New Commuter Rail schedules - Keolis's master plan to cancel trains with impunity?

Note - this subject originally came up in another thread, but I felt it deserves more attention, so I'm posting a separate story

The MBTA recently released new commuter rail schedules effective November 21st.

http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/news_events/?id=6442457050&month=&year=

Update - just received this e-mail after originally posting this item:

Fall Commuter Rail Schedules Effective 11.21.16

Dear Commuter Rail Customer:

The Fall Commuter Rail schedules will be in effect starting on Monday, November 21st. You'll find more information and updated schedules for all lines at the following link:

http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/news_events/?id=6442456990&month=10&y...

Note: There will be no schedule changes for the Greenbush, Kingston/Plymouth, Middleborough/Lakeville and Worcester Lines. For the Worcester Line, the re-print also includes the adjustments made in July to the final arrival time of certain trains (Inbound trains 588, 522 and 526. Outbound trains 517, 519, 521, 593, 523 and 525).

Full service to Wachusett begins November 21st.

Paper copies of the schedules will be available in the Boston-based stations (North Station, South Station, and Back Bay) starting on Monday, November 14th.

Each line now has a legend that indicates service level information in the event of severe weather. We will operate at various 'colors' in the event of severe weather.
o Purple is standard service
o In the event of Blue we will not operate the trains shaded in blue on the online schedules
o Orange will have a unique schedule for that day that is not currently available online
o Gray means no train service that day
If you have any trip planning questions related to the new schedules, please contact Customer Service at 617-222-3200 or on Twitter @MBTA_CR.
We value your feedback and thank you for riding with us.

Sincerely,

The MBTA/Keolis Commuter Rail Team

The significant change from the current schedule is the creation of a "Blue Level" of service. Under the Blue Level, a number of trains on each line will be cancelled for that day. Although the intent is stated as during "severe weather", there's no information about the specific weather criteria for declaring a "Blue Level", or how promptly passengers will be notified prior to the reduced service level taking effect. This latter point is critical, especially on lines like Reading/Haverhill, where an early train (7:30 from Reading) is being run, but later trains (8:00 and 8:30 from Reading) are being cancelled.

Not to mention that the concept of "it's a winter storm, so we have to run LESS service" is just plain absurd. Wonder what overpaid consultant came up with this one.

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Comments

Thanks..

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for hopefully getting this the attention it deserves!
According to the fine print on the new schedule, it is (arbitrarily) up to Keolis to decide when they (we) are Blue but they will let us know the afternoon before...
Is this any way to run a railroad?

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Thanks for pointing out the

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Thanks for pointing out the Reading changes. I guess I just won't go to work on the "blue" days. My employer will love that. How is this acceptable?

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Blue means moderate event

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That is a real low bar to cancel service.
once again Keolis gets a way out

You know like fining them for all the horrible service 2 winters ago and then never collecting.

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Where does it say "Blue means

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Where does it say "Blue means moderate event?" I don't see that reference. I believe "blue service" will only be implemented in severe weather.

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If "blue" is to be applied only in "severe weather"

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and "grey" is a total shutdown, then why do they also have an "orange" category (which according to the schedule is "service level to be determined on a 'ctrainsase by case' basis?

Not to mention the fact that, if reduced service is to be put into effect because of a weather event, then the customers would be better served if they cancelled the EARLIER trains in favor of running the later ones? Common sense says that it normally takes people longer (either walking or driving) to get to stations on a stormy day than on a non-stormy one.

And if they are going to tie the service levels to actual severity of weather events, perhaps they should reference the National Weather Service alerts (advisory, watch, warning) for the predicted weather. That would give people a much better gauge than subjective terms like "moderate" or "severe."

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You really don't understand

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You really don't understand how running a railroad works. I'm very glad you aren't calling the shots at the MBTA/Keolis.

They don't just pick trains arbitrarily to cancel. The blue trains were chosen because they are either lower ridership, or harder to run (e.g. depends on a set and crew turning from an earlier train).

Also, I hope you guys realize Keolis did this last winter too (only without the addition of color codes), and never once used it.

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Great theory except they

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Great theory except they cancelled the "busy" morning train....

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If management's idea of running a railroad means

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cancelling busy rush hour trains, especially during a winter storm where MORE people are using those trains (and are being actively encouraged to do so by the government because of that storm) then perhaps we need to rethink whether that management should be allowed to continue running the railroad.

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Did you mean WITH impunity?

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Also, I had the same reaction as you (why is there less service during snow when all the pols love to say "take public transportation"?!?) when I heard about this a couple of weeks ago for the Fram/Wor line.

