Tuesday, October 28, 2008


As you may have heard, parking is about to change at commuter rail lots. It's going up from $2 per day to $4 per day. But nobody seems to have told the people who write the schedules. The new October 27th, 2008 pocket schedule for the Franklin line still lists the parking cost as "easy and inexpensive...at only $2 per day".

It should be no surprise that there has been a lot of talk among passengers about the increase. Everyone I've spoken to is pretty pissed off. A 100% increase? That's steep, even in this economy!

It's also going to be pretty inconvenient. Ever tried to push four individually-folded dollar bills through one of those little payment slots? It can be done, of course, but it takes time. And just try doing it when the train is about to leave!

Of course you may prefer to pay with 16 quarters instead...

Another odd thing: the penalty fee. It used to be $0.75, but from what I've heard, it's only going up to a dollar. Why are those who follow the rules going to be stuck with a 100% increase, while those who skip paying only have a 25% increase? Is the T trying to reward people for not paying?

Meet the new train...

Yesterday was the first day for the new 717 Franklin train, departing South Station at 4:20 PM. I'd actually planned to try to catch the 715, which had been moved to 15 minutes earlier, but wasn't able to make it. I'll try to catch it soon - possibly tonight - and report on it here.

I've been wondering just how many coaches the T will put on it. The old 715 usually consisted of five double coaches and two singles. But since they seem to have basically split the run - moving the 715 up by 15 minutes and dropping in a new train that runs ten minutes after the old time - it seemed likely that each of those two trains would have less capacity. But how much less, I wondered?

I can't speak for the new 715, but the 717 last had six flat coaches and one conductor. Between him and the engineer, that's two people to handle a train carrying 700-800 passengers. I don't know what sort of safety or union rules there are, but it's hard to imagine that a single conductor would be considered safe or adequate staffing.

The train itself arrived at Ruggles 15 minutes late. There had been trouble in the yard, apparently. The lone conductor was good about announcing the destination, fortunately; we were all wondering if this was the new Franklin train.

It was, of course, overcrowded. There were ten standees in the coach I was in, and with those old flat coaches that means that some people get pushed into the aisle, blocking traffic.

Many people were confused about the stops that the train would be making. As I noted in the last entry, the T did an awful job at alerting people about the change; I got an earlier warning than most via RailMail, and even THAT was only six days before the change!

Anyway, the old 715 stopped at every station on the Franklin line except Hyde Park and Plimptonville. The new 715 is the same. But the new 717 does stop at Hyde Park, but doesn't stop at Endicott or Islington (nor Plimptonvile). Since a lot of people were going to those stations, the train stopped at all of them - with an announcement that it would NOT be making those stops in the future.

We arrived at Franklin/Forge Park at 5:49, 24 minutes late. Not a particularly auspicious first run, I'd have to say.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Changes in Franklin schedule with very little warning

I'm on the MBCR "RailMail" mailing list for Franklin commuters. I think they add everyone to that list who has given them an email address when filing a claim for the on-time guarantee.

Yesterday afternoon I received an interesting announcement: the schedule for the Franklin line is undergoing some fairly big changes. And those changes are taking place this Monday, October 27th!

Here are the changes:

Monday through Friday - INBOUND
Train 790, the 5:08am train from Franklin/Forge Park to South Station has had three minutes added to its trip time and will now depart Franklin/Forge Park at 5:05am (see attached schedule).

Monday through Friday – OUTBOUND

Train 795, the 7:40am train from South Station will depart 5 minutes earlier at 7:35am.

Train 715, the 4:10pm train from South Station will depart 15 minutes earlier at 3:55pm.

Train 799, will depart South Station at the current scheduled time of 4:30pm but will only go to Readville where it will terminate.

“New Train” 717 will depart South Station at 4:20pm and will make the following stations stops: Back Bay, Ruggles, Hyde Park, Readville, Dedham Corp, Norwood Depot, Norwood Central, Windsor Gardens, Walpole, Norfolk, Franklin/Dean College, and Forge Park/495.

Here's a link to the new 10/27/08 schedule. In order to be "green", they won't be printing many of these, they say, so they're recommending that passengers print out copies. I have to wonder if printing the schedules from our computers is really friendlier to the environment than having the MBTA print them in bulk. Or perhaps the "green" they're thinking of is their money.

New Franklin Schedule, 10/27/2008

For those (like me) who take the afternoon 715 train, you'll either have to take it 15 minutes earlier than before, or wait 10 minutes later for the 717. At this point there's no knowing what the new train "consists" will be - how many coaches they'll have, and whether they'll be flats or doubles. I suspect that both trains will be smaller than the current 715, which is normally two flats and five doubles (and is still sometimes crowded).

One day earlier this week the 715 was five or six flats and one double, instead. People were literally jammed into the vestibules. I've seen bad crowding on the morning #708 train lately, too.

I'm surprised that the MBCR/MBTA gave us so little warning. For those who have to deal with changes to their work schedules, or day care, or change their commuting arrangements in other ways...think fast!