VT Burlington - Montpelier - St. Albans Commuter Rail

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby GP40MC1118 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:38 am

One of the TRE Budds is ex-B&M RDC-1 6110. Now TRE 2005.

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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby Rockingham Racer » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:28 pm

I have read elsewhere the term "commuter rail" for this service is a misnomer. It has been called "regional rail" by the organizers. Just thought I'd mention that. :wink:
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby BandA » Sat Apr 22, 2017 2:03 am

So the doors are the correct width? Don't have to worry about ADA bathrooms if there aren't any. I'm confused, is PTC more required in VT than it is on the Downeaster?

Shunting...I read the NYC added tread brakes to improve wheel conductivity. You could add various shoes or wheels, and you can even instrument the car to test the impedance in real time, alerting the dispatcher & train crew automatically and stopping the train prior to any grade crossing.

So that leaves only the lack of buff strength, which is grandfathered. Collisions between trains are rare. Collisions at grade crossings are worrisome. Maybe they cordon off the first several rows, using that area for baggage/bikes/skis.

Can PTC equipment be easily bolted on? Then removed & transferred to other trains?

Electrical cabinets can be relocated.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:02 am

It's not the PTC equipment on the RDC's. That's easy to install, and the per-unit costs aren't onerous. You could install PTC on a 1920's Valley Railroad steam engine without much difficulty if you really wanted to, run it into Old Saybrook station on the NEC, and be in complete 100% compliance with the law.

It's the lineside installation that's the fatal catch. Addition of this service triggers the PTC mandate on the Conn River Line because the number of daily passenger trains exceeds the limit for a PTC exemption. You must spend 8 figures installing PTC on the line, and also equipping freight locos from PAS, NECR, and VRS with it too. And, if this schedule runs north of WRJ, a CTC signal system installation in NECR dark territory becomes mandatory for handling the freight meets at automated passing sidings...even if by some reason the schedule there can stay under the PTC trigger. Now you're talking a good $50-80M in signal costs over 100+ track miles across the state, solely because this private service stuck its nose in the mix. There's nothing a rebrand as "excursion" service can do to escape that. This is all-new service, not VRS-Green Mountain asking permission to cross the Bellows Falls diamond with a schedule revival of one of its on-again/off-again ski excursions. And, after throwing Amtrak on the pile, 5 carriers at once get entangled in the trigger induced by that one new upstart. So now Pan Am's challenge of the mandate in District 2 of its system becomes fodder for the Conn River, and who-pays-what gets ensnared in the PAS/NECR trackage rights dispute in front of the STB right now. Downeaster isn't comparable, because that murky and unsettled situation in NH/ME involves frequencies that pre-dated the mandate. This would be an all-new triggering where the frequency trigger was set by the law, and somebody voluntarily came in afterwards and chose to trigger it by adding frequencies.


Who's going to pay for this? Who's going to mediate the disputes? The FRA will set a deadline for the install (not 12/31/2020 like incumbent service, but some schedule for new triggers that's most likely 5 years forward from a ratified STB trackage rights agreement). And if no progress is made amongst the warring factions towards that set deadline, threatened suspension of Vermonter service becomes first casualty of the stalemate. Meaning, if the warring freight landlords don't reject the private proposal out-of-hand and end up deadlocking themselves, this whole thing gets dumped in VTrans' lap to bail out.

VTrans has already plotted these signaling costs with the NNEIRI north-of-Springfield study options, and what its options are for Vermonter expansion if it has to spread that signal funding out in tiny increments. They, their NNEIRI partners CT and MA, Amtrak, and the congressional delegations of these states who negotiated the Canadian Customs preclearance treaty to give this study some juice...are going to be none to pleased by some fly-by-night private org coming in from left field, sticking its finger in, and claiming "Dibs!" It upsets their whole funding schedule and contingencies for delayed funding to have a crisis induced immediately that drags 5 oft-warring carriers into potential dispute and puts the onus on the underfunded public agencies to bail it out.

That's going to be seen as hostile action by VTrans. And Genessee & Wyoming knows that they owe all of NECR's infrastructure to VTrans and Amtrak $$$, so if this provokes a bad reaction from the state or threatens the NNEIRI's methodical plans there's no way they're going to return this private carrier's phone calls in due time. Even if NECR is feigning interest right this second just to assess leverage.


Now, I'm sure this private org that already put down money for a fleet could never be so naive to not know that their proposal automatically triggers the PTC mandate. That's not plausible at all; by timing alone they're clearly riding the coattails of the NNEIRI's recently published work. But you also have to ask yourself what their risk is if triggering $50M+ in signal investment instantly implodes the project, as it almost certainly will? How many other carriers nationally could use TRE's ready-to-run commuter RDC's, especially if they've already been previously modded for interior ADA? Quite a few. If playing the provocateur with somebody else paying for the PTC they trigger doesn't work in Vermont, the worst that could happen is that they recoup most of their money spent making a name for themselves by re-selling the TRE fleet to someone else as an equipment broker. Not big stakes at all.

