PROVIDENCE – In a regional rail report conducted for metropolitan Boston by TransitMatters, the organization recommended upgrades that would reduce the transit time from South Station to Providence from one hour and 11 minutes to 46 minutes.
The recommendations come from a larger report that suggested the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority use its resources to modernize the commuter rail system to turn it into a fully functioning regional rail system that is more accessible, inclusive and faster.
The report also noted the recommendations in capital investment below the Massachusetts border would be the responsibility of Rhode Island.
The report argues the $2 billion that is currently intended for a South Station expansion project should be used for modernization instead.
Part of this includes the Providence/Stoughton Line. No specific cost was tied to the project, however, several recommendations were made for the commuter rail line. TransitMatters said the line should be electrified in its entirety, it being the only line in the system that has full electrified infrastructure available.
The report calls for more frequent trains in both directions at all times of day, with trains operating between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. seven days a week. It calls for increased speed between Boston and Providence with speeds of 100 mph or more, except where constrained by geometry. To succeed at this, the report says the line would have to be improved in the following ways:
- Electrify the infill stop that the R.I. Department of Transportation is currently working on at the Pawtucket service yard.
- Build high-level platforms at eight stations (all Rhode Island stops already have high-level platforms).
- Procure rolling stock (trains) with a maximum speed of over 100 miles per hour.
- Electrify short track segments, including the 11-mile Freight Rail Improvement Project track from Providence Station to Warwick, and the Wickford Junction siding, the platform at Attleboro and the Stoughton line.
- It also calls on the R.I. Public Transit Authority to expand its free transfer policy to MBTA pass holders so that a regional rail train within the state would cost as much as taking the bus.
A spokesman for the R.I. Department of Transportation said RIDOT would “like to improve service,” but had not specifically looked into the execution of such a plan. He noted that RIDOT would take lead from the MBTA in such a project, as service in Rhode Island would depend on their operations.
No specific cost was provided for TransitMatters’ suggestions to Rhode Island’s track infrastructure, which makes it difficult to judge the feasibility of such a project. However, with regards to attracting ridership, the report notes that both increased consistency and non-peak service hours would promote ridership from those who do not ride the train currently and would “modernize” its use from a commuter line to a regional rail line.
Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor.