Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby johnpbarlow » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:41 am

Positive article in the Worcester Telegram re: growing patronage of new Wachusett station: http://www.telegram.com/news/20170225/ridership-interest-grow-at-new-fitchburg-t-station
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sun Feb 26, 2017 3:13 pm

I looked for a discussion on extending to Gardner, but didn't find one. Is there any possibility that a Gardner extension is feasible? Has the population increase since the service was curtailed? Trains could still be stored at Wachusett, I guess, with a reverse deadhead move.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby The EGE » Sun Feb 26, 2017 3:34 pm

Gardner is just never going to be commuter territory. The long, slow climb up the Wachusett hills means you're just never going to get anywhere fast. The only likely future for Gardner service would be the establishment of a state-supported intercity route to Greenfield. Connecting Greenfield, Millers Falls, Orange, Athol, Baldwinville, and Gardner to Boston on a three-hour schedule could probably support a couple daily round trips.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby Abe Froman » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:32 pm

johnpbarlow wrote:Positive article in the Worcester Telegram re: growing patronage of new Wachusett station: http://www.telegram.com/news/20170225/ridership-interest-grow-at-new-fitchburg-t-station


Let's apply simple arithmetic (which Telegram reporter George Barnes failed to do) to the parking lot use and ridership figures provided by Glenn Eaton of the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission and Joe Pesturo, Communicvations Director for MBTA.

Barnes quotes Eaton:
"When I visited in October, there was only one car in the parking lot, " he said. "There were 39 in November, and 60 in December."

Expressed differently, and far more realistically, the parking lot was 88% empty during Eaton's November visit and 83% empty during his December visit.

MBTA flack Pesturo told Barnes:

"...the agency's (MBTA/Keolis) recent surveys peg ridership from Wachusett station at between 45 and 75 passengers per day."

Presumably, 45 and 75 are min/max passenger counts and were subject to verification of some sort. Think about that for a moment...17 daily departures from Wachusett see 45-75 boarding passengers daily? At minimum, that's 89% BELOW the projected new rider total; and at maximum it is 82% below the projection for new riders. Accepting Pesturo's passenger count totals allows realization that 45 passengers boarded per day equates to a mere 2.6 passengers per train departure; 4.5 passenger boarded each train on the "busy" day when 75 passengers boarded in December.

Not too shabby for $93.5 million bucks. Gee, maybe they should have dumped an additional $20-50 million into this project.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby BandA » Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:29 am

What will it be in a couple of years? If the line had not been extended, would a new layover yard have been required anyway?

Is there a lot of rush hour traffic between Wachusett & Leominster station, which is also right off of RT 2?

54 miles in 1:20 or more is 41MPH. There is still a need for speed improvement.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:11 am

The brand new Gardner shuttle bus to Wachusett beats the best theoretical train schedule handily. Part of the deal for the Wachusett build was that Gardner is an economic justice community needing better transit access, so MRTA is scaling that bus up to pretty good frequencies to give them equitable car-free access to Boston. MA 2 is a near-straight shot the 7 miles from downtown Gardner to the MA 31 exit, and relatively uncongested because the rush hour traffic doesn't gunk up until east of Route 31 en route to I-190. Fitchburg Line is 11 miles between the same points with hellacious grades and curves, including the Ashburnham horseshoe. The fastest possible line you could net with upgrades through here is still going to be dog-slow, as well as extremely freight-congested even at double-track because of how slow those long PAS freights have to go up the grade in both directions.

It would wreck the whole Fitchburg schedule and chew up a lot of the newfound capacity gains for running tighter headways to have to predicate everything on those extra running miles on the freight main. After all, the T does want to run a lot more reverse-commute frequencies on the Fitchburg to serve the growing jobs market around Devens...and you can't really do that when schedules have to accommodate swimming slowly against a wall of all-day freight that's constantly laboring up the grades west of Fitchburg for double-digit miles. Therefore, the two-seater w/ shuttle bus ends up being a much better overall permanent commuter solution for Gardner than a direct because it gives them access to better future frequencies and faster overall trip times. Greater frequencies end up mattering more than the allure of a one-seat ride for attracting riders when the difference in total options is distinct enough, and thus this ends up being 'the' build that best addresses the economic justice need for Gardner.

