Portland Passenger Rail

Ron Newman

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The main issue I see with the proposal is that it is a stub-end station. A train has to switch ends after stopping there to continue northward (or southward).
 

Corey

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I think the most reasonable and acceptable way to avoid having a stub-end station at this point in time would running the tracks along the I-295 right of way and perhaps having a station along Marginal Way at some point. I'd like to see the occasional train roll (slowly) along the length of Commercial Street and continue northward like they used to, but that doesn't seem very likely given the development along the street and the Eastern Promenade. By having a station at Commercial & Center streets it would not allow trains to continue northward but there is room for train tracks along the road so it wouldn't be to the detriment of pedestrians, automobiles, and a well-established park.
 
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Patrick

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The main issue I see with the proposal is that it is a stub-end station. A train has to switch ends after stopping there to continue northward (or southward).
You are right, but the improvement of pedestrian access to downtown outweighs that.
 

Corey

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Link to article in the Bowdoin Orient paper today concerning the Downeaster expansion. Some snippets:

MDOT begins construction of passenger rails to Brunswick


The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently began construction on the 26 miles of railway between Portland and Brunswick, which will begin to accommodate Amtrak passenger trains as early as the first quarter of 2012.​

In addition to the renovation of the rail beds, the MDOT also plans to construct two 400-foot passenger platforms in Brunswick and Freeport, the two new stops being added to Amtrak's expanded Downeaster route.​
Photo from the article:
 

Corey

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http://www.slideshare.net/newmediatransit/portland-me-or-presentation

Not sure if this link will post, but check out this presentation I've been working on about rail transit in the "two Portlands" (Maine and Oregon)...
Union Station, are you presenting this at the Rails 'n Ales meeting tonight at the new Peloton Labs at Bramhall Square? I get the emails from this group but haven't been to a meeting before. I believe this is their website. The agenda tonight has a presentation about a tale of two cities (Portland and Portland).
 

Shepard

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Great presentation, Union Station! Wish I could hear you present this at some point.
 

Union Station

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Yes, this was the presentation I introduced tonight. It was really my first foray into this area so I should probably go back and redo it to some degree. I'm thinking of including some of this info in a short film I'll be producing about rural public transit. Incidentally, I just found an 85 year old local-historian in Brunswick who has an incredible collection of timetables, pictures and other stuff from the Trolley-era in Brunswick, Yarmouth, Lisbon and Bath. One of the schedules showed the Portland and Lewiston Electric Railway running every two hours with every other train an express for 24 hours a day!!! If I proposed that we build a high-speed electric light rail runniref every two hoursfor 24 hours a day, I'd get laughed out of town! It'll take us another hundred years to get where we were a hundred years ago...
Anyway, I have some newer presentations at www.carfreemaine.org if anybody wants to see them.
 

Corey

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Very cool. Unfortunately, I think it's correct that an idea like that would get you laughed out of town. It's funny how some things like this are cyclical, like how almost every town used to have a streetcar network and then they all went away and now a growing number of cities around the country are rebuilding streetcar/light rail networks.

You might have seem them already Union Station, but there are a bunch of materials at the historical museum library, behind the Longfellow House, that have maps and schedules for the greater Portland streetcar network. The local drug company H.H. Hays put out an annual guide many years that had road and street car maps, here is one page of said guide.
 

