Amtrak / Intercity Rail Discussion Thread

George_Apley

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Right. Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited. There's been a bigger push for a long time for regional service managed by MassDOT.
 

Arlington

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The goal should be SPG-BOS rail travel that is significantly faster than a bus on the Pike (which Amtrak's LSL is not; it is both slower and less punctual than bus alternatives)

In fact, set this as a goal: that a two-seat ride from Pittsfield (PIT) or Amherst (AMM) -- western leg by bus, connection at SPG, and SPG-BOS by rail -- should be faster than and preferred to a single seat bus ride from either city/
 
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whittle

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So I'll say that Springfield should get more and better train service, but it should be targeted at occasional riders. There seems to be a lot of people advocating for train service to Springfield to attract some significant number of daily commuters. That's a pipedream, a boondoggle, or both. It's not even particularly practical as a way reduce carbon emissions since high speed rail only has a notably favorable carbon footprint when comparing to planes (and not to cars which will be primary competition with a Springfield to Boston train)
 

Arlington

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Amtrak Virginia and the Downeaster both seem powered by a mix of supercommuters but more importantly the employee or consult who works from home (or in the field) 3 to 4 days per week but who commutes to HQ 1 or 2 times per week.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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In fact, set this as a goal: that a two-seat ride from Pittsfield (PIT) or Amherst (AMM) -- western leg by bus, connection at SPG, and SPG-BOS by rail -- should be faster than and preferred to a single seat bus ride from either city/
That should be easily doable from Amherst if they build the Palmer intermediate stop on the Inlands. Extremely convenient to the U's of the "Valley Full o' Pioneer". 18 miles from Amherst Center, which you can can cover in a pooled shuttle bus from all the area colleges.

Pittsfield is legitimately further reach. While the Pike up the mountains isn't slowed by as many big rig trucks anymore thanks to the perceptible shift towards intermodal rail cubes instead of trucking from Albany, the terrain still makes for challenging traffic if the weather is the least bit bad or if there is an uptick in trucks. But Pittsfield Intermodal Center thankfully is a multimodal diamond-in-the-rough. It gets bypassed by lots of Albany buses and is under-served by rubber-tire intercity transit. Which is too bad because BRTA local buses are actually pretty good out of there, outslugging the county's population density both on route coverage and service levels. As with any RTA you always wish for more frequency than the state funds, but it's not hard to spend a day in North Adams after getting off a coach bus at Pittsfield and boarding BRTA Route 1.

Throwing these various rail proposals out...Albany-Pittsfield, Boston-North Adams (on truly shitty track to boot)...just tap-dances around the question. It's a MULTImodal center out there...it's not going to work without an ample diet of discount buses that are currently bypassing the region on the Pike to the south. Maybe this is a job for more exits out there. MA 8 to the east in Beckett and the missing half of the MA 41 exit to the west in West Stockbridge can trap an ALB-SPR Peter Pan bus to Pittsfield without dragging it anywhere near as far off course as the US 7 due-north jog that only a handful of coaches make. That's a very small-dollar fix for the county that'll pay dividends, and the literal asphalt required to put shovels in ground may not cost as much as one of these novelty Berkshire rail studies. I'm all for eventually getting the hookup on rail, but let's start with a more readily exploitable asset and work the local-intercity bus pairings for getting in/out and around the county.
 

Norval Elliot

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In fact, set this as a goal: that a two-seat ride from Pittsfield (PIT) or Amherst (AMM) -- western leg by bus, connection at SPG, and SPG-BOS by rail -- should be faster than and preferred to a single seat bus ride from either city/
A rail shuttle between Amherst and Palmer would present a challenge on the single track, the condition of which was already questionable when passenger service thereon ended in 2014. A more practicable two-seat ride from the Five-College area would be from Northampton (NHT).
Amtrak Virginia and the Downeaster both seem powered by a mix of supercommuters but more importantly the employee or consult who works from home (or in the field) 3 to 4 days per week but who commutes to HQ 1 or 2 times per week.
An apropos article from MassLive today: He spends $230 a week to get from Western Mass. to Boston and he’s not alone; meet one of the state’s more than 10,000 ‘super commuters’.
 

George_Apley

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Wait. Are you guys misinterpreting @Arlington's post? I think he's saying that the legs west/north of Springfield should be bus connections. Not rail. Amherst-Springfield by bus and then Springfield to Boston by rail. Same for Pittsfield. That is what he said, correct?
 

Norval Elliot

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Wait. Are you guys misinterpreting @Arlington's post? I think he's saying that the legs west/north of Springfield should be bus connections. Not rail. Amherst-Springfield by bus and then Springfield to Boston by rail. Same for Pittsfield. That is what he said, correct?
There was no mention "north" in "western leg" (singular). Amherst, incidentally, is situated north and east of Springfield. My guess is that Thruway Service between the erstwhile AMM and SPG would be highly unlikely.
 

George_Apley

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There was no mention "north" in "western leg" (singular). Amherst, incidentally, is situated north and east of Springfield. My guess is that Thruway Service between the erstwhile AMM and SPG would be highly unlikely.
Right. I included north because that's where Amherst is. He also says Pittsfield "or" Amherst. Not "and." Again though, no one is discussing rail service between Pittsfield and Springfield, let alone Pittsfield and Amherst or Boston to Amherst. If I'm understanding Arlington's intent, it's to make BOS-SPG Rail + SPG-PIT Bus competitive with BOS-PIT Bus. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your point though.
 

