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

Riverside

Active Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
512
Reaction score
208
Just for fun, I attended the Virtual New Bedford Listening Session tonight. Nothing new. 3 AM and 3 PM trains planned. I asked about the TransitMatters vision for Regional Rail and single level coaches, and they kind of brushed off the question. However, they did say the issues brought forth by TransitMatters should continue to be discussed. (That's positive!) I got the feeling, "Let's just get this thing running no matter what, and then we can think about it actually being useful." Of course, that's my own loose interpretation of the conversation. :) To be fair, the conversation was mostly about current construction contracts, however I see Greenbush all over again. Half a billion dollars spent on terrible headways and inconvenient schedules. Believe me............I'm the biggest fan of train transportation if done correctly. I just worry this won't produce the patronage they anticipate.

God, every time I see slides like this and I'm reminded that they're gonna build a brand-new Middleboro Station, it bums me out. I mean, I understand why it's being done, and look, I get it -- agreeing to Middleboro Station enables construction to proceed on the rest of the route. And it's not like Middleboro/Lakeville will be forever useless -- any expansion toward Wareham will travel that way.

But, damn.
 

The EGE

Active Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2013
Messages
887
Reaction score
562
The new station location itself isn't terrible. It's still walkable from downtown, and it's closer to the apartment complexes on West Grove Street. Given that Middleboro is always going to have higher frequency than Cape Cod service (it was always a major short turn point), it makes sense to have a park-and-ride lot at the 495 interchange rather than off narrow downtown streets.

However, the design of the station - with a provision for a Cape Cod shuttle service platform on the southwest leg of the wye - tells two important stories. One, the state doesn't give a damn about Buzzards Bay/Cape Cod commuter rail service. Two, the state doesn't actually intend to ever build Phase 2 of South Coast Rail. With Fall River/New Bedford service shifted to the Stoughton route, there would be no need for Cape Cod service to be a shuttle - so they should be provisioning a full-length platform on the east side. Planning only for a shuttle platform means the state expects for SCR service to permanently run via Middleborough.
 

Java King

Active Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2007
Messages
240
Reaction score
192
Two, the state doesn't actually intend to ever build Phase 2 of South Coast Rail. With Fall River/New Bedford service shifted to the Stoughton route, there would be no need for Cape Cod service to be a shuttle - so they should be provisioning a full-length platform on the east side. Planning only for a shuttle platform means the state expects for SCR service to permanently run via Middleborough.
That would sure be a massive mistake! I don't see how any meaningful all-day service can be scheduled with the SINGLE track Old Colony Mainline.
 

RandomWalk

Active Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2014
Messages
874
Reaction score
189
I think that would be a feature, not a bug, with the Baker Administration.
 

stick n move

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
7,221
Reaction score
1,764
Who do they think theyre benefitting by punting as much as possible on rail? Wouldnt it benefit them to have less gridlock? Nothing says Boston automatically stays desirable forever. Its great right now but if we dont plan for the future that can turn around staggeringly fast. I dont see the benefit to them by refusing red-blue etc. Can someone fill me in?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,038
Reaction score
2,009
Who do they think theyre benefitting by punting as much as possible on rail? Wouldnt it benefit them to have less gridlock? Nothing says Boston automatically stays desirable forever. Its great right now but if we dont plan for the future that can turn around staggeringly fast. I dont see the benefit to them by refusing red-blue etc. Can someone fill me in?
It's a political fundraising tool...little more. Everyone who's been campaigning on this issue for 20+ years is going to be rewarded in kind with a surge of donations for "getting the job done", but hardly any of them will be in office when the complaints mount that the thing isn't usable for any real-world mobility at those frequencies and that the over-touted economic development coattails are absent. If there was actually any plan for follow-thru, you'd have seen some/any movement right now to troubleshoot all manner of Fall River buses still being offset at a City Hall loop omitting Fall River Depot altogether, giving the CR station near-nonexistent SRTA access. Unlike New Bedford where the bus terminal and the CR terminal are within 2 blocks of each other, Fall River transit is functionally broken unless there is 'a' knit-together action plan for the geographically off-center transit modes.

To which the corruption-special local pols say: "Plan? LOL...I'm just getting paid. That's some future generation's problem."


