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Online Commuter Rail Schedules to Display Typical Seat Availability for Each Train

Posted on November 18, 2021

Seat availability information is based on rolling ridership counts.


The MBTA and Keolis Commuter Services (Keolis), the MBTA’s operating partner for commuter rail, today announced that online train schedules at mbta.com/commuterrail will now display ridership information for all trains. In combination with more frequent commuter rail service throughout the day, providing insight into typical seat availability will allow passengers to better plan their travel and make adjustments according to their preferences.  

“As we continue to see increased ridership return to commuter rail, this new seat availability data will enable riders to have an understanding of what ridership looks like on their particular train and on alternatives,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “With all-day frequency now in place at regular and predictable intervals across the network for more of a regional rail system, we hope riders will benefit from both flexible service and enhanced transparency around ridership as they plan their travel.” 

“By giving passengers more information for planning trips on commuter rail, we hope to provide them with a better sense of what to expect during their journey and an understanding of how ridership is returning on specific trains across all 14 commuter rail lines,” said Keolis Vice President of Service Delivery Richard Dean.

Developed as a joint effort between the MBTA and Keolis, the commuter rail seat availability information is regularly updated to reflect a trip’s typical ridership based on automated and conductor data from the past 14 – 30 days. Indicators are displayed on the online train schedules to reflect seat availability across all coaches on each train. The levels are constantly updated based on a trip’s median seat availability within a rolling 14-30 day period. 

Based on industry standards, seat availability is defined using the following thresholds:

  • Many Seats Available: Typically more than 66% of seats are available and distancing is possible (~0-2 people per row).
  • Some Seats Available: Typically more than 33% of seats remain available and distancing may be possible (~2-3 people per row).
  • Few Seats Available: Typically fewer than 33% of seats available and distancing is unlikely (~3+ people per row).

Riders should also be mindful that on a given train, some coaches may be more crowded than others. If a coach appears more crowded than typical, riders can choose to move to another less crowded coach on the train. It is also important to note that the new ridership information is not real-time seat availability and that, due to the nature of public transportation, trains may operate at a lighter or fuller capacity than typical on any given day. The MBTA reminds riders that federal law requires face coverings while using public transit, including at all platforms, stations, and while onboard, and that increased cleaning and sanitation practices are in place across the system. Customers are encourages to learn more at mbta.com/RideSafer.

This commuter rail seat availability information joins additional ridership information provided by the MBTA at mbta.com/crowding. The MBTA also provides real-time crowding information all day, every day for most MBTA bus routes on mbta.com, E ink screens, and in the Transit app

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