• Equipment shortages & cancellations

  • Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.
Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

Moderators: CRail, sery2831

  by Diverging Route
Ah! I saw the eight-car set Thursday morning on Track 6 at North Station. At first I thought it was a double draft; but couldn't find the second engine!
Last edited by CRail on Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total. Reason: Unnecessary quote removed.
  by RenegadeMonster
No control car on Newburrypoert train 173 tonight. Instead 1115 is on the inbound end followed by 1616 resulting in this set having an engine on either end.
  by GP40MC1118
More than likely due to PTC installations on the 1600s. They continue to send two at a time to Davisville,
including three trips since Sunday.

  by RenegadeMonster
Figured as much. 1117 was on the Boston bound side of an other set this morning replacing the control car. This set had a Geep on either end.
  by tvachon
Yes, they are short control cars so they are running dual headed on a couple consists. Interestingly, they are doing power sharing across both locomotives. I did notice a bit more get-up-and-go yesterday after station stops
  by sonicdoommario
There is a set on Providence that has two control cars on it (1711 and 1718). I don't think 1711 was in use for a while, I saw it on Google Earth down in Rochester. I imagine they had to take it out of Rochester to help with the shortage? And I assume that if it was down in Rochester that it was being used for acceptance testing for the rebuilt Kawasakis? There have been two cars according to the inventory (757 and 767) that have been rebuilt and in testing for a while, so I wonder if those were also pulled out of Rochester to help out...
  by chrisf
Given that the MBB cars also in that photo have been leased and have been in service in Connecticut since June, we can assume that’s quite an old photo.
Last edited by CRail on Sun Dec 16, 2018 11:38 pm, edited 1 time in total. Reason: Unnecessary quote removed.
  by sonicdoommario
Apparently, there's a lot of short train sets this week, and it may have been a decision by Keolis. I heard on the 804 (normally 4 doubles and 2 singles), that there may have been a decision to shorten the train set since a manager rode the train last Friday (the Friday of school vacation week, mind you) and the ridership was pretty light. 506, normally 6 doubles, has also had a short set all week.

Can anyone confirm?
  by Trinnau
My guess is they started to move some coaches around based on the CTPS counts that were recently released and can be found at https://www.mass.gov/lists/2018-commuter-rail-counts. Usually after a count like that is taken they start looking at coach utilization.

4 doubles and 2 singles is somewhere around 960 seats (a double is around 180, a single around 120). 804 shows a maximum load in the data of 783, so cutting a single to drop to 840 seats might free up a coach to be put on a train that is running without enough seats, while still leaving 804 about 60 seats to spare. Likewise 506 shows a maximum load of 725, lots of empty seats if you run a 1080 seat train.
  by sonicdoommario
Another train that apparently got butchered was 817 (a Ruggles to Sharon express train just before the official rush hour). Apparently it ran on 5 singles today. Hard to believe considering that when I'd ride that train I'd have trouble finding an open seat getting on at Back Bay even when it was 4 doubles/2 singles.

While nothing's happened yet, I wonder if the trio of 8-car sets that Providence has (806, 842, and 808 in the morning rush hour and then 821, 823, and 825 in the afternoon rush hour) are in danger, looking at the numbers you provided.

Did they change the turns for some of the trains too? For example, 821 would be the turn of 824 when reaching Boston. This week, 824 has been turning to 823 while 821's set would come out of Readville (823 would normally come out of Readville). I think this move makes sense since if 824 was more than a few minutes late, it would delay 821 (and 824 could be late on occasion because of being held up at Providence or Attleboro so an Amtrak could pass it).
  by RenegadeMonster
On the Northside it doesn't look like they have done counts since May of 2018

On the north side they are running a lot more 4 car sets lately though. Looking at the count numbers from last may there should be about 60 seats to spare. Either the count numbers are off, or a lot of people are taking middle seats because it's not uncommon to see people standing the whole length of the aisle of a car a couple times a week.

