According to Congress for New Urbanism President John Norquist, the Salt Lake City area has the fastest growing rail system in America. And as Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt pointed out last month, “It’s the only city in the country building light rail, bus rapid transit, streetcars and commuter rail at the same
Tag Archives | Commuter Rail
The Washington Post: Delaware is bailing out its casinos. Wait, what?
Earlier this week, Delaware’s casinos got a surprise windfall. Just days after saying no to tax breaks, Gov. Jack Markell (D) proposed that $8 million of the state’s budget surplus be distributed amongst its three struggling establishments, to forestall the layoffs that at least one of them had threatened.
That would seem to defeat the purpose of casinos: Generating revenue for states. The problem is, for the past decade, almost every state in the nation has tried to cash in–and gamblers aren’t keeping up. Twenty-three states have now legalized commercial casinos, and revenues are back to 2007 levels after taking a dip during the recession.
A small state surrounded by other states with lots of people and better casinos…
— Governor Chafee (@LincolnChafee) June 19, 2013
Next City: Loving My City Enough to Fight For It
These days, the zeitgeist has changed. If before, you were a happy but passive contrarian, enjoying the “lifestyle” that cost-of-living, accessibility, great culture, and tight-knit neighborhoods afforded — now there is a bit more at stake. The mood in Cleveland (speaking from my white, liberal, professional vantage) is more proactive. No longer can you just sip your wine and chat about how nice it is here. The ethos has shifted to an activist one: you have to help out, pitch in, you have to do something. There is an emergent sense of civic obligation.
Why this shift? Why this pressure to help the city’s economic, educational, political and cultural life? Not because things are worse but because they are better.
Development of a future commuter rail station in the city’s Barton Street neighborhood, once little more than a dream, is now a good possibility within the next few years, said state officials last week.
City officials in Pawtucket and neighboring Central Falls say the train station would be a “game changer,” functioning as an economic driver and providing convenient transportation to commuters and tourists along the Northeast Corridor.
Did you want more transit news today? From the Pawtucket Foundation:
June 13th: 6PM – Commuter Rail Station Public Meeting
You are invited to attend a Rhode Island Department of Transportation and City of Pawtucket Public Meeting
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Open House: 6:00 PM
Presentation: 6:30 PM
Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center
175 Main Street, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the City of Pawtucket invite members of the community to a Public Meeting on Thursday June 13, 2013, to learn more about the Pawtucket Commuter Rail Station Project.
The meeting will take place at the Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center, 175 Main Street, Pawtucket. Beginning at 6:00 PM, representatives from RIDOT, the City of Pawtucket, and the project team, will host an open house to discuss the project and answer questions. At 6:30 PM, RIDOT will present an overview of the Pawtucket Commuter Rail Project, which is exploring options for a potential station to reintroduce commuter rail service to Pawtucket. The Project will evaluate site, environmental, and rail impacts associated with a new station on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Providence Line.
The Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center is located at RIPTA’s Pawtucket Transit Center and is accessible to persons with disabilities. Spanish translation services will be available at the meeting. Individuals who do not speak the English or Spanish languages or who are hearing impaired may contact RIDOT on or before June 6, 2013, to request an interpreter. Please direct interpreter requests to email@example.com or (401) 222-2450.
- Si esta información es necesaria en otro idioma, llame al (401) 222-2450.
- Se esta informacao e nevessario emu ma outro lingua, contate por favor (401) 222-2450.
Rhode Island recently spent a large sum of money to extend MBTA commuter rail service south to TF Green Airport and Wickford Junction. Both of them feature large parking garages (although the TF Green Interlink facility is for more than rail transit) that are not typical of suburban train stations and were very expensive.
These stations are only served by select trains on weekdays only, and feature long journey times to Boston – 1:35 from TF Green and 1:50 from Wickford Junction. Though these stations can be useful for commuting to downtown Providence – I’ve used the TF Green service for that myself – Providence is not nearly the employment market Boston is. What’s more, the Wickford Junction station is in a particularly inauspicious location.
Unsurprisingly, ridership is low. TF Green had about 200 passengers per day as of last summer, and Wickford Junction about 150.
