Regional Rail (including North-South Rail Link)

HenryAlan

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Why do you think Amtrak doesn't have a couple of spare electric locomotives? I'm not saying they do, but do you have some kind of equipment list or other data to back your statement?
 

Rover

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There's almost nothing you can do to speed it up. PVD station to the Blackstone River bridge @ MA state line is a 70 MPH speed limit with 30 MPH restriction immediately exiting PVD station, 60 MPH restriction at the curve where I-95/RI 146 split, and 60 MPH through Old Pawtucket/Central Falls station. It's 125 MPH on the entirety of the Attleboro Cutoff to East Junction, then 150 (rated 165 MPH) from East Junction for 13+ miles to the mild curve just south of Sharon station. The 70 MPH segment isn't as bad as it seems since every single passenger train regardless of stripes starts from dead stop at Providence and spends most of that slow zone in acceleration. And it's impossible to modify on-footprint with I-95 and/or Downtown Pawtucket walled up tight around it. Alon Levy calculated that the NEC FUTURE-proposed East Providence/East Junction Branch bypass--which would add another 5+ miles of 165 MPH territory--would have relatively minor effect on HSR schedules because enough of that tangent track coming off the reanimated tunnel + new river crossing would be spent in acceleration, and the rest just isn't a consequential enough difference from the 125 MPH Attleboro Cutoff. (There are other pretty good reasons taken together for building the east bypass, but raw clock time on an Acela schedule isn't the primary one.) Likewise, I doubt you could do very much to zip up Sharon to 128. Canton Viaduct can't be bypassed without silly-stupid amounts of property-taking, and the other minor curves are already gentle enough to sustain >100.

It's City of Boston where everything gets real slow because of congestion. While NE Regionals most definitely do have a longstanding constituency at 128 Station, it's dubious whether the Acelas truly do. But that stop has to get used by Amtrak dispatch @ SS as a timing mechanism to pace the enormous traffic volumes inbound, so every Acela stops there and always has. There's a lot that can be done to help this, and it's all things we've been talking about in this RER/NSRL thread. Get the perennial toilet-clog Needham Line off of the SW Corridor so track-switching and track-sharing in the 3-track tunnel isn't so constipated. Implement the RER plan to interline Forge Park + Foxboro via the Fairmount Line (at least on most regular slots...targeted NEC-Franklin supplementals are OK at select conflict-free times)...vacating the second-most invasive branchline from fouling faster-moving traffic with its track-switching games. Close all stations with squished-to-one-side island layouts requiring track-switching to reach: Forest Hills, and Hyde Park if the only 4-track rebuild config for it is "squished". Make it so that all traffic is sorting itself after Ruggles and that when future 4-track territory starts at Green St. the Amtraks can split off onto 2 center tracks to get off to the races while the Providence and Stoughton/South Coast locals hug the outer tracks for denser-stop commuter rail. Then I think you can make a judgment call about whether it's okay to drop 128 from the Acela schedule and blast on through, because the timing mechanism won't need to be deployed and you took out the trash on all those crossover-against-traffic moves Ruggles-Readville that make accelerating to higher speed a futile game inside the city. None of it would be 165 MPH territory by any means, but a crapton of unnecessary lowest-common-denominator padding--all of it inside Route 128--would go away and you'd see a bigger schedule lead start to open up for Amtrak vs. the CR locals on those last few miles.

This is very doable. But we have to implement RER without pussyfooting, and find permanent homes for the SW Corridor branchlines in the process to set up that no-cross-traffic track layout that segregates the intercity vs. local speeds.
Thanks for the good info. Two questions. 1) Do you consider all of the improvements listed above as part of different projects and high speed from BOS to PVD is just a secondary beneficiary, or is that route meant to be the primary beneficiary and the main driver of all that work? 2) Regardless of question 1, how much speed would you expect the route to gain with these improvements? What I'm trying to sort out is in a realistic world how much faster can that 40 mile trip happen given a couple of stops along the way and the aforementioned slow crawl into South Station.
 

jass

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Why do you think Amtrak doesn't have a couple of spare electric locomotives? I'm not saying they do, but do you have some kind of equipment list or other data to back your statement?
I don't have a list, but this is based off the current Amtrak order-book for new train-sets (delayed of course), Amtrak's continued use of NJT and MARC trains for Thanksgiving service , and their standard response for why they can't ever increase service.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Her
It's not about the Acela specifically, its about this:



The only excess Amtrak capacity in the next decade is the retiring Acela fleet.

