Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inland

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Rockingham Racer
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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by Rockingham Racer » Tue Nov 13, 2018 8:01 am

lordsigma12345 wrote:Interesting evening tonight. I was on 176 heading home from NYP and it was running 40+ mins late thanks to Norfolk Southern. 476 Shuttle did not wait and I got bumped to CTrail train 4414. According to the CTrail conductor this has been a nearly daily occurrence for 176, which originates in Roanoke, lately. 4414 was using the SLE Mafersa equipment. There were some annoyed passengers on board due to the less comfortable commuter equipment being used. While it is true that all the trains on the line are the same cost and yes you could also wait at NHV for 494 if you really wanted the Amtrak equipment, I can see this becoming a point of contention between Amtrak and CTDOT if Amtrak starts getting complaints from Amtrak paying customers ending up on commuter equipment. While meanwhile Amtrak is having 476 not wait in order to keep commuter rail customers happy. I guess its a complication of the way the line is operated....
I think the point of contention should be between NS and Amtrak. Then, there wouldn't be any point of contention in CT. Go to where the problem originates, IOW.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by lordsigma12345 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:08 am

That's very true and ultimately NS was the problem here. But Im just saying that some Amtrak passengers who do not understand the cross honoring of tickets and that Amtrak's trains also have to accommodate commuter rail passengers on this line could be annoyed by "downgrading" to commuter equipment. I will say that I personally don't care and they made the right call in this case.. we were 40 minutes late and didn't have to wait long at all for 4414 and they did have it right across the platform (though I went into the station quick to grab a fountain drink.) However there was a lady quite annoyed and was saying she was going to ask Amtrak for a refund. I tried to explain that the train price between CTrail and the Shuttles is the same and that if she bought an Amtrak ticket from New Haven to hartford it would be the same price, but she didnt seem to believe me.

I guess the possible contention I'm referring to is this sort of puts Amtrak into a damned if you do damned if you don't scenario. If you don't wait you risk annoying passengers due to either having to wait at NHV or getting "downgraded" to commuter equipment. If you do wait you risk annoying commuter rail customers along the route who are using that train. If Amtrak starts to get a lot of complaints from its own customers it could lead to problems.. I think most frequent riders on the line know the drill and understand the whole CTrail/Amtrak thing but there will be some that don't..

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by shadyjay » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:20 am

Late connections between the mainline trains and the shuttles is just another reason why the New Haven-Springfield line should be operated independently of the mainline NEC (VA-DC-NYP-BOS). If it's going to be used as a true commuter line, not just between NHV-HFD-SPG, but also from points south (such as Bridgeport, Stamford, etc), then some of those departures from NHV should not rely on waiting for a train from DC or Virginia.

At least, in the example above, a shuttle left NHV before the NEC train it connects from, arrived in NHV. That 40-minute wait would've pissed off anyone trying to use the Hartford Line for commuting. And since none of the intermediate stations have any enclosed waiting room anymore (except the "up and over"), that'd be a long cold wait come this winter. So kudos for the decision to be made to leave without the connecting passengers. Get 'em on a later train!

In a perfect world, the 400-series shuttles would be abolished, Amtrak would continue with its through trains from VT and SPG to points south, and for passengers from NEC trains wishing to connect at NHV to "inland points", a note in the timetable should suffice: "Connecting local service to Hartford, Springfield, and intermediate stations provided by CTRail Hartford Line".

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by lordsigma12345 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:35 am

daybeers wrote:Interesting. When you say the Mafersa cars "offer way more than the MBB cars do", what exactly do you mean? Comfort? Larger windows?

