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Old 07-17-2014, 04:29 PM   #1
vanshnookenraggen
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Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

This popped up on my Facebook feed this morning:

https://blog.mass.gov/transportation...line-purchase/

Quote:
The MassDOT Board of Directors has authorized MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey to execute an agreement to purchase the Berkshire Line from the Housatonic Railroad Company, a major step toward delivering passenger rail service between New York City and the Berkshires.

The agreement includes $12.13 million to acquire the line and an estimated $35 million for initial track improvements, funded by the 2014 Transportation Bond Bill approved by the legislature. The Berkshire Line extends approximately 37 miles from the Connecticut border in Sheffield through Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Lee, and Lenox to Pittsfield, where it joins the CSXT Railroad main line.

“Studies have shown that a Berkshire County rail connection to New York City would be a winner, with more than one million rides annually,” said Secretary Davey. “This purchase and the initial upgrades in the line represent historic steps toward improved access to the Berkshires for tourists and residents alike.”

The initial track improvements will permit the operation of passenger trains but serve freight trains until the Connecticut portion of the project is completed. A final round of track improvements will be required along with improvements on the Connecticut portion of the line prior to the start of passenger rail service. The Transportation Bond Bill included $113 million for the purchase and Massachusetts portion of the track improvements.
A date for the beginning of passenger service is dependent upon completion of the upgrades in both states.
I'm pumped for this as my parents just purchased a condo in Lenox.
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Old 07-17-2014, 04:59 PM   #2
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

Good move on the purchase for freight. The passenger idea is batshit, and still likely to die a quiet death the second Patrick--he with the mansion in Richmond 5 miles away from these tracks--leaves office.

Housatonic RR is pretty much the most troubled carrier in New England. They've lost nearly all of their on-line customers and are thought to be teetering on insolvency, though because they're private nobody knows for sure. They have had a spate of derailments over the last year, and they kicked Berkshire Scenic RR museum excursion trains off their tracks in a dispute that many think was created whole-cloth out of Housatonic's own safety issues with its track. They're down to two operable locomotives.

CT's State Rail Plan (see p.204) says it'll cost $165M just to get Housatonic's tracks from state line to Danbury in adequate freight shape (hence, their complete and total lack of interest in this passenger unicorn Patrick's pushing and unwillingness to send their own dignitaries on the trip to North Caanan that Patrick chartered last year). CTDOT also pulled all of its TIGER grants for Housatonic when a past award for new rail and crossing renewals "disappeared" (they suspect snuck across the border into MA to patch their derailment epidemic before the FRA sanctioned them).



So, basically the only way to save that Berkshire corridor is to wrest it from Housatonic's hands by purchasing the line. CTDOT owns the state line-New Milford track, which is why they are able to retaliate on that TIGER grant fraud. This locks up the largest chunk of private Housatonic RR mileage left, and only leaves CTDOT to haggle with them over the New Milford-Danbury portion (which they want as a long-term hold for Metro North commuter rail) of the Berkshire and the east-west Maybrook Line from state line to Danbury to Derby (which it wants because co-user P&W has repeatedly threatened to sue Housatonic for not fixing the abominable track conditions). And gives them a chance to bring Berkshire Scenic back online and mediate that nasty dispute. Currently the state is closing sale with Pan Am on the Adams Branch from N. Adams to downtown Adams and de-abandoning 1 mile of track to the old downtown Adams station to relocate the scenic train and keep the museum in business while they're banned from their home track. This would help restore the peace and put the museum on more solid ground.




There's just no chance in hell that passenger line is ever going to happen. CTDOT doesn't want it, Gov. Malloy doesn't want it. Berkshire Scenic has already told Patrick to pound sand at land-taking their historic station buildings for stops. Metro North has already said pound sand to routing that unicorn west from Danbury onto the Harlem Line to sidestep NEC congestion. It would cost a billion dollars to get that track above 40 MPH and travel time to NYC under 6 hours. Berkshire County's more bemused than gung-ho. And if there really needed to be a Berkshire-NYC direct they'd get there hours faster taking an existing Empire train terminating at Albany and paying Amtrak and New York State some spare change to pry it +1 stops east on the B&A. And I doubt any Gov. candidate has ever laid eyes on that track before much less had a sprawling estate in driving distance to one of the stations they somewhat illegally want to take from the private owners. It's D.O.A. on inauguration day.


