Commuter Rail Going Electric

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

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b&m 1566
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Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by b&m 1566 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:46 am

Is this a smart move for the state? It seem like a lot of money.
The feelings were electric. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board used one unanimous vote to clear the way for the electrification of the state’s commuter rail system. The move will create better service to many communities in the state.
Click here to read the rest of the article.

NeedhamLine
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by NeedhamLine » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:22 pm

In my opinion, as a daily rider - yes. The total cost is quite high, but will be implemented over at least a decade or two; as discussed at the FCMB, this initial phase will help set the stage for further expansion of both electrification and the regional rail model.

The highways around Boston are almost all critically congested at rush hour, and there is no realistic chance (or political appetite) of building any new highways into the urban core. Adopting EMUs and short headways in a RER/S-Bahn style system is, again in my opinion, the most cost-effective way to keep up with growth while remaining (for the most part) within existing rights of way. Not to mention the fact that electrification is far more environmentally friendly, allowing reuse of braking energy and not being dependent on any one generating source.

Imagine what bi-directional, 15-minute EMUs could do for places like Salem, Waltham, Woburn, Reading, Natick, the whole Fairmount line - having that kind of regular transit access (especially if it can be integrated with bus/subway fares once AFC 2.0 comes out) unlocks a lot of value in the areas surrounding stations. All of a sudden, every commuter/regional rail station that gets the frequent service becomes a potential hub for local transit, something that rarely happens now (for example, Needham Junction is a commuter rail stop and the terminus of the 59 bus - but the infrequent schedules for both modes preclude any coordination between the two).

These things never get cheaper with time. Best to start taking concrete steps now. Electrifying the line to Lynn also has the benefit of bringing electrification to North Station/BET, which helps to lay the early foundations for the rest of the northside electrification.

octr202
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by octr202 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:21 pm

Something to keep in mind when looking at the total costs projected for this project. MassDOT often likes to "overload" the estimates for a project it doesn't want to do. Pay careful attention to what's included, and give critical thought to whether it is something specific to electrification (catenary, substations, raising bridges, etc), something needed to accommodate greater frequency (signal system improvements, storage yards), or something that would be spent anyways over the next 10-30 years, even if no major changes were made to the commuter rail system.

Some of the costs for this include things like trackwork, station upgrades to ADA high-level platforms, and fleet replacement. Those are things that the T would end up spending regardless of whether the system is electrified. Even if we committed to sticking with diesel-hauled push-pull trains, in 30 years or so we'd need to replace most of the current fleet. In that sense, we'd just be looking at the incremental costs of purchasing electric versus diesel rolling stock as the true cost of this project.
Wondering if I'll see the Haverhill double-tracking finished before I retire...
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jonnhrr
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by jonnhrr » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:55 pm

I wonder about the choice of Newburyport/Rockport. Admittedly the inner part of the line has a lot of potential for short turn service with EMU's. However the outer part of the line has 2 branches which doubles the required electrification infrastructure. Also given that they run through some fairly affluent areas I wonder if they may be more likely to have NIMBY issues than other alternatives.
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NeedhamLine
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by NeedhamLine » Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:50 pm

For Lynn, it sounds like there had been significant pressure brought by community groups and lawmakers from that area to include it. Plus, by the time the initial electrification is completed, all of the stations on the initial route except for River Works will have high-level platforms now that Chelsea is underway. Extending that segment to at least Salem would make more sense, but that will be in the cards one way or another.

For the initial service to Lynn, there appears to be space between the tracks east of the station where a center layover track could be added with switches to both main tracks- that would allow space for EMUs to pull off between runs and reverse direction without blocking either main.

njt/mnrrbuff
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:08 pm

It would be great first to work on bringing electric trains to the Providence and Stoughton Lines(eventually to New Bedford and Fall River). The catenary is already there along the NEC.

If catenary does get added to the Newburyport Line, it's best to have Phase 1 feature Boston North Station to Salem or even Beverly. Boston North Station and Beverly is part of the core of the Newburyport and Rockport Lines being combined. North of Salem and Beverly would be an interesting idea to ponder. Yes, there are many affluent areas along the two branches after they split. I hope that someday, more service is added to the branches. It would be great to be able to have more flexibility to make a daytrip from Boston to Cape Ann.

