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

F-Line to Dudley

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Regarding the route and ridership of the East West. Why wouldn't they include a station stop in Westfield, a city of over 40,000 people? It looks like almost an hour by bus but it only 10 miles away.
Westfield pretty firmly slots in the local commuter category. If this were a commuter rail line you'd absolutely see a stop there, and in Wilbraham on the east side of Springfield too. But those are mostly folks looking to transfer to the Hartford Line or possibly a Hartford Line run-thru commuter service flavor that covers the Conn River Line to Northampton/Greenfield. And for matching to those frequencies they already have pretty good PVTA bus route coverage to get them 8 miles over to Springfield Union. An Amtrak schedule is utterly non-useful for that, and since these towns have never been stops on the intercity coach buses' Springfield routes the patronage at an intermediate stop for Amtrak-only would be utterly microscopic. Unfortunately the E-W B&A corridor doesn't run dense enough far enough on either side of Springfield to outstretch the PVTA district in any distinctly useful way with Springfield-spanning commuter rail, so the answer to all demand questions here is to simply increase PVTA frequencies and give them outright more cracks at SPG Hub transfers rather than work the rail angle to bottom-barrel returns.


The Palmer infill is somewhat distinct in that CT/MA Route 32 is probably the most significant highway corridor in all of Southern New England served only by a two-lane local highway with absolutely nothing limited-access in a 15-mile radius of it on either side. UConn & UMass + the Amherst-area colleges all funnel on that route, and you've got the only halfway-significant Worcester Hills/Eastern CT "Quiet Corner" population centers like Ware, Barre, Stafford Springs, Willimantic pooling onto that route. The Pike exit basically splits the MA and CT "halves" of that corridor right at the midpoint, so ends up an insanely convenient place to run a University shuttle bus or kiss-and-ride for making an intercity connection. The projected ridership stakes are small overall compared to what all other stops on the Inland Route or other Springfield Hub route combos generate, but the catchment area is so vast because of 32's quirky positioning as Southern New England's last real "not-a-highway" highway corridor with all of it woefully under-served by all current forms of transportation so it ends up a valuable add.
 

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Missed news amidst the world melting down and all. . .


MassDOT not-so-tacitly admits it lied through its rotted teeth on the East-West study's spectacularly askew ridership/costs/schedule projections...to "revisit" its estimates after taking a brutal drubbing from the official Western MA coalition response. A five-party team of Western MA and CT MPO's plus a Berkshire transit advocacy group submitted their own counterpoint statistical analysis calling pants-afire on the cooked books. The Nutmeg State participation in the form of Hartford County's MPO is particularly surprising/welcome, as the complete absence of any north-south traffic sources and Hartford Line coattails was by far the smelliest part of the study metrics. As it's ConnDOT who paid the most $$$ forward in actual Springfield Hub-serving passenger upgrades and was the most enthusiastic backer of the NNEIRI study that East-West attempts to discredit-via-duplication, that's a very implicit "Back the @#%* off my transpo vision!" telegraphed from Ned Lamont's office to Baker/Pollack & the revolving-door Pioneer astroturfers.

We'll see where this goes or doesn't go. But richly deserved comeuppance for a far more over-the-top than usual sandbagging job. They might actually be forced to release real non-funny numbers this time now that being way too obvious has drawn the ire of a neighboring state and co-shared metro area (one whose surprisingly successful self-operated interstate transit service now carries disproportionate mindshare with a critical chunk of MA voters).
 

cbrett

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Regarding the route and ridership of the East West. Why wouldn't they include a station stop in Westfield, a city of over 40,000 people? It looks like almost an hour by bus but it only 10 miles away.
Westfield State grad here, and I proposed a million crackpot ideas for bringing commuter service in. The problem is that there isn't a sensible next stop for commuter service to Westfield; either you enter no mans land headed west to Pittsfield, or you curve north towards Holyoke Mall/Holyoke which already have a more direct ROW from Springfield.

You're spot on that it needs SOMETHING, because the hour long bus ride from Westfield to Springfield Union is typically a 20 minute drive. The freight ops in downtown Westfield may also make it impossible to just slap a couple platforms down and have regular service. IMO adding a stop to the Lake Shore Limited or a new long distance train might be their best bet, with improved express bus service better serving the Springfield commuter market.
 

