• Portland Maine Passenger Stations

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

Moderators: MEC407, NHN503

  by Cowford
Is NNEPRA thinking that Concord Trailways will close their terminal and move to Commercial Street, along with Amtrak.. or that it makes more sense to have separate terminals?
  by MEC407
Considering the types of travelers Concord caters to, I honestly think the current Thompson's Point station is the best place for them. I can't think of any ultra-compelling reasons for them to relocate.
  by gokeefe
As much as I would like to see Portland have a fully combined rail-highway transportation center I have to agree. At least upon initial impression it makes very little sense for Concord Trailways to move.
  by Cowford
"Considering the types of travelers Concord caters to..."

407, you bring up an interesting question: Are there differences in characteristics (if any) between the typical Concord passenger and those of Amtrak? Over Xmas, I took Amtrak eastward (for the novelty of it) and bus westward (schedule convenience).
  by MEC407
Good question, and thank you for asking it. After I made that post, I realized that I should probably clarify that it wasn't meant as a dig at people who use Concord Coach Lines, or any other bus service. If anyone took it that way, I apologize. I'm not anti-bus or anti-bus-passenger!

What I meant is, based only on my personal observations, a good-sized chunk of Concord Coach Lines passengers tend to be people who would normally drive their own personal automobiles to Boston, but perhaps they're going to Logan or they don't want to deal with parking hassles, so they want an alternative that is fast and affordable. Concord provides that alternative, and gives them a very convenient place to park their cars while they're away. The station is very easily accessible to passengers via I-295, I-95, US-1, and ME-22/ME-9. The location is really well-suited for serving the entire Greater Portland area.

From an operational standpoint for the bus company, the location makes a lot of sense. All they have to do is make a right turn out of Thompson's Point Road and BAM!, they're on 295 headed south. There's plenty of room for parking, and if Amtrak leaves, they'll have extra room in the station and won't have to expand it for a long time. They've got a bus maintenance facility there and could probably expand that if needed.

Contrast this to Greyhound's location at the corner of Congress and Saint John. Certainly it's closer to "downtown," but it's not quite as easy to get to, the parking situation is iffy, and the station itself is... well, the last time I was there it wasn't very pleasant and I'll leave it at that.

Now this is just a wild guess on my part, I have nothing to back it up except what I've seen with my own eyes, but it it seems like Concord Coach Lines serves more passengers between Portland and Boston than Greyhound does. Their prices can't be that different, so maybe the stations/locations have something to do with it.

(Wondering: is it possible to find Portland-Boston ridership numbers for Concord and Greyhound?)
  by Cowford
I'll rely on my back-of-the-envelope skills here: Greyhound appears a bit player... only three RTs/day vs. Concord's 18. That would indicate they have about a ~15% bus market share. Now, if you assume each bus has about 45 seats and average a 60-65% load factor, that's ~400-450,000 one-way trips/yr, with Greyhound only 55-65K of that. Amtrak hosts 165,000, so that would indicate Amtrak has a market share of about 28% of the bus/train market, with Concord having 62% and Greyhound another 10%.

more on this later...
  by Cowford
If my earlier figgerin' is more or less correct, Concord provides the present terminal's base load. Build a separate NNEPRA rail terminal and now the market will have to support two terminals (actually three when you figure in the Greyhound station). And it's that much more land that's converted to non-taxable status. And dis-integrating such intermodal passenger terminals flies in the face of modern transportation planning logic. So why move? To my knowledge, Concord's not evicting NNEPRA. Moving to Commercial Street will do nothing to streamline operations/improve schedules. The only reason I can come up with is that NNEPRA thinks that to do so will drastically improve non-Maine ridership. Any others???
  by markhb
Actually, from what I can see in the Portland assessor's database, both the PTC and the Greyhound station are listed as taxable. Portions of the PTC area are owned by NNEPRA and are exempt, but the PTC and its parking areas themselves are not. The areas indicated in the article as potential sites for NNEPRA to move to are, AFAIK, already exempt as either railroad (in the case of the west-of-the-bridge site) or city property (the International Marine Terminal and the Fish Pier parking lot), so that's a wash.

I've heard three main arguments for moving the station: that the current location becomes untenably awkward once Portland stops being the terminal stop for the Downeaster, due to the backup-and-reverse that will be needed to continue to Brunswick; that NNEPRA would like to be able to offer more than one track for boarding which they currently have no room for; and that the current station does a poor job of serving inbound trips to downtown Portland due to its location (i.e., you can't get off the train and easily walk anywhere interesting).

