WWLP-22News Special Report: Springfield-Boston Rail Service

WWLP-22News Anchor/Reporter Katie Walsh’s amazing full hour-long special report on the potential for Springfield-Boston passenger rail service is now available on the this link:

“InFocus: Lawmakers considering rail service from Springfield to Boston”
By Kait Walsh | WWLP-22News | January 29, 2017

This is by far the most comprehensive report on this topic by any media outlet in the Pioneer Valley to date.

WWLP’s report, which was 6 weeks in the making, includes interviews with all the key players, including

Tim Brennan | Exec. Director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Governor Charlie Baker
Astrid Glynn | Rail & Transit Administrator, MassDOT
State Senator Eric Lesser | First Hampden and Hampshire
Mary Macinnes | Administrator, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority
Guy McLean | Wood Museum of Springfield History
Tim Murray | President & CEO, Worcester Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Representative Richard Neal | 1st District of Mass.
Peter Picknelly | Owner, Peter Pan Bus Lines
Rick Sullivan |President, Economic Dev. Council of Western Mass.

Trains in the Valley was interviewed for the piece in the historic Union Station building in Northampton.

The report is balanced and comprehensive. We would encourage everyone with an interest in this topic to take the time to view this report, from start to finish.

NEC FUTURE | Springfield Meeting

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has scheduled an Open House in Springfield for the purpose of providing information on the NEC FUTURE Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The Open House will be held on Wednesday, January 25th from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the offices of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, 60 Congress St, Springfield, Ma.

Members of the public are welcome to come at any time during this session to view informational displays and talk with the NEC FUTURE team. Please note this is not a public hearing; rather it is a chance for the FRA to share information and answer questions in an informal setting. The open house will not include a formal presentation or an opportunity for public testimony.

nec-future-preferred-alternative-map

The NEC FUTURE plan is designed to create a framework for the future investments needed to improve passenger rail capacity and service on the Northeast Corridor through 2040.

The proposed alternatives in the Final EIS include significant upgrades to the route between New Haven and Springfield, above and beyond what is currently planned for the Hartford Line service which starts in early 2018.


Further Reading

NEC FUTURE
Federal Railroad Administration

Our Future on Track (PDF)
Highlights of the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement
December 2016

Vermonter Ridership | FY 2016

Amtrak has released Fiscal Year 2016 ridership totals for the Vermonter — and we are happy to report that ridership at stations in our region looks good overall.

Here’s a chart that we prepared with a summary of the available data:

vermonter-annual-ridership-11-jan-2017

Highlights from the data show that:

Approximately 28,000 passengers used the Vermonter in Western Mass. between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016 (Amtrak’s fiscal year 2016)

Ridership in Western Mass. increased 12% vs. FY 2015 — which is quite good considering that total Vermonter ridership was down 4% during the same period.

Ridership in Western Mass. has increased 57% vs. FY 2014 — when the train was using the longer route via Amherst.

Northampton, with 17,322 passengers in FY 2016, is now the 2nd busiest Vermonter station north of Springfield. (The busiest station is Essex Jct., Vt.)

Ridership from the four station stops in the Pioneer Valley now accounts for about 1/3rd of the total ridership on the Vermonter.

It important note, when looking at the station totals in FY 2016 to FY 2015, that the FY 2015 numbers do not include a full year of ridership from most stations — so you can’t directly compare the change in station ridership year-over-year.

One way to compare the station totals is to compare the FY 2016 totals with annualized totals for FY 2015.

If you do that then we see the following changes in ridership from last year to this year:

Greenfield was down 16%
Holyoke was up 20%
Northampton was up 10%

From other data, we know that the FY 2015 total for Greenfield included an unusually high number of passengers who traveled between Greenfield and Northampton or Springfield. We believe that most of these riders were just taking the train to try out the new routing of the Vermonter over the Connecticut River Line. Based on the available data, we believe that this is the only reason why the Greenfield ridership dropped from last year to this year.

It would also be fair to say that the Holyoke increase of 20% may not be totally accurate since the number of days in FY 2015 with ridership in Holyoke was very small (just 35 days). To calculate an annualized number based on just 35 days of data may not yield a very accurate annualized total.

Next year, when we have two full years of data to compare, it will be much easier to compare the changes in ridership at stations in the valley.

New Grade Crossing Signals go up in Northampton

new-rr-crossing-at-pca-in-northampton-6-jan-2017
Packaging Corporation of America siding| looking south
Northampton, Ma. | January 6, 2017

This unremarkable image shows the siding that leads from the Connecticut River Main Line into the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) plant off of Mount Tom Road (U.S. Route 5) in Northampton.

In the last few weeks, crews have installed flashing light signals on Mount Tom Road on both sides of this track. Additionally, a large cantilevered flashing light signal has been set up to warn vehicular traffic exiting the PCA site.

Presumably, these active signals were mandated after a car drove into a Pan Am freight train on this track on October 6, 2015.  At the time of the accident, this crossing had been protected by a set of passive signals known as crossbucks.

 


Further reading

Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook
Revised Second Edition
U.S. Department of Transportation | August 2007