MBTA Announces Fall/Winter Commuter Rail Schedule To Take Effect October 17

Below is a press release from the MBTA:

BOSTON, MA — The MBTA and Keolis Commuter Services (Keolis), the agency’s operating partner for Commuter Rail, today announced the new Fall/Winter schedule which will take effect on October 17th. All schedules will be available online at mbta.com/cr as of Monday October 3. The Fall/Winter schedule will continue the “clockface” service to offer more consistent service throughout the day. Other adjustments take into consideration increased ridership, fall/winter weather and the start of slippery rail season, recent infrastructure improvements, continuing the Foxboro pilot, and maintaining additional service at Forest Hills and Oak Grove stations.

“Commuter Rail ridership has been climbing monthly, and we’re excited to welcome back our customers who were using the system less frequently during the pandemic,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “With our partner Keolis, we developed a schedule that has become increasingly popular among commuters, and we’ll continue to plan for a future that includes increased capacity and additional service.”

“We are pleased to announce a Fall/Winter schedule that will safely and reliably provide more service, extending the Foxboro pilot and continuing the service improvements at Forest Hills and Oak Grove,” said Abdellah Chajai CEO of Keolis Commuter Services. “Typically twice a year we adjust the Commuter Rail schedule, which gives us the opportunity to think critically about the service we are providing. We know our passengers have options, and we are constantly striving to improve.”

The Fall/Winter schedule introduces schedule adjustments to accommodate the increase in ridership across the Commuter Rail system. While ridership has been steadily increasing since December of 2021, there has been a notable increase since Labor Day. Pre-pandemic, the Commuter Rail averaged over 119,000 passengers a day. For the week of September 12, 2022 Commuter Rail ridership reached over 77% of the pre-Covid average for the first time since early 2020. The MBTA Commuter Rail has fared better than, or is on par with, other U.S. rail systems in ridership return. Commuter Rail attributes the steady gains in ridership to the transition to a clockface schedule, which offers more service throughout the day, providing flexibility for a workforce with changing needs and increased options for passengers who are traveling beyond traditional work hours.

In the Fall/Winter schedule, Commuter Rail will maintain some of the additional service that was added at Forest Hills station and will provide regular service to Oak Grove, a station that was reopened during the Orange Line service disruption. Commuter Rail weekday ridership on average increased during the Orange Line service disruption by nearly 8,000 passengers at stations that serve both the Orange Line and the Commuter Rail: Forest Hills, Ruggles, Back Bay, Oak Grove and North Station. Across the network, the average weekday ridership of the Commuter Rail increased by nearly 20,000 riders during the Orange Line service disruption. Since the service disruption has ended, average weekday ridership has still increased by nearly 14,000 compared to the week of August 15th (the last week of ridership data before the start of the Orange Line service disruption). This increase in ridership is seen broadly across the network.

Additional schedule adjustments are required for operational changes related to weather considerations for this time of year. Each autumn, falling leaves on the tracks are crushed under train wheels leaving behind a slick film that can create slippery conditions. To ensure safety in these conditions, locomotive engineers accelerate more slowly and apply the brakes earlier.  As a result, minor schedule adjustments are needed to accommodate these operational requirements. To further mitigate “slippery rail”, Keolis takes three actions. First, Commuter Rail runs two wash trains, one on the North Side, and one on the South Side. These wash trains pressure wash rails as they travel over them, removing residue from fallen leaves. Second, Commuter Rail applies gel and sand solutions to the rails for improved traction. Third, Commuter Rail keeps track of problem areas where leaves and debris build up to stay ahead of any issues. Slippery rail season can last through early December.

Hourly service on weekdays is returning to the Framingham/Worcester line in the Fall/Winter schedule. Trains that were temporarily removed from the schedule to accommodate ongoing construction related to the Worcester Union Station Improvements project are back in the Fall/Winter schedule as construction has progressed to a point where these trains can be restored. This schedule also maintains the Heart to Hub express peak inbound and outbound trains connecting Worcester to Boston.

To improve operations, adjustments have been made to the Providence, Middleborough, and Kingston lines. To reduce layover time and idling at Providence and improve passenger experience, weekday inbound trains from Wickford Junction will depart later. Similarly, outbound trains to Wickford Junction will have reduced trip time due to reduced layover time at Providence. The first weekday outbound trains on the Middleborough and Kingston lines and the first weekend outbound train on the Kingston line have been removed from the schedule to improve operations.

The Fall/Winter schedule also takes into consideration planned construction on the Newburyport/Rockport and Fitchburg lines. Beginning on October 15th and running through December 18th buses will replace trains between Beverly and Rockport as part of planned construction for the ATC/PTC signal improvement project. Due to planned track improvements, there will be a temporary schedule in place for the Fitchburg Line beginning October 17th and running into mid-November. During this time inbound journeys will be extended by up to 15 minutes to accommodate single track operations.  Additionally, several inbound trains will depart Wachusett 8 minutes later. Passengers may view full schedules for each line at mbta.com/cr.

Passengers can stay connected with Commuter Rail by calling customer service at 617-222-3200, following @MBTA_CR on Twitter or signing up for T-Alerts at www.mbta.com/alerts.

Keolis Commuter Services operates and maintains the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s commuter rail system, the sixth largest commuter rail operation in North America. KCS is a subsidiary of Keolis North America (KNA), both headquartered in Boston, and employs approximately 2,500 people throughout the region. KCS and KNA are part of Keolis Group, an innovative global leader in transit services with more than a century of passenger transportation experience and operations in 16 countries.

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