Mr. Perry (@framwormbta and http://framwormbta.weebly.com/), as he does, made the case that by cancelling they were increasing overall resiliency by preventing a total fail of service like 2015 (sacrifice one day to save many following). That might be the case, but I noted that I hate the fact that it is apparently an issue for our big diesel locos to plow through a foot or two of snow. It still just doesn't seem right to me.

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Corrected - thanks

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And IMO the locomotive argument is a red herring to cover up for the lack of proper maintenance.

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Thanks for the shout out!

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Thanks for the shout out!

I think the concerns about this "severe service" are a little overblown. We have to take the 2015 winter OUT of the discussion - our frame of reference when thinking about that is late February and the entire month of March when the weather was perfectly fine and there were no trains. That was an extreme situation that hopefully never happens again.

This "severe weather" structure is meant to apply to the actual day of a huge snowstorm - WHEN NOBODY GOES ON THE COMMUTER RAIL anyway. Over my 15+ years on CR, I have been on many trains on bad weather days where the normal ridership is 1000 or more passengers and there are only 50 of us on the entire train. That is the situation that the MBTA / Keolis is trying to address.

I agree that it will be imperative and critical to have advance notice of the application of these reduced service days - that IS a valid concern. I'm less concerned about setting some metric - then you'll have every backyard weatherman looking out their front door and saying "but my yard doesn't have 1 foot of snow, why did you implement blue service?"

This is primarily a communication issue - setting up (in advance) a structure for what trains will be cancelled, rather than doing the ad hoc cancellations that sometimes happened in years past. When a blizzard hits, it will be much easier to say "blue service in effect" than have to go through a long detailed list of what trains will be cancelled.

The proof will be in the application and execution. I know the MBTA and Keolis have a bad reputation, but let's try to put that aside and see how it works out. Let's withhold judgement on this topic until they screw it up - and hopefully they won't.

"Twitter Dave"
Dave Perry
twitter.com/framwormbta
framwormbta.weebly.com

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It makes a lot more sense to

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It makes a lot more sense to have a separate "winter storm" schedule than pollute the main schedule used every single day with massive blue highlights that scream LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME and when you look to find out why the hell this callout looks so important you have to find a small label telling you that those trains will run during a storm.

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What about issues not weather

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What about issues not weather related? The 6:05pm Reading outbound is canceled about 50% of the time when weather is not an issue.

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Yes

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See SEPTA and Metra, for example.

This would also allow them to run a reduced schedule on some minor holidays (MLK, Presidents, Columbus, Veterans, day after Thanksgiving, Xmas Eve, Xmas-New Years week) when they need more than weekend service but less than full weekday service. Other agencies do things like this, too. That would reduce costs (slightly) without dramatically reducing service (on those days, ridership is often off 50% or more).

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It seems ridiculous to have

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It seems ridiculous to have this super obvious call out (LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME) with an asterisk that on 2-3 days a year this train might be cancelled.

How about, um, using an asterisk?

I think the design is atrocious.

Also, did the colors come out of a hat? Was green-yellow-orange-red trademarked?

This is what happens when you privatize folks. GARBAGE.

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Good God.

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When it snows, why don't you just stop running the commuter rail all together, Keolis? Oh. Nevermind. I see they have already taken that into consideration.

Great. Just Great. My morning train commuter rail train will be cancelled if the powers at Keolis deem it to be a blue day. I already had to change my work hours to accommodate your earlier schedule changes, plus making me go to one stop beyond where I live when you removed my stop on my train ride home. And now this?

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Big Transport is oppressing

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Big Transport is oppressing the peepul - #commuterlivesmatter!!!

Hey hey, ho ho,
Keotis got to go!

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Last Friday I got on the 5:20

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Last Friday I got on the 5:20 Greenbush train to head home. Due to a shortage of equipment the 5:20 was cancelled and the train I was sitting on was held for the 5:45 train. Now the Greenbush line is already crowded because most trains lately have a 4 car set, like this train did on Friday. So combine the regular 5:20 crowd with the 5:45 crowd and we have sardine like conditions for the ride home. And it's not winter. And they have equipment shortages. And they suck donkey balls because they get away with providing us lousy service. As a result, I no longer buy a monthly pass because I regularly get a couple of free rides a week due to overcrowding. So I pay less, Keolis makes less, and this is what passes for public transportation in the great state of Massachusetts. Or should I say soon to be private transportation in the great state of MA? Then we're really screwed.

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