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

cubalibre

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Yes but it was just that one train in each direction, and it had only been around for a couple of years. I don't think we can attribute too much growth and development in Worcester to the Heart-to-Hub train.
Absolutely. And even at peak times it may have been 100 people or so boarding the express train. There are ~25k new residents in Worcester since 2010 census.
 

The EGE

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Fortunately, we have train-by-train counts from 2018. H2H accounted for 262 of the 838 AM inbound boardings from Worcester (31%); it was the highest count, with #508 (6:57 am departure) second with 203. However, it was the third-lowest-ridership AM inbound train after the 4:45 and 5:15 am departures; other AM peak trains carried 476 to 1,404 passengers.

The outbound H2H, with a worse time slot, carried just 56 passengers to Worcester - 28% of the 202 evening riders to Worcester, as it was considered later than the PM peak with its 857 Worcester riders. It was the lowest-ridership outbound train other than some early AM trains. PM peak trains carried 522 to 1,342 passengers.

While they do show a decent demand for direct Worcester-Boston service, H2H trains had rather lower total ridership than other trains near their time slots. Other than perhaps a single peak-of-the-peak trip in each direction, I don't think it's really justified on a ridership level from Worcester alone. But add in Springfield, Palmer, the Brookfields, and Framingham, and you can justify an every hour-or-two intercity service.
 

devnull

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From Trains In The Valley, MassDOT released a "Massachusetts Intercity Passenger Rail Governance White Paper": news article, or full paper (PDF).

The white paper recommends the creation of a "Western Massachusetts Intercity Rail Authority" to oversee East-West (and potentially other state-sponsored Amtrak lines in Western Mass). It also prefers Amtrak as the operator of the service.

The Trains In The Valley article does point out that the white paper doesn't contain any specifics on funding, though.
 

Jahvon09

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Rode the Amtrak Acela to Washington last week, rode it back yesterday, but after leaving Baltimore, there was a signal problem at the controls in the lead power car. The crew had to wait until it got the Philladelphia to go into the rail yard to switch driving ends. The other power car had to be used. Before that, the train could only reach 80 mph! After the switchover, it worked fine. The train got up to 140mph in some areas!! Proof that the train can still fly!!!! :)
 
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Arlington

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Is this new?
They portrayed it as new, and an agreement to create a rail authority is new, and does seem to be good for applying for Federal infrastructure $.

But it is super sparse on specifics like timing and which of the many studies alternatives they think they’re pursuing.
 

737900er

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Two agencies operating on the same track just seems ripe for inefficiency and good old-fashioned Massachusetts interagency turf wars.
What is really needed is a singular vision for the B&A with regional rail + longer distance. Both are needed services, and by necessity would share the same trackage, but having different agencies trying to implement them at the same time seems silly.
 

Riverside

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Two agencies operating on the same track just seems ripe for inefficiency and good old-fashioned Massachusetts interagency turf wars.
What is really needed is a singular vision for the B&A with regional rail + longer distance. Both are needed services, and by necessity would share the same trackage, but having different agencies trying to implement them at the same time seems silly.
I doubt it will be two separate agencies operating on the same track. I am guessing that any passenger rail west of Worcester on the B&A will be operated by Amtrak, and probably managed by a Massachusetts equivalent of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which, as far as I can tell, is basically a small version of the MBTA specific to the Downeaster. In this scenario, Amtrak (whether under its own branding or not) would operate both the commuter rail/super commuter rail/"Downeaster for Western Mass" service as well as the longer-distance services to Albany (and beyond), Connecticut, and NYC.

In California, Amtrak operates with "Amtrak California" public branding. In fact, the major corridors all have their own websites and independent branding that makes barely any mention of the national Amtrak network:

https://www.pacificsurfliner.com/
https://www.capitolcorridor.org/
https://amtraksanjoaquins.com/

One option would be to create an "Amtrak New England" or "Amtrak Northeast" brand, and then create named services underneath. ("Hub-to-Heart-to-Hampden", anyone?)
 

tysmith95

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I doubt it will be two separate agencies operating on the same track. I am guessing that any passenger rail west of Worcester on the B&A will be operated by Amtrak, and probably managed by a Massachusetts equivalent of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which, as far as I can tell, is basically a small version of the MBTA specific to the Downeaster. In this scenario, Amtrak (whether under its own branding or not) would operate both the commuter rail/super commuter rail/"Downeaster for Western Mass" service as well as the longer-distance services to Albany (and beyond), Connecticut, and NYC.

