Beach-bound travelers board a commuter rail train at North Station. (Patricia Harris for the Boston Globe)
Beach-bound travelers board a commuter rail train at North Station. (Patricia Harris for the Boston Globe)

If you’ve noticed that commuter rail trains are slightly more crowded of late, there’s a reason: Ridership during peak commuting hours this spring rose 2.7 percent from last fall, according to data released this week by the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company.

The March number is the highest ridership count since spring of 2009. But compared with that time last year, the growth is a little more modest: It represents a .9 percent increase since spring of 2012.

Commuter rail ridership counts occur twice per year, once in the fall and once in the spring, when independent counters spend two weeks tabulating the number of passengers boarding and exiting trains during peak hours at the system’s major stations.

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The average daily number of rush hour rides taken during the two-week count this March was 82,944, up from 80,748 in October 2012 and 82,191 in March 2012.

Scott Farmelant, spokesman for the commuter rail, said the growth was likely caused by improved on-time performance, as well as the expansion of weekday service to Worcester.

Between last fall and this spring, the Needham line had the largest growth, with ridership jumping by 9.1 percent.

The counts are taken on inbound trains from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and on outbound trains from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.