MBTA Commuter Rail (Operations, Keolis, & Short Term)

The EGE

Active Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2013
Messages
911
Reaction score
576
The January 23 commuter rail schedules are now posted on the MBTA site. Plimptonville, Hastings, Silver Hill, and Prides Crossing are all absent, as is Mishawum (which wasn't proposed in the cuts iirc.) Plymouth still gets three daily round trips - more than the two that Stoughton and Wickford Junction each get. Cedar Park still has regular service. I'm curious to see which of these stations are retained post-covid and which are actually gone.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,189
Reaction score
2,200

Grant for a small scale reconstruction of Wilmington station
$1M for an ADA full-high is cheap, so fairly impressive. Now why can't we ever seem to do that anywhere else the shoe fits for utterly prefab environs???


Although it direct-contradicts the Rail Vision which says that if Reading Line gets Urban Rail the outer Haverhill Line must be divorced to the Lowell Line + Wildcat. Which means that Reading Station will be the terminus of the 15-minute turns, North Wilmington gets abandoned, and Salem St. Station (pre-1965, still T-owned and better-sited than N. Will) on the Wildcat gets rebuilt attached to the :30 Haverhill service.

I guess it's not much to quibble with if the $1M was available bang-bang, since that's not a high "waste" total for a station that may not have more than 10 years of service in it before the forced relocation (forget about extending Reading Urban Rail there...too much single-track for too little benefit). But, well, also not the most intrepid sign of Admin. enthusiasm for the RV so far in '21 after a year where Baker/Pollack went out of their way to troll the whole concept.
 

HelloBostonHi

Active Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2018
Messages
942
Reaction score
1,213
$1M for an ADA full-high is cheap, so fairly impressive. Now why can't we ever seem to do that anywhere else the shoe fits for utterly prefab environs???
I'd be careful assuming it's a full high, I noticed the very specifically non-specific wording of "an ADA compliant boarding area"
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,189
Reaction score
2,200
I'd be careful assuming it's a full high, I noticed the very specifically non-specific wording of "an ADA compliant boarding area"
It wouldn't be buildable if it weren't full-high. Absent an explicit MAAB exemption like Wedgemere's mini-highs got, all platform reconstructions post-2012 are auto-triggered to full-high only because of the way state-level regs supersede the ADA. The only way that's sidesteppable is if the station renos touch eveything except the platforms...like when Beverly Depot got its new garage and the ped ramp to the platform was artfully placed mere inches aside from the extant platform limits to gerrymander around it being an auto-trigger "platform renovation" job (then, being a mini-high, the untouched platform was already 100.00% federal ADA-compliant and didn't trigger any MAAB above-and-beyonds so long as its incumbent configuration wasn't altered).

As N. Will explicitly name-checks itself as a platform reno and isn't on a freight clearance route, it has no such means of escape like the explicit exemptions both Ballardvale's and Andover's future second platforms have gotten from the state Arch Board on the clearance-route portion of the outer Western. Therefore either this $1M is the going-rate for a wholly prefab single-side full-high (800 ft. length unless otherwise constrained, per the MAAB)...or it's just a down payment and they need to be seeking more. Though $1M should be a reliable going rate for utter-vanilla prefabbery these days. Internal CR station project management just rarely keeps two hands off its own neck to keep things so effectively simple.
 
Last edited:

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,189
Reaction score
2,200

Don't think this was mentioned anywhere else here, but in the Transpo bill Baker signed Andover + Commuter Rail get a funding pot for road reconfigs, Ballardvale Station double-tracking, and alignment improvements around the grade crossings (which at both CR stations currently involve a nasty and bad-angle mashup of intersections inducing Downeaster speed restrictions). Approx. $25M of the $70M total package is Commuter Rail-related.