So you either pick them up used and cheap, or you get in line in the procurement process and now it's 2030.
There is no "used and cheap" option. None. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that simple fact? Bombardier has the contractual ownership, and won't lease them out unless they recoup a stupid-costly S&S contract. Otherwise the Acelas are worth more as scrap than running because of how costly they are to run after parts supply has dwindled.

There is no other option. These are the insurmountable economics of those trainsets as they enter their fourth calendar decade.

If there were a Plan B it would be leasing some retired HHP-8 electric locos. But those things have similarly bad Bombardier contract tentacles, and are similarly unreliable pieces of crap. MARC picked up a few ex-AMTK rentals because it was already in deep with BBD on its own legacy fleet of them, using the opportunity to restructure its S&S deal a little more favorably. But there is no "used and cheap" pathway here, either. They're unicorns with bad reputation and sunset parts supply whose only means of running is paying BBD's life-support price.

Sometimes there is no easy answer, and sometimes there isn't someone fun/easy/readily available to blame for it
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Why do you think Amtrak doesn't have a couple of spare electric locomotives? I'm not saying they do, but do you have some kind of equipment list or other data to back your statement?
There are equipment lists, and there are tracker threads on RR.net. They do have a few Sprinters to short-term lease because they were loaned to SEPTA when the Silverliner V EMU fleet was pulled for design flaws, and AMTK has made overtures about short-term leasing them again.

The 15 retired HHP-8's are returned to Bombardier off-lease and are no longer AMTK property, even if a few of them may still be sitting around in Delaware.

The AEM-7's are largely scrapped, and any of the remanufactured AEM-7AC's that were most desireable for continued service have been scrapped for parts. There may be a couple (emphasis: low single digits) old non-rebuilds left intact at Bear, DE but they're so shot they're inoperable. The last time one of them moved pantograph-up was a Sprinter-assisted tow move to D.C. Union Station so it could star in a Xmas lights static display.

That's it. There's one Sprinter wreck from the Philly train disastet, and I think another that may have been warranty-replaced, but otherwise that whole order and the entire original Acela order are in-servicr.
 

HenryAlan

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All right, so it seems this is a pointless discussion, then. The two governors made a statement for political reasons but can't cash the check. We may as well move on if that's the case.

What about equipment from other CR operators? Is any of that available? What happened to the electric locos that MARC discontinued?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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All right, so it seems this is a pointless discussion, then. The two governors made a statement for political reasons but can't cash the check. We may as well move on if that's the case.

What about equipment from other CR operators? Is any of that available? What happened to the electric locos that MARC discontinued?
MARC's AEM-7's were ailing and out-of-service at the time of their retirement. They're already scrapped. SEPTA kept its AMTK loaner Sprinters for its push-pull sets until its own order of Sprinters got delivered, because their AEM-7's were also dropping like flies. SEPTA's fleet was loaned to NJ Transit to be used for non-powered PTC tests, and are now back in storage with SEPTA pending scrap bids. There might be a couple usable SEPTA Toasters left in storage, but they can only be plugged by parts stripped from other units...and there are now too few of those left between AMTK, MARC, and SEPTA to stock parts. Unfortunately the remanufactured AMTK AEM-7AC's were the only ones in halfway decent shape at retirement with a sustainable parts supply chain, but the value of those newer parts (for very similar Scandanavian locos still running today) was why those were scrapped first before the much junkier DC fleets.

The only other electrics "available" are NJ Transit's ALP-44 fleet (an AEM-7 derivative), which have been stored for 8 years now without moving in Stanhope, NJ...after a planned rebuild of part of the fleet was canceled for not being economical (they ordered more new ALP-46's instead). And those get the air-quotes treatment because they were notoriously unreliable when they were still in-service with quirky early-90's computers that would be very hard to replace/reengineer today. Also, a decade is really pushing the bounds of how long you can leave complexly-built power sitting absolutely motionless in the wild and be able to easily revive it. As evidenced by NJT leasing SEPTA's broken-down Toasters for PTC testing instead of using a few of these. The track they're sitting on is in a heavily wooded area. Vandals, rodents, vegetation, and weather have taken their toll, and since the parts supply chain overlapped heavily with the AEM-7's their retirements by AMTK/MARC/SEPTA has dashed what incredibly small chance there is left of doing something with the 44's. Scrap contract is next, though after 8 years of sitting they're in no big hurry to tow them.


