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Amtrak pushes new rail service from Boston to Albany and Manchester, NH

With President Biden proposing large new investments in rail service, Amtrak has come out with a map that shows new rail service west to Albany and north to Manchester, NH by 2035.

Amtrak released no details on just how much it would be willing to invest in the new services - although technically, there already is train service to upstate New York via a once-daily train to Chicago - or whether it's talked to anybody in Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire about them.

Massachusetts has ploddingly been looking at middling-speed train service to Pittsfield for what seems like forever.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Sununu keeps changing his mind on whether restoring commuter-rail service into Boston would be a "boondoggle" or a worthwhile investment.

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From Manchester, keep going north with Amtrak to Montreal, assuming that someday we reopen the border.

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With all their proposed new service, the lack of a direct Boston-to-Montreal route is ridiculous.

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Boston-Montreal comes-up every decade or so, but never goes beyond initial talk. I grew-up above Franconia Notch in the 70/80's, where proposed routes typically went through. Also lived in Montreal in the early 90's, and frequently go back, so I always wished this existed, and have discussed this with friends in Montreal for decades, along with the lack of an equivalent to the Boston-NYC express buses. I've seen these between Toronto and US locations, so border-crossing has been done before with these buses.

According to the map in Amtrak's PDF, the proposed route to Springfield, along with the proposed route from the Burlington/St Albans VT area to Montreal, would technically create a way between Boston and Montreal, although I think the existing Vermonter ride from Springfield to St Albans VT alone takes six hours, and who knows whether transfers would be timed to work at all.

http://media.amtrak.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Amtrak-Connects-Us-Fa...

I think Quebec restricts intercity bus services, which is why startup bus services don't go to Montreal. Greyhound and Adirondack Trailways are it.

There are discount buses from NYC to Toronto, but the distance and low demand are a problem for Toronto-Boston.

Discussing the minutae of Nashau traffic patterns.

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I'd rather they chose fewer lines, but focused on making them much faster and more reliable.

Straighten track, more sidings, full electrification, whatever. For Amtrak to become more politically popular, it needs more Americans who choose to ride the rail. That means it has to be better than driving or flying in the eyes of more folks.

You get there with significant improvements to speed and comfort. Spreading those improvements around too many lines and none of them become good enough.

Bottom line:
Acela needs to be viewed as minimum level of service. Throw some improvements on that line [maybe N-S rail link to bring in NH and ME?], bring it down to VA (eventually to Atlanta), improve in and out of Chicago. Maybe a few more, bonus if you get multiple states (think: US Senate)

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Sense to focus on improving existing services. Lets just expand the current slow, over priced and unreliable service.

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With almost all of the focus being on the NEC, and cuts to long-distance lines.

As for the NEC: it generates over 50% of Amtrak's revenue and is profitable from an operations standpoint, with the Acela churning the profit and the Regional generally breaking even or better.

The Acela itself has saturated its market and basically wrecked the business/commuter shuttle industries between Boston to NYC, and NYC to DC. So much so that Amtrak's Acela IIs (arriving next year, hopefully) is going to come with a big increase in capacity (both per train and with more trains to run). So, really, Amtrak has already done what you are asking for with the NEC - it saturated its market from Airlines, continually at capacity, and is profitable.

(COVID years non-withstanding)

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I’d prefer if they focused on running more cheaply. Both their operating costs and the ticket prices.

This would make it cost effective to run more frequent service on existing lines, AND start new services.

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How cheap do you want it?

Trains in Europe / Japan are not cheap. Workers need livable wages.

Could this be a basis for expanding rail to Pittsfield from Worcester/Boston? There would need to be more frequent service (hourly) but this could open an entire region.

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Amtrak has got to be one of the most hostile transportation companies in the country. Their expansion plan would provide infrequent service to low demand destinations. What they should be doing is improving existing service on important routes on the East and West coast. For small inland cities, bus service makes far more sense.

Springfield and Pittsfield trains from Boston would be great but these should be run by the MBTA or another regional agency, not Amtrak. And service to these places shouldn't be part of infrequent long distance routes as in the Amtrak plan.

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Amtrak is beholden to Congress which generally is what forces the most unprofitable/super long distance lines. On the other hand, for the funding that Amtrak can get, which is again beholden to Congress, they have been aggressive on the NEC, which turns a profit at this point and basically floats the national system. So, yeah, they are basically doing just what you are saying they should - at least to the extant that they can.

Without building the north south rail link. Best use of any transit money for this infrastructure proposal that I can think of.