A question about Amtrak reservations: say I had a ticket for Shuttle #471 from Hartford to connect with Northeast Regional #171, but the day of, I decided I wanted to get to New Haven a little earlier to explore a bit. I could take CTrail #4401, or if I wanted to go even earlier, Shuttle #495. Would the conductor let me continue on the trip if I just had my ticket for 471 and 171? When you book a through Amtrak ticket, the Shuttle gets bundled with the Regional and you get a little bit knocked off the price. For example, WAS to NHV is $72, but WAS to HFD is $74, so a savings of $6 over the regular Shuttle fare. Now that's not that much, but I wouldn't want to pay more if I already had a ticket for a later train. I would guess the CTrail crew would allow me to continue, but the crew on 495 might give me some trouble because it's not the same train. Would they still scan the ticket? If they didn't, would my reservation actually be cancelled when I get on Regional #171 because I technically was a "no-show" for #471? (I've always thought that was a silly Amtrak rule, by the way).
I've heard mixed messages about this. I know with Amtrak tickets if you want to switch from a Shuttle to another Shuttle you are supposed to alter the reservation but with the flat fares it won't cost you anything as long as its done before boarding. For CTrail I've heard some people say you can just board any CTrail train with any Amtrak ticket as long as its for that day, but then I've also heard some say that there's fine print and that Amtrak tickets are only supposed to be used on CTrail if you miss your train. IE they are good on CTrail for a certain number of hours after the scheduled departure time on your Amtrak ticket. I dont know which is the official policy and it could depend on what conductor you get!

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by gregorygrice » Tue Nov 13, 2018 10:47 am

lordsigma12345 wrote:
I've heard mixed messages about this. I know with Amtrak tickets if you want to switch from a Shuttle to another Shuttle you are supposed to alter the reservation but with the flat fares it won't cost you anything as long as its done before boarding. For CTrail I've heard some people say you can just board any CTrail train with any Amtrak ticket as long as its for that day, but then I've also heard some say that there's fine print and that Amtrak tickets are only supposed to be used on CTrail if you miss your train. IE they are good on CTrail for a certain number of hours after the scheduled departure time on your Amtrak ticket. I dont know which is the official policy and it could depend on what conductor you get!
As I said in my previous post, Any Amtrak ticket is valid on any CTrail train as long as its not expired and hasn't been lifted (scanned & used) already. I've seen several people that will get to their original station early and take CTrail so that they don't have to wait at a station that doesn't have amenities like a heated waiting area especially now that it is getting cold. Amtrak ticket machines can only sell tickets for Shuttles, Regionals & Vermonter so even if someone is trying to specifically catch a CTrail train, if they buy a ticket from an Amtrak machine or Amtrak ticket agent, it's going to have a specific train number on it. But it's still valid on any CTrail train.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by lordsigma12345 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 11:14 am

Good to know thanks!

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by lordsigma12345 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 11:48 am

shadyjay wrote:In a perfect world, the 400-series shuttles would be abolished, Amtrak would continue with its through trains from VT and SPG to points south, and for passengers from NEC trains wishing to connect at NHV to "inland points", a note in the timetable should suffice: "Connecting local service to Hartford, Springfield, and intermediate stations provided by CTRail Hartford Line".
Not going to happen. CTDOT is dependent on Amtrak to make this line work. They needed Amtrak to pickup 3 of the new round trips to make it to the number they promised for the project and outright admitted this at public meetings (17 round trip trains.) They did not and do not at present have enough equipment to run all of the new service let alone taking over what Amtrak was running before - the original plan for NHHS was for Amtrak to just continue what it was doing and for CTDOT's new service to pickup all additional service going forward (including the 3 new round trips Amtrak picked up). This did not happen due to cost overruns on the project and lack of ability to get enough equipment with available funds - they got lucky that Amtrak was willing to pickup 3 round trips. There is a little more wiggle room equipment wise right now with Shore Line East being bussed half of its schedule and that's giving them the opportunity to get the bugs out of the MBB cars and get the restroom work done. I suspect when the restrooms are done you won't see the Mafersa sets as regularly on the Hartford Line. I don't think CTDOT wants to make this into purely commuter rail - I think it wants to cater to both commuters and Amtrak passengers. I would add that more than half of the people on the CTrail train I got bumped to were affected passengers from 176 so I think they recognize that Amtrak riders are an important part of their ridership. Yes with northbound Amtrak delays on the corridor and CSX/NS there are sometimes going to be glitches and sometimes northbound Amtrak passengers may end up on MBB or Mafersa equipment. Southbound the system is working just fine. I think overall the setup works and CTDOT isn't reliant strictly on one provider. Amtrak owns the rails and I think CTDOT is happy to let Amtrak run the amount of trips it is willing to run under the state-supported agreement with Massachusetts so they can focus on adding more times to the schedule with CTrail rather than worrying about existing times.

