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State releases 'final' report on middling-speed rail to Springfield and Pittsfield, which calls for further study

You can read the whole thing here, which hinges in large part on talks with CSX on whether passenger trains can or can't travel on its tracks west of Worcester, but bottom line: Don't be penciling in a relaxing, roughly three-hour ride to Pittsfield on your schedule anytime soon.

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Pittsfield's only current economic growth is pot shops with people driving in from Greater Albany on Route 20 to get some. Look it up, the only two commercial buildings built in Pittsfield in the past three years beside an auto parts store in the city were pot shops.

We don't need a train to Pittsfield yet. We need better commuter rail service where all the people are so we can subsidize rail service later to where all the people have the same accent as Sarah Palin.

Pittsfield's economy for a century plus has been tied to the Greater Albany area and GE, not Post Office Square. Let's focus our dollars here. The old trope about "all the taxes from Western MA help out Boston" is as dead as John Volpe. We carry the rest of the state. Let's make it easier to get around when this pandemic is over.

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The idea is to create growth in a region where the options are few.

Think of it this way: housing in the Boston area and Eastern MA in general is not affordable to many workers. People are already commuting insane distances to deal with it, be that from southern NH, RI or Western MA.

Build a rail line that is reliable and that will bring people and money into the region.

Although I agree the NS rail link is massively overdue.

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There are far better ways to address that than a multi-billion-dollar rail line. The most cost-effective alternative (as measured by capital cost per weekday passenger) is estimated to have a price tag of $2.4 billion for 1,200 weekday boardings (rounding up the high end estimate for good measure). That's 600 round trips, or $4 million for each commuter carried. We could buy every commuter downtown Boston luxury condos for less money and save them at least an hour of travel time to boot. That doesn't even account for the money to be lost on subsidies to operate the service.

Want to fix housing affordability? Make it easier to build.

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$2.4 billion for 1,200 weekday boardings (rounding up the high end estimate for good measure). That's 600 round trips, or $4 million for each commuter carried.

Over what time period? Do you think it would go away after a year?

Your math is highly suspect.

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So it's generally the same set of people day in, day out, year after year. Sure, there's some small amount of turnover and casual usage, but generally we're taking about a fixed group of users.

This also ignores that the (subsidized) fare to/from Springfield would likely be around $17-20 each way (Wickford Junction to South Station is $13.25) or approaching $550-600 monthly.

Even spending a quarter million per unit to help subsidize new construction in Boston would generate just under 10,000 new housing units. That's a much, much better use of $2.4 billion.

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$2.4 billion in capital expense. Assume a 50-year lifetime. That's $48 million/year in capital cost. 250 weekdays/year is $192,000/commuting day. At 1,200 daily rides, that is $160/ride in capital expense. The state could probably pay JetBlue to fly passengers between Logan and Westover for less.

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it makes sense to improve transit to make far flung towns more attractive but dumping all the eggs into the basket of PITTSFIELD, which has little to nothing besides "it's cheap" to want people want to live there, seems foolish. The same amount of money could be spent on the N-S link, investing in regional bus to make existing commuter rail a true transit system instead of park-n-ride, hell, I'd rather see high-speed to Worcester, which has put some effort and money into building things that make it an actually attractive option for housing (if you don't have kids)

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Gridlocked on route 6 in the summer constantly, and bus service in the off-season sucks.

There are now way more people living here year-round, so there's more demand off-season.

Lots of people travel into Boston for medical care because healthcare on the cape sucks.

Hyannis isn't much farther than Providence yet Providence is a few dollars, and Hyannis is $20-something by bus.

The rails exist, the stations exist. Literally all they have to do is just run the damn train.

We need both to be built and it’s not too much to ask.

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to bring this nice article that came thru my feed on twitter today...

Its from our friends at CTPS and talks about super commuters, its a few years old, but it does make people go hmmm now at the options exist for telework (and we're doing it daily now). I have several coworkers who are now pandemic-living on the cape and Maine.