Ballardvale is pre-exempted by the Mass Architectural Board for a low + mini-high on its matching second platform, because freight gauntlet tracks are no-go through the abutting grade crossing flanges. The current 24 ft. wide single side platform + mini-high sits on top of the second track berth and would be halved in width to become the new/"old" outbound platform. The inbound platform would then be poured on the opposite side next to the current track, with egresses at the Andover St. grade crossing on the south end (for reaching the parking lot) and Clinton Ct./Ballardvale Playground for walkup access. The adjacent condos would have a fence put up between their trackside private parking lot and the platform.

Andover Station is not included in this bill because the 2nd platform is covered under prior commitment from the town to relocate the Town DPW yard alongside the currently pass-only 2nd track. The new platform, likewise an MAAB-exempted mini-high because full-high + gauntlets are no-go through the adjacent grade crossing, will get poured on that track with outbound-side kiss-and-ride + parking expansion taking up the vacated DPW lot. DPW lot relocation has been years-delayed because of internal snafus, but is still under town-to-state M.O.U. Hasn't been a high priority because without a Ballardvale solve CR service capacity and delay reduction weren't going to be meaningfully improved with just the Andover 2nd platform. Now with Ballardvale funded they're on-the-clock for vacating the DPW site so Andover can be tandem settled up. Will have to be a trailing funding commitment for new platform construction, but the current bill does program realignment of the godawful Essex/Pearson abutting grade crossings (i.e. the portion of the award for "Mill District Access to Downtown") and greases those skids.


With these solves for previously committed Andover double-track I.O.U.'s it's now up to state + City of Haverhill to settle up the binding Bradford Layover relocation to the state-line outskirts (funded for transaction with completion deadline, but still a mystery on exactly which Hilldale Ave. industrial parcel gets the nod) before the outer Haverhill Line is essentially ready for major service increases. With combo of that and CSX chopping the head off slop-ops FAILroad Pan Am being the perma-solve for decades of delay hell.
 

tysmith95

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2016
Messages
2,657
Reaction score
135
The January 23 commuter rail schedules are now posted on the MBTA site. Plimptonville, Hastings, Silver Hill, and Prides Crossing are all absent, as is Mishawum (which wasn't proposed in the cuts iirc.) Plymouth still gets three daily round trips - more than the two that Stoughton and Wickford Junction each get. Cedar Park still has regular service. I'm curious to see which of these stations are retained post-covid and which are actually gone.
With the new development at Woburn Landing, Mishawum should be converted to a full time station.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,189
Reaction score
2,200
With the new development at Woburn Landing, Mishawum should be converted to a full time station.
When calculable demand shows up at Mishawum, Mishawum should be converted to full-time. Do you know how many times the overhyped TOD Fairy has swung and missed at that stop since 1984? At least three separate occasions...maybe more. With plenty of prior full-time service trials. The onus at this point is on Woburn to prove this time isn't another mirage before the T wastes another schedule revision giving that cursed stop another lease on life. Never before then...we're well past "fool me thrice".

Personally, I think stanning for the west-entrance add to Anderson and bus enhancements have more immediate benefit than sinking more sunk cost into Mishawum. They can re-evaluate based on :15 Urban Rail frequencies whether there's any juice there at the minor intermediate stop, but so long as current (pretty good) Lowell service levels are the rule Anderson + bus augments is the higher-leverage ploy for this whole area. What can't be fixed at Mishawum is its utterly miserable residential walk-up access to the south, as the Mishawum Rd. overpass of 128 is so pinched the single-side sidewalk is a dangerous sub- 3 ft. width. There's a decent amount of homes down there, but they have fuckall practical access to the stop. That's why Anderson + bus increases ends up better unless the TOD Fairy is for-real this time and packing the serious heat that was utterly lacking before. At least an Anderson west entrance DOES have bona fide neighborhood walkup from an equal-size residential area off Merrimac St. and the ability to accept a Mishawum Rd.-scooping bus for purposes of checking off multiple boxes. So that's still #1 with a bullet for transit augments over anything at Mishawum-proper.

