Rail News Roundup #10

 

Today’s Headlines

• TIV Greenfield Event | Thur. Feb 1st

• 2018 State Rail Plan Draft Released

• New Hartford Line Website Launched

• Vermonter Extended to Montreal by 2020?

• CSX Considers Sale of Lines in Massachusetts (UPDATED)

• Transitdocs.com Train Status Data

• FRCOG | 20 Years of Working for Franklin County and You

 

Calendar

State Rail Plan Information Meeting
– Meeting organized by MassDOT –
Mo. January 29, 2018 | 6 pm – 7:30 pm

Worcester Regional Transit Authority
60 Forster St
Worcester, MA 01608

Further details
Massachusetts State Rail Plan (Mass.gov)

::

Lessons from the VERMONTER for
Northern New England Rail Passenger Service

– Event organized by Trains in the Valley –
Thurs. February 1, 2018 | 6 pm – 7:30 pm
(Snow Date Wed. February 7th)

Olver Transit Center
12 Olive Street
Greenfield, MA 01301

Registration link
https://trainsinthevalley.eventbrite.com

 


Trains In The Valley Event | Thur. Feb 1st

Please join us in Greenfield this Thursday, February 1st at 6 pm to hear about the past, present, and future of passenger rail service in our region.

 

Further details and registration information can be found on this link:
https://trainsinthevalley.eventbrite.com

Note that registration is requested but not required. Walk-ins are more than welcome.

— As of 6 pm on Friday, January 26th we have 29 people registered for this event.

UPDATE | We now have 38 people registered as of 9 pm on Wed. Jan. 31st. The room holds 60+ so we’ve got lots of space if anyone wants to just walk in at the last minute.

 


2018 State Rail Plan Draft Released

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) today released the 2018 State Rail Plan Draft for Public Comment.

2018 State Rail Plan Draft for Public Comment (PDF)
MassDOT | January 26, 2018

2018 State Rail Plan Draft for Public Comment (PDF)
MassDOT | January 26, 2018 | 129-pages

 

Of particular note

  • The draft plan says that MassDOT is working with Amtrak and Connecticut to assess the feasibility of a pilot service that would extend New Haven – Springfield passenger rail service to Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.
  • The draft proposes a “Western Massachusetts to Boston Passenger Rail Service Study.”

 

We encourage interested parties and stakeholders to attend the Information Meeting on the State Rail Plan Update to be held at 6 pm on Monday, January 29th.

The meeting will be held at Worcester Regional Transit Authority, 60 Foster Street, in Worcester.

The State Rail Plan is a federally required document that must be updated at least every five years. Future rail activities in each state are generally guided by this document, so if a desired initiative or program is not in a state’s rail plan, it makes it more difficult for the state to undertake it in the coming years.

Note that the 2018 State Rail Plan is an update to the 2010 State Rail Plan. The plan documents the state rail system and planned improvements, and outlines the Commonwealth’s 20-year vision and four-year plan for the statewide rail system.

We also encourage interested parties and stakeholders to submit written comments on the State Rail Plan during the three-week public comment period which we understand will open on or about January 29th.

We will have more to report on this once we’ve had a chance to review the draft document in detail.

Further details
Massachusetts State Rail Plan (Mass.gov)

 


New Hartford Line Website Launched

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has launched a new website for its upcoming passenger rail service, the CTrail Hartford Line.

Screenshot of the hartfordline.com website | January 25, 2018

Here’s the link to the new site:
http://hartfordline.com/

The new website provides future Hartford Line riders a taste of what to expect when the service launches in May 2018 with expanded rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield.

Over the next several months, the Hartford Line website will be enhanced with additional information and features, including detailed information on connections to other local transit options; interactive, 360-degree views of the train stations that will serve the line; and milestone events as the service approaches its launch date in May 2018.

This new website supplements the project website which can still be found on the link below.

Further Reading

CTDOT Launches hartfordline.com website In Preparation for May 2017 Service
Press Release | Connecticut Dept. of Transportation | January 11, 2018

New Haven – Hartford – Springfield Rail Program (official project website)

 


Vermonter Extended to Montreal by 2020?

