Officials looking at $1-billion plan for highish-speed rail to connect Boston, New Haven and Montreal

Proposed New England passenger rail routes

Proposed rail routes

Transportation fficials from three New England states and Quebec are looking at a plan that to better link Boston with New Haven and Montreal via track upgrades and the purchase of trains that could reach a peak speed of 79 m.p.h. - faster than what trains can do on most of the tracks now but far slower than typical intercity trains in Europe and Japan.

Still, the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative says the plan, outlined in a report issued last month would have a number of benefits: The region's knowledge workers would gain a new way to get to conferences and jobs, tourists would love it and the trains would reduce the region's creation of greenhouse gases by taking people out of cars - and so indirectly by reducing congestion on the region's main highways. The report points to people who live in Maine who now commute to jobs in Boston via Amtrak's Downeaster service.

The report says that people with advanced degrees - of which Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut have plenty - are particularly enamored of the idea of taking the train instead of driving.

Under the proposal, tracks from Boston and Montreal would converge in Springfield and meet a revamped commuter-rail line Connecticut hopes to open in 2018 between Springfield, Hartford and New Haven. That line will let trains operate up to 110 m.p.h. at points.

Some eight to ten diesel-powered trains would provide eight daily round-trips between Boston and New Haven by way of Springfield.

Based on the commuters, students, and other anticipated users, the projected ridership for the Inland Route Service fifteen years after the initiation of service is 428,642 annual riders.

Up to five new diesel-powered passenger trains would provide three round trips daily between Boston and Montreal.

Each train set of a diesel and passenger cars would cost roughly $27 million.

Although the Boston-to-Worcester segment and the impending expanded Connecticut line can handle passenger trains going at faster than a crawl, the report's authors say much of the line between Worcester and Springfield and Springfield and Montreal would need to have a second or even third track added at points to allow for use of the line by both passenger and freight trains. Some parts of the line would also need the installation of signals. A US customs facility would also have to be built in Montreal.

The proposal is counting on the long stalled expansion of South Station to provide extra tracks for the additional trains, as well as on growth of Amtrak's Southampton Street yard for train storage and repairs. The plan also calls for a new platform at Worcester's Union station and an entirely new station in Palmer.

The report notes paying for the project remains a critical question. It suggests a variety of options, including federal grants, capital funding by Massachusetts and Vermont, public/private partnerships to pay for spending and even the use of carbon-offset credits that now typically go towards energy-efficiency programs.

Via ArchBoston.

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Comments

New Haven will be the

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New Haven will be the endpoint of ANY new service north of NYC. Amtrak does not own the tracks south of New Haven, and is at the mercy of Metro-North, which cannot squeeze out any more track slots for Amtrak. It's really not an issue though, given the frequency of trains to NYC you can connect to if you wish to travel farther south. Plus, New York already has a daily train to Montreal via Albany (the Adirondack)

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Looks Awesome

It will never happen but it sure would be fun and convenient.

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it's easy!

We'll just hook it right up to the end of the Green Line extension....

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Woah

A whole 80 to 110 mph? HAS SCIENCE GONE TOO FAR?

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But why put all our faith in

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But why put all our faith in proven, reliable, existing technology when hyper loop is surely right around the corner?!?!?!

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We need a hero to speak out

A hero like Dionysius Lardner, who famously (and wrongly) predicted that if a locomotive lost its brakes in the Box Tunnel, it would exit the tunnel at the immense speed of 120mph, causing catastrophic failure of the train.

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Whenever I've thought a train

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Whenever I've thought a train would be nice alternative, the time the trip takes per leg isn't so bad, but knowing you'll be sitting around waiting for connections for as long as the moving time always turned me off the idea. What they're not telling us is, how long is the layover in Springfield? Hours? Is it a guaranteed connection? I guess I should read the proposal but I wouldn't be a user anyhow. Maybe they should just pave the rails and make it an express toll road. That would do alot more for congestion since it would be in constant use, rather than a couple of times a day and then wasted real estate.

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I guess I should read the

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I guess I should read the proposal

Yeah, you really should! Or at least Adam's summary of it.

