ROCKPORT — Usually when Seth Moulton rides the train to Boston, he takes his seat quietly among the rest of the morning commuters.
On Wednesday, however, passenger Moulton transformed into Congressman Moulton, walking up and down the narrow aisles of train No. 106 to greet and chat with riders.
Billed by his office as a “Commute with your Congressman,” the hour-long ride from Rockport to North Station gave the Salem Democrat an opportunity to meet constituents the day after he announced his reelection campaign, and to listen to their concerns and complaints about the commuter rail.
Moulton introduced himself by shaking hands and saying, “I’m Seth Moulton, your congressman.” Responses ranged from one woman asking him to spell his last name to another proclaiming he should be a model. “You’re so handsome in real life,” she said.
In Washington, D.C., representing Massachusetts’ 6th District, Moulton has no direct control over the state-funded railroad. But he said it’s important for him to stay in touch with his constituents’ opinions on the service.
“In some ways it’s not my responsibility, but I take it as my responsibility because so many people in my district rely on the commuter rail,” he said.
Some passengers didn’t mince words when Moulton asked what they thought about the MBTA’s service. Rockport resident Mark Drury had a two-word answer, only one of which can be printed in a family newspaper.
“It (stinks),” Drury said.
When Moulton asked if the problem was the service, the equipment, or the infrastructure, Drury replied: “All three.”
“It’s really sad when you think abut it,” Drury added.
Another Rockport rider, Matt Metcalf, told Moulton that passengers are sometimes forced to switch to buses because of problems with the trains. “I pay 20 bucks a day to get into work and back. Now they’re threatening to raise fares again,” he said.
When Moulton sat down to talk with Gloucester resident Gregg Zoske about her concerns, she pulled out a typed two-page memo she had sent to the MBTA regarding the new schedule due to take effect in May. In the memo, she says she sometimes has to change trains in Lynn and wait for more than an hour to catch the next available train on the Rockport line.
Maureen Terrill of Manchester-by-the-Sea used words such as “disaster” and “insane” to describe commuter rail service. She said she was happy to see Moulton there to listen.
“This is the first politician I’ve seen on the commuter rail,” she said. “They usually take a limousine.”
Not everyone was critical of the service. Salem resident Patty Ball said she takes the train to work in Boston every day and described the experience as “comfortable.”
James MacNeil, who rode his bike to the train station, said he and his wife moved to Beverly in part because the city has four commuter rail stations.
“It’s probably on time 90 percent,” he said. “But that 10 percent kills people. Everybody [complains] about it, but it’s a tremendous asset.”
Moulton, who once worked for a private company that built a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, said many people at the MBTA and in Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration are focusing on short-term repairs, but the entire system needs to be modernized.
He said he has encouraged the MBTA to study converting over to electric-powered trains, which he said are faster, quieter and more reliable.
As the train pulled into North Station — right on time — Moulton said the response he received from people on his morning excursion was “very positive.”
“I ride the train all the time but I don’t always bother people,” he said. “Maybe I should do it more.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.