MBTA customer experience describes the reliability, comfort, accessibility, and other service qualities experienced by MBTA riders in FY23. Overall, reliability in FY23 remained consistent for nearly all modes from the previous fiscal year. Progress was made in efforts to improve customer experience moving forward. For example, the number of active transit priority signals has increased, improving service for bus riders. Additionally, station upgrades and the MBTA’s Plan for Accessible Transit Infrastructure (PATI) are improving accessibility at MBTA stations and bus stops.
The Orange Line and Red Line experienced a slight increase in reliability to 91.6 percent, and 90.4 percent, respectively, in FY23 compared to the prior year. The Blue line experienced a slight decrease in reliability to 95.1 percent, but overall, the Red, Orange, and Blue lines met or exceeded the FY23 subway reliability target of 90 percent. Green Line reliability decreased one percentage point to 78.4 percent in FY23. The MBTA has many in-progress capital projects that will improve tracks, signals, and other infrastructure to contribute to overall reliability.
In FY23, reliability decreased from FY22 for Silver Line, Key Bus, and Other Bus routes. Silver Line reliability decreased to 80.7 percent in FY23, which still exceeded the 80 percent target. Key Bus route reliability decreased to 77.5 percent in FY23, and reliability also decreased for Other Bus routes to 65.7 percent, both falling short of the 80 percent and 75 percent target for those routes, respectively. Higher targets for Silver Line and Key Bus routes reflect the higher numbers of riders that rely on those routes. The Better Bus Project is working to improve bus reliability through initiatives such as the expansion of bus transit priority, bus facility modernization, and the Bus Network Redesign.
Commuter Rail Reliability
Commuter rail reliability measures the percent of trains that arrive at their final stop no more than 5 minutes later than scheduled. Further illustration and daily reliability updates can be found on the MBTA Performance Dashboard. Commuter rail reliability decreased to 90.7 percent in FY23, which still exceeding the target of 90 percent.
Ferry reliability measures the percent of ferry trips that arrive at their final destination no more than 5 minutes later than scheduled. Ferry reliability increased to 100 percent in FY23, exceeding the target of 97 percent. During the Spring and Early Summer Season the MBTA introduced two seasonal services East Boston to Boston (F3) and Lynn to Boston (F5).
The RIDE Reliability
The RIDE reliability measures how promptly passengers are picked up and dropped off—calculated as the percent of completed trips where customers were picked up no later than 15 minutes after the scheduled pickup time and dropped off no later than 5 minutes after any scheduled appointment time. The RIDE reliability decreased slightly to 88.2 percent in FY23, slightly below the target of 90 percent.
The ability for all customers to reach a subway, commuter rail, or Silver Line platform depends on whether stations are designed to be accessible. Subway stations are typically accessible using elevators, while accessible commuter rail stations may include elevators or ramps in combination with high or mini-high platforms for level boarding. Surface stops on the Mattapan, Green, and Silver Lines have different accessibility requirements—at times difficult to implement due to challenging geometry of the street, curb, or platform. More information on system-wide accessibility improvements can be found on the MBTA website.
All Red Line, Orange Line, and Silver Line stations are accessible, and nearly all stations are accessible on both the Blue Line and Mattapan Trolley, except for Bowdoin (Blue Line) and Valley Road (Mattapan Trolley). On the Green Line, 40 of 70 stations including surface stops were accessible at the end of FY23 or 57.1 percent, compared to 53.8 percent in FY22; for commuter rail, 107 of 134 stations were accessible, a rate of 79.9 percent.
Many stations require elevators to be accessible for riders, meaning that elevator maintenance and unplanned outages can affect the abilities of people to access MBTA services. Elevator uptime measures the percent of total elevator-hours in which elevators are operational. This measure encompasses the elevators at rapid transit and Commuter Rail stations that are owned and maintained by the MBTA. Instances of long-term planned outages in which accessible shuttle alternatives are provided (typically when an elevator is being completely rebuilt) are excluded from the measure.
Elevator uptime for FY23 was 98.7 percent, a slight increase from 98.5 percent in FY22.
Bus Stop Accessibility
Even though the entire MBTA bus fleet is accessible, customers can still encounter barriers at bus stops due to inaccessible curbs, sidewalks, landing pads, and more. A survey of all bus stops in 2017-2018 identified many accessibility barriers, and to prioritize improvements, stops were grouped into four categories: critical stops (fundamentally inaccessible), high-priority stops (two or more significant access barriers), medium-priority stops (one significant access barrier), and low-priority stops (negligible or no barriers). The MBTA’s Plan for Accessible Transit Infrastructure (PATI) is removing barriers at critical and high-priority bus stops in multiple phases. Since the majority of MBTA bus stops are located on municipal or privately owned sidewalks, PATI also shares collected data with municipalities to help cities and towns remove remaining access barriers. More information on PATI can be found on the MBTA website.
The bus stop accessibility measure tracks the number of remaining stops with critical and high-priority barriers, as well as “other” priority stops. The “other” priority stops include new or relocated stops and stops that are “paired” with critical or high-priority stops. A paired stop corresponds to a critical or high-priority stop, serving travel in the opposite direction (perhaps across the street). Reconstruction of a bus stop usually includes the reconstruction of its corresponding paired stop. Barriers are considered removed if the bus stop is reconstructed to be fully accessible, or if the stop is closed due to low ridership.
Regional congestion affects the bus travel time and reliability experienced by MBTA bus riders, and municipal management of streets and signals has a significant impact on bus service. Through partnerships with municipalities and communities in the region, the MBTA has identified key corridors for focused investment in bus priority infrastructure to facilitate fewer delays, faster bus trips, and more reliable and frequent service. Bus transit priority features can include bus lanes or shared bus/bike lanes; transit signal priority (TSP), which gives preference to buses at traffic lights; and queue jumps, which allow buses to bypass waiting traffic with short priority lanes and early green signals. Other features include streetscape and roadway changes, such as curb extensions at bus stops, to make bus movements more efficient.
Bus Priority Infrastructure
Passenger Benefits from Bus Priority Corridors
The MBTA prioritizes implementing transit priority projects in corridors with high congestion and delay, as well as high ridership, to benefit the most possible passengers. In the spring of FY23, 54K passenger miles were in bus priority corridors or queue jumps on an average weekday, a 42.1 percent increase from 38K passenger miles in the spring of FY22. The increase in passenger miles is attributed to higher average ridership as well as Bus Priority project additions, including the Columbus Ave center-running bus lane, Broadway Ave in Revere, and Centre Street in Malden. 54K passenger miles equates to 7.5 percent of average weekday passenger miles with direct benefits from bus priority corridors, an increase from 5.7 percent in the spring of FY22.
Many more riders experience indirect benefits from bus priority corridors due to the improvement in reliability to the rest of the route during operating hours. Indirect areas that benefit from priority corridors include a route’s preceding or successive miles from a bus priority lane, as well as the subsequent route a bus may take after completing a trip that includes a bus priority corridor. In the spring of FY23, 60.5 percent of passenger miles on an average weekday were on trips that benefitted from bus priority corridors and thus received indirect benefits from transit priority projects, up from 51 percent in the spring of FY22. This increase is attributed to a greater number of active bus priority corridors in FY23.