Crazy Transit Pitches

ulrichomega

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Update on Portals location:

I'm not sure this is as possible as I was thinking. Basing things off the B and C portals, we'd want ~500 feet of travel to get down to the right depths. That's just not possible without major rework on either end.

On the south end, you'd have to start your portal almost in the middle of the Grove Hall intersection and by the time you get down to the Washington St intersection you've got almost enough space, coming in at a bit under 400 ft. It's possible that some reworking of the grid here could help (such as allowing a central median/portal across the Washington St intersection similarly to the Geneva Ave one), but I'm sure the community response to such a project would be harmful to the project.

On the north end, I'm completely stumped. It seems like you'd be able to do the same thing with turning Hazelwood into a southbound-only connection to Warren, but you're basically at MLK by the time you're up high enough, pushing your platforms even further north.

The extra portal length turns a 3000ft station gap into a 4000ft one. That seems too far without an intermediate station, and a station box on Warren seems like a cost blowout waiting to happen. I'll stand by the pitch as "Crazy", but it's definitely moved towards the harder end for me.
 

Riverside

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^ I didn't want to harp on it, but, yes :) This was my concern with the portals. I think it may be possible to squeeze it down closer to 400 feet, but it still creates a pretty large footprint.
 

737900er

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My idea for service patterns was something more akin to this.

Also a tunnel on Washington St from Nubian to Melnea Cass starts to look a tiny bit attractive with 28+SL4+SL5 to figure out the pinch there

28+f.jpg
 

The EGE

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It's worth remembering that in order for LRT to be worthwhile, it has to represent a true upgrade over buses in capacity, speed, and/or reliability - and not a downgrade. On primarily surface routes, buses will usually be faster than light rail; they accelerate and decelerate faster, and they tend to have faster doors as well. You can mitigate that with aggressive TSP/preempts at signals, but generally light rail will not be faster until you have a mostly grade-separated right of way. That's why the Mattapan Line still exists, and it's why a GL branch to Nubian could be workable - the downtown tunnel is enough of a speed and reliability boost to make trains preferable to buses.

So the question becomes, what do you gain by switching to LRT? You do gain a one-seat ride from Ashmont and Milton to points on BHA south of Talbot Avenue, and if you spend for the Warren Street tunnel you probably save a few minutes on trips using that segment. You get a one-seat ride into the subway from however far south your subway service goes - but going too far will sack your reliability.

I posted this map some time ago, but it's relevant again. This is what a fully built-out BRT network in the RDM area would look like. Relatively low cost ($15M/mile for a full rebuild of BHA), puts almost everywhere within a 5-10 minute walk of high quality transit, hits almost every stop on an enhanced Fairmount Line.
1650691597482.png
 

themissinglink

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Approximately how wide must a roadway be in order for it to feasibly be reconfigured for center-running LRT tracks (and a single lane in each direction on either side)?
 

Teban54

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It's worth remembering that in order for LRT to be worthwhile, it has to represent a true upgrade over buses in capacity, speed, and/or reliability - and not a downgrade. On primarily surface routes, buses will usually be faster than light rail; they accelerate and decelerate faster, and they tend to have faster doors as well. You can mitigate that with aggressive TSP/preempts at signals, but generally light rail will not be faster until you have a mostly grade-separated right of way. That's why the Mattapan Line still exists, and it's why a GL branch to Nubian could be workable - the downtown tunnel is enough of a speed and reliability boost to make trains preferable to buses.

So the question becomes, what do you gain by switching to LRT? You do gain a one-seat ride from Ashmont and Milton to points on BHA south of Talbot Avenue, and if you spend for the Warren Street tunnel you probably save a few minutes on trips using that segment. You get a one-seat ride into the subway from however far south your subway service goes - but going too far will sack your reliability.

I posted this map some time ago, but it's relevant again. This is what a fully built-out BRT network in the RDM area would look like. Relatively low cost ($15M/mile for a full rebuild of BHA), puts almost everywhere within a 5-10 minute walk of high quality transit, hits almost every stop on an enhanced Fairmount Line.
View attachment 23720
I tried to write a longer reply to the whole discussion, but always come down to what's basically a reiteration of this.

An improved Fairmount Line is already the rapid transit spine that Dorchester and Mattapan need, at least for the downtown-bound riders. IMO, any LRT or BRT on top of that should be mostly supplementary, not another rapid transit spine (they won't be rapid enough), and the goal should be to (1) serve intra-neighborhood riders (there's great demand for that as seen from profiles of several bus routes), (2) serve Nubian- and Ruggles-bound riders that are not heading downtown, and (3) serve Roxbury.

