• North Adams - Boston Passenger Service Study

  • 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: CRail, sery2831

  by Bramdeisroberts
The only way that anything beyond a simple Gardiner or Athol commuter extension seems even remotely feasible is if you restore the trackage between Adams and Pittsfield and build something along the lines of a lower-frequency, intra-state Downeaster, branded as something other than commuter rail.

Now, unlike the Downeaster, you don't have a city with the size/reputation of Portland anchoring your route through the middle of nowhere, but at the same time, that "middle of nowhere" just happens to be one of the prettiest and most underrated parts of New England, and at the end of it is the world-class art museums of North Adams and Williamstown, the tourist draw of the Berkshires, and all of the stuff around Pittsfield/Lenox like Tanglewood, etc. It's just crazy enough to work.

If you did that, you now connect an increasing number of monied but carless milennial Bostonian would-be tourists with some of the best hiking, scenery, and culture in the state but without any of the hassle of the 3+ hour drive that it normally takes to get there, along with their monied but aging boomer parents who would love to visit places like Shelburne Falls, Williamstown, or Lenox, but might not feel up for the drive. On top of that, like the Downeaster, you'll probably have a small handful of eccentric upper middle class professional types who actually use it to commute to their jobs as tenured professors or senior law partners or whatever else is worth commuting 2-3 hours by train for, and I'm sure there's no shortage of those types in the Pittsfield region. Weekday ridership would be lean, but could be decently steady if they subsidize it enough and keep fares down.

That said, imho, the only way it works is if MassDOT makes like the state of Maine and buys/leases a bunch of Amfleets or something similarly comfortable and runs 3-4 car consists with a dining car, subsidized like the Downeaster to a similar price point so that a trip from Pittsfield to Boston never breaks $20. It's far too long of a trip to make in a spartan commuter rail coach, and it needs to be cheaper than making the trip by Zipcar or whatever. Depending on how much the state truly cares about boosting tourism and investment in the Mohawk Trail region, even that could be a bargain. Riding the train through that incredible scenery to hike Greylock, spend an afternoon at Mass MOCA or the Clark Institute, or catch a performance at Tanglewood would be one hell of a ticket, one that the Cape Flyer or even the Downeaster would struggle to match.
  by BandA
Omg, what a moonbat project. What that part of the state needs is a 70+ MPH expressway bypass for Route 2. Build a giant parking garage at 495 so people can transition to Commuter Rail. If you want to spend money on CR to the northwest quadrant, find things to upgrade out to Fitchburg and rebuild the Mass Central to Berlin, that would be a better use of the moneys.
It is important to note that the proposed service is meant to compliment the proposed east-west rail service between Boston, Springfield and Pittsfield, and not compete with it.
It sure as heck competes for scarce subsidy money. When someone feeds me bologna, anything else they serve I eat with a grain of salt.

Wow though, five-a-day service back in 1954! Even if the earliest arrival in Boston was about noontime, it is pretty interesting. They invite you to compare to the Downeaster which has five-a-day today, but gets the committed commuter worker to Boston before 8 AM! Imagine what driving from Adams to Boston back in the early 1950s must have been like, even a slow train would have been better, while Portland to Boston would have been 40-50 MPH cement highways like Route 1 and the Central Artery.
  by newpylong
I am very skeptical that the study will show a viable path but I don't think you've read anything but the headline. There are other service options besides multiple trains per day ie a commuter service model.

Do you have any idea how many annual visitors Mass MoCA is up to these days? It's around 250,000 people. It is an absolute mob scene on any given weekend. The Clark Art is around 170,000 per year. Those are the two largest attractions in the Northern Berkshires, but only two of them. Can something like this capture any of that? I don't know... Like one of the previous posters said, it is a damn shame the Pittsfield and North Adams was largely pulled up because I believe the largest portion of these visitors are from the South, not Eastern MA.

I've to see "scarce subsidy money" on Massachusetts infrastructure projects - they're up there with Maine at spending like a drunken sailor on stuff like this.
  by BandA
I was getting a little "hot" under the "collar" I guess...

So >2000/day tourism to North Adams "reverse" service. What portion will use the train? Demand in both directions is a good thing.

Last I looked, the state was only spending 7% of the state budget on transportation, and I *assume* that includes the debt payments for the big dig, while over 50% went for social spending / health care, and local aid is chronically underfunded & unevenly distributed. So actually the state doesn't have "any" extra money.
  by conductorchris
More parking at 495 (Littleton) really would be a good idea, regardless of what happens to this study. The lot of regularly overflowing, despite raising parking to $6 a day.
  by caduceus
conductorchris wrote: Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:22 pm More parking at 495 (Littleton) really would be a good idea, regardless of what happens to this study. The lot of regularly overflowing, despite raising parking to $6 a day.
When I have to get into Boston or Cambridge for one of my clients, I could take a later train except I wouldn't be able to park. Even the electric-only spots are taken. So I take the express and get to their offices well before anyone else and have to sit around a Starbucks or Dunkin for a while - and I don't like coffee...

I seem to recall the land owner wanted a ridiculously high price before they expanded to what they have...don't know if that would still be a problem. But I would love it if they could double space.
  by Rockingham Racer
Could they expand UP, as in parking garage. Lawrence has a good one.
  by MBTA3247
It looks like there's room to do so, but there'd be no parking at all while it was going up.
  by BandA
I used to think it was unfair that they charged for parking - for example, in the late 80s they took the West Concord stations' free dirt parking lot, paved it and started charging, but didn't add any spaces. Bad deal for riders. But now every parking lot is overflowing. Now I think they should increase the parking fees until demand drops below supply or until the parking rate covers the financing costs for a parking garage or additional land.

Is there a website where you can find out the parking availability at each station, before you drive there? And for people who are New to a station, can you find out what the "typical" time they run out of spaces?

I am not an expert, but I have read that Metro-North tries to set aside enough spaces for daily commuters, then offer monthly passes (with waiting lists) for the rest.