Portland Passenger Rail

BosMaineiac

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Which lines connect to Quebec and Montreal? There's an existing defunct line through Westbrook, Falmouth, and Auburn right?
The current station is sited on the old Maine Central Mountain Division. The line is still active through Westbrook to the paper mill. The remaining ROW is still intact and continues through North Conway and the White Mts to St Johnsbury VT. It’s no longer active (I think the last freight trains ran over it in the 80’s?), except for a small portion in NH used by the Conway Scenic Railway.

The rail line to Montreal is still very much active and owned by the St Lawrence and Atlantic. That line splits off the CSX main line at Danville Jct in Auburn and continues through Bethel, Berlin NH, Island Pond VT and into Quebec.
 

nomc

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If Alternative 8 were built, would the ass end of a train ever hang out into Congress like it does in Saco?
 

DanielPWM19

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Dumb question or thought - but what if they acquired the Ferguson site AND used the existing Metro Bus Maintenance Facility? Maybe build a sky bridge to connect over St. John's down to the rail, to parking, or vice versa?

Move the metro somewhere else.
 

BosMaineiac

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Dumb question or thought - but what if they acquired the Ferguson site AND used the existing Metro Bus Maintenance Facility? Maybe build a sky bridge to connect over St. John's down to the rail, to parking, or vice versa?

Move the metro somewhere else.
The Ferguson site was considered in the report, with the Metro property being used as either a CCL maintenance facility or parking
 

nomc

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Dumb question or thought - but what if they acquired the Ferguson site AND used the existing Metro Bus Maintenance Facility? Maybe build a sky bridge to connect over St. John's down to the rail, to parking, or vice versa?

Move the metro somewhere else.
I think this is what's considered in Alternative 2, 3 and 4?
 

Cosakita18

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Every time I take the Downeaster, I'm always reminded just how sad and unwelcoming the Portland Transportation Center is. It's a dingy, cramped and unfriendly facility shoved off to the side of a highway offramp and surrounded by an ocean of parking. The train station was just "tacked on" to the existing Concord Coach terminal. Maybe it works as a bus depot, but it certainly doesn't work as a train station.

Portland deserves so much more than the PTC and it deserves more than the "alternatives" that were recommended in the PTC relocation study. Regardless of whether the station ends up closer to Mercy Hospital or at the old Union Station site...it seems like NNEPRA and MeDOT are doubling down on ensuring that Portland's new station is just as car-centric as the current PTC.

All of these "alternatives" aren't train stations, they're park-and-rides. The actual train-station almost seems like an afterthought in all of these concepts... A small passenger waiting area with only two passenger platforms. Heck, none of these alternatives even have ful-length / full height platforms long enough for a standard 5-car train to be able to open all doors. These are shortsighted decisions on the part of NNEPRA and MeDOT.

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GIL

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Every time I take the Downeaster, I'm always reminded just how sad and unwelcoming the Portland Transportation Center is. It's a dingy, cramped and unfriendly facility shoved off to the side of a highway offramp and surrounded by an ocean of parking. The train station was just "tacked on" to the existing Concord Coach terminal. Maybe it works as a bus depot, but it certainly doesn't work as a train station.

Portland deserves so much more than the PTC and it deserves more than the "alternatives" that were recommended in the PTC relocation study. Regardless of whether the station ends up closer to Mercy Hospital or at the old Union Station site...it seems like NNEPRA and MeDOT are doubling down on ensuring that Portland's new station is just as car-centric as the current PTC.

All of these "alternatives" aren't train stations, they're park-and-rides. The actual train-station almost seems like an afterthought in all of these concepts... A small passenger waiting area with only two passenger platforms. Heck, none of these alternatives even have ful-length / full height platforms long enough for a standard 5-car train to be able to open all doors. These are shortsighted decisions on the part of NNEPRA and MeDOT.

