Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby eubnesby » Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:34 pm

Service to T.F. Green is very poor, at the moment, and having tried to use it on multiple occasions, simply isn't an efficient way to get to the airport at most times. The problem is most patently not with how much traffic T.F. Green gets, as this is already very high. The problem is that the schedule, as it exists, cannot compete with RIPTA, Uber-type services, or driving. If people can't rely on a train being at the airport, ready for them to get on, they are not going to use the train. If they prefer public transport, the #1 bus runs every 20 minutes.

On the third point, there has been no discussion of Kingston as a terminus. The obvious terminus for a Rhode Island commuter rail service is Westerly, and indeed, the old layover yard from when Westerly was such a terminus still remains. The obvious stopping point for the MBTA is Providence, with the potential for cross-platform transfers between the RI and MBTA services. It really does not make much sense for the MBTA to go beyond Providence, and it only does so now because RI hasn't been in a position where it could start its own service. Service to T.F. Green by the MBTA will never be competitive with other modes, because the nature of the journey between there and Boston precludes the frequency of service required. A RI intrastate EMU service (phantasy for now), on the other hand, would have that potential.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby BandA » Sat Jul 01, 2017 8:30 pm

Can RI (or a contractor) operate commuter rail at lower cost than MBTA+Keolis? If so then someday the T might contract RI to run the Providence-Boston line instead of Keolis. As for EMUs, they presently cost more than diesel equipment, and supposedly Amtrak charges too much for their electricity. And as we know FRA compliant DMUs cost more than EMUs! Unless they borrow RDCs from VT...
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby Rbts Stn » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:18 pm

And Norwegian isn't flying to Boston, so there will be lots of folks looking into visiting Boston from flights to TF Green since their prices will be much lower than any of the Boston airline options.

For NYC, they are flying to Stewart Airport on Long Island and a bus company quickly jumped in to provide shuttle service to Manhattan. This may come to pass for TF Green, too.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby Ryanontherails » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:35 pm

eubnesby wrote:Service to T.F. Green is very poor, at the moment, and having tried to use it on multiple occasions, simply isn't an efficient way to get to the airport at most times. The problem is most patently not with how much traffic T.F. Green gets, as this is already very high. The problem is that the schedule, as it exists, cannot compete with RIPTA, Uber-type services, or driving. If people can't rely on a train being at the airport, ready for them to get on, they are not going to use the train. If they prefer public transport, the #1 bus runs every 20 minutes.


eubnesby wrote:It really does not make much sense for the MBTA to go beyond Providence, and it only does so now because RI hasn't been in a position where it could start its own service. Service to T.F. Green by the MBTA will never be competitive with other modes, because the nature of the journey between there and Boston precludes the frequency of service required. A RI intrastate EMU service (phantasy for now), on the other hand, would have that potential.


Maybe I wasn't clearer before. I was imagining that all trains on the Providence Line would serve T.F. Green Airport, which would be the new terminus. If every train on the current schedule went to T.F. Green Airport, it would be almost hourly. That's not ideal, but it's adequate.

Also, I disagree that it doesn't make sense for the MBTA to serve the airport. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but isn't it RIDOT who pays the MBTA to serve everywhere south of the border? And isn't it also RIDOT who owns the airport as well? I'm almost 100-percent sure RIDOT will pay the MBTA to serve the airport unless it is really unprofitable. Having a one-seat ride to Downtown Boston is a major selling point for the airport, to attract both airlines and passengers. It's Boston's second airport (or as close to being it as you can come). RIDOT may not pay the MBTA to serve any future infills at Olneyville and/or Cranston, but I will bet that the airport will keep its service. Wickford Junction and (if it is ever extended there) Kingston will more than likely lose the MBTA service once RI Commuter Rail starts however.

eubnesby wrote:On the third point, there has been no discussion of Kingston as a terminus. The obvious terminus for a Rhode Island commuter rail service is Westerly, and indeed, the old layover yard from when Westerly was such a terminus still remains. The obvious stopping point for the MBTA is Providence, with the potential for cross-platform transfers between the RI and MBTA services.