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For example, would this actually add service from New York City to eastern Long Island, or just add existing commuter rail service to the Amtrak route map?

There are cities and towns that don't currently have passenger rail service at all, and providing that would be good. Similarly, I'd be glad of an easier Amtrak connection to Montreal once things go back to normal (there's no service across the border at all right now, for obvious reasons), but "you could take an Amtrak train from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma instead of the Long Island Railroad" doesn't seem like it would add much, except possibly expense.

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The "Amtrak Connects Us" document makes the following statement: "Major cities like Houston, Atlanta, and Cincinnati have service that is simply inadequate, with trains that only stop once a day and often in the middle of the night." Houston and Atlanta have two of the world's largest airline hubs; the latter is, in fact, ordinarily the world's largest. There is basically zero need for long distance train service (trips over 500 miles) because it's just uncompetitive. Even for a trip like Boston-Washington the Acela really just isn't fast enough to realistically compete with air travel.

They tout: "Traveling on Amtrak is up to 83% more energy efficient than driving and
up to 73% more energy efficient than flying." But that ignores the likelihood that over the time frame envisioned for this plan -- 2021-2035 -- a large chunk of the nation's automobile/bus/truck fleet will go electric. Amtrak wants more power over freight lines and the locomotives on that trackage will continue to burn diesel.

The most carbon-efficient approach for everything outside of a few dense, short-haul corridors (like the NEC) is probably going to be electric buses. When you're sharing rail lines with freight (like in Texas) you're just not going to be competitive with road or air.

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If battery electric buses with that kind of range will exist, then why not battery electric trains?

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Look at cities within the same distance from Atlanta that Boston is to Washington. Charlotte, Birmingham, Nashville, Savannah- these are cities that would benefit from better rail connections to Atlanta.

As for Houston, there's not too much other than Dallas, and that's corridor is so worth while that a private group is building high speed between the two already. I suppose San Antonio would be a good spot for good passenger rail.

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Maps are nice. But you can’t ride a map.

Obama’s administration made a map showing high-speed rail from Boston to Montreal. But that doesn’t exist yet.

This thine they’re saying 14 years, IF it’s built on time. In 14 years, I could walk to Albany.

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The map actually shows service all the way to Concord, not just Manchester.

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I've been engaged in rail and transit efforts for decades. Planned service from Boston to Manchester, which by the way is a RESTORATION and not NEW, has been on and off the table for at least 20 or more years. Every time the political parties in power change in NH the push to restore, or efforts to kill it, also switches burners.

It's interesting that Amtrak is suggesting this but so far this is mist in the wind. You also have a leader of Amtrak that was appointed by Donnie. Don't expect much until that changes. "Actions speak louder, etc, etc, etc."

Prior proposed services would have extended the MBTA (at least) from Lowell over existing freight tracks into Manchester. The thrust was to create a connection with the Manchester airport, much like the MBTA has connected to TF Green airport in Warwick. However the tracks are on the wrong side of the river. You would either have to build a bridge or add a shuttle bus from a station to the airport terminal much like what MassPort does between the Blue Line and the Logan terminals now, except in NH we're talking several miles.

This NH proposal by Amtrak is not the only one being suggested in the USA. There are multiple proposals hitting the table to restore or expand on rail given President Biden's favoritism to rail and public transit interests.

Any rail project like this would take several years to get off the ground and that only takes you to the first ceremonial shovel being turned. No matter who runs the service you will need to upgrade the track and signal infrastructure, including rails, grade crossings, bridges, etc. You'd also need to invest in additional rolling stock. By then a different political party might be back in charge putting the brakes on the project.

You also have to factor that PanAm Railways that owns the tracks has recently been put up for sale. They tentatively agreed to sell to CSX but several states and railways have put in letters to the Surface Transportation Board to have the sale declared as a major project subject to wider scrutiny and conditions. Each of the parties has a vested interest in maintaining what they run on PanAm's tracks now.

These include Amtrak's Downeaster, Massachusetts and MBTA and its north side rail operations (Lowell, Rockport/Newburyport, Haverhill), Norfolk-Southern Freight (current partner in some joint freight operations), State of Vermont, and even the Genesee & Wyoming company that owns dozens of small freight rail operations globally and new owner of the Providence & Worcester railroad. G&W is HQ'd in CT. Lots of fingers in that pie, in fact several whole hands.

Great idea but it comes at a time of lots of variables, each of which could be the proverbial monkey wrench in the works.

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