But, yes...good purchase of the line. Legitimately good. There's a lot more freight potential to be had out there if they can roll back some of the damage Housatonic did in its 25 years of stewardship of that line. Anything that makes the state arbiter on decisions (and safety repairs) to those tracks is a good thing, and if Housatonic can ever be paid to just fuck off and go away entirely there's a couple much better carriers who'd love to get their hands on and make something of that corridor. I could even see Berkshire Scenic and Danbury Rail Museum joining forces for some neat excursion trips the whole length of the line if the track were made just safe enough to do 25 MPH to New Milford.
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Old 07-17-2014, 05:06 PM   #3
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

Woah, that's big news! I thought the train to Pittsfield had been bargained away in the legislative process. (Maybe the Gov is trying to ensure the resale value of his mountain house ;-) Still, if you look at Amtrak's financials, its the trains serving NYC that are throwing off the operating cash. You can't quite say serving NYC is "no lose" for a corridor train, but it's close!

Handy map from The Berkshire Train Campaign As I read it, Mass has bought the green line within its boundaries.
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Old 07-17-2014, 05:21 PM   #4
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

Quote:
“Studies have shown that a Berkshire County rail connection to New York City would be a winner, with more than one million rides annually,” said Secretary Davey. “This purchase and the initial upgrades in the line represent historic steps toward improved access to the Berkshires for tourists and residents alike.”
So is this just PR BS? I for one see the need for a Berkshire-NYC trip as most of the area is a playground for New Yorkers anyway. What if there was an express train from GCT to Danbury (a couple trips a day at most)? Considering the route parallels Rt7 and most of the development and population resides along the historic railroad corridor it would seem to be simple to convert drivers to riders. Granted I'm leaving politics out of it but it would seem to me to be an idea that, at the very least, could grow in popularity as the tracks are restored and residents see the potential.
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Old 07-17-2014, 05:36 PM   #5
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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I for one see the need for a Berkshire-NYC trip as most of the area is a playground for New Yorkers anyway. What if there was an express train from GCT to Danbury (a couple trips a day at most)?
I see F-Line's objection: that's a whole lot of rail miles to upgrade in CT for not many train movements.

But I also see Van's point: We're probably talking 1 to 3 intercity (Amtrak) trains per day, and if they can get to the Harlem line it has no scary NEC implications.

So I see 3 things making this work:
1) A real freight operator

2) Metro-North extends from Southeast to New Milford, adding frequencies at Danbury while at the same time nipping a few Danbury trains off the NEC (long term, it frees up slots that can go to Hartford/Springfield)

3) Intercity (Amtrak or Keolis) service of 1x to 3x per day NYC-Pittsfield.
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Old 07-17-2014, 06:17 PM   #6
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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Originally Posted by vanshnookenraggen View Post
So is this just PR BS? I for one see the need for a Berkshire-NYC trip as most of the area is a playground for New Yorkers anyway. What if there was an express train from GCT to Danbury (a couple trips a day at most)? Considering the route parallels Rt7 and most of the development and population resides along the historic railroad corridor it would seem to be simple to convert drivers to riders. Granted I'm leaving politics out of it but it would seem to me to be an idea that, at the very least, could grow in popularity as the tracks are restored and residents see the potential.
NYNH&H's 1951 passenger timetable shows a 5:20 trip from Pittsfield to Grand Central via Danbury and the NEC.




NY Central RR ran the competing route that went North Adams-Pittsfield-Chatham-Grand Central via the Pittsfield & North Adams RR, B&A, and Harlem Line. 1949 timetable had it 4:10 GCT-Pittsfield + 50 minutes Pittsfield-N. Adams.





Not very competitive at all. P&NA's midsection is a rail trail and the Harlem stopped running to Chatham in 1972 and was abandoned, so now the Amtrak-served parts are Hudson Line + B&A.