With a mind-numbing total price tag of $100 million for this project (the estimated cost of just the transit portions) – almost $300,000 per rider – it’s unlikely that this will ever be viewed as a successful project.
As with the philosophy of the Boston area commuter rail generally, this service expansion was based on expanding the coverage area, but not the quality of service. In effect, it is an equity investment to make access to transit more equally available geographically (though economically more troubled areas like Pawtucket remain without service, so it doesn’t provide more economic equity).
While geographic equity is a legitimate government goal, public transit requires certain characteristics such as origin and destination demand, density of residences and employment, and walkable destinations in order to work well. It’s possible to add service to areas, but that does not mean it will be cost effective or well patronized.
Additionally, the South County expansions don’t move the needle for Rhode Island. One of the biggest challenges facing the area is of course the economy. In the Greater New England there are basically two main sources of wealth generation: New York and Boston. To the extent that you are in New England and are tied to one of those markets, you are generally succeeding. To the extent that you are cut off from them, you are struggling. The Providence area struggles because it is not as able to tap into the Boston economy given the just far enough distance between them by both car and transit.
Governor Chafee and RIDOT Announce Free Parking at Commuter Rail Stations for Rest of Winter
Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today announced that parking at the garages at the Interlink at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick and at Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown will be free for the reminder of the winter.
“As we have seen over the past couple of days, travel conditions and parking in Providence have been anything but normal because of the blizzard,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “In consideration of what has happened, and the expectations of future storms in the coming weeks, we have decided to provide free parking at our commuter rail stations to make it easier for people to get to work for the rest of the winter.”
Commuters taking advantage of the free parking will receive validated tickets allowing them to exit the parking garages at T.F. Green and Wickford at no charge through Friday, March 29, 2013. Fares from Warwick and Wickford to Providence are $3 and $3.25, respectively, each way. Fares to from these stations to Boston’s South Station cost $10.50 and $11, respectively. Full schedule and fare information can be found on RIDOT’s website at www.dot.ri.gov.
“While we can clear roads in a relatively short time following snowstorms, major weather events such as the blizzard leave huge volumes of snow that create hazardous situations for many days with slick and narrowed roadways, snow-covered breakdown lanes and less parking,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “These problems are being experienced all across Rhode Island, but are greatly exacerbated in a dense, urban environment such as Providence.”
On Tuesday, January 15th there was a meeting of the Rhode Island State Properties Committee, where the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) requested clarification regarding a Request for Proposals (RFP) to sell the Route 2/102 Park and Ride lot near Wickford Junction Station. The original RFP offered to sell the land for private development, but stipulated that the Park and Ride lot would have to be relocated and rebuilt at the expense of the developer.
RIDOT asked for clarification on whether the intent of the RFP would still be valid, if the agency dropped the requirement that the Park and Ride lot be relocated and rebuilt. The committee indicated that they would not support that change. They felt that it would be a clear departure from the original RFP and would create unnecessary hardship on the public that relies on the free lot to access public transit or to park cars when people car pool. The committee chair also said that they had been told in the past by RIDOT that the Wickford Junction Parking Garage would not be available for free.
There is some precedent for the MBTA running interstate service: Rhode Island’s funding for its recent extension of the Providence line to serve T. F. Green International Airport in Warwick and Wickford Junction. Current estimates are New Hampshire might have to kick in $10 million to $12 million annually to support a Lowell line extension into the Granite State.
A selection of photos readers have recently shared in our Flickr Group:
RIDOT annouces “Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays.” Six Wednesdays from January 23, 2013 to February 27, 2013 RIDOT will provide free roundtrip commuter rail fares from Wickford Junction Station to Providence as well as free parking at the Wickford Junction Garage. This program is to encourage commuters to try the commuter rail service which started last April.
When the morning radio or television station is giving the bad news about slow traffic on Route 4 and I-95 because of snowy conditions, many South County commuters won’t be concerned because they take commuter rail to work in Providence. Those who are thinking about joining them in the hassle-free way to work this winter now have a chance to try it for free.
As an invitation to try the train service from Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) are announcing “Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays” for six weeks from January 23, 2013, to February 27, 2013. Each Wednesday during this promotion, commuters will receive validated parking at the station and a round-trip ticket for travel to Providence Station from Wickford.