If the developers want to show the utilization is going to be real this time, they and the Town can commission a study, factor it on service scenarios (1) current, (2) Lowell + Haverhill co-equal interlining, and (3) full-on Rail Vision 15 minutes. Then point square at which one shows the necessary math...and then and ONLY THEN does one more dime get dropped on trying to tart up the stop from nothingness. Nothing's lost by keeping it in flag-stop maintenance mode unless/until the demand math is proven, because the next step-up in amenities--full-highs with a freight passing gauntlet--is pricey enough to need the proof of utilization in-hand beforehand. Given the history of past dashed hopes it would almost be foolish to expect the T to be the one going out on the limb for the TOD. They did that multiple times prior--including the last time when good money was thrown after bad ADA'ing the thing with ramps and mini-highs--and the limb broke because what got built was utter parking-centric big-box and roadside motel nothingness . If the Town has gone to finishing school at long last on doing development & density in some way that...if short of fully "transit-oriented" at least stays away from the complete antithesis of that execution...it's up to them to show their grades.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,189
Reaction score
2,200
While on its face the "lease existing Buy America compliant rolling stock" line might seem LOL-worthy given that you'd have to visit a rail museum to find aftermarket FRA-compliant EMU's right now, the wording intentionally leaves the barn door open for 'slushing' other agencies' options. Like, for example, if the separate 200-car coach procurement ordered stock Bombardier MLV's and we then dipped into NJ Transit's massively large option orders to procure just the power cars for running as self-propelled MLV sets. They'd have to play by NJT's rote design specs that way (not that hands-off on any customization is necessarily a bad thing given track records!), but would take a page from SEPTA's playbook by being able to launder the self-powered cars at something less overwrought than the pomp-and-circumstance of going through full-blown procurement bidding for a preordained conclusion. So that is a noteworthy inclusion.
 

Equilibria

Senior Member
Joined
May 6, 2007
Messages
4,922
Reaction score
1,845
While on its face the "lease existing Buy America compliant rolling stock" line might seem LOL-worthy given that you'd have to visit a rail museum to find aftermarket FRA-compliant EMU's right now, the wording intentionally leaves the barn door open for 'slushing' other agencies' options. Like, for example, if the separate 200-car coach procurement ordered stock Bombardier MLV's and we then dipped into NJ Transit's massively large option orders to procure just the power cars for running as self-propelled MLV sets. They'd have to play by NJT's rote design specs that way (not that hands-off on any customization is necessarily a bad thing given track records!), but would take a page from SEPTA's playbook by being able to launder the self-powered cars at something less overwrought than the pomp-and-circumstance of going through full-blown procurement bidding for a preordained conclusion. So that is a noteworthy inclusion.
I read that more as explicit intention than "leaving the barn door open".
 

DBM

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Messages
884
Reaction score
159
Last night, to amuse myself, I timed how long it took between platforms on a few segments of the Providence line, and then measured the distance on Google maps:

Route 128--Canton: 4 mins, 3.3 miles
Canton to Sharon: 3 mins/55 secs, 3.2 miles
Sharon to Mansfield: 6.5 mins, 6.7 miles
S. Attleboro to PVD: 9 mins/15 secs, 6.5 miles

So... 49 mph, 49 mph, 62 mph, 42 mph. Overall the trip is still 70 minutes by train to do what is a 48-mile drive on I-95. Still really not that competitive to a car-based commute in terms of time and expense (with the massive caveats that the train, as a passive experience, is zero stress and relaxing and a decent work environment if necessary).

But, will this EMU accelerate those legs at least by a mere 20%? (60 mph, 60 mph, 75 mph, 50 mph) to make it competitive with driving (at least time-wise... expense, that's a tough calculation perhaps).

If not, given the minimum 10-year wait... why bother, if the speed gain is going to be so marginal?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,189
Reaction score
2,200
Last night, to amuse myself, I timed how long it took between platforms on a few segments of the Providence line, and then measured the distance on Google maps:

Route 128--Canton: 4 mins, 3.3 miles
Canton to Sharon: 3 mins/55 secs, 3.2 miles
Sharon to Mansfield: 6.5 mins, 6.7 miles
S. Attleboro to PVD: 9 mins/15 secs, 6.5 miles

So... 49 mph, 49 mph, 62 mph, 42 mph. Overall the trip is still 70 minutes by train to do what is a 48-mile drive on I-95. Still really not that competitive to a car-based commute in terms of time and expense (with the massive caveats that the train, as a passive experience, is zero stress and relaxing and a decent work environment if necessary).