Current Empire Service schedule: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/1014/91/...ule-050514.pdf

Current Lake Shore Limited schedule: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/987/513/...ule-060914.pdf

2:30 between Albany and Penn Station. And that'll get slightly better when the current Poughkeepsie-Albany track work finishes and bumps the speed over 90 MPH to 110 MPH in some spots. 1:15 Pittsfield-Albany on the LSL, which is ridiculously slower than the 45 minutes it used to be when there were multiple intermediate stops. But that's the CSX effect and the artificially slow state of the B&A mainline. Double-track west of Pittsfield and get the artificial speed restrictions lifted like they plan with the Inland Route and that snaps back to probably 55 mins. with Chatham re-added as an intermediate.

Worst-case: 3:15-3:30 with dwell at Albany while the train changes ends. Best-case: 2:45-3:00 with the Empire going 110 MPH north of Poughkeepsie and the B&A at least sustaining 60+ between Albany and Pittsfield.


Why in the hell would anyone spend a billion dollars on this? You could de-landbank the Pittsfield & North Adams as rail-with-trail for a quarter the price, reach many times greater Berkshire County population density, and still make better time to NYC than the old days because Amtrak on the Hudson Line will be going way faster than the old Harlem Line route that still beat the Housatonic route by an hour.


This isn't just a South Coast Rail ill-advised plan. It is literally the worst route they could pick...TODAY...to bring the most people from Berkshire County to New York City in the least time with the most frequencies. In a fantasy world with unlimited funds...nobody would float this as their preferred plan. Unless you happened to have a mansion 5 miles away from Lenox station and a likely lobbying gig in NYC served up on a silver platter when you leave office. This is why Gov. Malloy in CT won't even let himself be seen with Gov. Patrick whenever this subject comes up. It's a shit route for anything but a nice, slow-and-relaxing Berkshire Scenic fun run. And always was even when all three north-south routes from New York to I-90 still ran passengers in various Pittsfield-accessible configurations.
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Old 07-17-2014, 08:50 PM   #7
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

Numbers. . .


Assuming the end of Metro North territory is going to be New Milford (pop. 28,142), then the new towns the Housatonic route runs directly through unserved by any other direct-to-NYC rail are:

-- Kent, CT (pop. 2979)
-- Cornwall, CT (pop. 1420)
-- Canaan, CT (pop. 1234)
-- North Canaan, CT (pop. 3315)
-- Sheffield, MA (pop. 3255)
-- Great Barrington, MA (pop. 7131)
-- Lee, MA (pop. 5932)
-- Lenox, MA (pop 5013)
-- Pittsfield, MA (pop. 44,691).
TOTAL (CT): 8948 unserved by direct NYC rail
TOTAL (MA): 66,022 unserved by direct NYC rail
GRAND TOTAL: 74,970 unserved by direct NYC rail

None of the adjacent towns in the station catchment areas (e.g. Stockbridge, Tyringham, Mt. Washington, New Marlborough in MA; Salisbury, Sharon, Warren in CT) any larger. Kent's about a 9-mile drive to the nearest Harlem Line commuter rail stop, Sharon 7 miles...so there is also a catchment overlap in CT to active commuter rail stations with hourly peak schedules running halfway to the MA border on this corridor.


Towns east of Albany-Renssalaer (Albany pop. 97,904 / Rensselaer pop. 9392) on the B&A that the new route runs directly through:
-- Schodack, NY (pop. 12,794)
-- Kinderhook, NY (pop. 8498)
-- Chatham, NY (pop. 4128)
-- Canaan, NY (pop. 1710)
-- Richmond, MA (pop. 1671)
-- Pittsfield, MA (pop. 44,691).
TOTAL (NY): 27,130 unserved by direct NYC rail
TOTAL (MA): 43,362 unserved by direct NYC rail
GRAND TOTAL: 73,492 unserved by direct NYC rail


Dead tie for about 9/10ths less cost and 2 hours savings on the clock. I bet NY State would be happy to pay its share for the assist de-clogging the Thruway into Albany with all it gains, including its generally bigger-population towns in the overall catchment area.


Now let's see what happens when we include Pittsfield & North Adams rail-with-trail restoration. Unsignaled, single-track, trail offset by a fence (it spends most of its time on the trailed 8 miles next to the Hoosic River and Cheshire Reservoir away from private property). You can do unsignaled with no PTC if there's 6 or fewer trains per day. Say, a low price bid of 40 MPH upgradeable to 60 MPH in a later installment, high price bid of 60 off the bat.

