Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

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

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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby BandA » Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:26 pm

1)MBTA is probably not motivated to provide better service for RI commuters
2)Does RI presently pick up the full subsidy for those passengers riding from PVD to BOS? (i.e. provide subsidy from Attleboro-BOS for the percentage of passengers who boarded in RI). Or just cover the operating costs to the state line? Running express, will there be enough passengers to fill the train? RI will have to cover the full subsidy PVD to BOS.
3)How many platform tracks at BOS does the PVD line require? If you increase the frequency to PVD, doesn't that reduce the idle time at the BOS platform?
4)You could divert some Worcester Line trains over the Grand Junction :-D .
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:22 pm

I don't know how the Pilgrim Agreement would handle an express that skip-stops the heavy-use intermediates in MA. RIDOT chucks in 1:1 compensation for all costs associated with running miles past the state line...and includes a % ownership stake in the Purple Line fleet that is auto-adjusted to schedules and ridership so the T gains buying and maintenance power the more butts RI directly puts in the seats on more trips. That's all very cut-and-dried when the schedules are all locals that have already accrued all their intrastate gate receipts into the MBTA's coffers. The T doesn't care how far afield RIDOT asks them to go once they cross the border from South Attleboro, because they already got paid all they were gonna get paid by their own in-district commuters and the rest is just mercenary revenue. It's a different calculus when you start passing up MA intermediate stops. I'm sure the Pilgrim Agreement has a mechanism to handle that, since it's been a very robustly flexible multi-decade partnership that certainly would've anticipated future needs for express service. But even if those clauses exist. . .

1) Does Rhode Island want to pay the going rate for it? It would be a hefty step-up in their fees because of the necessary compensation owed to the T for the in-district revenue trade-offs. I'm not entirely convinced that Gov. Raimondo has dead-serious conviction about this and isn't just sampling some early red meat for her 2018 reelection campaign, because otherwise she'd be posing the same question equally to Amtrak to maximize the odds of getting a favorable response. She didn't posit this to Amtrak...just the T. And that shouldn't go unnoticed now that proposals are getting hashed out by RI's neighbors CT & MA about how to repurpose the subsidy-discounted Springfield Shuttle fares in a post-Hartford Line era (extension to Greenfield, catering it as an express service while the Hartford Line rollout is in its minimalist infancy, etc). Rhode Island can't claim ignorance about subsidized quasi-commuter fares on Amtrak when it's been done for eons in other very targeted applications...including routes-within-a-route like applying the Springfield Shuttle discount to the New Haven-Springfield portion of a D.C-Springfield Regional or D.C-St. Albans Vermonter. Whether Amtrak is game for taking RI commuter subsidies between Providence and Boston on a NE Regional is another story...but nobody asked the question in the first place. Let's see what the options look like when they've talked turkey with BOTH the T and AMTK first. All speculation is premature until Raimondo's people have done that much in initial outreach.

2) South Station Expansion is a real constraint to outright adding Providence schedules, so pretty much the only option today is a trade-off of local stops omitted on some schedules and not a substantial above-and-beyond expansion. The T has legitimate reasons to be wary of that trade-off when all eyes are on the SSX prize. It's one thing if they clinch all the necessary SSX deals and get the major funding thrust secured that makes it a real thing. Then the two states can talk about granting RIDOT's wish as one of the first-priority recipients of all-new schedule expansion. It's very different if terminal-district capacity forces that conversation to be about restructuring the existing schedules and revenue trade-offs. The T is fully within its rights to want a king's ransom of fee hikes for that privilege...and political bluster or no I think RI officials clearly understand where they're coming from there.


For these reasons it's actually easier and less complicated for the T to run wholly intra-RI service like Providence-Westerly or Woonsocket-Wickford than it is to skip-stop the Providence Line. That's pure, unadulterated mercenary subsidy wholly paid for by RIDOT, with the added benefit that RIDOT's % share of fleet ownership gets auto-increased by every consist based out-of-state. So in an odd way the T is likely to say "Hell yeah, give me some more of that!" to a RIDOT request to extend the Providence/Wickford locals linearly to Kingston or run the intrastate service that doesn't touch any MA soil...but feel fully justified in drawing a red line in the sand at skipping Canton Junction on more schedules. And it would make complete sense both ways, because that's how the Pilgrim Agreement rolls and that's how much southside terminal district capacity looms over all decision-making.

I think there's a ripe conversation-starter here...but it's premature until SSX gets nailed-down. It is MUCH easier to make everyone happy when the conversation can move to parceling out the first spoils of post-SSX schedule expansion after the terminal capacity fix has had all its land and funding deals inked, rather than trying to thread the needle to make everyone happy. Because it's the T's sworn duty to put its dues-paying district members first, even if that sweet RIDOT cash does have its obvious upsides for doing mercenary work across the border.
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