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

F-Line to Dudley

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This is really a commuter rail question, but what how much does the final stretch of the Worcester line — all the curves and loops — affect train speeds? And as a follow up, is there any chance at all that there would ever be a project within Worcester and Grafton to straighten out the line in order to achiever faster service to Boston?
It affects speeds a lot, but if you turn on Google Terrain View you can see that it's nearly all geography-induced with few viable options for straightening. It's meandering around some very high cliffs, and there's no way you're plowing some Hoosac Tunnel-equivalent through Grafton & Union Hills plus the drainage region for Lake Quinsigamond. EMU's should be able to recover speed a smidge better coming off the curves, but that will always be a slow zone. The main thing planners will have to look at for any attempts at speeding things up is taking the segments that are already pretty straight and doing curve-easing on the much slighter curves that divide that territory up...such that you're running up the score a bit more where speeds are already good. The Worcester Hills are what they are, and Palmer to Grafton will always be subject to severe speed restrictions at the most unavoidable curves. But if the severe curves are few because the mere 'mildly annoying' ones out in Westborough and Ashland have been tweaked, you rack up meaningful improvements. That's where to focus the energy, if it can be done anywhere.


I'll pour ice cold water on any notion of using the Pike median...which is just zombie residue from the wholly unbelievable NEC FUTURE I-84 tunnel-a-thon rejected alignment that borrowed segments of Pike median and the 1000% environmentally illegal Sudbury Acqueduct ROW to carve a hypothetical HSR line through the Worcester Hills. The highway grading is so much steeper than FRA-permissible RR grading it's physically impossible to do without dozens of miles of tunnel, and electric or no the constant changing of grades puts the trains in too much recovery time from ruined acceleration so the resulting performance would be awfully pedestrian in the real world even if it looks nice and straight in 2D. Pay no mind to it even as it shows up as umpteenth-Alternative alignments on official docs. The fact that the NEC FUTURE commission was so face-palmingly irresponsible as to not check its acid-fever alt. alignments against the laws of physics...then print those alignments as part of its report...means those zombie alignments will keep coming up again and again and again regardless of their impossibility. It was in a fed study, therefore it's going to get name-checked logic-be-damned in other studies years down the line. In the physical world, a passenger train bolted to the Pike is going to perform like ass on the constant substandard bunny-hop through the hills and cost an asstillion dollars in tunneling to ever hope to level out.
 

CSTH

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It is complex, and anybody planning intercity trains for New England is going to have to try to model first order effects
-AVs will do a great job of making SPG-BOS less painful by car
-AVs will compete with the train as a "I can work and rest because somebody else is driving"

And the second order effects:
- AVs will induce demand on the pike and either mean traffic jams or higher tolls (to fend off jams)
- If trips are easy, east-west "deals" will be more common

AVs will, at various times be an alternative, or a supplement. But more mobility east-west has got to be good for the Commonwealth.

One problem with this is that AVs don't exist. And anyway flying cars will make the trip even straighter and faster.
 

CSTH

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The highway grading is so much steeper than FRA-permissible RR grading it's physically impossible to do without dozens of miles of tunnel, and electric or no the constant changing of grades puts the trains in too much recovery time from ruined acceleration so the resulting performance would be awfully pedestrian in the real world even if it looks nice and straight in 2D.
Incidentally - My sense is that a lot of the new HSR construction in Europe, China, Turkey etc. makes extensive use of long and tall viaducts. I suspect that these are (relatively) efficient to build because (a) the ground-contact footprint is small and self-contained, (b) they're naturally secure from things like animals and idiots invading the tracks, and (c) because with big gantry cranes you can almost mass produce them.

If these assumptions are true, is there potential to create a HS ROW across the top of the hills (and only occasionally through them) between the connecticut river valley and the coastal plain? (Like the old Air Line, but with pre-tensioned concrete)?
 

jklo

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Maybe because it's a tunnel (and you have to use electric anyway) the grades are allowable.
 

The EGE

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Interstate highway standards allow up to 6% grades. NSRL would max out at 3%, and that's for EMU sets at low speed. (Wind resistance is not a significant factor until about 110 mph, where it quickly becomes a major factor - that's why even the best diesels pretty much top out at 110 or 125). CAHSR standards (which are designed for 220 mph, but fairly applicable to any new-build ROW) say grades should be under 1.25%; up to 2.5% is allowed when needed, and 2.5-3.5% in "exceptional" circumstances. So no, no waiver is going to solve the issue that interstate highways in hilly areas are far too steep for HSR.

Interstate curvature will also limit train speeds substantially. A 1,500 foot interstate radius (absolute minimum 1,000) works for 55 mph, 2,500 (1,500) for 65 mph, and 3,300 (2,200) for 75 mph. (Those aren't terribly different for rail, as the need to limit centripetal forces are the same). Rail that exceeds highway speeds needs correspondingly larger radii: 10,500 (7,000 min; 5,700 exceptional) for 125 mph, 16,000 (10,000; 8,200) for 150mph, and 25,000 (16,600; 12,600) for 186 mph. The Pike has a number of long curves with radii of about a mile - so you very probably wouldn't be able to do better than 90 or maybe 110 around them anyway.

