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Tuesday
May102016

Commuter Rail Changes for May 23rd - Southside edition

Following our review of Northside (North Station) changes a couple weeks ago,* here's a quick summary of the impacts for Southside (South Station) based commuter rail riders starting May 23rd.  As we stated before, read your schedule carefully. These are the first "almost system-wide" changes in many, many years, and for some lines, nearly all train times have changed.  If one or two of your regular trains are still running on the same schedule, don't assume that holds true all day!

The one caveat is for Old Colony (Greenbush, Kingston/Plymouth, and Middelborough/Lakeville) commuters - your schedules are not changing.  Also, there are some changes to weekend services, so do check those if you travel on Saturday or Sunday. We'll just focus on weekday changes here.  All of the new schedules are available at the MBTA's website. You can also read about what your fellow commuters asked for in the new schedules here.


The biggest schedule change news has centered around the Worcester Line and the new "HeartToHub" or "Bullet" train - the new non-stop Worcester super-express.  As a result of adding this round trip, as well as several ongoing construction projects, times across this line will change.  Some key things to watch for:

  • Stations between Worcester and Framingham lose one mornin inbound rush hour train as a result of the new schedule.  Late morning commuters from Worcester get the Bullet, departing at 8:05 AM. The consolidation comes early, with the 5:45 AM local from Worcester combined with the 6:05 AM express.  (Note: train #582 changes from a Worcester express to a Framingham local - don't look for it in Worcester!)
  • The new schedule has more rush hour Framingham locals than the current scehdule.
  • Slightly fewer midday outbound trains.
  • Evening schedules are fairly comporable to current, but times are different.
  • The return "Bullet" or "HeartToHub" super-express departs South Station at 7:35 PM to return to Worcester.

    If you're a regular on the Worcester Line, be sure to follow Dave's Framingham-Worcester Line blog for the latest news on your very busy commuter rail line.

Needham

  • Mostly just time adjustments on this line - no major changes to service levels during rush hour or midday service periods.
  • Evening service (after the PM rush hour) still sees four trains, but they are more widely spaced.
  • The last weeknight train now leaves South Station at 11:20 PM (versus 10:30 PM currently).

Franklin

  • Morning inbound service very similiar to current.
  • During the evening rush hour, some changes to times of Walpole, Norwood locals - check the departures carefully! Norwood Central local now departs South Station at 4:15 PM, Walpole local leaves at 5:03 PM.
  • Train times changed towards the end of the evening rush hour - new service gap from 5:45 to 6:45 PM outbound due to changed departure times from South Station.
  • One additional midday outbound train versus the current schedule.

Fairmont

  • Most all times change, but rush hour service levels the same (five AM inbound, five PM outbounds).
  • Essentially hourly service during midday.
  • Evening outbounds more evenly spaced between 7:00 and 11:00 PM, with new later evening service departing South Station at 10:00 & 11:00 PM.

Providence/Stoughton

After much public feedback, a number of the most critical issues were addressed on this line. It appears that the biggest concerns for the Providence line were addressed, but Stoughton riders should note that there's a lot of changes on the branch.

  • Ruggles service is kept at comparable levels to current schedules for both morning and evening rush hours.
  • Morning inbound train #842 now originates at Attleboro rather than Mansfield.
  • Morning rush hour service from Stoughton slightly better with 9:40 AM inbound moved up to 9:15 AM.
  • Afternoon/evening Stoughton outbound service sees substantial changes, with more early afternoon options, but fewer trains during the peak of rush hour.
  • Late evening service to Stoughton sees same number of trains, but last train is 20 mintues earlier (leaves South Station at 10:40 PM).

As we cautioned with the Northside schedules, do take a careful look at your favorite station(s) for how these changes will impact your daily commute. 

Look for new paper schedules at the downtown stations starting next week!

*Yes, we're a little late...but we won't blame signal problems!

Monday
May092016

Bike Challenge Cometh

It's only a few days until Bike Week! It's not too late to sign up for the MassCommute Bicycle Challenge, a friendly competition to encourage people across the area to try bicycling for regular transportation, especially as part of your commute. Try a trip next week (or log the trips you already make) and get in the running to win some prizes. 

