T notes: Commuter ridership remains something of a mystery
Kornegay at MassHousing named to control board
MBTA OFFICIALS on Monday said commuter rail ridership increased 21.2 percent between 2012 and 2018, but it was unclear how big of a deal the increase was because conductor counts for 2018 showed almost identical trip levels.
A new, rigorous study conducted by the Central Transportation Planning Office indicated the number of daily commuter rail trips increased from 104,574 in 2012 to 126,754 in 2018, a gain of 21.2 percent. The increase was higher (28.3 percent) on the south side of the commuter rail system than it was on the north side (9.2 percent).
The numbers, first reported by CommonWealth, seemed to confirm what commuter rail passengers are observing in standing-room-only coaches at rush hour.
But counts by conductors, which are widely believed to be less reliable because conductors have many more duties to perform, showed a slightly different phenomenon. The conductor counts showed about the same level of traffic for 2018, but the numbers were down from where they were in 2012. In other words, one study showed passenger trips increasing while the other showed passenger trips decreasing, even though they both ended up in roughly the same spot.
In the planning office study, every commuter rail line showed an increase in trips. The Providence-Stoughton line, which handled 25,728 trips in 2018, was up nearly 20 percent. The Worcester line handled 18,636 trips, an increase of nearly 46 percent. Every line on the south side of the system showed double-digit growth on a percentage basis. Growth was more sluggish on the north side of the system. The Fitchburg line grew 17 percent, but other lines were in single digits, with the Haverhill line up just under 2 percent.
According to the planning office report, the overwhelming number of trips were made at peak times and originated or ended at stations in Boston. One exception to that trend was the Fitchburg line, where 34 percent of inbound trips ended at Porter, where a connection to the Red Line was available. Of outbound trips on the Fitchburg line, 27 percent originated at Porter.
Brian Shortsleeve, a member of the control board, urged T officials to correlate the new ridership data with fare collection information to see how many fares are not being collected, a frequent complaint of T riders. Other members of the control board urged more action on fare collection efforts, particularly the “rings of steel” officials had been talking about installing at Back Bay, South, and North Stations to check tickets before passengers board.
“Lots of talk, little action,” said control board member Brian Lang.
Kornegay named to control board
Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Chrystal Kornegay, the head of the quasi-public authority MassHousing, to the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on Friday and she attended her first meeting on Monday.
Kornegay is close with Baker, whom she met while he was campaigning for governor in 2014 and she was running a neighborhood housing program called Urban Edge. The two hit it off and Baker brought her into his administration under Jay Ash, the secretary of housing and economic development. He tapped her as executive director of MassHousing in January 2018.
Who will enforce fare compliance?
Transit advocates have been pressing the Fiscal and Management Control Board to find someone other than T police officers to enforce fare compliance once the transit authority moves to a cashless fare system in 2021 – and it looks like they are making some progress.Some transit advocates have been urging the control board to back away from T police officers for fare compliance to avoid confrontations from escalating on board Green Line trains and other vehicles.
T officials and members of the control board said on Monday they are looking into the issue and exploring their options. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said legislative authorization may be needed to shift away from T police officers.