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MBCR makes case for renewed contract, even in face of long-flagging ridership

MBCR officials blame the fall in ridership on factors such as a delay in delivery of a new fleet of train cars.
MBCR officials blame the fall in ridership on factors such as a delay in delivery of a new fleet of train cars.Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

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Massachusetts’ commuter rail system, once plagued by delays and widespread consumer dissatisfaction, has succeeded in improving its service, but is wrestling with another persistent problem: a decline in ridership.

Bucking national trends, fewer people ride the commuter rail now than they did 10 years ago, when MBCR first took over running the rail service, the state’s largest operating contract. That contract is up for renewal in June 2014, and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. is facing competition.

According to ridership records maintained by the American Public Transportation Association, between spring 2003 and the same period in 2013, average weekday ridership for the Massachusetts commuter rail fell by 12.5 percent — even though the populations of counties served by the commuter rail grew between 2000 and 2010.

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