The NNEIRI is not proposing any transfers at all. The 8 RTs from Boston to New Haven will all be through trains, as will the 1 from Boston to Montreal, and the 1 from New Haven to Montreal.

And paving the right-of-way is a stupid idea considering that 100% of it is already used by trains. Plus, if you read the SDP, you'll see that some of these segments of track already carry dozens of trains a day, between freight, commuter, and intercity. Hardly wasted real estate!

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1.5m people used Amtrak out

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1.5m people used Amtrak out of S Station in a year. 34m cars/trucks etc used the Hampton tolls in a year, maybe twice that travel through Boston. You could multiply that by 2 or some other number greater than 1 and get the number of people. If you want to fix traffic congestion, you've got to build highways not railways. There are too many people working along 128 that rail service doesn't matter to. There are too many people not served in the MBTA subway and commuter rail that see these things as distractions to real congestion relief. Most things can be trucked. Of course not all. Pave the rails, make limited access highways or express bus routes. We will never be as railed as Japan, we've gone a different route.

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You cannot relieve congestion

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You cannot relieve congestion by building highways. Traffic is the main limiting factor on people's decision to use the road. If you make the road more convenient by reducing traffic, more people will use it. You will have increased capacity without putting the slightest dent in congestion. This has been true on virtually every roadway expansion ever. People don't use the train because it's expensive and inconvenient. Fix that (for wayyyyy less money than widening the roads), and people will definitely switch.

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Some general comments:

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Some general comments:

First of all, this has nothing to do with high speed rail. This is regular old intercity rail at speeds that have been standard for a century now.
79 mph is the standard for conventional intercity rail. Plenty of track in New England is good for 79 mph (Downeaster, Vermonter, much of the MBTA commuter rail). The NNEIRI proposal (which isn't even anything new - this is just a recent update to a study that's been ongoing for years. And in fact, Amtrak used to run this route until only ~10 years ago) just involves upgrading some additional segments of track - namely the long-overdue upgrades Boston-to-Springfield that have been on MassDOT's radar for years, and a bit of a bump up here and there in Vermont, but that work's mostly already been done for the Vermonter. The map in the NNEIRI SDP is somewhat outdated in that regard.

Also, the tracks converging in Springfield are all already there, and already host passenger trains. This would just be additional trains. The New Haven - Springfield trains are already there as well, and the commuter trains running in that corridor are not just "hopes". There have been shovels in the ground south of Hartford for a while now. Though 110 mph speeds on that line, if they ever happen at all, are a bit farther off, since commuter rail will not make use of those speeds.

Also, NNEIRI does not propose 3 Boston - Montreal trains, they propose 1, along with 1 new daily New Haven - Montreal train.

As to adding a second or third track, this is what the SDP actually includes:
-Addition of a siding between Worcester and Springfield, with the eventual restoration of double track. No triple tracking. Also, the line is already signaled (though there may still be dark territory in VT/QC). The portion between Springfield and Worcester would need PTC, however.

The customs facility in Montreal is already being built to accommodate the Adirondack and Vermonter trains, and is not included in this proposal (though the NNEIRI is contingent on it happening).

While this is more an issue with the SDP itself, rather than your reporting on it, the additional platform at Worcester is needed anyway, and is in the state's long-term plans already.

Finally, the selection of an operator is not still TBD. It would be Amtrak. Theoretically NNEIRI could become an operating authority for the states involved and attempt to operate the trains itself or contract them out to a private company, but that would be a terrible and highly unlikely idea, and subject to a LOT of legal issues - among them the fact that federal law requires private railroads to allow Amtrak access to their tracks, but another operator would have to attempt to negotiate trackage rights with CSX (WOR-SPG), NECR (E. Northfield - Alburgh, VT), and CN (Alburgh - Montreal), which would be expensive and very difficult. Plus the legal hurdles of operating in 3 states and a foreign country. Amtrak already operates over 100% of the tracks involved (except north of St Albans, but that will change in a few years when the Vermonter re-extension happens), and even owns the corridor from New Haven to Springfield. Plus don't expect to be using Southampton St Yard if it's not Amtrak.

