Equipment shortages & cancellations

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Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby harshaw » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:28 am

We have been seeing reports from Keolis / MBTA that there are "temporary" equipment shortages on the commuter rail. This point was brought to the public by this article this weekend:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/ ... story.html

In a nutshell, sounds like fairmont trainsets are used on lines with higher ridership when their is an equipment shortage (which, it seems like, is every day).

So, my question is:

1) Is this shortage really temporary? I know there is the Allston rebuilds which are in progress. Is this the limiter?
2) There are clearly extra flat sets stashed across the Commonwealth. Presumably these are not in working condition for various reasons and rehabbing them is "really hard" for reasons.

From a very anecdotal and not evidence based perspective, if feels like ridership is up, at least on the Worcester line, so part of this just feels like growing pains, and thus is not temporary at all.
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby octr202 » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:05 am

This "equipment shortage" has been going on for a while, perhaps almost a year at this point? Others can chime in, but the coach situation got most out of hand when the majority of the MBB's (500's/1500's) were pulled from service. Before the HSPs were (mostly) all in service, it was the motive power that was the limiting factor, as F40's of both varieties seemed to be dropping faster than the HSPs entered service.

In the case of the Northside, there hasn't seemed to be sufficient spare equipment to cover more than one or two failures at a time (at best, sometimes none at all), so "light ridership" trains get cancelled all the time to operate trips with higher ridership. Prior to the substantial changes this past May, Anderson/Woburn train 352 was the regular "first victim" up north when there wasn't enough equipment to operate the schedule. Now it appears that 191/192 and 304 are the regular victims...there's a lot fewer "light ridership" trains at rush hour to pick from now. In the evening, it's the Reading locals that seem to get the ax the most.

Aside from the Fairmont trains, it would be interesting to hear from Southsiders if there are any other "regular victims" on the southside.
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby ohalloranchris » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:50 am

octr202 wrote:This "equipment shortage" has been going on for a while, perhaps almost a year at this point? Others can chime in, but the coach situation got most out of hand when the majority of the MBB's (500's/1500's) were pulled from service. Before the HSPs were (mostly) all in service, it was the motive power that was the limiting factor, as F40's of both varieties seemed to be dropping faster than the HSPs entered service.

In the case of the Northside, there hasn't seemed to be sufficient spare equipment to cover more than one or two failures at a time (at best, sometimes none at all), so "light ridership" trains get cancelled all the time to operate trips with higher ridership. Prior to the substantial changes this past May, Anderson/Woburn train 352 was the regular "first victim" up north when there wasn't enough equipment to operate the schedule. Now it appears that 191/192 and 304 are the regular victims...there's a lot fewer "light ridership" trains at rush hour to pick from now. In the evening, it's the Reading locals that seem to get the ax the most.

Aside from the Fairmont trains, it would be interesting to hear from Southsiders if there are any other "regular victims" on the southside.


I ride the South Side daily, and the first Fairmount train is the most common victim. It wouldn't shock me if this new publicity changes that. I've seen the first train out of Stoughton (#900) cancelled a handful of times as well, but not regularly.
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby chrisf » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:38 am

harshaw wrote:2) There are clearly extra flat sets stashed across the Commonwealth. Presumably these are not in working condition for various reasons and rehabbing them is "really hard" for reasons.

At only $5400 per cancelled train, it's cheaper for Keolis to pay the fine than it is to rehab a bunch of old worn out coaches. We can be sure that if it were cheaper to fix up the cars, they'd have already done that.
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby Arborwayfan » Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:31 pm

The T owns the equipment. Keolis has a contract to use the equipment to operate the service. Where does the contract put the line between those two functions? I assume Keolis cleans and lubricates. I see people implying that Keolis does, or could do, substantial repairs sufficient to get more equipment in service. Is that right?
Who pays for big overhauls and rebuilds?
I assume the T or other authorities pay for building stations, upgrading lines, replacing bridges? But who manages that work, K or the T?

I don't quite follow why the T doesn't just run its own railroad. When a public agency hires a private company to do some service, it's usually because (a) the private company is cheaper, sometimes because it can use nonunion labor (like a university hiring Sodexho to run its dining halls), (b) the private company knows the business better than the public agency or has economies of scale (like the state hiring a big cleaning company to clean its buildings, which might also be an example of a), (c) the private company has access to investment capital so the state doesn't have to borrow it (like Indiana leasing the Indiana Toll Road to a private operator), or (d) there's a law or ideological custom prohibiting the public authority from operating services directly (the Mass Regional Transit Authorities in the 1990s, and maybe still today). And sometimes (e) the private company was offering the service to begin with but started to lose money (Boston Elevated Ry 20s, 30s, 40s; commuter rail after 1964).