Semass

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I will preface this by saying that I have only been to Westfield a couple of times so I don't know that much about the railroad layout.
Looking at the alternatives in the study though, the only currently viable ones terminate in Springfield. Now, I know that part of the frequency problem with the Connecticut NHHS service is layover space at Springfield. I wonder if it would make sense for an East-West service to have Springfield plus one to terminate at Westfield and layover at what looks like some space on the aptly named Railroad Ave. In that way, it would make Westfield more viable for through riders to Boston and for faster transfers to points south or even the valley flyer. It would also serve as a de facto commuter service to Springfield.
 

Arlington

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What if Westfield served as the terminus as the better I-90 Park-and-Ride? It has an exit off the Mass Pike and might be a good place for a layover for the EW service. I certainly would not go any further than Westfield (bus-on-Pike is how I'd go further west) but for people who're driving for E-W service and want a place to park and ride, Westfield might be a better "cheap commuter parking" place vs Springfield .
 

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What if Westfield served as the terminus as the better I-90 Park-and-Ride? It has an exit off the Mass Pike and might be a good place for a layover for the EW service. I certainly would not go any further than Westfield (bus-on-Pike is how I'd go further west) but for people who're driving for E-W service and want a place to park and ride, Westfield might be a better "cheap commuter parking" place vs Springfield .
Because that's repeating the #1 sin of the E-W Study vs. NNEIRI: intentionally ignoring the absolutely frigging massive NORTH-SOUTH ridership by pretending the hugely well-calculated Inland Route SPG-HFD-NHV numbers don't exist against all credulity. NNEIRI wanted 8 round trips daily Boston-Springfield-New Haven for starters (meaning up to a couple backfill trips of slack remaining after all is buffed out). And ConnDOT is in a terrible hurry to shower us with money to partner on subsidy. You're going to dilute any of those megalopolis-catchment slots by vulturing more of them for a stub-out in a town of 41K just 9 miles away...then turn back home? How does anything related to this scheme expect to make its margins with upside-down priorities like that leading it by the nose? How do we expect to make a go of this at all by telling an enthusiastic funding partner in ConnDOT: "Hi, we're insane. Keep your money because we plan to be insane alone."

This is embracing the same idea that Baker/Pollack are leveraging for their study tankapalooza. We shouldn't be trying harder to make the tankapalooza work by digging in OCD at Westfield, we should be saying "You guys are liars and morons for foisting garbage that doesn't lead FIRST with the Inlands which everyone and their mother knows will make margins." It's a born self-own. And sequencing MA-only first in some sort of hometown nod is ass-backwards because the lion's share of intra-MA ridership evaporates without the thru routing to New Haven...so practically speaking all negotiations are off if the Inland Route isn't the primary backer of the B&A upgrade work. There's very sound reasoning behind the MPO's vomiting all over this study and not stopping at calling it "flawed, needs improvement", but rather saying it's unsalvageable garbage that needs to be tossed entirely for the NNEIRI's service baseline. You can't make a working proposal out of E-W's study assumptions. It is literally born to self-own.

So taking the bait on a Westfield troubleshoot isn't helping to fish it out, it's furthering the self-own to make sure nothing ever happens. The Inland Route has to be Priority #1 with a bullet to bring the margins, or else nothing else--not Westfield, not Pittsfield, not Montreal, not Albany--is payable.

--------

Second...the other practical reason that Westfield can't be up-front in planning is because B&A slots are not so plentiful that any west-of-SPG routings can have first dibs at filling out their schedules while leaving enough for the rest. West Springfield is the largest and busiest CSX yard of them all in-state, so any passenger trains crossing the Connecticut River have to engage the full daily freight schedule...not just the SPG-WOR freight schedule where there has already been one major level of traffic dropoff before the river. NNEIRI was able to craft the 8 Inland round-trips + 1 BOS-MTL round-trip vs. the SPG-WOR freight schedule in a way that was spread nicely and evenly across the clock (while not fully clock-facing) to capture maximal demand. Pretty reliable 2-hour departures and 2-hour arrivals at South Station hitting Springfield, plus the timed meet at SPG with the Vermonter netting a second two-seat/cross-tix Montreal round-trip from Boston.

