Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

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Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby jamesinclair » Thu Sep 15, 2016 5:44 pm

Very interesting article, and it would blow my mind if this was true.

Premise: The T offers a guaranteed connection at the end of the night (a fantastic feature). Problem: Due to the poor scheduling of a single train, every other line is massively delayed.

The theory behind this process, whereby trains meet at a central location and transfers are guaranteed, is sound. However, in practice, things go awry.

Here’s what happens. If trains adhere to schedule and meet at 12:45 a.m., they should all leave downtown by 12:55 a.m. However, the last train to Heath Street arrives there at 12:47 a.m., and turns around to head back downtown. This last train is designated as a “w” train, which means that all other trains wait for it to arrive at Park Street. Although those trains (if they are on schedule) are ready to head out at 12:45 a.m., they must still wait at least another 21 minutes for our lonely E-Line train to arrive. If the E-Line train is running late, the trains wait longer, sometimes pushing an hour.

In the past 30 days, on no day did the trains leave before 1:09 a.m., and on average they sat at Park and Downtown Crossing 10 minutes later than that. On some nights, if the Lechmere train is late, other trains may not get to the end of the line until 2 a.m. And the problem doesn’t end then. It is exacerbated because the buses waiting for transfers from Wonderland to Forest Hills can only begin their trips once the trains have departed for their night’s rest.

This may all seem a bit mind-numbing, but here is the bottom line: because of one E-Line train traveling from Heath Street to Lechmere, the rest of the system sits idle, often longer than half an hour, costing the T millions of dollars every year, decreasing the time available for subway maintenance, and depriving T riders of funds that could be put to much better use than paying conductors and bus drivers to sit idle every night.


Full article:
http://commonwealthmagazine.org/transpo ... for-the-t/

From personal experience, I know the "last train/bus" times are indeed way off. This has been true for at least a decade that Ive paid attention. This was true when I worked in Kenmore and saw buses sitting at the station well past 1am, and true when Ive taken the 77 back to the end of the line.

However, I never thought to ask why the system could never hit the advertised closing time.

If the entire system is sitting idle waiting for a single train every night....that's insane. Absolutely insane.
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby Disney Guy » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:21 pm

Well, they could advertise the second to last train (or third to last train) as the guaranteed connection train and the problem will be less severe.

If another train for the same route and same direction arrives at the connection point when the guaranteed connection train is still waiting, the guaranteed connection requirement passes to the new arrival and the train in front continues on and there is no ill effect.

Getting a little fancier, there could be a guaranteed bus connection train followed by a train guaranteed only to make train connections. I admit that this complexity might not work out smoothly if too many of the persons on duty then are low information voters.
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby Arborwayfan » Fri Sep 16, 2016 3:13 pm

I would like a more detailed explanation of how those trains waiting and keeping the system idle for those few minutes costs money.  The article says its because of fixed costs, but doesn't say what.  Are they avoidable costs, that would actually be saved by closing a little earlier?  (Electricity to light the stations, overtime for the operators, inspectors, etc.)  Or has someone just taken the total annual operating and maintenance costs and divided them by the number of hours the system is open every year to come up with a per-hour cost_  In particular, I find it hard to believe that this money could somehow be saved and used to operate overnight service:  overnight rail service would require the system to be open during that time and would therefore still incurr a lot of those expenses, and overnight bus service would incurr some of them. 
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby The EGE » Fri Sep 16, 2016 4:23 pm

Operator overtime is the biggie. Every operator of the trains waiting downtown, and of the dozens of buses waiting for the last trips to reach the bus hubs - their shifts are predicated on those trains departing downtown at 12:50. When they don't leave till 1:10 to 1:30 (looking at the last few weeks of data), that's dozens of operators getting half an hour or more of overtime.

While overnight bus service would involve paying operators a higher rate to work the overnight shift, that's factored into the estimated cost of the service.
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby dbperry » Sun Sep 18, 2016 7:41 am

The MBTA responded to the original article and disputed the costs:

http://commonwealthmagazine.org/transpo ... -estimate/

In particular, the claim that the MBTA spends upwards of $3.8 million per year on connections for wait trips each night is wrong. In reality, this figure is much lower, as the wait trips are estimated to cost roughly $500,000 annually. Also, the assumption that the MBTA end-of-day service shutdown is delayed solely because of one Green Line E branch train is incorrect. The shutdown is a deliberate, impressive, and well-synchronized process, which is managed by dispatchers each evening.