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The new customs facility

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The customs facility in Vermont is already being built to accommodate the Adirondack and Vermonter trains

Is probably not going to be in Vermont, but at Montreal Central Station instead, where US CBP and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) are planning to operate a joint customs facility, CBSA for incoming trains from New York and New England and CBP providing preclearance for US bound trains.

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That was a brain fart on my

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That was a brain fart on my part. My brain had already skipped to "Vermonter" before my fingers had typed "Montreal".

But yes, the joint CBP/CBSA Customs preclearance facility will be at Gare Central in Montreal.

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Thanks for the clarifications

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I must've muddled through the end of the report where it talked about funding and jurisdictional issues, i.e., I added 2+2 and got 5, will fix that.

As for the number of trains, the report has two possible alternatives (well, three, if you include just not doing anything at all), one of which includes:

Similar to Alternative 2, this alternative provided eight round-trips between Boston and New Haven (four express and four local), three round-trips between Boston and Montreal (two local and one express), and two round-trips from New Haven to Montreal (one express and one local) in addition to the existing Vermonter service.

The report does specifically refer to a customs building in Montreal as an issue that will have to be dealt with.

You're right - this is not a new thing. I wrote about it because of the latest update, which came out last month and because I'd never written about it (or at least not in so much detail) before and, well, found it kind of fascinating, not the least of which because I could've sworn I'd once heard a proposal for a true high-speed rail link between Boston and New York (Acela only gets up to its top speed in short segments in RI and MA, right?) that would go via Springfield, and this seems to preclude that.

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Acela

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usually only goes its top speed between New Haven and Providence, where it's not competing with other passenger trains (Metro North and MBCR, and a few miles of LIRR right before Penn Station.)

Then south of New York, it has to share with NJ Transit, and the rail for Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC.

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As for the number of trains,

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As for the number of trains, the report has two possible alternatives (well, three, if you include just not doing anything at all), one of which includes:

Correct, but the point of this SDP was to pick an alternative - which they did. They picked the alternative that consisted of 8 round trips BOS-NHV, one BOS-MTL, and one NHV-MTL, all making all stops. See Section 3.5: Recommended Alternative, on page 28 (36 in the PDF).

The report does specifically refer to a customs building in Montreal as an issue that will have to be dealt with.

Again, correct. I was just pointing out that this is an issue that already has to be dealt with anyway, and will be dealt with in the near future to serve existing trains.

You're right - this is not a new thing. I wrote about it because of the latest update, which came out last month and because I'd never written about it (or at least not in so much detail) before and, well, found it kind of fascinating, not the least of which because I could've sworn I'd once heard a proposal for a true high-speed rail link between Boston and New York (Acela only gets up to its top speed in short segments in RI and MA, right?) that would go via Springfield, and this seems to preclude that.

I'm glad you did report on it! You're usually pretty good with transportation news, which is part of why I like this site.

And you're not crazy - you have heard of a proposal for a true HSR link between Boston and NYC. It's even mentioned in the NNEIRI SDP. It's currently being studied by NEC FUTURE (http://necfuture.com/). The options it is studying include everything from upgrading the existing NEC, to building a bypass slightly inland, or even building a new alignment via Hartford and Providence. There was a Springfield routing as well at one point, but it didn't get very far due to leaving out Rhode Island. Providence is more important of a city to include than Springfield, and not just because of RI's two Senators and two US Reps. The ideal plan all along has been to keep the high-speed trains along the coast, and restore conventional intercity train service between New Haven and Boston via Springfield.

Finally, yes, the Acelas reach their top speed on three stretches of track, which includes from Kingston to Cranston, RI, and then Attleboro to Canton, plus another stretch in New Jersey that will be upgraded sometime in the very near future (work underway).

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Sounds like it would be

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Sounds like it would be better to be done in Shelbyville.

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yay!

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That is all. I go to Montreal every six months, and have wanted rail service for years.

That this may also increase Boston to Springfield traffic to more than once a day is a bonus.

