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

Arlington

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Arlington

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Or...hell...if it simply must be a train, do a "Z"-shaped train route Boston-Worcester-Springfield-Greenfield-North Adams to make it load-bearing for some real demand instead of treating highway-uncongested zits on the map like Athol and Orange as must-haves.
I completely agree. Heck, it is the best kind of Z...with very little backtracking
 

Riverside

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Or...hell...if it simply must be a train, do a "Z"-shaped train route Boston-Worcester-Springfield-Greenfield-North Adams to make it load-bearing for some real demand instead of treating highway-uncongested zits on the map like Athol and Orange as must-haves. Make it support East-West/NNEIRI instead of further fragmenting the state's meager attention span. Do the 90 MPH segment upgrades proposed in the NNEIRI study and it's probably just as fast via SPR as the fractally curvy Fitchburg routing (which sucked on travel times even in the best-maintenance B&M era).
I did some back-of-the-napkin math on this a few months back, when I was comparing Boston-Gardner travel times direct via Fitchburg versus via the Holden Branch and a cross-platform transfer at Worcester. (More below, for anyone curious.) I reached a similar conclusion there: it is better to use the B&A as a high-speed trunk line and travel the two legs of the triangle, rather than taking the "more direct" but much slower hypotenuse. Beyond increasing connectivity to closer destinations (I have to think that one-seat/two-seat-access to Worcester, Springfield, CT, and NYC would be a major benefit, unavailable on a pure "Northern Tier" route), it literally may be faster in some cases, if we can truly reach those near-high-speeds for the trunk line.

~~~

The “traditional” rail commute Gardner-Fitchburg-Boston would likely take ~1h45m. That’s the time to beat with the Gardner-Holden-Worcester x Boston alternative.

Express MBTA trains from Worcester take 1h25m to reach Boston. The Heart-to-Hub (near-)non-stop service takes 1h5m. The track layout at Worcester Union would not allow Holden Branch trains to through-run to Boston, but would be amenable to a cross-platform transfer, so let’s add 5 minutes to account for that.

Assuming transfers to a near-non-stop service, that means we have 35 minutes of travel time “available” to make a Worcester-Gardner trip and have it be competitive. The Holden Branch is 23 miles between Gardner and Worcester, with really only one potential intermediate stop. To make it 23 miles in 35 minutes, the train’s average speed would need to be… 40 mph.

And that… that is not actually completely outside the realm of possibility. (Let’s assume for the moment that the track is upgraded to passenger rail standards, and that the MBTA is given dispatching priority.) By comparison, the current Heart-to-Hub service runs the 41 miles from Worcester to Lansdowne in 54 minutes, with one intermediate stop, for an average speed of 45 mph.

All of which means – with infrastructure improvements, it may be possible for a Gardner-Boston commute to be achieved faster via Worcester than via Fitchburg. There are a lot of caveats to that statement, but it was enough to lead me to game out the scenario further, eventually leading to a hypothetical morning timetable like this:

StationDepartTravel Time
Greenfield6:20 AM
Orange6:45 AM0:25
Athol6:51 AM0:06
Gardner7:16 AM0:25
Holden7:43 AM0:27
Worcester7:58 AM0:15
-transfer-xx
Worcester8:08 AM0:10
Framingham8:39 AM0:31
Back Bay9:10 AM0:31
South Station9:14 AM0:04

Supporting Northern Tier-Worcester commuters with an 8am arrival, and Northern Tier-Boston supercommuters with a 9:15am arrival. Greenfield-Boston riders specifically I would expect to travel via the better service through Springfield, but this would provide options for those other communities. This, I argue, could make the key difference in ridership that the old route via Fitchburg lacked. By rerouting to Worcester, you are able to tie together a stronger local commute market (Gardner-Worcester) with a smaller but growable supercommute market (Northern Tier to Boston), while providing genuine intercity mobility alternatives by hooking into a larger network at Worcester.

Does the math really add up? Ehn. Unlikely. Like F-Line says, those communities between Gardner and Greenfield are tiny. But my point for this discussion is that we'd probably see some similar numbers with the "Z" alignment, where North Adams becomes a long-distance commuter rail service to Springfield and an intercity supercommuter rail service on to Worcester and Boston. Stringing them together is better than separating them out.
 

notthemonthaugust

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As someone with folks out in the Greenfield area, I would actually love train service out there from Boston. As would they. I would certainly ride a Boston-Greenfield service of it ever existed (regardless of routing).

