Commuter Rail to New Hampshire?

The EGE

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A bit OT, but that particular map version is fascinating for a number of reasons:
  • The short-lived NH service (Jan 1980 to Feb 1981), which was funded by a federal grant. That grant ran out in 1981, and NH declined to self-fund the service. It was pretty limited (a few daily RT), unlike the currently proposed service. Merrimack got itself a stop in April 1980 (allegedly by blocking trains until they got the stop) which isn't shown here.
  • Many other changes are visible. Gardner (open 1980-1987), Shirley (reopened 1981), and Mishawum (not opened until 1984) are shown, and Braintree is dashed for a 1980 opening. The short-lived (1977-79) Tufts University stop and Harbor station (1977-1984) are also shown. Malden Center (closed 1979-1985) is absent. All service is routed over the Fairmount Line during Southwest Corridor construction. Cambridge station has been renamed Porter Square in preparation for the Red Line.
  • Conspicuous gaps are present for Riverside and East Foxboro (both closed 1977).
  • The Woburn Branch, Providence, and Pawtucket-Central Falls (all closed 1981) are not long for the world. What's old really is new again, as the replacement Pawtucket/Central Falls station will open this year.
  • And, of course, the Haverhill Line is odd. The Route 213 branch and the Rosemont/495 stop never actually opened, and North Andover (closed 1974) never reopened. Shawsheen did reopen with the line in December 1979 but was cut in April 1980.
 

tysmith95

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  • And, of course, the Haverhill Line is odd. The Route 213 branch and the Rosemont/495 stop never actually opened, and North Andover (closed 1974) never reopened. Shawsheen did reopen with the line in December 1979 but was cut in April 1980.
Shawsheen station is still standing.

49 MA-133
 

KCasiglio

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And, of course, the Haverhill Line is odd. The Route 213 branch and the Rosemont/495 stop never actually opened, and North Andover (closed 1974) never reopened. Shawsheen did reopen with the line in December 1979 but was cut in April 1980.
I've seen more modern proposals to extend the Haverill line to Rosemont, but never branching in the direction of 213. I know the RoW gets consumed before it reaches Manchester, but would a branch to Metheun/213/Salem be viable? Enough to justify diverting trains from Haverill?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I've seen more modern proposals to extend the Haverill line to Rosemont, but never branching in the direction of 213. I know the RoW gets consumed before it reaches Manchester, but would a branch to Metheun/213/Salem be viable? Enough to justify diverting trains from Haverill?
The ROW is a brand new rail trail now, so probably would not have much support. Operationally it would put lots of stress on the Andover stretch of Haverhill Line that already sees lots of freight traffic, and would outright prevent full Regional Rail frequencies from serving Lawrence and Haverhill (it would be very problematic for missing Lawrence Station entirely). The Route 213 stop siting is also in the middle of nowhere by the bird sanctuary, so wouldn't be TOD-enhanced at all. You'd almost have to cross the state line to go to Rockingham Park, which again invokes the help of very unreliable partners in New Hampshire. It's a very marginal prospect.

Honestly, you can cover the Route 213 traffic diversions pretty well by dropping a Haverhill Line infill at Ward Hill in North Andover by the 495 Industrial Ave. interchange. And then just blanket Methuen with better bus transfers to full Regional Rail.
 

DBM

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The Herald reports that TransitMatters just released a study on electrifying the Lowell line and doing the Capitol Corridor to Manchester. (Prepare for the inevitable Howie Carr apoplexy column to follow: "boondoggle"; "will do nothing but encourage NH-based welfare leeches and illegal aliens to invade Mass.," etc., etc.)

The part arguing to restore the Capitol Corridor begins on p. 11. The study states that electrification will cut the current Lowell-North Station time from 46 minutes to 31 minutes, which is certainly significant. I find it bizarre and annoying, though, that the study included this:

"The Lowell Line connects North Station with Lowell in 46 minutes. In comparison, nonstop trains made the trip in 45 minutes when the line first opened in the 1830s."

Well, yes. If you're not going to be decelerating, letting people deboard, letting people board, and reaccelerating 7 separate times along a track that is only 22 miles or so, then... surprise! You can go pretty fast, regardless of if the locomotive technology you are deploying is from the 1830s or the 2030s. Obviously, the rational, apples-to-apples comparison would've been--how long would trains taken in the 1830s to go from Lowell to North Station, if they were making the same number of stops as they do now?

