Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

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Re: East-West Rail Link

Postby benboston » Thu Jan 03, 2019 8:47 pm

HenryAlan wrote:There actually is a private company planning the service you've outlined. Strangely, the name of the company is Boston Surface Railroad, but there is no Boston service in their plans.


I'm aware, just unless Brightline magically takes over this route I don't think that the Boston Surface Railroad is going to be successful.
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Re: East-West Rail Link

Postby benboston » Thu Jan 03, 2019 8:54 pm

Lentinula wrote:Interestingly I know a fair number of people in Worcester's Biotech industry who commute from Lowell and would love a rail option. I also know many many Worcesterites who travel to Providence regularly. Not to mention, as you suggested, the benefit to all the folks in Clinton who commute to Worcester and Lowell.

Only real problem I see is Worcester would need to significantly step up its bus network to provide last-mile service, WRTA is a disaster right now.


I'd like to say that I live in the Ayer area and there are people here who also commute to Worcester and Lowell. This would be a great alternative.

I think that a few things need to happen in order for this service to occur.

1. Either the State (wouldn't be all that surprised) or Brightline (doubt it) pours a lot of money into the trackage.
2. Worcester fixes it's transit (buses). Though Worcester is becoming a much nicer city by the second so I think that a smart investment that would boost development, even more, would be a streetcar. If they ran it like the Portland Streetcar that would very successful. The Portland Streetcar wasn't expensive ($50-100 million ballpark) to build, but it created billions of dollars of development. It was paid for by a small additional tax on the land surrounding the streetcar. This could and would work in Worcester.
3. Massachusetts government seriously considers this otherwise it's not happening because this wouldn't be a small project, though I've heard that MassDOT would like to buy Worcester to Ayer trackage (don't know if this is true can someone confirm?).
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby Trinnau » Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:20 pm

I'll again point out that while rail service might be nice, it has to be practical. Yes 495 has congestion, but the worst Lowell to Worcester time (station to station again) according to Google in the morning rush hour is 60 minutes via 495-290 and only jumps to 65 minutes going 495-2-190, meaning there are two good road routes. It's roughly 43 rail miles, so let's assume an average train speed of just about 43mph when factoring in station stops and slow downs for any remaining lower speed areas after upgrades. This is a bit generous because the MBTA is roughly at a 30mph average, but it makes the math easy meaning it will take roughly the same amount of time as driving. When you add first/last mile, connections, parking cost, fares and the sheer flexibility of driving a car - not to mention it's only about 42 minutes with no traffic - you just can't compete with a vehicle. As others have said, service frequency would be critical and that might be difficult with a largely single-tracked line and a major freight yard in the middle of the route which already plays havoc with the MBTA's Fitchburg Line service.

Don't get me wrong, people would ride it. The question is if there would be enough people to justify the expense. Oh and don't forget that expensive 3-letter mandate which is going to greatly increase the upgrade cost of any route beyond just track work.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby jbvb » Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:48 pm

The success of in/out service like Newburyport - Fitchburg would be very dependent on connections to subways: Red at Porter exists, but I think it would need either Orange at Sullivan or Green at Lechmere. Both would be best, if the stops could be kept under 2 min. But at the bottom this scheme is a patch around the seemingly insurmountable problems with the North/South tunnel (construction $$, electrification $$, more $$ for gimmies for all in sight) and quick train turns at stub stations in the US. At Frankfurt Hbf the inbound driver gets off as the outbound driver gets on the other end; meanwhile passengers board and debark. They're off in 5 minutes. In North Station the schedule ties up platform tracks for 15+ minutes, though when the inbound is late they demonstrate it can be done in 5 (with a lot of pushing and shoving because boarding passengers are kept in the station).

And to answer an earlier question, both the old Providence and Worcester (NH) and the B&M from Worcester to Lowell Jct. were double track. There may be encroachments but I'm not aware of anything really immovable blocking restoration of double track.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby Lentinula » Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:06 pm

Trinnau wrote:I'll again point out that while rail service might be nice, it has to be practical. Yes 495 has congestion, but the worst Lowell to Worcester time (station to station again) according to Google in the morning rush hour is 60 minutes via 495-290 and only jumps to 65 minutes going 495-2-190, meaning there are two good road routes. It's roughly 43 rail miles, so let's assume an average train speed of just about 43mph when factoring in station stops and slow downs for any remaining lower speed areas after upgrades. This is a bit generous because the MBTA is roughly at a 30mph average, but it makes the math easy meaning it will take roughly the same amount of time as driving. When you add first/last mile, connections, parking cost, fares and the sheer flexibility of driving a car - not to mention it's only about 42 minutes with no traffic - you just can't compete with a vehicle. As others have said, service frequency would be critical and that might be difficult with a largely single-tracked line and a major freight yard in the middle of the route which already plays havoc with the MBTA's Fitchburg Line service.