In California, Amtrak operates with "Amtrak California" public branding. In fact, the major corridors all have their own websites and independent branding that makes barely any mention of the national Amtrak network:

https://www.pacificsurfliner.com/
https://www.capitolcorridor.org/
https://amtraksanjoaquins.com/

One option would be to create an "Amtrak New England" or "Amtrak Northeast" brand, and then create named services underneath. ("Hub-to-Heart-to-Hampden", anyone?)
Or operated by keolis, so that it can integrate with the commuter rail system?
 

The EGE

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Amtrak has intercity equipment, trackage rights and trained crews for WOR-SPG, and existing agreements for usage of Springfield Union Station. Keolis doesn't, because they have no need to - they're a commuter/regional operator, not an intercity operator.
 

Riverside

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There wouldn't really be a strong need for integrating to Keolis/the MBTA Commuter Rail anyway, on an operational level. BOS-WOR stopping services (e.g. anything the T currently runs except for Heart-to-Hub) are extremely unlikely to run west of Worcester, at least not on the B&A itself. Density drops off sharply on the B&A after Worcester and doesn't pick up again until Palmer, at which point you are in Springfield commuter territory. There is no "Wachusett", "Plaistow" or "TF Green" one-stop extension that would see enough demand to Boston to make the one-seat ride worth it (in my opinion).

There might be "super commuter" demand from Palmer, but you'd need those services to run mostly express east of Worcester to make a reasonable travel time. That points back to Amtrak, who has intercity equipment and would be running an intercity schedule that skips the Southboros of the world. The stretch between Palmer and Worcester is very unlikely to ever warrant commuter rail as we know it today.

There are potential commuter rail corridors that center on Worcester:
  • Auburn-Webster-Danielson-Norwich-New London
  • Milbury-Woonsocket-Providence
  • Clinton-Ayer-Lowell
  • Leominster-Fitchburg via commuter bus on 190
But all those routes currently don't exist, so there's no particular impetus to integrate into Keolis/MBTA Commuter Rail. And indeed, the Woonsocket line would probably get operated by RIDOT's contractor, and the New London one would potentially be operated by CTRail (both via duplicates of the Attleboro Agreement). And anyway, they are all more or less independent of what gets done on the B&A -- the only major impact being a small potential ridership increase if more express (i.e. intercity) services start running WOR-BOS, enabling a two-seat ride to Boston (e.g. Webster-WOR>WOR-BOS).

It'll be extremely important to have schedule coordination between all these different services. But that can be done between agencies without full-on integration.

The first step is to get Downeaster-style supercommuter service going between Springfield and Boston. Once that is in place, you can look at occasional commuter+supercommuter service patterns, e.g. train leaves Greenfield at 7:15, runs local and arrives in Springfield at 8:15, before running express to Boston to arrive by 10:30 (supplementing a few additional Greenfield-Springfield commuter runs). But even in that universe, the commuter rail in the Knowledge Corridor is going to be much more aligned operationally (and potentially structurally) with Hartford than with Boston. The Greenfield-Springfield-Boston service will almost certainly be run by Amtrak and not a commuter rail provider.

~~~~~

That all being said: to the riding public, what they'll notice the most is what's painted on the side of train. For the next 10 years, I'm guessing it'll likely still be Amtrak livery. But, like I said earlier, it's possible that at some point the Powers That Be will decide to rebrand. Assuming this operation gets large enough to have a dedicated fleet, then sure -- they might paint over the Amtrak logo with something else. Maybe it'll be something à la "Amtrak California" and maybe they'll slap a T logo on there and roll with it. (Unlikely, but.) In that case, the riding public might think of it as "extending the T to Springfield," but it'll still be Amtrak for all practical purposes.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Mr. Speakah slow-walking creation of the East-West rail authority. Boy, it sure would be unrealistically great to have a dynastic dictator of the General Court who wasn't a shithead on transit funding for a change. Meet the new boss, same as the last 3 or 4 bosses.
 

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