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Fall 2020 Commuter Rail Schedule Changes Take Effect November 2

Posted on September 14, 2020

New schedules include levelling out service throughout the day, eliminating gaps in mid-day service, providing more options to riders that promote social distancing, reintroducing Express trains.

Foxboro pilot will be temporarily suspended and restarted in spring 2021.

Fairmount pilot will be expanded with 2 additional trips.

The MBTA today announced upcoming schedule changes coming to the Commuter Rail network this fall effective Monday, November 2. These updates are being made in response to changing ridership patterns on the Commuter Rail as a result of the pandemic.

“These upcoming schedule changes for the Commuter Rail aim to more evenly distribute service, and are being made in response to changing ridership patterns, including when and how commuter riders travel as many work locations in downtown Boston continue to be closed,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “We continue to prioritize the safety of our riders and workforce through enhanced safety and disinfecting protocols, and requiring face coverings within the system. I want to also note my continued appreciation to our essential frontline workforce, who come to work every day through the pandemic in order to provide transit services to those who need it most.”

Commuter Rail service was initially reduced in March 2020. In June 2020, about 85 percent of normal, pre-pandemic Commuter Rail service resumed. Commuter Rail schedules have historically been focused on peak period ridership patterns. The most recent data indicates that around 7 percent of morning peak ridership has returned while all-day ridership is at about 11 percent. Most downtown Boston work locations currently remain closed. 

Based on this data and the understanding that travel patterns are changing as employers explore flexible work schedules and telework, the goal of these upcoming Commuter Rail schedule changes is to accommodate traditional ridership while also adapting service where commutes have changed (to accommodate new staggered work start times, for example) and where the Commuter Rail may become a new option for some customers. These schedules aim to level out service consistently over the course of the day and eliminate gaps in mid-day service, providing more options to riders that promote social distancing. 

More Information on Fall Changes Effective November 2

Train counts will increase on weekdays from 505 in fall 2019 to 544 in this fall 2020, utilizing the same number of train sets and crews as October 2019. Thirty-two of the 39 new trains (82 percent) will serve either Fairmount, Brockton, or Lynn:

  • Fairmont service: This fall, mid-day service will operate every 45 minutes (fall 2019 mid-day service operated every 60 minutes).
  • Brockton service: This fall, mid-day service will operate every 60 to 70 minutes (fall 2019 mid-day service ranged 90 to 120 minutes).
  • Lynn service: This fall, mid-day service will operate every 30 minutes (fall 2019 service ranged 30 to 90 minutes).

Other key service changes include:

  • Providence service: Service will also be more evenly distributed throughout the day with consistent, all-day service and 60-minute headways. 
  • Worcester service: Better commute options will be offered with the reintroduction of Express trains. The Heart to Hub service on the Worcester Line will also resume, operating at more convenient times and also serving Framingham. 

These fall 2020 schedule changes are currently being revised with final Commuter Rail schedules made available online within the coming weeks. 

Commuter Rail Service Pilot Updates

In an effort to fairly assess current Commuter Rail service pilots that have been affected by the pandemic and current ridership counts, changes to some Commuter Rail service pilots will be in effect beginning November 2. The criteria for evaluating these service pilots will also be updated to account for lower ridership and new budget realities. 

  • The late-night South Shore schedule change pilot that began in fall 2019 will be paused. This pilot will be considered in the future when ridership and large events in Boston return.
  • The Foxboro Weekday Service pilot that began in fall 2019 will be temporarily suspended. This pilot is scheduled to restart in spring 2021.
  • The Fairmount Line Weekday Service pilot that added 8 additional trips to the Line in June 2020 will continue and be expanded in the fall 2020 schedules. Two more trips will be added in order to provide trains at a regular 45-minute interval. 

Commuter Rail Fare Pilot Updates

The Lynn Zone 1A pilot remains in effect through December 31, 2020. This pilot provides additional travel options for North Shore customers, eases crowding on nearby bus routes, and allows the MBTA to collect ridership data related to the effects of temporary fare changes on relieving crowding. 

The 5-Day Flex Pass pilot will be extended to December 31, 2020. The 5-day Flex Pass on mTicket is a bundled fare good for any 5 days of travel within a 30-day period. 

The Youth Pass is currently valid on all Commuter Rail Zones with this pilot extended to December 31, 2020. The Youth Pass Program is a partnership between the MBTA and participating cities and towns that offers young adults with low incomes roughly 50 percent reduced 1-way fares or $30 monthly LinkPasses and was previously only available on bus and subway.

The Foxboro Reverse Commute Fare pilot will end on October 30, 2020. This fare pilot offered a fare equal to that of an interzone 4 fare to commuters who traveled from Zone 1A stations on the Franklin and Fairmount Lines to Foxboro in the morning and returned to Boston in the evening.

More Information

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