There simply isn't anything roadworthy available, unless it's paying the Bombardier tax for some HHP-8's. The offer for renting a few Sprinters isn't a service enhancement because there's too few of them available to shorten the Providence schedule when all other trains are still running diesel. And it's not a service enhancement because the slowness inside of 128 is a function of crossing branchline traffic, not Corridor traffic. It's merely a technology demonstrator should they agree to buy their own Sprinters or buy off a few of SEPTA's unexercised Sprinter options. And, yes, the push-pull electric demonstrator can be informative for an EMU purchase (like laundering a bunch of NJT's MultiLevel EMU power cars on the sprawling option end of that deal). So it's not a useless exercise to try a few Sprinters out, so long as they're honest about what they hope to learn from the experiment. But it's a far cry from saying "express service is coming to Providence!" because not only is the loco rental not large enough to matter...but it isn't even asking the right questions (e.g. NEC congestion and getting the branchlines out of the way, RER, balance between stop spacing and top speed when the Providence Line intermediates are some of the highest-demand anywhere) on what one needs to do to have an express-ier Providence Line flavor.
 

Java King

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This whole discussion reminds me when "government officials" mentioned the Back Bay to Convention Center Shuttle using Track 61. We all saw where that went. (n)

I don't know who's been updating this, but I found it quite informative and up-to-date:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Track_61_(Boston)
 
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The EGE

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Yep, still mostly me. I live in SF now, but I'm back in Boston once or twice a year and try to catch up on photos then.
 

ulrichomega

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Seems like a great report. I do wonder about the interplay between their assertion that such rapid turnarounds are possible today and the assertion that we need single-level EMUs. While I think every single line of the report is worth pursuing, it looks like a huge investment in terms of electrification to get to the levels they're asking for. Definitely better than the equivalent MBTA proposals, though.
 

HenryAlan

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Their basic premise regarding equipment is that we need to buy new rolling stock anyway. Seen this way, a large purchase of EMUs reduces the need to purchase pulled cars and new diesel engines and is essentially cost neutral. The incremental capital cost is primarily related to electrification. Most of the other track work they mention, such as simplifying the South Station approaches is very inexpensive. Segregation and then improvement of one line at a time makes the bill for electrification easier to swallow.

Strategically, advocating for the Worcester line as proof of concept is a great idea. The Pike construction makes people more likely to support investment there over some other part of the system. Once the improvements are made, we'll then begin to see data supporting further investment on the other lines.
 

Equilibria

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Their basic premise regarding equipment is that we need to buy new rolling stock anyway. Seen this way, a large purchase of EMUs reduces the need to purchase pulled cars and new diesel engines and is essentially cost neutral. The incremental capital cost is primarily related to electrification. Most of the other track work they mention, such as simplifying the South Station approaches is very inexpensive. Segregation and then improvement of one line at a time makes the bill for electrification easier to swallow.
The problem with that logic, as much as I like the idea, is that EMUs require electrification to work. By definition, you need to replace one line of vehicles at a time. How do you space out your EMU orders and deliveries to account for the likely delay-ridden and long-lead infrastructure work? It's not as simple as "we need rolling stock in 2021 anyway, so let's just make it EMUs!" which is kind of how the report sounds.

Strategically, advocating for the Worcester line as proof of concept is a great idea. The Pike construction makes people more likely to support investment there over some other part of the system. Once the improvements are made, we'll then begin to see data supporting further investment on the other lines.
Again, I like the idea, but they kind of rest their vision for two-track service during Allston with a hand-wavey "find a layover yard somewhere near 128". Where do they suggest placing the yard? You're not taking tracks at Riverside and disrupting operations there, and if you took part of the parking lot you'd have to cut across the GL yard to access it. You'd have to close Recreation Road to go south of the tracks, and the tracks aren't either level or at-grade with the road and golf course, so it's probably not constructable on the west side of the Charles... if there were a way to do it, TM would have said so and not hand-waved it.
 