I guarantee that the Fall River Branch is going to underperform so badly because of that missed integration that it ends up a perpetual service cut threat in any budget shortfall. And absolutely no one will put 2 and 2 together at what major multimodal planning work was simply never undertaken because "LOLwhocares, campaign donations & I'm outta here". New Bedford at least, by virtue of being multimodally mostly-integrated out of box, should show enough pulse to make a case for growth if only supplied with more frequencies. FR is going to be an absolutely infuriating case of bleeding red while the bleedin' obvious gets willfully ignored.
 

Riverside

Active Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
512
Reaction score
208
However, the design of the station - with a provision for a Cape Cod shuttle service platform on the southwest leg of the wye - tells two important stories. One, the state doesn't give a damn about Buzzards Bay/Cape Cod commuter rail service. Two, the state doesn't actually intend to ever build Phase 2 of South Coast Rail. With Fall River/New Bedford service shifted to the Stoughton route, there would be no need for Cape Cod service to be a shuttle - so they should be provisioning a full-length platform on the east side. Planning only for a shuttle platform means the state expects for SCR service to permanently run via Middleborough.
I'm not entirely sure I agree with this. For one, I don't think they're planning to abandon Middleboro/Lakeville wholesale, are they? With a minimal amount of upkeep, the station would continue to be usable by CapeFlyer service from Boston, eventual Wareham/Buzzards Bay commuter rail service, and by any RIDOT or Amtrak services that might eventually arrive from the west.

Similar logic holds for the shuttle platform. A shuttle platform -- intended only for CapeFlyer shuttle service during Phase 1, to later be replaced by returning through-service at Middleboro/Lakeville -- built inexpensively and not at full length. Also, in looking at a satellite image, you wouldn't want to put the shuttle platform on the eastern leg because it's a much farther walk from the new platform on the northwest leg. The southwest leg would give you something pretty close to a close-platform transfer. (I mean, not really, because you'd have to go up and over, but still.)

Also -- at a more general level: I'm not entirely sure how "not intending to build Phase 2" would look any different from "intending to build Phase 2 but recognizing that delays may occur and needing to make sure Phase 1 is feasible for more than the currently-planned 8 years". Like, running FR/NB via Middleboro seems insane to me, but they've clearly committed themselves to doing it, so they need to, you know, do the best they can to make it work. They can't treat it like an interim service.

At this point, the whole damn thing is a miracle if it actually gets built and sees trains running at all.
 

roy_mustang76

New member
Joined
Jul 26, 2019
Messages
36
Reaction score
40
That would sure be a massive mistake! I don't see how any meaningful all-day service can be scheduled with the SINGLE track Old Colony Mainline.
It can't, you're going to have garbage headways from both terminals. And as F-Line pointed out, they're screwing up the FR end so badly that when it comes time to actually build Phase II, no one is going to want to shovel money at an already underperforming line.

I do get the argument that FR and NB have been waiting for rail for ages, but at the same time, giving them fundamentally broken rail in Phase I runs the risk of making it easy to conveniently "forget" about Phase II, or just outright refuse to pay for it under a different Speaker/Gov combo with the argument of "we gave you your train and you don't use it, so why should we spend more now?"
 

The EGE

Active Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2013
Messages
887
Reaction score
562
I'm not entirely sure I agree with this. For one, I don't think they're planning to abandon Middleboro/Lakeville wholesale, are they? With a minimal amount of upkeep, the station would continue to be usable by CapeFlyer service from Boston, eventual Wareham/Buzzards Bay commuter rail service, and by any RIDOT or Amtrak services that might eventually arrive from the west.

Similar logic holds for the shuttle platform. A shuttle platform -- intended only for CapeFlyer shuttle service during Phase 1, to later be replaced by returning through-service at Middleboro/Lakeville -- built inexpensively and not at full length. Also, in looking at a satellite image, you wouldn't want to put the shuttle platform on the eastern leg because it's a much farther walk from the new platform on the northwest leg. The southwest leg would give you something pretty close to a close-platform transfer. (I mean, not really, because you'd have to go up and over, but still.)

Also -- at a more general level: I'm not entirely sure how "not intending to build Phase 2" would look any different from "intending to build Phase 2 but recognizing that delays may occur and needing to make sure Phase 1 is feasible for more than the currently-planned 8 years". Like, running FR/NB via Middleboro seems insane to me, but they've clearly committed themselves to doing it, so they need to, you know, do the best they can to make it work. They can't treat it like an interim service.

