Other People's Rail: Amtrak, commuter rail, rapid transit news & views outside New England

DBM

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Strolling this morning through the quaint and picturesque Chepiawonext Point neighborhood, with its charming vistas of E. Greenwich Harbor, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a pedestrian-only overpass spanning the NEC. Per the plaque it was built in 1987.

There are at most 50 houses in the neighborhood, and the overpass connects it to a very low-density stretch of Route 1. Walking on both sides of the NEC for a little over an hour, I saw 5 other pedestrians--on a beautiful summer weekend, no less.

Which makes me wonder--given there is essentially zero built-in demand for this overpass--that I very well might be the only pedestrian to use this month--was it a mandate from the federal government that it get built? Is there a minimum number of overpasses that have to span the NEC per X miles, in areas where they aren't "naturally" occuring where you have lots of auto bridges spanning it?

It presence was just so surreally perplexing--like something out a Grail quest, I suppose, given how overgrown it is with foliage and how romantically abandoned/neglected it appears...
 

The EGE

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Looking at old aerials, the neighborhood used to have three grade crossings at Neptune, Elisha, and Alger. Perhaps the ped bridge was a compromise when the single road underpass was built? The underpass was in place by 1995 - somewhat earlier than the eliminations during electrification - so it was probably built in 1987 as well.
 

Brattle Loop

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Looking at old aerials, the neighborhood used to have three grade crossings at Neptune, Elisha, and Alger. Perhaps the ped bridge was a compromise when the single road underpass was built? The underpass was in place by 1995 - somewhat earlier than the eliminations during electrification - so it was probably built in 1987 as well.
The bridge is just south of where one of the grade crossings was, so I think it's very likely it was a replacement as you suggest.
 

Riverside

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Whenever I take the train to New York, I’m always struck by how it appears that there always is at least one track, in the quad track section west of New Haven, which appears to be out of service — whether indicated by the presence of work equipment and/or workers on that track, or by the presence of semi-permanent platform extenders just straight up blocking the track. Didn’t I read a while back that a CTDOT official basically said, “In practice, that stretch is tri-track, not quad, for all intents and purposes”?
 

BostonBoy

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Whenever I take the train to New York, I’m always struck by how it appears that there always is at least one track, in the quad track section west of New Haven, which appears to be out of service — whether indicated by the presence of work equipment and/or workers on that track, or by the presence of semi-permanent platform extenders just straight up blocking the track. Didn’t I read a while back that a CTDOT official basically said, “In practice, that stretch is tri-track, not quad, for all intents and purposes”?
Metro North has been upgrading to constant- tension catenary, for the last twenty years. I understand it was just completed, but now they will be working on replacing their ancient movable bridges. The most recent track outages could be for the installation of a new interlocking to accommodate the bridge work at Norwalk.
 

Riverside

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MjolnirMan

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I recently reached out to RIDOT to ask how this part of the Rhode Island Transit Master Plan was going
Reached out to RIDOT again today on the 1-year anniversary of the TransitForwardRI Master Plan being published and got this new reply [sic]:
These would be questions for the MBTA and Amtrack. We wouldn’t have anything to do with decision making about honoring passes on various trains and commuter rails.
When I pointed out the plan is hosted on the RIPTA website and says "RIDOT is close to launching a program with Amtrak for the use of MBTA commuter rail passes on select Amtrak trains.", they replied:
Let me look into this further and get back to you.
So I'm assuming exactly zero work or progress has been made on any of this on RIDOT's end since 12/2020. For what it's worth, other Amtrak cross-honoring agreements like Shore Line East were put on hold early this year when service levels were minimal, but those have since been restored. Frustratingly, the plan from 2020 even has a "COVID-19 and Its Impacts on the Plan" section which included:
Many short-term improvements would be inexpensive to implement and could help draw people back to transit and should proceed quickly. Two examples include the use of MBTA monthly passes on Amtrak trains between Providence and Boston and app-based reservations, fare payment, and vehicle tracking for Flex service.
 

stick n move

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"Shades of the AEM7: Amtrak’s newest heritage locomotive, ACS64 No. 662, made its debut on Thursday, handling Northeast Regional train No. 176 from Washington to Boston. The first trip came shortly after Amtrak released photos on Twitter of the Siemens locomotive wrapped in a recreation of the paint scheme worn by the earlier electric locomotives built by EMD and ASEA. The wrap was sponsored by Dovetail Games, which will feature the engine in its Train Sim World 2 game."
https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/news-photo-retro-wrap-for-amtrak-acs64/
 

Riverside

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Reached out to RIDOT again today on the 1-year anniversary of the TransitForwardRI Master Plan being published and got this new reply [sic]:

When I pointed out the plan is hosted on the RIPTA website and says "RIDOT is close to launching a program with Amtrak for the use of MBTA commuter rail passes on select Amtrak trains.", they replied:


So I'm assuming exactly zero work or progress has been made on any of this on RIDOT's end since 12/2020. For what it's worth, other Amtrak cross-honoring agreements like Shore Line East were put on hold early this year when service levels were minimal, but those have since been restored. Frustratingly, the plan from 2020 even has a "COVID-19 and Its Impacts on the Plan" section which included:
My feelings about cross-honoring on Amtrak haven't changed since July when this last came up. I think realistically there would be two Amtrak trains at most that would be targeted and/or useful for this cross-honoring program, if even that. I also think that Amtrak's OTP on the NEC -- while overall pretty damn good -- is going to be middling at best for a commuting audience.