But, will this EMU accelerate those legs at least by a mere 20%? (60 mph, 60 mph, 75 mph, 50 mph) to make it competitive with driving (at least time-wise... expense, that's a tough calculation perhaps).

If not, given the minimum 10-year wait... why bother, if the speed gain is going to be so marginal?
It's a little more nuanced than that.

Right now, the HSP-46 locomotives and Kawasaki/Rotem bi-level coaches are maintenance-rated for 93 MPH max authorized speed. But the F40PH-3C/GP40MC/MP36PH-3C locos and all single-level coaches are only rated for 79 MPH. If one single member from the 79 MPH ranks is assigned to a Providence consist the whole consist gets kneecapped to a 79 MPH max limit...even if all other members of that same consist are rated for 93. Right now there just isn't enough 93 MPH equipment to gerrymander to Providence schedules without risk of at least one single-level coach or one slow locomotive turning up in the rotation...and of course you would have to gerrymander across the whole day's schedule to see any net improvement. The coaches are the cause of this. It wouldn't be too difficult to segregate loco assignments because the HSP's are slightly north of 50% on the southside ranks, but right now there's just far too many single-levels out there on the southside to play any plausible game of keep-away against random-chance. Because of South Station's current capacity choke swapping set assignments isn't as easy as it should be, so playing the artful gerrymander with Providence/Stoughton is an order of magnitude harder than it should be.

Also...the HSP's are a much brawnier 4600 HP with lots more pep out of a dead stop than the other 3 classes of older 3000 HP locos. The performance disparity is greatest on lines that have the longest rush-hour consist configurations, like Providence, because the 3000 HP engines can struggle mightily to pull 8 full cars out of a stop. This imposes its own inefficiencies on the schedule, as there is lots of padding between stops to cover the acceleration disparity. The HSP's, taking off faster, tend to burn up a lot of their advantage margin with schedule-keeping coasting while the day's schedule is overall predicated on the 3000 HP gimps taking any turn in the rotation even during peak-most rush-hour. It's a born inefficiency on the Providence schedule they would love to not have to live with...but something's got to give because playing the keep-away game with both locos and coaches is too collectively difficult.


All of this changes soon.

The +80 Rotem coach order for 2022 displaces all of the remaining single-level cab cars (north and south), while retiring the last of the duct-taped MBB trailers and 1 of 3 order batches of Bombardier trailers. With that shift in numbers you will have enough bi-levels to gerrymander Providence assignments to all- 93 MPH-rated sets, because they'll easily be at/past the two-thirds mark in total southside fleet makeup by then. And in turn the (somewhat easier) gerrymander of HSP-46 locos to Providence/Stoughton without needing to worry as much about coach rotations means that you get the brawniest-accelerating 4600 HP diesels running the route full-time, with the other gimpier 3000 HP locos able to be de facto segregated off the (non-Needham) NEC. That will necessitate a wholesale schedule refactoring, as all of the padding allotted for the lower speed limit gets stripped out along with all of the padding for the 4600 HP vs. 3000 HP acceleration disparity. Because those two types of performance padding loom so large over the Providence schedule, you may see something close to that 20% between-stop savings being enacted before the first electric vehicle trawls the line. And you may see some actual (if very brief) >80 MPH cruising speeds between stops with the uniform-rated equipment, as well as for-real 90 MPH on segments of express trains. That's coming in as little as 3 years on the same diesel trains as the coach roster flushes itself with replacements.

Your EMU performance gains are then on top of that bolts-tightened faster diesel schedule. So the travel time gains do indeed project dramatic enough to lop 10+ minutes off the trip for the same number of stops in the end. Because this is not just one rung of on-vehicle performance enhancement...it's two. And all of the most egregious schedule-padding fat gets stripped out way before the electrics arrive.