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Agree 100% — they are designing primarily for automobiles and where to park them, not transit users. The State and City need a true transit-planning team to consult and design a worthy solution. The alternatives to date are funneling too much budget into parking solutions.
 

Tom Nevers

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Regardless of whether the station ends up closer to Mercy Hospital or at the old Union Station site...it seems like NNEPRA and MeDOT are doubling down on ensuring that Portland's new station is just as car-centric as the current PTC.

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As a regular rider of the Downeaster (over 90 trips in 2022) who almost always walks to and from the PTC, I’m very supportive of the old Union Station location. This will make the walk much easier, safer, and make downtown so much more accessible to people on foot.

I agree that the proposed designs are disappointing and geared toward people arriving via car. Portland should be building a smaller version of the new North Station (mixed use including residential and retail). Three things in particular I’d like to see addressed in the new station are:
1) a station open during all operating hours. Waiting for the 1 AM train to Brunswick is uncomfortable as the doors are locked to the current station after 10:30 PM.
2) the new station should at least include a cafe. If we can’t have a really good Station, something as simple as what’s available in the Providence station would be an improvement. Let’s acknowledge the train is sometimes late and people want to be able to get food and a drink while waiting.
3) the new station should have covered bike parking.

I’ve written to Gov. Mills and my state senator to let them know a mixed use station in a walkable location is important to me and I linked alternative 8 to goals in the Maine Wont’t Wait climate action plan. If you feel the same, I encourage you to also contact your elected reps. If others have thoughts on how to move the needle on this, I’d love to hear your suggestions!
 

markhb

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1) a station open during all operating hours. Waiting for the 1 AM train to Brunswick is uncomfortable as the doors are locked to the current station after 10:30 PM.
2) the new station should at least include a cafe. If we can’t have a really good Station, something as simple as what’s available in the Providence station would be an improvement. Let’s acknowledge the train is sometimes late and people want to be able to get food and a drink while waiting.
3) the new station should have covered bike parking.
I would love to see all of those too, although #3 wouldn't affect me. But I think the reality is that the Downeaster station, wherever it ultimately resides, is functionally going to be a regional resource primarily used by those who will drive to the station for an occasional trip to Boston, and who choose the train because driving and parking in Boston is a PITA, and those people are highly unlikely to drive to a Park & Ride and then add an hour to their trip riding a bus into downtown to transfer to a bus to the PTC; they'll just forgo the train.

As for inbound traffic, I really don't think that anything worth coming to Portland for is within walking distance of the CSX line, except the sports complex and, once the Congress St. entrance opens, Maine Medical Center. (And, ok, Mercy.) And moving the station down onto Commercial St. somewhere is going to adversely impact the outbound users I talked about above.
 

GIL

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I would love to see all of those too, although #3 wouldn't affect me. But I think the reality is that the Downeaster station, wherever it ultimately resides, is functionally going to be a regional resource primarily used by those who will drive to the station for an occasional trip to Boston, and who choose the train because driving and parking in Boston is a PITA, and those people are highly unlikely to drive to a Park & Ride and then add an hour to their trip riding a bus into downtown to transfer to a bus to the PTC; they'll just forgo the train.

As for inbound traffic, I really don't think that anything worth coming to Portland for is within walking distance of the CSX line, except the sports complex and, once the Congress St. entrance opens, Maine Medical Center. (And, ok, Mercy.) And moving the station down onto Commercial St. somewhere is going to adversely impact the outbound users I talked about above.
For inbound and outbound riders, the most centrally located station will best support taxis/app-based ride services/bus/bike shares or walking by the highest number of potential riders, which reinforces the case for a lower parking maximum.
 

