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Old 06-12-2019, 09:17 AM   #141
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

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Originally Posted by odurandina View Post

I'll believe it when I see it. While operationally effortless, equipment is at such a premium until NY gets its crack at state-sponsored fleet renewal that they're not going to want to pry away a slot that could otherwise be assigned to an Empire Service short-turn. Plus the Ethan Allen Express extends to Burlington in a couple years putting further imminent strain on resources.


Enhancing Albany-Springfield buses with more Pittsfield stopovers could do the trick effectively much more immediately, while helping route-prime for this train when new equipment allows. More useful as a service start, but not a shiny thing so the local Legislators have no interest in playing the long game.
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:14 AM   #142
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

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I'll believe it when I see it. While operationally effortless, equipment is at such a premium until NY gets its crack at state-sponsored fleet renewal that they're not going to want to pry away a slot that could otherwise be assigned to an Empire Service short-turn. Plus the Ethan Allen Express extends to Burlington in a couple years putting further imminent strain on resources.


Enhancing Albany-Springfield buses with more Pittsfield stopovers could do the trick effectively much more immediately, while helping route-prime for this train when new equipment allows. More useful as a service start, but not a shiny thing so the local Legislators have no interest in playing the long game.
Dumb question, would the equipment for this proposed route be Amtrak's? That's the assumption I had clicking the link, and there is some evidence that that would be the case in the article but nothing concrete. And it also goes on to highlight MassDOT's role in all of this and talks about how this is based on the Cape Flyer. It's even called the Berkshire Flyer. Does this mean there's the potential for seeing MBTA branded equipment at Penn Station or am I misreading this?
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Old 06-12-2019, 01:01 PM   #143
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

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Dumb question, would the equipment for this proposed route be Amtrak's? That's the assumption I had clicking the link, and there is some evidence that that would be the case in the article but nothing concrete. And it also goes on to highlight MassDOT's role in all of this and talks about how this is based on the Cape Flyer. It's even called the Berkshire Flyer. Does this mean there's the potential for seeing MBTA branded equipment at Penn Station or am I misreading this?

It would be Amtrak equipment. T bi-levels can't fit in Penn and you need a third-rail dual-mode locomotive to get out of Penn (though on most Empire schedules it's swapped out at Albany for a straight diesel, also mandatorily from the AMTK pool because that's all Albany Shops is qualified on). Because of the PRIAA statute where state-sponsored routes have to paper-own their equipment, the dual-modes are NYSDOT property and the coaches NYSDOT and (smidge) VTrans property. Right now they're standard AMTK-maintained Amfleet I's, but the replacement fleet--while AMTK-standardized--may carry special Empire livery as that's an allowable customization option.

MassDOT could pay in to PRIAA as a formal bit player in the Empire fleet like VT does for the Ethan Allen, or just cut a reimbursement check to NY. Either way they're subservient to NY's needs (PRIAA pay-in giving them some limited-but-better chance of controlling their destiny than reimbursing for seasonal use). And that's a hard blocker until the coach AND dual-mode loco shortages get solved...which will not happen in 1 year like Berkshire pols are saying. Not even close. Interim bus solutions should be on the table for next year because this is more like 5 years to new equipment deliveries where NY's going to have to be very stingy with Empire assignments in the meantime.
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:06 PM   #144
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

Keep in mind that the new Berkshire Flyer would be used primarily by downstate residents to reach their country homes. So it's not like NYS wouldn't be pissing away money for another state.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:02 PM   #145
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

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Keep in mind that the new Berkshire Flyer would be used primarily by downstate residents to reach their country homes. So it's not like NYS wouldn't be pissing away money for another state.
Very true. And that's why they enthusiastically support the Ethan Allen Express; that's a New Yorker getaway train more than it is Vermont's. But the equipment crunch is very real.
  • Doing a Pittsfield turn requires running in push-pull mode with a cab car, because there's no wye anywhere near Pittsfield for changing directions. The reverse at Albany-Rensselaer Station from the Hudson Line onto the B&A-connecting Post Road Branch is easily doable because they can use that occasion to detach the dual-mode loco from the front and attach the straight diesel to the back (and vice versa). But the nearest turnback to Pittsfield is...Springfield.
The only cab cars on Amtrak that will fit into Penn Station are the Metroliners, of which only 17 are available with most gobbled up by the Keystone route. Worse, the Ethan Allen has already claimed one of these scarce bodies for its Burlington extension...so the chances of being able to bum another for the Empire pool are especially poor until new cab cars are produced. The next-gen equipment order will substantially expand the cab roster, but since nationally-owned Northeast Regional stock is first up for replacement it won't be until the backside with the statie orders where the first cabs will appear...and PennDOT will probably get all the first ones for those lucrative Keystone assignments because the Metroliners are the single oldest cars left on Amtrak. We may see a situation where there's a very large surplus of Amfleet I coaches displaced from the Regionals...and it wouldn't matter one bit for this train because there's still years to wait for more cab cars.