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oh my god

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I've had a few horrid bus trips to Springfield in the past couple of years. These schedules are almost making me cry.

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New Rail Speed ?

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The sad truth is prior to 1932, several express trains travelled
around 120 mph. These included express trains from. Boton
to NYC, and trains to Washington DC. And, this was with steam trains.
So, as for Amtrak ? Unionized deadbeats, who can't approach
the old days speeds & efficiency at several times the cost !!!!

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So how did you enjoy Cleveland?

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Really, you're blaming unions for decades of disinvestment and neglect by the owners of the tracks? Or do you really think union engineers won't drive their trains faster than 60 without a raise?

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Amtrak's labor rules make the

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Amtrak's labor rules make the MBTA look like the model of German efficiency.

You are talking about a railroad which can't make a profit on food service selling $4 cokes and $13.00 burgers of less than McDonalds quality.

It would be better to break Amtrak up back into regional semi-private companies and then individually subsidize each accordingly for the type of commuter rail or intercity service each region wants politically.

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Isn't that mainly because

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Isn't that mainly because they're required by congressional statute to continue to serve sparsely populated stations in far flung areas using the proceeds from operating the few profitable segments of their network?

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That is correct. Amtrak must

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That is correct. Amtrak must continue to run the unprofitable long-distance network as a public service. The requirement is also to appease congresspeople from flyover states, who would not be willing to fund Amtrak without their 'slice of the pie'.

The Northeast Corridor is profitable. Some other corridors are break-even (the Virginia trains, California). But the best of the LD trains (the Empire Builder) only recovers 65% of its costs through ticket revenue, and Congress makes a perpetual habit of starving Amtrak, largely because it makes an easy scapegoat as wasteful government spending, even though it's a mere fraction of a fraction of a percent of the federal budget.

Specifically in regards to food service losses though, no railroad anywhere ever has made a profit on food. Food has always been a loss-leader. People are more likely to take the train if they can buy food on board.

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The Northeast Corridor is not profitable

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The only means of accounting that shows a profit ignores infrastructure costs. And since we are talking infrastructure upgrades here, the costs should factor.

Mind you, I have no issue with rail subsidies, but painting this rosy picture that somehow rail in the Boston-Washington corridor is profitable while rail in Europe is not is just wrong.

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True

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And I would never assert that the gas tax is the sole source of highway funding. But at the same time, the only way Amtrak makes a profit on the NEC is if they use Enron's accounting and conveniently ignore some of the costs.

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One, I never said anything

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One, I never said anything about rail in Europe.

And two, profitability of transportation NEVER includes infrastructure. Bus companies don't own and maintain highways, airlines don't own and maintain airports, shipping lines don't own and maintain ports, the list goes on. So why should we have to lump in the infrastructure costs of the Northeast Corridor with Amtrak's operating finances?

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On Europe, true

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But shipping companies, airlines, and bus companies do have to include the costs of their ships, planes, and buses in their accounting. Moreover, fuel tax, docking fees, and other charges their vehicles incur while going from A to B are also included in accounting costs. On the other hand, railroads, to which Amtrak should be compared, do have to include all their infrastructure costs. I hold stock in CSX and (kind of) in BNSF. You better believe that they include the costs of keeping the rails in shape and implementing PTC in their accounting costs. Unless Amtrak is not a railroad, all of their costs have to be accounted for.

Back to me putting words in your mouth (sorry, again), there are only a few everyday passenger rail operations that make money, and the profits tend to come from real estate along the lines. I am not begrudging Amtrak, SNCF, DB, or any other passenger rail company any assistance with infrastructure costs, but in the end the NEC does not make a profit.

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Of course freight railroads

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Of course freight railroads also include infrastructure costs in their accounting. But I wasn't comparing Amtrak to freight railroads, I was comparing railroads in general to other modes of transportation, who have these costs paid for them by the government. I'd also like to re-emphasize the IF in my statements.

