Number of satisfied commuter rail passengers nearly doubles since disastrous 2015 winter: Survey - Metro US

Number of satisfied commuter rail passengers nearly doubles since disastrous 2015 winter: Survey

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The MBTA’s Commuter Rail operator Keolis faced harsh criticism after the record-breaking 2015 winter that debilitated public transit in the Boston area.

In the two years since the company’s on-time performance was deemed “not acceptable,” Keolis is reporting that the number of “satisfied” passengers has nearly doubled.

Keolis Commuter Services released the findings from a passenger satisfaction survey on Friday, which found that passengers are responding to the company’s efforts to improve performance.

The survey was independently conducted by Cambridge-based analytics company SocialSphere, according to Keolis, and included input from more than 5,700 responders.

Though the number of “satisfied” passengers has nearly doubled in the past two years, there’s still room for improvement, Keolis said.

Sixty percent of responders said they were “neutral” about their level of satisfaction with the rail service. Passengers also pointed to on-time performance, onboard communications and the cleanliness level of station rest rooms as areas that could be improved and thus would increase satisfaction even more. Keolis is “targeting these areas with action plans,” the company said.

Keolis began surveying passengers to hear feedback in 2015 and conducts them twice a year, in the spring and fall.
“Commuters in and around Boston have been very supportive of our efforts to collect this important data and forthright in their opinions about the service,” said John Della Volpe, CEO of SocialSphere and Harvard Institute of Politics’s polling director who directs the surveys for Keolis, in a statement.

“We have tracked overall improvements on every line since 2015 and it is due in no small part to the candid feedback of passengers of what works well and what needs to be improved,” he added.

CEO and General Manager of Keolis said in a statement that the commuter service company is always looking for ways to improve.

“We take customer feedback very seriously whether it is shared with us through these surveys, Twitter or phone calls to our passenger information center at our Boston headquarters,” he said. “We’ve already started executing on action plans to help improve further following this survey.”

A crucial component of rider satisfaction is the rail service’s on-time performance, the survey found. A train is considered on time, according to the company, “when it arrives at its destination at its scheduled time or within 5 minutes.”

The average on-time performance over the past year is 89 percent; the company’s target is 90 percent.

The Fairmount line is the top performing corridor this year, with an average on-time performance of 97 percent. The lowest performing line is Worcester, at 79 percent — the company said that construction, fleet mechanical issues and other projects were a few reasons as to why.

As part of its improvement efforts, Keolis is overhauling about 10 additional locomotives to help reduce the risk of delays that could arise from unexpected mechanical issues, the company said. Two of those 10 are already completed and in operation.

As far as that cleanliness issue goes, Keolis clarified that it does not manage the sites at North, South and Back Bay station, for which the restrooms were a top concern raised by passengers.

After an increase in complaints, concerning both cleanliness and safety, of the North Station bathrooms in the spring, Keolis worked with the MBTA and TD Garden to increase bathroom inspections, the company said. Transit police also added staff to the area, and complaints there have since decreased.

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