Jeff Smith wrote:1. There'd be no need for a crew change at Devon if the train never comes off the branch, and the branch is withdrawn from MNRR contract and put under the CtDOT umbrella and operated by someone else. Labor complications aside (the loss of "bid jobs" for the MNRR union members, which is no small concern), this to me makes the most sense except for the union scenario. I'm not sure what the pre-temp Devon schedule was, i.e. do all trains end at Bridgeport, or do some go to Stamford? Either way, the best operational scenario for the main line is a permanent Devon transfer with an overpass to New Haven bound trains. No crossovers, no fouling multiple tracks, etc. There's no need to access track 3, or 4, in this scenario. MNRR dispatching is greatly simplified.
2. If for some reason, CtDOT does want branch trains to continue to Bridgeport (not sure why) or Stamford (makes more sense), or he!!, why not New Haven?, then there's no reason MNRR crews can't run it, to satisfy union concerns about ACRE territory. MNRR runs football trains in Amtrak territory, this would just be more of the same. Here's the opportunity to address union concerns: existing level of service continues to Waterbury only from main line; MNRR crews operate those trains. They lose no jobs. This however retains the current level of dispatch complications. Even a Barnum Station doesn't obviate the need for crossovers or simplify operations. It does however allow increased service that doesn't increase fouling the main line. So that at least is something.
3. Allow MNRR to operate the same number of trains to Waterbury, even if the originate or terminate at Devon on the wye. Or don't withdraw the branch; change crews at Waterbury. Only Waterbury east would be non-MNRR crews. Unless MNRR is interested, which I doubt.
#3 is what I'm thinking best serves demand. There is an overchurn midway through the Naugatuck Valley between commuters who have to head north to get on I-84 and commuters who have to head south to get on I-95. That overchurn hits its equilibrium inexactly around the Seymour stretch, based on traffic volumes on CT 8. Run-thrus to Hartford would draw little peak-direction ridership at Derby-Shelton, but would probably start outslugging run-thrus to Bridgeport by Naugatuck with Waterbury-proper finding a whole new gear by being more a part of Greater Hartford-Meriden than anywhere else. Even moreso because of the ease of which buses and park-and-riders from Torrington can get there on the low-volume portion of CT 8 for their primarily eastbound commutes. You're likely to see Meriden station on the Hartford Line get a significant spike from people in Waterbury and the upper Naugatuck Valley taking I-691 to P&R at that stop rather than brave I-84, I-91, or CT 15. Counting cars in Meriden by point of origin will be a measurable leading indicator of Highland run-thru demand.
But while Devon shuttles can certainly outslug all the functionality of today's branch service if the frequencies are good enough...run good frequencies on the branch and the demand is going to crest in the lower Naugatuck Valley for run-thrus to Bridgeport. They go hand-in-hand, because it's all about having useful frequencies. Now...that doesn't mean MNRR has any sort of pickle about needing to increase schedules that touch the mainline, or be forced to run a loss leader extra distance on the Highland where Bridgeport eventually becomes better-served by picking up the Hartford Line for a faster Bridgeport run-thru. But it does mean that the overall farebox recovery is most optimal running Devon-Hartford as the primary all-day service pattern with well-timed NHL transfers, and strictly peak-oriented Waterbury-Bridgeport service splitting the difference for the lower Valley with modest...not much increased...schedules but longer consists to swallow bigger crowds (with assumption that all branch stops will have real full-regulation platforms by that point). All-or-nothing--MNRR crews being banned from the branch with Devon becoming a brick wall, or CDOT crews being banned from the branch with Waterbury a brick wall--leaves too much demand on the table. There'll have to be some sort of compromise; both parties would be passing up revenue if they let absolutist turf wars dictate their stances. I just can't picture it being a total knee-jerk reaction from force of habit when that's the difference between having *somewhat* decent overall cost recovery and leaving revenue on the table. They'll think long and hard about it. That doesn't mean there'll be a compromise or that stubbornness and legacy entanglements won't win out...but they'll definitely be rational actors and think long and hard about it.
BTW...timetable for the build is going to be after the current 10-year labor agreement expires anyway. If the impetus for upgrading the Highland is (as we're starting to suspect) "Oh, crap...our highway traffic counts can't survive 84mageddon unless this transit line gets built too!"...then even if they got their butts in gear now you're not going to see first train depart Hartford Union for Waterbury before 2025 at earliest. The operating contract will have long been up for renegotiation by then. This current 10-year contract term never ever had a need to deal with those considerations. Not here, not New Milford either. Even the Hartford Line-New Haven Line interface is only going to become a sticking point in the last 3+ years of this contract. Start date is now slipping to 2017, they still need another funding release to lock down the infrastructure remainders north-of-Hartford including the Springfield layover, and the meager starter schedule is on a slow 5-year ramp-up before it hits critical mass. Springfield-New Haven is going to be the only service pattern, and not a particularly dense one, until 2022. It's only after that where frequencies get fat enough that there'll be compelling reason to talk crew changes at NHV for overlapping some of the service patterns. As I said in the last post, Waterbury, etc. isn't the fault line where crew structures will be brought to the fore. Hartford Line is. Any branchline considerations will be water under the bridge by the time the Hartford Line has set the bar for those turf battles, and the Hartford Line isn't going to be fighting any of those battles until this current deal is nearing 18-24 months of its next contract renegotiation. It's pointlessly premature to speculate.
Throw in the fact that 84mageddon is going to take 10 years in design
before the earliest possible construction starts (like...land-prep construction starts, not even the first traffic cones) and we're really getting ahead of ourselves fretting about the current 10-year contract informing events that won't happen till second half of the 2020's. Including worrying about how the changeover from old Hartford Union is going to mesh with relocated Hartford Union, when they aren't close to picking their final recommended corridor alignment. It's a decade-long ramp up even if they hurry. At typical CDOT schedule pace the Aetna Viaduct will have long pancaked onto the tracks before the first batch of construction scaffolding is ready to be loaded onto a truck in 2031.