MassDOT Rail: Springfield Hub (East-West, NNERI, Berkshires, CT-Valley-VT-Quebec)

Ruairi

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It’s a chicken and egg thing. We should think about what the numbers will be like a generation from now. Ridership would be low now because the division of resources and services is completely lob sided
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I can’t see any of it working economically until you show the total passenger numbers and how much it costs. This is all just a lot of typing until we see the numbers. What is the ridership and what is the cost. Add in the AlbanyToronto, etc. Thrown away MassDot was looking at 762-~1,400 per day for $2.4-4.6 billion. Then you put forth the NNERI full spoke of 2,397 for $1.1-1.2 billion plus $52 million per year. Now you are mentioning another option. What’s the cost of that one?
If that's a lot of typing, then WTF did we do E-W for when it's upended--even if we wanted to spend for it--by Amtrak's plain-stated refusal to operate any Pittsfield-terminating Boston service due to it whiffing on their Albany shop base? That's $1M in typing right there predicated on a lie!

On pure "Dig UP, Stupid!" grounds they have no choice but to study Albany if anything is to venture west of Springfield. Inland Route + Montrealer are NEC-shopped equipment from NYC-Sunnyside and New Haven. The Downeaster's equipment is sourced from Albany Shops, passes to/from Boston on rotation via Lake Shore Ltd. There are no touches to these equipment pools with a Pittsfield short-turn; Southampton Yard in Boston doesn't have enough bandwidth, and MassDOT already chose to reneg on its Hartford Line commitment to build a combo AMTK/CTrail layover facility/shop at Springfield. These ops realities Amtrak had to sternly clarify this Fall are readily available in their glossy general-consumption Blue Book-like publications.

You either start over with NNEIRI hubbed at Springfield, or start over with a joint NYSDOT Albany study (like our neighbors asked for and the Albany media was gobsmacked about when the ovature was refused). Those are the only choices. Short-turn at Pittsfield as *any* build option, much less "preferred" one, is based on a bald-faced lie. Whether it's worth it or not is moot; Amtrak has already refused to operate it.

I'm not mentioning "another..." option here. I'm mentioning one of two only options. Either you chop off everything west-of-SPG and go *completely* back to NNEIRI's service base that Amtrak is capable of running from NYC/NHV...or you go whole-hog to Albany in concert with NYSDOT, tap that service base, and do a whole lot of added-dimensional hub studying (at NY's behest if MassDOT can't be arsed to care). There is no third option...just lies.

No...those numbers do not currently exist. That also proves no one's point about levying a value proposition over Western MA's head...because the only option we've been presented is the one that cannot be because it has no willing operator amongst a field of 1 jurisdictionally qualified operators. It's ALL conjecture till you come up with a proposal that can functionally be! We expect reality-defying conjecture in a Crazy Transit Pitches hottake-gone-awry; we don't expect to be fleeced of $1M so it can be vomited all over official MassDOT letterhead.

So either dial back exclusively to NNEIRI or take some educated guesses on Albany. Sorry...it's all much more work down in the weeds for much less instant-gratification pinata-bashing than a Pollack soundbite and apples-vs.-kumquats strawmen arguments about transpo projects that couldn't possibly have less to do with each other (really...straight-line "Hot-or-Not" vs. GLX??? We're really going there?), but it's the only reality we have to usefully judge from when E-W lives in total unreality.
 

shmessy

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If that's a lot of typing, then WTF did we do E-W for when it's upended--even if we wanted to spend for it--by Amtrak's plain-stated refusal to operate any Pittsfield-terminating Boston service due to it whiffing on their Albany shop base? That's $1M in typing right there predicated on a lie!

On pure "Dig UP, Stupid!" grounds they have no choice but to study Albany if anything is to venture west of Springfield. Inland Route + Montrealer are NEC-shopped equipment from NYC-Sunnyside and New Haven. The Downeaster's equipment is sourced from Albany Shops, passes to/from Boston on rotation via Lake Shore Ltd. There are no touches to these equipment pools with a Pittsfield short-turn; Southampton Yard in Boston doesn't have enough bandwidth, and MassDOT already chose to reneg on its Hartford Line commitment to build a combo AMTK/CTrail layover facility/shop at Springfield. These ops realities Amtrak had to sternly clarify this Fall are readily available in their glossy general-consumption Blue Book-like publications.

