Framingham/Worcester Line

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FRAMINGHAM/ WORCESTER LINE
Union Station, Worcester MA.jpg
Front facade of Worcester Union Station
Overview
Type Commuter rail line
System Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Status Operating
Locale Central Massachusetts
Termini Boston South Station
Worcester Union Station
Stations 17
Daily ridership 17,382 (2009 daily average)[1]
Operation
Opening 1834 as the Boston and Worcester Railroad
Owner Massachusetts Turnpike Authority
Newton-Back Bay, MBTA elsewhere
Operator(s) MBCR
Technical
Line length 44.2 miles
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

The Framingham/Worcester Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail system runs west from Boston, Massachusetts to Worcester, Massachusetts through the MetroWest region, serving 17 station stops in Boston, Newton, Wellesley, Natick, Framingham, Ashland, Southborough, Westborough, Grafton, and Worcester. The third-longest and third-busiest line on the system, the Framingham/Worcester Line is plagued by poor track conditions, interference from freight trains, and a number of non-handicapped-accessible stations. Service on the long is a mix of local and express trains serving Worcester plus short-turn Framingham locals.

The Framingham/Worcester Line was one of the first commuter rail lines, with daily commuter-oriented service to West Newton beginning in 1834. Originally the Boston and Worcester Railroad, service has been operated by the Boston and Albany Railroad, New York Central, Penn Central, and since 1964 by Boston and Maine Railroad, Amtrak, and finally MBCR under contract to the MBTA. In 1975 the line was cut back to Framingham, but service returned to Worcester in 1994 with four infill stations added between 2000 and 2002.

After purchasing the Framingham-Worcester trackage from CSX in 2012, the MBTA has begun adding service to the outer section of the line and performing track work to increase speeds and reliability. A new station, Boston Landing, is planned to open in Brighton in 2016.

History[edit]

This 1881-built depot at Auburndale, designed by H. H. Richardson, was torn down in 1961 to make room for the Massachusetts Turnpike
Grafton station, with large ramps and mini-high platforms for handicapped accessibility, is typical of the west-of-Framingham stations built around 2000

Originally built in 1834 as the Boston and Worcester Railroad, the line was later part of the Boston and Albany Railroad and New York Central Railroad systems. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority acquired the tracks from Newton to Back Bay Station[2] in order to construct the Boston Extension of the Massachusetts Turnpike from the Route 128 circumferential highway to the then-elevated Central Artery in downtown Boston. Construction ran from 1962 to 1964, and reduced the railway to two tracks.

The New York Central was merged into Penn Central Transportation in 1968, which went bankrupt in 1970. Amtrak was created in 1971 to run intercity rail service; since 1975, it has operated the Lake Shore Limited on the Boston-to-Albany tracks.

On January 27, 1973 the MBTA acquired the remainder of the tracks east of Framingham, and subsidized passenger transit between Framingham and Boston. Commuter rail service between Worcester and Framingham was discontinued October 27, 1975, as the state did not subsidize it. The trackage on the western segment was inherited by Conrail in 1976, which returned to profitability in the 1980s. After a corporate breakup in 1999, CSX Transportation became the owner of the Worcester-to-Framingham segment.

In the late 1980s, the Orange Line was rerouted into parallel tracks sharing the Framingham Line's right of way between Back Bay Station and the portal to the Washington Street Tunnel.

1994-2002: Westward expansion[edit]

MBTA commuter rail service expanded to Worcester on September 26, 1994 with limited rush-hour-only service. Off-peak service was added beginning on December 14, 1996. Worcester Union Station underwent a major renovation in 2000, and in 2006 the city's main bus terminal was co-located at the train station. Infill stations at Ashland, Southborough, Westborough, and Grafton were added in 2000 and 2002.[2]

2003-2011: Ownership and performance problems[edit]

CSX freight trains in Beacon Park Yard in Allston in 2010
Empty Beacon park Yard in 2013

For a variety of reasons, the line had some of the worst on-time performance in the MBTA system for several years. While state agencies including the MBTA owned the line out to Framingham, CSX Transportation owned from Framingham to Worcester and ran frequent freight trains as far east as Beacon Park Yard in Allston. CSX then dispatched (controlled signals) on the line from their operations base in Selkirk, New York, resulting in low priority for passenger trains.[3] Conflicts with freight trains, ongoing track work, and an increase of passenger load of about 40% since opening were all blamed for the poor on-time performance, as were new federal speed regulations that went into effect in 2005.[4]

