• Maine Commuter Rail

  • 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

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  by b&m 1566
 
Something was mentioned on the Downeaster Thread about a commuter rail study for the Portland, ME area. So it is not to be confused with the Downeaster, I thought a new thread would be a good idea!
Below is what was mentioned on the Downeaster Thread!
  by b&m 1566
 
BM6569 wrote:Did anyone go to the hearing Tuesday night at Auburn City Hall about expanding service north of Portland to Auburn and Brunswick for "commuter" rail? I had to leave towards the end of the presentation. I believe they were planning for 22 trains (a day) and 6 stations. I didn't know studies were being done to this detail. I guess Amtrak helped them out with a feasibility study and a study to predict ridership?

Warren
  by b&m 1566
 
FatNoah wrote:Here is a powerpoint about the project:
http://www.maine.gov/mdot/portlandnorth ... eeting.pdf

The 22 trips is the combined number of train/bus trips that would run on what looks like two corridors: Portland-Lewiston/Auburn and Portland-Bath via Yarmouth and Brunswick.
  by Hamhock
 
I think the establishment of either bus or rail for commuter service would be good to get done now, before the coming decades of population growth causes a demand for a 16-lane I-295. The requirement for 22 weekday round-trips (to qualify for Federal funding) creates a robust schedule that allows both part-time and full-time workers to use the system. The hideous expense for either SLR rail option is unfortunate, but that's what building a brand-new bridge will do, you know?
  by Cowford
 
Perhaps someone who attended the meeting could expand on the presentation. Some observations:

- Slide 32: MDOT expects essentially no growth in Portland's employment through the forecast period (next 25 years). Biggest employment growth will come in Saco-Biddeford and Lewiston-Auburn
- Slide 30: MDOT expects commuter traffic from Lewiston-Auburn to Portland to fall from negligible to almost zero in 2035. There is also a dramatic reduction in commuters to Portland from points south.
- Slide 30: Only appreciable commuter growth to Portland would be from Falmouth/Yarmouth/Cumberland.
- Slide 30 shows virtually zero commuters between L-A and Portland (now and in 2035); Slide 31 shows 1,627 total commuters between Pineland-L-A and Portland, and Slides 33/35 shows a subset of over 6,000 commuters between L-A and Portland that would take bus and train options. Same thing with the Brunswick corridor.

Unfortunately, the presentation doesn't clearly point out the what market share of the commuter base the bus/train options are expected to capture. Slides 33/35 confuse the issue as they show a capture rate many times higher than the illustrated demand. (I have to assume all data is "daily.")

So, according to the report, Portland's growth is expected to be stagnant for the next 25 years, with growth coming in Maine's mid-sized communities. As such, demand for commuter services to Portland would actually decrease with the exception of those communities within 10 miles of Portland... distances probably not appropriate for commuter rail. One last question: Central Portland's jobs are service-oriented and are thus somewhat subject to telecommuting. I wonder if the study considers the impact of telecommuting on commuter demand. This phenomenon has only become popular in the last 10 years... imagine where it may be in 25 years!
  by BM6569
 
I made the same observations. At the meeting, they really didn't have any answer for the lack of commuter numbers predicted for L/A to Portland.

Something I commented on at the meeting was that they grouped Saco/Biddeford together but kept Auburn/Lewiston separate. Why would they do that since L/A are neighboring communities.

I'm wondering where the best location for a station in Lewiston would be. Both the former MEC and GT stations are unoccupied.

Warren
  by Cowford
 
I'm trying to understand the logic here: 1) The study starts with market research to determine if demand exists for commuter services; 2) The results show little/no/shrinking commuter demand within the lanes in question; 3) The decision is made to proceed with the project.

I'd also ask why this is "Portland North." Given MDOT's past blustering, the absence of Mountain sub commuter service is notable, as is discussion of commuter service options over the Downeaster route. If they are looking at commuter options to Portland, demand/services should be looked at from ALL directions.
  by BM6569
 
I agree. It was Portland North and that is west/ north west. I think that corridor has potential too.

Warren
  by 4266
 
According to an article the The Forecaster from May the Portland North Transit project has narrowed down their choices.
http://www.theforecaster.net/content/pnm-portlandnorth
According to the project timeline the DOT was to have submitted the final package to the Small Starts Program in June. However, the last update was a presentation post in may http://www.maine.gov/mdot/portlandnorth ... AY10pm.pdf I wonder if the MMA abandonment put things on hold for awhile. I know they've put off posting the Maine State Rail Plan until they have the issue settled. Anybody heard any news?
  by CN9634
 
The last statement is correct, everything is on hold until the MMA mess is sorted out. If you like, check out the Maine Rail Infrastructure Yahoo group for details. It's an informal library of current Maine rail happenings.
  by markhb
 