I did put together a conceptual schedule for a New Haven-Boston trip that would originate at 6am, and arrive around 9:15am -- need go to find that timetable. I'd prefer to see political capital spent on something like that first and then focus on cross-honoring after that. But in general, I'm not nearly as excited about cross-honoring as I once was.
 

Arlington

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^ On the RR.net forum I had a long and painful discussion with an Amtrak insider about why (he said) Amtrak won't originate / terminate NEC trains at New Haven (and not even PHL) for lack of layover facilities and crew base. (I wanted Acelas like BOS-PHL and WAS-HVN to run at the margins of the day, just like you'd like a Regional to start at HVN at a reasonable hour.

If we assume the insider was right, and that all NEC trains must originate/terminate at WAS, NYP, BOS or HAR or SPG(but it'd have to do an end-change at HVN), you could start the early-commuter train at NYP and have it run NYP-NRO-STM-HVN in the pre-6am to get to boston at 9:15am. Amtrak Virginia has had great success starting trains in the 5:55am ~ 6:20am kind of starting point from the hinterland origination city.

NRO = New Rochelle in railroad station codes
STM = Stamford
 
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Riverside

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^ That is frustrating, but at least does make some sense. I found the timetable I put together, copied below. I haven't checked it super carefully, but I think my initial review suggested that it would be possible to slot the PVD-BOS leg in between current MBTA trains from Providence. Not sure about other interference north of Readville, though.

Originating in NYC isn't the absolute worst. Depending on how many stops you make between New York and New Haven, the train would need to depart Penn Station between 4:10 and 4:33... maybe could push to 4:40 if you had no extended stop at New Haven and/or didn't stop at Stamford?

There probably are at least some riders who would take the train from New York up to Boston for a morning meeting. If you are looking to get to South Station at 9:15am, your flight needs to be landing by 8:45am at the earliest (depending on Silver Line vs taxi), which means it needs to take off from one of the New York airports at 7:30am, which means you need to arrive by 6:30am at the earliest, maybe more like 6am... and then the question is where you're coming from to get to the airport, so let's call it leaving the house at 5:30am.

That math doesn't work out great for people who live in/near NYC, but if you're coming from Stamford, then the train journey would be much more favorable. Likewise, leaving at 5:30 is best case scenario -- the journey from Logan to downtown might take longer, security at the airport might take longer, and the journey from home to the airport might take longer. 8:30 landing means 7:15 takeoff which might mean 5:45am arrival which might mean 4:45am departure. Depending on pricing, for some fraction of passengers, the train could be competitive.

So, yeah, it would be preferable if the train could originate in New Haven, but it could possibly be workable to originate in New York.

If we assume the insider was right, and that all NEC trains must originate/terminate at WAS, NYP, BOS or HAR or SPG(but it'd have to do an end-change at HVN)
A small note, but this might not be as deleterious as it would first appear, since it would also need a locomotive swap from diesel to electric. So the diesel loco pulls into New Haven head first, an electric loco is waiting nearby, the diesel gets disconnected from the head and the electric loco gets added to the tail, and you're off. From what I can tell, Amtrak has gotten pretty good at doing those locomotive swaps pretty fast, so it might be faster than just switching a single loco from one end to the other.

A conceptual schedule for an additional morning northbound NEC train, making commuter stops in Rhode Island for a 9:15am arrival in Boston:

CodeStation66proposed1902150
NYP​
New York Penn Station, NY​
2:40​
4:10
6:55​
8:00​
NRO​
New Rochelle, NY​
3:11​
4:40
7:28​
-​
STM​
Stamford, CT​
3:33​
5:00
7:51​
8:47​
BRP​
Bridgeport, CT​
4:03​
5:30
8:20​
-​
NHV​
New Haven, CT​
4:43​
6:13
8:47​
9:39​
OSB​
Old Saybrook, CT​
5:15​
6:45
9:16​
-​
NLC​
New London, CT​
5:35​
7:05
9:36​
-​
MYS​
Mystic, CT​
5:49​
7:19
-​
-​
WLY​
Westerly, RI​
6:01​
7:31
-​
-​
KIN​
Kingston, RI​
6:18​
7:48
10:07​
-​
WIC
Wickford Junction, RI
-​
7:51
-​
-​
QPT
Quonset Point, RI
-​
-​
-​
-​
EGR
East Greenwich, RI
-​
8:08
-​
-​
TFG
TF Green Airport, RI
-​
8:16
-​
-​
CRA
Cranston, RI
-​
8:22
-​
-​
PVD​
Providence, RI​
6:56​
8:31
10:27​
10:59​
RTE​
Route 128, MA​
7:34​
8:58
10:54​
11:26​
BBY​
Boston Back Bay, MA​
7:53​
9:09
11:05​
11:35​
BOS​
Boston South Station, MA​
7:58​
9:15
11:10​
11:41​
 

HenryAlan

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I can see, perhaps for Acela, but Amtrak already runs some trains out of New Haven, serving Hartford and Springfield. I'm not sure I buy that they couldn't do so for an NEC service.
 

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