At this point, the whole damn thing is a miracle if it actually gets built and sees trains running at all.
Middleborough/Lakeville is to remain in use for CapeFLYER service. I suppose it could be used for future Cape Cod commuter service or service from Providence/NYC, but I don't see it having a single benefit for any of those over Pilgrim Junction.

There's plenty of room under both Route 28 bridges to have the SCR platform and the east-side Cape Cod platform extend northwards, meeting at their northern ends, for just as good a nearly-cross-platform connection. The DSEIR claimed that adding the shuttle platform would require $7.5 million in additional design, construction, and signalling costs - hardly inexpensive.
 

Rover

Active Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2016
Messages
856
Reaction score
206
So to reiterate, by the time this is up and running most pols in this state will long be retired, so I don't see anybody reaping a great political benefit. I also agree that there may have been a better way to design it had the army corps of engineers not inflated the cost of crossing the swamp. However, all of this is irrelevant. The bottom line is the new phase I rail line is a quicker commute than the current option of driving, so the citizens of SE Mass need to shit or get off the pot - either ride the thing, or don't ask for any upgraded service (phase II). That's the political reality of the situation.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,038
Reaction score
2,009
Yeah. The Church Street station isn't that far from it. I'm just remembering the days of everyone talking about trying to get the Red Line out to Hanscom, or various discussions about improving the connections to TF Green.
As intermediates go, New Bedford Branch is also head-and-shoulders above Fall River. Church/Kings Highway/Tarklin Hill or whatever they're calling it this week is a convergence of 3 SRTA routes, plus a busy exit off MA 140. No public bus routes that currently drop-off at the airport terminal, but the airport itself has a shuttle van service that would come right down the hill in passing probably making a regular stop here. Again, at train frequencies this anemic it's hard to see where the multimodal coattails are actually going to deliver beyond simply giving the branch a weak pulse, but everything aligns nicely enough for mode integration that you'll be able to drill down and quantify the latent demand that would materialize if only the frequencies were better. And drill the latent numbers they will have to in order to make a case for Phase II after short attention-span theatre has passed South Coast by. That's their ticket out of the crap-frequencies-forever wildnerness: a "show-me" of what things could be if representative frequencies were meshed with SRTA reinvestment meshed with Airport ground transportation meshed with TOD. That melting pot of ingredients is definitely there at these two NB stops. Church needs some 'vision thing' elbow grease applied to its ugly-ass strip mall environs on the TOD front, but given that they're doing a pretty impressive job with Downtown right now the planning talent is probably there in town to pull it off.

Freetown and FR Depot...ugh. The ridership estimates already got adjusted down multiple times at those stops during the FEIR process for the original Stoughton Alternative, so the warning signs were flashing beet-red at the utter non-integration long before the M'boro shit sandwich got forced down everyone's gullets. You seriously could be looking at 2:1, 3:1, 4:1 ridership disparities by-branch with what floor the total lack of preparation may indeed be buying the west flank. And, frighteningly, those disparities won't be because New Bedford is overperforming at such beyond-useless frequencies. The service is what it is. The risk here is that FR Branch upchucks the highest share of low-revenue miles on the entire system, slotting in that no-man's land of 'stealth' Lowell equipment swaps open to passengers or the too-soon-for-trackwork/COVID-victimized Foxboro trial. Every day...forever. Until it becomes a perennial service-cut threat. Total lead anvil for chances of any follow-thru on better frequency sources. And if NB is a relatively bullish-looking place for honing its redev acumen...FR is still a banana republic at the city gov't level and has too much trouble keeping its top elected pols out of prison at any given time to do much honing of those skills. Time to stop chaining these cities at the hip...one is most definitely not like the other potential-wise unless a major urgency infusion shakes the malaise loose along the Taunton River. If I'm living in New Bedford I'm getting my terminology straight right off the bat: "This is the New Beford Line...not the 'slashied' Fall River/New Bedford Line or the better half of a South Coast lump." Declare total branding independence from the lead anvil to the west to make the best case for their own homegrown frequency-increase upside wholly apart from obligation to try in vain to troubleshoot their wayward neighbor's poor integration and planning malaise. It's the only prayer they have.
 