Unfortunately there is no explanation or rebuttal to the specific points in the original article...it's just a "you're wrong, everything is OK, move along, nothing to see here" excuse...
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sun Sep 18, 2016 4:59 pm

The shutdown is a deliberate, impressive, and well-synchronized process, which is managed by dispatchers each evening.


That alone is a load of bull, as every person who has ever taken the last train can tell you. How could the MBTA even keep a straight face when their little press release was put out?
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby jamesinclair » Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:00 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:
The shutdown is a deliberate, impressive, and well-synchronized process, which is managed by dispatchers each evening.


That alone is a load of bull, as every person who has ever taken the last train can tell you. How could the MBTA even keep a straight face when their little press release was put out?


Right on paper Im sure it is. But anyone who has been on the last train (aka, no one in management) knows this isnt the case at all.

Looks like there was a response to the response:

The issue I brought attention to is one that people are experiencing every day. The data, and the experience of people who use the system, demonstrate pretty clearly that shutdown of service at night is rarely (if ever) on schedule. Whether the reason is late E-Line trains or other late trains), the problem is costing the MBTA precious funds that could be usefully deployed elsewhere.


http://commonwealthmagazine.org/transpo ... onneville/
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby jboutiet » Mon Sep 19, 2016 3:12 pm

With all the tracking apps out there, it would be nice to see a time lapse view of the system from midnight to shutdown. If there's really one E train roaming the system while everything else sits and waits, it should be pretty easy to spot.
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby Disney Guy » Mon Sep 19, 2016 4:34 pm

The shutdown process can still be deliberate and impressive when synchronized to the movements of passengers' legs (in the transfer point stations) as opposed to the movement of clock hands.

Are you sure that the motorpersons for the guaranteed last runs are not straight time scheduled until about 2 AM (and the bus operators scheduled for even later) and, if they get back to the terminals/garages earlier they are given additional on site duties?
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby CRail » Sat Sep 24, 2016 1:30 am

End of service does not rely on the last E train. During the week, it doesn't even wait for the second to last E train. Just look at the schedule. Last E from Lechmere is at 12:30, last train from Heath St. is at 12:47, you really think the same train leaves Heath St. 17 mins after it leaves Lechmere? This report is bogus, and came from a proposal for all night bus service that would negate the need for last connections (at a greater expense).
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby The EGE » Sat Sep 24, 2016 7:15 pm

Nope, the issue is real. That last train rarely gets to Heath by 12:47, and it's rarely downtown before 1:15. And they do in fact hold every single train downtown waiting for that single E train. After seeing this I went over the data myself, and the claims check out.
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby CRail » Mon Sep 26, 2016 12:37 am

After seeing what? I've witnessed the routine quite a bit myself. Rather often, the Red Line is the last thing in, or the Riverside train after waiting for the Blue Line. The connecting E train (which is NOT the last E train for the millionth friggin time) more often than not waits for something else to arrive before service is released.

Regardless of what your twitter data app feed map google droid says, it's a bogus claim, that's NOT what happens.
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Sep 26, 2016 4:21 am

Last connections suck, period. Doesn't matter what is holding things up, there's always something. The indisputable fact is there is a delay most, if not all, nights and it costs money. Why defend crappy service?
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby jamesinclair » Mon Sep 26, 2016 12:32 pm

CRail wrote:After seeing what? I've witnessed the routine quite a bit myself.

Regardless of what your twitter data app feed map google droid says, it's a bogus claim, that's NOT what happens.


So we're supposed to buy your anecdotal observations over the actual location data?

Seriously?

Just because youre not comfortable with the technology does not mean it is not accurate.
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Re: Is the last E of the day costing $3.8m?

Postby Arborwayfan » Mon Sep 26, 2016 5:36 pm

I don't live in Boston any more, so I don't get a vote, but for my money it would make sense to move the scheduled departures a little later so they can always be achieved, and adjust the employees' schedules so that no one's being kept past their shift. (I assume that would reduce some of the costs.) Lost in all the analysis and complaints here and in the article is that it is actually good if the last trains are leaving Park a little after 1 instead of at quarter to 1. That's an extra 20 or 25 minutes of service. If that were actually on the schedule, that many more people would be able to count on a train to get home. The key thing about the last train is how late at night it runs, even if that means there's a longer gap between the second-last and last trains than between the earlier trains. Within reason, and it seems like this is within reason, especially if some of the trains that now get there too early ran a little later.
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