Framingham Blog Posts
Dealing with Winter MBTA Schedule
Here's my notes for dealing with today's Service Recovery Schedule:
Today I ventured out to catch the 8:45am (P514) MBTA Commuter rail train from Framingham to Boston. I avoided taking the train yesterday because I kept getting text messages about delays from earlier trains. I figured the delays would trickle down to later trains, and I was right. I heard from several commuters, via Twitter, that they had a bad commute since one of the trains that arrived at the Framingham station was completely full and about 100 people were not able to get on.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the train station was a large number of available parking spaces in the public MBTA commuter lot. On any given Wednesday, the parking lot would be almost full. I was able to count at least 20 spots available. This to me indicated that a lot of people have giving up on the commuter rail. Commuters may have decided to drive into the city or work from home. Based on traffic reports from WBZ, it seems that a lot of commuters have decided to drive into the city.
The P514 train kept getting delayed and after waiting for 20 minutes I decided to bail out. About 40% of those that were waiting also decided to leave. Many of us didn't made sense to wait for an hour for the train and then have to endure the slow train ride into the city. Oh, and we were thinking - What would the evening commute be like?
Incidentally - The plow job at the Framingham Commuter rail lot was was done poorly as there are a lot of spaces that people can't park in because of the size of the snow piles. Laz Parking crew should double check how the lots are plowed and make adjustments to maximize the number of parking spots. After all, the more people that park in the lot, the more money they make.
Let's see what happen's tomorrow.
Keolis Snow Removal plan
I don't know if a Snow Removal plan was done with Keolis and the MBTA in 2014. Keolis signed the agreement on July 1st, 2014:
"We will establish and provide a snow removal plan to the MBTA for approval no later than Labor Day of each Agreement Year. The plan will identify labor, equipment, materials, management, repair facilities, chronological station assignments, initial starting points, back-up contractors, important names and phone numbers, and preseason activities. The plan will include a strategy for effectively utilizing our labor resources during storm events. The plan will also identify responsibilities in Transportation, Mechanical, and Customer Service areas. All preseason activities (including shovels, brooms, pushers, snow blowers, gas, oil, sand, and salt stored at all locations. Labor forces assigned to draw and swing span bridges equipped with brooms, shovels, salt and sand) will be pre-positioned by November 15 of each Agreement Year This material will be treated as Critical Material as provided by the Materials Management requirements of the RFP." - Keolis Operations and Management Proposal (Page 154)
Based on the events on February 2015, I certainly would be interested in what was proposed in the plan.
Winter Schedule Adjustments
One of the mistakes that the MBTA made in today's winter schedule adjustment is not adding more time between stations. All the trains were running slow because of the snow conditions. I was surprised to even see my train still plowing snow as it arrived at the Framingham station since this was the 5th train of the morning.
It appears that when the MBTA made the schedule change, they only took out the express trains. In the future, they should factor in speed adjustments between stations. In, addition, having fewer trains means that more commuters will be waiting to board the train. As a result, it means the train would be staying at the station longer. None of this was taken into consideration in today's schedule.
Another issue that I saw this morning was a lot of snow near the stairs as you get on the train. I saw a couple of commuters nearly slip because of the snow/ice near the stairs. The conductors should have the ability to remove the snow in between stops.
On a positive note, it was good to see the MBTA using double deckers to handle the large number of commuters this morning. The trains were nice and warm too.
MBTA Recovery Schedule
I just uploaded a quick chart of the changes that the MBTA did to the Framingham Commuter Rail for todays winter recovery. The biggest change in the schedule is that there is no express train.
The MBTA says, "The Commuter Rail system will operate on a modified weekday schedule, making approximately 70% of the trips regularly scheduled. "
According to the MBTA about 75% of the parking spots are available in the Framingham Commuter lot. I know for a fact that about 8 spaces were lost because of the recent plowing. Framingham still has a Parking ban, so if your not able to get a parking space in the lot, then your fresh out of luck. Also there is no parking along Pearl or Park Street. The town of Framingham will be towing on Wednesday.
Additional MBTA Parking spaces
The MBTA parking lot in Framingham can handle 166 cars on any given day. Did you know that the lot can easily handle at least 5 more cars with very little effort. This is because in the middle of the parking lot there is a gate which allow construction trucks to an area of land between the parking lot and the station. There is no parking in front of that gate.
The problem is that the MBTA doesn't use that entrance at all. This is because there is another entrance just outside of the parking lot which offers better access to the property.
This leaves a large section of the parking lot to be empty everyday for no reason. In fact, the gates never get open in the winter because the plows create a pile in front of the gate preventing anyone from even opening up the gate.
If LAZ Parking was to allow 5 cars to park in front of the gate they could easily collect an additional $25 a day or $500 a month. They would simply have to take down the signs and put parking lines in.
Having five spaces isn't a lot, but it can certainly help people on those very busy commuting days when your face with uncertainty when the lot is full. One thing is for sure, those five spaces will make a difference for those five commuters.
Should the MBTA actually need to use the gate, they could put cones up to prevent people from parking in front of the gate. However, I have never seen the gates open in the past 3 years that I have taken the train.
