Weekend Service on the chopping block

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

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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby octr202 » Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:02 am

I feel like this is also where the combination of iffy connection travel times PLUS infrequent commuter rail really combined to diminish ridership. When I lived on the Haverhill Line, the usual factor that killed the idea of using the train was knowing that one has to leave so much connection time (to buffer for erratic transit times) to compensate for the fear that there's so long between trains. Miss the 5:50 PM...wait till 8:40. Miss 8:40, wait till 11:30. Two sides of the same coin that conspire to make the service unattractive.

There's plenty that SEPTA does that's less than ideal, but the off-peak clock face headways (i.e., a train every hour leaving Suburban Station at 35 past) makes the service so much simpler for the customer.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby ST214 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:37 am

I think another factor beyond price and schedule is reliability. All these folks watch the news and see on the traffic report that such and such train broke down. When you see this daily, you think twice about riding.

If the T really wanted to boost weekend ridership, just do a weekend pass like METRA does. For the further out folks, it is cheaper than a round trip, and it gives the flexibility to say" Oh, I might go again tomorrow, ill get the pass just in case". In fact, on my trips to Chicago, while chatting with METRA conductors, this actually does happen.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby octr202 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:12 am

I feel like there's a three part strategy to generate more ridership, which would be interesting to see the cost implications:

1. Universal 2-hour headways on a portion of the system (i.e., major southside lines, or maybe all northside lines). Make service easy to follow by running on even headways.

2. More affordable weekend fares (either a pass like Metra, family fares, or just lower off-peak fares.

3. Free parking at MBTA lots (can't control what towns/RTAs do), but at some MBTA lots you have to wonder if they even collect enough parking fees to pay for someone to enforce it.

The commitment (organizational and financial) to give that a try for at least a year might produce some interesting results, but the big question is what it would do to operating costs.
Wondering if I'll see the Haverhill double-tracking finished before I retire...
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:08 am

RE: #3...I can't help but wonder if transferring more station management authority to the RTA's would help with the inefficiency of current station/parking management. (Prerequisite: the RTA's get funded well enough to absorb the additional responsibilities and have a little bit of revenue-sharing incentive.) There are a number of bus-served stations...which could be better-served by buses if these districts were funded such...that nonetheless revert to LAZ/MBTA management despite being in the wheelhouse of the RTA's who already run different CR stations. Shouldn't these agencies who provide the fixed-route connecting services and want more of the same have a little more voice in how the schedules run so they have some growth vectors to pursue? Who better to know local demand than the agencies tasked with filling up a bus timed to a train transfer. The T treats each line as a monolith both in demand and Zone fare escalation. Maybe that (inefficiently) scales like it should on weekday peaks, but they've proven themselves clueless at judging weekday off-peak demand let alone weekend. And I wouldn't trust them for a second to study demand pricing/revenue when they can't even get their act together on collecting all of the existing fares onboard and in the lots tight enough to cover their flanks.

For example. . .

-- BAT controls Brockton but not Montello or Campello which are well tied-in to trunk BAT bus routes that do run 7 days a week. There's a real missed opportunity here because they do such a superlative job multimodally integrating Brockton station.
-- GATRA runs Attleboro, but they really need to absorb South Attleboro since that's now a major bus node for both them and the RIPTA border-crosser from Pawtucket. They know best as a state-line agency that directly coordinates schedules with RIPTA across the border what the multimodal needs are there. They can also take on Middleboro, Kingston, Plymouth/Cordage Park, Norfolk, Franklin, Forge Park, Greenbush, and North Scituate if their much more sprawling district either got the requisite help or was subdivided into separate South Shore/Plymouth County and Norfolk County agencies.
-- MVTA runs Lawrence but really should add Bradford and Haverhill which are in the thick of their district. Possibly also Andover and Newburyport.
-- MWTA runs Framingham really could/should absorb Natick and West Natick.

...and any town-control ones where the towns don't have the resources to administer or do much multimodal development, and barters with the RTA's are in order (see: Ayer). Those kinds of deals can already happen at-will, but probably could be encouraged a little more if it gives strength-in-numbers to fixed route integration. Wellesley Hills + Square (MWTA), Shirley (MVTA), Mansfield (GATRA) would be game for absorption.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby saulblum » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:41 am

octr202 wrote:3. Free parking at MBTA lots (can't control what towns/RTAs do), but at some MBTA lots you have to wonder if they even collect enough parking fees to pay for someone to enforce it.

