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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 We are doing our economy and our residents a disservice by continuing to operate and plan for an outdated Commuter Rail system.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.

Radio Boston interview: How to Fix the T

I was interviewed on Radio Boston (WBUR/NPR) yesterday about investment priorities for the MBTA and the potential for an emergency transportation plan implemented in Boston. Check out the short segment, How to Fix the MBTA (audio) and let us know what you think.

As always, tweet your thoughts to @TransitMatters,  fill out our contact form, or just comment below. You can also tweet at me directly via @CriticalTransit.

 

Podcast 07b - Transit News

Part two of a marathon episode: featuring a roundup of the latest Boston transit news and analysis. There's no shortage of controversial happenings:

  • Mattapan High Speed Line crash - operator failure to secure trolley; it rolled backwards (DotNews)
  • Green Line D Branch flooded, portal closed during heavy rain (Boston Magazine)
  • Will there be regular commuter rail service to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro? State buys freight rail lines that would make it possible. (BostInno)
  • The fight for reliable Amtrak service: Amtrak being sued by big railroad companies over on-time metrics (EE News) (WaPo).
  • Commuter rail operator Keolis hit with $804K penalties in second month as operator. (WBUR) Is this model working?
  • Does the latest South Boston Waterfront Plan make progress in solving some of the area's transportation and land use challenges? Are the recommendations useful and realistic? Visit A Better City for the latest and follow this show for regular updates.
  • Bridge closures: What function could a rebuilt Northern Ave Bridge serve? What is the future of services for at-risk adults following the sudden closure of the Long Island Bridge? (update)
  • Former Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi offers three "visionary" proposals that may not really be all that visionary. But they're not new and we're not impressed. We think there are more useful, realistic and equitable transit investments we could be making.
  • Paris prohibits "unnecessary traffic" from city center, with service vehicles and residents' cars excepted (Grist)

Did we miss something or get it wrong? Send us your questions, comments and ideas for topics or guests >> contact usOr share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Transit Matters Podcast is your source for transportation news, analysis, interviews and more. We focus on sustainable transportation planning, operations and policies in Boston and beyond. Transit Matters is a joint project of local transit enthusiasts Marc Ebuña, Jeremy Mendelson and Josh Fairchild.

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