Last edited:

Rover

Active Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2016
Messages
856
Reaction score
206
I'm not as worried about a local bus connection to the FR Depot station. I have a bunch of relatives in FR who's family has been there all the way back when they built the first cotton mills. A couple of high school friends lived there too and out of 30 people or so I don't ever remember anybody taking so much as one local bus ride. It's a car culture, so as long as there's ample parking this shouldn't affect ridership too much.

NB is better situated mostly by accident. The highway connections built in the 50's work well with a station terminus that is located near downtown for a railroad built 150 years ago to service long gone textile mills. It's also real close to the ferry to the islands. I too expect the NB line to do better than the FR one.
 

DBM

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Messages
858
Reaction score
141
If I'm living in New Bedford I'm getting my terminology straight right off the bat: "This is the New Beford Line...not the 'slashied' Fall River/New Bedford Line or the better half of a South Coast lump." Declare total branding independence from the lead anvil to the west to make the best case for their own homegrown frequency-increase upside wholly apart from obligation to try in vain to troubleshoot their wayward neighbor's poor integration and planning malaise. It's the only prayer they have.
But what if you're living in Fall River? You, being in the hinterland, have to be hitched to some metro--yet Boston apparently isn't going to work out, because the service on the SC commuter rail is going to be that inconvenient. So... Providence beckons less than 15 miles to the west up I-195. Appreciating that some farcical, Kabuki-style lip service will have to be paid to the abysmal SC service that Fall River will be *blessed* with--but that the Providence alternative apparently now has to be considered (even if this constitutes "rebellion" vs. MassDOT)--what can be done to enhance mass transit on I-195? As F-Line has pointed out in the past, high-speed rail along I-195 is an impossibility...
 

Rover

Active Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2016
Messages
856
Reaction score
206
What possible benefit would there be to connecting FR to Providence? Rhode Island doesn't exactly have a dynamic economy. The jobs are in Boston, hence the need to connect those cities.
 

DBM

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Messages
858
Reaction score
141
What possible benefit would there be to connecting FR to Providence? Rhode Island doesn't exactly have a dynamic economy. The jobs are in Boston, hence the need to connect those cities.
Right--but isn't the whole point here that everyone is extremely skeptical that the Fall River spur of SC commuter rail will actually be convenient and efficient enough to get Fall River residents to those Boston jobs? So... let's assume that, practically speaking:

1.) ZERO CURRENT Fall River residents will be hired to high-paying Boston jobs and start commuting to Boston via the spur--because it never will be a practical commute.
2.) And, ZERO NEW Fall River residents, who already have high-paying Boston jobs, will relocate to Fall River and start spending money in its economy--again, because it will never be a practical commute.

In light of these harsh realities, if you're a Fall River economic development planner--now what? You can't exactly tell MassDOT to start over.
 

The EGE

Active Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2013
Messages
887
Reaction score
562
Fall River and New Bedford need better bus service to Providence. Right now, there's weekday-only Newport-Fall River-Providence service, with three AM and three PM round trips. Fall River-New Bedford has hourly express service (plus half-hourly local service at half the speed), not well timed for connections to Providence. Peter Pan service in the corridor is useful for commuting: one commute-hour trip, and it uses the Peter Pan terminal outside Providence.

Interstate bus service is difficult to provide because of federal funding rules - note that RIPTA only provides Fall River service as part of Newport runs. My understanding is that (with rare exceptions) all interstate mileage must be subsidized by the state in question, like how RI subsidizes Providence commuter rail service. But it seems like a mutual benefit to set up subsidies for a New Bedford-Fall River-Providence service to provide actually useful service along the corridor.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,038
Reaction score
2,009
I'm not as worried about a local bus connection to the FR Depot station. I have a bunch of relatives in FR who's family has been there all the way back when they built the first cotton mills. A couple of high school friends lived there too and out of 30 people or so I don't ever remember anybody taking so much as one local bus ride. It's a car culture, so as long as there's ample parking this shouldn't affect ridership too much.
No...you actually pretty much state point-blank the reason why it's going to badly underperform and be an explicit worry. It's a car culture. It is NOT plug-ready with the bus network. The parking fee for such anemic frequencies is itself prohibitive...therefore the fact that it lacks connectivity to the cheaper bus fares IS a grave inhibitor to showing any kind of pulse. Out-of-box SRTA integration is the only thing giving New Bedford's two stations a pulse to build upon while the frequencies are so useless, because it's more mobility for a lower cost given what they have to work with. Fall River not even beginning to troubleshoot the integration problem depresses the ridership even further. Look at the SRTA spider map.



