ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

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

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ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby dbperry » Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:31 pm

Obtained and posted with permission. Very senior permission.

Complete commuter rail equipment cycles. Includes:

- equipment assignments for all trains
- passenger capacity for each set and each train / trip
- all deadhead moves
- service / maintenance times and locations
- per train/trip passenger counts
- details on double draft moves
- layover assignments and locations

http://dbperry.net/MBTA/articles/North_ ... _06-15.pdf

http://dbperry.net/MBTA/articles/South_ ... _06-15.pdf

The permission came with one request: Don't start e-mailing the MBTA with suggestions on how to make these better. So let's debate / discuss them here.

Also: These are somewhat dated and have NOT been updated for the latest (December) schedule revisions. I was also told that other minor tweaks have been made to these that are not documented. So these DO NOT perfectly reflect what is currently happening. But should be very close.

In addition, it was confirmed that as I speculate on my blog <http://dbperry.weebly.com/turn-table.html>, the mid-day Boston 'turns' are very dynamically managed and there are changes almost daily.

Enjoy.

I'll start with the first few observations (South Side):

- Framingham-Worcester P508 wins as the heaviest load: 1423. But only 30 more passengers than Providence train #819.
- There are a number of trains that are known to have more passengers than seats.
- On everything except the Old Colony, the same train is used for the same trip each day of the week. But on the Old Colony, the sets rotate from day-to-day, so a rider on one particular train will see different equipment each day of the week.
- Huge variation in revenue moves per set: minimum of 2 to maximum of 12.

Dave
Known to Keolis and the MBTA as "Twitter Dave"
Frequently posting about the MBTA Framingham-Worcester line on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FramWorMBTA
Owner of Framingham-Worcester Blog: http://FramWorMBTA.weebly.com/
Maintainer of MBTA schedule archive: http://www.dbperry.net/MBTA/
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby Komarovsky » Fri Feb 05, 2016 7:04 am

Fascinating information Dave, thanks for sharing!
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby emannths » Fri Feb 05, 2016 10:16 am

Cool stuff. Though I find it a little worrisome that they (appear) to plan seating needs around average capacity and not peak capacity. With so many sets essentially AT capacity on AVERAGE, that means that 50% of the time those sets are going to be OVER capacity.

I'm surprised Keolis/MBTA hasn't used this data to make more noise to argue for more capacity. It makes the need very clear...
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby jaymac » Fri Feb 05, 2016 11:33 am

Unless a car needs to be pulled for maintenance, the train sets generally stay intact and are sized for the supposed peak they'll be carrying on their varied runs. The variations in car- and seat-counts reflect the supposed peaks for those varied runs. For off-peak runs, the number of cars in actual service as well as the size of crews serving on them can get adjusted without physically diminishing the trains. All it takes is locking doors.
It is cheaper to pull and push empty and idle cars than to resize train consists. The costs of whatever extra fuel consumption and wear-and-tear may occur are far less than the costs of additional crews, additional equipment, additional fuel, and additional yarding tracks to adjust train sizes up and down for peak and off-peak levels. Are some runs under-equipped for the actual passenger count? Sometimes, sure.
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby Bramdeisroberts » Fri Feb 05, 2016 12:21 pm

emannths wrote:With so many sets essentially AT capacity on AVERAGE, that means that 50% of the time those sets are going to be OVER capacity.

I'm surprised Keolis/MBTA hasn't used this data to make more noise to argue for more capacity. It makes the need very clear...


I was going to say, looking at some of these peak ridership numbers makes me wonder if it wouldn't make sense for the T to look for some extra coaches on the (relative) cheap.

I know bilevels will be next to impossible to find, but might it be possible for the T to get ahold of someone else's old Comet X's and use them to max out consist lengths up north, allowing them to move the much denser southside service to upgrade to longer, 100% bilevel consists that can more adequately handle the peak passenger volumes, improve on-train conditions, and boost ridership??
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:11 pm

Bramdeisroberts wrote:
emannths wrote:With so many sets essentially AT capacity on AVERAGE, that means that 50% of the time those sets are going to be OVER capacity.

I'm surprised Keolis/MBTA hasn't used this data to make more noise to argue for more capacity. It makes the need very clear...


I was going to say, looking at some of these peak ridership numbers makes me wonder if it wouldn't make sense for the T to look for some extra coaches on the (relative) cheap.

I know bilevels will be next to impossible to find, but might it be possible for the T to get ahold of someone else's old Comet X's and use them to max out consist lengths up north, allowing them to move the much denser southside service to upgrade to longer, 100% bilevel consists that can more adequately handle the peak passenger volumes, improve on-train conditions, and boost ridership??