Because of all these steep north-south hills between Worcester and Palmer, east-west rail in Massachusetts is never going to achieve HSR speeds without a disproportionate amount of construction. It's entirely possible that true HSR to Providence, HSR on the Providence-Hartford alignment that F-Line has proposed, and HSR on the Springfield line would achieve travel times as good as any Pike-HSR clusterfuck could achieve. It's also entirely possible that some alignment other than the current rail line is actually legitimately better and feasible to construct, so it's worth looking into that to eliminate it once and for all.

tl;dr: Because interstate geometry is much less strict than HSR (because of the lower speeds), any Pike alignment would not offer much better travel times than the current line.
 

The EGE

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Side note: Any discussion of rail to Springfield really should include Westfield in the discussion. It's >90% the population of Pittsfield, including a 5,500-student university. At 8 miles and 40 minutes on frequently-congested Route 20, taking the bus to Springfield represents a large increase in total trip time. The likely station site is less than half a mile from the city center, with a future grade-separated rail trail to get you there. It's also much more convenient to the Pike than Springfield, making it potentially a very useful connection for Western Mass.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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We talk about the NSRL having very steep grades--achievable only with electrification, and yet that's an FRA railroad, right? (as opposed to FTA transit)

How are the grades that the pike requires different from the grades that the NSRL would be permitted to have?

Is there some "passenger only" grade waiver that a Pike alignment could apply for?
NSRL's grades are one incline in, one incline out...for about 2/3 mile total length on any sort of grade. And, steep as they are, still no worse than fully existing commuter rail bridge grades like Neponset River on the Old Colony and Mystic River on the Eastern Route. You can hold your nose and do that for the tunnel because the performance damage is entirely self-contained in a very small and completely contiguous area, and is entirely within the terminal district where hitting each of the 3-4 CBD stations in a short distance to serve maximal demand is far, far more important than maintaining raw speed to begin with. There is absolutely no comparison whatsoever between that and attempting to limit the performance hit over 40 miles of constantly rolling hills. The constant changing of grades from up to down from each hill means the train has to constantly go to back to work recovering lost acceleration. And if you travel the Pike it is impossible not to notice just how constant those changes are: up and down, up and down, up and down. NEC FUTURE was deaf/dumb/blind about this on the I-84 alignment, and deaf/dumb/blind about this on the alt-Shoreline I-95 alignment. Neverending bunny-hop hills will arguably clobber schedules worse than curves if you can treat enough of the curves with superelevation tricks.

Second, "grade waivers" do nothing except buy you third-world transit for the money. By laws of physics a rubber-tire vehicle on asphalt can more reliably climb a steep grade than a steel-wheel vehicle on steel rails because of the adhesion properties of the mode. Therefore, there are very different allowable max grades on an Interstate highway vs. an FRA railroad. This is not some backwards dumbed-down freight lowest common denominator from a bygone era. The maximum unaltered grades on the Pike would be wheel-slip city for a modern EMU set (which are more prone to slip issues than loco-haul), and loco-haul runs elevated risk of engine stalls meaning double-ended power is probably necessary. This is why NEC FUTURE required such pornographic sums of tunneling and viaducting on these bunny-hop alignments. The grades aren't interchangeable by mode. Now, the problem with everything NEC FUTURE scoped out is that for all the tens in billions in tunneling on these bunny-hop alignments to pound out the overgrades they were still producing designs with woefully inadequate HSR performance because the grade changes within allowable grades were still so numerous the acceleration losses took their toll anyway. And that is still the problem you have with the Pike: the dollar-to-performance ratio is forever shit because the hills are still one after the other after the other.



Finally, "passenger only" is never going to float an Eastern MA to Western MA link through the density cavity of the Worcester Hills...much less the really really big density cavity of the Berkshires. Whether Springfield supercommuters are a growth market or not, there certainly don't top out enough of them to stuff hourly trains full of them 18 hours a day such that there's any "passenger-only" alignment to be bought in our wildest dreams. The only way we have an above-average shot of having a robust Inland Route schedule is because CSX's multibillion dollar intermodal franchise underwrites so much of the cost in economic return (current and projected-future) to the region...with a nature to the growth (more carloads per nonstop train rather than more trains or more stops per train) spot-on ideal for carving out a robust passenger schedule. Much like there's no effing way the Downeaster has a prayer of expanding its service without Pan Am's premier Western Route shipping lane underwriting the investment hand-in-glove. Any and all improved train travel to Western MA is going to use the existing corridor...full-stop. The NNEIRI study already specced out lots of curve-easing opportunities through the hills that can take time off if we're willing to pay the price, as well as an option for Class 5/90 MPH speed on the straight and flat segment between Palmer and Springfield if we're willing to pay for that. Any of those investment options are there for the taking, even if we have to do them incrementally as we go along because they're otherwise a tad steep to front-load for service starts. But you aren't getting HSR speeds to Springfield (pop. 153K), much less Albany (pop. 97K). The markets are flat-out not big enough no matter how deleriously optimistic your supercommuter projections are. Paydirt is competitive with the intercity buses on a more reliable/less-variable schedule than Pike traffic, not slaying them with kajillion-dollar Crazy Transit Pitches that don't have the bodies to ever amortize themselves. That's a dream maybe-someday someday apply to a Boston-Providence-Hartford-New Haven interior HSR routing, but never ever the Pike corridor. And that is no tragedy. We can do pretty damn good for ourselves sinking targeted performance improvements into the stet B&A alignment, without requiring us to lose our minds in the process.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Incidentally - My sense is that a lot of the new HSR construction in Europe, China, Turkey etc. makes extensive use of long and tall viaducts. I suspect that these are (relatively) efficient to build because (a) the ground-contact footprint is small and self-contained, (b) they're naturally secure from things like animals and idiots invading the tracks, and (c) because with big gantry cranes you can almost mass produce them.

