Fall River/New Bedford Commuter Rail (South Coast Rail)

JoeGallows

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Plan for southeast rail line would expand South Station, move major post office

By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff

DARTMOUTH --Governor Deval Patrick's plan to bring commuter rail service to New Bedford and Fall River by 2016 would include an expansion of South Station that would force the relocation a major postal facility where much of Boston's mail is sorted.

Patrick outlined a 10-point action plan for the rail line today at a press conference at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, calling it the largest economic initiative in the history of the state. It is still unclear how the $1.4 billion project will be financed, although Patrick did say the administration has set aside $17.2 million for design and environmental permits.

"For nearly 20 years, Massachusetts governors have promised the residents of southeast Massachusetts access to the transit system that links cities and towns all across eastern Massachusetts," Patrick told a crowd of about 150 local leaders. "I am here today to end the talking and get to work."

Today's announcement fulfilled a campaign pledge by Patrick to draft an action plan for the rail line within the administration's first 90 days. Officials hope economic development along the proposed route would defray some construction costs.

The action plan comes after a commission estimated that there was a $15 to $19 billion budget shortfall for the upkeep and repair of the state's current transportation infrastructure. Despite that bleak forecast, Patrick said that the rail project was essential and would create jobs throughout the Commonwealth.

The new rail line would include four new tracks at South Station, which alone is estimated to cost $31.4 million. The new tracks would force the relocation of the United State Postal Annex on Dorchester Avenue along Fort Point Channel. The post office has been negotiating with the Massachusetts Port Authority to move the facility to South Boston.

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I wonder if this would change plans for South Station tower, even if this plan will take ages.
 

Lrfox

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good. I'm glad there's finally a thread on this topic. I'm from the area (assonet is part of Freetown which borders new bedford and fall river to the north) and I see a major need for this. Fall River and New Bedford for those who don't know are very depressed, burned out manufacturing/ whaling centers. While we hear about New Bedford bringing in the most valuable catch in the country in terms of it's fishing industry, the town is in rough shape. As two of the more affordable cities in the state (as opposed to neighboring towns which are on par with most of the rest of metro-Boston in terms of housing prices), a proper means of transportation for the areas could increase the desirability of these locations to possible commuters to Boston.

As of now, it's not easy to get to Boston from here... 24 is a terribly over-used highway (especially at the northern parts) which can make a normal 30-40 minute commute go upto 1.5-2 hours each way during rush hours (my father commuted to International Place on a daily basis from here). The benefit for Boston is easier access for a fairly well populated South Shore (Fall River and New Bedford house 92,000 and 95,000 respectively, and that's not counting the population of immediate surrounding towns).

As of now, the only access to the commuter rail we have is the Middleboro/Lakeville stop in Lakeville, which is a 20-30 minute drive for anyone in Fall River (even far for people from New Bedford).

The South Shore benefits because it makes Fall River and New Bedford more suitable for white collar commuters. These cities are in dire need of a more educated population, and easier access to higher paying jobs (and lower cost housing) for white collar workers benefits both sides. This project is a must.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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I'm skeptical, especially in the light of the HUGE budget shortfalls that the MBTA and state have. I'm all for this but when the rest of the states infrastructure is falling apart is it really wise to keep expanding?

But I do have some hope, after all, construction on the Second Ave Subway is about to start (for the third time in 80 years).
 

PerfectHandle

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vanshnookenraggen said:
But I do have some hope, after all, construction on the Second Ave Subway is about to start (for the third time in 80 years).
Out of curiosity, what kind of shape are the MTA's finances in?
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Bad as hell! In fact they are looking at huge budget shortfalls for the upcoming years. But Gov. Spitzer recently said that he would do whatever it takes to prevent a fare increase including increasing the state funding for standard operations and maintenance for the MTA. I love that man.
 

PerfectHandle

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Honest question: is there a big city transit system in America that's in good financial shape?

Charlie on the MBTA (http://charlieonthembta.blogspot.com/), which is a great transit blog, has been writing about the dire straits Chicago is in, and it just seems like there are endless parallels across the country.
 

jass

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Subsidising transit is a fact of life. I dont know of any system in the world that runs a profit.