BRT seems better at addressing all three goals. A street-running LRT with minimal grade separation won't do (2) or (3) better than BRT on the same corridor with the right infrastructure, due to disadvantages in speed. As for (1), the 2x3 matrix of routes likely still need to be kept after Fairmount Line improvements (albeit possibly with reduced frequencies), and replacing a single route with an LRT line won't help with that. That's without even considering feasibility and cost.

I see capacity and additional one-seat rides as possible advantages of LRT in this case. But I have a hard time imagining there will be Park-Mattapan through-running services - that segment is as long as the B from Park to Boston College, with even more street-running, and we haven't even considered Mattapan-Ashmont yet. Short-turning the LRT at any of Nubian, Ruggles or Jackson Square renders the one-seat ride advantage moot. As for capacity, my guess is that Fairmount Line will take off enough load such that BRT can live just fine (correct me if I'm wrong).

Yes, an LRT corridor through Blue Hill Ave and Seaver St to Jackson Square (and possibly to Hyde Park and Heath St) is very feasible... But it essentially duplicates the 29, which is already the least used route in the entire 2x3 matrix. The much more useful 28 routing comes with significant technical difficulties as we have realized by now. Seems better to just build whatever feasible corridors with proper BRT infrastructure, and let most existing routes in the 2x3 matrix benefit.
 

Riverside

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Yes, an LRT corridor through Blue Hill Ave and Seaver St to Jackson Square (and possibly to Hyde Park and Heath St) is very feasible... But it essentially duplicates the 29, which is already the least used route in the entire 2x3 matrix.
I very much agree with your overall point and with @The EGE as well.

That being said, I think this sentiment regarding the 29 is worth closer examination. Of the Nubian/Egleston routes, the 29 is the only one that doesn't through-run to Ruggles during regular service. For comparison, the 22 from Ashmont sees 970 passengers alight at Jackson Sq, but then another 340 alight at Roxbury Crossing and another 600 at Ruggles -- i.e. the extension to Ruggles doubles the number of passengers. We see similar pattens on the 23 and 28: the 23 drops 1,400 passengers at Nubian and then 1,500 at Ruggles, while the 28 drops 1,640 passengers at Nubian and 1,500 at Ruggles.

The 2,250 weekday riders figure on the 29 in the Better Bus Profile would probably be increased if there was actually a one-seat ride to Ruggles, which clearly sees high demand from across the southern half of the city.

The 29 also sees much lower frequencies:
1650819935298.png


Those frequencies are worse than they were pre-Covid, but even then, it was not great and not on the same level as the 22, 23, or 28:

1650820380411.png


Additionally, the T claims that the new bus lanes on Columbus (currently from Jackson Sq to Walnut Ave) saves 4 to 7 minutes of travel time. That's actually pretty significant. The 29 saw widely diverging travel times (both scheduled and actual), but all were in the range where even a 5-minute improvement would have been non-trivial:

1650820576728.png


The 29's route between Mattapan and Jackson is about 4.2 miles long. The current bus lanes are .75 miles long. I can't find any proposals for bus lanes on Seaver St, but bus lanes on Blue Hill would add another 2.5 miles of dedicated lanes to the 29's route -- 3.25 miles out of 4.2, or 77%. While I want to be cautious to avoid an apples-to-oranges comparison when estimating travel time improvements, on the face of it the Blue Hill lanes would be over three times as long, and if we do indeed see similar improvements of 4-7 min per .75 miles, that's a potential improvement of 12-21 minutes, which would be a huge reduction in travel time.

(Just to sanity check -- that reduction would put us somewhere in the range of 20 mins for the 4.2 miles between Mattapan and Jackson, which comes out to about 13 mph, which isn't totally unbelievable. The 28 going inbound takes ~40ish minutes to go a similar distance -- closer to 6 mph.)

Finally, it's possible that an extension -- whether BRT or LRT -- from Ruggles (or even possibly from Jackson) directly to Longwood would see greater demand than the current 29 does. Check out this OnTheMap analysis of employment locations for residences within the walkshed of the 22 and 29 from Egleston eastward:

1650823268863.png


1650823386947.png


From which we can see that Longwood is indeed a significant employment center, with Nubian and Boston Medical Center coming in a strong third place.

Now combine all those ideas together:
  • increased frequencies
  • significantly faster journeys
  • one-seat to Ruggles, and/or
  • one-seat to Longwood
All of which is an extremely long-winded way to say: the current ridership of the 29 may not be a reliable indicator of potential demand for a BRT or LRT line via dedicated lanes on Columbus and Seaver. By providing speedier, more frequent and more reliable service directly to Ruggles and/or Longwood, there's reasonable evidence to suggest that some rider journeys might be diverted.
 