On the other hand, we finally have a 6 car set with 2 double deckers running which counts called for but they never rain for some trains. I'm hoping this set is here to stay and wont quickly be pulled a part.

The highest passenger count I see on the Newburyport / Rockport line is 728. There are several trains well over 600 as well. Most of these trains are running 5 car sets with 1 double decker or 6 car sets with 1 double decker. What should the proper assignments be?
  • Train 154: 642
  • Train 104: 619
  • Train 156: 728
  • Train 106: 691
  • Train 117: 587
  • Train 169: 706
  • Train 119: 585
I'm assuming some of these trains are running at 100% capacity or over. On the South Side I'm pretty sure the train sets have more double deckers with similar passenger counts. Can anyone confirm?

But if we are cutting capacity to be as close as possible to 100% capacity we are asking for issues. Any fluctuation in passenger counts due to any kind of even and you will be in trouble. Not to mention the all too common mechanical issues and delays with 2 or even 3 trains worth of people trying to pile onto a single train.
  by Trinnau
Based on Single = 120, Double = 180. 5 cars with 1 double is about 660, 6 with 1 double is about 780, and 6 with 2 doubles is about 840. so based on your list.

Train 154: 642 - 5 w/1, 18 seats to spare (97.3%)
Train 104: 619 - 5 w/1, 41 seats to spare (93.8%)
Train 156: 728 - 6 w/1, 52 seats to spare (93.3%)
Train 106: 691 - 6 w/1, 79 seats to spare (88.6%)
Train 117: 587 - 5 w/1, 73 seats to spare (88.9%)
Train 169: 706 - 6 w/1, 74 seats to spare (90.5%)
Train 119: 585 - 5 w/1, 75 seats to spare (88.6%)

Nothing needs a 6 w/2 based on these counts unless you wanted to leave some extra space somewhere. Certainly daily fluctuation may mean people stand at times, or they choose to front-load the train to rush off once they hit Boston and stand rather than walk through to find a seat. There simply aren't enough coaches though to deal with picking up extra trainloads of people when that happens. Every train would need to be running at about 50% in order to accommodate that.

And as for more doubles on the South it's because they simply have more passengers overall, and bigger trains. It makes sense to have more doubles on the South with counts on some trains exceeding 1300. I took a quick glance through the North and no train exceeded 800. That's a pretty big disparity.
sonicdoommario wrote:Did they change the turns for some of the trains too? For example, 821 would be the turn of 824 when reaching Boston. This week, 824 has been turning to 823 while 821's set would come out of Readville (823 would normally come out of Readville). I think this move makes sense since if 824 was more than a few minutes late, it would delay 821 (and 824 could be late on occasion because of being held up at Providence or Attleboro so an Amtrak could pass it).
If they started moving equipment around then they probably did change some turns too.
  by RenegadeMonster
Thanks for breaking that down Trinnau.

Also, with capacities well into the 90s, having a couple 200x or a 500x in the set can make them exceed capacity. Also there is a bike/ski car on at least 1 of these 6 car sets. So having a bike/ski car, or not Singles having a capacity of 120 I can see a need for a 6 car set with 2x double. Also to handle daily fluctuations.

And I agree we would never run trains at 50% capacity to handle helping other trains. But definitely run closer to the low 80 percents capacity instead of say 93% or higher.

I was on train 106 this morning. It was a 6 car set with 1x Double. It definitely was more than 88.6% capacity this morning. No middle seats were left in the double and people standing at the ends. How often due they update counts. Counts were last done last May, do we expect them to be done again soon?

Also, the way trains rotate on the North Side, we never seem to have a consistent set. It varies from day to day. Trains on the list above that call for 6 cars will have a 5 car set 1 or 2 days a week and even a 4 car set from time to time. And those that call for 5 cars will get a 4 car set in the mix 2 to 3 times a week depending on which train you are on (not all train numbers are that unlucky). So that too me sound like a shortage if they are struggling to to provide the proper size sets consistently.
  by Trinnau
You are correct that the MBTA's single-level fleet has a huge range in seating. I'm using 120 as an easy estimate for the average seating, but it looks about right based on the size of the fleets. I'm not counting the bike/ski car, which is unique and has half the seats removed, but in theory it could replace a single on any train with 60 or more excess seats if they wanted to split hairs really close.