If these assumptions are true, is there potential to create a HS ROW across the top of the hills (and only occasionally through them) between the connecticut river valley and the coastal plain? (Like the old Air Line, but with pre-tensioned concrete)?
They aren't all that efficient in the case of China, who's done the most building of that type. The country has suffered extremely overheated civil engineering construction costs and is well into writing checks its economy can't cash for those "manifest destiny" HSR builds across the mountains. They're starting to scale back pace of builds because the overindulgence has outpaced the (naturally slower w.r.t. a still-developing middle class) amortization rate in ridership growth. Authoritarian gov'ts in general tend to do very poorly with that because they lose their risk aversion to keeping such structures self-contained and "rare". China has morphed into a sort of worst of both worlds because it's combining the authoritarian streak of no geographic obstacle too big to tame with a market bubble mentality. Alon Levy is required reading on this, since he's the guru of gurus when it comes to benchmarking construction costs and puts the stark numbers to how much those places are overspending themselves to instability.

Euro-land it's situational. Some countries are much better than others, and some countries you'd think were good (Germany) have lately not been living up to their historical reputations of late on cost efficiency. But when it comes to really hard geological challenges like crossing the Alps the damage gets limited by the one-and-done killshot nature of some of the structures. The Gotthard Base Tunnel was a megaproject of megaprojects, but it shaved hundreds of kilometers off the route, lopped a full hour off the HSR schedule, increased the freight loading capacity of the route by 3x for an insane economic windfall, and so reduced the power requirements from the old route going through the grades of the mountain pass that every train passenger and freight became way cheaper to operate. So you could call a project like that a tactical nuclear strike on both the cost and benefit sides. It would be way different if you had to build six Gotthard Base Tunnels to do the route. That's the NSRL vs. NEC FUTURE/Pike bunny-hop analogy here. The really big isolated challenges finding away around one really big obstruction for one really big individual payoffs have clearer paths to amortization than having to viaduct or tunnel your way across the whole countryside where neverending changes in terrain end up chewing up resources either better spent elsewhere or never practically able to be recovered once spent.
 

Arlington

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On the TGV between Switzerland and Lyon there are definitely places where speed + slope = flying up and down (floor pushing up, followed by a floating sensation)
 

Arlington

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So, F-Line, I take it you are an Alternative 4 or 5 kinda guy? (added CSX tracks with a few near-alignment straighenings an 1 off-alignment bypass)
 

ceo

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TGV trains are intentionally overpowered so that they can take 4% grades at speed, which greatly reduces construction costs. They have so much momentum that the grades don't even increase power consumption that much. Of course, on the Pike ROW the constant grade changes are still going to make people seasick.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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TGV trains are intentionally overpowered so that they can take 4% grades at speed, which greatly reduces construction costs. They have so much momentum that the grades don't even increase power consumption that much. Of course, on the Pike ROW the constant grade changes are still going to make people seasick.
Overpowering a fleet is somewhat of a necessity when you've got a lot of routes traversing mountains, which mainland Europe certainly has. They can justify it on scale because it's hard to run a national carrier in France without confronting a whole lot of Alps in the process. It's a crappy proposition, however, once you start getting into exceptions to the rule because having to always operate extra power raises operating costs. CSX confronts this in the Berkshires where Middlefield Hill, the tallest grade on the B&A, requires a helper loco to help push the big intermodal trains over the grade. It requires a staffed job out of Pittsfield where the helpers are constantly shuffled up and down the hill to wait on a pocket track to attach in-motion to the passing freight and help push. For decades this was regular practice but CSX abolished the helper job in the early-00's because it was too costly, opting to run smaller trains with more up-front power instead. That was before the double-stack clearance project when they were very bearish on the New England market and the state was angsting about the noises they were making about dis-investing in the region. Now business is so booming and growth so long-term brisk they've brought the helpers back and see them as a small price to pay for uncapping train lengths. But there's a very sharp dividing line in cost escalation: either profits are so good the extra power is gravy, or it's not worth it at all...no in-between.

I can't see it being worth anyone's while on a state-sponsored route like the Inland to always have to run a double-draft (double-ended power) set for the sake of some Emerging HSR-like speeds through the Worcester Hills and Berkshires. It would bludgeon operating costs for that to be the only justification for that. Amtrak's last 2 diesel purchases--the ongoing Siemens Charger order and the mid-90's GE Genesis purchase--all had specific aims on reducing the number of schedules that needed multiple-loco lashups. As is virtually no state-sponsored routes run with more than 1 loco anymore, and long-distance trains are pretty strictly rationed to 2-loco setups where one is providing all-hauling power and nothing else while the other is strictly no-haul and all-electricity for the coaches...LD's being much more electricity-hungry than corridor routes with all the diners and sleepers in the consists, the added rider electricity and plumbing/water pumping usage on overnight trips, and the added HVAC demands of crossing into different climate zones en route all combining to require a dedicated generator in the set. But even the trips that cross the Rockies and/or Sierra Nevada that used to need 3 locos have been pared back to just the LD's with the highest farebox recovery like the Empire Builder and will soon be permanently and forever relegated to the alternating haul + generator setup when the new Siemens locos replace the less-efficient old GE's. Double-drafts for hauling just bleeds money. So, unfortunately, does having to order overpowered EMU's whose tractive effort and electrical requirements end up way outside of the commuter norm and require much more expensive parts supply chain and much more intensive maintenance standards to keep in day-to-day shape for tall climbs.