“Restored train service to Montreal chugs closer to reality”
By Kyle Midura | Gray Washington News Bureau | January 15, 2018

“Restored train service to Montreal chugs closer to reality”
By Kyle Midura | Gray Washington News Bureau | January 15, 2018

“It took acts of Congress and Canadian parliament, but an effort to reconnect DC to Montreal — with stops in Vermont — is back on-track. ‘I would think no later than 2020,’ said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) when he expects the service to return.”

The Canadian Parliament passes new customs preclearance language into law [in December 2017] that will make possible improved rail travel between the U.S. and Canada.

The passage of the bill in Canada removes all legislative hurdles to the creation of a preclearance facility at Montreal’s Central Station, for reestablishing passenger train service between Vermont and Montreal.

Further Reading

Vermonter Extension to Montreal (Trains In The Valley)

 


CSX Considers Sale of Lines in Massachusetts

> > Updated January 30, 2018 < <

Screenshot | CSX – Massachusetts Operations (csx.com) | January 26, 2018

Trains magazine, an industry publication, reported on January 28th that CSX Transportation (CSX) is reviewing 8,000 miles of its rail lines for potential sale — including the former Boston & Albany main [between Schodack, New York (near Albany) and Worcester] as well as related branch lines in Massachusetts.

CSX operates nearly 700-miles of track within the Commonwealth and handles over 344,000 carloads (as of 2015).

If CSX puts its lines out to bid, any number of regional railroads could step forward to purchase some or all of CSX’s assets in the state. Some have speculated that MassDOT may be interested in some of the assets, in particular the lines near Boston and the 54 miles of track between Worcester and Springfield Union stations.

> > Updated January 30, 2018 < <

“CSX rules out sale of former Boston & Albany line”
Times-Union | January 26, 2018
A CSX spokesman told the Times-Union last Friday, “… this line is not for sale.”

 

Further Reading

“CSX considers sale of former Boston & Albany line”
By Eric Anderson | Times Union | January 24, 2018

“CSX reviewing 8,000 miles of rail lines for potential sale”
By Bill Stephens | Trains Newswire | January 22, 2018

CSX | Operations in Massachusetts (csx.com)

 


Transitdocs.com Train Data

We’ve  recently been alerted to a useful website that allows you to track the progress of each Amtrak (and Via Rail) train in much more detail that is currently available on the Amtrak.com site.

Screenshot transitdocs.com | Amtrak Train 56 (01/24)

In the example shown above, you can review the progress of Amtrak Train 56 (the northbound Vermonter) on January 24, 2018.

At the top of the page you see a detailed timetable of the train for that date. The timetable also shows the actual arrival and departure time for each station along the route – which allows you to see the dwell time at each station, if you’re interested.

On the lower part of the page is a route-trace of the train’s journey along with breadcrumbs showing the location, date, time and speed of the train along the route.

So how do you find these maps?

The easiest way is to from unofficial Amtrak Status Maps page. Just select your train and then click on the “Details” link at the top of the page.

This is a great examples of what can be done with open data.

 


FRCOG | 20 Years of Working for Franklin County and You

We try hard to remain very selective with what we report here in the Rail News Roundup, since some would say that we live in the “too much information age” today.

The Rail News Roundup simply tries to provide news and information on topics that are relevant to passenger and freight rail service in the Pioneer Valley region of Western Massachusetts.

With that said, we sometimes come across things that we can’t let pass by without a mention.

This story map — from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) — is one such item.

Screenshot of Discover the FRCOG Story Map | January 25, 2018

Discover the FRCOG | 20 Years of Working for Franklin County and You
Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) | 2018

This particular story map walks the reader through the FRCOG’s accomplishments over the past twenty years using an interesting and interactive mix of images, maps and text.

