• Pittsfield/Springfield/Boston East-West Passenger Rail

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

Moderators: CRail, sery2831

  by Red Wing
Komarovsky wrote: Fri Dec 17, 2021 2:19 pm 1. No room for expansion inside 128 because of The Pike. This means you have to schedule any East-West trains to be able to slip past the heavy local traffic on the planned 3rd track while not disrupting the west of Framingham MBTA express trains.
Adding 2nd platforms to the Newton stops should help increase speeds and capacity inside of 128.
  by Komarovsky
Trinnau wrote: Fri Dec 17, 2021 7:10 pm 3 - There is sufficient track capacity west of Framingham with just two track to handle the volume of more trips. They were running 44 trains pre-COVID east of Framingham on 2 tracks and only 20 west of Framingham on 2 tracks. A dozen east-west trains can be added without an issue.
Sorry, I wasn't clear. I don't think there is enough capacity on the west of Framingham to allow east-west express trains during peak hours. Sure you can add those 12 trains, but there are very few slots during the AM and PM peak. Check out the pre-covid schedule for 593 and 523, two trains on a 2 track segment of the route, one running local and one express.

https://www.dbperry.net/MBTA/worcester/ ... -10-21.pdf

They're spaced 30 minutes apart, but at West Natick the gap is 13 minutes. I can tell you from years of experience riding 523, that it would frequently get held up by 593.

Going east from Worcester, at the moment trains are spaced 30 minutes apart, because of conflicts with the Framingham locals(partly solved by that 3rd track). You can try and slip an east-west express in between at Worcester, but you've got maybe a 10 minute window between when it could depart Worcester(and not catch up with the west of Framingham local) and when the next Worcester-Boston train departs.
  by Trinnau
The nonstop train would depart between 593 and 523, overtake 593 around Wellesley Square, and pretty much be on 521's heels arriving into Worcester. Figure about a 5:25 departure on that schedule you linked, so 15 minutes behind 593, makes BBY and Lansdowne then for every station stop they don't make subtract about 2 minutes from that 15 minute separation as they close down on 593 and ultimately 521.

The pattern repeats at every express/local pair in both the AM and PM rush - the slots are there for the nonstop trains. It does require the new Worcester Station with 2 tracks to be in service along with the third track to make it work though. The T did a feasibility study in 2019 to make sure this would work, and now they've sunk a bunch of money into design of the third track, so it better work!
Red Wing wrote:Adding 2nd platforms to the Newton stops should help increase speeds and capacity inside of 128.
Not sure how? In fact it will potentially REDUCE capacity because they'll add station stops. In the peak periods they just ran the other track and skipped the stations in the reverse direction - they're not crossing over to make the station stops. Look at the schedule Komarovsky linked, the trains opposite the rush hour don't stop in the Newtons. That's why Newton wanted 2nd platforms so bad, they want to be able to take the train into town in the evening. It's better service but it's not increased capacity.
BandA wrote: Sun Dec 19, 2021 7:55 pm Use one track in the prevailing direction and the other track alternating local trains in the reverse direction and express trains in the prevailing direction. Get speeds up to 90 MPH on express trains to be competitive with the Pike. Use short, variable blocks and crossovers at every station.
You do realize this is the exact opposite of adding capacity right? Track occupancy goes through the roof for opposing moves (ever sat in traffic while a lane is closed for construction?) and crossovers slow trains down. Variable blocks are tricky with ATC and PTC - they just aren't there yet in NA railroading to be considered a vital signal system. Trains would be waiting at either end with higher frequencies.
  by Komarovsky
Trinnau wrote: Mon Dec 20, 2021 11:25 pm The T did a feasibility study in 2019 to make sure this would work, and now they've sunk a bunch of money into design of the third track, so it better work!
You're far more confident in the T's ability to execute on a plan than I am ;] especially in light of their decision to build the double-sided Newton platforms. They're a great decision if you're looking to increase service frequency in Newton(which IMHO could be better achieved by running frequent express buses on a dedicated lane on the Pike), but you're completely right that the new stops that will be added will reduce capacity for everyone coming from west of Newton.
  by Trinnau
Well, not sure if the plan will go all the way but it's gone a long way so far under the current administration when you look at the projects I linked a few pages back. With the push for east/west rail it ends up with a lot of political horsepower to keep the Worcester Line work moving since all that work is needed for east/west. The really only outstanding thing is the funding to actually build the 3rd track, cue the IIJA. Whether they actually run that kind of service we'll see, but things are lining up for it.

The Newtons are a whole different animal, but the rush hour won't see any negative effect from it since the stops are already made in that direction. The additional frequencies/stops will be in the "reverse" peak.
  by Komarovsky
BandA wrote: Sun Dec 19, 2021 7:55 pm Why so slow?
IIRC there were two reasons; the signaling system and the curvature of some sections. The old signals between Framingham and Boston supported a MAS of 59mph. With PTC all done on the line, presumably, that's no longer the limiting factor. Curvature in a couple of places in Wellesley and Weston is also an issue according to the East-West report.
BandA wrote: Sun Dec 19, 2021 7:55 pm There is some crazy curvy stuff, such as near Worcester. Hard to solve without some improvement in tunneling costs!
Yeah, the big Worcester curve certainly slows things down, and west of Worcester it's much worse. Interestingly, according to page 52 of this section of the study(https://www.mass.gov/doc/chapter-4-alte ... 0/download) between Worcester and Framingham, there's a lot more potential for high speeds with conventional equipment than east of Framingham.