But then TransitMatters wouldn't have been able to amuse itself with its attention-grabbing, but ultimately pointless, little piece of trivia, which seems to demonstrate that "no progress has been made in commuter train service, speed-wise, on the Lowell line, in two centuries."

EDIT: before anyone accuses me of being Howie Carr-like with my above curmudgeonly rant, obviously, it's great that TransitMatters contributes to *enlightened public discourse* by producing such thoughtful--but slender and thus easily-digestible!--studies. Especially given that they're an all-volunteer organization and no one is taking compensation for their labors there, right?

EDIT2: p. 9, first line: "Like the Providence line, most Lowell line ridership is end-to-end..." Wut.

On an average day, taking the Providence line in, I guesstimate that about 10% of the trip's passengers have gotten on with me at Providence. Another 10% at Attleboro. Then maybe 25% at Mansfield, 35% at Sharon, and 20% at Route 128, with essentially zero inbound passengers boarding beyond Route 128. Thus, I am mystified by TransitMatter's claim that "most" Providence line ridership is "end-to-end," unless I am somehow misinterpreting "most" or "end-to-end."
 
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JeffDowntown

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The Herald reports that TransitMatters just released a study on electrifying the Lowell line and doing the Capitol Corridor to Manchester. (Prepare for the inevitable Howie Carr apoplexy column to follow: "boondoggle"; "will do nothing but encourage NH-based welfare leeches and illegal aliens to invade Mass.," etc., etc.)

The part arguing to restore the Capitol Corridor begins on p. 11. The study states that electrification will cut the current Lowell-North Station time from 46 minutes to 31 minutes, which is certainly significant. I find it bizarre and annoying, though, that the study included this:

"The Lowell Line connects North Station with Lowell in 46 minutes. In comparison, nonstop trains made the trip in 45 minutes when the line first opened in the 1830s."

Well, yes. If you're not going to be decelerating, letting people deboard, letting people board, and reaccelerating 7 separate times along a track that is only 22 miles or so, then... surprise! You can go pretty fast, regardless of if the locomotive technology you are deploying is from the 1830s or the 2030s. Obviously, the rational, apples-to-apples comparison would've been--how long would trains taken in the 1830s to go from Lowell to North Station, if they were making the same number of stops as they do now?

But then TransitMatters wouldn't have been able to amuse itself with its attention-grabbing, but ultimately pointless, little piece of trivia, which seems to demonstrate that "no progress has been made in commuter train service, speed-wise, on the Lowell line, in two centuries."

EDIT: before anyone accuses me of being Howie Carr-like with my above curmudgeonly rant, obviously, it's great that TransitMatters contributes to *enlightened public discourse* by producing such thoughtful--but slender and thus easily-digestible!--studies. Especially given that they're an all-volunteer organization and no one is taking compensation for their labors there, right?

EDIT2: p. 9, first line: "Like the Providence line, most Lowell line ridership is end-to-end..." Wut.

On an average day, taking the Providence line in, I guesstimate that about 10% of the trip's passengers have gotten on with me at Providence. Another 10% at Attleboro. Then maybe 25% at Mansfield, 35% at Sharon, and 20% at Route 128, with essentially zero inbound passengers boarding beyond Route 128. Thus, I am mystified by TransitMatter's claim that "most" Providence line ridership is "end-to-end," unless I am somehow misinterpreting "most" or "end-to-end."
I have to assume that poorly worded Transit Matters "end-to-end" comment means most ridership is between a suburban station and a Boston terminus, or reverse; not between two suburban stations. But even that does not really work for the Providence line with significant transfers at Back Bay, Ruggles and Forrest Hills.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The Herald reports that TransitMatters just released a study on electrifying the Lowell line and doing the Capitol Corridor to Manchester. (Prepare for the inevitable Howie Carr apoplexy column to follow: "boondoggle"; "will do nothing but encourage NH-based welfare leeches and illegal aliens to invade Mass.," etc., etc.)

The part arguing to restore the Capitol Corridor begins on p. 11. The study states that electrification will cut the current Lowell-North Station time from 46 minutes to 31 minutes, which is certainly significant. I find it bizarre and annoying, though, that the study included this:

"The Lowell Line connects North Station with Lowell in 46 minutes. In comparison, nonstop trains made the trip in 45 minutes when the line first opened in the 1830s."