Start predicating the schedule spread on >4 Westfield turns per day in some vague notion that it's first therefore it has to have some degree of quasi-parity with Hartford, and the pax schedule rapidly starts decaying in integrity from having to engage 10 miles of maximal CSX traffic. More useful slots get outright lost (such as the expansion past 8 Inlands per day that will eventually be necessary to max it out to 90 minute departures). But more disruptive than that is that even amongst the total slots you keep that even spread scheduling against the clock that makes trip planning at South Station attractively coherent starts getting gapped out to hell by the domino effect of the Westfield turns setting themselves against all cross-B&A freight scheduling, and thus leading everything else by the nose to scramble moving up or down against the clock prioritizing available nooks and crannies instead of even 2-hour churns. Now you start having a daily schedule at South Station rife with 2 Springfield-running trips leaving in a 20-minute span followed by a 2:30 gap because Westfield has to break with the spacing to deal with CSX, disrupting the ebb-and-flow of what's behind it. Or worse. It'll be a mess. The B&A whole-corridor just isn't that clock-facing flexible because of the way CSX traffic chunks out Worcester vs. Springfield vs. Albany/Pittsfield, and that's why you don't let whole-corridor engaging schedules inversely set the table for everything on the interior chunks. You work the interior chunks first, then leave foraging for nooks to the less-frequent Lake Shore Ltd. and Berkshire trains.

Clock-spreading scheduling is going to collapse on itself if Westfield has to be put on a pedestal that's even two-thirds par with the Inlands. If we're simply chasing the highest-leverage trips first, the Inlands those cross-tix diverging trips are utmost importance and Westfield isn't looked at as a distinct destination at all vs. Pittsfield. Yes, that's unfortunate for Westfield because their train slots won't be all-day plentiful enough or even enough to break reliance on the bus. But there's no easy solution to that because if we're maxing out train traffic by demand the slotting to Westfield is going to have to be more irregular than the slotting to Hartford/New Haven because simply because of which chunk of B&A it resides on. And you can't in good conscience prioritize that chunk's slotting to the ruination of all other's schedule spread against the clock. It means in all practicality you're NOT brainstorming at all on how to short-turn trains at a Westfield Pn'R, but finding justifications to backfill more cross-Berkshire trains to Pittsfield and Albany so when that least-flexible chunk of B&A is engaged it's engaged at max efficiency for all its catchments at no demerit to anything on the inner chunks turning/diverging @ SPG.

If that means builds touching Westfield and Pittsfield has to by necessity come later than the base Inland build for purposes of maximizing investment, so be it. Western MA already understands this perfectly well, which is why the MPO's are all wearing war paint to kill the E-W study and go back to NNEIRI basics before E-W sandbags everything on its coattails. Just if the Berkshires have to necessarily go on the back-burner for the base build, if you're going to commit to reaching them next time...keep the promise and don't half-ass it. Starting with giving Westfield better bus service in the meantime, as more frequencies and some commuter express options timed with the Hartford Line are going to have more impact anyway than rigging E-W with an ineffectually spaced token schedule. I guarantee a Westfield poke that continues to sandbag the Inlands isn't going to be palatable to them anyway because Hartford Line starts out with more massive and immediate mindshare, and that any *properly* constructed corridor projects which don't treat Pittsfield and Westfield equally on that chunk of B&A would be immediately attacked as half-assing it and transparently engaging in more divide-and-conquer tactics. City of Westfield was read in by Captain Obvious long ago on these projects and what it means to them. It isn't going to be swayed by quarter-measure one-seat rides that don't address their biggest commute needs first (i.e. Hartford Line connections first, Inland connections second, everything else cross-state direct third and on a sliding scale).
 
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Arlington

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^ Nicely answered. Thank you. I'd summarize that as "any E-W train available to run West of Springfield is better turned South to New Haven or North To (something north).
 

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^ Nicely answered. Thank you. I'd summarize that as "any E-W train available to run West of Springfield is better turned South to New Haven or North To (something north).
Not necessarily.