 

 

Last updated: January 30, 2018

Rail News Roundup #9

 

Today’s Headlines

• TIV Springfield Event Recap

• TIV Greenfield Event | Feb 1st

• TIV’s Hartford Line Comments

• CT Plans Possible Cuts in Rail Service

• New Springfield Union Station website

• How a State Senator Championed Constituent Testimony

• New Greenfield Parking Garage

• MassDOT Meeting | State Rail Plan (NEW DATE)

• Vermonter Performance Report | 4Q2017

• Holiday on the Property

 

Calendar

State Rail Plan Information Meeting
– Meeting organized by MassDOT –
Mo. January 29, 2018 | 6 pm – 7:30 pm
*** NEW DATE ***

Worcester Regional Transit Authority
60 Forster St
Worcester, MA 01608

Further details
Massachusetts State Rail Plan (Mass.gov)

::

Lessons from the VERMONTER for
Northern New England Rail Passenger Service

– Event organized by Trains in the Valley –
Thurs. February 1, 2018 | 6 pm – 7:30 pm
(Snow Date Wed. February 7th)

Olver Transit Center
12 Olive Street
Greenfield, MA 01301

Registration link
https://trainsinthevalley.eventbrite.com
(Further details below)

 


TIV Springfield Event Recap

A big thank you to all who turned out on a very cold December evening for our “Hartford Line – Coming in May 2018” event in Springfield!

Our guest speaker was John Bernick, Asst. Rail Administrator for Rail Design, Construction and Maintenance of Way at the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to the event we’ve embedded (and linked) a video of the event below.

 

“The Hartford Line – Coming in May 2018”
Trains In The Valley | Springfield Central Library | December 13, 2017

Here are the video start points:
0:00 – Opening Remarks | Rebecca Townsend, Trains In The Valley
01:30 – Introduction | Ben Heckscher, Trains In The Valley
07:40 – John Bernick’s presentation
36:00 – Questions & Answers

Thanks goes out to Stephen Cary, Station Manager/Executive Producer, of FOCUS Springfield Community Television who was on hand to record the event.

We had great media coverage of the event, including crews from all three local TV channels.

Selected Media coverage

Springfield to Hartford rail service discussion held to answer questions” (0:47)
By Hayley Crombleholme | WWLP-22News | December 13, 2017

“Hartford Line meeting discussed at Springfield meeting” (1:44)
By Jeff Cramer & Jamie Leslie | Western Mass News | December 13, 2017

 


TIV Greenfield Event | Feb. 1st

Amtrak station stop | Greenfield, Ma. | 2014

Trains In The Valley’s next event in this series will be in Greenfield on Thursday, February 1st (6 pm  – 7:30 pm).

Our topic on this evening will be
Lessons from the VERMONTER for
Northern New England Rail Passenger Service

Our guest speaker will be Carl Fowler, Owner/President of CHF Rail Consulting

Carl Fowler has been an advocate for passenger rail service for over 45 years. He ran a worldwide rail tour company for 33 years and is a long time member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (now known as the Rail Passengers Association) and was for many years a member of its Board of Directors.

He made the original proposal to Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s administration for the daylight schedule that became the Vermonter, when Amtrak decided in 1994 to discontinue its overnight Montrealer service.

Carl will share some history of northern New England passenger service and offer insights for a much more positive future in our region, drawn from his experience with other corridors like the Cascades and Capitol routes on the West Coast.

Further details and registration information can be found on this link:
https://trainsinthevalley.eventbrite.com

 


TIV’s Hartford Line Comments

Back in November the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) hosted three hearings — in New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield — to solicit public input regarding the proposed fares for the planned Hartford Line rail service.

Trains In the Valley attended the Fare Hearing in Springfield on November 15th and submitted the following set of written comments to CTDOT.

Comments Submitted by Trains In The Valley to CTDOT | November 24, 2017 | 3 pages
https://pvraildotorg.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/comments-for-ctdot-2017_11_24.pdf (PDF)

 

The final determination of the fare hearings will be posted on this page [www.ct.gov/dot/hartfordlinecomments] at the conclusion of the review process.

 


CT Plans Possible Cuts in Rail Service

“New and old Metro-North train cars wait on lines at New Haven’s Union Station”
Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant | January 9, 2018

“State Plans Big Rail, Bus Fare Increases”
By Gregory B. Hladky | Hartford Courant | January 9, 2017

The Hartford Courant is reporting today that the Connecticut state government has proposed a “reduction of weekday off-peak service on Shore Line East, Danbury, Waterbury and New Canaan branches and elimination of weekend service on these rail lines.”