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BeyondRevenue

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I very much agree with your overall point and with @The EGE as well.

That being said, I think this sentiment regarding the 29 is worth closer examination. Of the Nubian/Egleston routes, the 29 is the only one that doesn't through-run to Ruggles during regular service. For comparison, the 22 from Ashmont sees 970 passengers alight at Jackson Sq, but then another 340 alight at Roxbury Crossing and another 600 at Ruggles -- i.e. the extension to Ruggles doubles the number of passengers. We see similar pattens on the 23 and 28: the 23 drops 1,400 passengers at Nubian and then 1,500 at Ruggles, while the 28 drops 1,640 passengers at Nubian and 1,500 at Ruggles.

The 2,250 weekday riders figure on the 29 in the Better Bus Profile would probably be increased if there was actually a one-seat ride to Ruggles, which clearly sees high demand from across the southern half of the city.

The 29 also sees much lower frequencies:
View attachment 23743

Those frequencies are worse than they were pre-Covid, but even then, it was not great and not on the same level as the 22, 23, or 28:

View attachment 23744

Additionally, the T claims that the new bus lanes on Columbus (currently from Jackson Sq to Walnut Ave) saves 4 to 7 minutes of travel time. That's actually pretty significant. The 29 saw widely diverging travel times (both scheduled and actual), but all were in the range where even a 5-minute improvement would have been non-trivial:

View attachment 23745

The 29's route between Mattapan and Jackson is about 4.2 miles long. The current bus lanes are .75 miles long. I can't find any proposals for bus lanes on Seaver St, but bus lanes on Blue Hill would add another 2.5 miles of dedicated lanes to the 29's route -- 3.25 miles out of 4.2, or 77%. While I want to be cautious to avoid an apples-to-oranges comparison when estimating travel time improvements, on the face of it the Blue Hill lanes would be over three times as long, and if we do indeed see similar improvements of 4-7 min per .75 miles, that's a potential improvement of 12-21 minutes, which would be a huge reduction in travel time.

(Just to sanity check -- that reduction would put us somewhere in the range of 20 mins for the 4.2 miles between Mattapan and Jackson, which comes out to about 13 mph, which isn't totally unbelievable. The 28 going inbound takes ~40ish minutes to go a similar distance -- closer to 6 mph.)

Finally, it's possible that an extension -- whether BRT or LRT -- from Ruggles (or even possibly from Jackson) directly to Longwood would see greater demand than the current 29 does. Check out this OnTheMap analysis of employment locations for residences within the walkshed of the 22 and 29 from Egleston eastward:

View attachment 23748

View attachment 23750

From which we can see that Longwood is indeed a significant employment center, with Nubian and Boston Medical Center coming in a strong third place.

Now combine all those ideas together:
  • increased frequencies
  • significantly faster journeys
  • one-seat to Ruggles, and/or
  • one-seat to Longwood
All of which is an extremely long-winded way to say: the current ridership of the 29 may not be a reliable indicator of potential demand for a BRT or LRT line via dedicated lanes on Columbus and Seaver. By providing speedier, more frequent and more reliable service directly to Ruggles and/or Longwood, there's reasonable evidence to suggest that some rider journeys might be diverted.
It's d be cool if you could get a one seat ride to Ruggles from close to ANYWHERE on the Commuter Rail... North South Rail Link cough cough.
 

Stlin

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Here's a properly crazy pitch:
Connect the Fitchburg Line to the inner Worcester by building ~2 miles of track alongside I95 in it's reservation between Brandeis and Auburndale. Then either send Red out from Alewife, or a fork of the Green from Porter to Brandeis, with the other fork doing Watertown. If it's green, the Fitchburg Line loses it's direct access to Porter/Red, but not the connection, either via Red or Green if a new transfer station /P&R is built at Brandeis. A new layover can live at the Aggregate Industries site or the Weston's shooters club - or, if you're even more ambitious, quad track the 95 leg to get a connection to Riverside. Getting to Brandeis, there's 4 crossings you'd have to treat for Red, including the 2 difficult ones downtown, and the 90/95 interchange for the CR.

