North Station Commuter Rail track assignments

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North Station Commuter Rail track assignments

Postby gernblandston » Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:42 am

I'm not sure where best to ask these questions, but I'm looking to understand how commuter rail track assignments are determined.

* Are the track choices a subjective determination by humans and if so, how do they make this decision? What calculations are made, what conditions or scenarios determine their decision?
* If not, what is the system that determines the track assignment and what variables feed into the calculations?
* how far ahead of the actual posting to the departure board is this assignment made; how much lead time?
* Is there a public feed that publishes this information prior to it being posted to the departure board?
* If there is no feed, is there a way to determine the track assignment prior to posting on the departure board other than asking a conductor? (e.g. if you see Lowell train is on track 4, then Newburyport will always be on track 2).

Thanks!
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Re: North Station Commuter Rail track assignments

Postby deathtopumpkins » Tue Aug 25, 2015 9:34 am

Typically Rockburyport is tracks 1-2, Haverhill tracks 3-4, Lowell tracks 5-6, and Fitchburg tracks 9-10, with Amtrak usually occupying 7-8. This makes it easiest to route trains to their respective routes without then having to cross each other. Keolis is much more up front about this practice than MBCR was, and does things like post the schedules for each line on a sign in front of the appropriate platform door. However, actual assignments vary from train-to-train, based on what equipment comes in when. If a Newburyport train usually leaves from track 2, but the equipment is on a late inbound, they might send out what was supposed to be a Lowell train that's already on track 5 instead. The decision is made by a human being based on the information available, and is not usually made until right before the track assignment is announced. This is why often you'll see conductors waiting on the concourse. Then they're radioed which train is theirs, and once they're on board the train is announced to passengers. During rush hour it is common to see people recognize their usual conductor and follow him or her to the correct train, but this is discouraged, and there are sometimes last minute changes.

Sometimes track assignments show up on Stefan's tracker (http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~wuen ... -beta.html) a minute or two before they're announced, but this is not usually the case, as the data feed released to the public doesn't know any sooner than it's announced.

Basically, you just have to wait on the concourse like everyone else.
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Re: North Station Commuter Rail track assignments

Postby Rbts Stn » Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:09 am

I'm adding zero value but I love "Rockburyport".
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Re: North Station Commuter Rail track assignments

Postby octr202 » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:09 am

I've long thought the T should just officially (to the public) refer to them as the Eastern Route, since Newburyport/Rockport line is just such a mouthful. We already have the Old Colony lines, so why not north as well. But Rockburyport would also be an excellent alternative.

I so rarely ride off-peak, so for a typical rush hour commuter there doesn't seem to be much regularity to assignments. Particularly in the busiest time from 4:30 to 6:00ish, anything is possible. Even for Haverhill I typically wait around tracks 7/8 since you never really know where they'll be.

The moments when you see something like 333 posted on 3 and 115 on 8 (at the same time!) it can take about 5 minutes for the charging tidal waves of humanity to sort themselves out.

And since I rarely ride the south side, I had no idea until recently that trains are marked for boarding automatically unless there's an issue. Up north there's not as much predictability. Usually about 10 minutes out but can vary by up to five minutes at times.
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Re: North Station Commuter Rail track assignments

Postby sery2831 » Sat Aug 29, 2015 11:20 am

gernblandston wrote:I'm not sure where best to ask these questions, but I'm looking to understand how commuter rail track assignments are determined.

* Are the track choices a subjective determination by humans and if so, how do they make this decision? What calculations are made, what conditions or scenarios determine their decision?
* If not, what is the system that determines the track assignment and what variables feed into the calculations?

Track assignments are dispatcher controlled. There are many factors as to where trains are parked. Traffic in the terminal, where the train is arriving from and where the train will be heading to next. I can go into detailed examples if need be.

gernblandston wrote: how far ahead of the actual posting to the departure board is this assignment made; how much lead time?

Trains are posted typically 10 minutes in advance of departure time if the train AND crew is in position.

gernblandston wrote: Is there a public feed that publishes this information prior to it being posted to the departure board?

No, but if the PTIS info is programmed you can figure it out by the control car number. The boarding track info online is after it is posted. But a note, the PTIS units automatically change to a preprogrammed train upon arrival at North Station. These are almost always incorrect! Example, my inbound train #118 turns for #221 normally, but the PTIS programs itself for my next train #427. I NEVER keep the same equipment.

gernblandston wrote:If there is no feed, is there a way to determine the track assignment prior to posting on the departure board other than asking a conductor? (e.g. if you see Lowell train is on track 4, then Newburyport will always be on track 2).


NO! And a sure way to annoy crews is asking if the train is going to a place before it is called out. You have no idea what it is like answering the same question 50 times in 5 minutes while trying to perform other duties. The station has a massive information system to communicate track assignment info for a reason.
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