There is absolutely zero question that if you subtract costs for the physical on-the-ground infrastructure, the Northeast Corridor makes a profit. And thus, if that infrastructure was paid for by the federal and state governments just like highways, airports, etc. are, then the Northeast Corridor would make a profit. And arguably that cost should be borne by a different entity than Amtrak. I'm hesitate to advocate for the European open-access model, but I'm inclined to think the physical NEC infrastructure should be owned by some non-profit federal entity. There are only three relatively short stretches of the NEC that don't also host other passenger operators (Perryville, MD - Newark, DE, the Hell Gate Line, and New London, CT - Wickford, RI), and even those stretches also host freight traffic. Essentially I am arguing that the NEC should be managed like a freeway is - the government owns and pays to maintain it, and collects user fees from whoever wants to use it, including Amtrak, the commuter roads, and freight.

I find vehicles an interesting point for you to bring up. Based on the operating surplus Amtrak reports each year for the NEC (which does not include the capital and infrastructure costs), I'm confident those profits could be reinvested into rolling stock acquisition and maintenance and still be profitable. 100% of the coaches used on Regional trains are Amfleet I's, which were delivered in 1975, 41 years ago. These have long since been paid off. Until the bulk of the new ACS-64's were delivered this year, Regional trains had been pulled primarily by AEM-7's, which were built over 10 years between 1978 and 1988. The last one was delivered 28 years ago. Again, these have long since been paid off. Other rolling stock included the HHP-8's, which were leased from Bombardier. Then the Acela, which is where the bulk of the NEC's profits come from, entered service in 2000. The combined cost of the Acelas and HHP-8's (plus maintenance facilities for them) was $1.2 billion. Say part of that came from federal or state grants (just like Greyhound uses grants to buy new buses), and the rest came from operating revenues. They could easily be paid off over their service life just like the AEM-7's and Amfleets have been.

Finally, I agree, there are very few rail services that actually make money from the rail themselves, it's almost always real estate (which is why if anyone ever tries to tell you Hong Kong's MTR subway is profitable, there better be an asterisk behind it!), which is part of why Amtrak as a whole will never make a profit (unless we restructure it and give it the ability to invest heavily in real estate). But you cannot deny that if Amtrak had the NEC infrastructure paid for for them, and thus we were only counting running trains, maintenance, electricity, etc., the NEC would be profitable.

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even though it's a mere

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even though it's a mere fraction of a fraction of a percent of the federal budget.

That's what they always

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No steam trains ever went 120

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No steam trains ever went 120 mph. The British tried it with their A4 Mallards in the 1930s, but topped out at just over 100 mph. One did top 120 on a downhill grade once but it physically damaged the locomotive. They never ran in regular service at more than 80 mph.

The fastest trains in the Northeast Corridor in the 1930s were the Pennsylvania Railroad's trains, which were pulled by GG1 electric locomotives, with a maximum speed of 100.

Then, starting in 1969, Metroliners (funded largely by the USDOT) were introduced, with a top speed of 120 (later reduced to 110 and 100 due to track conditions).

Amtrak introduced the first train service faster than 120 mph with the Acela Express starting in 2000. The Acela's top speed is 160 mph.

So basically, Amtrak is running trains between Boston, NYC, and DC at up to 160 mph, while in "the old days" before the government got involved, the top speed was 100 mph. Want to rethink your logic?

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I won't say no to new train service

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But it would be nice to see some higher speeds. I know signals, track quality and curves play a part in that. Maybe that can be part of future improvements. Just the ability to reserve a seat would be nice.

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Nothing "highish" speed about it either

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No train makes SEVEN stops going the SHORT dimension through Connecticut and hits anything that should ever remotely be allowed to called "high" along with the word "speed" unless you say "Are you high? That thing will never get up to full speed!".

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Why can't we get a serious high-speed proposal

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Boston to Albany, Albany to NYC. NO STOPS on either route!

170 miles, then 130 miles, nearly straight lines both. Get up to full speed...probably just under 1 hour each leg. 2 hours to NYC from Boston...faster than you can drive, faster than flying if you include pre-boarding, etc. Less hassle. More comfort. More ability to get work done.

It would be the same as the AVE in Spain. If the prices were the same it'd be about a $150 round trip...or less potentially.