Waltham communities would see improved frequency and better service to downtown, which if Red would create direct connections to Kendall and South, and GLX to Porter and beyond no longer needs to undercut the Porter CR platform or address the Fitchburg Line RoW - it can just take it over. Meanwhile, the West Cambridge/Alewife area split by the current CR tracks and MoW facilities between the Watertown fork and red service can be given over for redevelopment and street grid connection. (Though I would probably still want the T to keep a RoW through it all.) Green is probably more appropriate however - a series of LRT spaced infills at West Cambridge etc would greatly help with walksheds and eliminate crossing touches, and take them out of CR zone fares.

The Fitchburg Line would however also be competing for limited SS and Worcester Line slots, losing access to the BET and it's downtown layover in the process. and it's newly relocated tracks in Somerville would be somewhat wasted.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Here's a properly crazy pitch:
Connect the Fitchburg Line to the inner Worcester by building ~2 miles of track alongside I95 in it's reservation between Brandeis and Auburndale. Then either send Red out from Alewife, or a fork of the Green from Porter to Brandeis, with the other fork doing Watertown. If it's green, the Fitchburg Line loses it's direct access to Porter/Red, but not the connection, either via Red or Green if a new transfer station /P&R is built at Brandeis. A new layover can live at the Aggregate Industries site or the Weston's shooters club - or, if you're even more ambitious, quad track the 95 leg to get a connection to Riverside. Getting to Brandeis, there's 4 crossings you'd have to treat for Red, including the 2 difficult ones downtown, and the 90/95 interchange for the CR.

Waltham communities would see improved frequency and better service to downtown, which if Red would create direct connections to Kendall and South, and GLX to Porter and beyond no longer needs to undercut the Porter CR platform or address the Fitchburg Line RoW - it can just take it over. Meanwhile, the West Cambridge/Alewife area split by the current CR tracks and MoW facilities between the Watertown fork and red service can be given over for redevelopment and street grid connection. (Though I would probably still want the T to keep a RoW through it all.) Green is probably more appropriate however - a series of LRT spaced infills at West Cambridge etc would greatly help with walksheds and eliminate crossing touches, and take them out of CR zone fares.

The Fitchburg Line would however also be competing for limited SS and Worcester Line slots, losing access to the BET and it's downtown layover in the process. and it's newly relocated tracks in Somerville would be somewhat wasted.
This would put unreasonable loading on the 2-track max innermost Worcester Line to relegate Fitchburg to a branch. You can forget about ever being able to support Regional Rail on the Agricultural Branch to Northborough/etc. if Fitchburg/Wachusett becomes an appendage.

It's also not necessary to truncate the Fitchburg into a branch from a ROW perspective. The Fitchburg ROW is graded for quad-track through Belmont Center and tri- (easily expandable to quad-) to the former split with the Central Mass in Waltham. You can build Green (not Red...the tunnel out of Alewife angles wrong and the angle of intersection isn't there without blowing stuff up) alongside a fully double-track Fitchburg. Then reactivate the Central Mass, re-route the Fitchburg main over that to 128, and outright flip Waltham Ctr. + Brandeis to Green. I diagrammed it out a couple years ago on this thread.


Keep in mind as well...in a NSRL universe, Fitchburg Line becomes more important because it's the one northside line that's totally branchless and has the generous slack to absorb a numbers mismatch of southside pairings because it's so much more uncongested than any other main. Especially true since the Reading Line is going to have so much trouble interfacing with southside pairs because of its capacity constraints. If you cut it and refashion as a branch of the very heavily loaded Worcester Line, you're chopping off a number of southside patterns that could run through NSRL at all because the NH Main, Eastern Route, and Reading gimp simply can't absorb it all.
 

737900er

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Why is Green connecting Kenmore and Harvard better than Blue (if Blue was extended to Kenmore)? Simply because there's not enough room in the BU Bridge/Throat area and GJ has to be Green?
 

Brattle Loop

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Why is Green connecting Kenmore and Harvard better than Blue (if Blue was extended to Kenmore)? Simply because there's not enough room in the BU Bridge/Throat area and GJ has to be Green?
This thread and the Green Line Reconfiguration thread are littered with detail (largely courtesy of F-Line) of just how God Mode impractical it would be to make GJ a HRT line. Blue is mode-locked out of any practical GJ conversion, so Green-over-GJ comes out as "better" because "possible" is better than "impossible". (LRT's better flexibility with respect to branching is also a benefit for more service patterns and a potential Harvard spur which would be difficult to swing with HRT, so even if GJ could be Blue, there are some reasons why we might still not want it to be.)
 