"Any E-W train available to run West of Springfield is better to run thru to Pittsfield and Albany, and not short-turn at all."

That sets the relative build priorities, because until we're ready to honestly engage all of west-of-SPG there's too much else of higher priority to finish out first. . .
  • baseline Inland Route service (8 BOS-NHV/etc. round trips per day + 1 BOS-MTL round trip per day) and requisite baseline B&A upgrades
  • fullest schedule coordination amongst SPG Hub services (i.e. Vermonter cross-tix transfer w/ Inland for de facto Boston second slot, BOS-MTL cross-tix transfer w/Inland or Springfield Regional for de facto New Haven/New York/D.C. second slot, Lake Shore Ltd. cross-tix transfer w/ Inland for NHV-ALB two-seater)
  • robust PVTA last-mile buildout for Hartford Line feeder (i.e. strengthen the Westfield bus frequencies and trip times, amongst others)
  • MassDOT Knowledge Corridor commuter rail. *Ideally* run as Hartford Line run-thru, Greenfield-Springfield-Hartford to complement other ConnDOT Springfield-Hartford-New Haven + Hartford-New Haven-Bridgeport service patterns. The corridor chunks out in nice 60-mile segments with relatively consistent fare structure if GRF-HFD joins the two other flavors as a (somewhat sparser-schedule) run-thru. 2 infill stops: Chicopee + somewhere between Northampton-Greenfield (MA 116 @ South Deerfield at next-nearest river crossing up?). Include all necessary last-mile bus optimization for schedules.
  • Strengthening of Pittsfield Transportation Center with more intercity bus schedules to scale it up as a bigger corridor node. Only a fraction of BOS-ALB intercity bus trips currently divert off the Pike @ Lee to head up there, so current utilization is half-cocked and doesn't do East-West any favors as a lead-in (despite generally strong demographic demand, and surprisingly robust local-bus coverage to leverage/augment). Because there will be a *lot* of TBD shape-shifting in bus schedules to optimize service tiers vs. the more business-travel oriented Inland Route and likely some new exploits for the private carriers to tap once they're faced with the prospect of re-optimizing their slate...encourage more Pittsfield trips and bait a little financial incentive to make it happen.

Consider the Albany-Pittsfield seasonal poke a separate deal altogether, as that really doesn't require any substantial B&A West upgrades to plant the flag and NYSDOT is amenable to letting an otherwise NY-ALB short-turn slot get borrowed for the extra distance.

Now...when you've got the basics ^above^ established including playing the leverage with the intercity buses to better utilize Pittsfield, start planning out the whole west corridor. Westfield can be considered an infill stop if demand merits (CAUTION: most of their needs are going to be met by feeder buses to a clock-facing Hartford Line schedule, so don't blur the lines in study on where the trip destinations are or you risk confusing aims on what's most useful to which task).

Pittsfield can be considered an initial terminus if that's all that's available, though NYSDOT cooperation and shooting whole-hog for Albany's huge slate of transfers and equipment base is much cleaner and probably--despite much higher up-front cost--better in the long run for managing scalability vs. operating costs.

NYSDOT will desire a Chatham intermediate (which is a good one) for their participation. Work the schedule coordination @ SPG Hub faithfully with those cross-tix transfers...Greater Hartford-Albany is a hard trip to make on the highways, so there is a disconnect begging for a better fill there if starting scalability is robust enough. Even 1-2 extra west-poking slots that so happen to space themselves opposite the Lake Shore Ltd. on the clock and is easily cross-transferrable from Hartford Line or Inland might show additional signs of life from offering this coverage.


Note that in an earlier wide-ranging discussion a few months ago we had about international AMTK routes that Albany is the plug-and-play point of origin for us getting in on enhanced Maple Leaf schedules over an upgraded Empire Corridor West and/or Detroit/Chicago via Niagra Falls on upgraded Empire West + VIA Rail Corridor West + Amtrak Michigan 110 MPH trackage. i.e. Templating the Lake Shore Ltd. lash-up on more route combos, because the track across New York State and Western Ontario is to-be-upgraded to a point that begs more such route combos. Keep this in mind for rationalizing west-of-SPG upgrades. It is most definitely not an afterthought, as Boston (and CT-via-transfer) can get plugged into some very big things through an upgraded connection to the Empire.