(north of Pittsfield)
-- Lanesborough (pop. 3074)
-- Cheshire (pop. 610...but the Appalacian Trail crosses the ROW at the old Main St. station so there'd be recreation traffic here)
-- Adams (pop. 8494...#3 in Berkshire County)
-- North Adams (pop. 13,763...#2 in Berkshire County)
TOTAL: +25,941
UPDATED TOTAL (B&A + P&NA route): 69,303 (MA) unserved by direct NYC rail; 99,433 (grand total) unserved by direct NYC rail.

Where exactly are we proposing to spend that billion dollars again?



But wait...there's more.

North Adams Jct. is on the signaled, very busy Pan Am mainline. Phase II of Vermont's Ethan Allen Express relocation plan will eventually relocate that train off the Adirondack route Schenectady-Whitehall onto the Pan Am main Schenectady-Hoosick Falls, then up the Western Corridor to Benningron, Rutland, and Burlington. 60 MPH design speed past Schenectady.

Hoosick Falls Jct. is 22 miles west of North Adams Jct. Pay the Pan Am tax to upgrade that track to 60 MPH to match the 60 MPH they're getting east out of Albany and you can thru-route this into a super-duper Berkshire Limited train up the Ethan Allen route that would be a smash hit during ski season.

Extra towns served by extended from end of service in N. Adams to end of NY Ethan Allen service in Hoosick Falls (pop. 3501):
-- Williamstown, MA (pop. 7828...#4 in Berkshire County)
-- Pownal, VT (pop. 3527)
-- Petersburgh, NY (pop. 1525)
TOTAL: +12,880
UPDATED TOTAL (B&A + P&NA + Pan Am): 77,131 (MA) unserved by direct NYC rail; 112,313 (grand total) unserved by direct NYC rail.



Doing ALL of the above as a ski special and terminating the MA-flank train at Rutland and Killington resort still probably gets you to NYC in about the same 5-1/2 hour time frame as the Housatonic route going not one inch north of Pittsfield. At half cost.


Like I said, it's not only a bad use of money it is the WORST of all possible routings serving the fewest of all possible people at the longest possible travel times and most possible price tag. If we gotta think big, put a bullseye on the Pittsfield & North Adams ROW. That's the missing link that ties the entire Berkshire range together top-to-bottom.
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Old 07-17-2014, 09:07 PM   #8
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

So it sounds like the best route would be shaped like a crozier (shepherd's hook) NYP-ALB-Pittsfield-(turn south)-Berkshires?

If the Berkshires can never do any better than "leisurely" from NYC, no matter the routing, and CT won't ever help, it sounds like the best solution avoids CT and Grand Central all together.
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Old 07-17-2014, 09:42 PM   #9
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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So it sounds like the best route would be shaped like a crozier (shepherd's hook) NYP-ALB-Pittsfield-(turn south)-Berkshires?

If the Berkshires can never do any better than "leisurely" from NYC, no matter the routing, and CT won't ever help, it sounds like the best solution avoids CT and Grand Central all together.
Yeah. And also consider that should Metro North be up for another Harlem Line de-landbanking as follow-up to the 2001 Wassaic restoration, they can legally by their agency charter go as far as the Dutchess County border in Millerton. Millerton station is a 12-mile drive down US 44 from North Caanan station on the Housatonic, the northernmost CT stop.


Harlem Line schedule: http://web.mta.info/mnr/html/plannin...L072014_MF.pdf

Right now it's about 1:55 from Wassaic to Grand Central, hourly peak service and 2 hours off-peak (pretty much the league-average frequency if that were an MBTA CR line). Not bad at all for a stop 82 miles from Grand Central. The last Penn Central commuter rail schedule on the Upper Harlem from 1972 before service was abandoned past Dover Plains was 2-1/2 hours Millerton-GCT, but took 15 minutes longer to get to Wassaic from GCT because the track was much crappier back then. So, figure 2:15 if they bring it back +2 stops to Millerton.




Don't hold your breath on that happening soon. Penn Station access is the be-all/end-all of Metro North expansion dreams occupying the MTA's brainspace right now, and a Poughkeepsie-Rhinecliff extension to the Hudson Line trumps Millerton by wide margin. But it's realistic to happen sometime because the Wassaic extension won't satiate exploding Dutchess County demand forever.


