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Worcester wants more trains


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Worcester pushes for more trains to ease crowding

By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff | February 23, 2005

The mayor of Worcester wants to buy the commuter rail tracks running through his city, Framingham, and Boston, so the MBTA can increase the number of trains each day and lessen crowding that is regularly forcing passengers to stand.

Failing that, Mayor Timothy P. Murray argues in a 20-page report being released today, T and state officials should pressure CSX Corp. of Florida to allow more commuter train trips on the freight tracks CSX leases to the MBTA. He also suggested building a third track between Framingham and Boston, so freight trains can maneuver around commuter trains.

The Worcester line is the system's busiest, with 18,800 daily riders last year. Besides the Attleboro line, which runs on tracks controlled by Amtrak, the Framingham-Worcester line is the T's only commuter rail route operating on tracks not owned by the T.

"Every day from Framingham on east, the trains are packed," Murray said in a telephone interview yesterday. "This isn't just a city of Worcester issue. The level of ridership, especially at peak times, is now impacting the communities east of Worcester."

Gregory Brownstein of Framingham, who commutes on the line each day, said in an e-mail to the Globe about existing service: "I have thought that the MBTA is supposed to provide an incentive for commuters to take public transportation to ease traffic going into Boston. Instead, people are being packed into the commuter rail cars like sardines."

Both CSX and T officials say they are open to the idea of more frequent train service. But T officials say they cannot pay for it without state or federal assistance, and CSX officials say they cannot allow it without track improvements promised by the MBTA in their current contract.

CSX does not rule out selling the tracks. "If the state were to come to us with a proposal, we will entertain it," said spokeswoman Jane Covington.

T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that as an interim step, the authority wants to meet with CSX to ensure that commuter rail trains can maintain a 96 percent on-time performance rate, as guaranteed in their contract. He said MBTA officials also want better notice of repair work on the tracks.

Because of delays, the line's on-time performance dropped to 82 percent last month. "I can't sit here and tell you it all has to do with dispatching and freight," Pesaturo said. "Some of it is mechanical-related, because of the impact the winter weather has had on the vehicles."

Pesaturo also said the T plans to fine its commuter-rail operator, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., for failing to run the contractually required seven-car trains on the line last week.

Brownstein raised the issue in his e-mail, saying there have been only five or six cars in recent weeks, forcing people to stand.

The fine will be $1,000 per day. Pesaturo said the railroad company was short on cars because it was catching up on maintenance after last month's blizzard.

Trains have long run from Boston west to Albany, N.Y., the Midwest, and beyond, but commuter rail service from Worcester began in 1994 when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority opened a 23-mile, $120 million extension from Framingham. Initially there were three round trips daily and five in 1996. Today there are 10 daily round trips.

Murray favors 20 daily round trips, including more morning and evening express trains, and he blames CSX for blocking them through its ownership of the rails.

From The Boston Globe

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Yes, there is an increasing amount of people who live in the Worcester region and commute to Boston because housing prices here are relatively cheap. Currently, I pay $650 a month for a one bedroom with heat and hot water included in the rent.

The Fall River/New Bedford line would be a huge boost to the region, and I hope this happens.

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