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Worcester Telegram & Gazette: Worcester-Providence ‘JetBlue of rail commuting’ envisioned

Worcester Union Station

Union Station in Worcester, Massachusetts – Photo (cc) Jonf728

Already practically sister cities, Worcester and Providence may soon have a new connection — this time over the rails.

Boston Surface Railroad Co. has been formed for the specific purpose of creating a commuter rail service between the two New England cities. Vincent Bono, the largest stockholder and general manager of the new company, said plans are in the first stages of developing what he hopes will eventually be three trains per day traveling between the two cities.

The first step is to conduct a study, which is expected to take six months. If the project proves feasible, an agreement would have to be forged with Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. to use its tracks, and possibly to operate the trains. If all goes well, the service could begin within 18 months.

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9 Responses to Worcester Telegram & Gazette: Worcester-Providence ‘JetBlue of rail commuting’ envisioned

  1. Mark Moreno November 26, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    Seems promising. On a little side note I find it perplexing that I can’t go to the 2nd and 3rd largest cities (New Bedford and Fall River) in the Providence metropolitan area via public transit.

  2. Jason November 28, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Nothing wrong with quality service, but let me be the first to question why the comments have not filled with screeds that we’re building transit for the rich.

    I’m surprised we haven’t seen 40 posts talking about how every dollar spent on an amenity for train transit is a dollar that should be spent on frequency and speed.

  3. Ryan November 28, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Well, Jason, I would imagine that’s at least partially because “we’re” not building anything here.

    No capital dollars are coming from RIDOT, MassDOT, or either city to build this thing – it’s all private money from the newly formed Boston Surface Railroad Country. If they want to spend all their money on the wrong priorities, that’s their prerogative so long as it doesn’t ultimately interfere with future state and regional interests in the corridor.

    To be clear, I expect that this service will ultimately fail due to the fact that their goal is a 70 minute travel time and three trips daily, as contrasted with a straight drive down 146 that doesn’t take 55 minutes even in rush hour traffic and one which you can make whenever you want. I don’t anticipate any amount of assigned seating (in my opinion, actually a huge negative, but that’s just me), bar car amenities or other creature comforts would ever be enough to overcome being locked into no more than three chances to get on a train back home and having to spend somewhere between 27% and 55% longer commuting, all other things being equal.

    But it’s not RIDOT’s money that’s being wasted on this, and it’s not MassDOT’s money that’s being wasted on this, and it’s not Providence’s money or Worcester’s money or Woonsocket’s money that’s being wasted on this, and if Vincent Bono is inclined to waste a whole bunch of his money to learn a tough lesson about amenities never making up for deficiencies of speed and frequency, I see no reason to stop him.

    In fact, since he’s presumably going to build a palatial station in Woonsocket on his own dime and since he’s presumably going to at least clean the tracks up to the point where 70 minutes end-to-end is achievable, I’m inclined to throw a great deal of support behind him. Either the service succeeds and can either expand with further private investment or be supplemented by state-sponsored commuter rail later on, the service struggles but Mr. Bono realizes the cause (poor frequency, low speed) and corrects it (leading back to option 1), or the service fails and leaves behind improved tracks and a beautiful station in Woonsocket, which are two less things that RIDOT has to find money for when the in-state commuter rail service revisits connecting Providence and Woonsocket.

    I don’t see any way in which we actually lose here, so I say go for it!

  4. Ryan November 28, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    I don’t know how I said Country. I meant Company. Whoops.

  5. Peter Brassard November 29, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    There could be a real estate component to this venture. Have there been any significant real estate transactions in any of the three cities near train stations lately?

  6. James November 29, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    The Worcester train station needs some major ped (and bike) improvements. Woonsocket is the ped-friendliest of the three stations, and that says something.

    I think Jason has some points (I feel like his comment is directed at streetcar critics), and the goal should be hour or half-hour service, but there’s a big difference between connecting heretofore unconnected cities and running a costly streetcar without rights-of-way, signal priority etc., through an area that already has buses. Abd $3 M, private or otherwise, is also not $140 M. All things considered, I think services for denser smaller trips are way more important (downtowns first), but we really need to focus effort on making the streetcar something beyond symbolic transit. I kind of think a trip on the 54 bus would convert a lot of people on this, because the densest historic areas are all next to the rail line, so connecting them by rail ROW is a big advantage, whereas I’ve never understood the appeal of a bunch of tracks on Washington St to grab my bike wheel and throw me to the ground.

    This project will work better if there’s a Pawtucket/CF stop and an Uxbridge, MA stop. Uxbridge is in a good place to get minor ped improvements that would make it even better to stop at, but there are already clusters of relatively dense and walkable businesses/reaidences. CF infill would also double for the Boston train.

    Projects like these really underscore the need to finish the East Coast Greenway. That would really help last mile connections in Woonsocket, Blackstone, Manville, etc. It’s a pipe dream to expect this to work without bikes. Walking not enough and parking too expensive.

  7. Jef Nickerson December 9, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    Worcester Telegram & Gazette: Providence-Worcester commuter rail gathers momentum

  8. Peter Brassard January 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    Looks like there is a real estate component, at least in Woonsocket. Station or stop is proposed at the former Alice Mill site.

    http://www.valleybreeze.com/2015-01-07/woonsocket-north-smithfield/woonsocket-looks-change-zoning-allow-train-stop-fairmount#.VLlBbEfF88r

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