Friday, January 29, 2010

A Boston Connection for the Knowledge Corridor

Today the Federal Government announced an "award of $70 million for final design and construction of the “Knowledge Corridor” along the Connecticut River rail line in western Massachusetts," as reported in the Commonwealth Conversations Transportation blog. (The "Knowledge Corridor" is highlighted in yellow at the right.) The blog goes on to note: "The competitive grant award is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program."



The "Knowledge Corridor" refers to the Sprinfield-Northampton-Greenfield corridor which is Connecticut River line of the former Boston and Maine Railroad, now known as Pam Am Railways. Conditions on the line deteriorated to the point that the only passenger train, Amtrak's Vermonter, was rerouted by Palmer onto the New England Central Railroad. The reroute added a stop at Amherst, replacing the original stop at Northampton. (See Amtrak's map at left.)


The current Amtrak service is a single round-trip between St. Albans, VT and Washington, DC. While the Vermonter route crosses the Boston-to-Albany route of Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited at Springfield, the schedules are not set for convient service between Boston and the "Knowledge Corridor."

Restoration of passenger service to Northampton and Greenfield is a significant step in creating a true Massachusetts regional passenger rail system. With the accompanying grants to Connecticut and Vermont, this will improve the current Vermont-Springfield-New Haven corridor. It will restore passenger rail service to Northampton and Greenfield.

However, I believe that once these improvements are in place, a study should look into ridership for Knowledge Corridor service routed through to Boston. Namely, this would be Greenfield - Northampton - Holyoke - Springfield - Palmer - Worcester - Boston true trains. When I discuss this folks I know in Northampton, they see a real potential for such service to be used.

In conjunction with this idea and in the spirit of a single statewide transportation agency, my vision is seeing the MBTA "commuter" rail system become a statewide "Massachusetts Regional Passenger Rail" system, connecting together all of our state.







Friday, April 24, 2009

A Bike Path for the Boston Urban Ring (Part 1)

Background on the Urban Ring.

Boston's Urban Ring is a proposal for adding circumferntial transit services just outside the central urban core. It is intended to provide direct connections and transfers for destinations in a fast-growing corridor located roughly one to two miles outside the downtown Boston core.

The current stage of planning and environmental review for the Urban Ring is Phase 2. This phase would add a series of bus rapid transit (BRT) routes through the Urban Ring corridor, along with expanded bus routes in the corridor and new transfer connections where the Urban Ring crosses commuter rail lines. The BRT services would connect to all of the MBTA's radial rapid transit lines and commuter rail lines, as well as major bus hubs.

It is estimated that Phase 2 start-up would be about 5 years from now (about 2014).

Proposal: Bike Path Following the Urban Ring

Using existing paths and completing some "missing links" it is possible to create a series of bike paths connecting all the major nodes of the Urban Ring.

In this post, I will focus on the path in the southwestern quadrant of the Urban Ring. See the map below.






















    Why a Urban Ring Bike Path?

    Many of the trips within the Urban Ring corridor are relatively short and suitable for biking, if a direct and convenient facility were present.

    In the southwestern quadrant of the Urban Ring (Harvard to BU, MIT to BU and BU/Kenmore to LMA), there are a number of existing paths that can be used for a starting point. This leaves a number of relative short "missing links" to fill in, some of which are already in the planning stages.

    With relatively small segments to complete, this becomes a very "doable" proposal.

    Other supporting arguments include:
    • The Urban Ring will connect a number of colleges and their associated research facilities and hospitals. College students, as a group, are more likely to travel by bike.

    • With all these universities, facilities and hospitals, should not the administrations, faculties, staffs and students "lead by example" and demonstrate how you can get where you're going and get exercise at the same time by biking!

    What Need To Be Done

    The following table summarizes the existing and proposed segments, as shown in the map above.

    Most of the route uses two existing multi-use paths:

    • Paul Dudley White Path (Harvard Sq. to Blandford St.)
    • Park path along the Muddy River from Park Drive south

    Two missing links are needed to connect these existing paths:

    • Blandford Street: possible upgrading with bike lanes or a cycle track; also need an accessible ramp to replace the stairs from Blandford Street up to Beacon Street
    • Parcel 7 Path: this has already been proposed. It would connect Beacon Street near Yawkey Station to Fenway Station (Riverside Line at Park Dr.) and then connect to the existing park path just south of the Park Department's Back Bay Yard.




    Post to be completed at a later date.......

    New Initiatives in Transportation

    This blog will contain practical proposals for improving transportation, focusing on the more "sustainable" modes: walking, bicycling, public transit, and other rail transporation.