Which of these apply to the T Commuter Rail? Keolis clearly isn't a legacy carrier, and neither were Amtrak or MBCR or the B&M on the south side. It's hard to imagine that anyone knows greater Boston commuter rail better than the T. B&M and Amtrak could share some of their other facilities with T service (Amtrak ticket agents and shops, B&M just shops). The contractors pay union wages and have to earn a profit, so I have trouble imagining that they are cheaper than direct T operation. The contractors don't undertake big capital projects, so access to capital doesn't seem like a major reason. It's hard for me to imagine that Mass has an ideological opposition to the state running services, but that's about what I can come up with. What am I missing, friends?
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby dbperry » Mon Oct 24, 2016 1:42 pm

Arborwayfan wrote: What am I missing, friends?


you're missing absolutely nothing.

As with any contract, the Keolis-MBTA contract includes tons of line items that are included or excluded. I can't profess to know what all of it is, but the maintenance and routine inspections of all rolling stock is definitely "in-contract." That includes all scheduled inspections / overhauls. The entire contract appears to be here, but I've never tried to wade through it:

http://www.mbta.com/business_center/bid ... p?id=26241

The contract also includes some items I was surprised to learn are "in-contract" - for example, the tie replacement jobs on Framingham-Worcester are part of the base contract and NOT an above contract 'extra' construction project. Apparently the contract includes a certain amount of 'state of good repair' ongoing railbed maintenance.
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby Backshophoss » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:35 pm

IF you look in the "Retirements thread", a good bunch of the MBB's are beyond overhaul,only a total "remanufacture"
(rebuild)might bring some of them back,but it's NOT cost effective.
If the MBB's are brought back online,if will be for MassDOT's Conn River commuter line north of Springfield,
and that's a BIG "IF" at least
IF the T can wait untill NJT or MN starts sell off their Comet Fleets as the "Multi-Levels" go on line
that could help ease the coach shortage.
As it stands now,the T is sitting on an option order of Rotems( :( )
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:59 pm

Backshophoss wrote:IF the T can wait untill NJT or MN starts sell off their Comet Fleets as the "Multi-Levels" go on line that could help ease the coach shortage.

NJT completed delivery of all Multilevels in 2014. The remainder un-exercised option went to MARC. The only NJT single levels available would be Comet IIIs, but are water damaged and in need of heavy work. MARC might have some cars as the Multilevels are being accepted.
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby harshaw » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:16 pm

according to http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/10/24/congressman-michael-capuano-asks-department-justice-review-fairmount-line-for-civil-rights-violations/6X1PubN3i4ojJwN8ZdVcLK/story.html?p1=Article_Recommended_ReadMore_Pos10

the company is currently 14 coaches short of the 359 they are required to provide because of a backlog in maintenance inspections. The company is in the process of adding 85 people to its mechanical team to complete inspections more quickly


Really? Still sounds fishy. Sounds like a problem that could have been avoided ahead of time (hiring for inspections).
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby Backshophoss » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:32 pm

Believe the MARC cars are on a long term lease/purchase with SEPTA(as a result of the SL-V screw up)
NJT has other internal problems to deal with at present,due to the Hoboken wreck.
Not sure if all the Comet III's were "taken out" by Sandy,long term storage will force some major shop work to bring
them back from the "dead"
Conn DOT will hold on to their "reserve" fleet,due to New Haven- Hartford-then Springfield services startup.
Lesser "evil" could be the option order at Rotem(unless the T was "driven away" by the SL-V screw up)
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby BandA » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:42 pm

Didn't they just fire about 8 people at BET for falsifying timesheets?
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby Arborwayfan » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:36 pm

Thanks, dpperry!
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby jaymac » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:08 am

At the risk of seeming cynical, the current structuring of contractor-supervised commuter rail operations gives both the Fabled Corner Office and the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts precisely what they both need -- a scapegoat for when things inevitably go bad. It is no matter that funding -- a product of both the Fabled Corner Office and the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- remains chronically inadequate for such an operation. Blaming the contractor has not, does not, and will not solve underfunding, but the parties previously identified can make noise about contractor mis-, mal-, or nonfeasance as a means of misdirecting actual responsibility.
Bringing the T under MassDOT and making the T nominally in charge of the Knowledge Corridor will eventually make the capital letter "T" seem less like the sign of the beast to at least some legislators west of Worcester, so perhaps sometime this century, Beacon Hill will fund the T the way this century needs.
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby deathtopumpkins » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:58 am

Arborwayfan wrote:I don't quite follow why the T doesn't just run its own railroad.


Institutional inertia and politics.

The commuter rail has been contracted out for the T's entire existence, meaning that bringing it in-house would be a political controversy with people crying foul over the state taking over private enterprise, it costing the state more money while removing performance incentives, etc.

Also consider the state's current trend toward privatization, as evidenced by the current suspension of the Pacheco Law, which enabled the T to contract out money handling, a service which it has always done in-house.

And we all know how much New Englanders dislike change.
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Re: Equipment shortages & cancellations

Postby BandA » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:00 pm

I was under the impression that Commuter Rail pay rates were lower than those in Rabid Transit. Is this correct? Also the state is on the hook for employee pensions & benefits that they can let Keolis worry about.
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