Commuter Rail Riders Can Get A Sneak Peek At Open Seats On Trains

Photo: Getty Images

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) – Those who ride the commuter rail can now get a window into how many seats are available on each train.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) along with Keolis, the T’s operating partner for the commuter rail, recently announced they will display ridership information for all 14 commuter trains.

The new feature comes as the MBTA has seen an increase in ridership, with more people heading back to in-person jobs and classes. At the same time, people are still being very mindful when it comes to social distancing and many still want to avoid being in close quarters.

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“Covid is one thing I really don’t want to catch,” said Rashaun from Boston. He walks with a cane and depends on the commuter rail to get around but can sometimes be disappointed when his train comes.

Oftentimes, Rashaun's train is "too crowded for me to get on" and he is left with "the option of waiting for the next train or getting on this train and asking for someone to stand up?”

The MBTA hopes this feature will help riders better their plan their trips. The seat availability information is based on rolling ridership counts gathered from automated and conductor data from the previous 14 to 30 days. While the information is not in real-time, officials said the levels are updated constantly.

Small graphics of either one, two, or three “people” indicate how crowded it is on a particular train. One “person” means there are many seats available, two “people” indicates some seats available and three “people” means the train is packed. Officials also said riders should be aware that some train cars may be more crowded than others and will have to adjust accordingly.

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MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the new seat availability data will let riders have an understanding of what ridership looks like on their particular train and on alternatives.

“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." Passengers can check the seat availability online.

WBZ's Matt Shearer (@MattWBZ) has more:

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