Wednesday, September 10, 2008


This morning the Franklin #708 train was exactly one-half hour late.

It's unusual for the train to be that late. But it's even more unusual for the train ever to be actually on time.

For the past few weeks I have been tracking the performance of the Franklin #715 train. I board it at Ruggles at 4:19 in the afternoon, and in theory it should arrive at Franklin/Dean College (the next-to-last stop on the line) at 5:10 PM. But here's the actual performance:

Sorry it's an image instead of a table, but Blogger doesn't seem to like my tables. A few notes of interest:

1. All arrival times were taken from my cell phone, which is set to automatically synchronize and update. The time was taken at the moment the train made a full and complete stop at the station.

2. Sorry that the data isn't more complete; I broke my elbow hiking the the White Mountains about three weeks ago, and as a result I haven't been taking the train every single day. It's also a lot harder to check arrival times when you're trying to wrestle a backpack and the train door with one arm.

3. The first column is mislabeled; it shouldn't be called "Late", but rather "Date". Freudian slip, sorry. This data reflects every day that I rode the Franklin #715 and was able to record the time (nine times out of ten, at least), and I have not eliminated ANY data. I wouldn't want anyone to think that I had left out data that improved the results (from the T's point of view), because I haven't.

Nonetheless, the average time late is six and two-thirds of a minute, so far. Multiply that time by the number of passengers on the train, and you're talking about hundreds of wasted person-hours per week. And that's just for that one train! Unless it's the only regularly-late train in the fleet (something that I doubt very much), that means that system-wide many thousands of person-hours are being wasted on a regular basis.

Now, six minutes might not seem like a big deal. And it isn't. But what I find remarkably startling is this: on every day that I recorded an arrival time, the train never ONCE met its official 5:10 PM arrival time.

Not once. Isn't that strange?

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