One of the rare cases where a transit build is actually minding out-of-the-box the network effects of decent connecting frequencies rather than overrating the one-seater in a sea of parking to the exclusion of frequency & connections considerations. MRTA--and the outermost reaches of MRTA at that--just happened to be the institution placing the value on multimodal best practices. We're still waiting for the T to find some zen with Yellow Line frequencies that are well-matched to Purple Line frequencies across the inner zones.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby Rockingham Racer » Mon Feb 27, 2017 8:49 am

Hadn't heard about the new connector bus. Thanks.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby deathtopumpkins » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:02 am

Abe Froman wrote:Not too shabby for $93.5 million bucks. Gee, maybe they should have dumped an additional $20-50 million into this project.


Didn't that $93.5 million also include the Westminster layover though? That by itself was a necessary project even without the Wachusett station to get commuter trains out of the East Fitchburg layover.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:10 pm

BandA wrote:If the line had not been extended, would a new layover yard have been required anyway?


Definitely. The old layover was cramped and had no space for larger sets OR expansion of service. There's now also dedicated room for MOW, Mechnical, and other departments' to store equipment and supplies. In addition, crews no longer have to either change ends or perform a shove move to get to/from the layover.

Half-hearted desire to build new layover + half-hearted desire to build a direct Rt 2 park & ride = whole-hearted desire for extension.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby leviramsey » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:51 pm

BandA wrote:Is there a lot of rush hour traffic between Wachusett & Leominster station, which is also right off of RT 2?


As someone who has commuted Athol - Littleton*, 2 from roughly Devens to 31 can be pretty bad at rush hour. Access to North Leominster from 2 is also rather difficult (it's a little better from 190) with a couple of intersections between the highway and the station that easily jam up (I've spent 10+ minutes between the parking garage and the highway), while Wachusett is easy-on, easy-off to/from 2.

*: now Athol-Andover... maybe if the Haverhill double-tracking is ever completed and there's more reverse-commute service to the outer Haverhill, I'll take the train again...
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:53 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:
BandA wrote:If the line had not been extended, would a new layover yard have been required anyway?


Definitely. The old layover was cramped and had no space for larger sets OR expansion of service. There's now also dedicated room for MOW, Mechnical, and other departments' to store equipment and supplies. In addition, crews no longer have to either change ends or perform a shove move to get to/from the layover.

Half-hearted desire to build new layover + half-hearted desire to build a direct Rt 2 park & ride = whole-hearted desire for extension.


And also, Gardner Yard is overstuffed by the P&W interchange, so it would've netted zero capacity improvement to East Fitchburg. Not a lot of other sites available around Gardner, so they needed Westminster to secure the layover capacity that covered future needs.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby leviramsey » Mon Feb 27, 2017 1:03 pm

Wachusett ridership, when I was part of it, generally didn't seem to have a lot of 10 ride-a-week passengers. A lot of airport connections and super-commuters who only go into Boston a couple of times a week from places west of Athol (I've talked to people from Wendell, Greenfield, Amherst, and Charlemont). With presumably minimal monthly pass ridership and also no major interzone destination (unlike the RI stations), it wouldn't surprise me if Wachusett has the highest average fare of any station in the system.
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Re: Fitchburg Line Upgrade Discussion

Postby Abe Froman » Mon Feb 27, 2017 1:46 pm

deathtopumpkins wrote:
Abe Froman wrote:Not too shabby for $93.5 million bucks. Gee, maybe they should have dumped an additional $20-50 million into this project.


Didn't that $93.5 million also include the Westminster layover though? That by itself was a necessary project even without the Wachusett station to get commuter trains out of the East Fitchburg layover.


The original Cost Estimate Breakdown for the Wachusett Extension pegged the cost of the Westminster layover yard/facility at $9,314,460 with a 25% contingency of $2,328,615. Capacity and old, near obsolete facilities and equipment at the former East Fitchburg layover had little to do with the decision to construct a new facility. The location and construction of the unneeded, unnecessary Wachusett Station forced the decision to construct the Westminster facility for freight operation reasons more than anything else since there was-and continues to be-more than sufficient space to have extended the tracks (in an easterly direction) used for layover at East Fitchburg to allow for 2 1/2 times the capacity at considerably less cost than what was spent merely to excavate the Westminster facility, let alone construct and equip the facility.
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