Just understand that paydirt on a lot of these speculative lash-ups is contingent on these fast NY and CAN segments still in planning like Empire West and VIA Corridor West that won't be realized until the 2030's. Our focus this decade thus is doubly contingent on getting the spine TO Springfield stepped up and well-entrenched with diverging service by the 2030's. Because the west poke won't matter for another dozen years at minimum, and our chance to attain synergies with it doesn't crest for funding purposes until there's some serious juice flowing into these Empire West and border-crossers outside our control.

Working the B&A West today is arguably jumping the gun way too much for way too threadbare prospects, which is why scrapping NNEIRI's core values is so insane and promoting East-West to the exclusion of SPG Hub-divergence is a tankapalooza suicide strike.

Working the B&A West next decade after all Inland projects have been closed out and all SPG Hub diverging services have been seeded onto their growth curves lets us ride a bigger momentum wave that will, in absolute terms, net better funding prospects. Because it won't be Pittsfield and an excuse-me poke to Albany in a vacuum driving the entirety of the conversation. It'll be setting the table for "Lake Shoring" everything in Albany to a lash-up that hits Toronto, etc. on minimum couple hundred more route miles of 110 MPH track outside of our control. You better believe that mobility prospect is going to bat way more eyes on Beacon Hill than a Pittsfield-for-Pittsfield's-sake poke. And I bet Berkshire voters see it the same way since they pound-for-pound do a lot more NYS Thruway trips than we in the Hub bubble ever do.

Pace thyself and deal honestly with Berkshire County on where this leads, and we can absolutely have our cake and eat it too on B&A West all in due time. But you ^^see why^^ the vision has to unfold in a specific sequence in order to check off all its bucket list boxes in a way that ultimately delivers the whole enchilada. Taking giant leaps against all demand logic like East-West attempts to do is a great way to ensure we get either nothing, or some cripple build so half-assed it seals off any/all sights on a more richly interconnected future.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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I pulled out the alternative summaries for the East-West Passenger Rail Study today because I was curious about potential travel times for SPG-BOS if upgrades were put in place. That of course sucked me in and now I have a million questions...

Speaking hypothetically, and assuming good faith, what would be the justification for the following:

1) Doing zero, nada, zilch analysis of an L-shaped Greenfield-Northampton-Holyoke-Springfield-Worcester-Boston direct service pattern under any build alternative? The density along the Knowledge Corridor outstrips anything to the west. I have to think that you would get more super-commuters to Boston from Northampton than from Chester or Pittsfield.

2) Co-mingling the I-90 corridor build with a Pittsfield extension? That seems like it introduces an apples-to-oranges problem. Or is the thinking that the only way you can justify the cost of the I-90 corridor is by running the service all the way out to Pittsfield to pick up its riders?

(Of course, that would point to studying direct high-speed service to Greenfield, Northampton, Hartford and New Haven, which almost certainly would be better revenue sources than all the way out in Pittsfield?)

Also -- ugh -- so many questions -- but isn't it more reasonable to look at the I-90 corridor, or really all of the build alternatives, with the additional impact of the Northern New England rail service incorporated? $9 billion is a big price tag, but the cost per rider would be significantly lowered by considering the estimated 103K BOS-MTL passengers per year, and the 429K (!!) BOS-NHV passengers per year, both of which would probably rise slightly given the 30 min reduction in travel time.

The potential to replicate if not exceed the success of the Downeaster seems rife, but...
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I pulled out the alternative summaries for the East-West Passenger Rail Study today because I was curious about potential travel times for SPG-BOS if upgrades were put in place. That of course sucked me in and now I have a million questions...

Speaking hypothetically, and assuming good faith, what would be the justification for the following:

1) Doing zero, nada, zilch analysis of an L-shaped Greenfield-Northampton-Holyoke-Springfield-Worcester-Boston direct service pattern under any build alternative? The density along the Knowledge Corridor outstrips anything to the west. I have to think that you would get more super-commuters to Boston from Northampton than from Chester or Pittsfield.

