Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby deathtopumpkins » Fri Aug 12, 2016 8:09 am

Also, the middle seats only get used on the most crowded peak period trains, because it's really tight and really uncomfortable to be crammed in that tightly up against other people. I know a lot of people will prefer to stand rather than take up a middle seat. Also, asking to sit in a middle seat is always awkward and annoying, because before that you'll have someone in the window seat, someone in the aisle seat, and their bags, coats, etc. on the middle seat. And the aisle seat person never just slides over, they always make you climb in.

My experience commuting daily on the Eastern route was that on normal mornings the middle seats were never occupied until Swampscott and Lynn. On particularly crowded days they'd start filling at Salem. On outbound trains they'd usually free up by Salem. I wish they'd switch to 2x2 seating, and just expect people who board after all the seats are filled to stand.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby trainbrain » Fri Aug 12, 2016 6:37 pm

On commuter rail, everyone should get a seat since they're going to be traveling for a long time. If that means having 3x2 seating, that's what there should be. Personally, I think bilevels should be 2x2 and flats 3x2 on commuter rail. On bilevels, you're compensating for the lack of headroom and luggage space by doing away with the middle seats.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby harshaw » Mon Aug 15, 2016 10:33 pm

3x2 seating is fine most of the time for people with standard dimensions. The problem is that, well, American's trend large.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby octr202 » Tue Aug 16, 2016 10:49 am

There's also the need to be realistic about what commuter rail needs to do. 3x2 is just not comfortable, especially during extreme weather (be it summer when we're all hot and sweaty, or winter when we're bogged down with heavy coats). It's also not practical on bilevels with even a small amount of luggage. I don't discount the fact that right now, the T is so under-capacity that they need to shoehorn in every last commuter on some trains, but in the long run, the service will have to deal with the need to keep the train experience pleasant for the commuter. In the long run (pun not intended), if we're asking people to shell out $300-400 a month to spend 2 hours or more per day on board, 2x2 is quite needed. Make the experience too unpleasant they will vote with their wallets.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby Trinnau » Tue Aug 16, 2016 10:08 pm

Comfort costs money though, as in you need more 2x2 coaches than 3x2. Think about this...

Capacity drops by about 25 seats on a single-level from a Pullman to an MBB. Probably closer to 40 on a bi-level. So you drop a bi-level from about 180 to about 140. So with 2x2 you need about 4 cars for every 3 cars that are 3x2, roughly 33% increase in the number of coaches needed to provide service. Now your 8-car bi-level set drops from a seating of 1440 to 1120. So where's the comfort when 320 more people are standing? What do you think the fare will go up to with all those extra cars being purchased and maintained? Then thinking of comfort, how much of the trip are those third seats actually full? 15 minutes? Maybe 20? What's the trade-off for the cost?
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed Aug 17, 2016 7:53 am

But by that logic wouldn't a 2x2 bilevel still have at least the same capacity as a 3x2 single level? It's true that a 1-to-1 replacement with 3x2 bilevels would increase capacity, while a 1-to-1 replacement with 2x2 bilevels wouldn't, but it also wouldn't reduce capacity at all. I wouldn't advocate converting existing 3x2 coaches to 2x2, but new equipment purchases should be 2x2. That would at least maintain current capacity.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby dbperry » Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:18 am

I really doubt this has any chance of happening. Unfortunately comfort and ideal passenger experience can't drive the boat - capacity is the thing that keeps them up at night. P508 was frequently hitting 1600 passengers in July. That train, along with it's 5 PM outbound counterpart and at least one of the Providence outbound trips have official loads of 1400+ passengers on the June 2015 equipment cycle. There are another 5 trips on that spreadsheet with loads around 1200 passengers. So that's around 8 trips that need as many seats as possible.
1) with set size constrained to 8 coaches maximum (for a number of reasons, but I'm told the biggest factor is lack of layover track space to store 9 coach sets), there is no room to add capacity to those big boys by adding coaches.
2) The solution to keep the 'new' 2x2 bilevels off those big boy trains is probably not a logistical hassle they want to have to deal with. They have enough trouble shuffling equipment without more constraints.