Tysons2

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Why is Green connecting Kenmore and Harvard better than Blue (if Blue was extended to Kenmore)? Simply because there's not enough room in the BU Bridge/Throat area and GJ has to be Green?
If Blue is extended to Kenmore via the Riverbank subway, trips from Harvard on a further extended Blue Line would not be able to access the core of Back Bay. A Green Line extension would presumably have the option to run from Harvard via GJ or into the current Green Line tunnel, which would take pressure off the Red Line and Park Street transfers.
 

Teban54

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Why is Green connecting Kenmore and Harvard better than Blue (if Blue was extended to Kenmore)? Simply because there's not enough room in the BU Bridge/Throat area and GJ has to be Green?
Another reason: IMO, Blue as an HRT line has greater potential west of Kenmore than to serve the Kenmore-Harvard link. In a Crazy Transit Pitches sense, plenty of areas would love the capacity and speed of an HRT line to downtown: Allston, Brighton, Watertown, Newton, etc. The exact direction and alignment are obviously up in the air, but most of them are more valuable than Harvard, which can be comfortably handled with a GL branch.
 

Riverside

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I did a series on Blue Line West extensions on my blog earlier this year. I didn't talk directly about Blue to Harvard, though I did review most of the other typical radial extensions. @Teban54's point about HRT vs LRT for a branch to Harvard gets at something I talked about in the final post of the series: The Blue, Red, and Orange Lines are special and unique, and their extensions need to be examined in a systemwide context.
 

jbray

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I'll put this in crazy pitches, but it seems reasonable to me, just not in one big setup: Regional/Commuter Rail for Worcester and Springfield.

Pros:
-Gives New England's second and fourth largest cities their own rail network.
-Fosters development/Economic opportunity in these areas (long term)
-Better connection to Bradley Intl. (BDL) for Pioneer Valley/Springfield
-Reduces car dependency for Central Mass and the Pioneer Valley/Knowledge Corridor.
-Fosters sustainable design and climate resiliancy.
-Helps Establish East/West Passenger rail improvements by degrees
-Creates local rail connections for East/West Rail
-Builds statewide political demand for Rail, transit and other mode shift policies and infrastucture (walking and cycling).
-Decreases the potency of the bad faith "Outside 128/495" "scraps" argument.
-Long (long) term change in political will to spend on MBTA statewide.

Cons:
-Expensive and would require mostly state funding (politically unpopular except on a hyper local level).
-"Takes" money from Boston metro/regional transit.
-Would need to operate with low (n=?) ridership for a period of time due to smaller jobs economy of outlier cities compared to Boston.
-Operation on shared freight trackage harms control/frequency which in turn harms success of service.

I'm sure there are more for each column, but, to my mind, this should have been done yesterday and both should even have their own LRT (<--There's the crazy pitch) to complement farther flung service. We cannot go out in good faith and tell the rest of Massachusetts to eat high gas prices without giving them a real alternative. No one (hyperbole) on this forum is taking a direct bus from Winchester Center to North Station and yet that's what we're pushing for Central and Western Mass (I used West Boylston to Union Station as the comp) as the alternative to driving? Start small and add more as we go across the whole state, sharing wealth and access to create a transformative network of intercitiy and local rail.
 

Riverside

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I've been crayoning non-Boston-centric commuter rail for a few weeks now. I had long been skeptical, but then started thinking about the surprising number of lower-ridership small-scale commuter rail systems across North America; I think demand will still be lower on these "MArail" routes, but combined with political incentives away from auto-centricity, it might make more sense in the not-too-distant future.

I think it's worth first outlining a few different categories of service; I think it would be misleading to call East-West Rail "extending the commuter rail to Springfield", so it's worth having terminology to describe the different "flavors" of service. I propose:
  • Regional Rail: hourly or better service for journeys that are taken multiple times a week, but are too distant to achieve with rapid transit
    • The current MBTA commuter rail network is approaching a Regional Rail model, and certainly in this future scenario where there's a full network across the state/New England the current network will have completed its transformation
  • Commuter Rail: runs hourly or better at peak, with a handful of additional journeys during midday, evenings, and weekend
  • Intercity Rail: long(er)-distance service for supercommutes and other journeys that are made less frequently and are less beholden to a 9am arrival
    • Think the Northeast Regional or Downeaster
  • Long-Distance Rail: needs a pithier name (interregion rail? interstate rail?), but for long-distance services that only run a few times a day and/or are for journeys that constitute "a day's travel"
    • Includes both true long-distance services like the Vermonter, and infrequent "day trip"/"weekend trip" services like the current CapeFlyer
With that in mind, I've been crayoning a two-node system, centered on Worcester and Springfield. All of these assume significant infrastructure upgrades to enable modern passenger rail speeds, which in several cases would entail negotiating with private companies who own the tracks. Not all stops listed.