So beware that this may not necessarily be laying it all out on the line as boldly as it appears, even if this outfit by virtue of owning the assets comes in a bit higher on the credibility spectrum than a couple other recent snake oil attempts in New England. There's always going to be someone looking to bootstrap onto recent public investment in passenger service with a low-odds Hail Mary play, and oversell its viability because that's the only move they have. It's not necessarily good, bad, or neutral. It's just business. And business isn't going to take suicidal risks, whether it's a zit-sized upstart looking to disruptively innovate its way into the region or a Genesee & Wyoming being risk-averse to biting the public hand that feeds it. There are other business endgames here that don't involve commuter service ultimately running in VT with RDC's and a coalition of happy stakeholders paying for the PTC install.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby BandA » Sat Apr 22, 2017 9:43 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Now, I'm sure this private org that already put down money for a fleet could never be so naive to not know that their proposal automatically triggers the PTC mandate. That's not plausible at all; by timing alone they're clearly riding the coattails of the NNEIRI's recently published work.
Actually, naiveté is the most likely explanation.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby Fritz » Sat Apr 22, 2017 12:55 pm

Hello,
Just to clarify some details and focus the discussion somewhat ... the "proposed" service using the RDCs would occur only between Montpelier Junction and St. Albans and possibly Essex Junction and Burlington. Thus, the entire route includes only one ownership (GWI via NECR) and one freight operator (NECR). VRS and PAR do not operate on these routes, but Amtrak does.

Between Montpelier Junction and Essex Junction, there are two Amtrak trains and two NECR freight trains most days.

Between Essex Junction and St. Albans, there are two Amtrak trains and as many as six NECR freight trains (four of these are the two turns that operate between St. Albans and the Burlington Branch) most days.

Between Essex Junction and Burlington, there are only at most four NECR freight trains each day (counting each turn as two trains).

I do not know the PTC requirements, so I don't know what level of new passenger service would require that PTC be installed, but, as noted, that would be a big expense.

So, unfortunately, we are not discussing added passenger service along the Connecticut River line either north or south of White River Junction, where VRS and PAS would become factors. I wish we were.

As to why AllEarth has purchased the RDCs prior to any agreement to start this new service, I have no explanation or understanding. It doesn't make sense to me, but they may well know something that I do not know.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby BandA » Sat Apr 22, 2017 7:30 pm

They probably bought them because 1) the price was right and 2) they aren't making any more RDC and 3) it's one variable that they can control. Would suck to line up the ROW and stations, then find out purchasing the rolling stock has a six-eight year lead time.

Would I be correkt in assuming that rolling stock is probably a much smaller part of a passenger project than train crews or track costs, and depending how you build them, the stations.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby electricron » Sun Apr 23, 2017 7:30 pm

The ex-DART RDCs are fully ADA compliant, have been since 1996! Both TRE and DCTA used mini-highs to facilitate level boarding. They avoid the ADA restroom requirement by not having restrooms at all. Both TRE and DCTA used two to man them; the engineer (driver) and the conductor (attendant).
While they were rebuilt in 1996; torn down to their steel frames and stainless steel body completely rebuilt. They will require a thorough inspection before being placed into service, including the various locomotive inspections.

Besides being used for excursions, they will require PTC implementation before being used on a regular commuter rail service. Cost to implement PTC depends upon which vendor equipment is used. The major cost of implementing PTC will be trackside. Increasing Amtrak services as planned for the future would have probably tripped its requirements anyways. The State should just fund PTC implementation anyways, hopefully with an equal share of funding from the FRA for Amtrak.

Who runs and maintains the new commuter rail service should be determined with a RFI and RFP. Maybe the local freight train operators will bid, but there will be other vendors bidding anyways. A PPP arrangement may be the best way to implement commuter rail service with so little recent experience running passenger trains. I strongly believe $300 million cost to implement commuter rail service was too high. It was based upon not only running local commuter train services, but also included costs to expand intercity Amtrak services too. There's no reason why Vermont couldn't implement a start up commuter rail service for less than $100 million.

The major impediment I see today for startup of commuter rail services is installing crossing gates and signals for at grade street crossings. While the commuter railroad agency (or state) might be faced with capital costs for their construction, usually it's the local communities that are tasked with the costs of maintaining them. Quiet zone implementation will have to be addressed, whether to do them and who will pay for it?

Montiplier to Essex Junction is only 22 rail miles in length. A train averaging a speed of 30 mph should be able to travel that distance in 44 minutes. DCTA runs approximately the same distance, could easily run 30 minute headways on a single track line with 3 passing sidings during peak hours with just 8 RDCs, and used 3 other RDCs for non-peak hour service and maintenance standby.

