Commuter Rail To Millis and Milford

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Commuter Rail To Millis and Milford

Postby braves » Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:35 am

Have anyone heard if the MBTA still has plans to extend a branch of the Needham Line to Millis and the Franklin Line to Milford.


What's the story on this.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby cpf354 » Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:02 am

The only extensions on the table I think are New Bedford and Fall River.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby jaymac » Fri Apr 24, 2009 2:40 pm

Around 20 years ago, there was a T study, folded into a bigger T study, about commuter service to Millis. Predictably, the only things that happened were that the consultants enjoyed some income and that a bunch of trees got killed. The Millis line, with relatively low population density, falls in between the Worcester and Franklin lines and, if it were built, would siphon away ridership from the more heavily traveled routes as well as adding to the congestion at South Station. Extending from Forge Park to Milford might be a bit more probable, but Forge Park's easy access from I-495 and other feeder roads works against what would be a fairly extensive and expensive upgrade of freight-only trackage, balanced against the relatively few who might board in Milford.
One other problem: More lines mean more power, more cars, more crews, and more outward cash flow for the already cash-strapped T.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby TomNelligan » Fri Apr 24, 2009 4:42 pm

Regarding the once-proposed restoration of MBTA commuter service to Millis, as I recall there was also an issue with wealthy NIMBYs in Dover who didn't want the horrible dangerous trains in their lovely village.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:10 pm

https://www.commentmgr.com/Projects/121 ... 0Action%20)-%2004.04.2007.pdf

The EOT's FR/NB action plan details the SS expansion that'll occur when the Post Office facility gets razed. FR/NB requires 3 extra tracks built to preserve existing capacity at the station. The plan is to add 6 new tracks to up capacity for further southside expansion. See p. 33-35 in the PDF, including the Figure on p.35 showing the 3 double-track platforms that'll take up 1/2 to 1/3 the width of the current Post Office.

Specific expansion projects cited for the SS expansion:
The construction of six new tracks would allow for additional future service to be added to the southside lines, including long-discussed Commuter Rail extensions to Milford, Buzzard’s Bay, and Millis; increased service on the Worcester Line; and more and higher-frequency service on the Fairmount Line.



Millis/Medfield/Dover itself is too lightly-populated a corridor to really merit CR on its own, but apparently there are big problems with commuters in those towns choking other park-and-ride lots, especially in Needham. It becomes a more attactive proposition when you consider restoration to Bellingham and the Franklin line where a full alt-routing can seriously relieve the capacity crunch to Franklin/Forge Park, which is going to get very problematic if that line gets built out to Milford and the Fairmount rapid-transitization takes the Midland Route NEC bypass away from those trains. So as a first-leg upgrade to the CR's southwestern capacity the inexpensive fix-up of the active trackage to Route 109 in Millis is a good start that makes junctioning with the Franklin at some point later on an easier step to complete. The abandoned portion of the ROW is pretty clear and sparsely-populated from 109 until it hits residential neighborhoods in Medway (the old terminus of the CR route from 40 years ago). However there's a huge power station where the ROW approaches Route 126 with wide tracts of high-tension power line no-man's land spreading out in about 6 different directions, about 3 of which get you to 495 and various junctions with the Franklin Line anywhere from Forge Park to just south of Milford on NIMBY-free land. There's another routing on the outskirts of Medway that avoids any downtown NIMBY's if the line deviates south off the woodland ROW across water treatment plant land and then curves back west on about a 400-foot wide expanse of land with dozens of high-tension power lines that bypasses downtown Medway to the south until re-crossing the original ROW and junctioning at the big power station with all the zillions of other power line ROW's spreading in all directions. It's pretty stark looking on Google satellite view, so the options don't look that bad at all if the original ROW is a NIMBY minefield.