The NEC being as flat as it is is one reason why 125 MPH Northeast Regionals can maintain such an insane profit margin: they can do it all on only 1 loco in pull-only mode because there's virtually no grades anywhere on the route. Curves of course are the problem with maintaining speed on the NEC and straightening/bypassing them the be-all/end-all of a higher-performance NEC. But that's why it was so mind-boggling that NEC FUTURE ignored basic physics and chose some bypasses that introduced brand-new grades like that I-95 Shoreline bunny-hop greatly complicating the process. Maybe the already double-ended Acelas with their tandem power car setups can do good on that without excessive fleet-side mission creep, but it's going to accomplish nothing for the Regionals except make them way more expensive to run if the new grades have to make them run double-draft or force a higher-horsepower/heavier/more maint-intensive fleet renewal. The U.S.'s population density clustered to the coasts and Chicagoland means thankfully we don't have a ton of outlier scenarios where crossing a mountain range is the basic cost of doing business a la TGV. And it also means that mountainous metro areas like Denver generally don't have commuter rail density stretching far enough outside of the flatter city limits to have to plan for running electric commuter or corridor-intercity service on cost-bleeding grades with cost-bleeding fleets. But it does mean that it's a very unfavorable economic environment for accommodating exceptions to the rule like a state-sponsored route that tries to confront 100 miles of rolling hills head-on. That's not going to work here. And the fact that some places in the world can make it work does not inform the relative scruples of trying to force-feed it here. Scales and service mandates trace out the differences on where it does and doesn't work.
 
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whighlander

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I think I agree. And given that trains made up of AVs will be safer and more fuel efficient (drafting off the car(s) ahead) it is clear to me that we face an infrastructure bill coming up to rebuild the MassPike to maximize the SPG-WOR-BOS connectivity that I think is needed.

The MassPike seems like it is going to need 2 tiers of road service and rail down the middle (so you can safely/efficiently do 110mph+ speeds)

It is unclear to me what the 2 tiers of road will be
  • AV vs Non?
  • Small (cars) vs Big (truck) (and is an trainline of AVs "big"?)
  • SOV vs HOV (where HOV = Bus & trainline?)
But moving passenger rail to the median of the Pike will also permit/allow more investment in better double-stack freight to carry things that trucks now carry.
Arlington -- I think that you may be onto a germ of an idea -- there is just one significant problem
When the Pike was laid out there was some sort of internal feud between the Boston and Worcester pols -- as a result -- Worcester didn't get a good connection to the Pike [neither downtown Woosoxvile nor the Worcester Airport]

Follow the existing Pike layout and you preserve the bypass of Worcester

So perhaps doe your Highish Speed Rail -- you run Boston to Framingham via the Pike ROW then cut to the existing rail to Worcester to continue to Springfield
 

George_Apley

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Arlington -- I think that you may be onto a germ of an idea -- there is just one significant problem
When the Pike was laid out there was some sort of internal feud between the Boston and Worcester pols -- as a result -- Worcester didn't get a good connection to the Pike [neither downtown Woosoxvile nor the Worcester Airport]

Follow the existing Pike layout and you preserve the bypass of Worcester

So perhaps doe your Highish Speed Rail -- you run Boston to Framingham via the Pike ROW then cut to the existing rail to Worcester to continue to Springfield
His idea sounds pretty moot given the grades involved. In any case, no one wants to skip Worcester, the idea was to jump onto the Pike alignment after Worcester.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I have to admit, I would not particularly care to have people drinking around me on the train home. For one thing, those cars are crowded as hell -- no one wants a drink spilled on them. But also, not for nothing, between the crowds and the delays, frustrations sometimes run a little high. Yeah, most drinkers would keep their cool, but that one person loudly shouting at the conductor because the train is delayed... that's not gonna be fun for anyone.

(You should have seen the rider comments on the MBTA Rail app this morning when the Providence Line had a bit of a meltdown... eesh. And same thing whenever there's an evening delay.)

Maybe it could work on the after-peak evening trains? They tend not to be as crowded and generally have a more chill vibe to begin with. But, as F-Line says, there's non-trivial liability built in, which probably just tanks the whole concept overall.

Also, F-Line, that little backstory about the Montrealer versus the Adirondack -- great story, thanks for sharing!
Montrealer was a Boston & Maine train from 1924-66 which also went by the name Washingtonian in the southbound direction, running on a hodgepodge of host RR's including Canadian National, the Central Vermont, B&M, NYNH&H, and Pennsylvania RR. After a short service interruption during B&M's first stint in bankruptcy it was revived by then brand-new Amtrak in 1972, and ran until mid-'95 when it was truncated to St. Albans, VT and re-named the Vermonter which persists to this day. Under Amtrak the train's finances were shored up by combining it with bog-standard Northeast Regional ticketing all points south of Springfield where it hits paydirt as just another load-bearing Corridor slot to underwrite the much lighter-ridership trip north. Reinstatement to Montreal is a hot topic now that Gare Central station is gaining an enclosed U.S. Customs pre-clearance terminal eliminating the need for a schedule-killing Customs stop at the border; we could see it back in as little as 5 years if Quebec Province comes through with its share of funding.

The debaucherous rep came during Prohibition when the Washingtonian southbound trip became a notorious booze-smuggling run. It got cheekily nicknamed "The Bootlegger". When Prohibition fell, the party train rep continued all the way through the end of B&M and into Amtrak, celebrated by college kids who used it to score a lost weekend of Montreal entertainment or connect to a bus to a ski resort. It even was one of the exceedingly rare state-sponsored routes to financially merit its own lounge car for awhile. Plus...uh...it was the 70's. People did things they'd rather let die like disco than retell to their horrified kin today.o_O


The Adirondack was the conglomeration of 2-3 different Delaware & Hudson NY-MTL trains under different names that ran until A-Day (a.k.a. AMTK Day 1) 1971. Most typically as the Laurentian. Short service suspension, then New York ponied up funding to re-launch a round-trip under the Adirondack branding in 1974. It's remained stet ever since, except for a shift from Grand Central to Penn in '91 when the Empire Connection opened allowing Amtrak to consolidate NYC under one roof. It's now awaiting Canada's handoff to enact the new Customs pre-clearance facility at Gare Central, which will lop major time off the schedule eliminating the border stop. When NY State and Amtrak re-launched in '74 they brought back Delaware & Hudson to run it with their old pre-'71 trainsets and staff, so it was basically unchanged from its D&H days. And as noted, the D&H business culture was *VERY* different from the anything-goes B&M lineage on the Montrealer...including well into the Amtrak era. Financially strapped D&H eventually faded out as Amfleets replaced the custom D&H trainsets and Amtrak took up staffing, until it was basically a cookie-cutter state-sponsored AMTK route by the early/mid-80's. But it stayed much more...staid...while the Montrealer roared on into the 90's. Up to and including the move from Grand Central to Penn when they started sharing the same platforms.


I somewhat doubt you'll see a party train revival when the Vermonter inevitably gets re-extended and re-rebranded into Montrealer III. 24 years as just "a Regional pushing The Vermont Train" has changed the makeup, and Amtrak's marketing bent is so much more laser-like focused on business travelers these days compared to the swingin' 70's that the Montrealer revival VT and Quebec are pushing hard ID's business travel as the biggest revenue driver for enacting the revival. But I'm sure--especially if the Boston-Montreal round-trip and timed Inland Route transfers to the Vermonter from the NNEIRI study get enacted to buff out the schedule options--the college kids will be back too. Especially if they've pooled a little more cash for that lost ski or casino weekend to travel in a little more style than a long and cramped coach bus trip up I-93/I-89 out of South Station.
 
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whighlander

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NSRL's grades are one incline in, one incline out...for about 2/3 mile total length on any sort of grade. And, steep as they are, still no worse than fully existing commuter rail bridge grades like Neponset River on the Old Colony and Mystic River on the Eastern Route. You can hold your nose and do that for the tunnel because the performance damage is entirely self-contained in a very small and completely contiguous area, and is entirely within the terminal district where hitting each of the 3-4 CBD stations in a short distance to serve maximal demand is far, far more important than maintaining raw speed to begin with. There is absolutely no comparison whatsoever between that and attempting to limit the performance hit over 40 miles of constantly rolling hills. The constant changing of grades from up to down from each hill means the train has to constantly go to back to work recovering lost acceleration. And if you travel the Pike it is impossible not to notice just how constant those changes are: up and down, up and down, up and down. NEC FUTURE was deaf/dumb/blind about this on the I-84 alignment, and deaf/dumb/blind about this on the alt-Shoreline I-95 alignment. Neverending bunny-hop hills will arguably clobber schedules worse than curves if you can treat enough of the curves with superelevation tricks.

Second, "grade waivers" do nothing except buy you third-world transit for the money. By laws of physics a rubber-tire vehicle on asphalt can more reliably climb a steep grade than a steel-wheel vehicle on steel rails because of the adhesion properties of the mode. Therefore, there are very different allowable max grades on an Interstate highway vs. an FRA railroad. This is not some backwards dumbed-down freight lowest common denominator from a bygone era. The maximum unaltered grades on the Pike would be wheel-slip city for a modern EMU set (which are more prone to slip issues than loco-haul), and loco-haul runs elevated risk of engine stalls meaning double-ended power is probably necessary. This is why NEC FUTURE required such pornographic sums of tunneling and viaducting on these bunny-hop alignments. The grades aren't interchangeable by mode. Now, the problem with everything NEC FUTURE scoped out is that for all the tens in billions in tunneling on these bunny-hop alignments to pound out the overgrades they were still producing designs with woefully inadequate HSR performance because the grade changes within allowable grades were still so numerous the acceleration losses took their toll anyway. And that is still the problem you have with the Pike: the dollar-to-performance ratio is forever shit because the hills are still one after the other after the other.



