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

Java King

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The Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative (NNEIRI) study encompasses most of the projects here. The general gist of it is:

  • 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.
I can drive to Montreal in 5 hours. I've been seeing tons of Tweets about the retiring of the InterCity 125 fleet in the UK this week. They had 125 MPH top speeds back in 1975! I LOVE the train, but spending 3 extra hours vs. the car is not a way to push train travel in my opinion. The goal should be 4 hours or less between Boston and Montreal.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I can drive to Montreal in 5 hours. I've been seeing tons of Tweets about the retiring of the InterCity 125 fleet in the UK this week. They had 125 MPH top speeds back in 1975! I LOVE the train, but spending 3 extra hours vs. the car is not a way to push train travel in my opinion. The goal should be 4 hours or less between Boston and Montreal.
Well...what time of day can you do 5 hrs. to Montreal? If it's 93/89 you're going you sure as hell aren't making that time leaving after work on a Friday such that you can check into a MTL hotel room in time to get a full nights' sleep. And also not making that time if the Customs stop at the border on 89 happens to be backed up with cars because it's a holiday weekend. The schedule certainty of the train is the selling point for Amtrak's biz traveler-skewed marketing focus...the folks who are putting this trip on an expense report rather than writing it off themselves. Obviously the college kids and weekenders-on-the-cheap are going to go with the cheaper bus because it's a more downmarket audience with more scheduling flexibility to travel when the highways in Eastern MA and Southern NH aren't as loaded.

Second, the study had to omit any projected improvements across the border because that's another country's problem to solve. Track is dog-ass slow from Cantic, QUE where the NECR Central VT line joins the Adirondack to St. Jean-sur-Richelieu...like 25 MPH max because CN just doesn't give a shit about the Adirondack. Once the Adirondack switches off the faster CP mainline at Rouses Point it loses 35 MPH instantaneously. Track is marginally faster better but way crappier than it should be between St. Jean and the intermediate stop at St. Lambert. In all it takes 3:06 to travel intra-Canada on the Adirondack over only 47 miles of track...an unbelievably fourth-world 15 MPH average. St. Albans to Gare Central (69 miles) used to be 3:00 even on the 1990 Montrealer schedule...a little faster on the Central VT trackage but went to spit all the same after joining up with the Adirondack at Cantic.

For starters, the Customs layover and the St. Lambert intermediate are going away the second Custom preclearance opens at Gare Central; the Adirondack will begin running 'sealed' from Rouses Point, NY to Gare Central at instantaneous 1 hr. savings from the excruciating layover today. Quebec Province is also promising generous track upgrades to attract the Montrealer back. Consistent Class 3/60 MPH on the CN Rouses Point Sub. and the connecting branch between St. Jean and St. Lambert...a pretty low performance target given that we're talking Class 4/80 MPH south of the border...is worth at least an hour unto itself. If they cared to make it rote-consistent with track class Springfield to St. Albans you'd be getting more still, but for all the hype the Trudeau Admin. has been awfully soft on putting money where its mouth is so expectations are best kept lowish.

Real-world target you're looking at is more in the 6+ hour range, which is definitely competitive with the car trip after you start zeroing out the timeslots where traffic is bad. As with the Inlands, they are not trying to beat the express buses in a horserace. It's the combination of AMTK-standard business class experience and the scheduling certainty that any time of day it's run will net the same travel time that ends up carving out the revenue margins for the rail mode.
 

citydweller

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I didn't think there was much of a demand for this, but I suppose we'll find out after the study is published, later this spring.



By State House News Service

The Department of Transportation now expects its study on a rail link connecting Boston to the Springfield and Pittsfield areas to be completed in spring of 2020, later than its initial plan as staff work through environmental impacts and costs of possible strategies.

In April, a MassDOT spokesperson said the study would be completed by winter 2020, but by July that target had changed to spring 2020. The department is currently exploring six alternatives for an expanded rail network, but will narrow the list down to three as it drafts recommendations.

No cost estimates are available yet for the project. MassDOT in July presented an advisory committee with initial sketches of what potential routes could look like — all using Worcester as the hub from which MBTA commuter rail would extend westward — and what some of the key challenges could be.

Sen. Eric Lesser, a member of the East-West Passenger Rail Study Advisory Committee, told the News Service he's been "assured repeatedly" by Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack the study will be done by the spring. Any delay beyond that, he said, "is certainly not going to be tolerated."

"All eyes are going to be on this wind-up period in early 2020 as the study approaches completion," said Lesser (D-Longmeadow), pointing to the extension's benefits for housing access, economic growth and greenhouse gas reduction. "The idea of an 80-minute ride from Springfield to Boston would completely transform the state."

