How about Boston to Montreal by train in 3 hours?

Cyrus Dahmubed says it could be done on existing right-of-ways with some track straightening and upgrading. BostInno interviews him.

Midnight train to Montreal?



      Free tagging: 


        While I applaud Mr. Dahmubed

        While I applaud Mr. Dahmubed's positivity, I think he's overselling the ease of converting the existing rail beds/right of ways to the standards needed for such a short trip to Montreal. Plus, without customs receiving in Montreal, the border itself would take about 1 hour to 90 minutes.

        My post from BostInno

        "Much of the track and right-of-way that it would need is already [in place] and would just need some upgrading and straightening"

        Flat out lie. Half of these, there's no existing trackage. And half of those without trackage have compromised right-of-ways. And Worcester to Hartford flat out does not exist, although you could share the I-84 ROW. Also, rapid transit? I think you mean commuter rail or regional [HSR] rail.

        I mean, no offense, some of these would be great! But to pass this off as entirely realistic? I'm sorry, but no.

        Not much to add. I mean, some of these things really, really would be awesome. But he makes it sound way too simple. Some of the routes he shows haven't seen tracks in decades. At least one route never even existed.


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        There has been some discussion already about a high speed line to Montreal from Boston. (this is due to the ARRA). The problem being is, at least if the train was to go to Montreal via New Hampshire, they would have a long uphill battle to get it built. Not because its New Hampshire where people like to be free from the Gov't, BUT because many of the old rail lines where this would run have been abandoned for years.

        In particular, the Claremont-Concord Railway ROW would be the best track. Runs from Concord to Vermont via Claremont Junction. (I'm from Claremont actually). But as it stands, much of the ROW between Concord and New London is already being converted to rail trails and snowmobile trails. And you know as well as I do, once a rail ROW is converted to a rail trail, its unlikely it will ever be converted back to rail again.

        We need to show the country HSR works before BOS-MTL

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        I would love to go to Montreal on a train in that amount of time, but my feeling on (real high speed) rail in the US is that it needs to shown to be an effective mode of transportation to a skeptical populace (although up here in the Northeast, we are not so skeptical, because we know it is the only way things are going to move with increasing urbanization - but we need the rest of the country to come along because this must be a federal effort).

        For this reason, we should go with what we know first - that demand for intercity rail between Boston and DC is more than sufficient to support a real high speed rail system (i.e., at least with speeds approaching 200 mph). We should not be throwing billions of dollars at routes where demand is unproven (yeah, I'm looking at you, car-centric California). Unfortunately, the same applies to Boston-Montreal, even though the cost would be far less than building real hsr between Boston and DC (via the Inland Route, of course).

        As for the rail trails, well, I think that they are great, and totally irrelevant to real HSR (which is really all we should be talking about on a run from Boston to Montreal) which needs it own right of way. A local route up there would probably be nice, but we're talking about a second or third generation of rail development after intercity HSR.


        I had the same reaction when I saw that, too:

        "Much of the track and right-of-way that it would need is already [in place] and would just need some upgrading and straightening,"

        Just a gross oversimplification of what would really need to be done.

        And hey, I like Montreal as much as the next guy, but when it comes to allocating resources to improve the transportation system, this ain't it. There is simply relatively little demand for such a route.

        when it comes to allocating

        By on

        when it comes to allocating resources to improve the transportation system, this ain't it.

        Especially since this map ignores a moderately-sized city to the southwest. If we're going to spend money for 120 mph operation (and that's average speed he's talking about, not top speed) it would make sense to build/rebuild a Boston-New York trip that would take 1:45. There's slightly more demand for that than Boston to Albany or Manchester to New Bedford.

