• Automatic Fare Collection For Commuter/Regional Rail

  • General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by SemperFidelis
As it is rather late, I'll save my reply for tomorrow except to say, I have never met so many people who are so combative about thier views than I have here.

I'll spare you my views on public safety, which were on point in reply to your commentary that we're paying people to sit around and do nothing, when you spare me the tired lectures on free market economics that are anything but original around here. Everyone has given and recieved them from this viewpoint or that. I'd imagine you're smart enough to get my point and I know I'm smart enough to understand yours...maybe work on disagreeing without being disagreeable (because fighter planes or something, really?)

Try reading my post without getting so obviously upset. It's a disagreement, what I naively presumed was a pretty good natured one, about staffing aboard railroads. I mean, seriously, we're railfans, not UN delegates working on stopping proliferation or something. It's not like anything we say here will matter for more than a few minutes time. The realization of one's own unimportance, and how inconsequential our viewpoints are, would probably make this forum more pleasant for all involved.

So yeah, you think we need no conductors or fewer conductors. I think we need more. What amazing fuel for a nastily worded and toned arguement, right? If passion does not pervade the topic of commuter rail staffing, perhaps we have become too jaded as a nation and need to reconnect to these issues of vital import at near midnight on a Sunday.

Best wishes and have a good evening/morning.

PS- as someone who used to lecture and take himself far too seriously here aboard rr.net, I've really been trying to be more humorous and kind hearted in my arguements. Reading a post that makes pretty self depricating reference to my wife hanging out at a firehouse to look at men who are in good shape, how could you not recognize the light hearted nature of my end of the disagreement? This is supposed to be fun.
  by leviramsey
bdawe wrote: Why? Conductors are ruinously expensive, especially when we're talking about multiples per train, and that expense is a considerable part of the marginal cost of frequent service.
Both "ruinously expensive" and "considerable part of the marginal cost of frequent service" are heavily dependent on the particulars of a given system's operation (and also what exactly is meant by frequent service: peak and/or off-peak). In the case of the MTA lines where electrification (and running EMUs) results in a substantial reduction in energy's contribution to marginal costs and labor costs are notably higher than anything which is remotely a peer service, both are absolutely true. Alon Levy's analysis finding that conductors account for about 50% of the marginal cost of LIRR trains is almost certainly more or less correct.

But swap out electrification for diesel, and use cheaper labor, and the equation changes. Consider the Keolis-operated MBTA CR. Diesel consumption is 2.3 gallons/train-mile. Assistant conductors' salary is about $20/hr (from a variety of sources). Add in health coverage, railroad retirement, etc. and the cost to Keolis goes to $35/hr, or about $1.50/train-mile. For a conductor, figure a cost to Keolis of about $55/hr (c. $2.25/train-mile). For the engineer, ballpark it at $75/hr (c. $3/train-mile). So at $2/gallon diesel, the marginal cost of a train-mile works out to about $7.60 for fuel and the engineer, and $5.25 for a conductor-plus-assistant-conductor combination ($1.50 of which is the assistant conductor): whether 40% (and arguably less than 15%) is a considerable part is a matter of interpretation, especially in light of $0.20/passenger-mile fares. Of course, rush-hour trains run with more assistant conductors, making that more considerable, but that's not the barrier to more frequent rush-hour service: a locomotive fleet that's too small and too unreliable is the main culprit there. The split shifts such peaky service requires does increase the marginal cost of extra rush-hour service, but it also makes the marginal cost for off-peak labor much lower (they're already being paid for the time).

Fare evasion is not a problem with PoP: for any given check percentage, there's a penalty fare which results in effective 100% fare collection. But on a line with low platform stations (and at rush hour, that includes stations with mini-highs) and high-floor rolling stock, the assistant conductor's value is more in opening and closing doors and traps than in fare collection: consider a train with 500 passengers (with a median income of $60,000 so a roughly $0.10/minute value for time) stopped at a low platform station. A 45-second dwell with four doors opened becomes a 2-minute-plus dwell with a single door opened: three assistant conductors to open the extra doors is worth about $60 in fares to the passengers and another $5 or so in labor cost saved for the rest of the crew and fuel. More than a few such stations and the door-opening function pays for the presence of the assistant conductors. Running shorter trains more frequently (or, alternatively, devising express patterns which limit the number of low-platform stations on any given run) could also address this, but in the Keolis/MBTA case, that's trading $4.50/train-mile in assistant conductor labor for $7.60/train-mile in fuel and engineer labor (with, it must be said, greater passenger utility).

PoP is the way to go for a new-build system, but it's not a drop-in-and-go enhancement for legacy systems: it can require substantial capital investment to implement (though such capital investments may well be the sort of things which should be done for reasons besides going to PoP, that doesn't mean that implementing PoP before such investments is a good idea).

In the context of the OP (which is somewhat MBTA-ish), eventually going to PoP should be a goal, but a gradual transition, during which service to low-platform stations is cut back and the fare system moves toward PoP (current practice is effectively equivalent to PoP with a targeted 100% check percentage and a penalty fare which is equal to the legitimate fare plus any applicable on-board surcharge). My inclination would be for no general increase in base fares beyond adding $2 to all single-ride fares from outside of 1A to inside of 1A (add $1 to 1A fares) and allowing mTicket users to link a CharlieCard, with every commuter rail ticket activation loading a subway fare to the CharlieCard (which would effectively create a $2 surcharge for paper tickets), no increase in pass prices, raising the cash-on-board surcharge to $5, and charging the surcharge everywhere to riders between the ages of 18-55. I'd also introduce discounted multi-ride tickets: 10 for the price of 9 singles, 20 for the price of 17 singles.