The study's latest timeline means the study will be released after planned House in early 2020 on a bill intended to increase transportation revenues. -
 

Massachoicetts

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I think East-West done right and none half-assed, will prevent the majority of Western Mass from going in the direction of Upstate NY and CT. It will also substantially help the affordability crisis throughout the Greater Boston area. 80 minutes to Springfield must mean, 30-40 minutes to Worcester. Thats phenomenal.
 

tysmith95

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Springfield isin't a big enough city for HSR to make sense IMHO, unless costs decrease.
 

whighlander

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Springfield isin't a big enough city for HSR to make sense IMHO, unless costs decrease.
TySmith -- that's the problem with a Boston-centric problem being "generalized to all of Massachusetts" to make the rest of the Legislature have any interest in the topic

Boston/Cambridge needs efficient, reliable frequent and relatively quick connectivity to places within a reasonable 1 hr portal to portal
That basically translates to connections to major points where either people might want to live relatively densely or places where people can easily reach by other means such as driving with adequate parking

So we already have the connections we need for the most part -- we just need to make them efficient, reliable frequent and relatively quick
Nothing west of Worcester is going to meet the 1 hr portal to portal time without Maglev or TGV-type rail
Springfield would only make the 1 hr if the person lived in the station
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Springfield isin't a big enough city for HSR to make sense IMHO, unless costs decrease.
Who says this is HSR? The NNEIRI study already specs out all the upgrades the mostly redundant East-West Study is repackaging. The Preferred Alternative is an investment in 80 MPH max speed on the B&A corridor with some curve straightenings in the Worcester Hills to keep a lid on the most crippling of geography-induced speed restrictions. There's "optional" investment above-and-beyond that for pushing a flat segment from Palmer to Springfield to 90 MPH max. That's it. It's more than enough to enable all the juicy linked-trip options at a Springfield Hub that pays back the ROI in spades, which is why that baseline qualifies as a high-priority build.

But absolutely no one except maybe confused local-yokel pols are saying this is supposed to be HSR...or even the "Emerging HSR" 90-110 MPH fast diesel standard that the Empire Corridor and Chicago Hub are persuing. We've covered at length in other threads why a cleanroom corridor to Western MA of any triple-digit speeds is either physically impossible on any available routing or several orders of magnitude past cost-impractical for the population served. That is not what this intends to be, and never was the intention.
 

Arlington

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We had a long and fruitful discussion of East-West rail starting here:

In the Amtrak Thread. Mod question: should I move that discussion here (and call it MassDOT East-West Rail Study?) or just move this blob into the Amtrak thread?

I think we're doing pretty well multi-threading the MBTA and it might be time to give MassDOT its own for East West, Valley Flyer, and ALB-PIT or a general "Springfield Hub / NNEIRI" thread?
 

guitarguynboston

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80mins huh? So basically it would be quicker to drive to Worcester from the Fitchburg area and take that train to Boston.

15min drive + 40/50min train vs 90min CR Train

Obviously cost between the 2 would make a difference depending on the price difference.

I also don't believe there's a way they will get 80mins from Springfield to Boston.
 

fattony

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To go 90 miles in 80 minutes, you need to average 68 mph. That is faster than the Acela between New York and Boston (66 mph average with stops). 80 minutes is a pipe dream.
 

Tallguy

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Transitmatters posits 44min travel Bos-Wor WITH eight stops, say 40min with BB and Fram, 37min nonstop? Springfield in 43min might be a bit tougher
 

Arlington

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I have merged into this "East-West" thread our earlier discussions on:
  • NHHS New Haven, Hartford, Springfield a CT+Amtrak overlay of additional service
  • Knowledge Corridor: an older name for service connecting the university-oriented economies of New Haven, Hartford, Springfield, & Greater Amherst
  • NNEIRI (Northern New England Intercity Rail Intiative, a project of CT, VT, & MA. Origin of the Springfield Hub concept)
  • MassDOT "East West Rail Study" (upgrading the CSX Boston-Albany line (or jumping to the Pike in parts)
Important background and related services relevant here
  • The Vermonter is a "State Supported" Amtrak route, sponsored by VTDOT and MassDOT for its "not NEC" costs & revenues
  • The Valley Flyer is a MassDOT sponsored route operated by Amtrak (they way that Amtrak operates commuter railroads)
  • The Berkshire Flyer is a proposed MassDOT extension of NY's State Supported Empire Service (extending a train from NYP-ALB onward to PIT )
Other Threads & Topics
  • Renamed: Amtrak NEC Downeaster Acela & Long Distance
    • Current, electrified Acela and Northeast Regional Service
    • Concepts for overnight and long distance service
    • Intiatives by other states for supporting & upgrading Amtrak (e.g. Virginia, Michigan, & NY)
  • Technically.....
    • The Downeaster is an Amtrak State Supported service (like the Vermonter) via Maine/CMAQ & MassDOT but we haven't had much to say about it here (and I'd recommend the super-active Railroad.net thread, particulary George O'Keefe's posts). If you want to discuss it here (now that we're getting busier in Portland, too) let me know.
Cape Flyer is MassDOT-sponsored, MBTA-operated service (active Railroad.net thread, here), but so far we haven't had much to say about it at ArchBoston. So far it'd in the MBTA General thread, since that also covers MassDOT interactions.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Transitmatters posits 44min travel Bos-Wor WITH eight stops, say 40min with BB and Fram, 37min nonstop? Springfield in 43min might be a bit tougher
Inland Route would be stopping Back Bay, Framingham, Worcester, Palmer, Springfield...so that's the schedule that matters.