Snow MBTA Train
Recently the Boston area was hit hard with several snow storms. Within a ten day period, the Boston area has received a record amount of snow. This has caused a lot of delays on the roads and with public transportation. The MBTA Commuter rail has seen significant delays that has results warnings from the MBTA to expect delays.
Some riders have been venting about the late trains, slow commute and over pack cars. The only people that seem to have benefit from all this are riders paying on the train or using the 10-ride ticket. This is because the train conductors have been avoiding checking tickets during the over crowded trains. (In many instances they feel overwhelmed dealing with customers.)
Under the eight-year contract started in 2014 with the MBTA, Keolis is fined at least $250 for every train that is later than five minutes, or at least $500 for late trains during peak hours. A train later than 40 minutes can cost Keolis $2,500, or $5,000 during peak hours.
Keolis is the largest private sector French transport group. It runs passenger railways, tramways, bus networks, funiculars, trolley buses, and airport services.
New MBTA Parking Lot Exit
During the past couple of weeks the MBTA and Town of Framingham have been busy with a nice upgrade to the Framingham MBTA Commuter lot located at the end of Franklin Street. The construction crew have been building a new parking lot exit which will allow commuters the ability to leave the lot on the corner of Park and Pearl Street. This exit will alleviate some of the downtown traffic congestion as commuters will no longer have to use the one way exit directing all traffic to Concord Street.
Seasonal commuters know about going around the one way street by cutting through the TD BankNorth parking lot. However, this isn't always reliable option since the cut through requires going behind the Inn near the train station. The "hack way" can be very icy in the winter time.
The MBTA hasn't announced the date on when the new parking lot exit will be open.
Interesting fact about Framingham's Bowditch Field. Looks like people that like use the track shouldn't have to worry about the sun going down earlier in the fall:
Are there tennis courts with lights in town? How late do the lights stay on at Bowditch for track and tennis?
There are lighted tennis courts at Bowditch Field and at Framingham High School. The lights are on, weather permitting, until 10:30 pm. They are activated by pushing a button at the court.
Yesterday, I was on the Framingham/Worcester express train and recorded some of the on train announcements. This is what passengers hear almost every day when they get on the train:
This is my first attempt to embed SoundCloud into the Blog, if it's a hit, I'll upload more practical audio clips.
Coan Service Repair
Last week we encountered a serious issue when our central air unit stop working in the midst of a heat wave, we were not getting any cold air. This has happened on and off over the past few years and each time we needed to add Freon and presto we had cold air.
We have an old York Central Air Compressor and we know that it needs replacing. The unit looks very old and we are pretty sure that having a new unit would be a money saver, unfortunately we have had several major expenses happen in a short time. This wouldn't be a good time to replace the air compressor.
We called a local company, Coan in Natick and asked them to come out and take a look at the unit, we told them upfront that we thought we just needed a recharge of Freon. We were delighted that they were able to come out the same day to look at it. They said that they would be there between 10 and 1.
The service man arrived at noon time and first checked the furnace downstairs and determined that it was working fine. He then went outside to the back of the house and took a look at the compressor. He took apart part of the unit and was investigating some of the components. After a few minutes of investigating he told me that the compressor unit wasn't working and that it needed replacement. It wasn't starting up correctly, possibly because of overheating. He suggested that we turn off the unit for at least 24 hours and see if the unit comes back on.
He advised that if the unit did come back on correctly, that we contact Coan Repair and someone would come out and put freon in the compressor, if needed. At this time we asked about how much it would cost to replace the unit. The service person told me that I would have to contact a sales person at Coan for replacement.
Post Coan Visit
We kept the unit off for almost 24 hours and restarted it the next morning. The unit started up fine, as the fan was running like it was before, but there wasn't any of the normal noise. We also notice that there was no cold air coming through the vents. We decided to shut it down and start investigating to replace the unit.
We contacted a sales associate at Coan and they came out the same day. They looked at the outdoor unit and offered a couple of potential solutions to replace our unit. He said that based on our current setup that it was a small job and that they could probably fit it in their schedule. The sales person said that they would go back to the office and send us a quote in the mail.
While we waited to hear from Coan, we got a space Air Conditioner from a friend. We then talked to our neighbor about the situation and they told us about a company that they used and suggested that we talk to them about replacing the unit, Ashland Air.
A service person came to the house while we were at work, and was able to look at the machine the same day. They identified that the issue was with a broken part and was able to fix it on the spot. He was able to turn the unit on and validate that the unit was working correctly. When we called him later in the day, he told us to turn on the central air in the house and everything should be working fine.
When we got home we turned on the unit and everything was working fine! We felt cold air and by the morning the entire house was at the same temperature.
At least for now, the issue appears to be fixed. We are still going to investigate replacing the unit as there are currently a lot of tax incentives and rebates available through Mass Save.
We are very disappointed with the service we got from Coan. They charged us $85 for a 1/2 hour of service time where the service technician appeared to not want to get the unit working. In their recommendation they said, "Tried start kit didn't work. Outdoor Machine Needs Replacement." I am not sure why they didn't go the extra mile to see why the unit wasn't working. Not sure if this is their usual MO but we feel cheated and will never call them again...