Why not Springfield?

I had a coworker a few years ago who I turned on to the downeaster (she was in Portsmouth), she was telework so it worked for her. No traffic to sit in, just a nice train ride where she could nap (since it was early) or do some work.

CTPS Report:

https://www.ctps.org/long-distance-commuting

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Because western mass is a dump. Better off spending that money this side of 495

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Thank you for your useless armchair analysis

Just remember, when it comes for $$$ for projects inside 495, guess who always votes no at the state house?

That's right WESTERN MASS politicians. Why? Because theirs is similar to yours.

Why should I have my tax dollars pay for something in Boston when none of my constituents live in Boston.

See how your argument works both ways. So both sides can vote no, and we won't get anything at all. Keep thinking smart, Brownie.

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No need to get all bent out of shape over a comment on uhub. Also, are you trying to mansplain that WESTERN MASS (emphasis, yours) politicians are looking out for their WESTERN MASS constituents... yeah well duhh, no shit.

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yeah, but the inner 495 belt subsidizes the outer 495 belt... they should probably figure out which side of their bread is buttered and act accordingly.

"muh tax dollars"

western mass costs more than it contributes. and yet, just like the true welfare states of the country, they talk a big game about "elite city liberals" wasting their tax dollars.

without the tax dollars boston pumps into the state coffers, western mass would be rural new hampshire, part II.

Between Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden Counties, they have 21 seats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Suffolk County has 19. I don't think western Massachusetts has the political power you think they do. Boston's suburbs, along with the South Coast and Cape, have a lot more power.

But to the point, people won't be commuting to Boston from Pittsfield. A better plan would be to work on the line from Worcester to Springfield and leave it at that for the time being. Springfield would probably be the limit for commuting to Boston from the west.

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The Pioneer Valley is actually a very desirable place to live. Personally I'd live in a place like Northampton, Amherst, Hadley, etc and I like it out there way more than anything east of 495. It just lacks a good job market unless you work in higher ed or government.

Better off spending that money this side of 495

It's not your money, broski.

This whole study by MassDOT is totally embarrassing. People in Western Mass want decent rail service to Boston. But this study sandbags the idea with overinflated costs.

1) The study should have gone all the way to Albany, not just Pittsfield. That would connect it to a major population center and allow for connections with North-South Amtrak trains there. That would increase the number of riders who would use it, particularly since the Berkshires are more economically connected to Albany than to Boston.

2) The study should not have let CSX determine the terms of the improvements. Laying a second track between Springfield and Worcester (where there used to be one until the 1980s!) should not be that expensive nor pose particularly troublesome engineering challenges. I know the dream of high speed rail is enticing, but honestly just getting to the point where we can have multiple trains per day in each direction would be a HUGE improvement over the one train per day that we currently have. Run more trains, build more ridership, and keep making improvements over time.

MassDOT clearly does not want to build this or improve existing Amtrak service through the corridor. If they did, they would focus on how we can get it done rather than on how difficult and expensive it is. Governor Baker and Secretary Pollack are failing us once again.

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Greenfield. Not Amtrak and not high speed, but the line is already there and Commuter Rail trains can use it.

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Can't find the article but I read recently that the rail corridor rights from Greenfield to Fitchburg are open for review.

You do know that Greenfield's train service tripled in 2019, from one daily round trip to three. Though the trains go south to New Haven, rather than east to Boston.

Nice, I guess, if people ride it. But if I were in charge, I'd prioritize more intercity service to New England's second-largest city, which currently has no trains to the south to connect to NYC, rather than Greenfield which only has 17,000 people.

Guess who owns the land where the track would be laid? I'll give you a hint. It's a company whose name is basically initials that don't stand for anything.

Off topic but for what its worth, NH has put expansion (restoration?) of rail to Boston (via Lowell) back on the table per recent news reports. This seems to change depending on what party is in power in that state but at the least, it is back on the table for now.