Regional Rail (RUR) & North-South Rail Link (NSRL)

Arlington

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Do they run the same length trains all day or do they run longer trains for Peak?
On MNRR think they're the same length (nice to have single-level EMUs and level boarding!), with the real difference being that during the Peaks, fares are ~25% higher and trains are every 12 to 20 minutes, versus Clockface-ish half-hourly on the weekends* and something close to that weekdays.

*Ok, technically, I'm just reading Mt Kisco on the Harlem Line, but I think it is fairly typical:
 

F-Line to Dudley

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1) Run more, shorter trains (more like the T's 3cars = minimum length)
The T's minimum is 4 cars. On a couple of lines (including Fairmount) it was 5 cars because of problems with minimum sets shunting the track circuits for the signal system. I don't know if the installation of Positive Train Control has loosened up the minimums or not.
 

Arlington

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The T's minimum is 4 cars. On a couple of lines [...] it was 5 [...] for the signal system. I don't know if the installation of Positive Train Control has loosened up the minimums or not.
It sure would be nice if PTC had made shorter trains "visible" to signals, and thereby enabled shorter trains to be "seen"
 

F-Line to Dudley

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It sure would be nice if PTC had made shorter trains "visible" to signals, and thereby enabled shorter trains to be "seen"
That's half of it. The other half is how the brakes are inspected/maintained (i.e. a 4-pack required for fail-safe braking maneuvers at full track speed). The latter isn't a big deal to change. Metro North does 3-car minimums, and Amtrak does 1-car minimums (for some ultra-short Springfield Shuttles that ran before the Hartford Line opened). It might change the inspection schedules to go with smaller minimums, but that's about it.

Makeup of minimum consists isn't that big a deal overall. If you have to close off a car or two on a 4-pack to right-size staffing with ridership, it doesn't really exert any performance penalty for the empty-weight on the set. Locomotive propulsion is way overpowered for the minimums, human weight is a large factor on stuffed sets, and HEP electricity load (the #1 performance killer on long and/or stuffed sets) is greatly reduced when the closed cars are never cycling doors and HVAC is only tasked with maintaining a human-unimpacted constant ambient temp. Plus the amount of service you can provide is more dependent on # of locos and cab cars than the trailer count (which is padded out fleet-wide because of the peak orientation of current service), as you'll always have 1 loco and 1 cab per consist.
 

Codman89

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The T's minimum is 4 cars. On a couple of lines (including Fairmount) it was 5 cars because of problems with minimum sets shunting the track circuits for the signal system. I don't know if the installation of Positive Train Control has loosened up the minimums or not.
I can confirm that 4-car consists have been showing up on the Fairmount line in the past year or two. Rode one this morning, in fact. I can only recall 4-car consists when they're all multi-levels though. If there's any singles, it's a 5-6 car train.
 

Arlington

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Any thoughts on how Gov. Healey’s appointment as State Sec of Transportation of Austin TX head of transportation (a former Boston official) will affect Regional rail?
 

jklo

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Any thoughts on how Gov. Healey’s appointment as State Sec of Transportation of Austin TX head of transportation (a former Boston official) will affect Regional rail?
Maybe the new appointments can sell the vision better but the NSRL is really a State Legislature decision if not Congress/President.
 

JeffDowntown

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Maybe the new appointments can sell the vision better but the NSRL is really a State Legislature decision if not Congress/President.
Exactly. NSRL is only going to happen with a MA Speaker who is on board and a large federal transportation earmark.
 

BeyondRevenue

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Sidebar your honor... it seems like some of our evidence has been tampered with. I was looking at some old NSRL plans and as I had feared, some of the North Point development parcels have absorbed previously spoken for tunnelling turf.
Exhibits A and B...
1672244414154.png

1672244443913.png

Obviously some of the previously-spoken-fors can move, but as the time ticks away, the ease of implementation gets picked away, the cost goes up and my patience in the process wears thin.