The Downeaster article said that NNEPRA is planning on making a presentation to the city council's Transportation Committee at Tuesday's meeting. That committee's web page is here; the meeting agenda has been posted and there are two rail-related items: NNEPRA's presentation (for which no materials have been posted) and discussion of a staff memo regarding a potential City Rail Policy. The staff memo (which the web page makes available) is a brusque series of bullet points that includes, among other things, mentions of stations for both intercity and commuter rail.

To touch on the "Concord passenger makeup" question, I'll refer to the things that made them successful in the first place after they first came to Portland (at which time Greyhound was the only game in town and provided a lot more than 3 trips/day). First, they provide direct service to Logan, which is immensely popular judging by the lines that form when those buses are announced. Second, both their routes (to Logan and to South Station) are non-stop; Greyhound stops in Portsmouth, and for a while in the 80's they also stopped in Newburyport on all runs (GL used to offer a Route 1 local as well, but I think that's long gone). Third, as gokeefe alluded to, they are perceived as a higher-quality operation, with cleaner buses and stations than GL and the enroute movie and wifi provided (it's worthwhile to remember that at the time then-Concord Trailways first came to Portland, GL was still running to their old Arlington St. station in Boston, which was a horror show). I'll also mention that when I went to the Portland station last year to pick up my tickets for the Lake Shore, the Amtrak ticket agent advised me that the best way to connect to it was just to take Concord, rather than connecting via the Downeaster (I had inquired about their flexpass tickets that were good on both the DE and CCL, and she said they'd rather not sell them as too many customers didn't realize that bus tickets weren't reserved seats).
  by Cowford
Wasn't meaning to implicate the bus stations on the tax question... I was assuming relocation to just west of the bridge (really the only logical option of the three). As the track has been removed in that area, is it not presently taxable? (I recall that years ago, MEC had to park some old company fuel tank cars on inactive track on the opposite side Commercial Street to maintain its tax status there.) It would also appear that the adjacent gas plant would have to be relocated.

RE operational issues: I may be wrong on this one - I thought that construction of an eastward connection off the Mountain was still under consideration. A backup move would be awkward... untenably awkward in this case is debatable.

RE non-Maine ridership: IIRC, non-Maine Amtrak ridership is 20% or less of the total. It can be assumed that relocation would result in the loss of some Maine-based travelers. If you lost just 5% of Mainers to bus or car, while gaining, say, 25% ridership on the non-Mainer side - you'd be treading water, overall ridership-wise.
  by Hamhock
Cowford wrote:If you lost just 5% of Mainers to bus or car, while gaining, say, 25% ridership on the non-Mainer side - you'd be treading water, overall ridership-wise.
True, although it would certainly put a little more shot in the economic arm of Maine to have more people visiting than leaving, no?

In any event, I don't think that the Downeaster could ever exceed Concord's direct Portland-Boston ridership numbers without at least 10 daily roundtrips (with 1 or 2 of those being a non-stop offering).
  by markhb
From one thing Governor LePage has said, one of the things he will be looking at when evaluating the Downeaster program is the extent to which it drives or can drive inbound tourism; if relocating the station helps drive additional inbound passengers, that will undoubtedly help the overall program.

Cowford is correct that the suggested site is currently on the tax rolls; it is Chart 59 Lot 8, and according to the Portland Assessor's website Portland Terminal is being billed c. $8000/year in property taxes. In looking at the map, the ROW to Lot 2 (the gas plant) may need to be moved either further to the west, or else looped around through the new station's parking lot, but I don't think that the entire works would need to be moved unless there are some safety-related setbacks that would need to be accounted for.

Untenably may have been an overstatement on my part, but the fact remains that to continue north from PTC to Brunswick will entail running the train back to Mountain Junction, stopping, walking the cab crew to the other end of the consist (I'm assuming that they're not going to have extra workers hanging out for a one-mile move), and heading off the other way. I'm not sure if there is anything other procedure that would need to be performed along with the change of direction that would consume additional time. To my knowledge, NNEPRA is not contemplating adding the opposite wye at the junction, opting instead for recent improvements to a wye at Yard 8 that would serve a Commercial St. location.
  by gokeefe

Reflecting on your last post you have to sit back and realize how smart NNEPRA was/is.

They could have applied for (and very likely received approval) funds to connect Mountain Junction to the northbound PAR main using the preserved right of way (at least that's what we think it is) next to the Cumberland County Jail. There would have been a rat's nest of signal complications but it was perfectly doable.

Instead of working through this problem they solved another, namely the questions surrounding their future home by having the funds used for rehabilitation of the Yard 8 wye on the basis of 'wheel wear' concerns. Although I'm sure these were perfectly legitimate it wasn't going to be the end of the world if they didn't find a way to turn the trains everynow and then that was right next to the PTC.