2) Co-mingling the I-90 corridor build with a Pittsfield extension? That seems like it introduces an apples-to-oranges problem. Or is the thinking that the only way you can justify the cost of the I-90 corridor is by running the service all the way out to Pittsfield to pick up its riders?

(Of course, that would point to studying direct high-speed service to Greenfield, Northampton, Hartford and New Haven, which almost certainly would be better revenue sources than all the way out in Pittsfield?)

Also -- ugh -- so many questions -- but isn't it more reasonable to look at the I-90 corridor, or really all of the build alternatives, with the additional impact of the Northern New England rail service incorporated? $9 billion is a big price tag, but the cost per rider would be significantly lowered by considering the estimated 103K BOS-MTL passengers per year, and the 429K (!!) BOS-NHV passengers per year, both of which would probably rise slightly given the 30 min reduction in travel time.

The potential to replicate if not exceed the success of the Downeaster seems rife, but...
Your take is totally accurate.
  • The travel times are suckier than today's Lake Shore Limited, and WAY suckier than the NNEIRI study.
  • The infrastructure is somehow MORE expensive for the suckier-than-nothing travel times.
  • Not factoring the Hartford Line influence on SPG Hub any way/shape/form is 1) insane, 2) credulity-shattering.
  • Not factoring the Knowledge Corridor is echo-effect 1) insane, 2) credulity-shattering. Western MA pols are hammering the everliving fark out of Baker/Pollack over that + the Hartford Line omission.
  • The Pittsfield analysis is indeed completely incoherent. The new-ROW analyses are indeed a waste of time and resources when NNEIRI postulated that the plug-and-play of N/S/E trains @ SPG Hub would lower the barrier to the West with more plug and cross-tix chaining options to explore sooner and seed the West corridor sooner AND cheaper in advance of further upgrades. But by explicitly ignoring the existence of a SPG Hub the East-West study puts that inquiry off-limits and had to engage in farcial tactical nuclear strike analysis instead.
Yeah...it's utter unbelievable garbage on its face. And that's why they took such a beating in the Western MA rollout of the study results and are now comitting--tail-between-legs--to "refining" it. Whatever that means, because it's hard to see how you can "fix" such flawed metrics when they are so fundamentally broken. It's a hit job, plain and simple. The easiest thing to do--which Baker/Pollack won't do because this is their baby--is to throw it in the dumpster and phone up CT & VT to fold any useful results into "NNEIRI II: Towards A Final Impact Statement", because that study all along had the only usable core metrics. And take your ribbing from Gov.'s Lamont & Scott for the "I told you so's!" (ConnDOT supplied most of the data for the lightning-strike counterstudy the Western MA advocates did, so boy did royally cheese them off here). Probably won't happen till Baker's successor because there isn't a whole lot of face-saving for the current Admin. to do over such an all-world poor books-cooking, but that's literally the most logical path forward. And, face it, whoever faces off for the most-likely vacant top position in 2 years is going to need to lead with something just like that because Western MA has caught blood over this.


In the meantime, for your own reading, the NNEIRI docs--shockingly (or not) only 3 years older--are much more enlightening. And are tight enough wrapped around the SPG Hub core vision that you'll slap/bang your head in amazement that East-West could ever get it so very wrong at the most basics. Trains In The Valley site has the Cliffs Notes overview plus linky to the hundreds of pages of PDF study: https://trainsinthevalley.org/nneiri-study/.

EDIT: See also rebuttal presentation given by Western MA advocates in February that provoked the "refine" walk-back by MassDOT. It's brutal. https://pvraildotorg.files.wordpres...ail-study-alternatives-analysis-2-24-2020.pdf
 
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Wash

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I've always thought that Keolis could run a "Move-In/Move-out Special" to Amherst, Massachusetts on UMass Amherst move-in day/the ends of semesters. It would be very similar to the existing Cape Flyer service (and could even be run with the spare consists during the winter), and there are definitely enough students who don't like/can't drive to make use of the service.

Like the Cape Flyer, it would have to be double-ended, as there's nowhere to turn it in Amherst. There's already a passing track in place, and it could just re-use the old Amtrak station site (which presumably has room for a couple hundred students and a few dozen cars/shuttle busses to maneuver around in). Ideally, the train would make the following stops: BOS, BBY, FRA, PLM (Palmer) and Amherst.