Finally, "passenger only" is never going to float an Eastern MA to Western MA link through the density cavity of the Worcester Hills...much less the really really big density cavity of the Berkshires. Whether Springfield supercommuters are a growth market or not, there certainly don't top out enough of them to stuff hourly trains full of them 18 hours a day such that there's any "passenger-only" alignment to be bought in our wildest dreams. The only way we have an above-average shot of having a robust Inland Route schedule is because CSX's multibillion dollar intermodal franchise underwrites so much of the cost in economic return (current and projected-future) to the region...with a nature to the growth (more carloads per nonstop train rather than more trains or more stops per train) spot-on ideal for carving out a robust passenger schedule. Much like there's no effing way the Downeaster has a prayer of expanding its service without Pan Am's premier Western Route shipping lane underwriting the investment hand-in-glove. Any and all improved train travel to Western MA is going to use the existing corridor...full-stop. The NNEIRI study already specced out lots of curve-easing opportunities through the hills that can take time off if we're willing to pay the price, as well as an option for Class 5/90 MPH speed on the straight and flat segment between Palmer and Springfield if we're willing to pay for that. Any of those investment options are there for the taking, even if we have to do them incrementally as we go along because they're otherwise a tad steep to front-load for service starts. But you aren't getting HSR speeds to Springfield (pop. 153K), much less Albany (pop. 97K). The markets are flat-out not big enough no matter how deleriously optimistic your supercommuter projections are. Paydirt is competitive with the intercity buses on a more reliable/less-variable schedule than Pike traffic, not slaying them with kajillion-dollar Crazy Transit Pitches that don't have the bodies to ever amortize themselves. That's a dream maybe-someday someday apply to a Boston-Providence-Hartford-New Haven interior HSR routing, but never ever the Pike corridor. And that is no tragedy. We can do pretty damn good for ourselves sinking targeted performance improvements into the stet B&A alignment, without requiring us to lose our minds in the process.
F-Line -- as usual with all things rail you do present thorough and well researched arguments

I do have one criticism of the most recent sequence of discussions in this Thread

Any of those investment options are there for the taking, even if we have to do them incrementally as we go along because they're otherwise a tad steep to front-load for service starts. But you aren't getting HSR speeds to Springfield (pop. 153K), much less Albany (pop. 97K). The markets are flat-out not big enough no matter how deleriously optimistic your supercommuter projections are. Paydirt is competitive with the intercity buses on a more reliable/less-variable schedule than Pike traffic, not slaying them with kajillion-dollar Crazy Transit Pitches that don't have the bodies to ever amortize themselves.

You should not use the city limit populations for places like Hartford, Springfield or Albany -- like Boston these cities have a substantial extended footprint well beyond the city limits. For example I grew-up in West Hartford -- we thought of Hartford as a foreign place which we only visited a could of times a year. This was despite the fact that I could take a bus from less than a block down my street which would land me directly across the street from the Union Station and also the Bus Station from where the "rest of the world" was accessible. In fact like the relatively dense corridor between Downtown Boston and Downtown Worcester [take a look at a satellite photo sometime] -- there really are no rural zones between Hartford and Springfield. So the populations swept-up by a railroad station in and associated with a place such as Springfield should be considered to be about 1 million not 150 thousand.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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F-Line -- as usual with all things rail you do present thorough and well researched arguments

I do have one criticism of the most recent sequence of discussions in this Thread




You should not use the city limit populations for places like Hartford, Springfield or Albany -- like Boston these cities have a substantial extended footprint well beyond the city limits. For example I grew-up in West Hartford -- we thought of Hartford as a foreign place which we only visited a could of times a year. This was despite the fact that I could take a bus from less than a block down my street which would land me directly across the street from the Union Station and also the Bus Station from where the "rest of the world" was accessible. In fact like the relatively dense corridor between Downtown Boston and Downtown Worcester [take a look at a satellite photo sometime] -- there really are no rural zones between Hartford and Springfield. So the populations swept-up by a railroad station in and associated with a place such as Springfield should be considered to be about 1 million not 150 thousand.
Which is a fascinating demographic classroom lesson, and yet so <<not very much relevant at all>> to the actual point of the discussion we were having on specific Boston-Springfield transit. "Greater Hartford-Springfield" is pretty much this unbroken 20-mi. wide band centered by I-91 going from New Haven well past Springfield to a point around Northampton where it finally fizzes out. A shitload of population, indeed. And I was also one of them born-n'-bred as a product of Bristol...though I think I may have visited scary thar-be-dragons Hartford more often than you. That massive population strip also happens to be a shitload of people you can't begin to all tap with Emerging HSR on an east-west alignment to Springfield because the people are all in the catchment of of the north-south Springfield Line + southern-half Conn River Line. It's a two-seat trip any which way unless you're going to City of Springfield-proper. So for purposes of building an east-west line...ayup!, City of Springfield-proper and its 153K residents + etc. etc. possible accessible on PVTA buses are the primary things carrying all water on cost-benefit when Springfield Union Station is the only stop. Just like we were saying in the original thread you lightning-skimmed. It's not nearly enough of an intersect to float the value proposition of a dedicated ROW, as per the original conclusion.

Now, do we want that transfer to be faster, faster, ever faster? Absolutely! We probably should be working towards the final NNEIRI recs for making a better B&A corridor, and keep brainstorming from there on ways to keep improving as demand increases. But we're cosmically far from being able to hit paydirt with a cleanroomed corridor, because any which way that corridor is only going to clip...not intertwine...with where that I-91 centered strip of monster Greater Hartford population is. As EGE said, in the real world it's probably easier done at shorter time on the schedule with far higher build ROI run via true-blue 150 MPH NEC alt-spine Boston-Providence-Hartford HSR built on a midland bypass on/near the canceled I-84 Providence routing tied into a couple long-and-straight legs of landbanked ROW. Then bullseyeing Hartford Union Station as the crossroads-to-end-all-crossroads since it forms the midpoint of the corridor and would be a higher-leverage linchpin to begin with for reaching the whole of that population strip. Transfer north on an already zippy Springfield Line to get to Springfield, instead of the other way around.