Don't get me wrong, people would ride it. The question is if there would be enough people to justify the expense. Oh and don't forget that expensive 3-letter mandate which is going to greatly increase the upgrade cost of any route beyond just track work.


I mean Worcester-Boston by car is comparable time wise to the train but the train is very very well utilized from Worcester. I know I drive from Worcester to Lowell every once and a while and if I had a rail option I'd go much more regularly, even if it was slower. The Lowell Connector is awful and in general I find the run very unpleasant...

Also if it was well scheduled a transfer in Ayer would let me take the train into North Station which would be extremely useful in trying to get to stuff on that side of the great N/S divide, i could see a Worcester to North Station route being very well patronized. A transfer to the Downeaster somehow would be even better.

I'd take the train Worcester to Fitchburg that way but I suspect I'd be in the minority on that one.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby benboston » Fri Jan 04, 2019 8:13 pm

Additionally, 495 is one of the most dangerous highways in the country. I think that the ridership of said service would be more than one would think.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby Trinnau » Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:11 am

Lentinula wrote:I mean Worcester-Boston by car is comparable time wise to the train but the train is very very well utilized from Worcester.


There are significant other factors in Boston that tip the scales when time is comparable, have a look at my post on the previous page. And even then, I would argue the train is faster in the rush hour. Most MBTA trains are 83 minutes inbound to South Station. Departing Worcester at 7am Monday Google shows a huge range of 65-130 minutes to South Station, recommending you allow for the maximum. Again, this is station-to-station and doesn't factor first/last mile or other stations like Yawkey or Back Bay.

Lentinula wrote:Also if it was well scheduled a transfer in Ayer would let me take the train into North Station which would be extremely useful in trying to get to stuff on that side of the great N/S divide, i could see a Worcester to North Station route being very well patronized. A transfer to the Downeaster somehow would be even better.


Worcester to Back Bay to the Orange Line to North Station. Why invest tons of money to have a two-seat ride that takes more time than the current option? Not to mention a transfer at Back Bay is protected from the elements and has amenities (food, restrooms) where Ayer is a typical open-air commuter rail station.

Worcester to Ayer is about 28 rail miles. So again, assuming track upgraded to 60mph with some slowdowns and a stop at Clinton and maybe somewhere else you're likely looking at about 40-45 minutes of travel time realistically over that stretch, plus at least 5 minutes to make a connection. Again, I'm being generous because the MBTA averages roughly 30mph on their schedules.

Assuming a best-case rush-hour scenario, the current connection is 25 minutes faster.
Via Ayer is 40 minutes Worcester-Ayer, 5 to transfer and then 56 Ayer to North Station (train 404). That totals 101 minutes.
The current option with the super-express "Heart-to-Hub" (train 552) is 60 minutes Worcester to Back Bay, 5 to transfer and 11 from Back Bay to North Station on the Orange Line for a total of 76 minutes.

Assuming a typical rush-hour scenario, the current connection is 15 minutes faster.
Via Ayer is 40 minutes Worcester-Ayer, 5 to transfer and then 63 Ayer to North Station (train 406). That totals 108 minutes.
The current option is be 77 minutes Worcester to Back Bay (train 508), 5 to transfer and 11 from Back Bay to North Station on the Orange Line for a total of 93 minutes.

Assuming a typical off-peak scenario, the current connection is 3 minutes faster
Via Ayer is 40 minutes Worcester-Ayer, 5 to transfer and then 62 Ayer to North Station (train 416). That totals 107 minutes.
The current option is be 88 minutes Worcester to Back Bay (train 516), 5 to transfer and 11 from Back Bay to North Station on the Orange Line for a total of 104 minutes.

Notice that even the typical existing rush hour scenario beats the best-case Ayer rush hour scenario by 8 minutes. The only drawback with the current option is that a commuter rail fare doesn't transfer to the subway unless you have a monthly pass. But there is an ongoing project to fix that in the next couple of years with AFC 2.0.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby Lentinula » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:45 am

Worcester to Back Bay to the Orange Line to North Station. Why invest tons of money to have a two-seat ride that takes more time than the current option? Not to mention a transfer at Back Bay is protected from the elements and has amenities (food, restrooms) where Ayer is a typical open-air commuter rail station.

Worcester to Ayer is about 28 rail miles. So again, assuming track upgraded to 60mph with some slowdowns and a stop at Clinton and maybe somewhere else you're likely looking at about 40-45 minutes of travel time realistically over that stretch, plus at least 5 minutes to make a connection. Again, I'm being generous because the MBTA averages roughly 30mph on their schedules.