You either start over with NNEIRI hubbed at Springfield, or start over with a joint NYSDOT Albany study (like our neighbors asked for and the Albany media was gobsmacked about when the ovature was refused). Those are the only choices. Short-turn at Pittsfield as *any* build option, much less "preferred" one, is based on a bald-faced lie. Whether it's worth it or not is moot; Amtrak has already refused to operate it.

I'm not mentioning "another..." option here. I'm mentioning one of two only options. Either you chop off everything west-of-SPG and go *completely* back to NNEIRI's service base that Amtrak is capable of running from NYC/NHV...or you go whole-hog to Albany in concert with NYSDOT, tap that service base, and do a whole lot of added-dimensional hub studying (at NY's behest if MassDOT can't be arsed to care). There is no third option...just lies.

No...those numbers do not currently exist. That also proves no one's point about levying a value proposition over Western MA's head...because the only option we've been presented is the one that cannot be because it has no willing operator amongst a field of 1 jurisdictionally qualified operators. It's ALL conjecture till you come up with a proposal that can functionally be! We expect reality-defying conjecture in a Crazy Transit Pitches hottake-gone-awry; we don't expect to be fleeced of $1M so it can be vomited all over official MassDOT letterhead.

So either dial back exclusively to NNEIRI or take some educated guesses on Albany. Sorry...it's all much more work down in the weeds for much less instant-gratification pinata-bashing than a Pollack soundbite and apples-vs.-kumquats strawmen arguments about transpo projects that couldn't possibly have less to do with each other (really...straight-line "Hot-or-Not" vs. GLX??? We're really going there?), but it's the only reality we have to usefully judge from when E-W lives in total unreality.
Fine.

You were putting forth some very interesting plans to make it work better in your opinion. Intrigued, I asked, 'Ok, is that economically doable on a per passenger value basis?'. Numbers - It really isn't all that difficult. Per your guidance, I completely threw out the "cooked" MasDot numbers. Then, in post #180, you seemed to suggest considering the NNEIRI option and listed out a good deal of the ridership and budget estimates - great, something to work with! (and those numbers, broken down to $1.1-$1.2 billion plus $59.43 taxpayer net cost per passenger ride is clearly bad budget value). You are now subsequently indicating another option, "whole-hog to Albany in concert with NYSDOT" but do not have budget estimates on that.

After all the verbiage and Stephanie Pollack adjectives, you've arrived at "So either dial back exclusively to NNEIRI or take some educated guesses on Albany......but it's the only reality we have to usefully judge from when E-W lives in total unreality", which is actually a real-world answer. Thank you.
 
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HenryAlan

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If we were to spend a few billion dollars on rail for Worcester and Springfield, wouldn't they be better served by building both cities an LRT system? In an ideal world, of course, they would have that and we'd also have a strong and efficient rail line connecting the two with Boston. But if it's just one, I think better municipal transit for both cities would be a bigger value proposition.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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If we were to spend a few billion dollars on rail for Worcester and Springfield, wouldn't they be better served by building both cities an LRT system? In an ideal world, of course, they would have that and we'd also have a strong and efficient rail line connecting the two with Boston. But if it's just one, I think better municipal transit for both cities would be a bigger value proposition.
These comparisons do not make any sense. "I don't think 🍅 built 🌍 is a good value proposition, so let's build ♠ on 🪐 instead." Nobody asks those questions, because projects that have less-than-bupkis to do with each other have no basis in winner-take-all comparison. Local transit is not regional-intercity transit. The Green Line and Amtrak don't exist in the same userspace. Let's please stop trying to force-feed them into a single steel cage match. This is not how project priority is hashed out in any real world. Those are strawmen arguments, not problem-solving debates.
 

HenryAlan

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The connection lies in the idea that some sort of heavily subsidized rail project needs to happen for political reasons. I'm suggesting that this is not the correct project if we want to both satisfy the politics and build something useful. Nobody thinks they are an apples to apples comparison, so nobody asked that question.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The connection lies in the idea that some sort of heavily subsidized rail project needs to happen for political reasons. I'm suggesting that this is not the correct project if we want to both satisfy the politics and build something useful. Nobody thinks they are an apples to apples comparison, so nobody asked that question.
Then you address the need vs. scope on its merits head-on...not start a diversionary debate about something not in the slightest relevant to the need. "We need better intercity-regional travel but can't agree how to do it, so let's build hyper-local instead" does not follow. The enumerated needs are already way more specific than "need to spend on heavily-subsidized rail somehow/somewhere". No effing way is the question THAT generic. Rolling it back to that reductionist a level completely unmoors the debate from any place, time, and need. E-W is a rancid study alright, but it was still way more specific than pure strawmannery comparisons.

