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Press Release - Regional Rail Proof of Concept

TRANSITMATTERS RELEASES NEW “PROOF OF CONCEPT” REPORT TO ADVANCE REGIONAL RAIL VISION WITH PRACTICAL NEXT STEPS AND $3 BILLION SAVINGS

BOSTON, MA (September 12, 2019) – Today, TransitMatters hosted a launch event for its new report “Regional Rail Proof of Concept: How Modern Operating Practice Adds Capacity to the Current Commuter Rail Network”. The report is a follow up to last year’s Regional Rail report which laid out the vision for a fast, frequent, electrified intercity rail network. That report showed that through embracing world best practice Metro Boston could have a transformative rail network. The new report focuses on how relatively modest changes in both operations and track layout at South Station can have significant benefits to train capacity in the short-term.  

The new report questions the wisdom of the long-planned South Station Expansion (SSX) project as a wasteful $2-3 billion project with little transportation value. The report also calls into question the MBTA’s reliance on bi-level coaches with inefficient passenger flow. The report instead calls for operational changes first: regular “clockface scheduling”, quicker train turn times, and dedicated tracks, all of which also add to the passenger experience and increase capacity at terminal stations. The report also advocates for relatively modest changes to the track layout of the approach to South Station; these changes would allow for faster speeds in the station (up to 50% time savings in some cases) and allow for flexibility by allowing trains to reach all platforms. 

“We believe that Regional Rail has the potential to solve many of the Commonwealth’s biggest challenges- congestion, inequality, Gateway Cities reaching their full potential, housing availability, and climate change. We have to make smart decisions about what projects not to do and start taking steps towards achieving the service improvements necessary to respond to our economy and to rider needs”, said Jarred Johnson, COO of TransitMatters. “Today, we found an extra $3 billion for the Commonwealth to spend on making commuter service across Eastern Massachusetts better. 

The new TransitMatters report, which was authored by a dedicated team of volunteers, is the first in a series of follow-up reports that will focus on each Commuter Rail line, as well as topics like electrification. Today’s report will be available online at regionalrail.net. You can also watch a live stream of the event on the @TransitMatters Twitter account. The TransitMatters team also announced an upcoming press event focused on the second part of the report, “How to Provide Frequent, All-day Service on the Worcester Line”. This event will be hosted in conjunction with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Sept 17 at 2 PM at the Worcester Regional Chamber. 

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Media Statement - Recent Derailments

BOSTON, June 11, 2019 — Today’s Red Line derailment was the latest in a recent series of derailments and possibly related switch and signal failures on both the Red and Green Lines.  These incidents compromise public safety and are setbacks for those who seek a public transit system that is reliable, resilient and responsive to the needs of people throughout Metro Boston. The frequency and impact of these failures is causing a loss of confidence in the T and calls into question whether and how the MBTA and City of Boston are prepared to respond effectively to the immediate disruptive consequences of derailments and other similar events. TransitMatters is calling today for the FMCB to promptly address these issues by undertaking an expedited independent review of MBTA systems and operations and management protocols covering both the causes of these derailments and the approach to managing their immediate mobility impacts. We know that running a large, old and chronically underinvested transit system is a challenging job, but we cannot accept the service failures of the last few weeks as a new normal. These issues require a prompt forensic deep dive, a report to the public, and action for more funding by the legislature to target accelerated repair and modernization of the system.

For media inquiries, please email: info@transitmatters.org
Photo: James Fisher

Media Statement - Regional Rail Report

Today, transit advocacy group TransitMatters released its report calling for modernization of the MBTA Commuter Rail network and an updated business model as part of a larger reimagining of the service. ‘Massachusetts should commit to transitioning from its current Commuter Rail system to a Regional Rail system that offers frequent all day intercity rail service provided by clean electric-powered locomotives’, according to the report.

At a Beacon Hill press conference, TransitMatters President and co-founder Marc Ebuña said, “Our current Commuter Rail system is a vestige of mid-20th Century thinking, based on an antiquated assumption about the kind of mobility choices people expect to have. Many people today do not have 9 to 5 jobs; they require more flexibility from their transit system. Regional Rail offers that flexibility.”

The Regional Rail system recommended by TransitMatters is described in the report as “a reliable and more cost-effective intercity rail system based on a 21st century business model...operating more like a subway service with level platforms and frequent service all day.”  TransitMatters identified five critical components to the Regional Rail business plan: (1) systemwide electrification, (2) high platforms allowing faster and accessible boarding, (3) strategic infrastructure investments to maximize speed and reliability, (4) frequent all-day service – every half hour in the suburbs, every fifteen minutes in denser urban neighborhoods, and (5) fare rationalization, including free transfers between regional trains, subways and buses.

Board member Jarred Johnson explained that the recommendations for a new approach to providing intercity rail service “responds to the way people live today. We are doing our economy and our residents a disservice by continuing to operate and plan for an outdated Commuter Rail system. Our Regional Rail plan takes lessons learned from proven best practices across the US and globally, and offers a highly cost-effective approach to transitioning to a new system.”

According to the group, Regional Rail can begin with affordable pilots projects on the Providence Line — the Commuter Rail’s only electrified line — and the Fairmount Line. The group’s plan proposes cost-effective pilots for these lines as a way to prove the efficacy of the approach and to provide better service and social and environmental justice to Fairmount Line riders and corridor residents.

TransitMatters Board member Tim Lawrence observed that the report responds to the legitimate concern of the MBTA’s FMCB, that the current Commuter Rail system, carries too few riders at too high a cost. “We agree with that assessment,” said Lawrence. “Our plan for Regional Rail addresses this head on — by offering not just a vision, but a new business model. It’s that business model that will be a game changer, moving us away from the unacceptable status quo, and making our intercity rail system operate in a cost-effective, rider-responsive manner.”

The Regional Rail report can be downloaded from regionalrail.net.