Results will contribute to action plan to resolve concerns
BOSTON – July 28, 2017 – Keolis Commuter Services (KCS), the MBTA’s partner that operates the commuter rail, today released key findings from its spring passenger satisfaction survey and action plans to target further improvements as identified by customers. The independent survey found that overall satisfaction remains steady and the number of “satisfied” passengers has nearly doubled in the past two years.
“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. 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. Keolis utilizes this information and our analysis to further improve the passenger experience whenever possible,” said John Della Volpe, CEO of SocialSphere and Harvard Kennedy School IOP Polling Director who directs these surveys for KCS.
Cambridge-based SocialSphere conducted these surveys from April 22-28, and included 5,780 respondents who matched overall commuter rail ridership by line. Starting in 2015, KCS began surveying passengers for feedback twice per year – once in the spring and again in the fall.
“As a long-term community partner to both the MBTA and our passengers in the greater Boston area, we are always looking for ways to improve,” said David Scorey, CEO and General Manager of KCS. “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. We’ve already started executing on action plans to help improve further following this survey.”
While overall satisfaction is steady, there is room for improvement. The number of “satisfied” passengers has nearly doubled in the past two years, although 60 percent of respondents are “neutral” about their level of satisfaction. Passengers identified on-time performance (OTP), onboard communications and cleanliness of station rest room facilities as areas that would increase satisfaction if improvements were delivered. KCS is targeting these areas with action plans.
On-Time Performance and Action Plan
A key driver of passenger satisfaction is OTP. A train is considered on time when it arrives at its destination at its scheduled time or within 5 minutes.
Year-to-date average OTP for the commuter rail system is 89 percent, nearly at its 90 percent target. The top performing line this year is Fairmount with an average of 97 percent, while the lowest performing line is Worcester at 79 percent. The individual line survey results correspond to this trend, as satisfaction levels for passengers on the Fairmount Line trended up to the highest on the network and the Worcester Line trended down.
The Worcester Line experienced low average OTP during the winter and spring months due to a number of reasons, including construction, fleet mechanical issues and other capital improvement projects. The projects include adding double track in strategic areas where single track existed, replacing approximately 20,000 rail ties and building a new station at Boston Landing. Speed restrictions are required for this work to be performed safely, which contributed significantly to delays. These projects were recently completed, and average OTP has already started to improve as elements of the work come on line.
Improvements to the overall fleet are also underway to further improve OTP across the network. In partnership with the MBTA, KCS is currently performing overhauls to approximately 10 additional locomotives which will help reduce the risk of delays due to unexpected mechanical issues. Work on two of these locomotives is already complete, and these locomotives are in operation.
Onboard Communications and Action Plan
While satisfaction with overall passenger communications increased slightly from a rating of 4.49 in fall 2016 to 4.54 this past spring, passenger satisfaction with the quality and frequency of communications onboard trains during disruptions decreased.
In response to this concern, KCS has deployed new tools that enable conductors and train crews to provide more frequent updates directly with passengers and through the public-address systems. Additionally, KCS will administer an enhanced training program to ensure that conductors are aware of this passenger concern and are prepared to address it.
Cleanliness in Stations and Action Plan
Cleanliness in station rest room facilities (North, South and Back Bay stations) was one of the top concerns raised by passengers, although KCS does not manage these sites. Due to construction work, Back Bay rest rooms are closed and individuals at this station are provided with temporary facilities, resulting in negative findings.
During the spring, the KCS customer service team experienced an increase in complaints from passengers at North Station about cleanliness and safety concerns in the bathrooms. As a result of these complaints, KCS, the MBTA and TD Garden increased the frequency of bathroom inspections, and Transit Police added personnel to specific areas to be more visible. Complaints from North Station passengers have declined following these actions.
The supporting data and survey results provided by SocialSphere are available here.