Pittsfield - New York City Service Study (via Albany)

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Pittsfield - New York City Service Study (via Albany)

Postby Jeff Smith » Fri May 26, 2017 9:31 am

It looks like the Housatonic part of this is dead, so I'm creating a separate topic. The general Housatonic thread where this was previously discussed is here:

Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfield)

I'm starting the thread here vs. in Amtrak (I'll cross-thread it anyway) because it's possible the service won't be Amtrak. It may be a connection at Albany, or it may be an extension of a current Empire train.

Here's the post from the Housy thread:

Looking west instead of south: [url=http://www.iberkshires.com/story/54652/State-Senate-Accepts-Amendment-To-Study-Passenger-Rail-to-New-York-.htmliberkshires.com[/url]

So it looks like the state is giving up on the Housy because CtDOT is not interested.

Brief, fair-use:

State Senate Accepts Amendment To Study Passenger Rail to New York
...
Some four years ago, former Gov. Deval Patrick had pushed a plan to purchase and upgrade the Housatonic Rail line and the state followed through with purchasing and starting to perform upgrades. That line was eyed to go south to Connecticut and into New York City.

"Connecticut has indicated a lack of interest in upgrading their tracks," Hinds said of the current state of that plan.

Hinds' amendment will now ask to consider other options, particularly looking at heading west and connecting with the current Amtrak lines south of Albany, N.Y.

"This one in particular is a direct Berkshires to New York," Hinds said. "This is essentially laying out a strategy of how we get there."
...
A second component of the bill is to have consideration given to implementing seasonal passenger rail services. In 2013, a program was started to run extra trains from Boston to Cape Cod during the tourism season. Hinds is looking to replicate that successful program in the Berkshires.

The amendment requires the study to be done between this October and completed by next March. The working group must also included the mayor of Pittsfield, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, and existing rail stakeholders.
...
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby TomNelligan » Fri May 26, 2017 11:02 am

Don't hold your breath. Our politicians here in Massachusetts love to fund endless "studies" so they can claim to their constituents that they're actually doing something useful. Meanwhile the MBTA transit infrastructure is falling apart, but fixing that will take real money rather than window dressing, so nothing substantive happens.
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby Greg Moore » Fri May 26, 2017 11:07 am

I've argued for something like this for awhile.

Yes, I'd love (and think eventually there will be) passenger service on the Housy someday, but not under the current management, that's all pie in the sky.

As an alternative for awhile I've said there should be expanded service east of Albany. I think it would be fairly easy to add a Boston-ALB train that ran basically in the morning each way.
And include a stop in Chatham NY.

There's not a HUGE amount of traffic here and CSX will object, but I think there's definitely a market.
When my father was still alive, there's more than once I'd have considered a train from ALB to Pittsfield (especially when in college).

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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri May 26, 2017 11:20 am

note that study only involves Mass, and not Ct or NY neither of last two have any interest.
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat May 27, 2017 6:30 am

This one, at least, isn't a pipe dream being on all-existing signalized passenger track that doesn't need much of the way in upgrades, with mileage past ALB and overall ridership served similar to the ongoing advocacy for a more robust schedule of NYP-Saratoga Springs directs. I much doubt this study is going to be taken seriously, because it smells like a way for the current MA administration to carve a graceful exit from the previous Governor's Housy white elephant...so my only gripe would be that it's a waste of paper to expend resources on things they're too flip to follow up on in any way. But the service proposal itself is real-world realistic enough for a proper study.


Pittsfield has a population of 45,000 and is the hub for Berkshire Regional Transit Authority: https://www.berkshirerta.com/PDF/BRTA-s ... %20Fnl.pdf. All of Berkshire County's population pockets--from Great Barrington to the south and Adams/North Adams to the north--have fixed-route service to the main BRTA hub at the existing Amtrak station, with bus fares payable by a stock MBTA CharlieCard. As with most funding-starved Regional Transit Authorities the frequencies could be a little better, run a little later in the evening, and be a bit less anemic on weekends (no Sunday service, per usual for Massachusetts RTA's). But BRTA has a pretty impressively robust weekday route network given Berkshire County's remoteness and ties together far Western MA's density pockets and destinations quite effectively. It's functional transit people actually use, in an area where you wouldn't think there'd be much in the way of functional transit.

For example, Adams & North Adams make up the county's second-largest population center with North Adams hosting its own BRTA hub of originating routes...but it's separated from Pittsfield on US 7 by a couple dozen miles of nothing. BRTA Route 1 runs hourly on the :30's to/from Pittsfield Intermodal Ctr. and North Adams, putting the two BRTA hubs and all the local Pittsfield & Adams/NA -fanning routes within two seats of each other all day long. Pittsfield Intermodal, in addition to hosting the Lake Shore Ltd., also takes a few Greyhound, Peter Pan, and Bonanza buses that divert off the Mass Pike for a local stop on the heavy ALB-SPR intercity bus conveyor belt. Because North Adams itself is way out of stop range for any of the intercity buses, BRTA Route 1 gets a lot of patronage as connecting seat to the intercity schedules in Pittsfield.

