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 deathtopumpkins » Mon Mar 13, 2017 10:33 pm

I think one thing this might run afoul of is federal requirements to not disproportionately adversely impact disadvantaged/minority customers. I remember after they cut late night service the FTA was not happy, because they didn't study these effects and implement a plan to mitigate them. I wouldn't be surprised if that same thing happens again, but the FTA is a little less forgiving this time around.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby johnpbarlow » Tue Mar 14, 2017 5:38 am

I think the two page Ernst & Young summary of Commuter Rail Infrastructure projects on slides 35 and 36 is quite an interesting list. Are these committed projects or just wish list projects?

WRT to moving track equipment maintenance from W Cambridge to Billerica to accommodate heavy car and locomotive repair at W Cambridge, why not move car/locomotive repair to Billerica? Doesn't BET currently do such work or has BET run out of space?

Side bar re: MBTA revenue analysis: it's interesting that non-operating revenues run rate is approximately 170% of operating revenues.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby jaymac » Tue Mar 14, 2017 6:30 am

"DRAFT -- Preliminary for Discussion Purposes Only" looks the mode. Like certain pastas, if -- at various points in the preparation process -- some is thrown on the wall and sticks, then it becomes part of the actual plan.
"Bustitution" has crept into the lexicon. It seems like "taxitution" will be another entrant. This is a preliminary offering, maybe even a warning shot for for both customers and workers, especially for commuter rail.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby johnpbarlow » Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:31 am

jaymac wrote:"DRAFT -- Preliminary for Discussion Purposes Only" looks the mode. Like certain pastas, if -- at various points in the preparation process -- some is thrown on the wall and sticks, then it becomes part of the actual plan.


Perhaps you're right but I thought that comment might refer to preliminary nature of what planned projects might be accelerated per E&Y analysis (ie, 5th bullet on slide 34).
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby dm1120 » Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:47 am

Adams_Umass_Boston wrote:I agree with others, this seems like a scare tactic to get more funding. Its like when the zoo said they would have to euthanize animals due to a lack of state funding.

Then again, who knows.
Weekend service is already so limited and pathetic that there isn't much left to cut. I think they are serious about discontinuing weekend service and once it's gone it probably won't come back.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby Rbts Stn » Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:52 am

How hard would it be to replace weekend Commuter Rail service with buses? Sure it would be slower than a train on tracks, but they do have to do the maintenance anyway so CR will be shut down for many weekends anyway, why not serve the public on "right sized" buses instead of big trains that are mostly empty and wicked expensive?
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby octr202 » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:05 am

In almost all cases, bus service would be much slower, and you have to fight the perception of bus service in general in this country. I predict such weekend replacements, done on a permanent basis, would last about as long as late night service before hitting the chopping block.

This is at least the second, perhaps third (my memory is fuzzy) time in the last decade that weekend commuter rail service has been on the chopping block. I think this helps solidify the perception that "it just can't be done" or "it'll never work here" without examining any of the real issues involved:

-could service be scheduled better to enhance ridership?

-are fares and parking costs set right to attract weekend usage?

-how can trainsets and crews be used more efficiently on weekends?

(For some thoughts on this see another opinion here: http://amateurplanner.blogspot.com/2015 ... dules.html )

Instead, we get threats of shutdowns every few years. Perhaps I'm a bit pessimistic (those who know me are laughing right now...just a bit?), but my best case scenario is that a full scale shutdown would probably set us back 10-20 years on ever moving towards better commuter rail service. Transit authorities in this country have a terrible record with "we'll shut it down for a while, then bring it back better" kinds of commitments involving lower-ridership services.

I don't buy the arguments that there's so much work to do, that we should just give up on the whole operation on weekends. Yes, PTC and other work will cause impacts, but proper staging of work could shift the pain around the system, while keeping the non-impacted areas running.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby RenegadeMonster » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:05 am

Rbts Stn wrote:How hard would it be to replace weekend Commuter Rail service with buses? Sure it would be slower than a train on tracks, but they do have to do the maintenance anyway so CR will be shut down for many weekends anyway, why not serve the public on "right sized" buses instead of big trains that are mostly empty and wicked expensive?



Why are trains so expensive? You would think it would be the exact opposite. Better fuel economy as compared to all the cars or buses needed to transport the same number of people and better for the environment.