Yes...it'll absolutely be time-competitive with a 48-mile drive on I-95 when all is said and done. But present-day schedules already bury a very large lede on performance crippling because fleets are just not elastic enough to segregate. The electrics will be tuning a schedule that's already lost its most wasteful padding beforehand.
 
Last edited:

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,786
Reaction score
914
Personally, I think stanning for the west-entrance add to Anderson and bus enhancements have more immediate benefit than sinking more sunk cost into Mishawum.
This. And then maybe look at a TOD reboot at the big cross streets south of 128: Olympia Ave, Salem St, or Montvale as alternatives to Mishawam (maybe they can fix "access from the south" cheaper than building a new stop?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,189
Reaction score
2,200
This. And then maybe look at a TOD reboot at the big cross streets south of 128: Olympia Ave, Salem St, or Montvale as alternatives to Mishawam (maybe they can fix "access from the south" cheaper than building a new stop?
Montvale. Has the bus captures for all that "access from the south" audience, shortest crow-flies walking distance to Woburn Center, access from 93 (at least from kiss-and-rides...wouldn't be much parking), direct access to the grade-separated Stoneham rail trail, potential infill of the Stoneham bus desert, build space for the platform + passing tracks by shaving the tree berm on the west side of the ROW on industrial backlots, and few NIMBY's because all south of the road overpass it's industrial backlot and cemetery (despite highish overall residential density).

Olympia's actually worse overall than Mishawum because the street grid bends away from any residential and it doesn't have the Mall redev. Salem St. would be an acceptable consolation prize if Montvale isn't available for some reason, but the surrounding density is much choppier there with the abutting industrial park and wetlands taking out most of the walkup audience from the north and street grid all kinds of illogically skewed on the east side.
 

DBM

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Messages
884
Reaction score
159
It's a little more nuanced than that.

Right now, the HSP-46 locomotives and Kawasaki/Rotem bi-level coaches are maintenance-rated for 93 MPH max authorized speed. But the F40PH-3C/GP40MC/MP36PH-3C locos and all single-level coaches are only rated for 79 MPH. If one single member from the 79 MPH ranks is assigned to a Providence consist the whole consist gets kneecapped to a 79 MPH max limit...even if all other members of that same consist are rated for 93. Right now there just isn't enough 93 MPH equipment to gerrymander to Providence schedules without risk of at least one single-level coach or one slow locomotive turning up in the rotation...and of course you would have to gerrymander across the whole day's schedule to see any net improvement. The coaches are the cause of this. It wouldn't be too difficult to segregate loco assignments because the HSP's are slightly north of 50% on the southside ranks, but right now there's just far too many single-levels out there on the southside to play any plausible game of keep-away against random-chance. Because of South Station's current capacity choke swapping set assignments isn't as easy as it should be, so playing the artful gerrymander with Providence/Stoughton is an order of magnitude harder than it should be.

Also...the HSP's are a much brawnier 4600 HP with lots more pep out of a dead stop than the other 3 classes of older 3000 HP locos. The performance disparity is greatest on lines that have the longest rush-hour consist configurations, like Providence, because the 3000 HP engines can struggle mightily to pull 8 full cars out of a stop. This imposes its own inefficiencies on the schedule, as there is lots of padding between stops to cover the acceleration disparity. The HSP's, taking off faster, tend to burn up a lot of their advantage margin with schedule-keeping coasting while the day's schedule is overall predicated on the 3000 HP gimps taking any turn in the rotation even during peak-most rush-hour. It's a born inefficiency on the Providence schedule they would love to not have to live with...but something's got to give because playing the keep-away game with both locos and coaches is too collectively difficult.


All of this changes soon.