A NYP-Pittsfield train would have reliable means of estimating ridership because of the pre-existing transit connections that are a lot more robust than you'd normally find in a market that small, and if the study were serious enough about optimizing the Amtrak catchment they'd treat BRTA schedule increases as part of the mix to amplify with more frequencies the effects of how the local buses already get used. Will that study out to be enough ridership? I don't know; that's the whole point of crunching the numbers. But it's definitely not the stuff of voodoo to benchmark an accurate picture, especially if the intermodal component @ Pittsfield is treated holistically by the study.

(I'm not sure what Chatham and any other NY intermediate stops--Niverville???--would have in the way of local transportation. Obviously point-in-favor if there's any local connections there strengthening the catchment on each post-ALB stop on the route.)


As for track upgrades, the Schodack-Pittsfield portion of the B&A is not nearly congested enough to require additional tracks and already has a decent-length span of couple miles of DT around East Chatham. The grades west of Pittsfield don't put any strain on the freight schedules and this would be too few new trains to complicate dispatching enough to require any extra iron. Passenger upgrades would mainly be uprating the track maintenance class from Class 3 to 4 by doing the same rail destressing job that the MBTA did from Framingham to Worcester upon taking over track ownership from CSX. The line was sufficiently overbuilt when it was reconstructed by Conrail and cab signaled in the mid-80's to easily support an in-situ class uprate, but they opted for the lower maintenance class so summer heat restrictions were less of a variable on the freight schedule (hence, the need for destressing the rail to go to a more passenger-appropriate class). The line would already have the CSX-paid I-ETMS freight PTC installation (presumably also used by the BOS-flank Lake Shore Ltd. west of WOR/SPR???), and unlike the ACSES co-install that MassDOT would fund Worcester-Springfield for the large Inland Route passenger schedule this is going to be too few additional passenger trains to bother with anything beyond the freight I-ETMS. ALB's diesel pool will already be well-stocked with I-ETMS units for use outside of ACSES territory on CSX on the Water Level Route and CP on the D&H North.
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby QB 52.32 » Sat May 27, 2017 8:37 am

There's only 4.6 miles of double iron over 41.2 miles of railroad between Pittsfield and the Schodack: sure seems to me the likelihood of CSX requiring additional double track is quite high should this become reality. Additionally, the mid-1980's capital improvement was driven by an outdated block signal system leading to single tracking and implementation of cab signals, but nothing to do with track class. In terms of of capacity, as someone familiar with the simulations and resulting B&A configuration, the railroad was not overbuilt when single-tracked. Also, keep in mind this is the "trunk" of CSX's New England franchise: long-haul, plenty of premium-rated traffic, middle-size market.
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby scoostraw » Sat May 27, 2017 12:35 pm

Anyone else surprised that CT is just plain not interested ??
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat May 27, 2017 1:54 pm

No. The Housy proposal offered absolutely nothing for them, and was a Massachusetts-centric project where majority of costs were projected on CT's back. Gov. Malloy was incredibly nonplussed with Gov. Patrick for hyping this turkey without consulting south of the border, and it basically stopped all communication between the two states on settling up the relatively few cross-state remainders for the Hartford Line buildout such as the Armory Jct. layover that still hasn't been funded.

CDOT has obviously studied the New Milford extension of the Danbury Branch to death, and that does offer slam-dunk benefits because suburban Brookfield and New Milford commutes are a living hell via the truncated Super 7 expressway. But north of New Milford the US 7 corridor is uncongested, highly rural, and the small bits of density pockets from Kent and points north are all in easy driving distance to Upper Harlem Line stops where MNRR service is already fast and frequent. Parking lots from Valley-Wingdale to Wassaic are already chock full of Constitution State license plates on any given day because of how closely the two corridors parallel each other north of Candlewood Lake. And travel times via Upper Harlem park-and-ride slay the absolute tippy-top that NYNH&H passenger service ever achieved on the Berkshire Line because of the extremely curvy ROW shaped by the river. The unmodified Upper Harlem today, plus driving time to the P&R lots, beats the billion-dollar Berkshire rebuild on walk-up travel time and achievable frequencies in every conceivable scenario. So there is absolute zero real-world mobility gain to Litchfield County in poking a passenger train north of downtown New Milford. Excellent corridor for an excursion train through pretty country run out of Danbury Rail Museum or Berkshire Scenic if HRCC were gone and the damage from their reign were rolled back...totally inappropriate for commuter or regional rail anywhere north of the Super 7 commute.

The only coverage gap CT would benefit from is a Wassaic-Millerton extension of the Upper Harlem where the easy drive down US 44 is very convenient to North Canaan, the only density pocket in CT that's currently a tad too long a drive for effective transit access. And despite being at the bottom of MNRR's expansion bucket list that one isn't too huge a reach to to envision happening someday, though the real-world 50/50 CT patronage unfortunately can't lend the MTA a helping hand on funding from across the state line. If interstate cooperation were a little easier to swing, then state line-crossing bus service from the towns to the nearest Upper Harlem stops would be the best-of-all-worlds solve for the last-mile problem from the villages on the CT side of the border and would cost peanuts to operate. They don't need to seek a rail solution to get car-free or car-few commutes to NYC.