There has been no discussion of Kingston as a terminus for RI Commuter Rail. But the third track (as well as a re-connection to the Northeast Corrdior south of Wickford Junction) will allow the MBTA Commuter Rail to serve Kingston. I don't think they could serve Westerly if they wanted to. But like I said, once Rhode Island gets its commuter rail up and running, the MBTA will stop going south of the airport.

Rbts Stn wrote:And Norwegian isn't flying to Boston, so there will be lots of folks looking into visiting Boston from flights to TF Green since their prices will be much lower than any of the Boston airline options.

For NYC, they are flying to Stewart Airport on Long Island and a bus company quickly jumped in to provide shuttle service to Manhattan. This may come to pass for TF Green, too.


They are, from London Gatwick year-round, Oslo and Copenhagen seasonally, and next May they will fly there from Paris year-round. But from Providence they will have flights to places in Ireland and the United Kingdom as well as (randomly) Bergen, Norway and two islands in the Caribbean.

Stewart Airport (which is actually north of NYC along I-84) has been hoping for a rail link on Metro North for years. It's good to see the bus for now, however I'd rather see them do a shuttle to the nearest rail station. Peter Pan Bus serves T.F. Green Airport with stops at the Rhode Island Convention Center, their terminal on the Pawtucket Line, the bus station above the tracks at South Station, and ending at, ironically, Logan Airport! But the CEO of Peter Pan said there is no way they could compete with a train. They've been fighting the proposed Springfield-Boston train for this reason!
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby X No Passengers » Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:25 am

Service to T.F. Green is very poor, at the moment...


Why yes, service is very poor, particularly at Wickford.

http://www.providencejournal.com/news/20160319/debt-express-little-used-wickford-providence-train-service-is-10-million-in-hole
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby eubnesby » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:14 pm

RIDOT does indeed pay the MBTA for all service in Rhode Island. This doesn't mean, however, that service south of Providence is worth paying for. You say that 'having a one-seat ride to downtown Boston' is something laudable, but that belies the nature of the service. Even if we ignore the fact that the present service is so infrequent as to be nigh unusable, who in their right mind is going to want to take an hour and forty minute train ride after just having flown in from Europe? It simply isn't a viable option for most people, and there are better options available that are not exorbitantly expensive.

More importantly, cross-platform transfers can adequately serve those Boston-bound passengers who exist. When I say 'cross-platform transfer', I mean that one would get off the RIDOT train and cross the platform to a waiting MBTA train...such a transfer is not a burden, and would better allow both the RIDOT train and MBTA train to serve their respective target markets. Do we really want MBTA and RIDOT services overlapping at T.F. Green? I don't think so.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby Rbts Stn » Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:16 am

Thanks for the correction on Stewart's location and the clarification on Norwegian to Boston. I should have mentioned specific Europe destinations but didn't and you filled in that large gap for me.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby atlantis » Sat Jul 08, 2017 5:48 am

I think that at least the TF Green portion of the service should run on weekends as well. After all, the airport is fairly busy on weekends and with air service expanding, a seven day a week train service is a no brainer, IMO.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby Ryanontherails » Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:50 pm

eubnesby wrote:RIDOT does indeed pay the MBTA for all service in Rhode Island. This doesn't mean, however, that service south of Providence is worth paying for. You say that 'having a one-seat ride to downtown Boston' is something laudable, but that belies the nature of the service. Even if we ignore the fact that the present service is so infrequent as to be nigh unusable, who in their right mind is going to want to take an hour and forty minute train ride after just having flown in from Europe? It simply isn't a viable option for most people, and there are better options available that are not exorbitantly expensive.