Source: http://www.northsouthraillink.org/construction
 

Badusername

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Sidebar your honor... it seems like some of our evidence has been tampered with. I was looking at some old NSRL plans and as I had feared, some of the North Point development parcels have absorbed previously spoken for tunnelling turf.
Exhibits A and B...
View attachment 32292
View attachment 32293
Obviously some of the previously-spoken-fors can move, but as the time ticks away, the ease of implementation gets picked away, the cost goes up and my patience in the process wears thin.

Source: http://www.northsouthraillink.org/construction
Assuming all North Point parcels get developed, does anyone know what the next best portal / staging sites are?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Assuming all North Point parcels get developed, does anyone know what the next best portal / staging sites are?
Theoretically they could temp-claim the Commuter Rail layover tracks on the southerly side of BET for the essentials, and shove those trainsets at the Alewife MOW yard and its long set of tail tracks to Belmont. They did exactly that in the mid-90's when the whole area around BET was razed to build the current maintenance facility. A little ops-fugly, but workable because the Fitchburg Line is very uncongested. The MOW equipment currently at Alewife can be stored in Billerica instead.

Concrete mix could probably be brought in by rail from piles at Everett Terminal. There's plenty of staging space around the gas tanks there. Other stuff like construction offices can probably be staged around Bunker Hill CC and the surrounding industrial park, or at Keolis' New Washington St. offices in the Innerbelt.


All told that's an awful lot of space they were claiming for staging, and Northpoint ownership was spoken-for long before the last NSRL studie(s) were conducted so they had to know this land probably wasn't going to be available in the end. I have to question whether everything on that map is truly necessary, and if not whether they had a pecking order of cuts they could live with. Don't forget there's lots of T-owned space by the south portals, too, for staging.
 

bigeman312

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The North South Rail Link Feasibility Final Report concluded, in 2019, that a full-build North-South Rail Link would increase north-side ridership by 82% and south side ridership by 58% (thank you @Koopzilla24 for the link).

Ridership Projections

I don't have the time or resources to replicate their study in detail, but I wanted to apply those numbers, in a very general sense, to current ridership by line, as of December '22. I hope people find this interesting, or otherwise are able to ignore it. This is not meant to be a rigorous study, but rather showing some data that is interesting to me and a starting point for conversation:

Commuter Rail LineEstimated Daily Ridership, Weekdays 12/5-9, 2022Ridership Multiplied By Side-Specific Projected Increase
Fairmount2,6074,119
Fitchburg5,0659,218
Framingham/Worcester10,62616,789
Franklin/Foxboro7,19711,371
Greenbush2,4173,819
Haverhill5,68210,341
Kingston/Plymouth3,6325,739
Lowell6,41511,675
Middleborough/Lakeville5,7339,058
Needham5,5618,786
Newburyport/Rockport9,25616,846
Providence/Stoughton18,38829,053

Sorting by this basic projected ridership under a full-build North-South Rail Link:

Commuter Rail LineProjected Ridership, North-South Rail Link Full BuildSide
Providence/Stoughton29,053S
Newburyport/Rockport16,846N
Framingham/Worcester16,789S
Lowell11,675N
Franklin/Foxboro11,371S
Haverhill10,341N
Fitchburg9,218N
Middleborough/Lakeville9,058S
Needham8,786S
Kingston/Plymouth5,739S
Fairmount4,119S
Greenbush3,819S

In this scenario, the south side has 85% higher ridership overall than the north side (down from 113% higher today).

Through-Running Line Match-Ups

Next I will match-up through-running lines geographically (to maximize usefulness of through-run ride), while maintainting a 65% margin of error around this 85% south-side ridership surplus, so that each through-running match-up has 20% to 150% south-side ridership surplus.