If you participated last year, there is no need to register again, just log in! If not, register here. Last year, cyclists across Massachusetts logged nearly 150,000 miles. Can we make 200,000 this year? Maybe, if you sign up and bike a lot!

We'll also have our Bike Breakfasts. Take a moment during your commute to have a coffee, a bite to eat and chat with your fellow bike commuters and TMA staff (one in the same; the TMA has a 67% bike to work mode share). Bike breakfasts will be held at the following times and locations:

 

Monday May 16 7:30-9:30
University Park 
Sidney St. behind Fire Station off of Mass Ave
Sponsored by Forest City

Tuesday May 17 7:30-9:30 
Minuteman Bikeway at Alewife Station
Sponsored by Charles River TMA

Thursday May 19 7:30-9:30
150 Broadway
Broadway inbound between Galileo and Ames
Sponsored by Boston Properties

Not sure if you're ready to bike? Check out our free webinar this Thursday, with tips on bike commuting. 

Finally, make sure you come to the Bike Bash on June 1 from 5:30 to 7:30. We're back at Flat Top Johnny's, so it's super-convenient to Kendall, and we're glad that FTJ's is back open after water damage from a fire last fall. We'll see you there!


Friday
Apr222016

New Commuter Rail Schedules - What's changing out of North Station?

Last week, the MBTA announced the final commuter rail schedules for all lines, which will take effect on May 23, 2016.  For some lines, these are the first wholesale changes in anywhere from 10 to 30 years! Following a first-ever public comment process, the T has issued final versions which incorporate many of the most recommended changes. To learn more about what your fellow riders asked for, see the T's report on the comment process.  And you can get a look at all of the new schedules here.

Today we'll take a look at the North Station ("Northside") lines - Rockport, Newburyport, Haverhill, Lowell and Fitchburg. These lines serve many Cambridge commuters, many of whom use EZRide Shuttle to connect to their workplace. Next week we'll take a look at the changes for the Southside.

These changes are pretty extensive, with most trains operating at different times. The main holdovers are the peak-hour Haverhill schedules (where major changes are awaiting the completion of major track and bridge projects between Andover and Haverhill) and the mid-day off-peak schedules on the Lowell Line, which keeps hourly service.

In general, the new schedules contain fewer "short turn" locals (trains only running to mid-point stations like Beverly, Reading, or Littleton), with the vast majority running through to the outer terminals. This results in some very different train times and frequencies at some stations in zones 1-3.

Note: As we proceed, we'll refer to rush hour trains (morning inbound, evening outbound) as "peak-hour" and all other trains as "off-peak." Peak-hour trains are the ones marked in the yellowed shaded areas on the new schedules.

Here's the major changes for each line. As these are only highlights, we recommend all riders closely look at the new times for their station(s)!

Newburyport/Rockport Lines

  • Both Newburyport and Rockport will see one additional peak-hour, peak-direction train, going from the current four to five trains each.
  • Newburyport will see express trains for the first time - morning inbound trains #152 and #160, and evening outbound train #167 will now skip some inner-zone stops.
  • There will be fewer Beverly local trains, which combined with the new express service to Newburyport, will result in very different train times at inner stations (especially Swampscott, Lynn and Chelsea). Riders at these inner stations should carefully review how the schedules will impact their commutes.
  • Newburyport also gains a new late-evening (12:15 AM) train running through from North Station to Newburyport. All late-evening trains are through to Rockport or Newburyport - no connecting shuttle trains from Salem or Beverly with the new schedule.
  • In general, most all off-peak train times and frequencies have changed.

Haverhill Line

 

  • As noted, the peak-hour schedules don't see many changes on the Haverhill Line. According to the T, they are waiting for the completion of the various capacity improvements* (double-tracking, rail replacement, and the rehab of the Merrimack River Bridge in Haverhill) before making substantial peak-hour changes. The line from Andover to Haverhill carries MBTA commuter trains, Amtrak Downeaster trains, and also Pan Am Railways freights, making it possibly the busiest single-track railroad in New England right now.
  • The majority of changes to peak-hour trains involve only adjustments of 5-15 minutes. Key changes include morning inbound #208 (7:35 AM from Haverhill) now running express from Ballardvale, while afternoon outbound train #213 (4:30 PM from North Station) becomes a full local (adding stops at Wyoming and Greenwood).
  • Most importantly, some additions were made in response to customer feedback. Train #221 (the 6:55 PM outbound via the Lowell Line) has been retained, as well as the 7:20 PM Reading local. There's also a new 7:40 PM outbound Haverhill train, which helps reduce the old gap in service for Merrimack Valley riders after rush hour. (Well, there's still a gap - it's just pushed back to 7:40-9:20 PM!)
  • Off-peak, note that there are no more Reading locals mid-days or evenings - all trains go through to Haverhill. This will mean there are fewer total trains to Reading/Wakefield/Melrose, though in most cases they are more evenly spaced. Most (if not all) off-peak train times have changed.

*While we don't have anything in writing, the T has stated that there will be substantial efforts made to advance these projects during the 2016 construction season.

 

Lowell Line

  • As with other lines, most of the "short-turn" trains are now off the schedule - only one Anderson/Woburn local remains in morning and evening. In their place, there will be more trains running all the way to Lowell (two more in the morning, one more at night).
  • New train #325 will fill the one-hour gap for early afternoon commuters, leaving North Station at 3:40 PM.  Riders departing just after 4:00 PM should also watch for the new train #327, which will run express to Lowell at 4:10 PM. Riders for West Medford, Wedgemere and Winchester will need to use train #393, departing North Station at 4:20 PM.
  • Except for train #221 (leaving North Station at 6:55 PM for Haverhill via Anderson/Woburn) no Haverhill Line trains will make stops on the Lowell Line.
  • Off-peak, service remains  very good, with hourly service mid-days in both directions. After the evening rush hour, service runs about every 70 minutes through the evening.

Fitchburg Line

 

  • The Fitchburg Line, which is benefitting from a major overhaul and higher running speeds, sees substantial changes. Most trains show faster running times, with the "super express" (trains #404 and #417) shedding about 9-10 minutes off their current schedules.
  • As with other lines, there will be only one Littleton/495 local during each rush hour. In its place, one additional peak-hour train will run to/from Fitchburg.
  • Morning inbound departures from Fitchburg will now run earlier (train #400 arrives North Station at 6:27 AM) and later (train #410 now leaves Fitchburg at 8:08 AM for later commuters).
  • In the evening, the current uneven departure times are addressed with all-stops Fitchburg locals leaving North Station at 5:55, 6:25 and 7:15 PM. There's still a gap from 7:15 to 8:45 PM, but the new train #427 at 7:15 should help commuters who work later into the evening.
  • Off-peak, the long afternoon gap without Fitchburg goes away with more frequent options serving all stations.
  • The catch? Concord, Lincoln and Weston stops will see fewer peak-hour trains under this schedule. They will lose one morning inbound, but retain roughly similar levels in the afternoon (though some of these run very early or late in the afternoon rush hour).

Impact on EZRide Shuttle

Overall, these new schedules should offer most commuters some improvement over their current service. While a few stations do lose some peak-hour service, many of the most uneven patterns from the old schedules are reduced or eliminated.

At CRTMA, we're eager to see if the new schedules help to spread commuters out more, now that there are more options on most lines. Unlike a train's coaches, it's hard for us to "add another bus" to a busy trip - we're currently operating as many buses as we have funding to run. We will examine earlier afternoon service to meet the new 3:40 PM Lowell and 3:37 PM Rockport trains, although this will not be possible right away for May 23rd.

As these schedules are the result of a first-ever public feedback process, we're interested to hear what commuters think of them. Drop us a line at info@charlesrivertma.org or tweet us (@charlesrivertma) to let us know how they'll impact your commute.

Next week we'll take a look at the Southside lines.

(Posted 4/22/2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newburyport also gains a new late-evening (12:15 AM) train running through from North Station to Newburyport. All late-evening trains are through to Rockport or Newburyport - no connecting shuttle trains from Salem or Beverly with the new schedule.

Monday
Mar282016

Triple Axel! Double Lutz! Triple Salchow … and Probably Shuttle Delays

The World Figure Skating Championships are in town at the TD Garden this week. If you're a fan of toe loops and Salchows, then it's very exciting! But if it's a quick ride to North Station you desire, well, this may not be your week, especially since some events start or end right in the middle of rush hour.

