T notes: RIDE call center consolidation delayed again
Green Line trains speeding up slowly
THE MBTA ON MONDAY said it is once again postponing the consolidation of all of its paratransit call centers under one roof, saying the company in charge of the operation is still not ready to absorb the last facility.
The T has merged two call centers under a contract with Global Contract Services, which is now coordinating 4,000 of the 7,000 daily trips provided by the RIDE, the agency’s paratransit service. The last call center was supposed to merge with the others on July 1, but the consolidation was postponed until Oct. 1 and is now being delayed until “at least Nov. 1,” according to Ben Schutzman, director of innovation and the RIDE at the MBTA.
Schutzman said there was a falloff in service quality when the last call center was consolidated, and he said Global needs more time to make sure that doesn’t happen again. “Additional time will allow operations to improve and most importantly will keep our customers from experiencing possible service degradation,” said a presentation Schutzman delivered to the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board.
The T has been counting on savings from the call service consolidation to help rein in operating costs for paratransit service this year and avoid tapping a legislative appropriation. Those savings now seem unlikely.
Steven Poftak, a member of the control board, said the numbers aren’t great but not that bad. “There’s a bit of a disconnect there,” he said, adding later that the T may be using the wrong metrics to evaluate the performance of the call center.
State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the T has no plans to sever ties with Global. “At this point we’re continuing to work with the company because we think that’s the best way forward,” she said. “But we are going to hold them to what they promised.”
Green Line picking up steam slowly
The MBTA is investing a lot of time in trying to cut seconds off travel times on the Green Line.
Jeffrey Gonneville, the T’s deputy general manager, said Green Line trains in July arrived within 5 minutes of their scheduled arrival time 76 percent of the time overall and 74.6 percent of the time during peak travel periods. On-time performance during peak travel times averaged 71 percent a year ago.
The T has been trying to increase the speed of Green Line trains by consolidating some stops, coordinating traffic lights at intersections, and giving managers at Riverside and Lechmere the tools to monitor trains in real time and delay departures to avoid bottlenecks. Gonneville unveiled his initial plans for the Green Line in April and the control board urged him to move the project along as fast as possible.
Working with the city of Boston, Gonneville said five traffic lights have been programmed to give priority to Green Line trains if they are running behind schedule. He said that work has improved travel times per trip by 14 seconds. Gonneville said another 29 lights need to be programmed – 15 on the B Line, 9 on the C Line, and 5 on the E Line.
Aiello, Poftak disappointed in last-minute presentations
Two members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board said on Monday that they were extremely disappointed that MBTA officials dropped an enormous document on them dealing with racial disparities in service just before the information was due to be filed with the Federal Transit Administration.
“I was shocked last Sunday when I saw a document that looks like this,” said Joseph Aiello, the chairman of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, holding his hands about a foot apart.
The document, which examined T services and facilities for signs of disparate impact on minorities, found relatively few problems, according to presentations to the control board over the last two weeks. On Monday, citing data from early 2016, officials identified cleanliness problems at three commuter rail stations on the Fairmount Line, which services a predominantly minority section of Boston.
The report, presented by John Lozano, manager of federal programs, identified cleanliness problems at the Four Corners/Geneva, Uphams Corner, and Talbot Avenue stations. The report blamed vandalism for the problems at the first two stations, which are currently cleaned five days a week. The report said the Talbot Avenue station was being cleaned two days a week and would now be cleaned five days week.
Steven Poftak, a member of the control board, said he was shocked to discover that the report was due this Sunday. “I don’t think we have done as much due diligence as we should have,” he said.Odds & Ends
MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez read his report to the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday….Control board members are frustrated at delays in launching live-stream presentations of their meetings. Several of the control board members indicated they thought all that needed to be done was to flip a switch to turn on the service, but T officials said they are uncertain about the costs involved. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the live-stream recordings need to be stored in an accessible way to comply with the state’s Public Records Law.