Portland Passenger Rail

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Patrick

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100% agree. I think the ROW along commercial might have been partially abandoned when they tore up the tracks and widened the street in the 1980s, but I could be wrong. The crazy thing about smart ideas like the one you just stated is that there's nothing new about them. People figured this arguably quite obvious stuff out a long time ago. It is amazing therefore how hard it is to get them back on board (pun not intended).
 

Union Station

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Greetings all! I am a new member who came to this forum after I met Mr. Patrick a week ago, to talk about media outreach in Portland. I am happy to find a site like this, after the overwhelming negativity of www.railroad.net (FYI, railfans don't necessarily equate rail ADVOCATES... Something I had to learn the hard way...)
Anyway, Patrick introduced me to this forum and I have been following the threads for a couple days now. So, hopefully I should be up to speed.
In regards to Portland passenger rail, I have been following the subject for years. I don't think it would be out of line to say that 2010 may have been the most promising year since WW2! With the Downeaster extension to Brunswick set to open in 2012 rail momentum has been growing everyday. Hopefully, things'll start to pick up as people see the palpable excitement and measurable development that accompanies rail transit projects. Decades of auto-centric thinking have left Maine at a serious competitive disadvantage at a time when deficits are rising, populations are aging and the working-age population is shrinking. Rail transit has the potential to show real results in places where it never has before.
The Downeaster (both with its current alignment and with the Brunswick extension) has already bucked traditional thinking about rail feasibility in mid to low density regions. But its going to take a lot to convince an auto-centric culture not only that rail service can be feasible in rural areas, but that it is ESSENTIAL for their redevelopment!!!
This is where people outside of the traditional urban planning/design/engineering community can participate in a huge way. As a documentary filmmaker by profession, I have always found common ground with architects, engineers and planners because we all think visually. And convincing an auto-centered public to visualize a car-free lifestyle is the hardest part of sustainable, car-free development.
Now, I may have access to the tools of media, but I DON'T have access to the maps, graphics, surveys, renderings and other resources that planners do. So here is my proposal...
Many filmmakers have been experimenting with "crowdsourcing" their projects. Meaning they solicit input and participation from web-based social networks in order to utilize the resources from a wide variety of participants.
I have a number of sustainable-development oriented, visual-media projects in mind where I think having a connection to a network of experts will significantly improve the outcome. First on the list is a video piece on the potential for a regional rail system of DMU railcars that would operate as a 21st Century Interurban network. I have collected a number of images and can post them as I progress. If anybody is interested, please reply or PM me.
I will post descriptions of the other projects in their appropriate threads.
 
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Patrick

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Thanks for joining the discussion here. Although most of us are not professional planners or architects, some of us are. Moreover, even those who are not may have tremendous resources for you to draw on or follow up with in terms of leads, ideas, and other guides as you progress. Many people on this forum have been following land use development and transportation issues for years. We also, I believe, all try to keep current on development and transportation issues (in fact, that's my main purpose for this site, aside from just kicking back and forth general ideas in generic discussion threads). This is more or less a clearinghouse for new information we come across. It should indeed be helpful to you.

The gentleman I mentioned when we spoke last week is also a member of this forum (Corey), and his photo blog is linked at the bottom of all of this posts.

Corey, I spoke with this new poster over a beer last week and hear him discussing an idea for a video which reminded me of some of your photo-based work. I thought you two might be due for at least a brief conversation to see if your interests align as much as they appear to.

Lastly, I agree that visualization is the way to go--that's probably why so many modern zoning codes are resorting to visual techniques (especially FBCs), and that's probably also why architects and developers rely on renderings. If we could apply the same thinking to other areas of urban planning (and why we haven't done this to a greater extent already is beyond me), we might be on to something! Let me know how I can help.

P.S. -- we spoke briefly about this, but would you mind providing me a refresher on what exactly a DMU car is again? Thanks!
 

Union Station

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Regarding DMUs-
"DMU" stands for "Diesel Multiple Unit" and has been alternately known as "diesel railcars", "self-propelled railcars", or "RDCs". The latter referring to the popular "Budd cars" manufactured by the Budd Coach company in the late 1940s.

