An Analysis of Commuter Rail Real-Time Information in Boston

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - north america, planning - service level, planning - surveys, ridership - commuting, technology - intelligent transport systems


real-time information (RTI), commuter rail passengers, on-board survey, passenger wait times


Prior studies have assessed the impacts of real-time information (RTI) provided to bus and heavy rail riders but not commuter rail passengers. The objective of this research is to investigate the benefits of providing commuter rail RTI. The method is a three-part statistical analysis using data from an on-board survey on two commuter rail lines in the Boston region. The first analysis assesses overarching adoption, and the results show that one-third of commuter rail riders use RTI. The second part conducts difference of means tests and regression analysis on passenger wait times, which reveals that riders’ use of RTI is correlated with a decrease in self-reported “usual” wait times. The third part analyzes 12 quality-of-service indicators, which have a limited relationship with RTI utilization. The results suggest that the benefits of commuter rail RTI are modest. Despite this, many commuter rail riders choose to use this new information source, which has important implications for transit managers considering deploying RTI systems.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by National Center for Transit Research, University of South Florida, copyright remains with them.