South Commuter Rail LineProjected RidershipNorth Commuter Rail LineProjected RidershipSouth-Side Ridership Surplus
Framingham/Worcester16,789Newburyport/Rockport16,84652%
Needham8,786""
Franklin/Foxboro11,371Haverhill10,34150%
Fairmount4,119""
Providence/Stoughton29,053Lowell11,675149%
Middleborough/Lakeville9,058Fitchburg9,218102%
Kingston/Plymouth5,739""
Greenbush3,819""

I find this match-up pretty satisfying in a "would look good with crayons on map" kind of way. You have the following match-ups:
  • Framingham/Worcester/Needham matched up with Newburyport/Rockport. So, all Newburyport/Rockport trains stop at South Station and Back Bay, then alternate between continuing via Ruggles or Landsdowne. Meanwhile, all Framingham/Worcester/Needham trains stop at North Station, Salem, Beverly, and points in-between. This set-up forms a new trunk line from Back Bay to Beverly, with frequent service and branching on both ends.
  • Fairmount/Franklin/Foxboro matched up with Haverhill. So, all Haverhill Line trains stop at South Station and Readville, with some running via the Fairmount Line and others running via the NEC, with some terminating at Readville and others continuing on towards Franklin/Foxboro.
  • Providence/Stoughton matched up with Lowell. This is a powerhouse through-run that would provide the perfect framework for extending service to New Hampshire. It's really unfortunate that it's being sand-bagged, because a Manchester-Providece through-run would be amazing.
  • Old_Colony/Greenbush (what I'll call 'South Shore Lines' here) matched up with Fitchburg. So, all South Shore trains stop at North Station, Porter, and continue on to the Fitchburg Line. Meanwhile, all Fitchburg Line trains stop at South Station, JFK/UMass, and Quincy Center before branching.

With South Coast Rail Inclusion

Next, let's consider including South Coast Rail. Pre-COVID, ridership was projected to be 4,400 total daily riders by 2030. Over the last month, Commuter Rail ridership system-wide has been hovering around 70% of Pre-COVID ridership. So, we'll just simply take 70% of this projection and use 3,080 as the new projection. As with the other south-side lines, we'll give a 58% bump in ridership under the North-South Rail Link full-build, bringing us to 4,867 daily riders (disclaimer: this ridership total is for South Coast Rail stations only, and not intermediate stops further north on the line. This disclaimer won't effect the conclusion of which lines to match-up, unless South Coast Rail becomes decoupled from the other South Shore Lines).

After including South Coast Rail, the new south-side ridership surplus is 95%, so maintaining our 65% margin of error, we'll aim to have a 30% to 160% south-side ridership surplus on each through-run match-up.

South Commuter Rail LineProjected RidershipNorth Commuter Rail LineProjected RidershipSouth-Side Ridership Surplus
Framingham/Worcester16,789Newburyport/Rockport16,84652%
Needham8,786""
Franklin11,371Haverhill10,34150%
Fairmount4,119""
Providence/Stoughton29,053Lowell11,675149%
Middleborough/Lakeville9,058Fitchburg9,218155%
Kingston/Plymouth5,739""
Greenbush3,819""
South Coast Rail4,867""

This is still a very clean set-up. South Coast Rail simply joins the other South Shore Lines in through-running onto the Fitchburg Line.

Follow-Up: There is certainly more to do with this analysis, and I plan to continue updating this project. For example, this exercise didn't take into account the theory that "Haverhill/Reading isn't going to be a conjoined line in an NSRL universe ... To go to Haverhill you'll be going by the Wildcat, and anything traversing to Reading is going to be terminating at Reading due to the schedule-brittleness of all that single-track and all those grade crossing clusters." ( - @F-Line to Dudley). That's something I'll factor into the next update on this project.
 
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Koopzilla24

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The North South Rail Link Feasibility Final Report concluded, in 2019, that a full-build North-South Rail Link would increase north-side ridership by 82% and south side ridership by 58% (thank you @Koopzilla24 for the link).

