Framingham Blog Posts
Progress is Near
Yet another bad day commuting on the MBTA commuter rail, but there are some signs that progress is being made. Today's morning commute was only 15 minutes late and so far the evening commute has been on time.
Key issue with the evening commute is the large number of commuters trying to get home. Every night it's jam pack and takes a lot longer to get home. (One eerie aspect is how quiet the car is with so many people there)
Boston Twitter users are still complaining about various delays on other lines, in particular trains that arrive at stations full and unable to pickup passengers. Framingham isn't out of the woods yet, but it does seem to fair better than other lines.
The next couple of days I'll be working from home so I'll miss all the MBTA drama. I am hoping for better service on Friday.
It was super cold this morning. I ended up going to Tedeschi Food Shopsand getting a 24oz coffee. It's the $1.85 that I'll probably spend today. Really wasn't all that bad and more importantly it kept me warm. I certainly would go here again because of the location, since if by chance the train was to come early I could hear it. I needed it since it was -10 this morning and the train was running a bit late.
The P515 train left Framingham at 9:18am about a 1/2 hour late. There were a lot more people at the station than in the past few days. Surprisingly not many bailed out once the announcement that the train was running late.
One of the things that made this morning's commute a bit better was the extra train that ran during the 7 o'clock hour. I don't know where Keolis found the extra train but it would be great if the can use it for this evening's commute.
There's some talk in the media about some type of refund for February's monthly pass holders. Clearly some message got across to the train conductors because this morning they didn't even check for tickets when they had plenty of time to do so.
Slow Monday Morning Commute
This morning's commute wasn't great for the Worcester/Framingham line. The 6:35 train was running 45 mins late and the 7:00 train never really made it out of Worcester to be rush hour train. Thus leaving only two trains for today's rush hour. Not good at all.
While waiting for the 8:45 (P514) train out of Framingham, several people told me how they had to work from home this pass week because of the serious train delays. The MBTA was going to use the same schedule this week.
It took 45 minutes to get from Framingham to Back bay this morning. The biggest surprise of the morning was that there weren't as many commuters in the Wellesley stops. I was surprised because the earlier train couldn't pick up any passengers and yet we only picked up 20 passengers in Wellesley Hills. Where did the commuters go?
This evening commute wasn't any better. I arrived at the train station hoping to catch the late 5pm (P527) train. I missed the train because they couldn't get any more passengers in the train.
The next train arrived about 10 minutes later and I was fortunate to get a seat. It wasn't as crowded as the 5pm train, but there were about 20 people standing in the car I was in. The train moved slower than normal because of the earlier train.
The combination delays resulted in me getting home an hour later than usual. It's a really good thing that I don't have daycare pickup duties, because I would never make it to the center on time.
Cold Framingham Day
Today was the coldest day that I have taken the commuter rail from Framingham. It was 2 degrees while waiting on the platform, but it felt like -10. (At least what all the weather apps were reporting. )
I took the 7:15 train from Framingham and it was about 15 minutes late. Which is was good, because frost bite kicks in about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, there is no warm place to stay while waiting for the train. Some early arrivals did have some close parking spots and were able to wait in their cars for the train. Some people also try to keep warm in the elevator.
In 2009, the MBTA invested in a train notification infrastructure that would alert commuters on how long they would have to wait for the train. This replaced a refunding program where if the trains were running 15 minutes late, you could get a refund for your ride. Can you imagine what it would have happened if it was still in effect?
That train notification system made a big difference this morning because we knew how long we would have to wait for the train. If it was going to be longer than 20 minutes I might have gotten a coffee at a near by Tedeschi Food Shop.
There are still many stairs on the train that have lots of snow on them from last weekend's storm. While some of these doors don't get any use. However, if an emergency happened on the train and people had to exit, it would be very dangerous to have to go down some of those stairs.
I think that Dunkin Donuts or Honey Dew should invest in some mobile stores for next winter. They certainly would have done well with the 50 or so people that were waiting for the train.
Winter Schedule Adjustments 2
Today the train situation was a bit better than yesterday as the trains were running only 15 minutes late. I was concern of more delays today because 3 inches of snow fell overnight.
One sign that it was going to be a better day, was their were fewer delays from earlier trains. In the past few days, critical issues such as frozen doors would delay many early commuter rail trains. Things do look positive today.
The commuter platform wasn't shoveled this morning which was funny since the MBTA was paying people $30 an hour to shovel on Monday. A bunch of us waiting for the train was willing to shovel while waiting.
As for yesterday debacle, one rider told me that he didn't get to work until 11 am. This makes his morning commute almost 3 1/2 hours. Yikes!
The parking lot was the same situation it was yesterday, lots of available parking.
I am hoping that this afternoon commute goes smoothly and that the MBTA is implementing a better Winter strategy.
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.