Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

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

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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby dbperry » Mon Mar 02, 2015 10:13 am

Garrett Quinn has been posting some great data about operational status of MBTA equipment fleet on twitter. Not sure where he is getting the data, but others have been graphing it. Very interesting.

https://twitter.com/GarrettQuinn

With commuter rail loco count not coming up at any decent speed, why can't a bunch be shipped out to the P&W for repair? I would imagine that the MBTA facilities are flat out - what about Guilford? Are they any other loco repair facilities within reasonable distance? And with service restoration not due until the end of the month, I think "reasonable distance" gets pretty big...
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby sery2831 » Mon Mar 02, 2015 10:57 am

The T is not the only system that has been effected by this weather. Pan Am, I am sure has a back log of engines with motor work needed now. And we can't really ask the P&W as they are working to get the HSPs online. The T would rather get them running instead of delaying them more to put a band-aid on aging equipment.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby chrisf » Mon Mar 02, 2015 1:59 pm

There's a 4-car set running around, which based on tweets I saw, is probably what ran as train 604 from Needham and left many passengers stranded this morning as the train was completely full. The crew did not allow anyone to board after Highland.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby emannths » Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:08 pm

Komarovsky wrote:Plus at least the off peak Worcester train will be mostly empty, so no one can complain when it gets delayed.

It probably also lets Keolis bank an on-time-arrival for performance-metric purposes.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby jaymac » Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:21 pm

by emannths » Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:08 pm
Komarovsky wrote:
Plus at least the off peak Worcester train will be mostly empty, so no one can complain when it gets delayed.

It probably also lets Keolis bank an on-time-arrival for performance-metric purposes.


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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby EdSchweppe » Mon Mar 02, 2015 8:45 pm

Keolis certainly needs to find some on-time arrivals somewhere. According to the Boston Globe, they only managed to run 35% of their trains on time last month:

The operator of the MBTA’s commuter rail service is trying to invoke a clause in its contract that would allow the company to avoid paying more than $430,000 in fines for poor performance in February because of "severe weather," a spokeswoman said.

Keolis Commuter Services, the operator, has formally asked the MBTA to waive the penalties it assessed for late trains after each of the major snowstorms since January that crippled the service.

The announcement came on the day the MBTA released preliminary figures that showed only 35 percent of commuter rail trains ran on time in February.

The dismal performance earned Keolis a $434,425 penalty for late trains, the maximum amount allowed by its contract with the MBTA, according to Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman.


Considering they got the same penalty back in November when 85% of the trains were on time, I'm going to guess that this waiver request isn't going to fly very far.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby NH2060 » Mon Mar 02, 2015 10:24 pm

If Keolis getting fined over and over again doesn't draw the ire of those who -like myself- believe that Keolis is as much of a victim in this mess as the commuters themselves then I don't see how we WON'T see these problems again in the future. Yes they took on the contract and knowingly took on a contract that pretty much said "We'll pay you to run our trains even though most of them are old and only some newer/refurbished ones are on the way", but c'mon things wouldn't have been the way they are now had MA properly invested real capital in the T over the past 2 decades in addition to funding the expansion projects.


The fact that it's not just the CR having problems says a lot about that. There's a reason the Green Line and the Blue Line are at the top when it comes to reliability. The Type 7s are around 25-30 years old with an overhaul expected to give them another what 20 or so years? And the Blue Line had it's entire fleet replaced several years ago. The Orange Line trains aren't nearly as old as the oldest Red Line cars and they sure look beat. And the oldest of the RL fleet is around 45 years old. The trains simply can't handle it like they used to anymore.


And this is the problem with outsourcing of operation of the commuter trains to the freight roads, private companies, etc. They can do as great a job as anyone can under normal cicrumstances, but when things REALLY go sour as they have this past winter and when the equipment they operate -which if I understand correctly they have NO control over- just doesn't want to run they get left holding the bag. And then the state (MA) in charge of funding the agency (MBTA) paying the private company (Keolis) doesn't get scrutinized for problems that should be more of the state's bag than Keolis or the T.


Dirty trains, inadequate snow removal, etc. are not extraordinary enough problems that 1) Keolis can't/couldn't fix and 2) shouldn't be held accountable for. That's basic stuff anywhere. But constantly being unable to even get above 85% OTP when a good portion of the locomotive fleet is over 30 years old and worn out to the hilt sure sounds like a symptom of a much bigger problem that can only be solved by the objectively responsible party (MA) cutting a giant check. And in this case the new locomotives are having other teething troubles of their own so they can only be of so much help.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby octr202 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 8:32 am