Overall I think the system works I was just pointing out that challenge and I think they could address it over time especially when it comes time to decide on permanent equipment.
Last edited by lordsigma12345 on Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by lordsigma12345 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:08 pm

gregorygrice wrote: Also, I don't know what Amtrak's policy is for holding trains but I have seen them hold their shuttles for late connecting Regionals even when they're 40+ mins late. Maybe it depends on passenger count? Who knows.
I think its a case by case scenario.....how many connecting passengers you are dealing with...how long would they have to wait for the next train at NHV if you leave (not long in our case)...how many CTrail/local passengers do you normally see during that time that would be affected if you wait.... probably no set right or wrong answer just depends on which train it is.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by Ridgefielder » Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:29 pm

benboston wrote:In order to achieve 50 trains per day. What infrastructural requires are there? For example, what stations will become over capacity? Tripled tracked mainline? Electrification? What else?
For the sake of context: the Long Island Rail Road manages to run 40/day behind diesels on the single-track Port Jefferson branch. The existing double track should be more than adequate for 50/day on the Hartford Line once the Hartford viaduct problem is resolved.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by lordsigma12345 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:22 pm

For service on the line from New Haven to Hartford the big limiter right now is available equipment. For extension to Springfield of all trains they need to finish phase 3 of the double track (Windsor Locks to Springfield.) To reach CTDOT's 2030 vision of the service, in addition to the Hartford Viaduct the CT river bridge would also need to be addressed which is also not covered under phase 3 work.

This just in and quite ironic given the earlier discussion:
Beginning tomorrow (11/14) and lasting through the Thanksgiving period until Sunday 11/25 select Shuttles will be operated with Shore Line East equipment. These trains are now listed as "Holiday Commuter" in the Amtrak reservation system and hopefully that means they have notified customers. The trains affected are: weekday 495, 470, 475, and 494 and weekend/holiday 450, 460, 488, 432, 405, 409, 497, and 467. This is being done so that Amtrak can continue to cross-honor the CTrail tickets on all trains during the busy Thanksgiving period.

Presumably the three car shuttle set that has been lurking around will move to operating on other lower-traffic shuttle trips to increase their capacity during this time.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:25 pm

I forgot that the Vermonter stops at Windsor Locks but it makes sense. Not only is the airport very close by but there are probably a lot of offices near Windsor Locks station that would attract business travelers from express trains like the Vermonter. I doubt that many airline travelers use the train to Bradley.

I love the Mafersa cars. The seating in them is very nice, especially for long hauled commuter runs. I remember when they operated on Virginia Railway Express. I'm sure that there were outer zone travelers who appreciated them. I'm not a big fan of the MBB cars especially because of the seats and ride quality. Mafersas show up on the Springfield Line regularly, even on Amtrak 400 series trains. It doesn't surprise me one bit that they will be used on Amtrak's shuttles.

The 400 series trains aren't going away. Amtrak trains were there first to operate on the Springfield Line and many people appreciate riding in Amfleets while paying reasonable prices.