PWMFlyer

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I don't think anyone cares anymore about the design of a train station. It's not the 1920's where you rode in style into Portland on a steam train and then headed to Sebago Lake or Acadia National Park. The majority of riders on the Downeaster are day riders attending events at Fenway, TD Bank, or the Science Museum. By the time I get to PTC , no one seems to mind sitting for a brief 1/2 hr and then board the train. I see no need food service at a train station compared to North or South Stations. Are you going to show up 1hr early so you can get a sandwich? I don't think so. The majority bring their own food and eat it on the train, aka Dunkin Donuts. Another thing is that we don't have 6 commuter rail lines originating from Portland. The same goes for all the other stops, Wells, Durham, Dover, Lowell, etc. I care about getting to Boston on time and safely. If I want something to snack on, the snack car is available vs Commuter rail which is a no frills train. North and South stations cater to commuters waiting to go to Fitchburg or the North Shore.
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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With all due respect to those that love to ride their bikes and those that live in walking distances - I rode the Downeaster to Boston fairly regularly before the pandemic. I suspect that will start to happen again as more and more folks head back to the office. I also live in Westbrook. My fat ass isn't getting on a bike to ride 6.5+ miles with an overnight bag and computer bag, nor am I getting on a bus, to catch the 5:18am train to Boston. I suspect I'm not alone in needing to drive to the station and park. Not all of those cars parked at the PTC are bus riders.

So, whether people like it, are willing to admit it, or not - a new station needs ample parking for those that need to use the train but live in the suburbs. We don't have commuter trains and an extensive inter-urban transit system like Boston.
 

GIL

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With all due respect to those that love to ride their bikes and those that live in walking distances - I rode the Downeaster to Boston fairly regularly before the pandemic. I suspect that will start to happen again as more and more folks head back to the office. I also live in Westbrook. My fat ass isn't getting on a bike to ride 6.5+ miles with an overnight bag and computer bag, nor am I getting on a bus, to catch the 5:18am train to Boston. I suspect I'm not alone in needing to drive to the station and park. Not all of those cars parked at the PTC are bus riders.

So, whether people like it, are willing to admit it, or not - a new station needs ample parking for those that need to use the train but live in the suburbs. We don't have commuter trains and an extensive inter-urban transit system like Boston.
I hear that. Respect for all users – including those in a car. And if someday there is a great Park-n-Ride service to the new station from places including Westbrook, South Portland, etc. that is well-timed with expanded train schedules, all the better!
 
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DanielPWM19

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I don't think anyone cares anymore about the design of a train station. It's not the 1920's where you rode in style into Portland on a steam train and then headed to Sebago Lake or Acadia National Park. The majority of riders on the Downeaster are day riders attending events at Fenway, TD Bank, or the Science Museum. By the time I get to PTC , no one seems to mind sitting for a brief 1/2 hr and then board the train. I see no need food service at a train station compared to North or South Stations. Are you going to show up 1hr early so you can get a sandwich? I don't think so. The majority bring their own food and eat it on the train, aka Dunkin Donuts. Another thing is that we don't have 6 commuter rail lines originating from Portland. The same goes for all the other stops, Wells, Durham, Dover, Lowell, etc. I care about getting to Boston on time and safely. If I want something to snack on, the snack car is available vs Commuter rail which is a no frills train. North and South stations cater to commuters waiting to go to Fitchburg or the North Shore.
I get this, but it'd be nice for Portland to build something attractive, unique, and makes a statement. Perhaps make amends for the stupidity of tearing down the beautiful train stations we have. I don't need some grand beautiful train station, but it sure would be really nice for the region. Not some Walmart box to ship people here and there. That will look shitty in no time, and discourage riders. Especially if it just becomes another flop house for the homeless. Add a nice restaurant/cafe, coffee shop, and a convenience store kiosk. I want a nice experience in a clean and attractive space.
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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I hear that. Respect for all users – including those in a car. And if someday there is a great Park-n-Ride service to and from the new station to places including Westbrook, South Portland, etc. that is well-timed with expanded train scheules, all the better!
If they do build the West Falmouth station, then I'm more likely to use that than PTC. But, that station isn't convenient for those in suburbs like Gorham, Standish, Windham, etc. (or even parts of Westbrook for that matter). I'd love for there to be some sort of light rail connecting Westbrook, Little Falls and South Windham to the new train station. That would be ideal, but I doubt the economics of it will ever work.
 

