The pandemic has obliterated the traditional morning and afternoon rush hours, so to boost commuter rail ridership — and to lure riders back to the rail system — operator Keolis is radically changing train schedules as of Monday.
It may be hard to imagine, given all the talk about buses and subway service cuts, but the pandemic has impacted commuter rail more than any other transit mode in the MBTA system. Passenger traffic dropped quickly last March to only 10-12% of its pre-pandemic levels, and is still only back to around 15%.
The spring 2021 schedule eliminates extra rush-hour trains but provides more trains during the middle of day at regular one-hour intervals and more frequently on the busiest lines. For example, trains on the Worcester Line will depart Worcester Station every hour on the hour from 5 a.m. through 7 p.m. with additional trains outside of those times. Similarly, the Newburyport/Rockport Lines will offer train service between Beverly and North Station every 30 minutes nearly all day. Service on the Fairmount Line will be every 45 minutes.
“This schedule change establishes a service pattern we believe will better match the current and future needs of our passengers," said David Scorey, CEO and General Manager of Keolis. "The new spring 2021 schedule provides options that our passengers have requested.”
Although the number of trains being run is double what it was this winter, weekend train service that was cut from 7 of 12 Keolis’ lines in January will not be immediately restored. That would require a vote by the T’s Fiscal Advisory Board, which is scheduled to meet next week.
The new schedule can be found at https://www.mbta.com/schedules/commuter-rail.