We don't make spending decisions without time/place/need scoring. If you're going to argue for better allotment/non-allotment of resources here...stay in lane, stay in context. That's not optional for a discussion seeking solutions.
 

jklo

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I think the question is more what are they trying to achieve with this compared to what Amtrak offers today from Springfield.
 

DominusNovus

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I just want to add that since this is a government decision, it has to be analyzed through a political lens as much, if not more, than through an economic lens. And the people in Western Mass aren’t going to just roll over because they’re told they’re ignorant hicks (which is what railing against them not liking funding Boston-area pro and their tax dollars are better put to use funding projects that don’t reach any further west than Worcester.

Nobody has ever been insulted into agreement in the history of politics.

Maybe I missed it while skimming the thread but has anyone pointed out that, if we expand rail service to SPG, that is a whole lot of new territory that now benefits from NSRL?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Maybe I missed it while skimming the thread but has anyone pointed out that, if we expand rail service to SPG, that is a whole lot of new territory that now benefits from NSRL?
From the East-West direction? No...not really. That's probably the very smallest NSRL constituent audience of all, with the least potential buy-in. Not a lot of Albany-Portland demand, CT-NH, or so on. Those places are going to be reached as run-thru Northeast Regionals off the NEC, not the Inland (regardless of whether NYC-POR first gets a toehold via the Inland + Grand Junction). The Pike corridor pretty clearly dumps its lion's share of demand at Boston, with any splatter north and south spread around so diffusely there's no clear intercity service patterns to fashion out of those that can't be better-accommodated by cross-tix transfers. Worcester will get run-thrus as a purely Commuter Rail feature (likeliest to the North Shore/Eastern Route, as that's the hardest radial reach of all from MetroWest). But Springfield not being any greater than sparse "super-commuter" audience doesn't show the same directional bias.


It's not absolute-zero, but whatever demand there is totally lost in the noise. Western MA arguably has little to nothing to gain from the routing options of NSRL. Its payout is more related to the frequency proliferation that the project enables across-the-board in "rising tide lifts all boats" fashion. I don't think the NSRL advocates have given nearly enough thought to how they're going to package the "It's the frequencies, stupid!" angle to Western MA legislators, but that's how it's going to have to be because the local-district benefits of the NSRL project aren't going to be swayed by run-thru from out there. You can make a winning argument...but it's got to be laser-liked focused on the aggregate service levels with zero stray filler.
 
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whighlander

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All of these proposed projects and their ridership "projections" are best described by the term "Virtue Signaling" -- there is no there there there or even there
Once you get past Worcester it just makes very little sense to invest any significant money in infrastructure -- there just are not enough people who are close to the route to make it worthwhile for the length of the commute

From South Station to Worcester -- that is a different matter as at least seven burbs beyond Boston proper [ see below ] have enough local populations to support frequent quick service -- ideally all electric -- enabling smaller trains [electric Budliners]

Eletribud Service

Stop # Name Population Population Rank

1 Boston 684,379 #1 Origin & some intermediate stops
2 Newton 88,593 # 11 [ideally at Riverside] or otherwise some intermediate stops depending schedule
Metro West Stops [depending on the schedule
3 Wellesley 28,747 # 62
4 Natick 36,128 # 45
5 Framingham 72,308 #14

I-495 Belt
6 Ashland 17,710 #111
7 Southborough 10,121 #179
8 Westborough 19,037 #101

Greater Worcester
9 Grafton 18,743 #102
10 Worcester 185,143 #2 End Point

but even on this list anything smaller than Natick / Wellesley wouldn't be worth any significant investment if they weren't already on the line to Worcester

The key is that with the electrified line and Eletribuds with Red Line car like capacity -- then you could offer relatively high frequency where it was justified:
Framingham every 15 minutes in the morning and evening and once and twice per hour during the day​
Worcester every 30 minutes morning and evening and once an hour during the rest of the day​
from Worcester conventional rail service could go to Springfield 5 times a day -- twice in the morning, twice in the evening and once around noon​
continuing to Pittsfield morning and evening for the real long distance commuters​