I think they ought to do it at some point after FR/NB. Franklin line is getting choked, and it'll only get worse. The northerly bypass on lower-traffic trackage would really help for the 495 park-and-riders who've got a slow trip, plus if you junction at Bellingham it opens up a potential future southerly Worcester bypass using Grafton & Upton trackage from Milford to Grafton. Also, if you've got few stations and CSX doesn't bitch about using the Framingham Secondary, it's also a southerly roundabout to Framingham station (less-direct geographically, but likely faster and easier to mix with freight traffic if it's run as a rush-hour express with few intermediate stops). The alt routings will be necessary on those crush-load lines if you're projecting out 20 to 30 years, and this isn't a bad way to address it from a cost-effectiveness standpoint. For that reason I think the Millis extension on the fully-active trackage has kept hanging around for years in the T's plans as the proverbial-bridesmaid southside extension after the highest-priority projects. They also HAVE to keep the infrastructure active and maintained to the Framingham Secondary junction in Medfield because they can't sever that freight corridor or the alt-routing option, so half the line to Millis is already getting perpetual minimum upkeep and probably always will.

Keep in mind, also, that if a DMU fleet ever gets purchased the Needham Line is one of the 3 (Fairmount and the Newton/Allston leg of the Framingham Line out to Riverside being the others) shortest, closest-spaced, and most inner-suburban to merit DMU usage instead of locos. Rozzie and West Roxbury need the higher-frequency service, Needham's got close station spacing on the branch and could benefit from faster start-stops at the primarily grade-crossing located stations, and the more interurban line nature of that type of operation would merit extension north one more station to a 128/TV Place park-and-ride and fill in a congested park-and-ride gap on the southwest quadrant of 128. So if you double-tracked to West Roxbury and got the locos off the local stops you free up a lot of capacity on the main line for a wider-spaced long-distance run southwest. Flexibility's where the upside starts to show.

I'm fine with this remaining a secondary priority; I don't think there's any rush to try this in the next decade while the T's got other bigger problems to tackle. But it starts looking a lot more attractive and more a no-brainer when you start projecting traffic and southside routing needs out long-term.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby diburning » Sat Apr 25, 2009 9:51 pm

If Fairmount ever becomes Rapid Transit, it would be in everyone's best interest to keep a single CR track for the inland NEC detour should they ever need to use it.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby Choo Choo Coleman » Fri Oct 30, 2009 5:30 pm

I had the occasion to ride the Needham Line for the first time yesterday. I noticed at Needham Junction where the line branches off towards Millis. I know the T doesn't have any money so I don't anticipate any expansion there for awhile.
I looked up the Millis Branch and I came across a story that talks about some local residents who want to covert the Millis Branch to a rail trail. The story says that the T would still hold the rights to put the line back in, but I think that once you rip up the rails the odds of the rail ever going back in goes down significantly.
I still don't get why they can't just put a bike trail next to the line? It would benefit everybody.

http://www.wickedlocal.com/needham/fun/ ... gh-Needham

It's from the Needham Times from August 2009
The bike trail is only in the discussion stages, but it would be smart to let the ROW get paved over.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:13 pm

Choo Choo Coleman wrote:I had the occasion to ride the Needham Line for the first time yesterday. I noticed at Needham Junction where the line branches off towards Millis. I know the T doesn't have any money so I don't anticipate any expansion there for awhile.
I looked up the Millis Branch and I came across a story that talks about some local residents who want to covert the Millis Branch to a rail trail. The story says that the T would still hold the rights to put the line back in, but I think that once you rip up the rails the odds of the rail ever going back in goes down significantly.
I still don't get why they can't just put a bike trail next to the line? It would benefit everybody.

http://www.wickedlocal.com/needham/fun/ ... gh-Needham

It's from the Needham Times from August 2009
The bike trail is only in the discussion stages, but it would be smart to let the ROW get paved over.


The trail lobby on this one is hard to take seriously. It's the same 3 guys who pretty much part-and-parel run the Needham Bikes advocacy group who are primary sponsor of this. They had that nice slick website of theirs, the plans, and blogs/mailing list/message board set up behind it before they'd even established line ownership and whether it was still active.

According to the organizers' posts on the Needham Bikes message boards they hit up some Bay Colony exec who lives in Needham for a friendly chat, and he said they don't have plans for the Medfield-Newton section of trackage rights since the last customer went. And from there he speculated that the RR might be willing to give it up, and described what the formal abandonment process was. Except that the T confirmed that Bay Colony re-upped its operator's agreement not too long ago. But the trail guys ran with this speculation, got connected with some other trails and conservancy groups, got some similarly not-really-in-loop town officials behind it, started courting press attention...and all of a sudden, "you know what would be a great idea...if there were a trail on that there railroad line!" became a movement with apparent 'momentum' about to crest and fodder for small-town papers.

