I've been riding the Franklin line daily for years, and all that time there has been terrible overcrowding on the homeward #715 train, departing South Station at 4:10 PM. I get on at Ruggles, and haven't been able to get a seat more than a few times a year. Nor am I the only one forced to stand - there are usually quite a few of us.
I've emailed the MBCR about the issue over and over. The response is always that there's more than enough seating, or that the train was short a car for some reason (in which case I get an apology - I've come to consider those worthless, though).
On Friday, 7/13/07 I counted 33 people standing in a single-level coach. A woman in the next coach had a medical emergency and passed out; unfortunately there were no conductors around, and it was so crowded that passengers were completely unable to pass down the aisle in search of a conductor. We ended up trying to pass the word down the aisle by shouting. It wasn't very effective; we couldn't reach a conductor for several long minutes.
Fortunately the ill woman's condition apparently wasn't critical. But if it had been, the delay caused by the overcrowding could have had serious consequences.
The train was short a coach or two, I believe, but that happens pretty often. Other coaches were as crowded as the one I was on, or more so.
I've written more about that evening and the Franklin #715 on my LiveJournal; here's a collection of commuting posts.
Recently I got a response from the MBCR. I'd asked them (among other things) why the Needham Heights #619 train (departing Ruggles at 4:13 PM) always has many totally empty seats, while the Franklin train six minutes later always has at least 50 standees.
The explanation confused me: the extra space on the Needham train might be needed for a later rush hour train that required the capacity, or is being "put up" for the night at a facility, ready for the morning commute.
But an inbound evening rush hour train isn't going to see heavy use - most people are leaving the city, not entering it. So I can't believe that the extra capacity is needed for the next ride in.
And why isn't any extra seating needed for the line which actually has a visible and consistent shortage of seats every single night? I'm not a railroad expert, but it seems to me that when you have 50-100 people standing for half an hour or more every night for years, that's a sign that there's a shortage of seats!
Yesterday I checked the Needham Heights train again. The first car was almost totally empty - there were less than ten people on it. Those coaches theoretically seat 128. I checked another coach which had ten totally empty three-person seats and eleven empty two-person seats.
It's hard not to feel that I and a lot of other Franklin passengers are being screwed. Since I'm paying $223 per month for my train pass, that's particularly annoying. And every time anyone has complained to the MBCR or MBTA, we might as well be talking to a brick wall; nothing changes.
I hope that this blog will at least serve as a place for passengers to record their dissatisfaction with the commuter rail. If you want to make a post, please comment and I'll add you to the list of authors.