Just to be preemptive, I fully understand and acknowledge the issues that would be involved in bringing commuter rail in house (politics, labor contracts, etc), but the back and forth that always ensues between the MBTA and the contractor (whomever it is) would be eliminated if we ended this arrangement. Not saying it's necessarily the way to go, but this appears to be the big downside. Instead of figuring out ways to improve the CR system, we're left in a debate about trying to blame the other party for the failures. I fear if this gets any nastier, this could end up in lawsuits between the T and Keolis over the absolute mess of issues, from staffing levels to replacement of equipment. Keolis can blame (with some creditability) that they were handed an under-maintained physical plant and rolling stock, and also that promised new equipment as been delayed. The MBTA will no doubt counter with all the evidence it can find where it feels Keolis undercut maintenance or staffing. In the end, the lawyers will go round and round, and little changes to improve service. That's the downside to our current situation.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Mar 03, 2015 9:49 am

octr202 wrote:Just to be preemptive, I fully understand and acknowledge the issues that would be involved in bringing commuter rail in house (politics, labor contracts, etc), but the back and forth that always ensues between the MBTA and the contractor (whomever it is) would be eliminated if we ended this arrangement. Not saying it's necessarily the way to go, but this appears to be the big downside. Instead of figuring out ways to improve the CR system, we're left in a debate about trying to blame the other party for the failures. I fear if this gets any nastier, this could end up in lawsuits between the T and Keolis over the absolute mess of issues, from staffing levels to replacement of equipment. Keolis can blame (with some creditability) that they were handed an under-maintained physical plant and rolling stock, and also that promised new equipment as been delayed. The MBTA will no doubt counter with all the evidence it can find where it feels Keolis undercut maintenance or staffing. In the end, the lawyers will go round and round, and little changes to improve service. That's the downside to our current situation.


Well...you don't just turn on a dime and bring CR operations in-house. That was part of the reason it was ruled impossible in the last contract negotiations. It's a transition you have to start planning for years in advance, much like the transition that happened when Conrail shoved all its inherited commuter rail operations onto the states. That took a decade to accomplish, with Metro North's 1983 founding being the last major operation they finally expunged from their operating responsibilities.

Keolis has 7 years left on its base contract. Years 8-12 are vested in two 2-year options. I don't think there are any early opt-out provisions. If they really want to bring it all in-house that's a process that they realistically have about 2 years to debate, then start a 5-year transition plan to get their house in order for the takeover. Keolis might be a little put out by that, but so long as they have their 8 years there's not really anything they can do about it. Odds are they're going to need most of that time to get themselves ready for the in-house era. They have to budget for those necessary fleet replacements of all 200 remaining single-level coaches and all ~45 remaining legacy locomotives or 2020's going to be carmageddon all over again. They have to make up for lost time on their flagrantly late and underfunded start on the PTC mandate (which if they don't hurry up and muscle some funds soon, a 5-year deadline extension might not even be enough). Not to mention just general-purpose state of repair. They can't transition themselves into a first-time self-operator when the inner half of the Worcester Line is still a FAILroad without $100M in signal replacements and crossover installations, if the motive power has to be duct-taped together, and if they're constantly forced to debug signal problems and switch heater problems and speed restrictions over falling-apart bridges. It's too hard. Amtrak wouldn't touch that situation, MBCR stopped trying to live within those restrictions, and Keolis is already balking. They'll drown if they make no meaningful progress against the backlog before they have to run their own wreckage. So those 7 years till Day 1 of self-ops have to be put to good use catching up on their procurements, catching up on their mandates, and catching up on their state-of-repair. Bigtime.


None of this happens without the Legislature appropriating money and opening up new revenue sources. It took all of 2 days after the systemwide collapse for Speaker DeLeo to slam the door on any notion of taking that up...and he is the singular keeper of the state's purse strings. It's the same answer for everything: the Legislature has to do this. The Governor, even if he wanted to, can't initiate it alone when he's functionally a distant third on the most powerful pols in state office after DeLeo and Senate Prez Rosenberg. Patrick tried to do something, and DeLeo made an example out of him by chopping the funding legs out of his big transit bill. That's what happens when a Governor tries to take the bull by the horns on anything the Speaker and/or Senate Prez. isn't 100% on-board with. And they're not on-board with T reform. That doesn't leave a whole lot of practical options for weaning the commuter rail in-house. Although at least with 7 years to go on the Keolis base contract they've got a couple years to debate this before it's go/no-go on hashing out a transition plan. I wouldn't get my hopes up, but 2 years is a lot of time for arms to get twisted and attitudes to change. So while not hopeful, it's not completely hopeless that they'll get around to this. But they probably will need all 7 years to hash it out and get the transition right.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby BandA » Tue Mar 03, 2015 12:30 pm

The MBTA has not shown any level of competence or vision in their own operations. Why would you turn over CR reigns to them?
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby NH2060 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 1:21 pm

Gov. Baker proposes increasing funding for the T to $190M. Some news outlets are touting it as a "bailout" and a "rescue plan":

http://www.wcvb.com/news/report-baker-p ... t/31580130
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby BandA » Tue Mar 03, 2015 1:46 pm