Union Station

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Wow! Just when I thought I had scoured every pixel of the Maine Memory Network... I guess I'm gonna have to make it a day and head down to MHS again... Speaking of Car-Free, and mapping... and rail... If you've managed to read through the presentation I put together on www.carfreemaine.org/carfreecorridor you'll know where I'm going with this... I've been doing a lot of work involving mapping and visualization techniques through my video projects lately, and I've been looking into the possibility of developing a web/mobile application that could accomodate some of this potential car-free traffic, once the connections are in place.
In the process it occurred to me that the standard "Multimodal Journey Planner" Interface on transit apps is inadequate for a route with multiple modal options, but very specific in their availability. I started experimenting with aHarry Beck-style transit design (something akin to the German wikipedia map of Portlands "Trams" posted earlier in the thread) but it occurred to me that the simple, functional, abstraction that serves subway riders so well, won't work in a multimodal context, for the obvious reason that busses and streetcars need to follow surface landmarks like roads and this information is important as a reference point for passengers.
But then again... Maybe it WOULD make sense, from a marketing perspective, to redesign the transit system map into a subway-style abstraction... Again I use the wikipedia map (which I may as well post here ) as an example. By mapping the historic data through modern(ist) design standards, the artist/cartographer/designer(?) engages our contemporary sensibility of space and place to such an effect that vintage trolley maps of the era couldn't achieve without interpretation.
Perhaps the same could be done with surface transit modes in Maine?
I don't remember if it was on this forum or not, but I remember somebody discussing the transit-style road-map in Camden, Maine.
Similar idea, but more for pure kitsch value in this context. In reality, the map is incredibly confusing as a road map, again for the obvious reasons. In a car, one person has to play the role of passenger, navigator and operator at once, so one must have as much information as possible. But a Ferry, Bus, Streetcar, Light Rail, Van, Rail, Air or Subway passenger only needs to know the time and distance between stops...
It's possible that this plays a part in the statistical puzzle known as "rail bias". The theory behind "rail bias" is that in certain cases, when asked if passengers would prefer to ride bus or rail even if it were at the same price, speed, comfort EVERYTHING was the same... A certain percentage always prefers rail. There's also the theory that the real motivation behind General Motors' conspiracy to buy up all of the trolley routes and replace them with busses was that bus ridership would eventually lead to buying a car, whereas streetcar use would not? And finally, there's the marketing study that first recommended the use of the term "BRT". Instead of using a more accurate description like "busses with their own lanes" the study recommended an acronym that included the words "rapid transit" so as to remove the stigma that busses apparently have on a marketing level...
I always assumed that "rail bias" was the culmination of a number of individual factors involving side to side swaying, seating position/size and noise, but perhaps its something even more subliminal and abstract...
I think people respond to the aesthetic of structural permanence. There's something about the Manhattan grid, or Main Street USA or even Levittown that reassures the subconscious mind... As much as Americans love their freedom of movement and the "frontier" mythology, Its only fun to explore uncharted territory if you're in the drivers seat! Otherwise, its nice to know that the train will get you from Point A. to Point B.
Assuming the Brunswick connection finally happens in 2012, would this kind of visualization work for Maine? Or is there a better way of compiling all of the relevant transportation data for a car-free traveler?
 

Union Station

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Its funny. Just as I thought I was getting a little too far-out there with my whole "Transit Map subconscious" theory I find this blog post from the top transit app developer for the MBTA-
http://nextransit.org/blog/2011/02/is-transit-just-an-overlay/
While rail-based transit maps are very familiar in cities around the world, many cities, particularly in America, suffer from inadequate rail coverage. Even in a city like Boston, which is considered one of the better American transit cities, there are only 4 rail lines, but hundreds of bus lines. Buses are consistently treated differently than other rail-based transit, and the maps are almost always shown as overlays on road maps. To the left, you see an example of how Boston draws its bus maps. Since buses follow roads, the logic goes, maps should accurately represent these lines by showing them on top of those roads. (There are of course exceptions, as one sees clearly in the bottom right, where there are too many bus lines to show 1:1 with the road below.) So why do buses always get the road map treatment, while trains get the transit map treatment? What if we mentally changed how we thought about buses to the same model that we use when thinking about rail?
I also found out about this design contest for envisioning a post-High Speed Rail America-
http://www.vanalen.org/lasr/#nav_anchor_timeline
The judges panel is chaired by people like Carol Colletta and Gary Hustwit, who made the Helvetica movie. I am thinking about making an entry that visualizes Maine's rail system along with its local transit connections as an urban transit map. I'll be meeting with architect Mark Sengelman next wednesday to discuss the project. If any designers, planners, cartographers, graphic artists etc... are interested please don't hesitate to send me a PM!
 