The +80 Rotem coach order for 2022 displaces all of the remaining single-level cab cars (north and south), while retiring the last of the duct-taped MBB trailers and 1 of 3 order batches of Bombardier trailers. With that shift in numbers you will have enough bi-levels to gerrymander Providence assignments to all- 93 MPH-rated sets, because they'll easily be at/past the two-thirds mark in total southside fleet makeup by then. And in turn the (somewhat easier) gerrymander of HSP-46 locos to Providence/Stoughton without needing to worry as much about coach rotations means that you get the brawniest-accelerating 4600 HP diesels running the route full-time, with the other gimpier 3000 HP locos able to be de facto segregated off the (non-Needham) NEC. That will necessitate a wholesale schedule refactoring, as all of the padding allotted for the lower speed limit gets stripped out along with all of the padding for the 4600 HP vs. 3000 HP acceleration disparity. Because those two types of performance padding loom so large over the Providence schedule, you may see something close to that 20% between-stop savings being enacted before the first electric vehicle trawls the line. And you may see some actual (if very brief) >80 MPH cruising speeds between stops with the uniform-rated equipment, as well as for-real 90 MPH on segments of express trains. That's coming in as little as 3 years on the same diesel trains as the coach roster flushes itself with replacements.

Your EMU performance gains are then on top of that bolts-tightened faster diesel schedule. So the travel time gains do indeed project dramatic enough to lop 10+ minutes off the trip for the same number of stops in the end. Because this is not just one rung of on-vehicle performance enhancement...it's two. And all of the most egregious schedule-padding fat gets stripped out way before the electrics arrive.

Yes...it'll absolutely be time-competitive with a 48-mile drive on I-95 when all is said and done. But present-day schedules already bury a very large lede on performance crippling because fleets are just not elastic enough to segregate. The electrics will be tuning a schedule that's already lost its most wasteful padding beforehand.
Very helpful. Thanks as always. So that Sharon-to-Mansfield leg probably is achieving that 79 mph max-rating, given that the 62 mph I clocked of course includes acceleration/deceleration. I bet Mansfield-to-Attleboro segment (7.2 miles) also hits the 79 mph restriction--look at the map and you will not see a single bend in the corridor. Given that the addition of Pawtucket will be adding even more time to the overall trip, I hope/trust that's more-than-compensating for by all of the performance improvements/efficiency gains you outline.
 

The EGE

Active Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2013
Messages
911
Reaction score
576
Not to mention the dwell time benefits from doing full-length high-level platforms. Having five consecutive stops, all with >1,000 daily boardings, with only mini-high platforms is inexplicable.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,189
Reaction score
2,200
Not to mention the dwell time benefits from doing full-length high-level platforms. Having five consecutive stops, all with >1,000 daily boardings, with only mini-high platforms is inexplicable.
Two-to-tango, unfortunately, with that one. Amtrak being track maintainer and T being station maintainer means the platforms can't just be raised in-situ. There has to be some amount of coordinated planning on timing station renos with additions of passing tracks. Especially in 150+ MPH territory south of Canton where the speed differential is so high nobody gets any exponential schedule expansion without passing tracks at every local stop. This includes even quad-track Attleboro Station, as there'd have to be insertion of an AMTK-install crossover at Attleboro Jct. between one of the center tracks and the CR northbound track so Plate F freight cars on the pair of CSX dailies can get to the Middleboro Secondary while avoiding the full-high...but at turnout specs suitable for any HSR train that has to use the crossover. Until that gets coordinated they won't be raising the platforms there either.

Right now there's no interagency cooperation on any of that. The T has expended lots of energy turf-warring w/AMTK the last few years in lieu of consensus-building on joint efforts in shared jurisdiction like this. And Amtrak (understandably) has the lion's share of its NEC attention span tied up Connecticut-south re: infrastructure improvements while being forced to lobby way too hard for Gateway NYC before paying the BOS-PRV end much mind. This is kind of the thing where the T is the party expected to be taking the lead on bringing AMTK to the table, but they haven't done that. The Rail Vision sort of assumes this will all be worked out in prereq, but says nothing about how that process kicks off interagency.
 

Semass

Active Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2012
Messages
738
Reaction score
59
It's a little more nuanced than that.