Who's still got Comet X's readily available that aren't exactly as shot as the MBB's? There aren't any. NJT's once-extensive boneyard has been pretty thoroughly cleaned-out; nothing significant in the way of Comets for a few years now, and all the stored Arrows and F40PH-2CAT's just left the property a couple months ago. MARC IIA's are even older than the MBB's, and likewise have never been rebuilt. Unclear when NJT and MNRR are going to schedule their next base order of MLV's, but I doubt the 1982-vintage Comet IIM's and Shoreliner I's first on the chopping block have any life left in them since they get punished 3x harder on a daily basis than anything old the T still has. Unfortunately thorough overhaul of the MBB's still prices out as the best option for any padding that they need to milk for >2 years out. And that won't be an inexpensive rebuild because of how advanced the floor rot has gotten on so many of those units.


Unfortunately nobody's scheduled to ditch their first-generation East Coast bi's in the next 15 years except for LIRR. Their C3's have that nonstandard HEP voltage that makes them useless anywhere outside LIRR and no door traps; the MTA is replacing them with stock MLV's (traps + regular voltage) in a common LIRR/MNRR order. So buying new is the only way. Can't be understated how much it hurt them to have to pass on those +75 Rotem options because of the lemony smell was too overpowering.
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby emannths » Fri Feb 05, 2016 3:24 pm

jaymac wrote:the train sets generally stay intact and are sized for the supposed peak they'll be carrying on their varied runs.

Sorry, let me clarify: it looks like they consider "peak" passenger loads to be the average of the peak loads measured.

I haven't seen the Spring 2015 passenger counts that those loads are based on, but presumably the sample passenger loads for each train a few times. So for 508, for example, maybe (hypothetically) they measured loads of 1100, 1200, and 1300 on the three days they measured. It looks like they then averaged those observations to determine the number of seats needed for 508 (e.g., 1200). The problem with this is that 50% of the time you'll have more than that number of passengers, so you really should be designing for the highest observed load, not the average (e.g., 1300 in this example).

So while it looks like only a handful of trains are over capacity, in reality all those trains with, say, only 5-10% free space are going to be over capacity on a regular basis when ridership exceeds the average. The passenger counts also don't account for the practicalities of seating, where there will inevitably be several seats "out of service" due to spills, bags that don't fit above/under seats, extremely wide passengers, etc.

Given the lack of additional coaches, it's all academic. Though as I said, hopefully it can be used to put numbers supporting the anecdotes that many trains operate over capacity for the sake of demonstrating the need for more equipment.
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby leviramsey » Fri Feb 05, 2016 4:33 pm

emannths wrote:
jaymac wrote:the train sets generally stay intact and are sized for the supposed peak they'll be carrying on their varied runs.

Sorry, let me clarify: it looks like they consider "peak" passenger loads to be the average of the peak loads measured.

I haven't seen the Spring 2015 passenger counts that those loads are based on, but presumably the sample passenger loads for each train a few times. So for 508, for example, maybe (hypothetically) they measured loads of 1100, 1200, and 1300 on the three days they measured. It looks like they then averaged those observations to determine the number of seats needed for 508 (e.g., 1200). The problem with this is that 50% of the time you'll have more than that number of passengers, so you really should be designing for the highest observed load, not the average (e.g., 1300 in this example).


Not necessarily: I don't see any basis for a claim that passenger loads are normally-ish distributed. Nearly everyone has an above average number of legs....

So while it looks like only a handful of trains are over capacity, in reality all those trains with, say, only 5-10% free space are going to be over capacity on a regular basis when ridership exceeds the average. The passenger counts also don't account for the practicalities of seating, where there will inevitably be several seats "out of service" due to spills, bags that don't fit above/under seats, extremely wide passengers, etc.

Given the lack of additional coaches, it's all academic. Though as I said, hopefully it can be used to put numbers supporting the anecdotes that many trains operate over capacity for the sake of demonstrating the need for more equipment.


OTOH, are the passenger counts gross boardings or net boardings? Even if it's only 5% of passengers who are riding interzone, that attenuates the peak passenger load.
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby Komarovsky » Fri Feb 05, 2016 6:03 pm

With the new framework for keeping dedicated sets for each line, it will be interesting to see how they change the sets from this. My hope is that the planned 3 coach consist for the Worcester bullet trains pans out and they can free up a lot of coaches from the over capacity off peaks and tack those onto the under or at capacity peak trains. Also I could see some schedule improvements due to lighter overall consists if they go this route.
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby dbperry » Fri Feb 05, 2016 7:24 pm

leviramsey wrote:Not necessarily: I don't see any basis for a claim that passenger loads are normally-ish distributed. Nearly everyone has an above average number of legs....


I agree. Why do we think the per-train ridership numbers are averages? There is nothing on the tables to indicate anything about averages or normalized data.

leviramsey wrote:OTOH, are the passenger counts gross boardings or net boardings? Even if it's only 5% of passengers who are riding interzone, that attenuates the peak passenger load.


