Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Franklin #715 overcrowding

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.


Red said...

I used ot take the 4:10 Needham Heights leaving Back Bay. I no longer take the commuter rail as I can no longer afford it. You are right though - the 4:10 Needham Heights is usually empty. I always got a seat. The a.m. commute was different - there were ussually people standing.

I am glad to see that at least you get a response when you email the MBTA's "write to the top."

I wrote a long email to them regaridng the green line D line and no one ever got back to me.. this was even after I kept sending it. I also had to call them last week to tell them one of their buses almost ran me over while I was IN a crosswalk. THey said they would log my complaint.. why do I get the feeling that they don't?

I hate the MBTA.. I have been on it almost every day of my life since I was 9 (over 25 years) and i feel when I have a complaint they should listen since I am the one riding it and they are not!

Quasit said...

The price of the commuter rail is absolutely insane. My pass is $223 a month. The state should be encouraging people to take the train, not punishing them - haven't they heard of global warming?

I've gotten responses from the MBTA and MBCR management, but I've come to consider them virtually worthless. For example, for a long time the conductors almost never announced the train's destination at Ruggles. We'd assume that the train pulling in at 4:19 was the Franklin train, but several times the Needham train was late and the Franklin train still later - with disastrous results.

There was one particularly awful snafu (I'll devote a post to it later) after which I got a phone call from someone at the MBCR who promised me that the conductors would loudly announce the train's destination when it got to the station (sometimes they announce it after it has pulled away, in which case it's pretty much pointless. One particularly rude conductor recently responded to my query "Is this the Franklin train?" with a very condescending "Yes. Pretty late to be asking, though.").

I'm digressing, but to get back to my point: the conductors announced the stop for a week or so, and then went right back to silence.

It really does feel like a brick wall. In fact, I originally considered calling this blog "Charlie and the Brick Wall", but decided that it would be too confusing.

matt said...

good evening, i just want to say i like reading your blogs, but i am also sorry to hear all the troubles that you encounter on the line. I have an better explanation about that Needham heights train. The way the train set schedule works is that when that 410 needham train returns to Boston, it must go out on another line. If i had to guess, i would say the Attleboro or Old Colony line and if it does go down either of those lines, it ties up in the layover facility for the morning rush hour. Im sorry to hear that your train is always single level or short a car or two, they should address that situation, but the MBTA can not put that 415 Franklin line set as a morning rush hour train to Boston, if indeed it does layover. The problem would be far worse in the morning. When i pass the Pawtucket, RI layover yard, all the sets are double deckers for a reason, the Attleboro line sees the heaviest amount of people, most getting on in Mansfield, Attleboro and South Attleboro. I can try and foward your message to a friend i have at the MBTA and see what he says. take care,


Quasit said...

Matt, I'm glad to hear that you enjoy the blog. To be honest, ever since I started the blog I actually don't mind the trouble I have on the T as much as I used to; at least now, I know I can write about it! :)

You're right about the Needham train. That's pretty much the explanation that I got from the MBCR - the Needham train later becomes a Franklin train.

Which is fine, and I certainly don't have anything against Needham riders (my brother is one, after all!). But it doesn't change the fact that the Franklin #715 is overcrowded.

Maybe they simply don't have enough coaches to put on adequate capacity. And I understand that the goal is to have nearly every seat full, for maximum efficiency. But when you have fifty or more people standing in the train almost every single night, and that goes on for years and years, something isn't right.

My impression, and that of every other passenger I've spoken to, is that management isn't responsive and doesn't care. There's no one holding them to account. Likewise, I suspect that the Massachusetts legislature has been short-changing the T - heck, I know that they have been doing that. Which just means that the legislature is being unresponsive, too.

The majority of passengers seem to have given up, so it's a bad situation all around. I just happen to be too stubborn to take bad service without complaining about it. :)

matt said...

hey there, i talked to my friend and he said they have listened to the complaints about the train and when they get a complaint about crowded trains, they send someone out on the train and they walk the train and count the seats and assess the situation. He said that the last time they counted the 715 train, there were a number of seats of available at the front and rear of the train and that people were not sharing seats. As long as there are seats available, they wont change the consist.