Why would CTDOT want anything to do with commuter service on the Housatonic north of New Milford when a trip from North Canaan takes 3-1/2 hours direct on the Housatonic...or takes a 15-minute drive/bus down Route 44 to Millerton and 2.5 hours on a train that runs every hour. 45 minutes faster and they get double or more the trains to schedule around than they ever would going into cramped Danbury. And mind you, North Canaan is the MA border town. Go a dozen miles down Route 7 and they are already driving to Wassaic and other existing Harlem Line stations for a faster trip than the Housy would ever net them at the "local" stop. Commuters in Kent probably aren't even paying attention to this story. They're driving to Dover Plains every day to catch the train and occasionally watching the New Milford extension feasibility study with interest. They don't give a crap about this proposal.

New Milford is the dividing line where Route 7 gets too congested, Danbury station becomes closer than Pawling or Valley-Wingdale on the Harlem, and local relief is badly needed. That's why CTDOT's got the official study page up: http://www.danburybranchstudy.com/. They have nothing whatsoever to gain going north. And that's why Malloy won't return Patrick's phone calls and every CTDOT spokesflak gives the neutral-most answer like "Yeah, sure, whatever...study it" whenever some town alderman gets whipped into a froth about how awesome it would be to have an Acela-on-the-Housy. Totally redundant, totally counterproductive for CT. And they'll be paying for more of it than MA will.


This isn't South Coast Rail where the myth-making and political favors can carry it. It's D.O.A. on Inauguration Day without Patrick's bizarre fixation pushing it any longer. If Berkshire County and Rep. Neal are smart, they'll seize on the momentum and immediately pivot to the Empire +1 idea to keep it on anyone's radar with realism, and start recasting the Housatonic in terms of growing Berkshire Scenic as an added attraction you ride once you step off in Pittsfield after a quick trip on well-worn Amtrak trackage.

Last edited by F-Line to Dudley; 07-17-2014 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 07-18-2014, 11:27 PM   #10
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

Worcester trains to North Station....
Trains to seaport...
Berkshires...

Well they certainly like to study stuff in this administration.
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Old 07-29-2014, 08:54 PM   #11
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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Worcester trains to North Station....
Trains to seaport...
Berkshires...

Well they certainly like to study stuff in this administration.
Meanwhile, not even a inkling of interest in BLX to Lynn, OLX to Rozzie, and other easy, low-hanging, bang-for-buck projects...
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forget it ever happening, its too great an idea.
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Old 07-30-2014, 08:36 AM   #12
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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Meanwhile, not even a inkling of interest in BLX to Lynn, OLX to Rozzie, and other easy, low-hanging, bang-for-buck projects...
I was surprised how little BLX got discussed last year as part of the big push for additional transportation funding. I feel like if the Governor had been smarter, he would have had that be on of the big investments - pretty great way to get the Senator McGee (Transportation Chair - D - Lynn) on board.
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Old 07-30-2014, 09:45 AM   #13
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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I was surprised how little BLX got discussed last year as part of the big push for additional transportation funding. I feel like if the Governor had been smarter, he would have had that be on of the big investments - pretty great way to get the Senator McGee (Transportation Chair - D - Lynn) on board.
Isn't Red-Blue a strong recommendation, if not a requirement, to be done before Blue is extended north? I would just imagine that all these additionally riders coming downtown on Blue would add to the crush load problems if circulation issues aren't fixed first.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:45 PM   #14
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Isn't Red-Blue a strong recommendation, if not a requirement, to be done before Blue is extended north? I would just imagine that all these additionally riders coming downtown on Blue would add to the crush load problems if circulation issues aren't fixed first.
Red-Blue is a requirement for saving downtown from choking itself to death. See the Seaport Transit thread. The problem with the current Transitway vs. growth in the neighborhood isn't the Silver Line's performance (or debates about lackthereof). It's the fact that it's shoveling limitless new riders onto the Red Line at South Station and making them do the transfer zigzag at DTX and Park to get anywhere else on the system. Park and DTX are over-capacity on the Red level, and SS is fast catching up. That's killing dwell times at the stations with how extreme the loads are that have to transfer there. Which in turn decays the entirety of Red Line OTP. And, headway improvements on Red won't improve the line's performance if SS/Seaport ridership increases keep tracking 1:1. You get a Catch 22 where inability to clear the platforms inhibits implementing the headway increases that are the only in-house way of clearing the platforms faster.