What do you mean by "belies the nature of the service"? This service can't be everything for everyone. Obviously unless their sole destination is Boston, a tourist isn't likely to use it. But a local traveler would. Boston may have a large population and a great number of people without cars, but let's look at somewhere in between. From Sharon to T. F. Green you have four options: driving and parking ($15/day, $75/week plus gas), taking a cab/Uber (I don't know the cabs cost, but an Uber is $65+ each way, $130+ round trip), getting a ride (not always an option, plus you're asking a lot for your driver), or the train ($5 each way, $10 round trip). Unless the wait time at the airport becomes substantial as a result, the train is looking pretty good!

But even so, it's not necessarily how many passengers who would ride it that makes it worth paying for. Norwegian Air Service was choosing between T. F. Green and Pease Airport in Portsmouth, NH. How did Providence win? More than likely it was the rail link. Now, two or three flights a day with ~200 passengers is only an increase of ~500 daily passengers, only a handful of whom would use the train, but that's 500 passengers using RIDOT's airport and putting money into Rhode Island's economy. They wouldn't have that had Norwegian gone to Pease. Same with Frontier and Allegiant, who also recently announced service to Providence. Those airlines go after the budget traveler. To keep fares low they serve secondary airports; T. F. Green is one way for them to serve Boston without going to Logan. What does T. F. Green have that Worcester, Manchester, and Portsmouth don't? The rail link! If the one-seat ride to Boston is the advantage on getting new/more service, it certainly proves its worth. Besides, even without the airport Warwick is Rhode Island's third-largest city, there should be enough passengers there, many of whom probably are driving to Providence for the more frequent service there. It's only another 8.3 miles.

eubnesby wrote:More importantly, cross-platform transfers can adequately serve those Boston-bound passengers who exist. When I say 'cross-platform transfer', I mean that one would get off the RIDOT train and cross the platform to a waiting MBTA train...such a transfer is not a burden, and would better allow both the RIDOT train and MBTA train to serve their respective target markets. Do we really want MBTA and RIDOT services overlapping at T.F. Green? I don't think so.


Those work well in the NYC-area Commuter Rail systems, but that's only because if you miss the connection you don't have to wait more than 15-30 minutes. In Providence, that's at least an hour. Also, making a one-seat ride a two-seat ride diminishes the competitive advantage. Besides, they are already going to overlap between Pawtucket/Central Falls and Providence, so why not all the way to the airport?

atlantis wrote:I think that at least the TF Green portion of the service should run on weekends as well. After all, the airport is fairly busy on weekends and with air service expanding, a seven day a week train service is a no brainer, IMO.


Yeah, I don't know why they don't already. It makes perfect sense to me. Maybe in the future.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby Rockingham Racer » Fri Jul 14, 2017 6:24 am

Pease is a third-world airport in terms of facilities, and the number of airlines use it. Providence with its services would definitely be one-up.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby deathtopumpkins » Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:19 am

One thing this discussion is missing is the fact that Norwegian's flights out of Providence aren't targeted at the Boston market - because Norwegian already flies out of Logan! They're trying to make a go of serving Providence as its own market (plus pulling in people from CT and MA where TF Green is closer/easier/cheaper than alternatives).

I also highly doubt the commuter rail factored into Norwegian's decision to serve TF Green at all. That few trains per day on weekdays only is not a legitimate way to reach the airport for 99% of travelers. I'd like to see a source for them even considering Pease vs Green, seeing as Pease has a tiny building for a terminal (with a whopping 1 gate), and over the past couple decades has only seen sporadic commercial airline service at all. Only 4 of the past 10 years have had any service at all, and that's just Allegiant running a few flights to Florida. In contrast, TF Green is a decent-sized full airport, with something like 18 gates serving flights from 15 different carriers. The comparison between them is apples-to-oranges.

