THE ARTICLE “Commuter rail won bonuses as riders fumed’’ presented an incomplete picture to readers. The public should know that the MBTA commuter rail contract is considered one of the toughest in the passenger railroad industry because it is based on a fixed annual price, with the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. fined for late trains and other service failures, while being given incentives for high levels of performance.
After 13 years of no-bid contract extensions to Amtrak, the MBTA conducted a comprehensive bid process in 2002 that numerous independent parties describe as transparent and accountable, with the contract awarded to the lowest bidder that met or exceeded all technical requirements. As a result of that contract, the American Public Transportation Association has consistently ranked the MBTA commuter rail system among the least expensive commuter rail operations in the United States on a cost-per-mile basis, and as the least costly of any major metropolitan service.
Commuter rail service in Eastern Massachusetts stands among the most challenging transportation operations in the United States. Antiquated infrastructure, highly congested rail lines, and a disparate system of train dispatch make delivery of passenger service on a system that accommodates 41 million annual boardings a demanding proposition. Customers tell us every day about their desire for greater investment into a system that plays such an important role in the region’s civic, economic, and social fabric.
Certainly, service is sometimes not to the level that we and our customers consider satisfactory. Operations have experienced breakdowns and delays, and this remains a significant source of concern for every one of the 1,800 men and women at MBCR. We will continue to do everything possible to provide customers with safe, reliable, and cost-effective service.
James F. O’Leary
Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co.