  • The only other alternative to cabs is to run double-ended, which means the dual-mode will have to stay attached for the full run from Penn while wasting a straight diesel in Albany for the other end. The Genesis P32AC-DM duals are aging and having steadily increasing reliability problems, while their numbers are threadbare for covering the Empire essentials. They get swapped at Albany for straight diesels so they can get sent right back down to NYC to inflate their thin numbers up to a level that'll support the schedule. It is very unlikely that NYSDOT would risk letting a new route vulture one of their duals past Albany because it stretches their reserves to untenable levels. Unfortunately, without a solve for the cab car shortage you need them to agree to exactly that in order to turn around in Pittsfield at all.
The procurement for next-gen duals is a monster order: same third rail dual for the Empire, LIRR, and Metro North branch service @ 75-90 units total. Most likely based on the Siemens Charger diesel and Siemens Sprinter electric. Triple-agency bureaucracy and triple-agency pilot testing before they can start cranking out production units. This is easily a 7-year saga, since the state has spent more time fighting amongst itself than appropriating funds for this.

This isn't an everlasting condition. All of the necessary new equipment will be cued up and in production soon, and the Empire will be flush enough that new route options will be considered. NY & VT already have bullish dreams for an Albany-North Bennington-Rutland train serving VT's Lower Western Corridor, meeting the Ethan Allen Express in Rutland (and perhaps taking over the Burlington leg from the EAE). Easterly pokes into MA would definitely be fair game.

But it's not state-on-state turf warrage to say that equipment is going to be dreadfully difficult to find for this in the next 5 years. Cab cars are so devastatingly few NYSDOT might not even be able to get another one if it arm-twisted, since it already went to that well once to secure one for the EAE-Burlington extension. There's no solution for the duals, since procurement for a new and very complex product will be a full 5+ year wait while the current fleet's reliability rapidly fades. Short-term component renewal of the Genesis duals is expected, but that means that virtually all their cushion will be rotated into the shop for 5-year band-aid life extensions instead of being made available for other services. So if they manage to get a cab car, they might be able to live within the power reserves of an Empire Albany short-turn by engine-swapping to a straight diesel for the Pittsfield leg. But it they have to run double-ended...forget it as long as the Genesis units have to hold up. They can't afford to let any units escape the Penn/Sunnyside-Albany orbit lest one crap-out pushes them to the end of their reserves.

A five-year plan would've been much more reasonable. Or some step-ups from bus to train so there's certainty the season service starts are to commence. This whole "by 2020" over-promising by Berkshire pols is just going to end up killing it faster because those logistical barriers to finding equipment (and reliance on other states really really desperate for equipment) is just going to turn this into a kick-the-can game each year they can't make good on their own prognosticating. There's no need for them to set themselves up for taking wind out of this thing's sails. 2025--6 years from now--all the necessary equipment will be in-progress on delivery guaranteeing at least a minimum-enough number of loose bodies floating around to stock the train. And then by Year 2 and Year 3 it'll be on completely solid footing going forward with all new equipment in-service.

In the meantime, you target years 2020-24 for step-ups...starting with Pittsfield Intermodal Ctr. which has a nice intercity bus terminal but not a whole slew of scheduled intercity trips because it's a ways off the Pike. Can that terminal get some enticement for more service? Maybe even some subsidy for the big-city carriers to 1) add Pittsfield to their Springfield-Albany schedules, and 2) time it with Empire trains so easy transfer, cross-ticketing, and professional baggage handling are available on the two-seat. Then establish some patronage here through these rubber-tire means that you can graduate into a one-seat train when the equipment is available. That would be way better use of time, resources, and seed-planting than not lifting a finger on any mode because they promised "2020" for the papers but the equipment won't be there till '25 at the earliest.
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Old 06-12-2019, 10:58 PM   #146
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

I'm not convinced that ex-Metroliner cabs (and other equipment) are in such dire short supply as to threaten a once-weekly service. As of October 2018, there were indeed 17 available cars. Only 10 were in active revenue service; one was a revenue deadhead, two were bad ordered, two were stored and unlikely to return to service, and two were "standing by". The 19 NPCUs had a similar ratio, and one could also easily be displaced from the Chicago routes or the Heartland Flyer by a P42.

