Regional Rail

TransitMatters Report Asks State to Cancel South Station Expansion

Christian MilNeil | StreetsBlog Mass

Advocates from TransitMatters are asking the state to cancel a multi-billion-dollar expansion plan for South Station, arguing that instead of building more platforms to support expanded service, the MBTA could instead make cheap organizational changes to move more trains more quickly in and out of the station – strategies that would also improve speed and reliability for riders.

Those ideas came with a detailed plan to implement faster, higher-frequency service on the MBTA’s Worcester commuter rail line in a “proof on concept” report that TransitMatters released on Thursday.

The concept lays out an incremental strategy to improve frequency and operating speeds between Boston’s South Station and Worcester, a route where ridership demand is expected to increase dramatically over the next decade thanks to disruptive construction projects on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

TransitMatters: South Station expansion unnecessary

Bruce Mohl | Commonwealth Magazine

THE ADVOCACY GROUP TransitMatters says a number of relatively simple changes in commuter rail operations could increase the number of trains moving in and out of South Station and make a planned $2.5 billion expansion of the facility unnecessary.

South Station has 13 tracks that currently serve 20 trains per hour in and out. By increasing the speed of trains coming in and out of the station, dedicating specific tracks for specific train lines, and changing crews more swiftly, TransitMatters said in a report that train throughput could increase to at least 26 to 30 trains per hour in and out.

“South Station expansion is completely unnecessary. The billions of dollars [saved] can pay for an electric fleet,” said Josh Fairchild, the president of TransitMatters, which is known for its pro-transit advocacy and the willingness to dig into the nitty gritty of transportation.

Transit advocates call for electrified 'regional rail' during Mass. Pike reconstruction

Cyrus Moulton | Worcester Telegram and Gazette

Anticipating a decade of traffic delays during the reconstruction of a key portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike, a new report proposes the Worcester commuter rail line be converted to electrified, frequent, subway-like service to ease traffic jams and prove the concept of regional rail.

“The need for frequent and reliable transit and rail mobility along this corridor is urgent,” said the report, “Regional Rail Proof of Concept: How Modern Operating Practice Adds Capacity to the Current Commuter Rail Network,” by transportation advocacy nonprofit TransitMatters. “The MBTA should immediately increase off-peak frequency, and invest money in electrification and new rolling stock to commence high-quality Regional Rail operations as soon as possible.”

The nonprofit group estimates the cost of the Worcester line at $500 million. It proposes paying for this - and the conversion to a full regional rail system - by reallocating money from the $2 billion to $3 billion proposed expansion of South Station.

State Senate backs study on electrification of T rail system

Adam Vaccaro | Boston Globe

The state Senate is backing activists’ efforts to electrify the MBTA’s commuter rail system.

proposal in the next fiscal year’s draft budget released by the chamber last Thursday would require transportation officials to study transitioning two MBTA lines — the Providence and Fairmount services — from diesel to electric power and report on the proposal by next March. The T would need to present a plan for running electric service on those two lines by September 2022.

The advocacy group Transit Matters unveiled a plan in February to electrify the system, starting with these two lines, as part of a plan to run more frequent commuter rail service throughout the day. The office of Senate President Harriette Chandler, who pushed for the language to be included in the budget, said it is directly based on Transit Matters’s “regional rail” proposal.

T notes: Budget boosts RTA funding 10%. Seeks plan for electrifying Providence, Fairmount commuter rail lines

Bruce Mohl | Commonwealth Magazine

The Senate Ways and Means budget proposal also directs the Baker administration to develop a plan to fully electrify the Providence and Fairmount commuter rail lines and build high-level platforms at each station on the lines.

The proposal calls for the plan to envision a start date of September 30, 2022, for fully electric service. The plan itself would have to be finished by March 1, 2019.

T notes: TransitMatters raises concerns on Newton proposal

Bruce Mohl | Commonwealth Magazine

A TRANSIT ADVOCATE WARNED on Monday that the MBTA’s planned rebuild of three commuter rail stations in Newton would hinder the system’s ability to provide regional rail service in the future.

At a meeting of the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday, T officials said they planned to build new, handicap-accessible stations on the north side of the tracks along the Worcester-Framingham Line in Auburndale, Newton, and Newtonville. They rejected two alternative approaches – building handicapped, accessible stations on both sides of the tracks or building one handicap-accessible station in the center of the tracks.