Well, yes. If you're not going to be decelerating, letting people deboard, letting people board, and reaccelerating 7 separate times along a track that is only 22 miles or so, then... surprise! You can go pretty fast, regardless of if the locomotive technology you are deploying is from the 1830s or the 2030s. Obviously, the rational, apples-to-apples comparison would've been--how long would trains taken in the 1830s to go from Lowell to North Station, if they were making the same number of stops as they do now?

But then TransitMatters wouldn't have been able to amuse itself with its attention-grabbing, but ultimately pointless, little piece of trivia, which seems to demonstrate that "no progress has been made in commuter train service, speed-wise, on the Lowell line, in two centuries."

EDIT: before anyone accuses me of being Howie Carr-like with my above curmudgeonly rant, obviously, it's great that TransitMatters contributes to *enlightened public discourse* by producing such thoughtful--but slender and thus easily-digestible!--studies. Especially given that they're an all-volunteer organization and no one is taking compensation for their labors there, right?

EDIT2: p. 9, first line: "Like the Providence line, most Lowell line ridership is end-to-end..." Wut.

On an average day, taking the Providence line in, I guesstimate that about 10% of the trip's passengers have gotten on with me at Providence. Another 10% at Attleboro. Then maybe 25% at Mansfield, 35% at Sharon, and 20% at Route 128, with essentially zero inbound passengers boarding beyond Route 128. Thus, I am mystified by TransitMatter's claim that "most" Providence line ridership is "end-to-end," unless I am somehow misinterpreting "most" or "end-to-end."
It's their hyper-focus on achieving warp-drive top speeds that distorts the narrative. They're speccing 100 MPH speeds again. Well...that requires Class 6 (as opposed to Class 4) track with all the considerable maintenance above-and-beyonds that requires, as well as very expensive premium-class EMU's that rolling stock manufacturers have generally not offered to bid in the U.S. and definitely did not offer to bid when the T went soliciting for EMU's. Something has to give, and it's a whole lot of cost that TM does not (and never has, since they're pushing the same speeds in all of these line-specific Modernization reports) want to acknowledge in its generally lowballed estimates. Class 6 track is expensive. Only Amtrak has been able to afford that on the NEC, Keystone Corridor, Empire Corridor, and Michigan Line (and will be sporting it on the Richmond, VA corridor)...trunk routes that host frequent, layered intercity services. No commuter rail service on this continent runs at triple digit speeds except for two NEC tenants on their express-oriented service flavors. Few purely commuter services outside of Japan attempt triple-digit speeds at all, because stop spacing simply doesn't allow it within any acceptable sort of passenger comfort and if you're not going to hit it within your most frequent-scheduled locals' stop spacing it's not going to be worth the price for the extra track classes.

The generally deployed top practical speed for commuter services worldwide is about 90 MPH, which corresponds to Class 5 track. Most of the EMU's the T was offered in the RFI can hit that. The Lowell Line arguably is a candidate for future Class 5 owing to the Downeaster's expressing patterns, and the likelihood of a future Concord express layer that skip-stops within Massachusetts. 90 MPH would've been a reasonable target for these recs IF the costs for the extra track class were factored into the estimates (they're not, of course). So at least this report isn't as unreasonably staked as, say, TM's Old Colony modernization report which specced for no-cost triple-digit speeds through the minefields of quiet-zone grade crossings on the South Shore.

But still, it's a baffling thing to get hung up on. EMU's superior acceleration out of a dead stop will speed up the corridor. It will open up new tracts of cost-free 79 MPH running inside the existing track class. It will absorb the timings of select infill stops at no aggregate penalty. It will be driving-competitive. I'm not sure why they're still stubbornly wedded to such out-of-reach (esp. for the lowballed cost) standards of triple-digit running in spite of all that being plenty good enough. It's not doing their persuasiveness any favors.


The rest of the report is fairly solid. I'm not sure demand merits a Tufts or a Rourke Bridge infill, but most-wanteds Montvale and UMass-Lowell are represented. They do acknowledge that Tufts would be difficult to construct next to GLX, so that one is flagged as an early cut if costs are unfavorable. They're a little dogmatic about Mishawum needing to stay, but do acknowledge that it's got a very crappy interface with its surroundings that's hard to tart up. They bullseye the need for a west entrance to Anderson RTC, which is welcome detail. I see they've dropped their insistence (referenced in the Haverhill Line study's maps) on a Woburn Branch reactivation, probably uncovering as we have that the lapsed property lines from the abandonment make that ask pretty nigh impossible. They're not in "fuck freight" mode for a change over the clearance exemption on the route; they instead advocate for flip-out door traps like Brightline has. That's good; their overall proofreading is improving.
 