Electrify the line now to Worcester

then run it for 10 years [2025 - 2035] and then decide if it pays to electrify the line further west than Worcester
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The line is not going to be electrified west of Worcester. It's a mucho lucrative double-stack freight corridor with 35 overhead bridges solely between Worcester and Springfield and who knows how many further west whose clearances were already maxed-out once 10 years ago. It's extreme-difficulty trying to find another +2.5 ft. of underclearance to run under wires, when the stop spacing is so wide the diesel vs. electric performance difference is at its absolute most minimum. Amtrak is already planning to buy dual-mode locos to run the Virginia Regionals on for purposes of whacking the time-chew D.C. Union engine swap. Pry a couple of those units to assign to the Inland to tap the electrified segments east of Worcester and south of Springfield, and the short diesel territory in-between will be no hassle. That is a wholly appropriate use for the dual-modes considering the extreme-blowout cost of closing the B&A electrification gap and very tough road for amortizing the investment with the service levels proposed. Those dual-mode units will already be available for the task via the Virginia (and possibly PennDOT) procurements; it's ops-only cost sharing to loan a handful of them up north, so there's no compelling reason to spend to the moon on closing the electrification gap when the performance difference is marginal at best for wide-spaced Amtrak-only service.


Second...raw population isn't a measure of ridership. Southborough is dead-last in population of the municipalities on the Worcester Line corridor, but is #5 of 10 municipalities in annual ridership. That argument is shredded right then and there. The catchment area + transit shares of each stop are the only difference-maker that matters, and you have to drill down well further than skin-deep to get the true story there. If service levels were equal past Framingham as pre-Framingham, Southborough would likely leapfrog each of the 2 Natick stops in overall ridership--and possibly outslug all 3 Wellesleys combined--to drag this skin-deep gut assumption further wrong. Spot looks are always deceiving. You have to follow the metrics to see that they check out...and, sorry, that requires maths >> 'gut'.

You have to apply those drill-down metrics across the corridor, and at intercity audiences. The Palmer infill, for instance, has an extremely wide catchment because of the positioning on MA 32 an easy bus trip from all the Amherst schools and UConn while being right at a major Pike exit. That's why it's a recommended infill. These studies don't just pull those demand numbers straight from arse. The catchment metrics get a full work-through. The service metrics on East-West were a giant load of bull compared to NNEIRI, but the stop placement maths faithfully computes relative to where the service plan is sourced from.


Third...Springfield 5 times a day? You realize NNEIRI had it going 8 times a day. Like I said on the last page...can we pretty-please spot-ref the studies that have been linkied here so many damn times already to sort out personal hottakes from what's been for-real vetted? Lots of authoritative-sounding statements getting flung about here awfully thin on sourcing trying to counterpoint this effed-up plan that unfortunately does have the official sourcing needing the troubleshoot effort. That's not optional when picking specific nits about the plan. We're doing an awesome job in this thread confusing the issues by blithely not keeping facts vs. personal opinions straight and failing to distinguish which is the more actionable starting point for fixing what the state broke about this corridor analysis.
 
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DominusNovus

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From the East-West direction? No...not really. That's probably the very smallest NSRL constituent audience of all, with the least potential buy-in. Not a lot of Albany-Portland demand, CT-NH, or so on. Those places are going to be reached as run-thru Northeast Regionals off the NEC, not the Inland (regardless of whether NYC-POR first gets a toehold via the Inland + Grand Junction). The Pike corridor pretty clearly dumps its lion's share of demand at Boston, with any splatter north and south spread around so diffusely there's no clear intercity service patterns to fashion out of those that can't be better-accommodated by cross-tix transfers. Worcester will get run-thrus as a purely Commuter Rail feature (likeliest to the North Shore/Eastern Route, as that's the hardest radial reach of all from MetroWest). But Springfield not being any greater than sparse "super-commuter" audience doesn't show the same directional bias.


It's not absolute-zero, but whatever demand there is totally lost in the noise. Western MA arguably has little to nothing to gain from the routing options of NSRL. Its payout is more related to the frequency proliferation that the project enables across-the-board in "rising tide lifts all boats" fashion. I don't think the NSRL advocates have given nearly enough thought to how they're going to package the "It's the frequencies, stupid!" angle to Western MA legislators, but that's how it's going to have to be because the local-district benefits of the NSRL project aren't going to be swayed by run-thru from out there. You can make a winning argument...but it's got to be laser-liked focused on the aggregate service levels with zero stray filler.
I was thinking there may be some upside for transiting through Boston from points west, even if it is just being able to one seat to points in Boston north of South Station - a one seat ride from Springfield to a Bruins game is something.

But you’re 100% right that the frequency issue is probably more of a sell.
 

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