cneal

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With all due respect to those that love to ride their bikes and those that live in walking distances - I rode the Downeaster to Boston fairly regularly before the pandemic. I suspect that will start to happen again as more and more folks head back to the office. I also live in Westbrook. My fat ass isn't getting on a bike to ride 6.5+ miles with an overnight bag and computer bag, nor am I getting on a bus, to catch the 5:18am train to Boston. I suspect I'm not alone in needing to drive to the station and park. Not all of those cars parked at the PTC are bus riders.

So, whether people like it, are willing to admit it, or not - a new station needs ample parking for those that need to use the train but live in the suburbs. We don't have commuter trains and an extensive inter-urban transit system like Boston.
This is a big problem in transit planning – the assumption that what's convenient for *my specific circumstances* can be applied to what everyone else needs. It even has a name: elite projection.

A significant number – and quite possibly a majority – of Concord Coach and Downeaster riders get picked up or dropped off at the station, whether by a friend, a METRO bus, or a ride-hailing service. We know this because there are about 700 spaces in the PTC's huge parking lots, and on any given day a lot of those spaces are either empty, or occupied by cars that have been sitting there for multiple days. But Concord Coach alone was getting about 1,000 boardings a day for its Portland-Boston trips at the end of 2021, when ridership was still low from the pandemic.

Putting a park-and-ride station on the peninsula, with its high land values, makes no sense. It would literally be more cost-effective for the Downeaster to hire a cab to chauffeur you twice from and to Westbrook than to buy the real estate and maintain a parking lot for you store your empty car for the day two blocks away from Maine Medical Center.

I also just want to note that the consultants who produced this study – HNTB – are the same quacks who have convinced the Governor's gullible brother that Mainers should spend a quarter-billion dollars to build a new Turnpike spur to Gorham.

If you design your transit system for people who own cars – i.e. people who don't really need it – in a way that makes it less convenient and attractive for people who don't, then you're setting it up to fail.
 

TC_zoid

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Another important item in this train equation that is not being discussed is the quality of the trains that the passengers ride inside. I was in Zurich this past July and rode a train to Basel (a little over an hour) and kind of did not want to get off. It wasn't really a scenic train but a commuter one, like the Downeaster. Now it wasn't so much the beautiful scenery going by, but the newness of it with different configurations of seating. The seats had a nice color scheme, and the surface was soft but not bulbous like the Downeaster's. It had varying interior floor heights with one section of windows that allowed more viewing space from lower to higher. I can't find photos of it online, though I didn't spend much time doing a search, but I know I wasn't dreaming. I wish I had taken pictures, but my Swiss friend and I were too busy talking to all the friendly people. I felt like I was in a scene from a movie. Use those trains on the Downeaster line with an embellished food car, maybe extend the service to Rockland, and a lot more people are going to ride the train. It could be the Downeaster Coastal Express, a la, The Orient Express (ha). Charge passengers more for the better view seats with QR code food delivery (for tourists and VIP's), and now you have a service that can perhaps break even instead of its high deficit operation. Food and drink are key in experiences today, especially with travel and entertainment. I've seen people sitting in comfortable seating areas (drinking and eating) at several sports stadiums around the U.S. recently, ignoring the live action through the open windows, and instead watching the game on a television screen! (Not VIP suites but more of a VIP area.) And it's not cheap to sit there (up to $400 a ticket). In fact, I got an invite to Minute Maid Park to see the last game of the World Series and a notable VIP bar was charging up to $9,000 a ticket! Crazy. There would still be business class on the train, but an additional kind of VIP one too, so three classes of travel. If people want to pay it, let them. The irony here is, the more you spend on the train the better the chances to make a profit.
 
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