17.10.15

IMPROVING THE COMMUTER RAIL NETWORK.

I'll use Worcester, Massachusetts, as my base of operations in eastern Massachusetts as there is convenient rail access to Boston and the Amtrak network (change to the Orange Line at Back Bay for North Station.)


The intermodal terminal at right belongs to CSX, which has its own reasons for avoiding the congestion toward Boston.  Sometimes the intermodal trains and the commuter trains are in the station area at the same time, and sometimes one train photographer gets into another photographer's picture.


I think I got the better lighting and view.

Recently, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced plans for faster (because non-stop) trains for and from Worcester.
One nonstop train will depart from Union Station at 7:55 a.m. and arrive at Back Bay Station in Boston in less than hour. Another nonstop train will leave from Back Bay and return to Worcester in the evening. The new service is part of a planned series of improvements to the Worcester/Framingham Line, the MBTA says.  The new nonstop service should save riders about 30 minutes. The current trip between Worcester and Boston takes about and hour and a half, stopping as many as 16 times before reaching South Station. Plans have also been made to add two additional express trains to the Worcester/Framingham Line in both directions daily.

Improvements including welded new rail installations are also in the works for the Worcester/Framingham Line. Work will be done to “de-stress” the rail, which helps eliminate track buckles and help curtail speed restrictions in times of high heat. Installing new rail should also make the system more resilient to winter weather.
The improvements to the rail are desirable, on last summer's excursion, one of my return trains from Boston, at the time the first stop Framingham semi-express got hammered by those heat-related slow orders, and there were more than a few disgruntled riders griping into their smart 'phones.

But the authority's reference to the limited stop trains as "bullet trains" is jarring, these will neither look like contemporary bullet trains nor carry expedited freight in the way of the Maine Bullet of years gone by.
Two new express trains will be added. One is a new train, the other is a conversion of an existing, full-service train. Those trains will not stop after reaching Framingham, about 42 minutes into the trip. The overall trip will take about 75 minutes.
Those conversions are additional semi-express trains. The demand for the trains suggests a steep bid-rent curve in the Boston area. Is there a shadow price for congestion, in case anyone reading this wants a senior thesis topic?
The cost to live in Worcester is lower, almost by half, as it costs to live in Boston, [selectman Philip] Palmieri said. With a commute of less than one hour, some of those employees now debating where to buy a home may choose Worcester. That is the critical mass that will then draw businesses to serve those residents, which results in local jobs, he said.

City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. agreed, noting the bullet train and the additional express lines make it "that much easier to market Worcester" to people who work in Boston.

"It allows people to be more flexible with their time," Augustus said.
The expanded service is particularly encouraging as Boston to Worcester is not yet the Burlington Racetrack for passenger volume or train density.
MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola said Worcester does have good ridership, with about 100 people boarding in Worcester on its current lines. That's about 10 percent of what reaches Boston, which is about 1,000 people, he said. The service announced today is looking to increase that number.

"We're hoping this is an opportunity for even more ridership," DePaola said. "We are hoping to attract even more people to get out from their cars. We can now beat the commute to Boston by car, with a train – assuming people follow the speed limit."
Speed limit or not, expressway congestion and high parking charges have a way of convincing commuters to take the train. I sometimes think there are more than a thousand people waiting to board each Naperville Zephyr at Naperville.

But Southeastern Massachusetts is such a pain to get around in by car that there are people seeking to restore passenger service between Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island.
Massachusetts-based Boston Surface Railroad Co. would be the first [interstate] private passenger rail company in the U.S. since 1983. The company recently completed a feasibility study that proposes the operation of daily commuter trains on the Providence & Worcester Railroad between its two namesake cities, a distance of 45 miles.
Once upon a time, New York and Maine through trains hauling the elite to Bar Harbor and Kineo Station and the other Down East refuges used that routing, although such service, and a few Providence and Worcester local trains vanished long before the New Haven Railroad became part of Penn Central.

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