Odd distribution, no? The Terminal is City Hall Plaza. Most of the routes are fairly short and clustered. That's because, as a city of hills, Fall River's transit shares are much higher where the geography poses mobility challenges...much lower where it doesn't. So...caution!...one family's personal transit-use tale does not speak for the city as a whole when geography creates a wholly natural skew in where the city's highest transit shares live.

The #2 up North Main is the only route in the city that touches Fall River Depot train station, at about the halfway point between City Hall Terminal and the Bicentennial Park loop. Most of the 2 is duplicated by the MA 79 eyesore and the highway-ruined neighborhood along Davol St. Higher car shares, which is why it's such a "one of these is not like the other" at being long, stingy, and broken up by distended looping...lots of chores en route for relatively low ridership.

^This^ is way too much to be leaving off the table functionally shut out from the train, if they ever want it to show a pulse. The only route that can get easily to the train is one that needs it least, and runs longest so is harder to transfer to. The other ones that already serve higher transit shares because of endemic mobility challenges in the areas they serve...are the ones facing the biggest mobility challenge to ever reaching the train station in the first place. And it is not a safe assumption that the transit density on those highest-demand routes are simply going to get in their cars and pay a much higher parking rate at FR Depot as if that's no big deal. How many times did the T build parking sinks relocated away from traditional multimodal-accessible downtown stops because conventional wisdom said exactly that...and then everyone was kerfuzzled when ridership underperformed? Fall River isn't the exception to that rule. It's already got a tightly-wound bus network with a number of routes delivering decently high transit shares. You can't simply ignore that and wave it away as if Pn'R's are going to save the day.

What they need is a bit of that street-circulator duplication that the #1/3/7 follow down by the boulevarded 79/138/195 interchange and the port before divering on their merry ways...put punched north up a Phase II MA 79 teardown that makes lower Davol more functional for the same purpose. It's not going to be an elegant-looking loop, because the train station going at the same location it always was dating back 150+ years while City Hall Loop was a post- Urban Renewal creation of the 195 Downtown canyon...and thus RR and surface transit aren't aligned as close as they were 60 years ago. But you have to at least shoot for a matching 'elbow' that 3 or more routes can glom onto hitting the train station before dispersing, or there's simply no way to link existing transit shares with the new mode. Foregoing that elbow grease does not mean cars are going to flock to the Pn'R lot to overpay for shit frequencies. It means those transit shares never meet the train...ever.

When it comes time for New Bedford to start beating down MassDOT's door for more frequencies, it can point to its SRTA integration for the latent demand that would be served. Fall River can't, because it hasn't made the faintest attempt to try. So given all we know about what a precarious position the prospects of more frequencies period is sitting on with this brittle Phase I and wittheld promises of a Phase II follow-up...which city do you think is going to be able to pry any more frequencies if they happen to come available? They sure as hell aren't going to be apportioned equally when one is trying to better its multimodal coattails and one couldn't possibly give less a crap. The service disparity widens from here.

Maybe for somebody's family in some neighborhood that's no big deal...but don't try to spin that to the whole city. Quite a lot of them are existing transit riders shaking their head at the utter senselessness of this willful non-integration.
 

bakgwailo

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2016
Messages
1,031
Reaction score
102
What possible benefit would there be to connecting FR to Providence? Rhode Island doesn't exactly have a dynamic economy. The jobs are in Boston, hence the need to connect those cities.
If we could ever get Regional Rail up and running, I think it would make sense if rail could go to Providence and tie in there to 15 minute headway trunk line to Boston (and TF Green), seems way better to build a transfer there than w/e SCR ends up being. Then again, I have absoltely no idea how a ROW would work from Fall River to Providence.
 

SomerJeff

New member
Joined
Sep 30, 2020
Messages
1
Reaction score
1
Fall River => Providence would require complicated new bridges/tunnel across either the Taunton River or Narragansett Bay, both of which are navigable waterways (so bridges can't impede marine traffic).

I think you'd be far better off going up the existing proposed SCR route to Taunton, and then connecting to the NE Corridor at Attleboro or Mansfield. From there, trains could run through to Boston, or passengers would have an option to transfer in the other direction going to Providence.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DBM

Top