That said, I alone probably make up more than 10% of the demand for such a route...so I won't go selling my car just yet.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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BOS-SPG-ALB
BOS-SPG-NHV-NYP
are on MassDOT's list
We seem to have missed this here:


MassLive: Amtrak’s planned Albany connection could be stepping stone to Springfield’s east-west passenger rail service goal
I'd love to see one of those extra BOS-ALB slots get lashed onto the Maple Leaf as a somewhat reasonable pitch. Toronto and Chicago have near-equal populations, so if Boston generates adequate demand for a train to CHI we certainly have the wherewithal to support one to TOR.
 

Tallguy

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I'd love to see one of those extra BOS-ALB slots get lashed onto the Maple Leaf as a somewhat reasonable pitch. Toronto and Chicago have near-equal populations, so if Boston generates adequate demand for a train to CHI we certainly have the wherewithal to support one to TOR.
They need to bring back true Pullman cars, with upper and lower berths, with a fare premium but much less than a roomette
 

ceo

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I'd love to see one of those extra BOS-ALB slots get lashed onto the Maple Leaf as a somewhat reasonable pitch. Toronto and Chicago have near-equal populations, so if Boston generates adequate demand for a train to CHI we certainly have the wherewithal to support one to TOR.
Timing would be tricky. The Maple Leaf leaves NYP at 7:15am and arrives at ALB at 9:50. The Late For Sure Limited takes 5:20 BOS-ALB, so a Maple Leaf Boston section would have to leave BOS at 4:40am. Or they could push the whole thing back a couple hours, which would have it arrive at TOR around 10pm. (Or, you know, they could improve the tracks so the trains could go faster, but that's crazy talk.)
 

bigeman312

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As someone with folks out in the Greenfield area, I would actually love train service out there from Boston. As would they. I would certainly ride a Boston-Greenfield service of it ever existed (regardless of routing).

That said, I alone probably make up more than 10% of the demand for such a route...so I won't go selling my car just yet.
Personally curious: would a better timed transfer to the Lake Shore Limited, with more frequent and reliable service Springfield-Boston, be something that would entice you into that two-seat ride?
 

Roxxma

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Timing would be tricky. The Maple Leaf leaves NYP at 7:15am and arrives at ALB at 9:50. The Late For Sure Limited takes 5:20 BOS-ALB, so a Maple Leaf Boston section would have to leave BOS at 4:40am. Or they could push the whole thing back a couple hours, which would have it arrive at TOR around 10pm. (Or, you know, they could improve the tracks so the trains could go faster, but that's crazy talk.)
Another option would be to instead have a BOS-TOR overnight, with a connection in Albany, either cross platform, or a NY section that gets tacked on like on the Lake Shore Limited.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Another option would be to instead have a BOS-TOR overnight, with a connection in Albany, either cross platform, or a NY section that gets tacked on like on the Lake Shore Limited.
That's the problem. To either lash up or time the connection, it would have to leave Boston before 5:00am at current B&A speeds.

The fix is to obviously improve B&A speeds. Class 4 (79 MPH max) Worcester-Schodack instead of Class 3 (59 MPH max). That'll bleed off lots of time.
 

Riverside

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I wrote about overnight sleeper services at some length a couple of years ago, and updated it a bit to host on my blog: A Whimsical Proposal: Overnight Sleeper Services for Boston. The actual proposals are, as advertised, somewhat whimsical, but I include a lot of analysis about what "works" best for an overnight service. A couple of key points:
  • The most successful medium-distance overnight destination pairs are ones that are about 10-13 hours apart.
  • Departure/arrival times are more predictive of ridership than MSA population
I think a BOS-MTL overnight service -- via Albany or via the Vermonter corridor -- would actually do pretty well, particularly given its similarities to other existing medium-distance overnight services. And it could be done -- and in my opinion in fact be viable -- with today's infrastructure (assuming a customs facility at Gare Centrale) with no capital improvements needed.

There was discussion earlier (in another thread?) about the newly proposed Montreal-Sherbrooke-Portland-Boston sleeper service. This is estimated at 14 hours end-to-end. However, it's worth pointing out that this service wouldn't just be Montreal-Boston, but rather a series of overlapping pairs:
  • Montreal - Portland/Old Orchard Beach
  • Sherbrooke - Portland/Old Orchard Beach
  • Sherbrooke - Boston