        A few other nitpicks:

        • The Concord-WRJ-Burlington section of this "plan" goes through deep, curving valleys. It's pretty hard to run trains at high speeds in that environment unless you have massive tunneling, which is not compatible with "using existing rights-o-way"
        • Manchester-Brattleboro-North Adams doesn't really exist. Nor has it ever. At least not in any straight line.
        • Nor does New Bedford-Fall River-Providence. Fall River is on a big hill (the whole thing with the fall of the river) and there has never been a direct east-west rail connection since it would have to descent 135 feet from the hill to the ocean.
        • And there's this thing between Amherst and Leominster called the Quabbin Reservoir which is a bit of an impediment. Also, Amherst to Leominster? How about Amherst to Boston? Even by bus you have to change in the wonderful confines of the Springfield bus terminal. Good thing there's not a major state university there or anything.

        The design is good. The concept is suspect.

        "People like this" and "just a graphic designer"

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        I'm Cyrus Dahmubed and I designed this map. This is the first comment I'm responding to from everywhere the map has been posted not because you - along with many other people - have made good points about the challenges of putting something like CommonRail into place, but because of how disrespectfully you addressed me and my colleagues. To clarify, I am not "just a graphic designer". I am an architectural and urban designer, have studied at Harvard and Columbia Universities, and hold a degree in the history and theory of architecture and urbanism. I am an accomplished writer on geo-spatial relations, regional urbanism, and other issues of mass-scale inhabitation. And I'm 20.

        It is no more fair for you to suggest that I do not understand transportation than it would be for me to suggest that you do not understand conceptual urbanism, socio-geopolitics, or urban metabolism.

        This is a conceptual mapping of a desirable system that I would like to see come to fruition. I do not deny the challenges that it would take to build CommonRail, nor would I argue that CommonRail is economically feasible right now. However, I do believe that by the time we worked through the difficulties and got it built, it would have been a worthwhile endeavor for the greater good of the New England. Furthermore, I would point out that I said "much of the track and right-of-way". I did not say "most" (which implies more than 50%) or "all". I said "much", so I'd appreciate it if everyone would be mindful of their hyperbolic writing. I am very careful with the words I use and I encourage you to be as well.

        Welcome to Uhub

        By on

        If you haven't been here before, let me inform you that we're a pretty judgmental and opinionated crowd. We will comment on ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.

        Don't take it personally, Its just what we do.

        This is a joke

        The "high-speed [sic]" Acela can't even get to NEW YORK in three hours, and this guy thinks we could build a faster railroad through the mountains?

        Mountains aren't the problem

        People and congested rail corridors are the problem.

        This is likely to be able to happen before HSR on the Bos-NYC-Wash corridor due to that alone.

        I love high-speed rail. But,

        I love high-speed rail. But, unless I'm missing something, how much demand is there for a Boston-to-Montreal route? Now, Boston to Springfield, Boston to Albany, I could see (and it would essentially tie a few of the second-tier northeast cities together, which would be a good thing.

        More than you'd think

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        So, Air Canada operates a Boston/Montreal route, five flights out of Boston a day. They operate on a CRJ-200 which has a 50-passenger capacity. The flights are not always full, but also they're quite expensive (my last flight was $2100 round-trip). Air Canada will fake "maintenance" to try to combine flights together, but it doesn't seem to happen that often (my co-workers have been burned by it before).So, if you're generous and say it has 60% buy-in rate, that's 150 passengers a day, which doesn't sound like a lot. Works out to about $75000 per trip at 60% occupancy (not everyone pays the sticker price, we buy packages of tickets and use those if the flight cost exceeds the cost of the voucher). Not sure what the break-even on that is.

        Now, there's two things that factor in here.

        1. It seems to be significantly cheaper to connect through Toronto, and I have no idea how many more people go that way.
        2. My co-workers seem to favor driving to Montreal instead of flying on the basis that the time it takes to go through security, wait at the gate, fly, go through immigration, and then take a cab into the city, you're looking at practically the same amount of time as driving (about 5 hours). Also, nice thing about driving, the costs scale fantastically compared to any service.

        And that's just my company, I know there are a number of other multinational businesses here that operate in Montreal or are headquartered there and operate here. The big thing is time. Unless they do customs/immigration while you're riding up there (which would be super-fab), I don't really see it taking less time. That would be the big draw for me and the people I work with. Also reliability would be very nice. If you could reliably get from North Station to Bonaventure in four hours, I'd never fly again.