According to the schedule, events will start at the following times:

Monday and Tuesday: Practices all day. Traffic may be periodically heavy but won't have any specific start or end times.

Wednesday: 10:45-3:15: Short Dance. 5:00 Opening ceremonies with the Men's Short Program taking place at 6:15. We expect heavy traffic accessing the TD Garden area at this time

Thursday: 12:10 Ladies Short Program. There may be heavy traffic when this lets out some time late afternoon. Free dance at 7:30 may affect late arrivals.

Friday: Pairs short program 1:15-4:53. This may cause disruptions when crowds let out around 5:00. Men's Free Skate begins at 6:45, which may cause traffic hangups between 6:00 and 7:00

Please bear this in mind, especially Wednesday and Friday evenings, and leave a few extra minutes getting to your train at North Station.

Thursday
Mar242016

April 4: EZRide Route Changes in Tech Square area

EZRide Shuttle is about to make one of its first permanent route changes in several years on April 4th. While we've had numerous construction detours, we have not made any changes to our route since 2010! 

What's changing?

We are moving the portion of our route which goes around (in the morning) and through (in the evening) Tech Square. This "joggle" currently brings buses up to Broadway while travelling between Kendall Square and Mass. Ave. We will realign the route to keep buses on Main Street, and two stops in each direction will be combined into one stop on Main Street.

Which routes are impacted?

Only the Morning Outbound and Evening Inbound routes (the "commuter routes") are affected by this change. There are no changes to routes which serve MIT Students (Morning Inbound, Midday Shuttle, and Evening Outbound).

Which stops are being removed, and where will I catch the shuttle now?

There will be two current shuttle stop locations removed in each direction, replaced with one new stop. The stops to be removed from the Morning Outbound are:

  • Broadway/Hampshire St. (stop L on our current maps)
  • Portland St. - 600 Tech Sq. (stop M on our current maps)

Two stops will be removed from the Evening Inbound route, both located within Tech Square:

  • 200 Tech Square (stop Y on our current maps)
  • Broadway/Hampshire - 555 Tech Square (stop Z on our current maps)

Replacing these stops are inbound and outbound stops on Main Street in front of Tech Square. These stops are labeled "Stop L" on the new route maps.  Here's the specific locations:

  • Outbound: On Main Street in front of 500 Tech Square, directly in front of Area 4 restaurant, on the westbound side of Main Street.
  • Inbound: On Main Street outside the MIT Brain & Cognitive Sciences building (opposite the Tech Square driveway).

Note: Stop letter identifications on the new maps below may not match existing stops. Please see the new schedule PDF here for updated route map and stop information.

Morning route:
 

Evening route:

Full PDF route maps are available here

EZRide customers working at Draper Lab, Amgen or parts of Technology Square may wish to use the Broadway/Galileo stop (Stop H on maps) as a replacement for the Broadway/Hampshire stop. These stops are outside 150 Broadway (outbound) and 145 Broadway (inbound).  The Sixth Street stop (Stop G) on Binney Street may also be useful for some shuttle passengers.

Is the schedule changing?

No, at this time we are not making any schedule changes. While we anticipate some time savings over the route, we are also at the start of another high-intensity construction season. We will monitor the operation of shuttles during the first few weeks/months to evaluate whether schedule adjustments are needed. Any time savings will allow us to have more "service recovery time" to keep the next trips on schedule.

You can view the updated schedule and map here.

As always, NextBus predictions will be available to help you plan your commute with real-time arrival information.

Why is this change being made?

As our service area has grown more congested, removing the "joggle" in the route through or around Tech Square is expected to save 2-5 minutes of running time on each shuttle trip; outbound from Kendall Square, the route will go from five traffic lights to two. While this will increase the walk to shuttle stops for some customers, many Tech Square area shuttle customers already walk to the Broadway/Galileo stop for faster service to/from North Station. Removing unnecessary twists and turns in the route will result in faster, more reliable service for all customers. It will also give us a bit more leeway to deal with construction delays, which we anticipate at times for the next few years on parts of the route.

Where can I view new route maps?

The new route maps are available here, as well as the new schedule brochure. Paper schedules will be available onboard buses close to the April 4th start date. Charles River TMA can also supply larger quantities to member businesses and institutions - contact us for details.

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