I find it highly doubtful that Amtrak's notoriously conservative management would agree to this if they believed it would cause an equipment issue.
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Old 06-13-2019, 11:17 AM   #147
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

If the T is going to replace all of its flats with doubles, why not sell a couple of consists to NY? Cab cars, check. Fit into Penn, check (I think). Still doesn’t solve the locomotive problem, but better than nothing.
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Old 06-13-2019, 11:59 AM   #148
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

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If the T is going to replace all of its flats with doubles, why not sell a couple of consists to NY? Cab cars, check. Fit into Penn, check (I think). Still doesn’t solve the locomotive problem, but better than nothing.
Same issue: a 5-year timetable for delivery on a new order. Physically can't get the new cabs fast enough. Amtrak WILL have a straight-diesel surplus soon as new Siemens Chargers just ordered will displace most national Genesis P42DC's...but that doesn't help at all with the dual-mode shortage. Single-level Horizon coaches will soon be freed up by the ongoing Siemens coach order for Chicago Hub...but that is plain coaches, no cabs. And the freed up NPCU "cabbage" units made up from gutted ex-F40 locomotives will be more plentiful from the same Siemens order...but those cabs can't fit into Penn, only the Metroliners.

In the meantime there are no single-level commuter cab cars available anywhere in North America, save for a handful of T 1500-series MBB cabs stored in Rochester, MA stripped of all signal equipment. They're in very bad condition and rated only for 79 MPH, much too slow for the 90-110 MPH stretches of Empire corridor that the NY-ALB schedules are dependent on. So nothing to scrape that's actually usable unless they can secure a guaranteed (i.e. not vulnerable to cascading shortages) Metroliner assignment.
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Old 06-18-2019, 11:42 PM   #149
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

The new high-speed trains for Amtrak ARE being made as we speak! And the good thing about it is that they WILL retain that same luscious wonderful side shape of the Viewliner cars!!!!



Last edited by Jahvon09; 07-15-2019 at 04:13 PM.
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Old 07-08-2019, 02:15 PM   #150
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

You may recall that a few years ago the MBTA came out with plans to rebuild the Newton commuter rail stations for accessibility as single side platforms. To successfully achieve RER like frequencies, this needs to be a two-track stretch. It was walked back by Sec. Pollack.

Here we have a public meeting on the stations. I wonder what the recommendation will be? As these three go, so goes urban rail as it will telegraph the T's seriousness. .

https://mbta.com/events/2019-07-25/n...public-meeting
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Old 07-27-2019, 09:47 AM   #151
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

If electrification is going to get as far as Haverhill, shouldn't the case be made that it be extended onward to someplace like Pease air Force Base (a great place for a maintenance facility) and Portland?
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Old 07-27-2019, 11:13 AM   #152
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

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If electrification is going to get as far as Haverhill, shouldn't the case be made that it be extended onward to someplace like Pease air Force Base (a great place for a maintenance facility) and Portland?
There are a lot of very tight spots on the line, and it'll be pretty much maxed out of vertical clearance by the time Pan Am starts running double-stack freights. Expect Haverhill to be the very last regular MBTA schedule to be electrified because of the extreme difficulty under the Lawrence-N. Andover overhead bridges.

Ideally if you want an electrified Downeaster that's actually fast it would get swapped over to the Eastern Route Boston-Portsmouth, the Newington Branch Portsmouth-Newington to end-of-track, and a few miles of new ROW off the shoulder of NH 16 (highway built over the rest of the ancestral Newington Branch ROW) to Dover Station. The rest of the Western Route in ME has attainable vertical clearances. You would, due to the Eastern's straightness, be able to sustain 100-110 MPH speed if the grade crossing protection on the Newburyport Line were upgraded accordingly. That's much better than electrics at the same old meandering 50-65 MPH on the Western.
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Old 08-05-2019, 09:03 AM   #153
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

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Ideally if you want an electrified Downeaster that's actually fast it would get swapped over to the Eastern Route Boston-Portsmouth, the Newington Branch Portsmouth-Newington to end-of-track, and a few miles of new ROW off the shoulder of NH 16 (highway built over the rest of the ancestral Newington Branch ROW) to Dover Station.
Does that mean going via Newburyport and new bridge over the Merrimac?

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Old 08-05-2019, 09:16 AM   #154
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

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Does that mean going via Newburyport and new bridge over the Merrimac?


A new swing span and a replacement for the chunk they took out over the N'port harbor walk. An MPO study on Portsmouth commuter rail did an engineering assessment on the approach spans and found them in decent condition for rehab, which should bring the cost down. It could be retrofitted with a new bascule or lift span.


Newington Branch is not depicted on that old map, but is preferable to the Kittery routing for avoiding the lift bridge, having fewer miles on the NH 16 footprint to restore to Dover vs. Kittery-North Berwick, and hits a larger catchment at Dover than the rural surroundings to N. Berwick.
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Old 08-07-2019, 06:37 AM   #155
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

F-Line, you are a fount of knowledge.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:10 PM   #156
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Re: Amtrak / Regional Rail Discussion Thread

Valley Flyer* (extending Amtrak's New Haven - SPG Shuttle service northward to the Amtrak stops** in MA) is hoping to launch August 30.

https://www.masslive.com/news/2019/0...this-week.html

*as in Pioneer Valley or Connecticut River Valley, take your pick, it seems

**Currently only served by the Vermonter's single round trips, but now getting two additional round trips.
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