Then look at how this kills Green. Both levels of Park are over-capacity, and the decay in dwells on the lower level is starting to overwhelm the upper level with wait times longer and longer and longer to clear or load a trolley before proceeding to next stop. This is going to hit crisis levels when GLX forces the D to run thru Riverside-Medford.


So, basically, you have to load-spread something around. And given how underutilized Blue is vs. its natural demand because of the transfer dance required to get anywhere, Red-Blue probably does slightly more to de-clog Red at Park/DTX/SS than a Transitway-GL link would. *Slightly* more...in that case drawing some of these transferees away from that murderer's row of 3 downtown transfer stops to very under-utilized Charles MGH. Significant dwell-time relief at DTX and especially both levels of Park, while Charles is under-capacity enough to suffer no dwell increase whatsoever. This is the project that pulls the most riders off Green from Park to GC, gives the GLX thru-running a leg to stand on, and buys enough short-term relief on the SS/Seaport-Park transfer crisis to figure out their direct-connection options for a few more years.

And it costs less than any other solution. Basically, all those published reports warning about our 2030 downtown circulation problems and the utter systemwide paralysis that'll ensue from the collapse of those 3 transfer stations' ability to handle the loads fingers this as the most mission-critical project of all. Transitway-Green and Urban Ring are life-or-death as well, but those are such massive undertakings they can't be settled up quickly or with fewer impacts than constructing Red-Blue.



So of course it's been repealed out of the TIP and replaced by running empty choo-choos of unknown operator in the least-populated by orders-of-magnitude corner of the state on the third-best available routing that costs 2-10 times as much as the 2nd or 1st best routings (and more expensive overall than Red-Blue) with travel times > 2x as bad as the better options. With zero cooperation from the neighboring state it runs through and a freight partner that could charitably be described as "disreputable" or worse.


At least South Coast Rail follows some sort of logic...logic shot entirely full of holes and entirely through its own feet, but logic nonetheless. This has no logic whatsoever except: the governor has a sprawling estate 5 miles from Lenox station and a likely cushy NYC lobbying gig with 3-day-a-week midtown commute teed up for himself upon leaving office.

I would love to see how this proposal fares in an honest poll of Berkshire County residents when the 2-1/2 hour Albany-Hudson Line cheap option with expanded BRTA connecting bus service to Pittsfield Transit Center is floated as an either/or choice vs. the Housatonic route. What are the odds they'll value travel time and availability of expanded future frequencies out of Albany far more than new corridor for new corridor's sake? So far it's just local-yokel pols being wound up into a froth about a completely artificial binary choice of Housy-or-bust.
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:05 PM   #15
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

spotted this:
Berkshires Rail Service Still Not a Winner, or, the Importance of Interdependence and Cooperation
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:20 PM   #16
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

I like the idea of the Hudson line getting a connection to go east from the big bridge at Castleton to Pittsfield. Either route, via Albany or shortcutting at Castleton, looks pretty good for passengers
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:38 PM   #17
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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Originally Posted by Arlington View Post
I like the idea of the Hudson line getting a connection to go east from the big bridge at Castleton to Pittsfield. Either route, via Albany or shortcutting at Castleton, looks pretty good for passengers
Can't. Junction at Castleton points the wrong direction for thru service. If you switch Google to terrain view (may have to go with Legacy Maps, since the stupid new version eliminated terrain view) it's also on a steepish incline splitting a rock cut at the top where it meets the Selkirk Branch, so adding an eastbound wye is infeasible from engineering standpoint.

Reversing at Albany's very efficient. They do reverses for short-turns and engine swaps for continuing service all day there at minimal dwell penalty. Station's being reworked with a 4th track dropped onto the easterly platform to turn that into an island, and reconfiguring of the switches into the westerly platform so that can more easily be used as an island. And you can see the far west side of the station has room to drop in yet another island for 6 total platform tracks. The B&A currently junctions at the foot of the platform, so with the new track going the Boston-flank Lake Shore Limited will be pulling in without a single conflicting movement of any Hudson trains. That's where this reverse can take place quickly and free-and-clear of interference.

