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Worcester rail riders neglected

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http://www.telegram.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti.../NEWS/706170489

An argument brought up in the Connecticut section, why not have improved rail service from Worcester towards Hartford? Well, service as is right now in Massachusetts between Boston (more especially Framingham) and Worcester is in pretty bad shape. Current line owners CSX prefer freight over commuters, and make things difficult for the MBTA to expand Worcester service.

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For a city that has such a connection to its railroads (Worcester is actually an "Inland port" because it allows rail freight straight off of ship to come by train and clear customs here), it has some pitiful rail service. The line between Worcester and Boston is rife with problems - a long diversion to get around Lake Quinsigamond, mixed freight, running thorugh the middle of towns and through downtown Framingham are all issues, and CSX really has very little interest in the MBTA. I would love to see the state find a way to run a train along the pike - I thinka quicker and more frequent train service would garner tons of new riders. But that might be very difficult technically, not to mention politically.

I think the next route that has to be addressed is to Providence. Particularly if such a service connected to TF Green. I would love to see some kind of DMU hourly service - I think the number of airport riders alone would keep it going. But I could also see Worcester as a big hub for a regional rail system. Why focus only on Boston? Why not connect all the cities with rail service? For the most part, teh rail lines are already there. The P&W is actualy very good at maintaining their tracks, and actually has expressed interest in passenger service. I think it's time.

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My dream for the MBTA would be to have a rail line that functions as a loop around Boston, like 495 does. I'd start it in Wareham and run it through New Bedford, Fall River, up to Taunton, into Providence then up to Worcester, Lowell, Lawrence, etc. Then I could use it to get to work in Taunton from Providence as well...

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I'm curious how much travel there is between the outer cities in the region. A Worcester to Providence to Fall River to New Bedford line might work, but only because they seemingly line up together. The same can be said for Lowell, Lawrence, Nashua, and Haverhill. However, I don't think there's that much connection between Lowell and Worcester.

May as well build the line there anyway, in case there ever becomes one.

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Worcester and Lowell has more than you think. One of the things with Massachusetts is that there are a lot of smaller companies, many high techs and many bioterchs, that thrive in the smaller cities and towns. The 495 belt is one of thses, as is the Framingham,Westboro, and Marlboro areas. I think the real need for a train service there is something that connects these regions. Most of the ridership will come from intermediary stations, but together they make a huge network.

There are very few places in this country like Central New England, with our relatively dense population centers, a large number of smaller businesses that are all concentrated in groups, and difficult road networks that make public transit more attractive. I don't think any of these systems would work with conventional trains, certainly not the type of trains the MBTA uses now. But the MBTA is focused on Boston, and focused on a hub. What the rest of the state needs is more of a network, where the ridership is scattered over more stations.

Besides, we don't NEED to build it - the foundations, if not the track itself, already exists in many places.

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If you were to create a system that strung together the second cities, you also need to look at what is beyond either end. connecting Providence to Worcester to Lowell might not seem like much of a traffic generator, but if you also connect to T.F. Green Airport, and the NH Seacoast, and Portland, and Ski Areas up north, you increase demand. Stringing together the MetroWest cities and connecting them to RI, NH, and ME creates a way to fill the north-south gap left in Boston. Living in Providence, I'd love to hop on the train for a weekend trip to OOB or Ogunquit or Portland. But I would have to take the Commuter Rail to Back Bay, jump on the Orange Line, then take Amtrak from North Station, its cheaper and easier for me to rent a car. I still may need to change trains in Lawrence or something, but I no longer need to go all the way into Boston and change trains twice (and if I needed to change at Lawrence, I'd be changing trains at one station).

There's also what I can switch to on the rest of the loop. There's a dusty proposal to connect Boston to Montreal with highspeed rail (which would also create highspeed service to places like Manchester, White River Junction, Burlington...). A MetroWest Loop could connect those of us on the MBTA southside (Worcester, Providence...) to that. We could have western highspeed to Niagara Falls and Toronto via Worcester so people on the northside could reach that... Trains from the north could leave the loop at Worcester and head to New York via Hartford. People from the northside currently have to do that Orange Line switch to get to NY. There's a lot of things that a MetroWest Loop makes possible.

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Massachusetts also needs to realize that there is life beyond 495, and a commuter rail option connecting Springfield to Hartford (and thus NYC) would be very valuable to Western Mass. Connecticut is bringing the commuter rail right up to the border, Mass just needs to pony up the dough. I read somewhere that the Pioneer Valley in Western Mass has the highest number of colleges in New England, second only to metro Boston. That corridor needs to be exploited.

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Should go straight up to Greenfield. That would have a profound effect on that region. Amtrak already runs that route, imgaine what it could do if it had reliabel and frequent service!

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