East-West Rail (needs a fancy name -- Hampden Express?)
  • Boston - Worcester - Springfield and beyond (through-runs to Vermont/Montreal, Pittsfield/Albany, and NYC via New Haven, filled out by short-turn service at Springfield)
  • Intercity rail with limited stops and emphasis on speedy travel between major cities, scheduled to enable two-seat journeys via transfers
Providence & Worcester
  • Worcester - Woonsocket - Providence
  • Probably a strong commuter rail line, but not quite regional rail
  • I could see arguments both for extremely limited stops (i.e. only Woonsocket and Pawtucket) and for lots of local stops (e.g. Millville, Uxbridge, Millbury) and lots of options in-between; given the size of the major cities served, an inaugural limited stop service could probably be viable
Lowell & Worcester
  • Worcester - Clinton - Ft Devens - Ayer - Lowell
  • Commuter rail
  • This journey would take about an hour -- extending to Haverhill looks good on paper, but would not be useful for Haverhill-Worcester journeys, which would almost certainly be faster via Boston
  • Timed transfers at both ends going in both directions opens access to reverse commutes to New Hampshire, Springfield, and widens the reach of Boston commutes from places like West Boylston and Westford
New London & Worcester
  • Worcester - Webster - Plainfield - Norwich - New London (for maximum crayoning, add a branch to Southbridge)
  • Commuter rail, though getting close to intercity rail when traveling end to end
  • Connects a surprising number of destinations, including Groton (via ferry), Connecticut College, the casinos, and a string of towns running south of Worcester, and connects those communities to the Northeast Corridor via transfer at New London
Holden Branch
  • Worcester - Holden - Gardner - Athol - Orange - Greenfield (with possible reverse branch running Greenfield - ... - Gardner - Fitchburg - Ayer - Lowell)
  • Commuter rail, enabling 2-seat intercity journeys via transfer at Worcester
  • There is a small but genuine Gardner-Worcester commuter market (and the reverse branch would be to serve the Gardner-Fitchburg/Leominster and Fitchburg-Lowell markets); moreover, traveling from the Northern Tier to Boston via a transfer at Worcester to a high-speed service will likely be faster than traveling via Fitchburg
  • This one is a crazy transit pitch, but I think works better than expected
Fitchburg & Worcester
  • Worcester - Stirling - Leominster - Fitchburg
  • Commuter rail
  • The ROW is long abandoned and/or converted to rail trail through Stirling and through Leominster, but a quick scan suggests limited encroachment; there is a sizable Worcester-Fitchburg market, IIRC, so this could be worthwhile
  • Note that the curve at Ashburnham puts a significant time penalty on journeys that travel west from Fitchburg; I'd still argue that sending Northern Tier service via Holden would end up being a better solution for Gardner and points west
New Hampshire Northeast Corridor Connector
  • Manchester and points north (ideally all the way up to Franconia Notch -- the northern section of this line has a number of active tourist railroads) - Nashua - Ayer - Worcester - Woonsocket - Providence
  • Long distance rail
  • Designed to bring New Hampshire into the Northeast Corridor via a cross-platform transfer at Providence
  • Alternatively, post-NSRL, could be handled via a platform transfer or locomotive swap at Anderson RTC with extended Northeast Regional services
Knowledge Corridor
  • Springfield - Holyoke - Northampton - Greenfield
  • Commuter rail, enabling 2-seat intercity journeys via transfer at Springfield
  • Supplemented by East-West Rail services that continue north to Brattleboro, east to Worcester and Boston, and south to Connecticut
  • I'd suggest that at least one peak trip should through-run to enable one-seat supercommutes between Northampton/Holyoke and Boston (e.g. arriving in Boston around 10 or 10:30); at other times, platform transfer enables intercity journeys
  • For "maximum crayoning", some commuter rail trains running into Springfield could be extended to Ludlow or Palmer to turn those into commuter rail "satellites" -- Palmer might get an intercity stop, but Ludlow and East Springfield wouldn't, so it would be up to commuter rail service to pick up the slack; could be useful to enable Palmer-Hartford commutes, for example, but the east-west density is so much less than the north-south density
Hartford Line
  • Springfield - Hartford - New Haven
  • Commuter rail or regional rail
  • Basically today's service but enhanced, probably with some through-runs to Northampton and maybe Palmer
Westfield Branch
  • Springfield - Westfield
  • Commuter rail
  • This one is hard and I'm not sold on it; Westfield State is far from the ROW and downtown Westfield is on the other side of a river
  • Due to the track layout at Springfield, it would be hard to tie a commuter service to Westfield into a longer corridor
And while on the subject of Massachusetts non-commuter rail services:

