Dear Senator Eldridge,
Thank you for your inquiry regarding your constituents reporting to you that they are seeing fewer Keolis staff and crowded trains on the Fitchburg and Framingham/Worcester lines.
Regarding staffing, ridership increases along with the new schedules have put additional demands on the available staff. Keolis has another batch of Assistant Conductors who will be ready for service in the middle of August, in time for the return of the heavier fall ridership season. Since Keolis has taken over our contract they have hired over 100 new employees for train service, so they have been actively addressing the staffing need.
As for crowded trains, all of our trains are planned to run with enough seats for every passenger, but it is an inexact science. While most commuters stick to their same train, there are occasionally fluctuations that cause small spikes and valleys. We plan to run our trains full, we do not have the equipment to run excess capacity on most of our rush hour trains, so if a small spike occurs it can crowd a train on a particular day. But that’s why our Service Delivery Policy calls for 110% capacity in the peak – so we can absorb a small increase while planning seats for 100%.
There are other factors in play which will sometimes prevent us from using the assigned equipment, and we utilize a smaller train set rather than cancel it. Additionally, service disruptions can result in a delayed train picking up passengers who intend to take a following train – effectively picking up two train’s worth of people with one train and putting the train set well over capacity. These trains are certainly overcrowded.
This week there have been issues three mornings on the Worcester Line (mechanical failure, freight train breakdown and a smaller train) and one morning on the Fitchburg Line (mechanical breakdown) which would have caused such situations. Whenever these situations occur we receive a spike in complaints, and always correspond to a service abnormality of some kind.