Well, while the state Master Rail Plan is still on hold, the Portland North commuter study has essentially reached its verdict. According to this story in The Forecaster:
Stephanie Grinnell wrote:Integrated bus, train project favored for Portland-North corridor
Department of Transportation officials and their consultant recommended an almost $9 million integrated bus and passenger rail service Monday night for the Portland-North Transit Project.
...
Duncan said the first choice included bus or Downeaster stops in Brunswick, Freeport, Yarmouth, Falmouth and Portland; while the second option removed the Falmouth stop. Both options would use one ticket per rider regardless of transportation type chosen, recommended minimal work to existing roadways, no shoulder travel for buses and 10 round-trip bus routes and three round trip Downeaster trips per day.
Essentially, their conclusions are: FHWA won't let them run buses in the breakdown lanes. Use the three Portland-Brunswick trips of the Downeaster daily, add bus service with stops at Maine Street Station, a TBD location in Freeport, a new Park & Ride lot in Yarmouth at Exit 15, and Monument Square / METRO Pulse (other Portland locations TBD). Falmouth loses out; the plan called for a new P&R lot near I-295 Exit 10 if they included that stop. However, two things struck me about that: that Falmouth already has its own METRO line (the Falmouth Flyer, Route 7), and that the area of the P&R could well need to be reconfigured in the mid-term anyway as the MTA and MDOT would like to connect the Falmouth Spur to the southerly direction of I-295.

Oh, and they also talk about an Amtrak/bus stop at Union Station in Portland.

MDOT's "Project Closeout" presentation from the meeting is here; the things that stand out to me are:
  • Their studies show very little difference between potential bus ridership and train ridership with a station at the base of Center St. (near the Portland Fish Exchange) (see page 14 of the PDF). Either would handily outdraw a station in Bayside or at GT MP 0.0 on India Street (the two most expensive options due to the new Back Cove bridge).
  • They talk about making the rump Downeaster runs between Portland and Brunswick (early in the morning POR-BWK to get in position for the first Brunswick-Boston schedule, and BWL-POR in the evening after the last Boston-Brunswick run) into revenue trips rather than deadheads; I had thought they would be revenue trips all along.
  • The bottom line is: no new rail service other than the Downeaster.
For those who had wondered in some thread why the SLR tracks would even be considered given that PAR is already being upgraded (and doesn't need a new bridge to get into Portland), the answer is that the SLR essentially parallels US 1 through Falmouth, Cumberland, and Yarmouth village, which puts it in a far more convenient location for those likely to want to commute by rail into downtown. PAR takes an inland route past lots of farms.
  by 3rdrail
 
How do the folks in general Portland suburbia feel in general (not the rail buffs) about public transportation coming through your towns ? It has occured to me that a metropolitan plan such as this may (1) not have the ridership needed to support it, and if it does, that (2) a good chunk of the ridership may involve persons in a low economic bracket. This may lead to a change in profile in many areas where the profile has remained the same for generations - all well and good by all standards of diversification, but I wonder what the reaction will be from the people who could show up and protest at community meetings, thus potentially derailing the program. Frankly, I speak from experience here as I lived in Portland on Granite St. for four years before returning to my Boston roots and can tell you that, particularly during my first year up there, that I felt about as welcome as a pork chop at a bar mitzvah, with a few notable exceptions (such as a gentleman who remains to this day a close friend and was recently sworn in as a member of the 125th Legislature of the Maine House) - and I was from only 100 miles away ! I can imagine how it would be like being Somali or Bantu.
  by markhb
 
4 years on Granite St... were you going to USM? I know that's an area that has had a fair amount of locals-vs.-students conflict over the years.

I haven't heard anything about any local opposition to the commuter bus plan; there certainly wasn't any when I lived in Windham and RTP sporadically ran commuter bus service. I do wonder about the ridership, though... we'll see what happens.
  by 3rdrail
 
No, not quite. I was a Portland Policeman. I had already received my B.S. at Northeastern. My take on all of this is that outside of a single Portland-Lewiston commuter rail connector (bring back the P-L Interurban rumbling out onto Portland St. !!!), I can see a local shuttle working out nicely. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I am remembering the Portland of 1977-1981, and I am aware that the city has grown. But as I recall, then and I suspect still, there would be a need for a nice local network whereby shopping areas, railroad/bus terminals, and areas which have large developments nearby- both housing and future business enterprises, could be accessed promoting convenience and growth. I think that anything like a subway would be overdoing it, but perhaps a decent rapid transit or streetcar system, commensurate with Portland's size, on it's own private ROW, reaching out from areas in Portland to South Portland, Falmouth, Westbrook, Cape Elizabeth, etc. seems perfect. I suspect that the end result after a short period of time would be that you would see a metropolitanization of Portland, more so than there is now, which might keep Portland in balance and at the same time develop these outer areas so that they might reach their full potential. Sort of a miniature Boston, the same way that the BERy expanded metropolitan Boston. In my opinion, anything outside of two or three (at the max) towns outside of Portland would be a failure. With that, wait and see what happens, and if there is a boom of expansion, perhaps a subway or commuter rail system might be ahead in the future. If not, or if the traffic level remains consistant, because the less drastic committment was made, you've still got a nice enhancement without the waste and risk of becoming obsolete.
  by MEC407
 
Article in today's Portland Press Herald:
Portland Press Herald wrote:Residents called for more rail service in Greater Portland after a presentation Tuesday night on reducing traffic congestion in the city's suburbs.
...
People at Tuesday's meeting said they had hoped to see a plan with more emphasis on creating commuter and passenger rail service.
Read more at: http://www.pressherald.com/news/residen ... 03-23.html
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