Did AllEarth Rail finalize the sale of 2 of their 12 RDCs to TriMet? If they did, that still leaves them with 10 RDCs, which should be able to provide services at a slightly lower service levels than DCTA. Maybe just 1 hour headways, or no non-peak services.

To add, AllEarth Rail apparantly bought 2 RDC-2s last year from a Canadian vendor, so even with the sale of 2 of the 12 RDC-1s from TRE to TriMet, they will still have 10 RDC-1s and 2 RDC-2s, 12 RDCs in total.
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Re: VT Burlington - Montpelier - St. Albans Commuter Rail

Postby electricron » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:56 pm

Per https://vtdigger.org/2017/04/23/blitter ... ter-train/
AllEarth Rail bought two (2) RDCs last year from a Canadian firm. These are RDC-2 models (baggage compartments models). With the 10 RDC-1 models (all chair models) coming from the TRE (or DART), they will have 12 RDCs on hand. That's enough to run four trains with three cars, or six trains with two cars.

The RDC-1 from TRE after refurbishment had 88 seats and 8 flip seats with space for 4 wheelchairs at the flip seats locations. Before refurbishment, they had up to 96 seats, so two rows of seats (4 seats per row) was removed from each car. Therefore, a two RDC car trains using the -1 model, should be able to seat 176 passengers and 4 more in wheelchairs. The -2 models will have less seats, but the baggage area could be used to accommodate bike racks.

I think the line that should attract the highest ridership runs between downtown Burlington to downtown Montpelier, with trains running in both directions. The other possible commuter rail routes, towards St. Albans and Rutland, should be implemented later. The 8 miles of rails between downtown Burlington and Essex Junction will have to be refurbished before commencing rail service, it shouldn't take more than $2 million per mile to replace the rails and ties, but grade crossing signals and gates will have to be installed, and they aren't as cheap as many think they are.
Last edited by electricron on Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: VT Burlington - Montpelier - St. Albans Commuter Rail

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Apr 24, 2017 3:28 pm

Already have a more up-to-date thread on this: viewtopic.php?f=126&t=165158
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby electricron » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:12 pm

B&M 1227 wrote:I believe this section of VTR and NECR is unsignalled paper railroad. I forget what the qualifications of PTC is... something about 12 or more trains per day? Is there a speed requirement? Is it required on all upstart rail service?

From https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/49/236.1019
49 CFR 236.1019 - Main line track exceptions.

(c)Limited operations exception. FRA will consider an exception in the case of a track segment used for limited operations (operating in accordance with § 236.0 of this part) under one of the following sets of conditions:

(1) The trackage is used for limited operations by at least one passenger railroad subject to at least one of the following conditions:
(i) All trains are limited to restricted speed;
(ii) Temporal separation of passenger and other trains is maintained as provided in paragraph (e) of this section; or
(iii) Passenger service is operated under a risk mitigation plan submitted by all railroads involved in the joint operation and approved by FRA. The risk mitigation plan must be supported by a risk assessment establishing that the proposed mitigations will achieve a level of safety not less than the level of safety that would obtain if the operations were conducted under paragraph (c)(1) or (c)(2) of this section.

(2) Passenger service is operated on a segment of track of a freight railroad that is not a Class I railroad on which less than 15 million gross tons of freight traffic is transported annually and on which one of the following conditions applies:
(i) If the segment is unsignaled and no more than four regularly scheduled passenger trains are operated during a calendar day, or
(ii) If the segment is signaled (e.g., equipped with a traffic control system, automatic block signal system, or cab signal system) and no more than 12 regularly scheduled passenger trains are operated during a calendar day.


(3) Not more than four passenger trains per day are operated on a segment of track of a Class I freight railroad on which less than 15 million gross tons of freight traffic is transported annually.

Briefly and simply, 4 scheduled passenger trains per day is the limit for sections of tracks having less than 15 Million gross tons per year - Class I railroad or less. For less than Class I railroads, 4 scheduled passenger trains per day for unsignaled tracks, 12 scheduled passenger trains per day for tracks with block signal controls.

The tracks in question don't have block signals, therefore the 4 passenger trains per day limit. I'm assuming they have less than 15 million tons of freight service, but I'll admit I don't know how much there is. What I do know, is that 4 passenger trains per day increases to 12 passenger trains per day just by adding block signals to the affected tracks.