I can also understand frustrations about Amtrak travelers not wanting to have to ride in CDOT owned equipment when they pay for Amtrak. Unfortunately, thats the way the system works on the Springfield Line. What should have happened was in writing, Amtrak should have mentioned in their timetables that at times when a Northeast Regional is very late into New Haven and passengers miss the connecting 400 series shuttle train, they may be opted to take the next available Ctrail train. I like how the ticket prices are the same Ctrail trains as they are for the 400 series trains. If you intend to take all Amtrak trains from the NEC to points along the Springfield Line and don't want to risk having to miss your 400 series connection, then take the Vermonter or one of the few direct Northeast Regionals.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by Rockingham Racer » Tue Nov 13, 2018 8:47 pm

njt/mnrrbuff wrote:I forgot that the Vermonter stops at Windsor Locks but it makes sense. Not only is the airport very close by but there are probably a lot of offices near Windsor Locks station that would attract business travelers from express trains like the Vermonter. I doubt that many airline travelers use the train to Bradley. snip
Then how does it make sense for the Vermonter to stop at Windsor Locks? You seem to be contradicting yourself.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by JcPinCT » Tue Nov 13, 2018 8:52 pm

Arlington wrote: I'm trying to remember where the Hartford station rebuild falls in the 25-year timeline (2018 ~ 2040s) for rebuilding I-84, but I think the idea was that they'd move the trains first (in the 2020s?)
Correct. The tracks currently sharing the I84 viaduct footprint are scheduled to be moved first in the late 2020s.

CDOT will hopefully also complete the remaining Hartford Line projects by the late 2020s:
1. New additional stations in Hamden, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield.
2. New replacement stations in Windsor and Windsor Locks.
3. Second track between Windsor Locks and Enfield
4. Refurbishment/replacement of the Connecticut River bridge (technically not part of the Hartford Line project but ideal for full schedule between Hartford and Springfield).

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by BandA » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:09 am

I'm shocked that they repainted the MBB's but didn't fix or replace the seats? They were quite comfortable when they were new. Maybe they could inject new foam into the seat cushions? Comes down to poor materials selection / design by MBB.

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Re: Amtrak Springfield Line Shuttle/Regional/Greenfield/Inla

Post by BandA » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:39 am

Traingeek3629 wrote:
lordsigma12345 wrote:
As for inland route I don't think they'd run dedicated trains. They'd either use the current Shuttle method or return to a practice of having a combined train run NHV-WAS and split it for shore/inland routes.
I disagree. It is much easier to dedicate two shuttle sets that just run between Boston and Springfield along with the LSL. New stops should be constructed at East Springfield, Palmer, and West Brookfield. (also serving Warren, Ware, and Brookfield) Although the line runs through Charlton, I think that is just a waste of time to stop at Charlton since that is so close to the regular commuter rail. Ideally the runtime should be reduced to around two hours instead of 2.5 hours. Springfield-Boston is also only a 90 minute drive, still in commuting range.

Here is my proposed schedule:
Springfield-Boston Boston-Springfield
6:20 AM-8:27 AM | 6:45 AM-8:52 AM
11:35 AM-1:42 PM | 12:50 PM-3:01 PM (LSL)
5:33 PM-7:51 PM (LSL) | 5:25 PM-7:32 PM

P.S. Why is that line so loopy after Palmer? If I had built the line it would have gone through Spencer and Leicester instead of Charlton.
I'm thinking the ideal location for an Inland Regional Amtrak station between Palmer and Worcester would be the former site of South Spencer (Depot?), but accessed from the 55 MPH MA-49 instead of South Spencer Rd. It's unclear from the satellite if that is swampland, conservation land or state forest. There are about 3 houses on Depot Rd. It's a quick 11 miles from the yuge I-84 / I-90 / US-20 Interchange in Sturbridge & right off of MA-9, across the highway from the automobile unloading facility. Or you could build a station at Charlton Depot, but that would require a new Mass Pike / MA-31 interchange and that ain't happening anytime soon. Charlton is far enough from Worcester (~~>25 min) to have it's own train station, but it's pretty rural, US-20 & MA-31 are far from ideal. Warren train station is so darn perfect you want it to be reopened, but for Amtrak it would be too near Palmer, and again you would need a new I-90 interchange at MA-19 - which I believe has actually been talked about in the past.

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