Arlington

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I was picturing 2 buses: one to PIT and one to AMM (and a whole bus hub at SPG, with spokes to anyplace else in the Berkshires, and even Albany) feeding into Valley Flyer and SPG-BOS rail. By Western I meant "anyplace out there""
 

whittle

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Amtrak Virginia and the Downeaster both seem powered by a mix of supercommuters but more importantly the employee or consult who works from home (or in the field) 3 to 4 days per week but who commutes to HQ 1 or 2 times per week.
The latter group is among those I meant by "occasional riders" (the contrast with "daily commuters" should have made that clear). My point is that you can't attract any notable amount of of daily commuters (as in more than the niche crowd of supercummters) without turning this into a boondoggle.
 

Tallguy

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So, if you are sending Amherst folk through Springfield they can already take a free bus to Noho, and if schedules get properly coordinated, take trains to Boston or NYC (a lot of UMies are from CT/NY/NJ) Or, save them 30 min and send busses to Palmer to meet the train
 

Arlington

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There should be an infill in Palmer, yes. And yes it probably would support a shuttle to AMM. That wasn't my point.

The goal for SPG-BOS speed and frequency was my point: it should be so fast that a bus-rail two seat ride would dominate single seat bus rides from most anywhere in the western half if the state.

Bus AMM to Noho and by rail to SPG is already a 2 seat ride.
 

Norval Elliot

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If I'm understanding Arlington's intent, it's to make BOS-SPG Rail + SPG-PIT Bus competitive with BOS-PIT Bus. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your point though.
Alas, I misunderstood Arlington's intent. Because the PVTA and Peter Pan Bus Lines serve Amherst rather well, I'm uncertain as to why that town would need more bus service. A bus lane between Amherst and Northampton would be helpful, however.
 

Arlington

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Alas, I misunderstood Arlington's intent. Because the PVTA and Peter Pan Bus Lines serve Amherst rather well, I'm uncertain as to why that town would need more bus service. A bus lane between Amherst and Northampton would be helpful, however.
Picture it this way (and a slight exaggeration): rail service at SPG so awesome that the only place it makes sense to take a bus from AMM is to/from SPG to catch a train.

That is my RAIL goal for SPG, not a real plan of bus service for AMM.

I want SPG-BOS (Amtrak Intercity) to average 90+ mph (requiring peaks of 125mph or more) to vastly outperform the Pike. I want SPG-NHV/STM/NYC to vastly outperform I-91/95. So vastly that Peter Pan will struggle to compete in its AMM-NYC and AMM-BOS runs and cut back to just AMM-SPG (or Palmer).

And Peter Pan will have network and connecting demand of its own such that I don't really expect it to leave the AMM-BOS/NYC markets entirely.

There will continue to be PVTC service to NHT both for the local market and for trips to VT (and onward to Montreal eventually)

So, yes, an AMM-SPG bus can't meet all of AMM's needs, but I want bus-rail (or bus-bus) connections at SPG to dominate on frequency and compete really well on duration--and do do so for every community west of the Athol-Quabbin-Ware meridian (in orange, below, aka the western edge of Worcester county)

MA-county_LI.jpg
 

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George_Apley

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So, is there any feasibility behind this? What you want would require a new ROW between Worcester and Springfield.
 

Arlington

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People can't resist picking Alternative 6, whether for RUR or the East-West Rail study

The East-West Rail study has a major shortcoming in that it outlines "what it takes" but not "what it costs"

In this case Alternative 6 == 110 to 150mph rail down the middle of the Masspike for its entire length (except for returning to existing station approach tracks in WOR and SPG)

And I can't resist proposing Alternative 5½ which trims things back to the bigger cities. I'd have HSR stop at SPG and ask everyone else to take a bus to get there. I might do the I-90 median for just Weston-Grafton and then maximize the existing ROW WOR-SPG

It is also strange in the East-West study that the Palmer stop comes and goes. Palmer is a great place to put a Park-and-Ride (RTE 128 style) station because getting fast track from Palmer-BOS is a much clearer winner than much-upgrading Palmer-SPG.
 

DBM

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All this stuff is important and great, but, just as a reminder, here's what we're looking at on the commuter rail lines right now:

Providence-South Station: 70 minutes (ave. of the 2 height-of-rush hour inbounds), 43 miles. 37 mph average
Worcester-South Station: 95 minutes (again, ave.), 43 miles. 27 mph average
Kingston-South Station: 60 minutes (ave.), 35 miles. 35 mph average
Lowell-North Station: 45 minutes (ave.), 25 miles. 33 mph average
Lawrence-North Station: 55 minutes (ave.), 26 miles. 28 mph average

Glacial, pathetic, and almost definition hampering the economic potential of Gateway cities out on the 495-ville (or just beyond) perimeter.

So anything that addresses a high-speed Springfield to Boston mandate, without fixing this glaring decades-long deficiency, is to me dangerously myopic.

(Of course, I don't know--maybe Springfield to Boston will be purposefully tethered somehow to speeding up all the CR lines?)
 

odurandina

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I was picturing 2 buses: one to PIT and one to AMM (and a whole bus hub at SPG, with spokes to anyplace else in the Berkshires, and even Albany) feeding into Valley Flyer and SPG-BOS rail. By Western I meant "anyplace out there""
w/ the traffic beginning to become absurd, This seems the far more sensible way
to move people and a far more comfortable method of travel.

....here's what we're looking at on the commuter rail lines right now:

Worcester-South Station: 95 minutes (again, ave.), 43 miles. 27 mph average

Glacial, pathetic, and almost definition hampering the economic potential of Gateway cities
out on the 495-ville (or just beyond) perimeter......
So anything that addresses a high-speed Springfield to Boston mandate, without fixing this glaring decades-long deficiency, is to me dangerously myopic.
Entice and speed it up.
Any opportunity for food services on board? and, should this line just be Amtrak,
done like the 110mph diesel trains from St Louis to Chicago--
(which i ponder is subsidized in some way by Illinois & Missouri)???
 
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