Advocates propose new Commuter Rail model

Cyrus Moulton | Worcester Telegram and Gazette

BOSTON - Saying the commuter rail system runs in a “1950s Mad Men sort of way,” a transit advocacy group Tuesday presented a $2 billion to $3 billion proposal for an electrified, more frequent “regional rail” model that the group says will bring the commuter rail into the 21st century.

It’s Time to Replace the Commuter Rail with an All-Electric “Regional Rail,” Transit Activists Say

Spencer Buell | Boston Magazine

Let’s face it. Nobody loves the commuter rail right now. It keeps thousands of people heading into Boston off the road every day, which is good for everyone. But its schedules are rigid, it moves relatively slowly, and in some cases trains arrive only once every several hours.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if we changed the way we use the eight rails that connect the city to the suburbs, and instead of loud, slow, infrequent, diesel-chugging trains, we had faster, electric ones—like a super-charged subway that could take you all around the state?

This 'shadow transit agency' has a new multi-billion dollar business plan for 'outmoded' MBTA commuter rail system

Gintautas Dumcius | MassLive

Arguing that the MBTA's commuter rail service ferries too few people for too much money, a transportation advocacy group is pushing a new business model that calls for more aggressive levels of service, and they say, would cost commuters less money.

TransitMatters, once called a "shadow transit agency" in a CommonWealth magazine profile due to their data-driven ideas that the MBTA takes seriously, on Tuesday unveiled a proposal to transform the commuter rail into a full "regional rail" system.

Transit group: Changes to MBTA Providence Line would shorten trip to Boston

Patrick Anderson | Providence Journal

Riding from Providence to Boston by train should take 45 minutes — not 70 minutes — an influential Massachusetts transit advocacy group said Tuesday in a new report aimed at reinventing commuter rail in the region.

And that service should be reliable and frequent, the group, TransitMatters, wrote, with northbound trains pulling out of Providence Station every 15 minutes and fewer breakdowns than the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority riders are now used to.

Proposed MBTA plan would reduce travel time from Providence to Boston

Lexi Kriss | WPRI

TransitMatters, a Massachusetts transportation advocacy group, released their latest report at an event in Boston on Tuesday.

The group outlined a variety of goals for an improved system: to make the Providence to Boston line all electric, to decrease times between trains and to increase train frequency, and to reduce commute time.

Advocates Push for All Electric Commuter Rail

Mike Deehan | WGBH

A new report recommends that the state move away from the rush-hour and diesel engine Commuter Rail system and embrace more frequent electric trains on the aging system.

The advocacy group TransitMatters estimates it will cost taxpayers as much as $9 billion to convert the Commuter Rail to electric trains and build a tunnel to link North and South Stations.

Benton: Imagining a region on the move

Nelson Benton | The Salem News

A report released late last month by the public transportation advocacy group TransitMatters recommends replacing the existing commuter rail system serving eastern Massachusetts, including the North Shore, with one that will, in the words of the authors, get people “from everywhere to anywhere, at any time.”

Boston’s Best Bet for Better Transit: Modernizing Commuter Rail

Angie Schmitt | Streetsblog USA

Boston commuter rail has the pieces for an expansive modern system. What it needs isn’t a big extension, but a fresh approach to service.

That’s according to a new report from local advocacy group Transit Matters.

The 398-mile MTBA Commuter Rail system carries an unremarkable 130,000 passengers a day. But that’s not surprising given its slow and limited service.

Transit Matters has proposed a $2-3 billion “Regional Rail” overhaul that would make it much more useful.

Commuter rail every 15 minutes? That’s one group’s vision

Adam Vaccaro | Boston Globe

As the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority embarks on a rethink of how it operates the commuter rail, a group of transit activists is offering up some pretty ambitious ideas.

In a report released Tuesday, the nonprofit TransitMatters imagines a commuter rail system that runs trains every 15 minutes between downtown Boston and nearby stations, and every 30 minutes from more distant stops. The idea is a system more like a regional rapid transit network, compared to the traditional commuter service that caters to suburbanites headed to and from work during peak hours.

Pollack: T scrapping Auburndale station design

Bruce Mohl | Commonwealth Magazine

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY STEPHANIE POLLACK said on Monday that the MBTA is scrapping its design for a new Auburndale commuter rail station in response to concerns that the proposal might negatively affect the overall operation of the entire Framingham/Worcester Line.

The transportation advocacy group TransitMatters initially raised concerns about the proposed design in February, saying the MBTA’s approach could cause service disruptions for all users of the line. TransitMatters accused the T of rebuilding the station “in the worst possible way.”