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Tag Archives | Commuter Rail

Free commuter rail parking through March 29, 2013

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Wickford Junction train station and parking garage. Photo &copy RIDOT.

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.”

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Wickford Junction Station and the Route 2/102 Park and Ride

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Park and Ride at Routes 2 and 102. Image from Google Maps.

This post was submitted Greater City Providence reader Peter Brassard. If you’ve written something you’d like us to consider posting, please contact us and let us know.

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.

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New Hampshire seeks MBTA Commuter Rail expansion

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.

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Free rides from Wickford Junction

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Commuter rail train at Wickford Junction. Photo from RIDOT.

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.

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PBN: URI looking to expand Providence presence

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.’

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MBTA introduces mTicket, but not for us (yet)

Update 11/27: An update of the App was just pushed out on iOS which now includes the south side stations, including Providence.
Apparently, Wickford Junction is not yet included. MBTA says it will be added in the next update.

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.

mTicket is available to download for free for the iPhone through iTunes and for Android devices through the Google Play store.

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RIPTA Service information for today, October 30, 2012

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.

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Comments on NEC Future

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Photo (cc) Sean_Marshall

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.

Content Summary

  1. Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
  2. NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
  3. Reserve the option to construct a four-track NEC corridor in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
  4. Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
  5. Develop Providence/Fall River/New Bedford interstate LRT
  6. Develop Providence to Worcester Commuter Rail Service
  7. New England track electrification and use of DMUs and EMUs
  8. Add multiple infill train stations within Providence’s urban core cities
  9. Develop Rhode Island Mainline Rail Transit
  10. Extend Train Service to Aquidneck Island
  11. New York to New Jersey – Penn Station New York to the Portal Bridge
  12. Penn Station New York to Grand Central connecting rail tunnel
  13. Extend the New York #7 Subway line to Hoboken Terminal
  14. 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.

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Public comment on Northeast Corridor rail plan through Sept. 14th

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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.

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Commuter Rail, Urban Infill Stations, and Shuttle Train Rapid Transit

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DMU train in Luxumbourg. Photo (cc) bindonlane

This post was submitted Greater City: Providence reader Peter Brassard. If you’ve written something you’d like us to consider posting, please contact us and let us know.

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.

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And you want a train, and you want a train…

New London

Amtrak train at New London Station. Photo (cc) mjpeacecorps

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.

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Wickford Junction Commuter Rail service to start April 23rd

Wickford Junction Station

Wickford Junction Station, photo via RIDOT

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.”

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Link

Boston.com: MBTA unveils 23 percent fare hike; limited service cuts also proposed

MBTA riders would pay an average of 23 percent more and most service cuts would be spared under a budget-balancing plan that will be announced this morning by the T, the state’s top transportation official said in an interview.

The changes, to take effect July 1, are significantly less severe than the two proposals unveiled by the T in January and widely criticized at hearings throughout Greater Boston in recent months. Those proposals would have relied entirely on fare increases and service cuts to make up the $160 million deficit the MBTA faces for the upcoming budget year.

No word yet on what will happen to Commuter Rail service.


See also: MBTA.com: Fare and Service Changes: MBTA Staff Recommendation

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RIDOT Public Meeting on MBTA fare and service changes, February 27

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Photo (cc) EdKopp4

From RIDOT

RIDOT to Hold Meeting on Proposed MBTA Fare and Service Changes

February 10, 2012

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced today that it will hold a public meeting on Monday, February 27, 2012, to discuss the proposed changes to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) fare and service schedule.

The meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Atrium at the Rhode Island Department of Administration, One Capitol Hill, Providence. RIDOT will facilitate a discussion between the public and representatives from the MBTA, who will be on hand to present the plan and answer questions.

Facing a serious revenue shortfall, the MBTA has introduced a proposal to increase fares by an average of 35 to 45 percent and to eliminate service on many of its transit lines. In Rhode Island, this would affect the Providence/Stoughton line, which provides commuter rail service to Providence and T.F. Green Airport.

Under the plan, service at these stations would be eliminated on weekends, and on weekdays after 10 p.m. Rhode Island would lose four weekday stops and 19 weekend stops.

More information about the MBTA’s proposal can be found at its website.

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News & Notes

Streetcar Shuffle

Seattle Streetcar, photo (cc) kcl_in_pdx

Pedestrian Observations: Improving the MBTA

The MBTA has a problem. And I say this coming from New York, whose standards for good regional transit aren’t all that high, but now Metro-North looks like something to look up to from the MBTA. Ridership on the system is rising, but not very quickly; the MBTA moreover has no plans to modernize. Most of what I’m going to suggest will involve commuter rail, not because it’s the most important portion of Boston’s public transportation but because it’s the part I’m most familiar with and also the part that seems most direly in need of improvements. Put another way, I’m necessarily going to talk about the MBTA as perceived from Providence, rather than from within Boston.


Fast Lane: American streetcar projects creating jobs today, livable communities and economic development tomorrow

Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on streetcars:

Today, streetcars in New Orleans and Tucson are under construction. Dallas, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City are currently designing their own streetcars. Tampa extended its popular TECO Line Streetcar System, which has already created billions of dollars in economic development. And Cincinnati will break ground very soon on the Queen’s City’s unique streetcar project.

It’s simple: this streetcar revival means greater mobility and more American jobs. DOT will continue to improve public transit services by supporting these critical projects that create jobs today and livable communities and economic redevelopment tomorrow.


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MBTA proposes service cuts, fare increases

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MBTA Commuter Rail train at Providence Station. Photo (cc) willismonroe

If the MBTA’s proposals for fare increases and service cuts [.pdf] come to pass, we could be not seeing trains after 10pm or on weekends at Providence Station, or any commuter rail station for that matter. For the remaining trains that continue running, the one-way fare may raise as high as $11.25 from the current $7.75.

While service frequency to T.F. Green was just increased and the train station at Wickford Junction is set to open this spring, the MBTA is facing a monster deficit of $161 million. The deficit was $185 million before the agency knocked $24 million out of it through “efficiencies and savings in energy, operations, health care.” Also, while it is down slightly from 2010 to 2011, non-fare revenue is generally up over the last decade. That leaves fare increases and service cuts as the current last resort for closing the deficit.

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Commuter Rail service to T.F. Green to increase

Commuter Rail train at T.F. Green Station

MBTA Commuter Rail train at T.F. Green Station. Photo from RIDOT.

The Governor, RIDOT, and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation announced today that MBTA commuter rail service to T.F. Green Airport’s station at the Interlink will almost double starting November 14th.

The biggest gripe about the Interlink service since it started last December has been the timing of the trains. Few people have been able to take advantage of the train service to connect to flights at the airport. The initial service was always set to increase once the station at Wickford Junction came online and initial service was more catered to commuters heading to Boston than to people needing to reach the airport. Wickford Junction station is slated to come online sometime in April (it is currently ahead of schedule!); this early boost in T.F. Green service is welcome news.

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