MBTA to redo commuter rail schedules
Seeking to meet its new goal of operating at least 92 percent of its trains on time, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s commuter rail operator will change its schedules this fall under a new agreement.
The company will reschedule its trains and release new timetables in an attempt to provide better service to customers, according to Mac Daniel, a spokesman for Keolis Commuter Services.
“I think we’re creating these new schedules with the passengers first and foremost in our minds,” he said.
Allowing Keolis to alter its schedules could significantly help the company’s on-time rate: The new schedules could better reflect the current performance of the trains, which should help provide more accurate timetables for customers.
Keolis wants to unveil new commuter rail schedules by Nov. 1, according to Daniel. He said all lines probably would get new schedules, but he did not yet know how drastic the changes will be.
“It’s still a work in progress, and a lot of it has to be approved by the T,” Daniel said.
Last week’s agreement stipulates that the schedule change proposals be completed by Sept. 30 for lines that use North Station. Officials are expected to do the same for lines that use South Station by Oct. 15.
Though Keolis officials say they are aiming for Nov. 1, the agreement says Keolis will have until December to roll out the new timetables.
Last week, T officials presented a five-month plan to improve commuter rail service to the fiscal and management control board, a newly created entity that now oversees the MBTA. Keolis had come under fire this winter after a series of snowstorms battered the regional transportation system, and commuters have continued to deal with delays.
For months, the T and Keolis have discussed ways to improve service. But last week’s agreement laid out deadlines and provided concrete numbers for some of those strategies. On Monday, the T announced the board officially endorsed the plan.
“I’m pleased that Keolis has agreed in writing to work harder to achieve our shared goal of providing the level of service Commuter Rail customers expect and deserve,” Stephanie Pollack, the state transportation secretary, said in a prepared statement.
Keolis is already fined for every late train, and other aspects of subpar service. But T officials have not specified what will happen if Keolis does not meet the additional goals set forth in the agreement last week.
In response to a question about potential failure to live up to the new agreement, Joe Pesaturo, a T spokesman, said by e-mail, “Working closely with KCS, the MBTA will make sure the plan is fully implemented.”
Under the agreement, Keolis must also have 65 working locomotives, as well as two more in reserve, to serve customers on a daily basis, and have a new “life cycle maintenance” plan.
The agreement also aims to address inadequate fare collection, a frequent complaint about Keolis and the previous company that ran the commuter rail.
In July, the T revealed it would allow Keolis to spend the money it would have paid in fines for subpar service to hire more employees, including fare collectors. The T will also use “mystery shoppers” — employees whose job is to make sure Keolis fare collectors are doing their jobs.
The agreement between Keolis and the T stipulates that those additional employees be trained and put to work no later than Oct. 19.