Wikipedia definines DMUs as a multiple unit train consisting of multiple carriages powered by one or more on-board diesel engines

I copied the Light Rail DMU section from the Nelson/Nygaard Report (http://www.portlandmaine.gov/chapter6.pdf) as a TIFF file here-


and here-


From the PR perspective I think its probably best to get out of the habit of calling them DMUs and instead use "Diesel Railcar"...So, with that in mind...
Diesel railcars are used just about everywhere else but the U.S. They are popular in lower-density regions where ridership numbers rarely exceed the need for more than three cars and where electrification wouldn't be cost-effective. Locomotive-pulled trains require extensive operational costs due to the additional need for turning them around, manpower and other logistical concerns. But a self-propelled unit is much more versatile and is significantly more efficient on lined that require frequent stops and starts (such as mass transit would require). This is why proponents of the "Indigo Line" in Boston are advocating their use as a hybrid between a "commuter" and "mass transit" line. (http://www.eot.state.ma.us/downloads/DMU_Fairmount.pdf).
So far there are very few diesel railcars in operation within the US. The reason lies in the fact that the vast majority of heavy rail lines in the U.S. are owned and operated by freight railroads. The FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) mandates that all locomotives operating on tracks used by freight trains meet certain weight and crash-worthiness standards. Essentially, they have to survive a head-on collision with a freight train... So that makes things a little harder for companies like Bombardier, Siemens and Alstom who make super-efficient, high-tech railcars in Europe to justify the expense of manufacturing an entirely new design for the US only.
However, there has been some signs of life in the past few years. TRIMETs WES system began operating in 2009 using an FRA compliant DMU design from an American company called U.S. Railcar (though U.S Railcar recently folded after Ohio and Wisconsin cancelled their rail projects). Miami's Tri-Rail commuter line also uses a US Railcar DMU. Both systems are unique in that they are the only commuter lines to operate between two suburban regions rather than connecting the urban core to suburbs.
Only a week ago the northern Bay Area transit agency SMART announced that they will operate FRA compliant railcars manufactured by a Japanese company, Sumitomo/Nippon (http://www.railwayage.com/breaking-news/sumitomo-nippon-sharyo-tapped-by-smart-for-dmus.html).
Personally, I believe the real game-changer will be if Bombardier throws its hat in the ring. Headquartered in Montreal, they are the largest manufacturer of rail-equipment in the world, though most of its rail business is in Germany. The aforementioned "Indigo Line" study mentioned them as a possible manufacturer because they already manufacture large numbers of an Electric Multiple Unit train-set for the NY MTA designated as the "
". If the MBTA "Indigo Line" and the LIRRs Montauk Line were to order a DMU version of the M7 then Bombardier could manufacture the units at a much lower cost because the basic frame and chassis is already in mass-production in a plant in Quebec. The only issue would be that they would have to dramatically expand the final assembly plant at the former Plattsburg Air Force base in Plattsburg NY. Which is where they add the electric motors to the EMUs. Well... It just so happens that there may be an alternate final assembly site on the other end of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic RR from the chassis plant in Quebec... Thats right, thats the line that runs directly from Montreal to Yarmouth, Maine! Now if we could only convince the dinosaurs who are in charge of redeveloping the Brunswick Naval Air Station that they COULD more than 300 jobs... I'm not holding my breath...
So thats my DMU rant...
I designed a profile on the "Cooltown Places" crowdsourcing site for the concept so if anybody is interested than check out http://cooltownplaces.com/browse/item/contest/340
 
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Patrick

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Nice visuals in that link. I'll add them to the renderings thread later.
 
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Patrick

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And thanks for the refresher on DMUs...I blogged about the use of Bud cars a few months ago in connection with the Portland North project...never knew they were synonymous with DMUs.
 

Union Station

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I can't seem to add any images other than URL links... but I have a bunch of great visuals to add to the renderings page involving rail...
 
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Patrick

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So, the general way to add an image, as you probably already know, is to put the URL in between these two brackets [/img][/img]

You can upload, as I do, renderings to facebook, make sure they are shared with everyone (not just friends) and then right click the image, hit "view", and then copy the URL from that page on to this page, or you can upload to something like a blog or imageshack and do the same. look forward to seeing them.
 