WestMedford

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The Herald reports that TransitMatters just released a study on electrifying the Lowell line and doing the Capitol Corridor to Manchester. (Prepare for the inevitable Howie Carr apoplexy column to follow: "boondoggle"; "will do nothing but encourage NH-based welfare leeches and illegal aliens to invade Mass.," etc., etc.)

The part arguing to restore the Capitol Corridor begins on p. 11. The study states that electrification will cut the current Lowell-North Station time from 46 minutes to 31 minutes, which is certainly significant. I find it bizarre and annoying, though, that the study included this:

"The Lowell Line connects North Station with Lowell in 46 minutes. In comparison, nonstop trains made the trip in 45 minutes when the line first opened in the 1830s."

Well, yes. If you're not going to be decelerating, letting people deboard, letting people board, and reaccelerating 7 separate times along a track that is only 22 miles or so, then... surprise! You can go pretty fast, regardless of if the locomotive technology you are deploying is from the 1830s or the 2030s. Obviously, the rational, apples-to-apples comparison would've been--how long would trains taken in the 1830s to go from Lowell to North Station, if they were making the same number of stops as they do now?

But then TransitMatters wouldn't have been able to amuse itself with its attention-grabbing, but ultimately pointless, little piece of trivia, which seems to demonstrate that "no progress has been made in commuter train service, speed-wise, on the Lowell line, in two centuries."

EDIT: before anyone accuses me of being Howie Carr-like with my above curmudgeonly rant, obviously, it's great that TransitMatters contributes to *enlightened public discourse* by producing such thoughtful--but slender and thus easily-digestible!--studies. Especially given that they're an all-volunteer organization and no one is taking compensation for their labors there, right?

EDIT2: p. 9, first line: "Like the Providence line, most Lowell line ridership is end-to-end..." Wut.

On an average day, taking the Providence line in, I guesstimate that about 10% of the trip's passengers have gotten on with me at Providence. Another 10% at Attleboro. Then maybe 25% at Mansfield, 35% at Sharon, and 20% at Route 128, with essentially zero inbound passengers boarding beyond Route 128. Thus, I am mystified by TransitMatter's claim that "most" Providence line ridership is "end-to-end," unless I am somehow misinterpreting "most" or "end-to-end."
Agreed that TM is all volunteer and appreciate their advocacy. However a few quibbles:

- Page 5 says “Wedgemere, Mishawum and West Medford have only low platforms.” Doesn’t Wedgemere have mini-highs?

- Page 6 says “There are four buses that connect to West Medford: the 94, 95, 101, and 326.” Hmmm, well the 101 doesn’t sniff West Medford (runs through Medford Square) and the 326 was taken almost three years ago by COVID. The 80 and the 134 run through WM but weren’t mentioned, although these may have been left out because neither route stops at the CR station (although the 80 passes close by).

- Page 4 gives a $250 million estimate for “Platforms and Stations.” What exactly comprises this amount? The report doesn’t mention. Is it just to reopen Mishawum, provide west access at Anderson, in-fill with Tufts and Montvale stations, and the three new MA stations north of Lowell? Can’t tell at all. How does any of this cost estimate address the 800-pound gorilla in the room that is the cluster at West Medford (no high levels, grade crossings at High and Canal streets)? Whether it’s this study or the Regional Rail one they did last year, the “West Medford” problem always gets glossed over, like it doesn’t exist. Probably should focus on solving this issue vs 100MPH track to improve speeds (train slow to 30MPH max I believe to get through the two grade crossings).
 

F-Line to Dudley

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- Page 5 says “Wedgemere, Mishawum and West Medford have only low platforms.” Doesn’t Wedgemere have mini-highs?
Mishawum does too. Though they were closed for repair for years, letting the station temporarily lapse out of ADA compliance. I think they're conflating all-doors level boarding with basic ADA compliance. West Medford's the only one that is non-compliant.

- Page 4 gives a $250 million estimate for “Platforms and Stations.” What exactly comprises this amount? The report doesn’t mention. Is it just to reopen Mishawum, provide west access at Anderson, in-fill with Tufts and Montvale stations, and the three new MA stations north of Lowell? Can’t tell at all. How does any of this cost estimate address the 800-pound gorilla in the room that is the cluster at West Medford (no high levels, grade crossings at High and Canal streets)? Whether it’s this study or the Regional Rail one they did last year, the “West Medford” problem always gets glossed over, like it doesn’t exist. Probably should focus on solving this issue vs 100MPH track to improve speeds (train slow to 30MPH max I believe to get through the two grade crossings).
Exactly. West Medford needs major upgrades at the crossings just to whack the speed restriction for Downeasters and expresses and make that a non-drag. Nevermind all of the above-and-beyonds for 100 MPH service. Previous TM reports for the Eastern Route and Old Colony hand-waved at crossing-related speed restrictions as unnecessary "security theatre" that they could just ignore, but the reality is much more complicated. Crossing restrictions are significant cost-bearing items much like the Class 6 track and EMU's capable of 100 are significant cost-bearing items, and if these reports are to be realistic short-term action plans those costs need to be accounted for in these otherwise extremely lowballed estimates.
 

Brattle Loop

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- Page 5 says “Wedgemere, Mishawum and West Medford have only low platforms.” Doesn’t Wedgemere have mini-highs?
It does...which is mentioned in literally the same sentence one line above. So they clearly haven't completely shaken the proofreading problem.

Mishawum does too. Though they were closed for repair for years, letting the station temporarily lapse out of ADA compliance.
Is that the one where they cannibalized the mini-highs to repair another station, or am I confusing that with somewhere else?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Is that the one where they cannibalized the mini-highs to repair another station, or am I confusing that with somewhere else?
Yes. The retractable edges were removed to plug a repair backlog elsewhere on the system, and they roped off the platforms from access. For years. This despite a considerable sum being spent on ADA access ramps on the egresses a just a few years earlier. Disability advocates were very nonplussed about what statement that made about the agency's priorities.

For all we know they still haven't been repaired, which is why the stop hasn't reappeared on schedules since COVID.
 

Brattle Loop

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So, then, pragmatically, Mishawam has no mini-high
In practice, correct. That said, the fact that it's only the retractable edges that are missing means it'd be relatively straightforward to return the mini-highs to service...if they cared
 

The EGE

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This is what the mini-high platforms looked like back in 2013:
1669006094321.png


Given that the edges were apparently jackhammered out of the platforms (reportedly for reuse at Waltham), I suspect the mini-high platforms would need to be replaced in their entirety.
 

Riverside

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^ If we're being honest, being a railfan in Massachusetts means putting up with a fair share of depressing nonsense on the daily. Just a fact of life. But then every so often (and three times as often as of late), you see something that does just make you stop short and say, "What the hell are we even doing here?" I dunno why the plight of the mini-highs at Mishawum is what did that to me today, but here we are. What the hell are we even doing here?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I just noticed this report omits a Bedford/Manchester Int'l Airport stop. Yikes. The official NHDOT study pegs MHT at equal-or-greater ridership to the Downtown Manchester stop. But they include Merrimack...which, while probably worthy of a spacer stop does not in any way trump an MHT stop. No North Chelmsford, either, and that's at a key diverging point for LRTA buses unlike their preference for Rourke Bridge. If we're going to be spending a cool quarter billion on stations new and renovated, doesn't it make sense to go where the riders most want to go?

Did they not even glance at the official studies before preparing this? Egad...what is it with these basic proofreading own-goals that keep rearing their head in all of these reports?
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Yeah, I was surprised at that omission as well.

I've made further comments about the report in the Regional Rail thread, since a lot of my thoughts don't focus on this thread's topic of Commuter Rail to NH.
FWIW...the NHDOT study lowballed the ridership projections across the board. So in a Regional Rail universe Downtown Manchester probably does outpace MHT by a lot more than NHDOT's study parity. But the Airport stop (and its timed shuttle bus from station to terminal, a la Bradley Airport and the Hartford Line's Windsor Locks station) is such a critical linchpin of the NHDOT study that it's an irresponsible omission, as is it irresponsible to omit the bona-fide large ridership for it. For a report that's published for the express purpose of influencing public opinion, shouldn't there be even the slightest effort to push pre-existing advocacy points? It's not like the Bedford/MHT siting was in any way controversial going in.

It's been a pattern on each of these reports to throw in some head-scratcher infill candidates from left field and dictate over the locals' heads where the demographics say demand should go. Stuff like Rourke Bridge which are easy to ignore as superfluous detail. But this is a much bigger and strategic omission, especially so given their advocacy for an adjacent Merrimack infill. It comes off as "No...it's the children who are wrong." Is an already reluctant New Hampshire supposed to become more wowed by this prospect by telling them that their high-priority Airport integration is trite and unimportant? That's not how public persuasion works.
 

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