Cape Codder v2
  • Providence - Taunton - Middleboro - Cape Cod
  • Long distance rail
  • Cross-platform transfer to NE Regional services from New York
Newport Train Supersized
  • Boston - Fall River - Newport
  • Long distance rail
  • Think CapeFlyer
  • Points against: need for mode change or mode mixing since Aquidneck Island is unlikely to be electrified; needs to compete with NE Regional + Bus From Kingston and NE Regional + Ferry From Providence
  • But it looks cool on the map!
White Mountains
  • Boston - Nashua - Concord - Laconia - Plymouth State Univ - Fraconia Notch State Park
  • Long distance rail
  • Boy howdy would this be a beautiful ride
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Providence & Worcester
  • Worcester - Woonsocket - Providence
  • Probably a strong commuter rail line, but not quite regional rail
  • I could see arguments both for extremely limited stops (i.e. only Woonsocket and Pawtucket) and for lots of local stops (e.g. Millville, Uxbridge, Millbury) and lots of options in-between; given the size of the major cities served, an inaugural limited stop service could probably be viable
RIDOT's proposed its intrastate portion of this to Woonsocket with a T.F. Green-Woonsocket run and intermediate stops on the P&W Main @ Cumberland and Manville. The linkied feasibility study has all the details. This might also become easier to swing if you hubbed services @ Woonsocket with a Franklin Line extension to strengthen the midpoint. The smaller village stops in MA don't look so daunting if Woonsocket at the midpoint gets greatly elevated in importance.

Lowell & Worcester
  • Worcester - Clinton - Ft Devens - Ayer - Lowell
  • Commuter rail
  • This journey would take about an hour -- extending to Haverhill looks good on paper, but would not be useful for Haverhill-Worcester journeys, which would almost certainly be faster via Boston
  • Timed transfers at both ends going in both directions opens access to reverse commutes to New Hampshire, Springfield, and widens the reach of Boston commutes from places like West Boylston and Westford
Only an hour? Not bloody likely. The NYNH&H/B&M State of Maine intercity train, the last passenger train to make this route, took 70 minutes to do Worcester-Lowell in 1941 with only 1 intermediate stop in Ayer. And took 2:05 to do Worcester-Haverhill. The curviness of the route is extreme and keeps the maximum speed limit with proper maintenance pretty low. There's definitely no way you'd do any better than the SoM '41 schedule adding local stops. And you'd have to temper your expectations for the audience if 70-90 minutes is the best-case. It would probably be a ton faster to run a coach bus on I-290/I-495 linking the cities than it would to try a rail solution for practical commutes. Geometry is an arch-enemy with what you have to work with here.

New London & Worcester
  • Worcester - Webster - Plainfield - Norwich - New London (for maximum crayoning, add a branch to Southbridge)
  • Commuter rail, though getting close to intercity rail when traveling end to end
  • Connects a surprising number of destinations, including Groton (via ferry), Connecticut College, the casinos, and a string of towns running south of Worcester, and connects those communities to the Northeast Corridor via transfer at New London
The Southbridge Branch is a nonstarter given the meager size of the towns served and the roundabout routing of the ROW that avoids most village population centers en route. You'd honestly do better with buses on the local state highways if Webster, Dudley, Southbridge, etc. are in need of service. But WOR-NLN did survive until Amtrak A-Day in 1971, so the mainline corridor is a potentially underrated one. ConnDOT has frequent study flirtations with it, since P&W maintains the tracks to Class 3 (60 MPH passenger). The upgrade costs would be pretty modest, so it can thrive within the ridership of those towns.

Holden Branch
  • Worcester - Holden - Gardner - Athol - Orange - Greenfield (with possible reverse branch running Greenfield - ... - Gardner - Fitchburg - Ayer - Lowell)
  • Commuter rail, enabling 2-seat intercity journeys via transfer at Worcester
  • There is a small but genuine Gardner-Worcester commuter market (and the reverse branch would be to serve the Gardner-Fitchburg/Leominster and Fitchburg-Lowell markets); moreover, traveling from the Northern Tier to Boston via a transfer at Worcester to a high-speed service will likely be faster than traveling via Fitchburg
  • This one is a crazy transit pitch, but I think works better than expected
First of all...we can't even get support for a Berkshire Flyer-type operation linking Boston to Greenfield via Athol because the riderships past Gardner are so microscopic. Substituting Worcester as hub is even more of a nonstarter. MA 2 simply isn't that congested until you hit Fitchburg, so running buses to Wachusett pretty much captures the market and makes it a matter of what cities you pair Wachusett with.

