Starts & Stops

Another commuter rail delay: new schedules pushed back

The new schedules are supposed to be a big deal for commuters and the transit agency alike.
The new schedules are supposed to be a big deal for commuters and the transit agency alike. Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Remember those new commuter rail schedules that were supposed to cut down on delayed trains?

They’re being delayed.

MBTA officials said they would unveil new commuter rail schedules by the end of October, so that riders would have plenty of notice to adjust to the new times. The MBTA planned to start operating trains on the new schedules around Nov. 30.

But officials said last week that they are falling behind on that timeline: The new schedules for the trains that leave North Station will be available in the next two weeks, then take effect in mid-December. The schedules for trains that leave South Station will now be published in the spring.


Leslie Aun, a Keolis spokeswoman, declined to comment on the delay of the new schedules.

Michael Verseckes, a state transportation department spokesman, said they are taking more time to “make certain the efficiencies identified are fully incorporated” into the schedules.

The new schedules are supposed to be a big deal for commuters and the transit agency alike. In October, the agency said it was tackling the built-in flaws in the schedule that make it nearly impossible for some of the MBTA’s commuter rail trains to run on time.

Those flaws include five trains that are supposed to pass on four tracks over the Charles River within a few minutes of one another, and the two trains that sometimes arrive at the same time to go through a single-track tunnel in Salem. On one line, a train spends more than 40 minutes going backward and idling before heading into Boston.

Officials said the changes would prevent cascading delays. John D. Ray, the MBTA assistant general manger for commuter rail, said last month that the current schedules allow the trains to run on time only if there are perfect conditions — and we all know Boston winters can make life pretty imperfect.


MassDOT likes Lyft

Governor Charlie Baker has proposed legislation to legitimize ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft, so it’s no secret that his administration supports such businesses.

Now, the administration has taken another big step in vouching for ride-hailing companies: Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack is part of a campaign that encourages commuters to take Lyft to public transit stations.

The two-month ad campaign, “Friends with Transit,” has launched in Boston and four other cities: New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Emily Castor, Lyft’s director of transportation policy, said it was an obvious choice for the company after it looked at where its riders were heading.

“We’ve seen such a strong inclination to get to and from public transit,” Castor said. “It’s something that helps Lyft and helps public transit.”

In Boston, about 33 percent of rides either start or end within a 500-foot radius of a public transit station, according to the company’s data. The campaign also boasts that South Station, Boston’s biggest transit hub, is the second most popular destination for Lyft riders in the city.

The campaign means you’ll see more ads for Lyft around public transit stations. And Pollack is included in a testimonial on the campaign’s website, saying the state transportation department is dedicated to promoting as many ways to get around as possible.

“Ride-sharing provides our customers with an additional way to make connections between our public transit facilities and their destinations, and challenges all of us to embrace innovation and new ways of traveling,” she says.


Pollack is joined by other public transit bigwigs, such as Arthur L. Guzzetti, the vice president of policy at the American Public Transportation Association, and executives from the Chicago Regional Transportation Authority, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

The campaign follows a shift across the country, in which governments are acknowledging ride-hailing app companies as a new and growing industry. Castor says officials in more than half the states in the country have created laws or regulations that allow companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate.

Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.