If we're going ultra-cheap, the train could run to Northampton instead and use existing station facilities. If students have to get to campus in a shuttle bus anyway, it doesn't really matter if it takes them ten more minutes on the road.
 

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I've always thought that Keolis could run a "Move-In/Move-out Special" to Amherst, Massachusetts on UMass Amherst move-in day/the ends of semesters. It would be very similar to the existing Cape Flyer service (and could even be run with the spare consists during the winter), and there are definitely enough students who don't like/can't drive to make use of the service.

Like the Cape Flyer, it would have to be double-ended, as there's nowhere to turn it in Amherst. There's already a passing track in place, and it could just re-use the old Amtrak station site (which presumably has room for a couple hundred students and a few dozen cars/shuttle busses to maneuver around in). Ideally, the train would make the following stops: BOS, BBY, FRA, PLM (Palmer) and Amherst.

If we're going ultra-cheap, the train could run to Northampton instead and use existing station facilities. If students have to get to campus in a shuttle bus anyway, it doesn't really matter if it takes them ten more minutes on the road.
Well, if you do NNEIRI with the Boston-Montreal frequency you get a 1-seat from Boston to Northampton 365 days a year. And you also get a cross-ticketing 2-seat transfer because an Inland slot Boston-New Haven would be timed to hit Springfield on both ends of the existing Vermonter round-trip, netting 2 de facto daily frequencies.

No need to do anything special whatsoever. That is the baseline for NNEIRI at one-third lower cost than the cooked East-West books. And the Palmer intermediate stop on the B&A would have tons of campus shuttles to all the Amherst-area colleges fattening its daily utility for the 8 Inland round-trips + 1 BOS-MTL round-trip + 1 Lake Shore Ltd. round-trip it would have on the schedule.
 
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Wash

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Okay, what about an NYP/BOS-MTL night train that splits in Springfield? The timing works great for an overnight run: eat dinner in Boston/New York, fall asleep, then wake up in time for breakfast in Montreal. Consist would be, oh, let's say, a Viewliner bag-dorm, two Viewliner sleepers and two coaches from NYP, and another bag-dorm (possibly with roomettes for sale to passengers), 1 Viewliner sleeper, and a coach/two coaches depending on the season from BOS. If we absolutely must have food service, a cafe can be carried to/from NYP

Power would be two P32's from MTL-SPG, which would then be split apart to haul their respective sections to Boston and New Haven (the P32 would then be swapped again with an ACS-64). This means that New York passengers will have to deal with two engine changes in as many hours in the middle of the night: not great for sleeping. Solutions are either a) run a dual mode all the way from Springfield to NYP under the wires (just like McGinnis intended!), b) extend the wires to Springfield, or c) run the Boston section all the way down the NEC to New Haven only to run all the way back up to Springfield. Really, just extend the wires.
 
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Java King

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I don't know if anyone else subscribes to Passenger Train Journal, but they had a nice article on the "Valley Flyer" with some historical notes. I don't think it's available online.
Current Issue Here
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Okay, what about an NYP/BOS-MTL night train that splits in Springfield. One problem: New York passengers will have to deal with engine changes twice in about two or three hours (once as the train splits in SPG, and again in New Haven).
Probably too much of an ask, since until there's a more substantial NEC overnight presence the Inland certainly isn't going to show it. Now, there has been advance talk of what positions on the clock to put the Vermonter/Montrealer and the BOS-MTL slot opposite each other, as both trajectories will be able to work the cross-tix transferring @ SPG Hub vs. a regular old Inland Shuttle slot to net that de facto 2 frequencies per day for both Boston-Worcester and Hartford-New Haven-New York. New York's also having that debate amongst itself with the Adirondack and whether working a second frequency of that train can gain a night slot for MTL. Further, VTrans also wants to eventually fund a third short-turn slot of the Vermonter out of New Haven or New York at least as far as St. Albans, if not completely to MTL. That in turn diversifies the options, adds another +1 cross-tix option vs. an Inland for Boston, and probably zeroes in attention on turning the existing Vermonter out of D.C. into a night slot since it'll be acting much more like a long-distance train under the new alignment where the other slots are shorter/statie-funded.