The proposed reduction in service (and increase in fares) is part of an effort to manage a significant shortfall in the state’s Special Transportation Fund.

“Governor Malloy called on lawmakers to move quickly to enact new revenue measures such as electronic highway tolls, higher gasoline taxes or dedicating more sales taxes to transportation – all politically unpopular options the legislature has rejected in the past.”

What is unclear at the moment is whether the transportation budget crisis in Connecticut will impact the planned launch of CTrail Hartford Line service in May 2018.

Stay tuned.

 


New Springfield Union Station website

 

Springfield Union Station now has its own website
http://www.springfieldunionstation.com/

and

Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/SpringfieldUnionStation/

 


How a State Senator Championed Constituent Testimony

“How a State Senator Championed Constituent Testimony”
Quorum Analytics | January 3, 2018

An interesting overview of how Sen. Eric Lesser has engaging constituents in the debate over the East-West Rail.

“We often get very bogged down on the how and we forget the why so the debates quickly devolve into the nitty-gritty of which bill, which coalition, which interest group is against it, who’s for it, who’s up who’s down, who wants it, who doesn’t, who’s jealous, who’s not,” Lesser said.

“Its very easy in that kind of a situation to forget the why — why is this important, why are we doing this, what’s at stake for actual people.”

 


New Greenfield Parking Garage | Under Construction

“Construction crews work through frigid temperatures drilling the foundation for the Olive Street parking garage”
Dan Little / The Recorder | December 27, 2017

Much progress has been made at the site of the planned Olive Street Parking Garage in Greenfield over the past few months. Work at the site will soon close down for the rest of the winter and then will restart in mid-March.

The Olive Street garage will relieve parking congestion in Greenfield’s downtown and providing capacity for new commercial and residential growth.

The garage will also service the John W. Olver Transit Center, which provides multi-modal transit connections for the upper Pioneer Valley.

Further reading
Olver Street Parking Garage Project (official website)
City of Greenfield

 


MassDOT Meeting | State Rail Plan (NEW DATE)

>> Updated January 11th and 23rd

 

The public information meeting on the draft update to the Massachusetts State Rail Plan has been moved from January 23 to Monday, January 29, 6 – 7:30 PM.

If you have noted the earlier date in an electronic calendar, please update.

It is our understanding that the updated State Rail Plan will be released for public review next week, on the link noted below.

We have now been told that MassDOT intends to released the draft State Rail Plan Update on Friday, January 26th.

MassDOT will open a three-week comment period after the January 29th meeting in Worcester.

Further information will be provided once MassDOT releases the plan to the public.

Further details
Massachusetts State Rail Plan (Mass.gov)

 


Vermonter Performance Report | 4Q2017

Here’s the quarterly summary of how well the Vermonter has been doing relative to the published timetable.

The southbound Vermonter continues to be delayed by temporary slow orders along the New England Central Railroad’s main line in Vermont and issues related to winter weather.

A word to the wise — we strongly recommend that passengers boarding in Northampton, Holyoke and Greenfield (on weekends, when the Olver Transit Center is closed) check the status of their train before arriving at the station — to limit the amount of time standing outside on the platform.

We are hopeful that later this year we will finally — after three years of passenger service on the Knowledge Corridor — start to see some consistent on-time departures from our stations in the Pioneer Valley.

Further reading
Vermonter Performance (Trains In The Valley)

 


Holiday on the Property

Amtrak Train 55 in Northampton
December 12, 2017 | 2:35 pm

In early December we replaced the cover photo on our Facebook page with this image of southbound Vermonter standing at the station in Northampton.

On most days this train stops in Northampton for just 2-3 minutes but in late December — when holiday travel overlaps with the end of the semester for Smith College and UMass Amherst — the dwell time increases due to the increased number of passengers getting off and on the train.

As example — we know that the southbound train was stopped in Northampton for six minutes on December 20th and the 21st and for seven minutes on the December 22nd. How do we know this? We’ll explain that in the next edition of the Rail News Update.

 

 

Last updated: January 24, 2018