And bonus: You'd rejuvenate Albany/Troy as people realized they could buy housing cheap and take a 1 hour train to their company/office in NYC or Boston each day if need be.

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I would love to see this

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I would love to see this straight line you're somehow convinced you can build through the Berkshires.

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I hear

The Swiss don't need that machine in Gotthard anymore.

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It's way up there in the

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It's way up there in the northwest corner, but we got the Hoosac tunnel which is still in operation

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Trace the route on either

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Trace the route on either side of the Hoosac tunnel though. It's VERY curvy.

And high speed rail crossing of the Berkshires would need to be on a completely new alignment with significant stretches of tunnel and viaduct.

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Sadly this is about the best

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Sadly this is about the best plan we're going to get in the foreseeable future. True high-speed rail pretty much requires building completely new right-of-way that's as straight as possible; any existing lines (at least in New England) are going to be far too curvy. The study notes that they looked at using tilting trains to get up to 90mph, but there aren't enough stretches of track straight enough to go that fast for it to be remotely worth the cost.

The original idea was to go Boston to Montreal via Concord NH, but NH DOT declined to participate in further study. It would have required rebuilding the line from Concord to White River Junction VT that's been abandoned for decades and is now a rail trail.

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"The original idea was to go

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"The original idea was to go Boston to Montreal via Concord NH, but NH DOT declined to participate in further study. It would have required rebuilding the line from Concord to White River Junction VT that's been abandoned for decades and is now a rail trail."

Sad because if this did exist I would use it all the time, and without this that route will never be fully competitive with driving (which is saying something because it's a butt-numbingly long drive).

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If only profitable projects

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If only profitable projects were built, then guess what?
We'd be screwed.

Take off the blinders and get a clue.

That doesn't necessarily mean that I support this project in particular, but profitability as means testing for public projects is remarkably reactionary and shortsighted.

As if things that make money are always good for society and human progress.

Puh-leeze.

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My opinion: the passenger

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My opinion: the passenger demand just isn't there for any kind of rail between Boston and Montreal.

If we want to promote car-free travel, we could improve bus service *today*. Just run buses more frequently, add some express trips, and lower the fare. If this requires subsidies, I support them 100%. Whatever it costs, it would be way less than a billion dollars.

And end the horror show that is the customs inspection. It's a nightmare for bus passengers, and takes an hour on a good day. If European countries that were blowing each other up 70 years ago can have a seamless border, why can't the U.S. and Canada?

If we want to improve rail, let's start with Boston to New York. There should not be 2 hour gaps between trains on the busiest corridor in the U.S. And it shouldn't cost upwards of $150 each way.

Other places that could use rail service from Boston: Woods Hole, Newport, Hartford, Hampton Beach, Marblehead, Lexington, Medford Square.

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Crossings, costs and time

[T]he passenger demand just isn't there for any kind of rail between Boston and Montreal.

**EDIT** see the great comment by KellyJMF below. When I went to Montreal with my junior class, it was a long eight hour drive, compounded by a extended stop in Lebanon to remove an alcohol-poisoned classmate. As there is also a huge French-Canadian population in New Hampshire, the train would be a great asset and a time saver.

Currently, if you want to go to Montreal by train, you would have to drive to Albany and pick up the Adirondack, which itself is restricted to 37 mph up to the border in Rouses Point/Lacolle due to aging track. If Amtrak chose to repair those rails and upgrade the line to at least 79 mph, it would shave about an hour in travel time.

If we want to promote car-free travel, we could improve bus service *today*. Just run buses more frequently, add some express trips, and lower the fare. If this requires subsidies, I support them 100%. Whatever it costs, it would be way less than a billion dollars. And end the horror show that is the customs inspection. It's a nightmare for bus passengers, and takes an hour on a good day.

It doesn't matter if you drive by car or bus, the trip time will still take about seven hours, only this time you have several other passengers to clear customs. Money saved, of course, but not time.