Second...the Gardner Branch is desolate. All of the populated parts of Holden are close enough to Worcester Union to be solvable at much better frequencies by expanding the WRTA spider map across the City Line. Princeton and Hubbardston are literal "more deer than humans" cases. It's as desolate a ROW as the B&A and Patriot Corridor in the thick of the Berkshires. Pretty scenery...P&W should absolutely run more excursion trains on it, especially during foliage season. But that line is about the zeroest of zero commuter prospects in all of Eastern MA.

Fitchburg & Worcester
  • Worcester - Stirling - Leominster - Fitchburg
  • Commuter rail
  • The ROW is long abandoned and/or converted to rail trail through Stirling and through Leominster, but a quick scan suggests limited encroachment; there is a sizable Worcester-Fitchburg market, IIRC, so this could be worthwhile
  • Note that the curve at Ashburnham puts a significant time penalty on journeys that travel west from Fitchburg; I'd still argue that sending Northern Tier service via Holden would end up being a better solution for Gardner and points west
The abandoned ROW is non-landbanked, so that's impractical on its face. You could easily enough do Worcester-Fitchburg on the active CSX line by banging a left at the Ayer wye, though at 45 minutes Worcester-Ayer (more the more you add local stops on the branch) + 30 minutes to Wachusett the times get intolerably long. Worcester-Fitchburg/Gardner starts looking a lot like Worcester-Lowell in that the highways (in this case I-190/MA 2) are likely a ton faster than even the bestest rail routing money can buy. So if there's a commuter market here, it's one you prove by running high-quality coach bus service between city pairs like with Worcester-Lowell.

Knowledge Corridor
  • Springfield - Holyoke - Northampton - Greenfield
  • Commuter rail, enabling 2-seat intercity journeys via transfer at Springfield
  • Supplemented by East-West Rail services that continue north to Brattleboro, east to Worcester and Boston, and south to Connecticut
  • I'd suggest that at least one peak trip should through-run to enable one-seat supercommutes between Northampton/Holyoke and Boston (e.g. arriving in Boston around 10 or 10:30); at other times, platform transfer enables intercity journeys
  • For "maximum crayoning", some commuter rail trains running into Springfield could be extended to Ludlow or Palmer to turn those into commuter rail "satellites" -- Palmer might get an intercity stop, but Ludlow and East Springfield wouldn't, so it would be up to commuter rail service to pick up the slack; could be useful to enable Palmer-Hartford commutes, for example, but the east-west density is so much less than the north-south density
Hartford Line
  • Springfield - Hartford - New Haven
  • Commuter rail or regional rail
  • Basically today's service but enhanced, probably with some through-runs to Northampton and maybe Palmer
Look at it this way:
  • Springfield-New Haven on the Hartford Line is approximately 60 miles.
  • Hartford-Bridgeport via Hartford Line + New Haven Line is approximately 60 miles.
  • Hartford-Greenfield via Hartford Line + Knowledge Corridor is approximately 60 miles.
There's a golden opportunity to unite all these services under a common "CTrail/Hartford Line" umbrella by mixing up the service patterns, with Hartford Union Station as the one common denominator for them all. And since I-91 up to Northampton is a big part of the Hartford commuter market, arguably a necessary thing to give the Knowledge Corridor proper traction as a Springfield ping alone probably isn't going to capture it. We need to be making progress on this by collaborating a lot more closely with ConnDOT.

Westfield Branch
  • Springfield - Westfield
  • Commuter rail
  • This one is hard and I'm not sold on it; Westfield State is far from the ROW and downtown Westfield is on the other side of a river
  • Due to the track layout at Springfield, it would be hard to tie a commuter service to Westfield into a longer corridor
Hugely impractical. The B&A is hugely curved by the corkscrew of the Westfield River, so it would be a considerable time chew over relatively short distance to institute local service here. You can make do when Amtrak is hopping nonstop between Springfield and Pittsfield, but not with any quantity of local stops. As for reaching Downtown Westfield?...the Canal Line junctions pointing away from Springfield, so it would take a reverse move to get there at all. Plus the ROW south of the B&A is now a popular trail. Total nonstarter. Westfield's in the PVTA bus district. Pulse up those frequencies to Springfield Union using the straighter road network, and implement an express bus flavor if time needs to be saved on the trip.
 
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