Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year, but the same old, same old

On Monday, I caught the 4:27 p.m. FrontRunner home. It had only two passenger cars, both the double-decker Bombardiers. As I was boarding, I asked the station host why there were only two cars for a rush-hour train headed north. His response:

"Some have two, some have three."

Which I discovered was true later on, when I chatted with the train host once we were moving. She said the train that left earlier -- the northbound 3:57 p.m. train -- had three passenger cars (two Bombardiers and one Comet). On our train, she said, there were 12 people standing on the northernmost car; and I could see four or five standing on the southernmost car, where I was standing.

Furthermore, she said she'd called someone at UTA offices -- apparently the man who makes the decisions about how many cars each train should have -- to tell him the train was too crowded. She explained that it didn't make sense to her, since the earlier train didn't have nearly the number of passengers. She said the man told her that by next week, all trains would have three cars.

I wondered why it would take a week to make that happen. A week? Couldn't it happen on Tuesday? That's what the train hosts have been telling me since the short trains and overcrowding have been happening: that after Jan. 1, three cars would return.

Listen, I love UTA's service, but I don't appreciate having to stand for 30 or 40 minutes on the ride home. I'm sure no one else does, either. I'm just wondering why the response and scheduling has been so spotty when so many people on the trains have been complaining. It's my observation that ridership is up since the August schedule changes. But now the transit agency risks alienating riders, and losing them.

My question: Is there solid research guiding these decisions about how many cars to run? Or is someone just making the determination based on their gut?

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