I know it's a pipe dream, but a tilting trainset(a la Talgo) would probably allow generally higher speeds on all the curvy sections of the route and reduce the amount(maybe only by a bit) required track straightening or allow even higher speeds with the track straightening.
  by BandA
Superelevation may work. Tilting trains appears to be a scam as for example, the locomotive doesn't tilt and they have to allow for tilting mechanism failure.
  by GaryGP40
Does CSXT still own the old B&A ROW? I haven't looked in a while so I am not sure any longer, but that was one thing that came up many times was that CSXT wanted to use their line for their work/customers and the T was just riding along the tracks (for a fee, of course) but not helping them move freight, which paying customers were their focus.

That line has changed quite a lot with Boston Landing going in ridership in general (less the pandemic) going up too. I remember the days when the trains only went to Framingham!
  by Trinnau
Correct. CP-45, just west of Worcester Station, is the dividing line for the property and dispatching. CSX owns CP-45 and everything to the west, MBTA/MassDOT owns to the east.
  by BandA
I think they have extracted as part of the CSX-PAR merger, promises to allow WOR-SPG services and even further without opposition from CSX. This whole thing about "Amtrak and passenger trains are not paying their fair share" belies how railroads historically charge different rates all the time. Railroads basically invented charging what the market will bear instead of cost-plus.
  by lordsigma12345
Yes the merger proceedings and a recent governmental paper from MassDOT about east west rail have given us a look at what they are thinking. First of all the MBTA will have absolutely zero to do with this now. MassDOT has determined that what they feel are feasible services will not qualify for FTA federal transit funding and they do not want to expand the T’s jurisdiction to cover grant writing for PRIIA section 209 intercity type services - they want to keep its mission to transit services for metro Boston. Instead they want to form an agency similar to NNEPRA to take the ball on developing this service and eventually also take over overseeing all of the state’s PRIIA 209 services as they basically all primarily serve western Massachusetts. This would include the Vermonter, Valley Flyer, and Amtrak’s Hartford Line services.

As far as operator MassDOT acknowledged that while technically MBTA could be employed as a contractor to operate services to western mass, they feel Amtrak is the best option due to CSX being the freight railroad and Amtrak’s willingness to originate the service out of its existing Albany terminal facilities which would eliminate the need to build significant turnaround facilities in Pittsfield. They also do not feel an extension of existing commuter trains to Springfield would provide a competitive travel time.

Basically the plan is:
- two new Amtrak round trips in addition to the existing 448/449 trains between Boston and Albany with the stops mentioned in a previous post providing three daily round trips to Pittsfield.
- inland route Amtrak service running between Connecticut (or possibly NYP) and Boston via the inland route which would provide additional service between Springfield and metro Boston. Number of round trips hasn’t been determined.

They believe the proposed service as opposed to just a train running between Boston and Pittsfield would add other benefits besides just connecting Springfield and Pittsfield to Metro Boston which include:

- A connection to Amtrak’s network in Albany
- connecting Hartford to Metro Boston via the inland route which is a major desire of the state of Connecticut
- provide better intercity service to Worcester connecting it to the NEC going south towards New York and express service into Boston

Seems like this thread will probably end up in the Amtrak forum eventually.
  by BandA
If Lordsigma is correkt and MassDOT is giving up on Commuter Rail to Springfield, they will likely not perform any significant speed upgrades, and probably will not buy SPG-WOR or assume dispatch. This proposed BOS-ALB Amtrak service (essentially two additional instances of the Boston extension of the Lake Shore Ltd., 448/449), plus Inland Regional service, would probably trigger CSX asking Amtrak to pay for a second track WOR-SPG, which might get some speed improvements. The existing Lake Shore Ltd does not run at rush hour and is one-a-day, so it isn't a big deal that anybody from Greater Boston has to travel to Boston or Framingham. But any rush-hour it can take an hour to get from 128 to Framingham or Boston, so trains need a West Suburban long-distance station, which traditionally was Newtonville but West Newton has a better Commuter Rail parking lot.
  by mbrproductions
I think its definetly going to be Amtrak, and it would be best to go all the way to Albany-Rensselaer, the question I have is, would there be any added station stops between Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield and Albany? If so, where would they be located?
  by Trinnau
The MassDOT East-West Rail study has some intermediate stops identified, which has been discussed in this thread. I suggest you have a read through both. MassDOT and Amtrak will likely work together on whatever integrated service plan is developed. I'm sure there is interest in inland route trains as well running at least NHV-BOS.
BandA wrote: Tue Jan 25, 2022 7:14 pm If Lordsigma is correct and MassDOT is giving up on Commuter Rail to Springfield, they will likely not perform any significant speed upgrades, and probably will not buy SPG-WOR or assume dispatch.
MassDOT isn't giving up on anything, it was pretty clear that Springfield was too far to be considered "commuter rail" but establishing arrival/departure times for "commuting" via intercity rail service (Amtrak) is still very much what MassDOT wants. You're reading too closely into what's been agreed to. The minimums they asked for are a reasonable start so CSX would agree. MassDOT recognized that their limited leverage only went so far. If MassDOT kept up with a larger frequency demand it would likely have been seen as unreasonable by both CSX and the STB.
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