Ridership Projections

I don't have the time or resources to replicate their study in detail, but I wanted to apply those numbers, in a very general sense, to current ridership by line, as of December '22. I hope people find this interesting, or otherwise are able to ignore it. This is not meant to be a rigorous study, but rather showing some data that is interesting to me and a starting point for conversation:

Commuter Rail LineEstimated Daily Ridership, Weekdays 12/5-9, 2022Ridership Multiplied By Side-Specific Projected Increase
Fairmount2,6074,119
Fitchburg5,0659,218
Framingham/Worcester10,62616,789
Franklin/Foxboro7,19711,371
Greenbush2,4173,819
Haverhill5,68210,341
Kingston/Plymouth3,6325,739
Lowell6,41511,675
Middleborough/Lakeville5,7339,058
Needham5,5618,786
Newburyport/Rockport9,25616,846
Providence/Stoughton18,38829,053

Sorting by this basic projected ridership under a full-build North-South Rail Link:

Commuter Rail LineProjected Ridership, North-South Rail Link Full BuildSide
Providence/Stoughton29,053S
Newburyport/Rockport16,846N
Framingham/Worcester16,789S
Lowell11,675N
Franklin/Foxboro11,371S
Haverhill10,341N
Fitchburg9,218N
Middleborough/Lakeville9,058S
Needham8,786S
Kingston/Plymouth5,739S
Fairmount4,119S
Greenbush3,819S

In this scenario, the south side has 85% higher ridership overall than the north side (down from 113% higher today).

Through-Running Line Match-Ups

Next I will match-up through-running lines geographically (to maximize usefulness of through-run ride), while maintainting a 65% margin of error around this 85% south-side ridership surplus, so that each through-running match-up has 20% to 150% south-side ridership surplus.

South Commuter Rail LineProjected RidershipNorth Commuter Rail LineProjected RidershipSouth-Side Ridership Surplus
Framingham/Worcester16,789Newburyport/Rockport16,84652%
Needham8,786""
Franklin/Foxboro11,371Haverhill10,34150%
Fairmount4,119""
Providence/Stoughton29,053Lowell11,675149%
Middleborough/Lakeville9,058Fitchburg9,218102%
Kingston/Plymouth5,739""
Greenbush3,819""

I find this match-up pretty satisfying in a "would look good with crayons on map" kind of way. You have the following match-ups:
  • Framingham/Worcester/Needham matched up with Newburyport/Rockport. So, all Newburyport/Rockport trains stop at South Station and Back Bay, then alternate between continuing via Ruggles or Landsdowne. Meanwhile, all Framingham/Worcester/Needham trains stop at North Station, Salem, Beverly, and points in-between. This set-up forms a new trunk line from Back Bay to Beverly, with frequent service and branching on both ends.
  • Fairmount/Franklin/Foxboro matched up with Haverhill. So, all Haverhill Line trains stop at South Station and Readville, with some running via the Fairmount Line and others running via the NEC, with some terminating at Readville and others continuing on towards Franklin/Foxboro.
  • Providence/Stoughton matched up with Lowell. This is a powerhouse through-run that would provide the perfect framework for extending service to New Hampshire. It's really unfortunate that it's being sand-bagged, because a Manchester-Providece through-run would be amazing.
  • Old_Colony/Greenbush (what I'll call 'South Shore Lines' here) matched up with Fitchburg. So, all South Shore trains stop at North Station, Porter, and continue on to the Fitchburg Line. Meanwhile, all Fitchburg Line trains stop at South Station, JFK/UMass, and Quincy Center before branching.

With South Coast Rail Inclusion

Next, let's consider including South Coast Rail. Pre-COVID, ridership was projected to be 4,400 total daily riders by 2030. Over the last month, Commuter Rail ridership system-wide has been hovering around 70% of Pre-COVID ridership. So, we'll just simply take 70% of this projection and use 3,080 as the new projection. As with the other south-side lines, we'll give a 58% bump in ridership under the North-South Rail Link full-build, bringing us to 4,867 daily riders (disclaimer: this ridership total is for South Coast Rail stations only, and not intermediate stops further north on the line. This disclaimer won't effect the conclusion of which lines to match-up, unless South Coast Rail becomes decoupled from the other South Shore Lines).