Amtrak runs 2 scheduled trains over the tracks in question, a single round trip. Adding just one commuter train round trip over the same tracks makes 4 scheduled trains. By adding block signals, the commuter trains could run a total of 5 round trips. Additionally, the section of tracks west of Essex Junction to Burlington doesn't have an Amtrak train on it now. So it would be possible to run 2 round trips commuter trains over it, with 1 round trip heading north towards St. Albans, and 1 round trip heading southeast towards Montpelier. Likewise, by routing the trains in a similar manner, with signal blocks installed, there could be 6 round trips of commuter rail running between Burlington and Essex Junction. Each Amtrak train round trip between St. Albans and Montpelier removes a potential round trip heading in each direction (north and southeast) from Burlington.
Block signals will be much cheaper to implement than Postive Train Control. I'm thinking 3 round trips commuter rail per day in each direction from Burlington, allowing 2 commuter rail round trips between St. Albans and Montpellier (or 3 Amtrak round trips, or 2 Amtrak round trips and 1 commuter rail round trip). Would be more than enough for this small metro area. :) Any more service would require implementing Postive Train Control.

To Simplify short of PTC implementations, 6 round trips in each direction from Essex Junction wye is the limit with block signals, or just 2 round trips per direction from Essex Junction wye with no signals at all.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby electricron » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:37 pm

DutchRailnut wrote:For ADA purpose a vestibule has to be 42" wide and doors including interior a minimum of 32" wide, main obstacle in RDC is on both ends of car the electrical locker is behind Engineers seat. And bathrooms are about size of a shoe closet.

Check out page 32 of the following pdf for a digram of the ex-TRE RDC-1s.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q ... rr6IBOGpFk

p.s. Not sure that link is working properly?
Note, with no restrooms in the way, and the removal of the first and last row of seats, the aisle by the doors is really wide.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby Rockingham Racer » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:01 am

There used to be a plan to start Boston-Montreal service via Springfield. Wouldn't require a back-up move either at Springfield. Not sure of the status of this plan now, though.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:11 am

Rockingham Racer wrote:There used to be a plan to start Boston-Montreal service via Springfield. Wouldn't require a back-up move either at Springfield. Not sure of the status of this plan now, though.


That's the NNEIRI study: http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/northern ... /Home.aspx

Contingent on initiating Inland Route service with all the B&A upgrades Worcester-Springfield. In which case an east-west Inland schedule will be timed with a north-south Inland (or NE Regional) schedule twice per day:

1. The regular as-is Vermonter, timed at SPG with cross-platform transfer to a Boston Inland. Thus giving Boston a cross-tix shot on the current schedule to VT/MTL.
2. A new BOS-SPG-VT direct, timed at SPG with a cross-platform transfer to a Springfield NE Regional or NYP Shuttle. Thus giving south-of-SPG Vermonter patrons a second cross-tix shot at a VT/MTL schedule at the opposite end of the day.

A net gain of 2 trains to VT/MTL, constructed such that both Boston and the NEC get two de facto round trips per day (one direct, one a cross-platform transfer) and farebox recovery from MA & points south is de facto folded into regular-spaced Inland schedule slots to neutralize the ops cost of adding a second VT train. Study also recommends a third Vermonter slot as a New Haven short-turn, again timed at SPG with a Boston Inland for cross-tix...but that one is optional based on scarce funding and not likely to happen up-front.

Round trip #2, BOS-MTL, will most likely happen if CT/MA sign onto the Inland Route upgrades, because the 'tinker toys' setup @ SPG is cost-effectively scalable for VTrans. Study recommends signalizing NECR to St. Albans strictly because of freight meets, but that would be allowable inside the 4 passenger movements per day limit cited above for PTC. Theoretically if NECR were amenable they could still run the 2 AMTK round trips dark without the signalization $$$ or the PTC $$$, but dark territory starts becoming a freight constricition so that cheapest of all options is a longshot. The private commuter proposal, however, most definitely makes any +1 Amtrak service increase trigger the PTC limit...so for obvious reason VTrans is going to regard it as a hostile threat to their well-laid plans to bootstrap cheaply on the CT/MA Inlands for that first extra slot.
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Re: VT company buys DMUs for future commuter rail

Postby Otto Vondrak » Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:11 am

Here's some possible outcomes:

1) The equipment is purchased and moved to Vermont. For whatever reason, the service never starts up, but now you have some very attractive cars in good mechanical condition that could be picked up by some other established operation in New England. There's a lot more tourist rail in New England than there is in Texas, so even if the new service doesn't start up, it could be an opportunity for someone else.

2) The equipment is purchase and moved to Vermont. A demonstration run is negotiated and operated, but regular service is never established. See point 1.

3) The equipment is purchase and moved to Vermont. A demonstration run is negotiated and operated. The owner is able to work with an existing operator and launch some kind of limited seasonal schedule. After a period of time the service ends. See point 1.

4) The equipment is purchase and moved to Vermont. A demonstration run is negotiated and operated. The owner is able to work with an existing operator and launch some kind of limited seasonal schedule. The service finds some source of subsidy and is able to expand and grow. Everything works out better than expected.

Anything is possible.

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