JohnAKeith

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Minor edit: the first (opening) img bracket should not include the / , only the closing (second) one has it.
 
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Patrick

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Very good work, Andrew. I'd like to read that in depth...I like the "two different 'tracks' two different outcomes" quote...are you familiar with the Godzilla on the Willamette? New bridge totally car free which is being built in connection with light rail expansion.
 

Corey

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^ Nice presentation, Union Station.

There was an article in the Press Herald today about adding a new closer-to-downtown stop for the Downeaster.

I love the idea of having one at the bottom of Center Street, where there is currently a parking lot. They could build a nice multi-modal transportation center there with a train depot, commuter bus stop, Metro bus stop, taxi stand, and covered parking garage. The other option of putting a new station by the Casco Bay Bridge would be an improvement too, but we might as well get it as close to town as possible.
 

Ron Newman

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This is absolutely and totally necessary.

When Portland last had passenger service in the mid-1960s, where was the station then?
 
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Patrick

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This is absolutely and totally necessary.

When Portland last had passenger service in the mid-1960s, where was the station then?
Union Station, a handsome building replaced by a strip mall on the fringe of Downtown in what is known as the St. John's Valley.

The talk about the station closer to town has been ongoing, and hopefully it can make something happen. There is Portland North (MDOT commuter rail) considering a stop at Center Street in Gorham's Corner (just outside it, actually) and then there has been some talk with Amtrak (and I think that's the one closer to the bridge). Perhaps they could use the same stop? I know for Portland North the two alternatives are BRT and Commuter Rail, and the idea is to locate as close as possible to Monument Square in the center of Downtown (which is where the BRT main drop off would be). I haven't read the article (yet) so maybe this is all described in there. Speaking of monument square, I recently learned that the Time and Temperature building used to be known as the Monument Square building before the addition of the digital clock.
 
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Patrick

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The comments on that story are almost uniformly negative...

And am I wrong or is it South Station in Boston where you can walk to Faneuil Hall? North Station I thought was the one where the buses pull into as well, and South Station I thought was the older-ish structure with the bookstand in the middle surrounded by other myriad types of restaurants, just by the waterfront, and walking distance to more things. Am I wrong or is the article wrong? Or are they both walking distance?
 

Ron Newman

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I don't understand your question. You can walk to Faneuil Hall from either station, but North Station is closer. There are no buses at North Station. South Station has a small book kiosk, a branch of a Chicago bookstore.

As for Portland, why are they not considering putting a new station where the old one was?
 
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Patrick

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I don't understand your question. You can walk to Faneuil Hall from either station, but North Station is closer. There are no buses at North Station. South Station has a small book kiosk, a branch of a Chicago bookstore.

As for Portland, why are they not considering putting a new station where the old one was?
Ron, I was assuming you read the linked article above, which mentions North Station.

The old station in Portland can't be replaced because it is occupied by a strip mall.
 

Corey

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Is there anything of value in the strip mall though?
The Dollar Tree store is irreplaceable. :p I would prefer a station closer to downtown than where the old Union Station was anyhow. I think the old Grand Trunk station off India Street had passenger service to the North also. Ideally, a new station would be somewhere between the two and along Center and Commercial Streets would work well because it is both downtown and accessible to people coming from out of town by car.

I am at work so I can't see the comments on the Press Herald article (it is an external commenting system that is blocked) but that is a good thing because I become instantly angered reading Press Herald comments. I can only imagine the ridiculous comments.
 
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Patrick

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Ron, there is a discount food store that serve a lot of residents in the immediate area, and there is a nightclub that is fairly popular with a subculture of hard-rock types. Other than that, and especially from an architectural perspective, the answer is no.

Corey is right about the Grand Trunk RR station though.. Boy would that be neat. It is downtown, right near the water, across from the new cruise ship and high speed ferry terminal that was recently built, and would allow visitors to step off and either go west to the Old Port, check in to an adjacent hotel, or make a day trip to freeport. Naturally, my suggeston would be to go west to the Old Port! But the convenience would be unparalleled from a vacationer's perspective.

Here's a picture of the station, followed by a pic of rails ervice on commercial street:




and the tallest building ever built in Portland:
 

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