Some are subsidised more than others, such as Mexico City, and Moscow, which have very high maintanence and very low fares - 19us cents in mexico.
 

Smuttynose

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jass said:
Subsidising transit is a fact of life. I dont know of any system in the world that runs a profit.

Some are subsidised more than others, such as Mexico City, and Moscow, which have very high maintanence and very low fares - 19us cents in mexico.
Couldn't it be argued that the increase in property values that mass transit usually brings (especially subways) makes up for the shortfall through enhanced property tax revenue.
 

jass

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Smuttynose said:
jass said:
Subsidising transit is a fact of life. I dont know of any system in the world that runs a profit.

Some are subsidised more than others, such as Mexico City, and Moscow, which have very high maintanence and very low fares - 19us cents in mexico.
Couldn't it be argued that the increase in property values that mass transit usually brings (especially subways) makes up for the shortfall through enhanced property tax revenue.
Of course, that and the positive externality of less pollution than cars.
 

ChunkyMonkey

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It's a great idea and all, but shouldn't we improve the existing system and infrastructure before we start building more suburban rail. For example, buy new orange line trains, which are so old that they are truly embarassment to the city.
 

Lrfox

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There are a lot of needs. and i'm not the best to argue this because i have a certain bias, but I believe the economic benefits of this rail line will be helpful in order to make more improvements to the already existing infrastructure (e.g. new orange line cars which ARE an embarrassment). I think this needs to be a priority and not put on the back burner because of its potential implications to not only the South Coast but state as a whole.
 

belmont square

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This is a tough one to justify given the projected cost, the projected benefits, and the woeful state of the MBTA's finances. With 2,000 projected daily riders and a $1.4 billion price tag, that's $700,000 for each new rider. I'd prefer that transit subsidies go to Boston's urban core to expand/maintain service there (where its viable for all trips, not just peak hour commuting ones).
 

jass

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belmont square said:
This is a tough one to justify given the projected cost, the projected benefits, and the woeful state of the MBTA's finances. With 2,000 projected daily riders and a $1.4 billion price tag, that's $700,000 for each new rider. I'd prefer that transit subsidies go to Boston's urban core to expand/maintain service there (where its viable for all trips, not just peak hour commuting ones).
Whered you get 2,000?

The globe said 3,000 new, 10,000 total.

I assume the other 7,000 drive to the red line now.

And if so, thats still an extra $6 in revenue per person (2 subway fare vs 8 commuter rail fare)
 

belmont square

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I believe the Globe was reporting the number of one way trips, not passengers. If there are 3,000 new transit trips not currently occurring, then that's 1,500 new passengers. And since a much higher proportion of commuter rail ridership is for peak hour commuting than the urban modes (bus, subway, trolley), we can expect most of those 1,500 people to purchase monthly passes (currently priced at $250/mo for zone eight). That's $4.5M/year in new revenue for an extension that will have operating costs of $20M/year when it opens. That ratio may not be much worse than it is for other commuter rail lines, but for $1.4B capital and another $20M/year in operating I'd like to provide improved service for more than 1,500 people. I'm all for new transit whenever and wherever we can get it, but spending $1.4B for benefits this marginal will likely do mass transit in Boston more harm (through negative press) than good.
 

Scott

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Less quantifiable is the good it will do for areas of Fall River and NBedford. If the same things happen there as they did in Brockton, then the project would seem to make more sense.
 

Ron Newman

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What happened in Brockton? (I've only ever been there once, and that was to go to a museum)
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Wasn't it the fastest growing city in Mass or something? I know the CR helped by opening up an affordable city close to Boston.
 

belmont square

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I don't doubt that a CR extension would result in some benefits for FR and NB. But both cities are farther away from Boston then Brockton, Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill (where there are still plenty of opportunities for affordable residential opportunities to Boston centered on CR stations), so it might be difficult to lure young professionals that far. And the Commonwealth might be better served by taking the $1.4B, spending say, $700M of it on economic development initiatives targeted on FR and NB, and the other $700M on transit investments in Boston. The former will probably provide more of a benefit to the South Coast economy then a couple hundred loft condos would, and the latter would improve service for untold thousands more transit riders.
 

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