Norwegian also flies to Bradley in Connecticut and Stewart in New York, which further supports the idea that they're targeting mid-size cities on their own, rather than just choosing a cheaper alternative to the main airports (otherwise they wouldn't be flying to Logan, JFK, Newark, etc. as well - they're treating them as distinct markets). They're not choosing to serve secondary airports instead of primary, and TF Green is not an attempt at serving Boston without going to Logan (because they already go to Logan).
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby eubnesby » Fri Jul 14, 2017 1:29 pm

The service, as it stands is, might as well be nothing for no-one. I am a local traveller, who lives in Providence. I am essentially one of the prime targets of the new Norwegian services, as I'm from Edinburgh and travel there on a regular basis. I also happen to be someone that likes trains, as you'd imagine. However, the service simply cannot compete with alternative modes. If you want to take the train to the airport, you have to work your whole schedule around the train itself, which really doesn't make sense for the average traveller. In my case, I have to walk to the train station, or I could take an Uber for seven dollars. I could also take the bus, but here's the kicker. If I were to take the bus, it'd be the #1 bus, which as it happens, goes directly to the airport every 20 minutes! Does it make sense for me to get off the bus and get on the train, provided that there happens to be a train at the hour and on the day I'm travelling? It does not, even for someone in an urban area.

From suburban Sharon, there are even more problems. I think you failed to account for the essential problem of 'getting to the train station'. Would someone drive to Sharon and leave their car there for days? Having done so, how will they plan their schedule around the horrible service that exists, and will likely continue to exist, even if it were to run on weekends? Why wouldn't they drive straight to airport? Of course, the average person in suburban Sharon, they'll have a car. They'll have enough money to pay for parking at the airport. And more than likely, they'll feel more secure leaving their car at the airport in a secure parking garage than in the open lot at Sharon station. Not to mention, parking at the Sharon station requires an expensive quarterly pass, and there is quite a bit of competition in getting one. Sure, one could factor in getting a taxi/Uber, etc., to the station, or maybe even driving to Route 128, but by the time one has thought about this, one realises that it simply isn't worth going through all this hassle to take this train service.

There is no way that Norwegian decided to serve Providence because of the 'rail link', as others have said. That's a pure nonsense.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby Ryanontherails » Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:25 pm

How ironic, I'm a regular on airliners.net also and I believe there was a time when I was discussing train service there and someone asked me if it was better for railroad.net, now here I am talking about airplanes!

deathtopumpkins wrote:One thing this discussion is missing is the fact that Norwegian's flights out of Providence aren't targeted at the Boston market - because Norwegian already flies out of Logan! They're trying to make a go of serving Providence as its own market (plus pulling in people from CT and MA where TF Green is closer/easier/cheaper than alternatives).


deathtopumpkins wrote:Norwegian also flies to Bradley in Connecticut and Stewart in New York, which further supports the idea that they're targeting mid-size cities on their own, rather than just choosing a cheaper alternative to the main airports (otherwise they wouldn't be flying to Logan, JFK, Newark, etc. as well - they're treating them as distinct markets). They're not choosing to serve secondary airports instead of primary, and TF Green is not an attempt at serving Boston without going to Logan (because they already go to Logan).


Okay, I erred slightly in lumping Norwegian with Frontier and Allegiant. Those carriers are serving T. F. Green as a means of serving Boston without going to Logan. However, that Norwegian is targeting smaller markets is not true. On their website, Providence and Newburgh are listed as "Boston/Providence- T. F. Green" and "New York/Newburgh- Stewart" respectively. The destination guides don't even mention either Providence or Newburgh. And don't be fooled by Hartford: the CSA's population is just shy of 1.5 million, comparable to New Orleans.

So why do they serve both Logan and T. F. Green? From Logan they fly to London Gatwick, Paris, Oslo, and Copenhagen. From T. F. Green they fly to the small airports in Ireland, Scotland, Bergen, and the French Caribbean. Logan is getting the business markets, the people who don't have time to bother with Providence. Aside from Dublin and to a lesser extent Edinburgh and Belfast, T. F. Green is getting the leisure markets. With the exception of the JFK-French Caribbean flights, it's the same thing in New York City with regard to Newark and JFK vs. Stewart.

deathtopumpkins wrote:I also highly doubt the commuter rail factored into Norwegian's decision to serve TF Green at all. That few trains per day on weekdays only is not a legitimate way to reach the airport for 99% of travelers. I'd like to see a source for them even considering Pease vs Green, seeing as Pease has a tiny building for a terminal (with a whopping 1 gate), and over the past couple decades has only seen sporadic commercial airline service at all. Only 4 of the past 10 years have had any service at all, and that's just Allegiant running a few flights to Florida. In contrast, TF Green is a decent-sized full airport, with something like 18 gates serving flights from 15 different carriers. The comparison between them is apples-to-oranges.