Any which way it's achieved--Inland or Midland--Springfield isn't really taking center-stage in any plan because the population strip isn't centered there. Albany even less so since the true metro area is far-distorted off the actual city CBD, and the rail lines covering all areas of the metro area E-W-N-S cross each other outside the actual city CBD leaving no downtown union station potential at all (the current station being in Rensselaer, the disused downtown station forever cut off from the rails by I-787 and being somewhat of a routing square-peg when it was still around).


TL;DR...This question was implicitly answered already by reading the actual discussion for a change. Try it out sometime.
 

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Which is a fascinating demographic classroom lesson, and yet so <<not very much relevant at all>> to the actual point of the discussion we were having on specific Boston-Springfield transit. "Greater Hartford-Springfield" is pretty much this unbroken 20-mi. wide band centered by I-91 going from New Haven well past Springfield to a point around Northampton where it finally fizzes out. A shitload of population, indeed. And I was also one of them born-n'-bred as a product of Bristol...though I think I may have visited scary thar-be-dragons Hartford more often than you. That massive population strip also happens to be a shitload of people you can't begin to all tap with Emerging HSR on an east-west alignment to Springfield because the people are all in the catchment of of the north-south Springfield Line + southern-half Conn River Line. It's a two-seat trip any which way unless you're going to City of Springfield-proper. So for purposes of building an east-west line...ayup!, City of Springfield-proper and its 153K residents + etc. etc. possible accessible on PVTA buses are the primary things carrying all water on cost-benefit when Springfield Union Station is the only stop. Just like we were saying in the original thread you lightning-skimmed. It's not nearly enough of an intersect to float the value proposition of a dedicated ROW, as per the original conclusion.

Now, do we want that transfer to be faster, faster, ever faster? Absolutely! We probably should be working towards the final NNEIRI recs for making a better B&A corridor, and keep brainstorming from there on ways to keep improving as demand increases. But we're cosmically far from being able to hit paydirt with a cleanroomed corridor, because any which way that corridor is only going to clip...not intertwine...with where that I-91 centered strip of monster Greater Hartford population is. As EGE said, in the real world it's probably easier done at shorter time on the schedule with far higher build ROI run via true-blue 150 MPH NEC alt-spine Boston-Providence-Hartford HSR built on a midland bypass on/near the canceled I-84 Providence routing tied into a couple long-and-straight legs of landbanked ROW. Then bullseyeing Hartford Union Station as the crossroads-to-end-all-crossroads since it forms the midpoint of the corridor and would be a higher-leverage linchpin to begin with for reaching the whole of that population strip. Transfer north on an already zippy Springfield Line to get to Springfield, instead of the other way around.

Any which way it's achieved--Inland or Midland--Springfield isn't really taking center-stage in any plan because the population strip isn't centered there. Albany even less so since the true metro area is far-distorted off the actual city CBD, and the rail lines covering all areas of the metro area E-W-N-S cross each other outside the actual city CBD leaving no downtown union station potential at all (the current station being in Rensselaer, the disused downtown station forever cut off from the rails by I-787 and being somewhat of a routing square-peg when it was still around).


TL;DR...This question was implicitly answered already by reading the actual discussion for a change. Try it out sometime.
F-Line -- once again you did a nice job and you were even relatively non-judgmental about my comments [until the very end]

Problem with reading all the discussions -- too many repetitive statements are repetitively posted by the same suspects repetitively -- if you distill it all down -- its like one of the BBC imports on commercial TV -- there are so many commercials that you can compress things at least 3X
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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We’ve heard tons of discussion but it would be very useful to see some sketches of what is being proposed here... you and a few others did a lot of nice ones for the old green line thread, I have a hard time getting exactly what’s being proposed as far as rail stuff is concerned and a pic = 1k words
The Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative (NNEIRI) study encompasses most of the projects here. The general gist of it is:

  • Amtrak Inland Route: New Haven-Springfield-Boston. Reroute of the longstanding Springfield Shuttle service to Boston with new infill stop at Palmer. 8 daily round-trips for starters, with further increases possible; 3:40 NH-BOS travel time at Preferred Alternative baseline. Projected 429K riders/yr. on this base schedule. Option to thru-route Springfield-terminating NE Regionals to Boston as well. Also possibility to extend some slots south to terminate in New York depending on how much CT wants that (it's primarily their bag to negotiate that). Primarily a biz class audience target, as it's not going to beat a cheapo bus most of the time (although 3:40 is literally better than I made going New Britain, CT to 128 on I-84/Pike the Sun. after Thanksgiving 🤬). The sell is mainly AMTK corridor-standard comfort and a timeslot-to-timeslot schedule certainty that you never get from the buses which have wildly different trip times by time-of-day and frequent bad luck in traffic. Service involves upgrades to the B&A including double-tracking with crossovers for overtakes of freight, Class 4 track (80 MPH max passenger/60 MPH max freight). Additional upgrade options TBD on available budget include targeted curve-straightening in Worcester Hills to ease speed restrictions and Class 5 track (90 MPH max passenger/80 MPH max freight) on the straight/flat Palmer-Springfield segment for further schedule savings. A complete Tier 1 EIS is finished for this.

