Commuter rail riders ‘somewhat satisfied’

Keolis poll shows customer satisfaction rising

COMMUTER RAIL RIDERS overall are “somewhat satisfied” with the rail system’s performance, according to internal polls commissioned by Keolis Commuter Services that have shown steady but slow improvement over the last four years.

In a poll taken of 4,268 passengers riding trains between May 6 and May 12, the commuter rail system received an overall satisfaction rating of 5 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being extremely dissatisfied and 7 being extremely satisfied.

The 5 rating, meaning somewhat satisfied, was just below the 5.1 the system received a year ago and a whole point above the 4 the system received in a poll taken in spring 2015. A rating of 4 is neutral, meaning the respondent was neither satisfied or dissatisfied.

The overall satisfaction scores varied by line, with lines connecting to North Station generally doing better than lines leaving from South Station. Newburyport, at 5.5, received the highest ranking among trains leaving from North Station, while the Fitchburg and Rockport lines were the lowest at 4.8.  Trains leaving South Station had more variability, ranging from a high of 5.6 on the Fairmount line to 4.7 on the Providence line and 4.6 on the Franklin, Greenbush, and Plymouth/Kingston lines.

The poll, conducted by the firm SocialSphere, asked riders what they thought of Keolis employees (5.8), on-time performance (4.5) train experience (5.1), local station comfort (4.6), destination station comfort (4.9), on-board announcements (4.7), and cleanliness of seats, windows, and floors (4.8).  The one outlier in the rankings was toilet cleanliness, where riders gave Keolis a mildly unsatisfactory rating of 3.6.

Keolis’s performance has steadily improved over the last few years, with hefty investments in locomotives and other equipment. On-time performance (meaning arrival within 5 minutes of the scheduled time) has averaged 90 percent across all lines so far this year. On-time performance weighted by passenger traffic is not quite as good, hovering around 85 percent in recent months and falling as low as 72 percent in June.

The improved performance on commuter rail has coincided with evidence suggesting ridership and revenues are up, but an in-depth evaluation of operations has been hampered by the system’s inability to accurately count passengers. New passenger counters are expected to be installed on all commuter rail cars by the end of the year.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Tory Mazzola, director of public affairs for Keolis, said the poll results indicate the company is making progress that is being noticed by passengers.

“This progress follows investment by the MBTA, Keolis, and the Baker administration of hundreds of millions of dollars into additional conductors, more scheduled trains, infrastructure, new passenger communication tools, and reliability, which has improved,” he said in a statement. “The 10-year on-time average is 87 percent, while for 2016, 2017 and 2018 we delivered 89 percent. For 2019, year-to-date on-time performance is at 90 percent. We’d like to see these trends continue, and we will continue to invest to help achieve that.”