Here is a link: https://www.boston.com/news/local.../no ... with-pease
The facilities there may suck, but if Pease was cheap enough, they could find a way to make do with the one gate. It's only three flights a day and they can do a remote stand.

eubnesby wrote:From suburban Sharon, there are even more problems. I think you failed to account for the essential problem of 'getting to the train station'. Would someone drive to Sharon and leave their car there for days? Having done so, how will they plan their schedule around the horrible service that exists, and will likely continue to exist, even if it were to run on weekends? Why wouldn't they drive straight to airport? Of course, the average person in suburban Sharon, they'll have a car. They'll have enough money to pay for parking at the airport. And more than likely, they'll feel more secure leaving their car at the airport in a secure parking garage than in the open lot at Sharon station. Not to mention, parking at the Sharon station requires an expensive quarterly pass, and there is quite a bit of competition in getting one. Sure, one could factor in getting a taxi/Uber, etc., to the station, or maybe even driving to Route 128, but by the time one has thought about this, one realises that it simply isn't worth going through all this hassle to take this train service.


They couldn't park in Sharon if they wanted to, as there is no overnight parking there. They'd keep their cars at home and if it's too far to walk, they'd get a ride from a friend, family member, taxi, or Uber-like service. And I feel that this happens more often than you think. My parents used to take the Bonanza Bus out of Foxborough despite the ~15-minute backtracking when they would go to Logan. They'd get a ride or drive and get their car picked up. There are some things I don't know, such as how often the bus ran or why they didn't get a ride directly to Logan, but they had the car and money to drive and park at Logan. Similarly, though this may be apples-and-oranges, I also had a co-worker who would get a ride to Mansfield and catch a train to Providence and change to an AMTRAK train. The connection may not always be bad, but she could've driven or got a ride to Providence or Route 128.

eubnesby wrote:The service, as it stands is, might as well be nothing for no-one.

eubnesby wrote:There is no way that Norwegian decided to serve Providence because of the 'rail link', as others have said. That's a pure nonsense.


Well, why did they build the Interlink? Why didn't they just build a station in Apponaug with a shuttle bus to the airport? That's just as convenient to I-95 and it has a much larger population in its walkshed. I don't think that the rail link was the reason why Norwegian (or Frontier or Allegiant, for that matter) decided to serve Providence, but I'm sure it was a reason. All we can do here is speculate, but if RIDOT decides that having the one-seat ride to Boston is worthwhile, then they'll pay for the MBTA to go all the way to the airport. And as I said before, if all trains to Providence were extended to the airport, it would become more or less hourly service and that will get the ridership.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby eubnesby » Thu Jul 20, 2017 5:19 pm

Well, why did they build the Interlink?


Graft, which is the usual answer with American infrastructure projects of this sort.
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Re: Commuter Rail to Rhode Island Discussion

Postby deathtopumpkins » Fri Jul 21, 2017 8:30 am

Well, why did they build the Interlink?


Optimistic planning for the future based on money they had available.

Eventually, many years down the line, TF Green will have a robust schedule of commuter trains stopping 7 days a week, and there's consideration for Amtrak stopping there too. And the airport is also growing - RI is hoping to grow traffic there significantly, as evidenced by the money invested in the runway extension. So 10, 20, 30 years down the line, there will likely be a decent volume of passengers connecting to flights via trains to TF Green.

The Interlink may seem unnecessary now, but you could argue that it was actually very smart planning for them to build it first, and then grow rail and air traffic enough that it's actually useful. One less thing to find money for in the future.

Also, the rental car facilities and some parking were relocated out to where the train station is, so the Interlink isn't just used by air-to-rail passengers.
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