After including South Coast Rail, the new south-side ridership surplus is 95%, so maintaining our 65% margin of error, we'll aim to have a 30% to 160% south-side ridership surplus on each through-run match-up.

South Commuter Rail LineProjected RidershipNorth Commuter Rail LineProjected RidershipSouth-Side Ridership Surplus
Framingham/Worcester16,789Newburyport/Rockport16,84652%
Needham8,786""
Franklin11,371Haverhill10,34150%
Fairmount4,119""
Providence/Stoughton29,053Lowell11,675149%
Middleborough/Lakeville9,058Fitchburg9,218155%
Kingston/Plymouth5,739""
Greenbush3,819""
South Coast Rail4,867""

This is still a very clean set-up. South Coast Rail simply joins the other South Shore Lines in through-running onto the Fitchburg Line.

Follow-Up: There is certainly more to do with this analysis, and I plan to continue updating this project. For example, this exercise didn't take into account the theory that "Haverhill/Reading isn't going to be a conjoined line in an NSRL universe ... To go to Haverhill you'll be going by the Wildcat, and anything traversing to Reading is going to be terminating at Reading due to the schedule-brittleness of all that single-track and all those grade crossing clusters." ( - @F-Line to Dudley). That's something I'll factor into the next update on this project.
What I wouldn’t know how to estimate but is interesting to think about are the weekend and holiday ridership implications of NSRL and certain throughrunning pairings. Running Worcester Line trains straight to Rockport means a one seat ride to Salem and back for the second largest city in New England and about a further few hundred thousand residents directly served by the line. The Halloween season would likely see a huge jump in ridership from this alone without factoring in all the other south side lines with a single transfer at north station now possible.
 

Riverside

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There is a technical term called "SWAG". This post will be highly SWAGful.

The 2019 NSRL Feasibility Reassessment made the bizarre choice (one among its many bizarre choices) to do cost estimates that pretty wildly failed to be apples-to-apples when comparing the two-track vs four-track Central Artery alternatives:

1674488974484.png


In addition to doubling the number of tracks and adding a resultant second portal, they also added a third station (and did so literally as a parenthetical). As far as I can tell, no justification is given for adding Central Station to the four-track but not the two-track alternative. Unsurprisingly, the four-track total costs they present are wildly higher than all other alternatives:

1674489184947.png


Of note: the four-track alt is the only alignment they evaluated which includes a South Bay portal to provide NSRL access to Fairmount service. While I could probably be convinced of the usefulness of a two-track NSRL rather than four-track (obviously preferring four-track), imagining an NSRL without a Fairmount connection seems like a total non-starter to me, for a host of reasons.

What I'd actually like to see are estimates of:
  • 2-track 2-station 2-southern portals alt ("2-2-2")
  • 4-track 2-station 2-southern portals alt ("4-2-2")
So let's do some SWAGging...

Portals: this one is weird. All four alternatives are estimated at roughly $680M ± $8M. Despite being a 33% increase, adding a fourth portal at South Bay only seems to increase the cost by 1%.

In fact, looking through the document, as far as I can tell there is no reference to a South Bay portal at all in the costing estimates.

Setting that aside, for the sake of conversation, let's assume that the $680M figure is valid for three portals (Back Bay, Fitchburg Line, Lowell/NR Line). A 33% increase to four portals brings us to $904M, or $226M per portal.

Stations: the two-track CA alt estimates $445M for what is essentially two stations (North Station + South Station in 1 tunnel) -- $222.5M per station. The four-track alt estimates $1345M, which seems high but is in fact almost exactly the same cost per station, since this alt is essentially six stations (North + Central + South, each with stations in 2 tunnels) -- $224M per station.