Berkshire Line at least has a unique catchment in MA, since the Berkshire and Upper Harlem ROW's sharply diverge again after Millerton. But US 7 south of the Mass Pike just isn't where Berkshire County's population is. City of Pittsfield (~45K) and the bordering trio of City of North Adams (~14K), Town of Adams (~9K), and Town of Williamstown (~8K) all connected by regular bus service to Pittsfield Intermodal are 57% of the county's population. Include the towns spanning Pittsfield and the Mass Pike down US 7/US 20 and MA 8--Dalton, Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge--and that chucks in another 21K giving the Pittsfield and North Adams clusters >70% of the county's population. Great Barrington (~7K), a nifty little tourist spot, is the only town between Pittsfield and North Caanan, CT that constitutes any sort of density spike...and the surrounding towns are so much smaller that the ridership catchment wouldn't so much as total that of the Mass Pike towns on the drive between Exit 2 and City of Pittsfield. So it was a hella weak proposal even in MA for ridership catchment on a schedule so incredibly slow even at billion-dollar best-case. Throw on top the utter zero it was in CT and the whole thing made no sense whatsoever.

The easiest way to tie in Great Barrington would be to run this B&A service and increase the BRTA district subsidy so Route 21 and 21 Express run a whole lot more frequently between Pittsfield and GB. Strengthen that link to something halfway as robust as the North Adams-Pittsfield fixed route schedules and you've got adequate transit coverage to Pittsfield Intermodal from across the county. And you'd have lower travel times to NYP via ALB + the bus ride to Pittsfield Intermodal from any of the density pockets in the county than you'd have even with a local Berkshire Line stop right in downtown Great Barrington, because the best historically achievable travel times on that curvy corridor were just that poor.


Literally nothing explains previous Gov. Deval Patrick's enthusiasm for the Housy project, except that his Richmond mansion is located down the street from Tanglewood Music Center about 4-1/2 miles from Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum's Lenox stop on the Berkshire...and he does a lot of lobbying in NYC since leaving office.
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby TomNelligan » Sat May 27, 2017 4:36 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Literally nothing explains previous Gov. Deval Patrick's enthusiasm for the Housy project, except that his Richmond mansion is located down the street from Tanglewood Music Center about 4-1/2 miles from Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum's Lenox stop on the Berkshire...and he does a lot of lobbying in NYC since leaving office.


Maybe, but I saw it more as Deval throwing a bone to western Mass legislators whose support he needed for other projects.
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby merrick1 » Sat May 27, 2017 5:22 pm

I lived in Pittsfield until about 25 years ago. I always drove to Dover Plains and took MetroNorth from there. It worked for me. There were always cars with Mass. plates in the lot at Dover Plains.

Now with train service extended to Wassaic the drive is shorter and there is plenty of parking. NY Route 22 is not congested. The speed limit is 55 most of the way. There are only two towns where you have to slow down, Millerton and Amenia. Drive time is about 1 1/2 hours from Pittsfield

Metro North service has been improved. There are through trains to Grand Central in peak hours. The schedule is a little over two hours.
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat May 27, 2017 6:38 pm

As much as I like pasenger trains this scheme will not work at least not without a huge cost. Every inch of track between Pittsfield and Danbury needs a serious upgrading in order to run 40 - 50 MPH on it and even at that a bus can probably do just as well on route 22 and the 22, 23 and US-7 combo to reach from Wassaic to Pittsfield. Housatonic would take the states for all that they are worth and still want more. Forget about trains to Pittsfield. As for running New York - Pittsfield via Albany, that is even worse, an extra 50 plus miles and a reverse move would be involved at Rensselaer, six hours by train for a trip that could be done by bus in maybe four hours tops. Oh well, lets study this one and spend some more money, let the folks know that we are doing something and then after a while they have wasted even more on a useless study and still no trains.
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby scoostraw » Sun May 28, 2017 8:54 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Gov. Malloy was incredibly nonplussed with Gov. Patrick for hyping this turkey without consulting south of the border, and it basically stopped all communication between the two states on settling up the relatively few cross-state remainders for the Hartford Line buildout such as the Armory Jct. layover that still hasn't been funded.

This is the only thing that doesn't make any sense to me. What was Patrick thinking??
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby J.D. Lang » Sun May 28, 2017 9:35 am

The drive to Wassaic from where I live in NW Conn. is easy, the parking is plentiful, and the train service to NYC from Wassaic is very good. CT. needs to get on with the Danbury New Milford extension. No more studies!

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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby scoostraw » Sun May 28, 2017 9:37 am

Noel Weaver wrote:As for running New York - Pittsfield via Albany, that is even worse, an extra 50 plus miles and a reverse move would be involved at Rensselaer...

Was the connector to the B&A at Castleton always one-way? Or was there a wye at one time?
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Re: Pittsfield - New York City Service Study

Postby scoostraw » Sun May 28, 2017 9:40 am

J.D. Lang wrote:needs to get on with the Danbury New Milford extension.

What in the world is the holdup with that anyway?
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