The T hasn't made comment on any of this; their real estate guy just answered questions about the operator agreement and the standard lease rate. Nothing about the T's interest in accommodating, because they haven't talked with the T enough for them to even be much aware of this group. Yeah...they probably asked an official a question the official gets all the time from individual citizens with a dream. It's not the same as making a dead-serious offer to repurpose a rail line. They haven't talked to the Needham board of selectmen yet, so they're yet hitting a level of local government with capacity to steer this. About the most they've done is show up at some local meetings and work contacts to get a Medfield selectmen, a DCR rep, and a couple staffers from the local state rep's and state senator's offices to go out to the rail bridge on the Dover town line for a photo op. End result of that: DCR and the Metro Area Planning Council say they'll conduct a feasibility study if every town on the route jointly requests it. Which of course they haven't done, because they haven't talked to enough people in each town with any capacity to pass such a request.

The article cites a lot of figures about how the plans will get done, making it look like it's in a much more advanced planning stage than it actually is. Look at the trail folks' website and all the collected documents from other trail orgs, including a kind of eyebrow-raising guidebook on how to work over a RR to pry away a ROW. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where the reporter on this article, and indeed probably a lot of the tertiary officials who they've talked to through personal connections, got their facts, figures, and cost estimates.

I'll give the guys credit for being personally well-organized, putting on a slick presentation, having decent web design skills, and being able to get the attention of small-town media. But there's not yet a story here. You can't simply create a little attention for yourself and equate that to building legal, political, and financial leverage for taking over an active RR when they haven't even engaged any of the players in power--much less the line's owner--yet. Of all the active trail lobbies in the state, this has got to be one of the flimsiest in actual depth.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby diburning » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:44 pm

Here's a solution.... we keep the service, but whenever theres no service on the line, we let the bikers use it, but they would have to replace the wheels on their bikes with ones that have flanges :P
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:25 pm

diburning wrote:Here's a solution.... we keep the service, but whenever theres no service on the line, we let the bikers use it, but they would have to replace the wheels on their bikes with ones that have flanges :P


Or, hey, there's the big wide railroad bed that goes all the way from Boston to Worcester, and all the way beyond to Albany. Last two times I rollerbladed over the Beacon St. bridge there weren't any trains on it, so I figure it must be abandoned. And, get this, it's two-tracks wide...you could put, like, TWO bike paths at once on that! So I called up my friend at Bay Colony to ask if I can have it...he said "Well, we don't have any freight on that thing, so...sure, you can have it." I set up the website, got a bunch of my friends to sign the guestbook, had my picture taken overlooking it from the Pike with the Framingham mayor's estranged brother-in-law, and I figure we'll be out at Natick tearing up the rails around 7:25 next Tuesday morning.

You know, that one that goes southeast to Providence looked pretty abandoned that one time I drove by there really late at night. It's got wires overhead too so you could, like, have an electric bike path and save emissions and stuff. I'm gonna ask my Bay Colony friend if I can have that one too. Gosh...railroaders are the most generous folks ever to us bicyclists.

:wink:
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby FP10 » Mon Nov 02, 2009 12:48 pm

Would a Millis/Milford extension make sense if a new Green Line branch were made to Needham Junction like planned in the 50s? Therefore instead of 2 new CR lines crowding South Station you still only have one (longer) line, and a GL transfer allowing the Franklin and Millis/Milford passengers metro-west and northern boston access sooner, without having to get on the red line.

This of course would create crowding issues in the central subway, but I feel these must be addressed in some form when the Medford Extension opens, and revised routing could probably handle another line (after all, the numbers of trains going through there has been decreasing thanks to the abandonment of Arborway and the A)

EDIT: I agree this is low-priority to other projects, but still something that should be on the table
Last edited by FP10 on Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby trainhq » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:16 pm

People would definitely ride the trains to that area, and it would help unclog Route 109. However, even though it's a decent idea,
there are too many other projects waiting in the queue in front that will get funding first. It's going to be at least 10 years or more
before the T even looks at it.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:15 pm

FP10 wrote:Would a Millis/Milford extension make sense if a new Green Line branch were made to Needham Junction like planned in the 50s? Therefore instead of 2 new CR lines crowding South Station you still only have one (longer) line, and a GL transfer allowing the Franklin and Millis/Milford passengers metro-west and northern boston access sooner, without having to get on the red line.