Tracks + Tunneling: these figures seems broadly reasonable. The two-track alt estimates $1003M, and the four-track estimates a bit more than twice that at $2384M (probably attributable to the increased complexity of the flying junctions at the northern end). Per mile, that's $371M per tunnel-mile for the two-track and $433M for the four-track -- let's call it $400M per tunnel-mile. The trackwork looks like it is about $38M per track-mile.

Risk Allowances:
for all four tunnel alternatives, multiplying the estimated Direct Costs by 362% seems to land you remarkably close to the Assessment's estimated Final Costs.

Adjusting the costs: (some of the addition is slightly off due to rounding, but I think it should "only" be $5M, give or take)

Adjusting the two-track estimate to include a second southern portal and an extra .63 miles of tunnel to South Bay:
  • Tunneling: $1002M --> +$252M = $1254M
  • Stations: $446M
  • Trackwork: $104M --> +$24M = $128M
  • Portals: $680M --> +$226M = $906M
  • Allowances: $146M
  • Layover Facilities: $34M
Original direct cost total: $2412M
Adjusted direct cost total: $2914M

Total estimated cost for "2-2-2" alt: $10.5B


Adjusting the four-track estimate to exclude Central Station (and apparently add a second southern portal):
  • Tunneling: $2384M
  • Stations: $1346M --> -$448M = $898M
  • Trackwork: $207M
  • Portals: $680M --> +$226M = $906M
  • Allowances: $151M
  • Layover Facilities: $34M
Original direct cost total: $4809M
Adjusted direct cost total: $4580M

Total estimated cost for "4-2-2" alt: $16.6B

(If it turns out I'm wrong about the costs for the South Bay portal being missing, you can knock $818M off of the "4-2-2" alt, for $15.8B.)


~~~

Knowing nothing else about the project, using a general estimate of $1B per route mile (broadly consistent with data from other projects, see also their appendix) in direct costs, the 2-2-2 would be estimated 2.7+.6 = 3.3 route-miles --> ~$3.3B; the 4-2-2 alt would be 2.7+2.8 = 5.5 route-miles --> $5.5B. Those estimates are generally in line with the most detail estimates above (prior to applying the risk/contingency multiplier).

So, to be clear, these estimates are indeed SWAGs -- ultimately wild ass guesses, but with at least some data and logic in support.
 
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Riverside

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This was the Baker & Company patented Tankapalooza (TM), right?
Yes indeed. So who the hell knows how to interpret it. That being said, as I alluded to toward the end, the numbers themselves aren't necessarily wholly unbelievable -- total project cost based on tunnel-miles is a very coarse measurement, but even at the low end of that range (recall that the Second Avenue Subway is seeing costs of $2.5B per mile, so $1B is very modest) the Direct Costs are not wildly implausible.

The 362% contingency multiplier, now that seems ripe for shenanigans. And costs aside, there are a whole bunch of Big Picture things that were of course wild about the study (e.g. specifically excluding Fairmount Electrification from scope all-the-while including costs for dual modes, full-through-end-to-end pairmatching, etc etc), so I see shenanigans there.

Finally, there are a host of small things that I keep noticing on closer review:
  • the aforementioned parenthetical Central Station
  • the aforementioned disappearing South Bay portal (really, that is absolutely wild)
  • the off-hand remark about, like, needing to build a new platform under the current Back Bay Station in order to connect to the Fram/Wor Line??? (Blink and you'll miss it)
It really is a bizarre document.
 

Teban54

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Question: What are the actual benefits of having a Central Station, and how likely is it to be worth the cost?

My understanding is that it's closer to the Financial District and offers better connection to the Blue Line (assuming North Station isn't relocated to State-Haymarket). Anything I'm missing?
 

Tallguy

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Question: What are the actual benefits of having a Central Station, and how likely is it to be worth the cost?

My understanding is that it's closer to the Financial District and offers better connection to the Blue Line (assuming North Station isn't relocated to State-Haymarket). Anything I'm missing?
Some of us advocate for a two station(SS and State St to Haymarket
 

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