• Will the Riders Come Back?

  • 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: sery2831, CRail

  by BandA
Adams_Umass_Boston wrote: Sat Apr 24, 2021 11:37 amExamples -
My mom is a state worker who would commute downtown. The state leased 8 floors of an office tower and they have given up the lease on 6 floors. They plan on combining everyone to just two floors with shared offices. She has been told she may be asked to come in once ever two months. So she has no intention to buy a monthly pass anymore and will be remote working for the foreseeable future. My sister whom is also a state worker out in the middle of the state was also told that she and everyone one else in her division will be [permanant] remote working and will need to clear out her desk.
State agencies/authorities/schools have been concentrating facilities in eastern Massachusetts, for political reasons and for the convenience of the upper management, despite lower costs in say Worcester or Springfield than in Boston. And what better way to promote a reverse-commute than for state agencies to locate facilities near the outbound end of Commuter Rail? The state has no business leasing 8 floors of first-class office space in downtown Boston or Cambridge as if they were a fortune-500 company.
[for colleges] Giving up expensive leases on building in Boston is a real advantage.
Do colleges in Boston lease buildings or buy them? Going forward, colleges will have to compete with online colleges in say England or Germany, and might as well hire the college professor working remote from Montana, Mumbai or Tegucigalpa for 1/3 the salary and you don't have to give her a no-interest mortgage or pay (him or) her ~$300K to teach one course. That and the low birthrate in the US and colleges some of that educational inflation is gonna get squeezed out. Might lead to more air travel as people might have to occasionally visit in-person.
  by Adams_Umass_Boston
"$300K to teach one course." That's all I will say about the statement above.
  by Arborwayfan
Yeah. I don't get a third of that to teach eight courses a year. From where I sit, the inflation in college costs seems to be in associate vice presidents for student success (a real title at one university, not mine, leading me to wonder if everyone else is supposed to make students fail) and the like -- people who make a lot more than I do and don't actually teach, advise, counsel, clean, repair...

And an awful lot of my students, the students who write the articles in the newspaper at the state university in the same town, my daughter away at college, etc., etc., are making quite a few noises about how much they would prefer to be fully in-person again instead of partly online. True, there are also students who prefer online courses, but I doubt the campuses will empty out any time soon.

But the idea of putting offices and campuses at the outer ends of commuter rail lines, or in cheap places along the way, could make sense -- if there are also good circumferential transit options so that people who used to take a train in on a different line can now take a bus around to the new location.
  by Lincoln78
Fitchburg line was closed for two months ending May 3 for signal upgrades. Drove by the Concord station Tuesday around 4:30 PM. The commuter lot was almost empty.

The 126/Walden lights on Route 2 were backed up to Crosby's Corner, and the rotary looked like it did on a typical day pre-Covid.

Haven't seen a train, but I doubt they are carrying many people. The express that used to depart North Station at 4:30 was always full. It's cute that they at doing hourly trains - I think I would be depressed if I saw the ridership for the off-peak times. Are they sharing?
Last edited by CRail on Wed May 19, 2021 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total. Reason: Politically motivated comment removed.
  by Trinnau
The GM's update at this past Monday's board meeting shows a slight ridership uptick for the April 5th schedule, from about 10% to about 15% of pre-COVID numbers. Not a lot to show for all the service they are running and my guess is that's just because the frequency has brought some commuters back in the regular commuting times. I think we'll learn more in the fall with schools fully back in session and the summer vacation season over. I know plenty of people who are still working at home at least through the summer.
  by johnpbarlow
FWIW, I was talking to a LIRR commuter on Wednesday and he said the LIRR trains he commuted on to/from NYC was pretty empty. Attached is the current daily LIRR ridership summary.
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  by Disney Guy
So long as we have 6 foot or even go to 3 foot social distancing, it won't take that many riders coming back to require trains running at 2019 lengths and headways.

I would expect that, in a few years, companies will create additional positions with higher salaries that require working at the office and, although many current remote workers would not be interested, anyone could apply for those positions.

It still surprises me that General Electric seriously considered the Seaport for a major headquarters given the cumbersome public transportation options.
johnpbarlow wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 5:13 am FWIW, I was talking to a LIRR commuter on Wednesday and he said the LIRR trains he commuted on to/from NYC was pretty empty. Attached is the current daily LIRR ridership summary.
JB and Everyone:
Interesting mention about LIRR ridership - which had dropped to around 25 percent of 2019 normal levels.
There was a huge mistake made in March - The LIRR implemented timetables effective Monday March 9 that
was equivalent in service to the 2020 Essential Service Schedules that were in effect during the height of the
pandemic problem back in 2020 causing a few peak trains to run SRO - with the backlash over those problems
the LIRR re-implemented timetables issued January 25 on March 29 - that had some service cuts implemented
in comparison to the previous schedule from fall 2020.

The next change will be on June 7 - which will be the LIRR Summer 2021 schedules. It will be interesting to
note service levels to the Montauk Branch in particular. Riders are returning to LIRR trains gradually...

Another interesting situation could be the gasoline supply problem resulting from the pipeline hacking
if it does drive prices high or create temporary spot shortages - will that be an incentive to return to rail?

JB: What LIRR Branch does the commuter you talked to ride on?
Which MBTA Commuter Rail line has the strongest and weakest ridership in the aftermath of the pandemic?

  by BandA
Somebody is going to be sitting in all the downtown & cambridge office space. It's not going to be abandoned long-term like a shopping mall or a mill or the first 10 years of the Empire State Building. But they should be satisfied with 42% by end-of-year!
  by Charliemta
charding wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 9:06 am https://www.washingtonpost.com/transpor ... it-future/ -- in today’s WashPost - Metro’s estimate...doesn’t bode well for Metro commuters - may be the same all around the country like the MBTA - the new normal...
DC has mostly Government employees who are still remote working from home due to their offices not reopening yet. On the other had, Boston has less Government employees and more private sector employees, so hopefully Boston will reopen its offices sooner, which I think has already been happening to an extent.
  by dieciduej
Maybe yes, maybe no!

I have two friends that work in the downtown Boston and South Station areas and their companies have moved their respective desks, computers and other office needs to their homes. And have told them they are WFH for the foreseeable future. These offices are satellites of major companies and have let the leases expire on their spaces. So it may boil down to a cost savings on renting square footage, parking and or MBTA pass programs for the moment. But it will come back I believe in a year or two.
  by eolesen
I'd think that private companies are far more likely to be staying with remote work. Most companies who went to remote with little notice have now had a full year of experience to look back on, and the costs for the technology upgrades to cope with what was temporary have turned out to be a fraction of what companies were paying for real estate, cleaning, utilities, security, etc. not to mention the cost of reconfiguring space to make social distancing easier.

I've mentioned it elsewhere, but 80% of our IT and general office staff at my downtown Chicago based company are now defined as "hybrid" which means mostly remote and only in the office when necessary. 10% are fully remote, 10% are mandated in-office because of the functions they perform. We've returned several floors in our high-rise office and will likely terminate leases in another building where we'd subleased some overflow space. Because only about 25% of our people are expected to be in the office on any given day, reconfiguring space for social distancing probably won't even be necessary.

Take that across the spectrum of downtown regional offices or corporate headquarters, and that's going to be a huge downsizing in terms of real estate needed and demand for transit services. Compounding the matter is someone who only goes into the office once a week or a couple times a month won't be buying a monthly pass. That's going to be a huge hit to farebox recovery rates.