This of course would create crowding issues in the central subway, but I feel these must be addressed in some form when the Medford Extension opens, and revised routing could probably handle another line (after all, the numbers of trains going through there has been decreasing thanks to the abandonment of Arborway and the A)

EDIT: I agree this is low-priority to other projects, but still something that should be on the table


It is on the table, wish-list wise. Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization screened it for its 2004 Transportation Plan (http://www.bostonmpo.org/bostonmpo/3_pr ... /plan.html). Of the unfunded line extensions it screened, here's how they broke them down:

Highest priority:
-- North-South Rail Link
-- Fall River/New Bedford
-- Peabody/Danvers (medium-priority in the '04 plan...they've since upped it to high on the long-range plan)

Medium priority (and why):
-- *Haverhill-Plaistow extension (high-ish ridership, high air quality improvements, cheapest total cost and per-rider cost of all extensions on the table)
-- *Lowell-Nashua extension (high ridership, high air quality improvements, midrange total cost, low per-rider cost)
-- Millis (high ridership, medium total cost)**
-- Leominster via Northborough branch (rated high for ridership and new transit riders, poor for capital and operating cost)
-- Forge Park-Milford extension (medium-priority for ridership, but low per-rider capital/operating costs)
-- Middleborough-Wareham extension (low-ish ridership, low capital costs but high-ish per-rider cost)
-- Fitchburg-Gardner re-extension (rated very low for ridership, highest operating cost of any extension...only medium-priority because of economic opportunities would bring)

*obviously these are contingent on NH kicking in, which lowers the (MA-only) rating. These are, however, guaranteed high-priority if they pay up.
**priority not higher because they think increased Needham service could absorb some of the ridership increase without the capital costs

N-S Link (96,100), FR/NB (8700), Millis (4000), Nashua (3100), Leominster (3000), Milford (1800), Peabody/Danvers (1700), Plaistow (1700), Wareham (1300), and Gardner (50) were how these ranked in terms of daily riders. Quite surprised Leominster was that big...I wonder if at least going to Northborough/290 would've been higher up on the priority scale if those were T-owned instead of CSX-owned tracks. Gardner obviously is a mirage overweighted by economic stimuli factors...I don't think anyone's really taking that one seriously.


I think they're cheating a bit by figuring the Millis riders would be served by just running more Needham trains. Needham already has issues with its parking lots and roads being choked by out-of-town commuters trying to hit their CR stations, and the studies on the Millis extension haven't factored that in. The Needham line also can't have its ridership expand enough to absorb the full load of out-of-towners because of the not-abundant parking near its stations. Honestly, I think it's lower than it should be on the priority pile because the ridership factors haven't been studied correctly and they haven't taken enough into account the relationship between the two line branches here. That ridership more than justifies the not-bad costs.


At any rate, it's insane to give up an active line with that kind of ridership potential to the bicyclists. And the T might agree there.
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby madcrow » Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:41 pm

trainhq wrote:People would definitely ride the trains to that area, and it would help unclog Route 109. However, even though it's a decent idea,
there are too many other projects waiting in the queue in front that will get funding first. It's going to be at least 10 years or more
before the T even looks at it.

That's what doesn't really make snese to me. Why does the T continually go after pie-in-the-sky projects like CR to Fall River and NB while neglecting simple, cheap and likely profitable things that could be done much faster?
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Re: Commuter rail extensions to Millis and Milford.

Postby TomNelligan » Mon Nov 02, 2009 10:00 pm

madcrow wrote: Why does the T continually go after pie-in-the-sky projects like CR to Fall River and NB while neglecting simple, cheap and likely profitable things that could be done much faster?


In the case of the South Coast service restoration, it's largely politics -- keeping the legislators from that part of the state happy so they'll vote for general MBTA funding when it comes up every year. And the Governor is pushing it because he too wants votes from the area.
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