I can't imagine that anyone at MBTA has even thought of making new bilevels 2x2, let alone seriously entertained the idea. Just my guess though.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby Rockingham Racer » Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:31 am

Good points, but don't you think more cars 2X2 could be used to add frequencies? I know: Trinnau said comfort is expensive. So is convenience. More frequencies spreads out the crowd on the trains that are stuffed. Just my .02.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed Aug 17, 2016 9:21 am

Exactly. Yes, those peak hour Providence and Worcester trains need all the capacity they can get, but in the same ideal world where the MBTA orders coaches with 2x2 seats, they also order enough coaches to add runs. Add a couple extra rush hour trains and I'm sure you could comfortably fit everyone in 2x2 coaches with some room to spare for growth.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby octr202 » Wed Aug 17, 2016 9:52 am

Exactly. We all realize there's a world of difference between where the system is, and where it should be. I just worry at times that the T's very conservative "buy what we've always bought" mentality will lead to sticking with a more customer-unfriendly design longer than other systems. Most other commuter rail systems (even NJT, which clearly has some capacity issues, too!) are moving towards 2x2 on bilevels and finding a way to make it work.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby BostonUrbEx » Wed Aug 17, 2016 4:43 pm

dbperry wrote:Unfortunately comfort and ideal passenger experience can't drive the boat


You're right. So we should just remove all seats because standees take less room than seated passengers.

It is about balance. And 2x2 sounds like the right balance. Any "lost" capacity is really just lost seating capacity. Standing isn't ideal, but it is a brief compromise some folks need to make and many do. Nobody should be standing all the way in from Lowell, no. But nobody from Melrose or Newton is dying because they have to stand. 3x2 is wasting space with all the empty middle seats, and wasting time with people doing the tango to shuffle around and let someone in.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby Trinnau » Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:44 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:
dbperry wrote:Unfortunately comfort and ideal passenger experience can't drive the boat


You're right. So we should just remove all seats because standees take less room than seated passengers.


He did say ideal.

BostonUrbEx wrote:It is about balance. And 2x2 sounds like the right balance. Any "lost" capacity is really just lost seating capacity. Standing isn't ideal, but it is a brief compromise some folks need to make and many do. Nobody should be standing all the way in from Lowell, no. But nobody from Melrose or Newton is dying because they have to stand. 3x2 is wasting space with all the empty middle seats, and wasting time with people doing the tango to shuffle around and let someone in.


If you're talking a 2x2 with more floor space, and the same size 2-seater as exists today, sure. But we're talking passenger comfort, if you're removing the third seat aren't you going to make the remaining seats a little bigger? So you're ultimately going to be at a net loss in capacity - nevermind the outcry from additional standees. All you have to do is look at twitter to see the complaints when there aren't enough seats. It would take a fundamental shift in ridership mentality to accept MORE standees but more comfortable seats. The folks further out would love it, the folks closer in would hate it.

deathtopumpkins wrote:
Rockingham Racer wrote:Good points, but don't you think more cars 2X2 could be used to add frequencies? I know: Trinnau said comfort is expensive. So is convenience. More frequencies spreads out the crowd on the trains that are stuffed. Just my .02.


Exactly. Yes, those peak hour Providence and Worcester trains need all the capacity they can get, but in the same ideal world where the MBTA orders coaches with 2x2 seats, they also order enough coaches to add runs. Add a couple extra rush hour trains and I'm sure you could comfortably fit everyone in 2x2 coaches with some room to spare for growth.


So, now you're running two 6-car sets with seating for 1680 instead of one 8-car set with a seating of 1440. But you need two crews and two locomotives to do it. The railroad industry in general is going the other way. Double-stacks, multilevels, higher capacity cars. More tonnage for the same footage. Of course people care a little more about being stuffed in a train than general freight does, but from an efficiency standpoint the same concept applies - bigger trains are more efficient. So more frequency means more crews and more locomotives in daily operation, ie less efficiency. So now that one train which has 8 cars at $2.5m per and an engine at another $5m costs you $25m, the two 6 car trains cost you $40m. And they cost nearly twice as much to operate (double the crews, double the fuel consumption, double the locomotive wear and 1.5 times the coach maintenance).