NH2060 wrote:Gov. Baker proposes increasing funding for the T to $190M. Some news outlets are touting it as a "bailout" and a "rescue plan":

http://www.wcvb.com/news/report-baker-p ... t/31580130
http://www.bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2015/03/top_dem_pol_giving_the_mbta_more_money_right_now_is_kind_of
“Well, giving the T more money right now is kind of crazy,” [house majority leader Ron] Mariano told reporters after a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast, where Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo delivered a speech. “I think they have to begin to demonstrate that they can use that money effectively. ... There seems to be no one looking at long-term maintenance or any maintenance. So until we can figure out what’s going on over there ... I think it might be a little crazy to be spending money.”
Mass. Democrats never complained about spending more on public transportation...until a Republican proposes/controls it. Baker is proposing his budget, which is exactly when you are supposed to set the spending.

We all wonder how Baker is going to increase spending on the "T" by about $95M while simultaneously closing a $1.5B spending gap.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:49 pm

BandA wrote:
NH2060 wrote:Gov. Baker proposes increasing funding for the T to $190M. Some news outlets are touting it as a "bailout" and a "rescue plan":

http://www.wcvb.com/news/report-baker-p ... t/31580130
http://www.bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2015/03/top_dem_pol_giving_the_mbta_more_money_right_now_is_kind_of
“Well, giving the T more money right now is kind of crazy,” [house majority leader Ron] Mariano told reporters after a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast, where Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo delivered a speech. “I think they have to begin to demonstrate that they can use that money effectively. ... There seems to be no one looking at long-term maintenance or any maintenance. So until we can figure out what’s going on over there ... I think it might be a little crazy to be spending money.”
Mass. Democrats never complained about spending more on public transportation...until a Republican proposes/controls it. Baker is proposing his budget, which is exactly when you are supposed to set the spending.

We all wonder how Baker is going to increase spending on the "T" by about $95M while simultaneously closing a $1.5B spending gap.


Yeah. And DeLeo shot down the notion today that the T's problems were financial issues. So of course his #1 deputy in the House is going to play the attack dog.

Nothing gets spent on anything without Mr. Speakah. And if you've noticed the pattern all winter...he is not waiting more than hours--not days--to cut off any any talk of funding or revenue increases. I don't think Baker ever had one thought in his mind that the increase proposal would ever last 24 hours in the wild before getting shot down. If he's lucky maybe he can get a quarter of what he's asking out of the House...and thus he's got to try it. Tactically he's got to try it. But this reinforces what we already know...the third most powerful guy in the state can't do anything without being completely sympatico with the wishes of the #1 most powerful guy. The structural imbalance in power is that warped. The ultra-quick hook the House leadership is showing on this is their message that they don't care, they don't have to, they are so well-protected they have nothing to fear in terms of voter pressure from any other elected pol who has something to fear in terms of voter pressure...and they will show you how futile your bully pulpit is if this isn't self-evident.


Same place we've always been stuck at.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby ST214 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:56 pm

All that is going to happen on Beacon Hill is a lot of fingerpointing. The real issue here is never going to be solved. There are ways to cut costs that should be explored but won't. The better question at this point is WHERE did the $$$$ go for maintaining and rebuilding equipment? If this problem does NOT get fixed in the next 20 years or so, we are going to be in a major bind with the HSP's. Units built today are not like a F40PH or a SD40-2 where you can run them in the ground and they will keep going. They will die, repeatedly. Want proof, just look at the situation Amtrak is having with the P42DCs, the oldest in the fleet not even being 20 years old!

Subway cars are no different. The same issues are going to come up. If you maintain them, they will work. If they get bandaided just to keep them running, that starts taking years off their lifespan.

Sadly, I believe the few remaining F40PHs are on their last legs. Some of them sound like some component or another is about to fail at any second. If they had been rebuilt again 5 years ago or so they could be around for a few more years, but the fact that they are still running goes to show how well EMD built them and how well Bombardier rebuilt them. The day is rapidly approaching where a train pulled by a screamer will wander over to BET, shutdown and cut for the last time, but such is the fate of a workhorse that has been hauling commuters for 35-37 years, depending on the last running unit #.
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Re: Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Bramdeisroberts » Tue Mar 03, 2015 7:41 pm

Sad, but true.

Cynically, part of me thinks that one of the reasons for that extended forecast for a return to full levels of CR service is because they're not fixing the old F40PHs and are choosing to wait for more HSP46's to come online to add trains. I work near the old colony main, and in the last month or so, HSP sightings have gone from being an extreme rarity to being very common. Cooincidentally, in Waltham where I live, the HEP screamers are now a commonplace on the fitchurg line. Do the math, and I'd bet we're in the last month or two of the screamers as anything but reserve power.
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