Corey

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^ I just saw your last post Union Station. That contest at vanalen.org looks really cool. Did you end up entering? Looks there is only a week left. I would have been interested if I saw your post. Maybe next time!

A couple of schedules that were recently posted on the Portland Maine History facebook page:



 

Corey

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This looks like an interesting event, via the Forecaster:

"Wednesday, Aug. 31, is the 50th anniversary of the demolition of the clock tower at Union Station. Greater Portland Landmarks will host a "Remembering Union Station" event at its offices at 93 High St. from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

The event will include a viewing of Marcigliano's 50-minute documentary, "All Aboard for Union Station," produced in 1990. Old photos will be on display and a discussion will follow."
 

Corey

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Here's a link (PDF file) to an interesting item on tonight's transportation committee agenda. It's concerning the location of the PTC and possible alternatives. As noted in the document:

Because costly improvements at the existing Thompson’s Point location are necessary to support growing passenger rail service, alternative sites also were identified and then evaluated to determine whether the existing location was the best place to invest for the future.
Some images from the presentation:






Some preliminary site plan sketches:

 

FrankLloydMike

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I just breezed through the PDF, and it seems to me very disappointing that they are recommending using the existing location. While the schematic site plans shown above are anything but inspiring, both seem to be considerably better locations than the existing PTC. That site will never feel pedestrian accessible or like a welcoming gateway to the city. West Commercial Street has the advantage of being along the waterfront, and could be the terminus for a waterfront trolley like the mentioned in the Peninsula Transportation study, but that is probably a long ways off at best. The Union Station site, however, seems perfect: trains will not have to reverse at all; it is a historic station site; replacing the surface parking with garages surrounded by retail and possibly housing would be a huge improvement over the existing shopping center; and it would be easy to run a commuter shuttle between Thompsons Point, the PTC, Union Station and downtown.
 
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Patrick

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^ pretty much spot on Mike. Wanna move to Portland and run for Mayor?
 
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Patrick

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Id like to think that whatever underlies the absolutely hideous design of those site layout potentials has more to do with practical constraints and not lack of vision. I think anyone who owned property by these areas would immediately object. And the irony of it all is that the biggest feature of passenger rail facilities proposed is surface parking...

Nyc recently adopted some sort of program where even small scale municipal bldgs are put out to bid to starchitects. Portland doesnt have to necessarily follow suit )and coulxnt afford it anyway) but lets pay closer attention to design in addition to policy. Train station, good. Ugly train station, bad.
 

Corey

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An interesting agenda item on the agenda of the City's Transportation, Sustainability & Energy Committee. It's just a one page document with the subject of: Recommendation to Create a Task Force to Discuss the Feasibility of a Streetcar. Sounds pretty neat, perhaps some members of this board would be interested in attending meetings if the public is invited.
 
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FrankLloydMike

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Tom Nevers

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Wasn't sure where to place this so I'm reviving this dormant thread. Also, having skimmed the discussion here, it's disheartening that we're still only talking about moving the PTC when the old Union Station location is clearly superior. Anyway...

Many people have resolutions for the new year. In addition to working toward something attainable, in 2019 I decided to also set a rather quixotic 2020 goal for myself- to singlehandedly lower the average trip length on the Downeaster. According to the Rail Passengers Association, in 2019 the average length of a coach class trip on the Downeaster was 79 miles.

2020 data from the Rail Passengers Association likely won't be available for a few months but I'm optimistic that reduced ridership resulting from the pandemic will add weight to my ridership numbers. So, the data!

In 2020, I managed to ride the Downeaster 38 times for a total of 1318 miles and an average trip length of 34.68 miles. It would have been lower but a few trips to and from Boston significantly increased my average.

A few fairly obvious observations:
1) Having to make a connection with less than an hour between scheduled arrival at North Station and scheduled departure at South Station is a recipe for anxiety. Reliably arriving on time is huge!
2) Walking to or from the PTC after dark is unpleasant.
3) Saco has the best train station in Maine.
4) The BREEZ needs to run on Sundays.
5) Be wary of restaurants that say they can fill a to go soup order in 6 minutes or less.
 
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