  • Montreal - Boston
(Plus mopping up a little bit of non-overnight ridership on Boston-Portland and Montreal-Sherbrooke.)

Aside from the BOS-MTL pair, all of the other pairs would be closer to 10-12 hours, and could be likely be scheduled with reasonable late-afternoon/evening departures and early/mid-morning arrivals. Again, that is right in the sweet spot where the Lake Shore Limited has played very strongly, so I think this isn't as crazy as it looks on the face of it.

Map from the group proposing the idea:

1661558854011.png
 

ceo

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One issue with the Boston-Sherbrooke-Montreal proposal is that it can't use the planned preclearance facility at Gare Centrale, because it has additional station stops in Canada. Which means it would also have to be timed to hit the border crossing at a reasonable hour and not at 3am.
 

notthemonthaugust

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Personally curious: would a better timed transfer to the Lake Shore Limited, with more frequent and reliable service Springfield-Boston, be something that would entice you into that two-seat ride?
Oh absolutely. And with the fact that they're running trains along the CT river corridor already means service from Boston just needs to properly link up, and not be abysmally slow. Obviously a 1-seat ride is preferred, but I'd do 2 seat as long as the travel times were reasonable. The key with 2-seat though is the dwell time at the transfer counts as part of that travel time, and the service needs to be either reliable enough so that there isn't a risk of a missed connection (or a very small risk), or high enough frequency of service so a missed connection doesn't matter. Just speaking from experience, I'm not sure I really trust Massachusetts (or perhaps any rail service in the US) to consistently provide either of those. The benefit of 1-seat, besides not having to get up and re-alight, is you remove most of that risk.
 

WestMedford

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I wrote about overnight sleeper services at some length a couple of years ago, and updated it a bit to host on my blog: A Whimsical Proposal: Overnight Sleeper Services for Boston. The actual proposals are, as advertised, somewhat whimsical, but I include a lot of analysis about what "works" best for an overnight service. A couple of key points:
  • The most successful medium-distance overnight destination pairs are ones that are about 10-13 hours apart.
  • Departure/arrival times are more predictive of ridership than MSA population
I think a BOS-MTL overnight service -- via Albany or via the Vermonter corridor -- would actually do pretty well, particularly given its similarities to other existing medium-distance overnight services. And it could be done -- and in my opinion in fact be viable -- with today's infrastructure (assuming a customs facility at Gare Centrale) with no capital improvements needed.

There was discussion earlier (in another thread?) about the newly proposed Montreal-Sherbrooke-Portland-Boston sleeper service. This is estimated at 14 hours end-to-end. However, it's worth pointing out that this service wouldn't just be Montreal-Boston, but rather a series of overlapping pairs:
  • Montreal - Portland/Old Orchard Beach
  • Sherbrooke - Portland/Old Orchard Beach
  • Sherbrooke - Boston
  • Montreal - Boston
(Plus mopping up a little bit of non-overnight ridership on Boston-Portland and Montreal-Sherbrooke.)

Aside from the BOS-MTL pair, all of the other pairs would be closer to 10-12 hours, and could be likely be scheduled with reasonable late-afternoon/evening departures and early/mid-morning arrivals. Again, that is right in the sweet spot where the Lake Shore Limited has played very strongly, so I think this isn't as crazy as it looks on the face of it.

Map from the group proposing the idea:

View attachment 27836
 

F-Line to Dudley

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HenryAlan

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I suppose CSX might be an issue, don't really know, but why isn't the state piloting a Springfield-Boston Flyer while we try to figure out a longer term rail solution? It's a similar distance to the the Valley Flyer, probably similar travel time. We have made it easier for Springfield folks to get to New York, shouldn't we make it easier for them to get to Boston?
 

JeffDowntown

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I suppose CSX might be an issue, don't really know, but why isn't the state piloting a Springfield-Boston Flyer while we try to figure out a longer term rail solution? It's a similar distance to the the Valley Flyer, probably similar travel time. We have made it easier for Springfield folks to get to New York, shouldn't we make it easier for them to get to Boston?
Aren't the current track options between Springfield and Worcester a big impediment? I believe it is both slow and single track (on a double track right-of-way).
 

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