Right now, the HSP-46 locomotives and Kawasaki/Rotem bi-level coaches are maintenance-rated for 93 MPH max authorized speed. But the F40PH-3C/GP40MC/MP36PH-3C locos and all single-level coaches are only rated for 79 MPH. If one single member from the 79 MPH ranks is assigned to a Providence consist the whole consist gets kneecapped to a 79 MPH max limit...even if all other members of that same consist are rated for 93. Right now there just isn't enough 93 MPH equipment to gerrymander to Providence schedules without risk of at least one single-level coach or one slow locomotive turning up in the rotation...and of course you would have to gerrymander across the whole day's schedule to see any net improvement. The coaches are the cause of this. It wouldn't be too difficult to segregate loco assignments because the HSP's are slightly north of 50% on the southside ranks, but right now there's just far too many single-levels out there on the southside to play any plausible game of keep-away against random-chance. Because of South Station's current capacity choke swapping set assignments isn't as easy as it should be, so playing the artful gerrymander with Providence/Stoughton is an order of magnitude harder than it should be.

Also...the HSP's are a much brawnier 4600 HP with lots more pep out of a dead stop than the other 3 classes of older 3000 HP locos. The performance disparity is greatest on lines that have the longest rush-hour consist configurations, like Providence, because the 3000 HP engines can struggle mightily to pull 8 full cars out of a stop. This imposes its own inefficiencies on the schedule, as there is lots of padding between stops to cover the acceleration disparity. The HSP's, taking off faster, tend to burn up a lot of their advantage margin with schedule-keeping coasting while the day's schedule is overall predicated on the 3000 HP gimps taking any turn in the rotation even during peak-most rush-hour. It's a born inefficiency on the Providence schedule they would love to not have to live with...but something's got to give because playing the keep-away game with both locos and coaches is too collectively difficult.


All of this changes soon.

The +80 Rotem coach order for 2022 displaces all of the remaining single-level cab cars (north and south), while retiring the last of the duct-taped MBB trailers and 1 of 3 order batches of Bombardier trailers. With that shift in numbers you will have enough bi-levels to gerrymander Providence assignments to all- 93 MPH-rated sets, because they'll easily be at/past the two-thirds mark in total southside fleet makeup by then. And in turn the (somewhat easier) gerrymander of HSP-46 locos to Providence/Stoughton without needing to worry as much about coach rotations means that you get the brawniest-accelerating 4600 HP diesels running the route full-time, with the other gimpier 3000 HP locos able to be de facto segregated off the (non-Needham) NEC. That will necessitate a wholesale schedule refactoring, as all of the padding allotted for the lower speed limit gets stripped out along with all of the padding for the 4600 HP vs. 3000 HP acceleration disparity. Because those two types of performance padding loom so large over the Providence schedule, you may see something close to that 20% between-stop savings being enacted before the first electric vehicle trawls the line. And you may see some actual (if very brief) >80 MPH cruising speeds between stops with the uniform-rated equipment, as well as for-real 90 MPH on segments of express trains. That's coming in as little as 3 years on the same diesel trains as the coach roster flushes itself with replacements.

Your EMU performance gains are then on top of that bolts-tightened faster diesel schedule. So the travel time gains do indeed project dramatic enough to lop 10+ minutes off the trip for the same number of stops in the end. Because this is not just one rung of on-vehicle performance enhancement...it's two. And all of the most egregious schedule-padding fat gets stripped out way before the electrics arrive.

Yes...it'll absolutely be time-competitive with a 48-mile drive on I-95 when all is said and done. But present-day schedules already bury a very large lede on performance crippling because fleets are just not elastic enough to segregate. The electrics will be tuning a schedule that's already lost its most wasteful padding beforehand.
So if we have the 93 mph capable coaches with the 2022 order, does it make sense to lease an electric push/pull locomotive rather than EMUs? Given our recent investment in rolling stock, it would seem that we will be running push/pull for some time, especially outside the 128 zone.
 

Top