• COMPASS RAIL: Pittsfield / Springfield / Boston East-West Passenger Rail

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

Moderators: sery2831, CRail

  by jamoldover
The New England States was carded for 2:05 from Boston>Springfield westbound (and 2:25 eastbound) in 1965, with intermediate stops at Back Bay, Newtonville, Framingham, Worcester, and Palmer. That's probably about the best times you'll find. Boston > Albany was a total of 4:40 westbound, with the reverse eastbound trip taking an even 5:00.

Looking at Amtrak's schedule for the Lake Shore (the comparable train today), it's carded for 2:28 from Boston>Springfield westbound and 2:24 for the eastbound Springfield>Boston trip (so eastbound is the same length of time as it was previously), and for 5:05 Boston>Albany westbound/5:13 Albany>Boston eastbound. It looks like the section west of Springfield has gotten a little slower over the past 60 years, but the section east of Springfield still takes about the same amount of time as it did back then.

Neither then nor now is faster than driving, and I would never expect it to be.
  by Jeff Smith
Apparently there's been a rebranding: masslive.com
‘Compass Rail’ places Springfield at center of Massachusetts rail expansion

SPRINGFIELD — It’s no longer simply called “east-west rail” according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The multi-million dollar project to connect Springfield, Worcester and Boston with passenger trains is part of “Compass Rail,” according to a recent presentation given to the department’s board of directors.

Following the $108 million federal railroad grant the state got last month to build east-west rail, construction could begin in the spring of 2027. And the project — which requires a $27 million local match for a total of $135 million to fund it — could last about five years, said Meredith Slesinger, MassDOT rail and transit administrator.

The goal is to get the Springfield-Boston travel time under two hours — competitive with driving — and Amtrak said it’ll add two new daily train trips between Boston, Worcester and Springfield as a first step.
  by Komarovsky
As this project has gone on, I've gotten cooler and cooler on it, and the renaming isn't helping.

The cost to do this work between Worcester and Springfield, which estimated to save 29 minutes of travel time, is about double the cost for the Worcester to Boston work, which was estimated to save 22 minutes of travel time. Worcester Union Station served ~1600 people every day(pre-pandemic), ridership estimates(pre-pandemic) were ~400 people for the entire Boston-Pittsfield segment(including Worcester).

The idea was a good one pre-pandemic when people needed to be in the office 5 days a week, and Boston and adjacent cities were eating every other city and town's economic lunch. Now, with remote work and the decline in centrally located offices in Boston and its environs, it's a much worse idea.

I've been doing housing, transportation and climate advocacy for over a decade now, and I'm more convinced than ever this will only lead to more car dependent sprawl that does little to solve the housing crisis in MA or improve the state's carbon footprint.

It's a false dichotomy to say that we can't have network extensions and improvements to the existing network, but at this point this is a poor project to extend the network.
  by BandA
How do the number of Commuter Rail passengers compare with the number of automobiles on the Mass Pike? Mass Pike takes six lanes total in most of this area, the Worcester Line takes about the equivalent of two lanes

I find myself agreeing with Komorovsky.
  by Safetee
if amtrak gains a viable nec plan b on the cheap in case of flooding , i guess some of this will be ok. the richie neal rail fantasy island, on the other hand, with the exception of the chester station of course, imho is a piece of bad pork.
  by Komarovsky
BandA wrote: Sun Oct 29, 2023 5:32 am How do the number of Commuter Rail passengers compare with the number of automobiles on the Mass Pike? Mass Pike takes six lanes total in most of this area, the Worcester Line takes about the equivalent of two lanes

I find myself agreeing with Komorovsky.
Daily boardings for 2018 were ~11k people total for the entire Worcester line. The latest year I could find the data for the Pike was 2010, and average daily traffic at the Copley exit was ~56k cars.
  by BandA
Chester station was built on or before 1850, so they just need a bare high-level platform, a canopy, a bench, a shrubbery, another shrubbery, and maybe a sidewalk. https://www.chesterrailwaystation.net/History.html
Chester’s importance lies in the fact that it was at the bottom of a quite imposing grade irrespective of it’s 1.65% gradient and 52% curvature.
(irrespective??) Not much to graft about.
  by lordsigma12345
I’m all for the project as currently crafted. The current proposal acknowledges some of the realities of 2023 and presents a more modest realistic approach based in reality to provide service across the state. Commuter rail or HSR out to Pittsfield isn’t really realistic and this project is no longer about commuter rail. Intercity rail routes similar to this have proven successful in places around the country and have a lot of momentum - the Downeaster being the perfect example. It provides some benefit without breaking the bank. And it targets more than just daily commuters. While commuter rail ridership hasn’t recovered to pre pandemic levels, intercity rail ridership has recovered substantially and appeals to more than just business travel and commuting. And there is definitely a market for some leisure travel on an Amtrak service along this route.
  by BandA
I'm unclear what "intercity rail" for Albany-Pittsfield-Boston means vs "commuter rail"; does it mean the 3-a-day that is proposed (including the 1-a-day Lake Shore Ltd). I'd like to see some "commuter rail" stations added west of Worcester, like Rt 56 Oxford/Leicester and/or Rt 49/9 South Spencer/East Brookfield. But with Amtrak as the chosen operator they are not focusing on commuter rail.
  by lordsigma12345
The big relevant one here is how it is funded. This line would have been a hard sell for FTA Capital Investment Grants which fund commuter rail (and other transit) programs like those operated by the MBTA for many of the reasons stated by previous posters. The FTA has far stricter cost benefit and ridership requirements for commuter rail and you’re also competing against other forms of transit. MassDOT felt this service was much better positioned to get funding by giving it to Amtrak who could connect it to other services on the national network in Albany and New Haven (CT also being very interested in the inland route) and competing for the FRA intercity rail programs funded by the IIJA as intercity rail has its own large dedicated pot of money within the law. They proved this hypothesis correct in that they were one of the first successful passenger programs selected in the very first round of grants funded by the IIJA - this year’s CRISI awards. They had also applied for Federal State Partnership for Intercity grants (national network) in case they didn’t receive CRISI but since they were funded by CRISI that won’t be awarded. Seems like they chose the right path.
Last edited by lordsigma12345 on Sun Nov 12, 2023 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by west point
Additional Amtrak service BOS <> Springfield is very necessary to establish the inevitable shut down for days of the coast route. The replacement of the Conn river draw will certainly shut the coast line for some days. Yes, the enroute time will be about 1:40 more than Acelas and about 1:10 for detouring regionals.
  by cle
This is a good point, there are a lot of bridge works planned for the 'main route' - and potentially other things like finishing SLE platforms or station works could be done too.

The Inland Route may be slower, but it links new city pairs and provides for a redundancy. Ideally the works would be accelerated to bring those capacity and journey time benefits asap - to mitigate the bigger civils and build the market up. And very possibly, stopping patterns could be played with to provide faster end to end Boston service - for example, only Hartford and Springfield on certain services - before Worcester.
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