  • Montrealer restoration & improvements: Re-extension of Vermonter to Montreal (truncated to St. Albans, VT since 3/1995), with Customs to be handled at new pre-clearance facility at Montreal's Gare Central station shared with Adirondack train. Additional New Haven-originating round-trip an investment option if VTrans can afford to sponsor. Projected 343K annual riders (heavily skewed to southern end of corridor); 8:40 max. travel time north of New Haven (south of NH to Washington the Vermonter/Montrealer acts as a standard NE Regional slot with considerable audience overchurn once it exits the NEC). Travel time could slim down considerably on both Montrealer and Adirondack if Quebec Province invests in speed increases on very slow CN Rouses Point Subdivision, but for purposes of study they could make no assumptions and ran with current speeds. Upgrades included additional passing sidings north of Springfield, full signalization north of White River Jct., VT, and minor upgrades to ease speed restrictions. Investment option to upgrade several-mile straight section of Conn River Line near Northampton to Class 5/90 MPH to save some time.

  • Boston-Montreal Round-Trip: Initiating 1 daily round-trip from Boston to Montreal via Springfield and the current Vermonter (past/future Montrealer) route. Encompasses all B&A upgrades for the Inland Route and all planned upgrades to Central VT corridor for Montrealer improvements. 8:10 travel time, projected 103K annual riders. No infrastructure requirements of its own, but presence of route provides backing for above upgrades to Central VT corridor.

  • Springfield Hub + schedule coordination of all services: A standard pair of Inland Route slots would be coordinated from the Boston end with the Montrealer's northbound & southbound arrivals in Springfield to allow cross-ticketed transfer to/from Montreal, with another standard Inland pair being coordinated from the New Haven end to allow the same cross-tix transfer to both ends of the BOS-MTL round-trip. Doubles the available MTL options from each Southern New England destination at no cost by offering a second two-seater opportunity each day spaced at opposite end of day from the one-seater. Dispatching to Springfield is precise enough to hit the transfer windows, so this is the major value-added for the corridor.

It's about $1.2B capital for the whole-shebang...about half that if we just do the Inland now and don't touch points north until later. The scalability of the hub is what what sells it, as well as the fact that CSX being able to move its intermodal trains 20+ MPH faster between Springfield and Worcester also ends up padding the margins of an already insanely profitable freight franchise with very long coattails to an exploding local trucking industry. It's a very good project, with the scalability factor being the most compelling argument. Each extra upgrade they reach for ends up paying back by more linked frequencies.


Additional 'parasitic' options under active consideration, but out-of-scope from base NNEIRI build. . .

  • New York-Portland: The Downeaster's overlords NNEPRA in Maine have long coveted an opportunity to run a daily Portland-New York round-trip. This would fit the hot-pluggable mold of the other NNEIRI services by taking a standard Inland slot, making sure it's extended on the south end to NYC per Connecticut's desire ^above^, then making 1 routing tweak to divert it over the Grand Junction Branch to North Station instead. At NS it reverses and turns into a standard Downeaster slot, with at worst a couple minor skip-stops to speed it along. New Amfleet-replacement AMTK fleet will have standard half-baggage storage in all cab cars, allowing standard Maine baggage service into Penn Station. Strong audience overchurn @ BOS helps the Inland portion underwrite itself and minimize NNEPRA's extra funding footprint to just the logistical handoff, such that the very small NYC-POR thru ridership can safely "hide" inside the much stronger farebox recovery of the separate Inland and DE halves. In all likelihood this is a go if ^^all the rest^^ happens, because it's too easy to implement. Presence of NY-POR train will not affect any conversion of the Grand Junction off the RR network, as intercity upside is just too low to inhibit local rapid transit and the peanuts of NNEPRA subsidy (which can't affect Massachusetts policy anyway) comes with up-front disclaimer.

  • Etc.: Beyond that, also the assumed connectivity of all these services to a full Hartford Line commuter schedule. Plus likely connectivity to a Knowledge Corridor commuter schedule that may or may not interline with the northern half of the Hartford Line. Taken together the impressive robustness of Springfield Hub as a commuter and intercity crossroads also encourages major investment coattails in the PVTA bus network, as well as lower threshold for train service expansion to the Berkshires and/or Albany. Lake Shore Ltd. will see a large ridership bump if its SPG arrival gets timed with a north-south train for similar cross-tix ease. And the scalable hot-plugging encourages more outright Boston-Pittsfield-Albany schedules in the end (albeit not until after the ^primary^ patterns gain entrenched demand). The Berkshire Flyer, etc. studies ongoing now are kind of misfits in the way Baker/Pollack hastily packaged them as solo projects; they just don't have the juice to get greenlit on their own. However, as slotted follow-ons to the NNEIRI primary services they make a lot more sense because the hot-plugging at SPG hub will give them load-bearing quantity of north-south transfer ridership to help sustain them. And the repurposed Empire Service train that makes the short poke east out of Albany to Pittsfield makes a lot more sense if Springfield is flush with crossroads traffic. Eventually that lonely Springfield-Pittsfield gap through the mountains doesn't look so daunting to fill and a couple real Boston-Albany dailies buttressing the Lake Shore Ltd. can pick up enough chores in the midsection to justify their existence. The scalability is everything for being able to eventually cross the Berkshires population gap useful-enough times per day without taking too bad a dinger on farebox recovery.
 
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