Now they have a well built wye, to which they can make signal additions at their convenience, which points towards a far 'simpler' solution which is to construct a new station that has far greater potential for tourism. Had NNEPRA gone to the trouble of fighting to get the northerly leg of the Mountain Division wye built this argument would no longer hold water. Furthermore, passenger movements onto and off the PAR main are simplified and likely will never have to be concerned about interference with freight movements. Being on the east side of the freight main allows them to pull out from their new station, pull onto the main line (eastern side), let any southbound freight clear the main line coming through Deering and then proceed from there through the interlocking noth of Congress street.

Although I'm pretty sure they do not wish to provoke a crisis by having the train make the slow backup and reverse move onto the PAR main this situation will play to their desire (and that of others) to build a new station. I genuinely believe they were simply focused on getting the Downeaster to Brunswick first, knowing that the other details would eventually work themselves out.
  by Cowford
Help me understand here (and I'm still focusing on the yard 1 location): GO'K, you're an obvious advocate of this location. Could you qualify how is this a better location from a patronage standpoint, namely: (1) How and to what extent will this location affect Maine-based patronage; (b) how and to what extent will this affect non-Maine patronage; and (c) how and to what extent will separating from the bus terminal affect patronage.

Not to pick on you GO'K : ), but you had also stated their apparent strategy is to execute "a far 'simpler' solution which is to construct a new station that has far greater potential for tourism." I have to refer to an earlier post from Markhb that stated that a "con" to this location was that it was an "Industrial area; possibly a worse location than Thompson's Point in regards to proximity to tourist activities and pedestrianism" True, this is his opinion, but I think many here have shared it when you consider that tourists getting off the train would see a gas plant, a container terminal and the underside of a bridge. Then they'd have to walk 1/2 mile down a less-than-quaint section of Commercial Street (oh look, honey! A stack of dimensional lumber!) to get to the edge of the Old Port area... or uphill 1/2 mile to the downtown area.

While I understand that a back-up move is not ideal, you wouldn't need the enginman to change ends- have the conductor in the control car. A tried-and-true concept that's worked for about 170 years. It apparently worked for MEC's Mountain sub trains arriving and departing Portland's Union Station.
  by markhb
Due to the storm, the Transportation Committee meeting at which Patricia Quinn was to present the station ideas was cancelled; I'll try to find out tomorrow if it's going to be rescheduled or if they'll just push the agenda items off to their February meeting. I'm hoping to attend whenever they do have it, and maybe ask the NNEPRA folks some questions (as well as suggest that someone there log on here... heck, GPCOG's done it :).

So far as the rationale for the move goes, I'm not entirely sure beyond what's been in the articles I've linked to. I do know that the Transportation Committee's 2011 Work Plan (or at least the draft of it) includes the following item:
-coordination with MDOT/NNEPRA re: Portland Station
I also know that it's been the City's position for years that the station should be moved onto the peninsula. Of course, no on-peninsula location is going to offer easy access to the Monument Square area unless we build a tramway / monorail to climb the hill. There's just no way around the fact that downtown Portland is shaped like a giant Pringle's.

An operational question: if the conductor's in the cabbage car and the engineer is in the locomotive, would the conductor then be running the throttle during the backup move? I'm not sure how a lot of this works and what's allowed, so enlightenment would be happily received. Also, is this the same conductor who normally rides in the passenger cars and handles the ticketing paperwork? I know they have assistant conductors, but I had thought that the "boss" conductor was also one of those handling passengers.

GO'K, I do agree with you that from the standpoint of NNEPRA wanting to move to the waterfront, they did a nice job of lining things up to make it happen.

FInally, considering how many people on this board can identify the make and model of a locomotive with a 2-second glance, there may very well be others who really like to check out dimensional lumber ;) They could have some rare LVL's out there in the shed, you never know!
  by markhb
I'm going to follow my own post once again since I found something regarding NNEPRA's desire to move. TR/NE has the minutes of NNEPRA's January 12 board meeting online, and they read in part:
NNEPRA Board Minutes wrote:Conceptual drawings were presented to the board for a waterfront station which would (1) be within walking distance of downtdown, (2) eliminate reversing the train as it heads to Brunswick and (3) facilitate expansion of rail and other services.
One other thing that has been mentioned here and there is that most of the stations on the Downeaster's route are owned by the respective cities. That being the case, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the Portland city council were prepared to pony up some cash for a new station; they're essentially politically unaccountable for any spending so why not. (Why yes, I am a Portland property tax payer, how could you tell?)
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