Let's take a devil's advocate view of meeting 85% capacity for every train. That means a train of 680 passengers needs 800 seats. A whole extra coach for daily fluctuation or "just in case". That builds a 15% buffer into the system before making anyone stand. What does that buffer cost you in terms of the number of coaches? I think the MBTA uses somewhere around 65 trainsets, so if you just say each train needs an extra coach, that's 65 extra coaches at $2.5 million a coach - or $162.5 million or so. Again, a really rough number but that's just not fiscally responsible. The MBTA Service Delivery Policy on page 46 indicates they plan for a max of 10% standees per coach. So really they could argue the capacity of those trains is 10% higher than the seating capacity. So maybe they leave that 10% standees for the daily fluctuation and plan for 100%?

You also can't judge train capacity by a single coach. People have a weird way of filling up and overcrowding portions of the train but not others depending on where they boarded and where they are getting off. If you didn't walk through the entire train you can't accurately say what it's loading was. You can only say what the loading was on your coach. I had an old MBTA manager tell me once that after getting several consistent complaints about standees on an inbound train they added a coach to it. Shortly after they added the coach they got some feedback that basically said "thanks for adding the coach, but you put it on the wrong end of the train". Come to find out people were choosing to stand near the front of the train so they could be first off and down the platform on arrival in Boston. Adding the additional seats didn't change this behavior.

As for the consistently inconsistent sets, that's probably more a function of the daily operation than a true coach shortage. If a train gets delayed for whatever reason and it can't make it's scheduled trip they usually run whatever's available in it's place instead of delaying the train to wait for the proper sized train. They would rather run on-time but a bit cramped than run late or even cancel. If this happens in the evening it might bleed into the next morning because the wrong trains end up at the overnight layovers. So if the 6 w/2 set has a problem in Boston before it's last trip to Newburyport and they substitute a 6 w/1 set, then that's the set for the morning too. Of course if you had extra coaches and could standardize your sets then that change of train sets won't impact the seating.
  by RenegadeMonster
Oh for sure front loading is a thing. And the front of the trains are always packed / more standees. But the quiet car and Double Decker at the back of the train also are filling up to where the aisle is completely filled with standees from end to end.

Also, either issues are happening everyday, or the way trains turn the same set does not end up on the same train the next day more than 90% of the time. I keep track of the coach numbers. With this happening it's easily more than once a week an improper size set is in rotation.

I have complained to Keolis about capacity before and spoke to management. They are in agreement we need more coaches and should have been ordering them already just to cover coaches going out of service for midlife overhauls and coaches aging out.

It takes 5 years to take the first delivery of new coaches from when the order has been placed.

So if they ordered those additional coaches today, they wouldn't be in service until 6 years after the count numbers that showed for example, 97.3% capacity. It's probably safe to say with increasing ridership at the very minimum a single level coach would need to be replaced by a bi-level.

Also, when I talked to Keolis I got the impression in a few years time we were going to have a serious shortage of coaches if the MBTA did not start ordering more. Older coaches would be going out of service and even more coaches will need to go out of service for midlife overhauls. The K-car overhauls were already well underway when I talked to Keolis last summer, so I'm getting the impression they are talking about other coaches. Where do the 3xx, 6xx and 16xx stand currently in their life cycle? Do we expect them to be retired or be due for overhauls over the next 5 to 10 years? They are currently older than the k-cars currently getting a midlife overhaul. Also the MBBs would be my guess for what coaches will be retired in the next decade, but I could be wrong. According to Keolis, at a bare minimum they should be keeping up with replacing coaches going out of service with orders for new coaches. And that is not happening.