HenryAlan

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On the first point, I believe they are suggesting latching on to another agency's order, essentially off the shelf. Such purchases are much more feasible for FRA compliant stock, which this would be, so I don't think it's true that too much lead time would be required over any other not yet begun acquisition process. As for the the second part, I don't know enough to make an intelligent comment, but perhaps one of the Transit Matters volunteers who posts here could address the concern.
 

Arlington

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What would it take for the Worcester line to receive toll proceeds from the Pike? Imagine a Auburn-Boston congestion surcharge ($0.10 to $0.50) that was lockboxed to WOR-BOS electrification and track.
 

Equilibria

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What would it take for the Worcester line to receive toll proceeds from the Pike? Imagine a Auburn-Boston congestion surcharge ($0.10 to $0.50) that was lockboxed to WOR-BOS electrification and track.
A change to State Law. Legally, toll proceeds can only be used on the facility (Western Turnpike, MHS, Tobin) on which they are collected.

It's impossible to imagine getting Western Turnpike tolls diverted to rail. MHS... maybe.
 

stick n move

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On the first point, I believe they are suggesting latching on to another agency's order, essentially off the shelf. Such purchases are much more feasible for FRA compliant stock, which this would be, so I don't think it's true that too much lead time would be required over any other not yet begun acquisition process. As for the the second part, I don't know enough to make an intelligent comment, but perhaps one of the Transit Matters volunteers who posts here could address the concern.
Yup, trainsets like the silverliner that philly and denver use already exist and have been in use for a while. No reason we couldnt order some of them to use here.

Denver RTD

Single floor, emu’s, at high frequency, with high platforms, that are tried and tested would work great to turn our commuter rail into essentially a heavier version of heavy rail subway. If we had these on our entire CR network with NSRL it would give basically all of eastern ma a subway ride to downtown.

Sooo much potential with our existing tracks, and many more infill stations, along with within downtown, and high level platforms.
 

jklo

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A change to State Law. Legally, toll proceeds can only be used on the facility (Western Turnpike, MHS, Tobin) on which they are collected.
Pretty sure that's federal law. Either way, can't see it changing. They're still paying off the Big Dig debt, aren't they?
 

Arlington

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Pretty sure that's federal law.
No, no federal law is at stake for Masspike tolls: While you can't add tolls to Interstates that were built untolled (e.g. I-84 or I-93), you can (as far as the Feds are concerned) do whatever you want with your tolls collected on your tollways predate the Interstates (e.g. Masspike and, by analogy, the Triboro bridge and other TBTA facilities around NYC with an interstate badge).

Famously, Nelson Rockefeller, as NY Governor, was free to take the surplus from the TBTA (most of whose bridges and tunnels are Interstate-badged) and used it to fill moneyholes of the NYC Subway by creating a state authority--the NY MTA--that would own them both. All it took was a state law. [see The Power Broker]

Most states mix it up on their lockbox laws across gas and sales taxes and tolls. The feds only care that you don't put tolls on roads freshly-built from the Interstate program.

A change to State Law. Legally, toll proceeds can only be used on the facility (Western Turnpike, MHS, Tobin) on which they are collected.
It's impossible to imagine getting Western Turnpike tolls diverted to rail. MHS... maybe.
Agreed: it is neither politically possible nor economically useful to toll west of Auburn (unless we separately discuss upgrading rail between Worcester and Springfield in the Amtrak thread)

But since "MHS* tolls" basically == "Pike between 128 and Back Bay" (I'd exclude the Ted even if the law didn't), I'd propose using Eastern Pike (east of Auburn) and MHS ...a stretch of toll road that is highly-targeted and highly-parallel to Worcester-Boston commuter rail.

..Either way, can't see it changing. They're still paying off the Big Dig debt, aren't they?
Irrelevant, since I'm proposing a rush-hour surcharge (increasing revenues above whatever's currently collected-committed)

During its rebuild the road will probably have lower capacity anyway, and rather than let it bog down entirely, a rush-hour surcharge would (1) discourage enough driving for it to flow freely (2) directly fund the very-parallel Worcester line as a reliever to the construction-hampered pike.

*MHS = Officialspeak for Metropolitan Highway System...which basically = the Tolled Inner Pike + rest areas on 128, right?
 
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