I don't think any bypasses are required. You want the big ridership anchor of Albany-Rensselaer and access to the Amtrak equipment home base on the adjoining yard to make it as dirt-simple as possible to pry off an Empire short-turn Ethan Allen Express-style at zero inconvenience to any other service pattern's levels.



BTW...the only other bypass route is long gone. The ex-B&A Hudson Branch between the existing Hudson Amtrak station and Chatham station has also been abandoned so long (except for 2 miles of industrial track in downtown Hudson) the ROW's too far obliterated to ever be reconnected.
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:56 PM   #18
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
Can't. Junction at Castleton points the wrong direction for thru service. If you switch Google to terrain view (may have to go with Legacy Maps, since the stupid new version eliminated terrain view) it's also on a steepish incline splitting a rock cut at the top where it meets the Selkirk Branch, so adding an eastbound wye is infeasible from engineering standpoint.
Aw, come on. Little bit of dynamite and you've got your wye, and a little bit of running parallel to the Thruway and you can solve any remaining grade problems.
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Old 07-30-2014, 03:40 PM   #19
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

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Aw, come on. Little bit of dynamite and you've got your wye, and a little bit of running parallel to the Thruway and you can solve any remaining grade problems.
1) Just try getting CSX to agree to that at the junction that handles all NYC, Long Island, CT, and MA freight traffic to/from its single largest yard. No f'n way do they put up with the disruption at a relatively vulnerable system linchpin when the passenger trains have other options on track Amtrak already owns (the B&A mainline between the Selkirk Branch where all the freights turn out and A-R station) or leases-to-own (the Hudson main). They're accommodating of passenger investment on the mainlines when the states show them the money and buy them a better freight RR for their troubles, but their for-profit flexibility has limits. And Selkirk Yard access is one of those limits that outslugs even the most generous state-sponsored passenger charity (especially for service as marginal as this one).

2) Just try EIS'ing and gaining community approval for a blast-a-thon in richie rich Castleton. You'll be starting service 12 years later at twice the cost than if you never bothered.

3) Remember how long we've been bitching about freight dispatching hampering speeds on the Worcester Line? This 'shortcut' is unexpandable single track under ironclad freight dispatching control. That's likely going to be 11 miles of forever 40 MPH speed limit, lower at the junction, with pauses for passing freights just like the interminable Palmer delays on the Vermonter today which Amtrak can't relocate away from fast enough. The Hudson is going to 110 MPH on its Amtrak-dispatched 15 miles to A-R, and the 10 miles of Amtrak ownership and dispatching on the B&A past the Selkirk Branch is a mostly curve-free 80 MPH default. Maybe pushable to 85-90 MPH if service levels merit. Twice the mileage, but at worst a wash on time with more reliable OTP because of all the freight dispatching it sidesteps.


This is textbook Transit OCD, mapmakers' perfectionism run amok, and "perfect is the enemy of good".

This service doesn't exist at all without the ridership and equipment anchor of Albany, so speculating about (much less favoring to point of insistence) the most map-attractive straight-line bypass like it's some sort of blocker ends up killing an already flimsy project dead. There's no Pittsfield-Chatham-Hudson-Rhinecliff-Poughkeepsie ridership to be had without an Albany anchoring the middle. There's no Amtrak equipment supply to be had without Albany Yard anchoring the middle. And there is no time-savings or OTP advantage to be had bypassing all the high-speed territory for a well-known freight chokepoint. Lighting more money on fire trying to force-fit something that looks more self-satisfying on a map doesn't buy a single advantage. It's blasting a shitload of rock and overpaying an uncooperative billion-dollar corporation to say you can.

Much like there's no rational point or discernible advantage to the Housatonic route except saying you can if money and raw might were no object.
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Old 07-30-2014, 04:03 PM   #20
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Re: Berkshire Rail Service Restoration

OK, CSX fears, freight dispatching, and rich NIMBYs should be free to nix Castleton in favor of going via Albany. I just wouldn't have read them as making the wye "infeasible from engineering standpoint"
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