Keep in mind as well, as a funding target NNEIRI and East-West are primarily concerned with what upgrades are available Worcester-Springfield. Speedups inside MBTA territory that benefit intercity and RUR express trains are a whole extremely important breakaway discussion unto themselves. Target fixation on BOS-SPG sort of loses the distinction between major moving parts of this. We do what we can through the Worcester Hills to put Springfield Hub online, but the follow-through for really making it useful is all about MBTA territory and the tie-ins with RUR upgrades in MBTA territory.
 

meddlepal

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To go 90 miles in 80 minutes, you need to average 68 mph. That is faster than the Acela between New York and Boston (66 mph average with stops). 80 minutes is a pipe dream.
If we think going effectively highway speed on a rail corridor is a pipe dream we should just give up on rail then. It would be cheaper and more cost effective to build a bus only lane down the pike and run busses every ten minutes.
 

Tallguy

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Inland Route would be stopping Back Bay, Framingham, Worcester, Palmer, Springfield...so that's the schedule that matters.

Keep in mind as well, as a funding target NNEIRI and East-West are primarily concerned with what upgrades are available Worcester-Springfield. Speedups inside MBTA territory that benefit intercity and RUR express trains are a whole extremely important breakaway discussion unto themselves. Target fixation on BOS-SPG sort of loses the distinction between major moving parts of this. We do what we can through the Worcester Hills to put Springfield Hub online, but the follow-through for really making it useful is all about MBTA territory and the tie-ins with RUR upgrades in MBTA territory.
Hence my mentioning 40 min with BB and Fram, as that is the most likely scenario and that number includes the most feasible upgrades ( high platforms and super-elevation)
 

F-Line to Dudley

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If we think going effectively highway speed on a rail corridor is a pipe dream we should just give up on rail then. It would be cheaper and more cost effective to build a bus only lane down the pike and run busses every ten minutes.
...which will then almost immediately be opened up to cars as a general-purpose HOV because lane space is too valuable to segregate that severely. Where said general HOV will start moving slower under load and be subject to locking solid like 93's in a disablement because general HOV's are less resilient. Which in turn increases bus schedule padding at peak, and makes travel times by hour of day start to diverge.

Which in turn opens up a market--skewed more to business rather than discount-class-- that craves some other option that can offer the same schedule certainty any hour of the day...now that the HOV is too loaded to offer that.

Same schedule any time of day IS intercity rail's value proposition. Most Amtrak corridor routes do NOT win the best-case horse race with the bus. But they make their margins on schedule certainty once you zero-out the hours the bus is going to suffer under highway traffic load (HOV or no HOV).

You realize where all this is headed, right? The bus lane that costs a kajillion but becomes a general HOV ends up little more than a mighty kick of the can. The problem of all-day schedule certainty the rail mode addresses comes roaring back all the same. Only now you don't have the funds to act upon it because you spent a pornographic wad widening 60 miles of Pike to near-immediate diminishing returns.

It's not a solve for the real issue at foot.
 

fattony

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If we think going effectively highway speed on a rail corridor is a pipe dream we should just give up on rail then. It would be cheaper and more cost effective to build a bus only lane down the pike and run busses every ten minutes.
In a world where we can reallocate that much automobile infrastructure to non-automobile use, we could run faster trains too. So i don’t think that’s much of a counterpoint. In the world we live, nobody is getting from downtown Springfield to downtown Boston in 80 minutes during daylight hours by any mode of transportation short of helicopter. We need real change in policy priorities to make it possible.
 

North Shore

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In a world where we can reallocate that much automobile infrastructure to non-automobile use, we could run faster trains too. So i don’t think that’s much of a counterpoint. In the world we live, nobody is getting from downtown Springfield to downtown Boston in 80 minutes during daylight hours by any mode of transportation short of helicopter. We need real change in policy priorities to make it possible.
Seems to me that with a brand new casino and the BB Hall of Fame as two significant draws (among others), the Springfield business community needs to get together and help make a concerted push for faster and more constant service from Boston.
 

BostonUrbEx

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That is faster than the Acela between New York and Boston (66 mph average with stops).
Yeah, but you go through bullshit Metro North-owned territory where I've never seen Amtrak break above 60. Not to mention all the curves and decrepit bridges with pitiful speed restrictions. BOS-NYP can be improved, higher-speed rail BOS-SPG can be done.
 

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