The University of Rhode Island plans to increase its presence in the state’s capital city, according to President David M. Dooley, as part of a strategy to better prepare its students for success as well as help Rhode Island’s economy grow out of the hole it is in.
Speaking at a Rhode Island Foundation media breakfast this morning, URI President Dooley among other things reiterated his desire to locate a joint URI/RIC nursing school in the Jewelry District and called expansion of Commuter Rail to South County ‘essential.’
The MBTA’s new mobile Commuter Rail ticketing app, mTicket, launched today, but only on Commuter Rail lines out of North Station.
We can expect the mTicket system to be available for trips on the Providence line starting later this month, and monthly passes for December will also be able to be purchased using mTicket. The MBTA has an FAQ to answer any questions about the system.
RIPTA has detours in place today on Routes 14 and 66 due to issues related to Hurricane Sandy. The RIde Program is suspended except for vital medical trips. RIPTA warns to expect minor delays on all routes.
MBTA Commuter Rail service is also suspended today between Wickford Junction and Mansfield due to downed trees on the tracks.
Normal Service has been restored on MBTA Commuter Rail trough to Wickford Junction.
Northeast Corridor Amtrak service is suspended today.
The Federal Railroad Adminstration (FRA) is running a planning program dubbed NEC Future to determine the future path of rail development in the Northeast Corridor running from Boston to Washington. Greater City Providence reader Peter Brassard submitted the following comments to the FRA in response to the study’s request for public comment.
- Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
- NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
- Reserve the option to construct a four-track NEC corridor in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
- Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
- Develop Providence/Fall River/New Bedford interstate LRT
- Develop Providence to Worcester Commuter Rail Service
- New England track electrification and use of DMUs and EMUs
- Add multiple infill train stations within Providence’s urban core cities
- Develop Rhode Island Mainline Rail Transit
- Extend Train Service to Aquidneck Island
- New York to New Jersey – Penn Station New York to the Portal Bridge
- Penn Station New York to Grand Central connecting rail tunnel
- Extend the New York #7 Subway line to Hoboken Terminal
- Boston South Station to North Station connecting rail tunnel
1. Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
The study should include planning for a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station. Amtrak Regional service, as well as MBTA commuter trains could serve the station. Service models for this station would be the BWI Airport Station in Baltimore and Newark Airport Station in New Jersey.
2. NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
Study a HSR bypass option that would link the existing NEC between East Haven and Westerly following the routes I-95 and RI-78 corridor. This bypass would avoid excessively curved sections of eastern Connecticut’s legacy rail right-of-way, which would allow for significantly higher speeds for HSR service. This option could be a cost effective alternative to constructing a second completely new Southern New England HSR corridor from Westchester County through central Connecticut to Hartford and to Providence. There could be an opportunity to combine funding for a rail bypass and upgrading and increasing capacity to route I-95 simultaneously.
3. Reserve the option to construct a four-track corridor in Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
Amtrak has proposed creating a four-track rail corridor between Providence to Westwood. Other sections of Rhode Island’s NEC rail segment south of Providence had the corridor width to accommodate four tracks. Also many bridges had been designed to allow for four tracks throughout the state. When the New Haven to Boston NEC segment was electrified in the 1990s, replacement tracks were installed off-center in much of Rhode Island to allow for the tilting feature on Acela trains.
Develop an alternate that would reserve the option to re-build Rhode Island’s NEC rail segment south of Providence Station to four-tracks and if a HSR bypass is not planned for or constructed between East Haven and Westerly in Eastern Connecticut, to accommodate for future expanded track usage of high-speed and regional trains, commuter rail/mass-transit, and freight service. A Rhode Island four-track corridor would typically only require the acquisition of narrow strips of land adjacent to the existing corridor to meet current standards for high-speed track centers, while in other instances no land acquisition would be necessary.
Even if four tracks are not built in Rhode Island or Connecticut for decades, planning for a their future installation would insure that other federal and state funds will not be wasted when infrastructure, such as bridges are constructed or replaced over the NEC. With the current offcenter track configuration in Rhode Island, off-center abutments or column placements for new bridges could make future track expansion problematic and unnecessarily expensive.
4. Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
Develop year-round rail service from Cape Cod to Providence, T.F. Green Airport, and beyond to New York. Service could be provided by Amtrak or alternately by a commuter rail agency from Cape Cod to Providence and T.F. Green with connections to Amtrak. Study the reuse of the existing rail right-of-way from Providence to Attleboro to Cape Cod.
Federal Railroad Administration is running a planning program of future needs along the Northeast Corridor rail system and encourages public input:
Welcome to NEC FUTURE, a comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), launched by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in February 2012. FRA’s work will include new ideas and approaches to grow the region’s intercity, commuter and freight rail services and the completion of an environmental evaluation of proposed transportation alternatives.
The NEC, the rail transportation spine of the Northeast region, is a key component of the region’s transportation system and vital to its sustained economic growth. Today, the 457-mile NEC—anchored by Boston’s South Station in the north, New York’s Pennsylvania Station in the center, and Washington’s Union Station in the south—is one of the most heavily traveled rail corridors in the world.
Visit NEC Future to submit your comments.
See also: ProJo: Agency explores methods to expand rail service to D.C.
Rhode Island’s commuter rail service as currently conceived may not be conducive to encouraging ridership. Distances between existing and proposed stations are too far. Much of the focus has been on extending the system further into low-density suburbs. For Rhode Island commuter rail to succeed, more needs to be done to take advantage of existing walkable urban neighborhoods that have a high potential for passengers. Some of these areas have large amounts of commercial/industrial space or development opportunities. Due to Downtown Providence expansion, the rail system will be challenged, as long as there’s no internal downtown high-frequency transit, such as the proposed Core Connector, to directly link rail passengers to the far reaches of downtown.
Rhode Island’s commuter rail doesn’t capitalize on density variations and neighborhood assets of the Providence area. If Rhode Island’s commuter rail functioned as a rapid mass-transit system, besides increasing the number of passengers, it would help to revitalize and expand development opportunities for neighborhoods along the rail line. The implementation of medium frequency shuttle train service within the Rhode Island instate rail corridor would offer predictable headway times at regular intervals that could operate in addition to MBTA commuter and Amtrak trains. Air and intercity train travelers, commuters, and the general public would greatly benefit from this level of service.
A variation to a commuter rail or shuttle train is the German S-bahn or French RER or San Francisco’s BART. An S-bahn type system is usually the same as commuter rail in suburban areas, but differs when it’s within the central urban core, where it has characteristics of a subway or metro. Usually stations within the core zone are located close together at quarter- to half-mile subway station distances and schedule headway times typically fall somewhere in the middle of commuter rail and subway schedules. Depending on the city, central core rail infrastructure can be underground or at grade utilizing existing rail corridors. A hybrid of a shuttle train and an S-bahn might be best for Rhode Island.
The Day of New London editorialized this week about our new train service to Wickford Junction. The gist of the editorial being they like more trains and want even more. Currently, New London is stuck in a bit of a train void, Shore Line East service to New London does not run on weekends, and at this point neither does MBTA service to Wickford Junction. Nonetheless, a weekday drive from New London to Wickford Junction, parking in the garage, and a ticket to Boston cost less than either driving straight through, or paying for direct Amtrak service from Boston to New London.
New Londoners seem pleased that at the Wickford Junction ground breaking, MBTA officials expressed optimism for extending service further south the Westerly, which would put MBTA commuter rail service within 15 miles of New London. At the same time, weekend Shore Line East service to New Haven from New London is set to start in a year (putting Westerly within 15 miles of commuter rail service to New Haven and New York).
Meanwhile, The Herald News of Fall River reports that officials in Bristol County, Massachusetts are a little miffed that we’re getting commuter rail service built deeper into Rhode Island while Fall River, Taunton, and New Bedford still lack commuter rail service. Though Mass. State Sen. Michael Rodrigues is realistic about the issues involved.
RIDOT announced today commuter rail service to the new Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown will start on April 23rd. The station will be served by 20 trips per weekday to T.F. Green, Providence, and points north. Travel times being 15 minutes to Warwick, 35 minutes to Providence, and under two hours to Boston’s South Station.
“Expanded commuter rail service to Wickford is just over two weeks away,” said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. “This additional service has been highly anticipated and should help alleviate congestion on our roadways.”