IMO one of the "hidden" reasons why CR ridership is not what it should/could be is the lack of adequate late night service. Let's face it would YOU or ANYONE really want to drive (even carpool) into the city at night and try to find a parking spot, etc.? And to add to that would you or anyone want to have to drive back after a "crazy night of partying"? :-P Trust me there is very much a market for late night CR service. I've taken those 12:10 and 11:30 "last runs" and they are well patronaged even with just 2 cars open. If the T were to add frequencies at say 12:45 and even 1:45 and 2:15/2:30/2:45ish I have little doubt that those would be scantly occupied. There are people who want to be able to take the train into the city for the evening/night and ride it back at a much later time. And since CR maintenance doesn't happen at night like on the light rail and the subways there's not exactly anything that added late night service would interfere with (correct me if I'm wrong).
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby NH2060 » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:32 pm

BrandeisRoberts wrote:You could do it in phases, the first couple of which could easily be done for ~$500 a piece.

Phase 1: Upgrade stations on the affected lines to Fairmount Line standards and possibly add new stations like a terminal at Riverside or Bear Hill, as well as bringing signalling up to snuff. Order DMU's for the desired lines, and it doesn't have to be a huge order either since you'd be aiming at 30-45 minute headways on 4 lines, so ~15-25 married pairs would do the trick. Keep locomotive-hauled trains for all long-distance CR lines.

Phase 2: Order additional DMU's as ridership presumably grows, begin the process of electrification with EMU's being ordered as needed. As EMU's replace DMU's, begin to retire some of the F40 rebuilds and single level coaches to replace them with DMU's on the low-volume lines. Consider building better wyes on either end of the grand junction in anticipation of upgrading it for limited passenger service with a new station at East Cambridge or Kendall.

Phase 3: Complete electrification and build the North-South Rail Link, connecting the Fitchburg, Lowell and Eastern Route with Fairmount, Worcester, and the NEC. Run only the EMU-lines through it, keeping the diesel-hauled bilevel trains from the longer-distance lines on the surface at North and South Stations. You could probably even snag some federal money, as there might be some interest in connecting the Downeaster to the NEC. Things would get expensive fast, but the benefits of connecting Boston's sprawling growth center with a fast, modern system would be more than worth the cost.

The third bit's a pipe dream, but the first two phases could be done for far less than South Coast Rail, and with far more economic bang for the State's buck.

Just for your own sake I'll say this:

Shhhhhhh don't say "we should go DMU/EMU"!!! We've already had a jolly enough of a time talking that down in the Metro-North forum :-P

However, the N-S Rail Link may be inevitable 20-30 years or so down the road when even the expanded South Station and extra tracked North Station can't handle any more trains. And, for that reason alone, electrification (either with EMUs, electrics, or electro-diesel dual modes) will have to come into play. I doubt anyone at the FRA or anywhere else will be okay with straight diesel-electrics operating in a tunnel of that size. Just the gradients for the approaches would make electrification justified.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby CComMack » Wed Oct 30, 2013 4:05 am

As someone from SEPTAland, I have to say it's refreshingly novel to hear our once-hourly off-peak service referred to as "frequent" and "rapid transit-like". Then again, I've ridden MBTA CR, and seen the schedules. I know where it's coming from.

I think the posters pointing out Philadelphia's Center City Commuter Tunnel as an example to be followed in Boston are on to something; it basically means that Philadelphia lacks the ability to run out of central terminal capacity. That's nice if your problem is peak-hour service, but peak-hour service can be the only thing MBCR does decently. MBTA would be better served by increasing the weirdly-sparse off-peak service, which costs money but is necessary to build a loyal ridership base. That will require additional state help for operations in the short term, but it's a lot cheaper than the N-S Link will be, by several orders of magnitude.

The other thing to study is reverse-commuting; that's been Metro-North's secret sauce. In addition to the traditional satellite downtowns like Providence, Salem, and Lowell, look at ways to get Bostonians and Cambervillians to leave their cars at park-and-ride stations nearer their work (on 128 or beyond) than their homes. That might even get you local funding from oldhead traffic-and-parking-obsessed local pols. Even if it doesn't, it gets you new markets and better monetization of rolling stock and parking assets.

EMUs are wonderful to have. Need to electrify to have them, though; FRA-compliant DMUs are not nearly as mature a technology. That said, electrify one additional line on the south side, and you can probably justify a "captive" EMU fleet. Fairmount is the obvious candidate, but not the only one.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:32 am

I don't agree with the argument that CR is "too expensive". As a Newburyport commuter, I'm about 30 miles from the city, and between CR and two subway lines, I make it to work in about 80 minutes, at a cost of $9.82/day with a monthly pass (assuming 28 working days). In contrast, I'd burn at least 2 gallons of gas during that round trip, which is $7.00, plus the Tobin toll (unless I shunpike, which takes longer) of $2.50, and $5/day to park anywhere near my office. Not to mention not having to sit in traffic... hell, I'm posting this from the train right now!

$9.82/day vs. $14.50/day?

I'll happily take the train!

What I think hurts ridership is the atrocious off-peak service. If I go out to dinner or something after work, there are only a handful of later trains I can take home. It is a rather abrupt jump from trains every 15-20 minutes to every 2 hours.
And only every 3 hours on weekends? It shouldn't have to be a disaster that cancels your entire day's plans to miss a train.

Also, one thing I haven't seen proposed is a group fare. If I want to go into the city with 3 friends, that's an extra $17.50 per person, but nothing extra in a car. So it's honestly stupid to take commuter rail in a group. I feel like the MBTA could attract ridership by offering a group or family discount of some sort, making it more cost-competitive for non-commuter customers like families coming in on a weekend.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby djlong » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:54 am

CComMack wrote:The other thing to study is reverse-commuting; that's been Metro-North's secret sauce. In addition to the traditional satellite downtowns like Providence, Salem, and Lowell, look at ways to get Bostonians and Cambervillians to leave their cars at park-and-ride stations nearer their work (on 128 or beyond) than their homes. That might even get you local funding from oldhead traffic-and-parking-obsessed local pols. Even if it doesn't, it gets you new markets and better monetization of rolling stock and parking assets.


It's frustrating that Lowell's station isn't close to where the jobs are downtown. If they extended that line northward, Nashua wouldn't be walking distance to many jobs near the proposed station but Manchester's is right smack dab in the middle of downtown, the repuposed mills, the restaurants, arena and ballpark.
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Re: 10-Year decline in Commuter Rail Ridership - Boston Glob

Postby wicked » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:22 am

Last I read, two stops were proposed in Nashua: one off US 3 and one in downtown Nashua. The US 3 stop could serve tech companies if they were willing to run shuttles to/from the stop. And in Lowell, there is (was?) a shuttle that ran frequently from Gallagher to downtown, I want to say every 20 minutes or so.

deathtopumpkins, for people coming from the south of the city, the fare IS an obstacle. There are no tolls from 24/MA 3 into Boston, so that removes an economic incentive for train usage. It's more about dealing with the Xway crush than saving $$$.
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