Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

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Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

Postby StefanW » Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:03 pm

Apparently there's been a directive from Keolis management recently to have train crews open every coach in a consist, no matter how many (or how few) crew are working the train. I was talking with the Conductor on a trip recently where the consist was 6 flats, just at the tail end of the peak period, and it was just the two of them for all six open coaches. (I won't identify the trip or the crew specifically.)

The thing was... the trip was so lightly loaded, the 2XX series coach I was in had maybe 20 people in it. There's no good reason why all 6 coaches should be open for a light trip, except... apparently somebody wrote a nasty-gram to Keolis and complained... so now all the coaches are supposed to be open regardless of the number of passengers. That's nuts!!

If someone decides to pop out from a middle door on their own, it's going to make the trip late while the crew goes to close / check the door. Worse, if some knucklehead decides to open a trap on their own (or worse just jump out) it's going to get ugly.

Since when has Keolis become so weak-kneed that they can't let the crew dictate how many coaches to open? It should always be their call based on safety first and foremost. It's just not as safe to have only two crew for six open coaches. It's madness!!!
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Re: Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

Postby RenegadeMonster » Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:41 pm

That's a tough one.

I agree there is no need for all the cars to be open on that train. And the nastygram probally did not come from a train with similar occupancy.

More than likely it came from a train load where everyone had to squeeze into the 3 seaters making them 3 seaters and not 2 seaters. I have seen a 5 car set during a morning express train during peak with only 4 cars open. And every 3 seater had 3 people. People weren't happy.


Situations like that I agree that they should open the fifth car regardless of how many conductors they have.

They are probably being over cautions and directing that all cars be open at all times to prevent situations like this.

Though, I have to say, I have not seen this yet. At least with morning outbound trains that stop at Salem while I'm waiting for my express inbound. Only one or perhaps 2 cars open.
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Re: Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

Postby Trinnau » Fri Oct 27, 2017 7:14 pm

StefanW wrote:It's just not as safe to have only two crew for six open coaches. It's madness!!!


Standing practice and the agreement between Keolis and their unions only requires 2 crew by agreement for 6 open coaches - this was carried over from MBCR, so it's not new. To call it madness and unsafe is a little under informed - the union wouldn't agree to it if they didn't consider it safe. The MBTA requires Keolis to staff based on the number of passengers, not coaches, which may be a more realistic approach. A 4-car double-decker set carries more people than a 6-car low-level set.

Crews are allowed to close cars, however rush hour trains are supposed to run with all cars open - as long as it's in the box. Again, not new. Unless there is a valid safety reason not to (typically it's a car issue like broken AC on a hot day), and again, 6 cars are supposed to be able to be handled by 2 crew. So if a rush hour train with a 6-car set with two crew members have a car closed, they could be in trouble if they don't have a valid reason. All you're seeing is enforcement of rules that have existed for some time, and eventually conductors will start closing cars again, complaints will come in, and the cycle repeats.

Most off-peak trains run with 2 or 3 cars open.

By the way, if they ever get to full high-level platforms everywhere and a POP system with fare agents, I would only ever expect 1 conductor on the train using power doors. They do this at GO transit in Canada.
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Re: Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

Postby BandA » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:32 am

In the 80s/90s passengers used to open/close traps themselves. Apparently this is a no-no. So, each station each conductor would have to walk three car lengths at each station. This would increase the dwell.
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Re: Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

Postby enterprise11 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:10 am

I can't give a definite answer without knowing the train number, but peak hour trains consisting of six cars or less must have all cars open as long as there is one conductor and one assistant conductor. If there are two or more assistant conductors, then the whole set must be open (seven or eight car sets). If a conductor is by him or herself, then a minimum of two cars must be open, but if it's rush hour than obviously it will be more than that, and passengers will be asked to detrain at the manned double.

Quite frankly, it SHOULD be the conductor's discretion as to how many cars are open, since the conductor, and NOT some empty suit with no railroad experience sitting in their office over at 470, has general charge of the train and is charged with the safety of passengers. Having six coaches open with very few passengers and only two crew is both unsafe and inefficient. Like someone mentioned above, some passengers will bail out the middle unmanned doubles, requiring the crew to walk back and shut those doors. On occasion a passenger will get injured while trying to jump out and/or open their own trap, and the crew will then be called on the carpet to answer for it. In addition, passengers sitting in the middle of the consist must now walk either to the rear double or head double to detrain, increasing station dwell times. It will also be more difficult, dependent upon the line, for the crew to collect all fares from the passengers in the middle coaches due to lack of sufficient time between stops. It is simply much safer and more efficient to have the appropriate number of cars open, rather than having them all open when the ridership does not require it.
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Re: Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

Postby nomis » Thu Nov 02, 2017 4:25 am

The key here is peak period ... there are different rules that have already been in place for peak trains vs. non-peak trains, per the timetable, for coaches.
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Re: Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

Postby Frode » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:39 am

There needs to be some common sense on the part of conductors on off-peak trains, though. I periodically take the 7:30 pm to Providence from South Station and it usually has 2 conductors (or 1 and 1 assistant) and only 2 double-decker coaches open. It's still a pretty busy train at that hour and can be very crowded in the 2 coaches. Sometimes the conductor will open up a third coach after Back Bay or Ruggles. I see no reason to cram 3 people in the 3-seaters when there are several closed empty coaches in the consist and opening one more coach would make it more comfortable for everyone.
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Re: Number of crew vs. number of open coaches

Postby sery2831 » Fri Nov 03, 2017 11:05 am

I have had an issue with a similar timed early off-peak train with crowding. But the issue was people spreading out and taking up several seats themselves. I never want to cram people into a train. But the train is also not designed to carry everyone in their own seat. If people are 3 across I think that's fine( 2 people in the 3 seaters and 1 in the 2s). But because I had people standing I opened the third car, and guess what I still had no room anywhere STILL. So after that, I went back only opening two cars. At off-peak it is not acceptable for everyone to have their own three seaters.
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