I would love to see Commuter Rail become a more viable option with increased and expanded service. Not cuts. Why can Europe have a great train system but not us?
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby Red Wing » Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:37 am

Making the parking free or reduced would help increase the weekend ridership I feel. Unfortunately so many different agencies own the parking spots I don't think you could get all the agencies to agree to it.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby dm1120 » Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:48 am

Red Wing wrote:Making the parking free or reduced would help increase the weekend ridership I feel. Unfortunately so many different agencies own the parking spots I don't think you could get all the agencies to agree to it.
Not just the parking but the entire fare structure. A round trip ticket is just too expensive given that parking in downtown Boston can be found for less than $10 on the weekend.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby deathtopumpkins » Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:26 am

Agreed. Most other agencies offer discounted weekend fares, and often free parking as well. Spending $4-$5 to park, and then $20+ round trip per person (plus subway fares!) for a day trip into (or out of) the city is just too expensive at a time when the roads are relatively uncongested and parking can be had fairly cheaply.

They could drive up weekend ridership significantly if they cut fares (e.g. 50% off) or offered deals like group passes (e.g. pay 2 fares, get a third or fourth free).
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby RenegadeMonster » Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:48 am

That might really help weekend ridership. Provided they keep enough trains on the schedule for people to consider it a viable option.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby CRail » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:02 pm

RenegadeMonster wrote:Why are trains so expensive? You would think it would be the exact opposite. Better fuel economy as compared to all the cars or buses needed to transport the same number of people and better for the environment.

I would love to see Commuter Rail become a more viable option with increased and expanded service. Not cuts. Why can Europe have a great train system but not us?

If the train is full, it's by far more economical than buses, a 7 car train with 1 or 2 cars open, however, isn't. Similar to how our subway system runs on the weekend, I bet more would use it if they ran 4 car trains every 8 minutes instead of 6 car trains every 12-15. Push-pull trains complicate the matter by eliminating the existence of any practical solution. RDCs are the best option despite that ship leaving the dock after we got off it (I'm not saying it's a viable option, I'm saying there isn't a better one currently). I maintain that if we were to do DMUs correctly, they wouldn't be standalone streetcars on steroids but diesel-electric push-pull control cars that could go along for the ride in cab car mode during the rush but then fire up and break off in, say, Worcester and provide night time/weekend service as a deuce while its locomotive and 5 coaches do nothing but consume a bit of layover terminal juice. Then your costs would be justified by your ridership. Other advantages could be realized as well, F-Line mentioned the concept of running Needham service to a Forest Hills shuttle because the corridor is nearing congestion (explaining why it's not an ideal solution), well perhaps this self propelled control car deuce could run the line to Forest Hills and stand by for a few minutes until the main line train came in, tacked on, and took off as a longer set. You'd reallocate capacity without compromising service, maintain the one seat ride for Needham branch passengers, and aside from taking an extra couple minutes to perform the required tests you wouldn't be straining the corridor any as a 6 car train occupies the same block as an 8 car train. I may seem to be drifting here, but the point is that this is the type of out of the box thinking that has to occur if we're going to cut costs without cutting service. You're simply never going to operate weekend service economically with a 7 car push-pull train of double deckers.

Red Wing wrote:Making the parking free or reduced would help increase the weekend ridership I feel. Unfortunately so many different agencies own the parking spots I don't think you could get all the agencies to agree to it.

I don't believe they do. In most cases, the agencies that run the lots are contracted by the T. I do believe the private operators have stake in their revenue, though, so the T would have to be creative in making up for the lost revenue somehow.

I like the New York MTA's peak/off peak fare pricing. Not only does it discount ridership when it could stand to be boosted, it also deters use of the service by people who don't NEED to use the crowded train. The Boston Elevated ran campaigns about not traveling on the system during rush hour if you didn't need to, this is a way of doing that without saying you're doing that.
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby saulblum » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:14 pm

With three-hour headways you're never going to have a ridership boost, no matter what the fare schemes. Why, for example, would you take the train to Yawkey for a Sox game where you'll have to constantly look at your watch or decide to wait up to two hours after the game ends?
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Re: Weekend Service on the chopping block

Postby saulblum » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:18 pm

CRail wrote:I like the New York MTA's peak/off peak fare pricing. Not only does it discount ridership when it could stand to be boosted, it also deters use of the service by people who don't NEED to use the crowded train. The Boston Elevated ran campaigns about not traveling on the system during rush hour if you didn't need to, this is a way of doing that without saying you're doing that.


Except the LIRR runs at least every hour on weekends, and even half-hourly on some branches. The LIRR has better weekend service on some branches than some of our lines have at rush hour.
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