I think eventually the chances get good simply by working the conventional levers. Springfield *may* gain split/combine capability if MassDOT ever funds its delinquent Hartford Line commitment for a combo commuter rail/AMTK layover yard at Armory Jct. a spit east of Springfield Union (also an ironclad requirement for Knowledge Corridor CR, so beware of any breathless service promises that don't mention cutting 'dem checks for the layover). But I honestly can't see where anything would need to do that. Splitting/combining is much more an Albany thing for staging Boston-Toronto or things like that. Finishing the upgrade job through the Berkshires after SPG Hub is cooking is where that can become a viable thing, as we can ride the wave via hook-up as more of the Empire Corridor gets upgraded. I don't so much see that as a home-state maneuver of any known utility, but @ Albany it is one of the more underrated upshots of doing these B&A corridor studies right that we can exponentially tap.
 

Java King

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Just doing some quick math, the distance from London west to Swindon, UK is about 88 miles compared to 90 miles for Boston-Springfield. Average train time listed is 54 minutes for the UK trip. It sure seems like we could do better compared to our peers. Even 90 minutes would be acceptable. How are we spending almost a billion on a 90-minute, single track ride from Fall River or New Bedford to Boston? Anyway, Boston to Springfield should be a goal of 1.5 hours.
 

The EGE

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Swindon isn't the best comparison - it's a fairly flat route with almost no significant curves. The best times Boston-Springfield were about 2:15 in 1938 (stops only at Trinity Place, Newtonville and Worcester) and 2:00 using RDCs in 1958 (stops at Trinity, Newtonville, Framingham, Worcester).
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Just doing some quick math, the distance from London west to Swindon, UK is about 88 miles compared to 90 miles for Boston-Springfield. Average train time listed is 54 minutes for the UK trip. It sure seems like we could do better compared to our peers. Even 90 minutes would be acceptable. How are we spending almost a billion on a 90-minute, single track ride from Fall River or New Bedford to Boston? Anyway, Boston to Springfield should be a goal of 1.5 hours.
Worcester Hills are a legit bottleneck. There are curve-easing opportunities, but MOAR TUNNEL isn't an option through that glacial rubble field so we are forced to grin-and-bear-it to some degree. That said...NNEIRI hit 1:49 BOS-SPG on its Preferred Alternative, and that was while recommending against a more expensive option to upgrade the track from Palmer to Springfield to 90 MPH (not enough add'l savings for the extra $$$) and not making any substantive touches to MBTA territory which has its own inefficiencies. As a starting point that's pretty well on-target for where we'd want to be, because if the 10 round-trip BOS-SPG trains per day show their stuff the additional upgrades to Springfield-Palmer and inside T territory are still available to pry it down further. We know we can't spend for every luxury up front, so in balancing out the initial investment package that's a very fair deal we can work with.

East-West apparently doesn't think so, since it can't seem to read an existing Lake Shore Ltd. paper schedule correctly.:cautious:
 

Riverside

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I've always thought that Keolis could run a "Move-In/Move-out Special" to Amherst, Massachusetts on UMass Amherst move-in day/the ends of semesters. It would be very similar to the existing Cape Flyer service (and could even be run with the spare consists during the winter), and there are definitely enough students who don't like/can't drive to make use of the service.
Well, if you do NNEIRI with the Boston-Montreal frequency you get a 1-seat from Boston to Northampton 365 days a year. And you also get a cross-ticketing 2-seat transfer because an Inland slot Boston-New Haven would be timed to hit Springfield on both ends of the existing Vermonter round-trip, netting 2 de facto daily frequencies.
I mean... I think the point was that an "Amherst Flyer" service could probably be started, you know, tomorrow, using existing equipment, existing facilities, etc. In the schema of organization before electronics before concrete, it's an idea that really only requires some organization work, in theory.

I'm all for the NNEIRI, but there's no reason that an "Amherst Flyer" can't be seen as a starter service of sorts, just like the Cape Flyer is seen in some circles as a starter service for eventual full-time commuter rail.
 

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