Twice I have gotten a parking fine on a Sunday morning at the nearly empty West Newton lot. The penalty for not paying at the time of parking is 50¢. That's close to the cost just of mailing the violation notice.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby dbperry » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:58 pm

My take on the proposal to cancel weekend service:

http://framwormbta.weebly.com/blog/kill ... icy-change

In 2015, Governor Baker's own "Special Panel" recommended using $187 million of additional state funding to help the MBTA balance their budget. The latest budget proposal from the MBTA still asks for $187 million of additional state funding - but now that money won't go to operations (and debt service) but rather to capital improvements.

Without that money in the operations budget, the MBTA has to cut costs in order to balance the budget. Eliminating weekend Commuter Rail service and expanded "Ride" services are two of the biggest line items being cut to balance the budget - and supposedly "allow" the $187 million to go towards capital improvements and not operations.

The solution is obvious: take some of that $187 million and put it back into the operating budget. Only $17 million of the $187 million is needed in order to save both weekend Commuter Rail service AND the expanded Ride services!

THIS SOLUTION DOES NOT REQUIRE ANY ADDITIONAL FUNDING FROM THE STATE. It simply reallocates state budget money already being earmarked for the MBTA.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby Finch » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:30 pm

Just heard on the radio that the governor will not be pursuing the cancellation of weekend service. Nice trial balloon, though.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby Backshophoss » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:30 pm

IT could not be a total shutdown,T/Keolis would need to keep dispatchers on duty to handle Amtrak(Downeaster/Lake Shore Ltd)
and both CSX/PAR freight moves on MBTA trackage.
Also any trackwork/equipment moves to/from BET/Grand Jct area will need dispatchers to control the moves.
Believe this "shutdown" plan was not fully "fleshed" out to begin with. :wink:
The political "deal" for the "Big Dig" debt has finally begun to haunt the state and the MBTA to the core.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby octr202 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:47 am

Finch wrote:Just heard on the radio that the governor will not be pursuing the cancellation of weekend service. Nice trial balloon, though.


The part which scares me is the statement included the word "altogether." Be ready for what could still be sweeping cuts, just not 100% of service.
Wondering if I'll see the Haverhill double-tracking finished before I retire...
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby johnpbarlow » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:39 am

Agreed - the door is open to cut selected / make more efficient weekend commuter rail service. Excerpt from Boston Herald article:

...But they drew fierce blowback from lawmakers and riders alike, prompting Baker last week to say any service cuts on the commuter rail should be a “last resort.” He appeared to go one step further yesterday. “Our administration is exploring alternatives to last week’s MBTA budget proposals to make weekend commuter rail service more efficient, and will not pursue proposals to eliminate weekend service altogether,” the governor said in a statement, adding he still wants the T to pursue other “much needed reforms,” such as outsourcing bus maintenance work. Baker’s statement followed indications by T officials that they would present other options to cut costs on the commuter rail next week. Brian Shortsleeve, the agency’s interim general manager, pointed specifically to varying levels of riders between lines, as well as on Saturday versus Sunday....


http://www.bostonherald.com/business/business_markets/2017/03/charlie_baker_rejects_rail_cuts

IMO low hanging fruit on the weekend service cut list could be the three lines with > $100/trip subsidies: Fairmount, Kingston/Plymouth, and Greenbush.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby deathtopumpkins » Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:10 am

Or they could invest the minimal amount of money required to make these lines actually useful on the weekends. That's pretty low-hanging fruit.

Fairmount already has clock-face hourly weekend schedules. Just start offering free transfer to subway and bus as if it was a subway line, and that would draw a lot more riders.

Kingston/Plymouth needs more than 8 RT's a day - ideally hourly service, at least for much of the day (can bump down to 2 hours at the beginning and end of the day). And it needs to all go to Plymouth, with a connection (or even better an extension) to the historical station site downtown. Lure as many tourists onto it as possible.

Greenbush could use more frequencies, but it doesn't have a big tourist draw potential, or serve a dense, urban, transit-dependent area. I know my friend in Weymouth would appreciate better service, but Greenbush is never going to be as big of a weekend hit as many other lines.
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