In some cases more infrastructure is required to increase frequency. In general, signal systems allow about 8 minute headways at higher speeds without the following train catching delays (there are always exceptions). But the minute one train starts to slow down it delays every train behind it. Constraints such as the single-track Worcester station (limits your frequency of departures), no Ruggles platform on track #2 (which is eventually coming), the long Franklin single-track and numerous others start having impacts as well. Where would you run the new Worcester train that provides the alternative to 508? How about the Providence train for 808? There just isn't a hole to increase frequency without putting the system in a very fragile position. The heart of the peak doesn't have a lot of wiggle room. If you look at all the trains that get the really high numbers, they are all in the 8:05am to 8:25am arrival range.

The MBTA's state of commuter rail presentation said they have about 200 single-levels to replace. So if you went with 2x2s with 140 seats you're talking about 28,000 seats for a marginal gain in seating (perhaps 20 or so seats per car, or 4,000 additional seats). 3x2's with 180 seats get you 36,000 seats with a seating gain of about 60 seats per car (12,000 additional seats). The difference of 8,000 seats would require the purchase an additional 57-58 cars with a 2x2 configuration, so call it 60 for round numbers which is $150m worth of additional cars. Not to mention the room to park all the new sets and new cars when not in use - which is lacking already. Either that or run the wheels off them as rolling storage, which burns up operating money.

So when it comes down to it, do you want to buy 36k seats for $500m, or 36k seats for $650m? What do you think the bean counters will say?
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby trainbrain » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:45 pm

The NJT Multilevels have 2x2 seating and can seat 142 in a standard trailer car, 132 in a restroom car, and 127 in a cab car, also equipped with a restroom. The mid levels by the doors can seat 10 each, so 142 minus 20 for the seats in the mid levels is 122 on the upper and lower level combined. I believe that results in 62 seats on the lower level, and 60 seats on the upper level. They would gain 30 seats by going to 3x2 seating. Passengers prefer these cars 14-1 over the single levels and that mostly has to do with the seating.

The Comet 2 non bathroom trailers that NJT uses can seat 130 passengers in 3x2 seating. While the multilevels do increase capacity a little, it's not that big of a difference, so the largest benefit of those cars is that passengers prefer them greatly over single levels.

MBTA's Rotem cab cars can seat 173 and the non cab cars can seat 179. That's a significant improvement over the single levels. If passengers aren't complaining about the current seating arrangement, I don't see why MBTA would consider going to 2x2 seating.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:21 am

I've ridden commuter rail all over the country, and none was the poor quality of the service in Boston. When one doesn't know any better, complaining probably doesn't get considered. Some systems have a commuter council and they make a lot of noise when things are the way they should be. Apparently there is something like that in Boston, but it's seems very low key.
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Re: Rotem Cars Discussion (new bi-level cars)

Postby octr202 » Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:09 am

Exactly. The vast majority of riders see only their system, so they (probably fortunately) don't know what they're missing. I wish I'd had more time recently to ride MARC's K-cars, but one trip this summer was a pleasant surprise. I was making an Amtrak connection and so I had luggage. I was worried when the train was all double-deckers, but the cars had much more seating on the end "mezzanine" level than our cars do, and frankly were far more comfortable than any seats the MBTA uses. The end-level seats were the same high-back "semi-bucket" seats which a lot of commuter rail operators are using. There was a good amount of space for folks who have luggage, strollers, or mobility challenges to be able to ride in normal seats, not sideways jumpseats like our cars.

Conversely, I've also been on SEPTA and MN in the past year (Silverliner IV's and V's, and M-7's, respectively), and while nice, I did find the seating there less comfortable than most of what the MBTA runs. That said, much of those systems operates with a level of service that is significantly better than what we're offered here in regards to frequency. SEPTA's fares, in particular, are a good deal less than MBTA commuter rail.

Passenger amenities can't be the only driving factor, but at some point the MBTA needs to decide which aspects of the commuting experience it wants to embrace for the commuter rail system. Right now we're stuck with a combination of high fares, low frequency, long travel times, and mediocre equipment. It may be the best we can manage right now, but it's not encouraging in the long run.
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