All I know is that the June 2015 manual counts cited on the equipment usage tables are the counts done by Keolis purple vest customer service agents with clickers. I've never paid attention to see if they do multiple counts of the same train over a few days. Other issues I've thought of:

- I've only seen them do counts at South Station, since that's the only place I get off.
- Obviously they must be doing the counts at Back Bay also.
- Are they doing counts at Yawkey? (Or Ruggles? Or Porter? or other places where lots of passengers disembark?)
- Are all those counts on the same day so they have contemporaneous data? (I get extra bonus points for the big word)
- Do they ask the conductors for interzone deboarding counts and add those to the totals? I doubt it, but those numbers shouldn't be a huge factor - I doubt it is even as high as 5% (unless they're not counting Yawkey, Ruggles, Porter, etc. - then it could be 5% or more).

Whatever the answers to those questions, I'll bet that the manual clicker counts are the best data possible. And we all know there are seasonal and day-of-week variations (Friday is always lighter), so nothing will ever be perfect.
Known to Keolis and the MBTA as "Twitter Dave"
Frequently posting about the MBTA Framingham-Worcester line on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FramWorMBTA
Owner of Framingham-Worcester Blog: http://FramWorMBTA.weebly.com/
Maintainer of MBTA schedule archive: http://www.dbperry.net/MBTA/
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby leviramsey » Fri Feb 05, 2016 9:50 pm

Komarovsky wrote:With the new framework for keeping dedicated sets for each line, it will be interesting to see how they change the sets from this. My hope is that the planned 3 coach consist for the Worcester bullet trains pans out and they can free up a lot of coaches from the over capacity off peaks and tack those onto the under or at capacity peak trains. Also I could see some schedule improvements due to lighter overall consists if they go this route.


From the turn charts posted, apart from the protect sets (which aren't scheduled for any assignments and are the epitome of "on-the-fly"), every set on either side of the system is used at peak, so moving coaches from over capacity off-peaks to peaks is going to require time travel (and none of the current equipment is rated for 88 mph...)
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby sery2831 » Sat Feb 06, 2016 1:08 am

Just looking at the North Side cycle. That does not happen in reality. There are too many factors on why this cannot follow through daily. I will use my day for example. 111/118 almost daily turns for 221. 427 comes from various turns and sometimes BET. Maybe once a month 118 will turn for 427. The North Side cycle is an idea more than a plan that is used.
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby GP40MC1118 » Sat Feb 06, 2016 4:39 pm

And I second that!

D
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby ohalloranchris » Wed Feb 10, 2016 12:06 pm

Dave, thanks so much for sharing this, very interesting! (and if you are able to access the same when the schedules change, that would be most interesting as well!)

dbperry wrote:Obtained and posted with permission. Very senior permission.

Complete commuter rail equipment cycles. Includes:

- equipment assignments for all trains
- passenger capacity for each set and each train / trip
- all deadhead moves
- service / maintenance times and locations
- per train/trip passenger counts
- details on double draft moves
- layover assignments and locations

http://dbperry.net/MBTA/articles/North_ ... _06-15.pdf

http://dbperry.net/MBTA/articles/South_ ... _06-15.pdf

The permission came with one request: Don't start e-mailing the MBTA with suggestions on how to make these better. So let's debate / discuss them here.

Also: These are somewhat dated and have NOT been updated for the latest (December) schedule revisions. I was also told that other minor tweaks have been made to these that are not documented. So these DO NOT perfectly reflect what is currently happening. But should be very close.

In addition, it was confirmed that as I speculate on my blog <http://dbperry.weebly.com/turn-table.html>, the mid-day Boston 'turns' are very dynamically managed and there are changes almost daily.

Enjoy.

I'll start with the first few observations (South Side):

- Framingham-Worcester P508 wins as the heaviest load: 1423. But only 30 more passengers than Providence train #819.
- There are a number of trains that are known to have more passengers than seats.
- On everything except the Old Colony, the same train is used for the same trip each day of the week. But on the Old Colony, the sets rotate from day-to-day, so a rider on one particular train will see different equipment each day of the week.
- Huge variation in revenue moves per set: minimum of 2 to maximum of 12.

Dave
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Re: ever wonder how the commuter rail really works?

Postby sonicdoommario » Thu Oct 20, 2016 8:45 pm

Looking at train set B, which started as an inbound from Providence (4:50AM from Wickford Junction) and ended as an outbound to Worcester.

I know this is for the old schedules, but how would it get from Worcester to Providence? Would it make its way back to Boston and head down to Providence from there, or would it use the Providence/Worcester line (which I assume runs down Rt. 146) to get to RI?

I assume the DH is deadhead, right?
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