Customs clearance depends on the time of day, what you have to declare, and whether your passport is in order. If you go earlier or later in the day, there'll be less wait compared to peak times, and if you use the smaller border crossings, it'll take 30 minutes or less (typically 15 or so if it's just you, your passport and your car; longer if you have things to declare).

If we want to improve rail, let's start with Boston to New York. There should not be 2 hour gaps between trains on the busiest corridor in the U.S. And it shouldn't cost upwards of $150 each way.

Metro North Railroad owns the tracks from around New Rochelle, New York to New Haven, they have the say on where and how fast they can go (IIRC the speed limit is 90mph; north of there it's 110 due to some of the grade crossings towards the Rhode Island border). Amtrak would have to negotiate with MN to have those restrictions/schedule times lifted, and it seems MN likes their current arrangement.

As for cost: the Northeast Corridor is where Amtrak makes the most money, and while $150 round trip to New York sounds like a ripoff, it's likely a charge during peak times. If you go in the afternoon, the fare is about $120 round trip.

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I would!

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I think there are plenty of people who would take the train to Montreal! Taking the train is much more pleasant than driving. I think tourism would increase at both ends if it was an easy weekend trip. Think of the school trips for high school french!

Buses, on the other hand, are much less comfortable and I think people would be more likely to drive for the flexibility if they have to sit in a motor vehicle anyway.

And I don't know how you're pricing the trains but it is usually much less. In fact, right now you can take an Acela this Friday for $115 and the Northeast Regional for $76 (both one way). Plan ahead and I see prices of $86 and $49, respectively.

The current train schedule Boston to NY runs pretty frequently and slots in with all the other rail traffic on these very busy lines. The current spacing keeps the trains pretty full which is much more efficient than running two half full trains, even if there would be slightly more riders.

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Erm, a one way fare from

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Erm, a one way fare from Boston to New York starts at $52 on Amtrak. The MAXIMUM fare bucket for a one way ticket on a Regional is $149.

Right now I could go buy a ticket for the 1 pm Acela for $135, or the 4 pm Acela for $115. If I wanted to wait until the evening, the 6:45 pm Regional is $97, and the late night one is $76. So your "upwards of $150 one way" is a huge exaggeration. Also, between the Acelas and Regionals, service is not only every 2 hours. The next departures are as follows:
12:10
1:05
1:40
3:10
3:20
4:15
5:20
5:35
6:45
9:30

That's an average of 1 hour and 2 minutes between trains. If we discard the 9:30 pm outlier, that's an average of 49 minutes between trains. Again, your "2 hour gaps" is an over-exaggeration.

Also, regarding your list of other places that could use rail service from Boston... you include Hartford on there. Do you not realize that this proposal would give BOS-HFD 8 direct round trips a day?
Woods Hole will never happen because of NIMBYs and the fact that the right-of-way was turned into a rail trail. Newport can theoretically happen in the future. Rhode Island has it in their long-term plans, but it's a little complicated right now by the fact that the Sakonnet River bridge has been gone for years. Hampton Beach will never have rail, but if the Newburyport commuter rail line is re-extended to Portsmouth, which is in long-term plans, a shuttle bus could easily meet trains in Hampton. Marblehead doesn't need it due to frequent bus connections to commuter rail in Swampscott, Salem, and Lynn, and the Blue Line in Revere. Lexington had it but gave it up, and was happy to cancel the Red Line extension due to concerns about "those people" coming to their quiet little town. Medford Square I would also argue doesn't need it due to bus connections to the Orange Line and, in the future, the Green Line at Mystic Valley Pkwy.

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Train speed vs. travel time

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I don't think riders care if the train goes 110 mph. They care how long the trip takes. I can't find in the document where it says how many hours a Boston - Montreal train ride would take. It's a five hour drive.

The #1 mass transit improvement I think would help the region is nonstop hourly bus service between Logan and TF Green, code-shared as a flight. Such a bus would enable travelers to easily book an airline itinerary that leaves from Boston and returns through Providence, with the hour long bus ride acting as the final segment. That would help a lot with scheduling flexibility, especially flying to cities with less frequent service, since it gives everyone two major airports to choose from.

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