Electrifying the Fairmount Line is a must. Many of the stations are very close to each other that MUs would be the answer.

rethcir
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by rethcir » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:08 pm

A station at the Encore on the new Lynn regional line would be nice.

doepack
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by doepack » Wed Nov 06, 2019 12:21 am

jonnhrr wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:55 pm
I wonder about the choice of Newburyport/Rockport. Admittedly the inner part of the line has a lot of potential for short turn service with EMU's. However the outer part of the line has 2 branches which doubles the required electrification infrastructure. Also given that they run through some fairly affluent areas I wonder if they may be more likely to have NIMBY issues than other alternatives.
I don't know what the local political climate is like there, but I think you'd have a better chance on selling the NIMBY's the environmental and quieter advantages of electric operation. From what I've seen, NIMBY opposition to proposed expansion of diesel operations is usually a lot louder...
--Dorian--

Rbts Stn
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by Rbts Stn » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:08 am

Would love to know the expected "Go Live" date for this and if Encore or anywhere else will have betting lines available as I will clean up on the "Over".

Great meetings, folks.

Train60
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Location: New England

Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by Train60 » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:36 am

The text of five resolutions that were approved by the FMCB at its November 4, 2019 meeting can be found on the link below. Its worth the time to read exactly what was approved, which is frankly rather amazing.
https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/file ... ssible.pdf

Also, here's a link to the Rail Vision presentation that was provided to the board at the meeting
https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/file ... n-plan.pdf

Commuterrail1050
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by Commuterrail1050 » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:43 am

Bad idea for one reason, power outage. Hybrid meaning both electric and fuel is better so it can switch if one or the other has an issue.

rethcir
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by rethcir » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:28 am

Works fine in CT, NY, Europe, Japan, etc.. That reason isn't nearly enough to outweigh the benefits, on the inner core at least.
Last edited by CRail on Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Unnecessary quote removed.

NeedhamLine
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by NeedhamLine » Wed Nov 06, 2019 10:14 am

Power outages can also affect diesel-operated lines when signals or crossing gates lose power. The T has cut back vegetation on most lines in connection with the PTC install; hopefully that will be repeated periodically.

Now that the T has a specific plan for Phase I, I will be curious to see how equipment procurement is affected. The FCMB resolutions reference working with the current procurement consultant on "re-procurement" of the current commuter rail procurement, and recent presentations seem to indicate a preference for bi-level EMUs.

The most obvious choices (without completely re-inventing the wheel) would seem to be the Bombardier MLV III EMU or the Stadler KISS. The KISS as designed for Caltrain is about 5" higher than the T's existing bilevel coaches, but Stadler has produced versions with lower clearances and seems quite open to customization. Neither has been service-proven in the US, but at least the KISS is well-proven in Europe (and considerably lighter), including in very cold/snowy environments. Either way, there will be active production lines at just the right time for a piggyback order.

chrisf
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by chrisf » Wed Nov 06, 2019 10:18 am

Commuterrail1050 wrote:
Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:43 am
Bad idea for one reason, power outage. Hybrid meaning both electric and fuel is better so it can switch if one or the other has an issue.
Somewhere around 600,000 people commute into NYC every weekday on purely electric trains. Power outages are not so common that LIRR and Metro-North need to have diesel or battery backup on their trains. I'm sure the MBTA can work this out.

jaymac
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Re: Commuter Rail Going Electric

Post by jaymac » Wed Nov 06, 2019 11:59 am

To this nonprofessional, it seems the easiest and least expensive transition would be to replace diesels with straight electrics. Existing car stock would not have to be replaced on a wholesale basis and could cover the entire system, regardless of whether total conversion had yet taken place.Yes, EMUs would have the advantage of greater acceleration, but to borrow a lesson from the B&M's Budd history, with the Highliners' greater acceleration also came -- as the fleet aged -- more failure points and more expenses. On the subject of the B&M, numbers of through-truss bridges will also add issues for catenary clearance, especially if there's a push for full double-stack clearance to Portland.
If T/MASSDot service west of Worcester should happen, those complications get added, as well. Presumably, any Springfield-Pittsfield extension would be diesel.
Good ideas don't always happen, as demonstrated by the the NH's early 20th century plans -- however preliminary -- to cross under Boston Harbor before SCOTUS ended Mellon control of the B&M.
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