Assuming a best-case rush-hour scenario, the current connection is 25 minutes faster.
Via Ayer is 40 minutes Worcester-Ayer, 5 to transfer and then 56 Ayer to North Station (train 404). That totals 101 minutes.
The current option with the super-express "Heart-to-Hub" (train 552) is 60 minutes Worcester to Back Bay, 5 to transfer and 11 from Back Bay to North Station on the Orange Line for a total of 76 minutes.

Assuming a typical rush-hour scenario, the current connection is 15 minutes faster.
Via Ayer is 40 minutes Worcester-Ayer, 5 to transfer and then 63 Ayer to North Station (train 406). That totals 108 minutes.
The current option is be 77 minutes Worcester to Back Bay (train 508), 5 to transfer and 11 from Back Bay to North Station on the Orange Line for a total of 93 minutes.

Assuming a typical off-peak scenario, the current connection is 3 minutes faster
Via Ayer is 40 minutes Worcester-Ayer, 5 to transfer and then 62 Ayer to North Station (train 416). That totals 107 minutes.
The current option is be 88 minutes Worcester to Back Bay (train 516), 5 to transfer and 11 from Back Bay to North Station on the Orange Line for a total of 104 minutes.

Notice that even the typical existing rush hour scenario beats the best-case Ayer rush hour scenario by 8 minutes. The only drawback with the current option is that a commuter rail fare doesn't transfer to the subway unless you have a monthly pass. But there is an ongoing project to fix that in the next couple of years with AFC 2.0.[/quote]

Subway transfers around rush hour are a madhouse, I'd honestly take the extra time to avoid it. I'd also like the Fitchburg line connections to Porter (though this is accessible by Red Line but as i said, subways are packed) and Waltham. Ayer station could be upgraded minimally with not much effort, and I honestly do not forsee any stops between Worcester and Ayer besides Clinton.

I think the big benefit to this would be adding a couple more trains a day between Worcester and Boston without adding to the maxed out South Station, and diverting some of those north side bound riders from the already pretty packed trains destined for the south side of Boston.

Transferring between them via subway is certainly a workaround but the underground is already at capacity and as Worcester grows and continues to target people priced out of Boston it might just not have the capacity.

Anyway Worcester is pushing hard for us "Millenials" and with our apparent love of "non traditional work schedules" I could see trading extra time on the train doing work on my laptop for the convenience of not having to make the N-S connection by subway. That said I live and work in Worcester now so my feelings on "real" commuting are only residual from my hour slog 6 years ago or so.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby Lentinula » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:48 am

I'd like to amend I commuted to Lowell for a while back in college and I would have happily traded one of my better limbs for a rail alternative back then, and that was before I really cared about rail at all. So while i'm here arguing for a train to Ayer ultimately a train to Lowell seems like the goal, as had been mentioned earlier. A transfer at Ayer would just be an added pleasantry.


Now who do I have to bribe for a train to Hartford...
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby BandA » Tue Jan 08, 2019 4:13 am

There is greater density & traffic on RT 128 than there is on 495 (perhaps except at the top of 495 & within 10-15 miles of the $Pike$ interchange). But doing something near 495 would be way more buildable. Could start with a BRT roadway, upgrade later.

I still want some rush hour Worcester trains to go over the Grand Junction. They can use DTMF gate controls to partially mollify the snooty Cambridge residents, who see no need to visit Newton or Framingham or Worcester.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby benboston » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:06 am

BandA wrote:There is greater density & traffic on RT 128 than there is on 495 (perhaps except at the top of 495 & within 10-15 miles of the $Pike$ interchange). But doing something near 495 would be way more buildable. Could start with a BRT roadway, upgrade later.

I still want some rush hour Worcester trains to go over the Grand Junction. They can use DTMF gate controls to partially mollify the snooty Cambridge residents, who see no need to visit Newton or Framingham or Worcester.


They should build for the future because not too long ago it would have been just as easy to build around 128.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby BandA » Wed Jan 09, 2019 3:27 am

Right, they would have to build an EL for most of 128 at this point.
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Re: Atypical Rail Service (trains NOT to Boston)

Postby RenegadeMonster » Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:38 am

I actually got into a heated debate with my family over Christmas about how we need to invest more into public transportation and rail and plan for the future.

My step father was completely against the idea. Said our infrastructure is crumbling and we need to repair all the roads and bridges. Trucks are far more important than trains. :(

I would love to see future planning when it comes to rail, and building for future needs. Currently I feel like we only expand when we are at or above capacity or someone offers to pay for it.
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