In 2007, pessimistic that CSX would ever sell the line, the state Executive Office of Transportation began studying alternatives to improve service. Possibilities included adding interlockings or adding additional tracks to the line, or even running service from Worcester to North Station via Ayer over the Pan Am Railways Worcester Branch (former Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad) and the Fitchburg Line.[5]

In October 2007, only 48.4% of trains ran on time (no more than 1 minute early or 5 minutes late), improving to 69.3% in January 2008 after CSX and MBCR officials began meeting daily.[4] On February 18, 2008, a new schedule went into effect, intended to more accurately reflect the run time on the line.[6] By August 2009, actual on-time performance was at 82%.[7]

In January 2008, the Framingham/Worcester Line became the first in the MBTA system to offer wi-fi service aboard the trains. The service was expanded system-wide after a test period, but the Worcester Line was chosen for the pilot phase in part to compensate for low on-time performance, as well as to test the service across the line's varied terrain.[8]

In September 2009, after several years of negotiations, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts completed an agreement to purchase the tracks from Framingham to Worcester, with the actual transfer originally expected in 2011.[9][10] Earlier phases of the agreement had allowed the addition of five weekday trains to Worcester.[9]

2012-current: Service expansions[edit]

A train passes the planned Boston Landing site
Low platforms, like this one at West Newton, are not handicapped accessible. They cause slow boarding on a large section of the line, as passengers must climb steps to enter train cars.

In June 2012, New Balance announced plans to build a new station stop at their new development in Allston-Brighton. Boston Landing was originally to open in 2014, but has since been delayed to 2016.[11][12]

In July 2012, the MBTA announced plans to add additional service on the line as CSX moves freight transload operations from Beacon Park Yard in Allston to a new yard in East Worcester that does not interfere with passenger operations.[13] Three additional weekday Boston-Worcester round trips were added on October 29, 2012 after the October 4 signing of the deed that transferred ownership of the Framingham-Worcester section to the MBTA.[14] A rush-hour express serving Worcester was added on April 29, 2013.[15] The ultimate goal was originally for 20 Worcester round trips by October 2013, up from 12.5 round trips before the service increases; however this was pushed back by delays in the rebuilding of Yawkey station and the delivery of the new MPI HSP46 locomotives and bilevel passenger cars.[16]

By early 2013, Beacon Park was largely vacated except for the locomotive maintenance facility, leaving only occasional freight service east of Framingham. MBCR took over dispatching of the line from CSX in August 2013, meaning that passenger trains are now given full priority over freight trains.[17] The dispatching changeover brings other benefits for passenger service: MBCR has greater flexibility to deal with minor emergencies affecting operations, to communicate directly with train crews, and to dispatch extra trains to cover for a late or stalled train. Blanket heat-related speed restrictions were intended to be eliminated, limiting delays even on hotter summer days.[17]

A series of public comment hearings in 2013 were held to determine schedules. Implementation of the new schedules was delayed because the completion of Yawkey station's rehabilitation and expansion was delayed.[18] The expansion included installation of a second track, crucial to the service expansion. The increase to 20 weekday and 9 weekend round trips to Worcester took place on March 10, 2014.[19][20][21] The MBTA has long been planning to speed travel times on the line by adding a second main track through Beacon Park Yard - the only single-track section of the line.[22] The former second track through the yard was turned into a yard lead with no through service in the 1950s.

In November 2013, MassDOT announced plans to spend $15 million through 2014 and 2015 to improve travel times on the line.[18] Some of the work involves heating and cutting quarter-mile rail segments to eliminate heat kinks. The promised reduction in heat-related speed restrictions has not yet occurred due to the poor condition of the tracks; the work to reduce them started in 2014 with $1.2 million in work between Worcester and Grafton, but will not be complete until 2016.[23]

Accessibility[edit]

All stations from Yawkey east and West Natick west are handicapped accessible; those in between are not. See also MBTA accessibility.

Station listing[edit]

This listing shows only those stations which have seen service since the MBTA was formed in 1964. For previously closed stations, see the full list of Boston & Albany Railroad stations.

Miles[1] City Station Opening date Connections and notes
0.0 Boston Handicapped/disabled access South Station 1899 Red Line and all south side Commuter Rail lines
Amtrak Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, and Northeast Regional
replaced older terminal
1.2 Handicapped/disabled access Back Bay 1899 originally Trinity Place
Orange Line
splits from Attleboro/Stoughton Line/Franklin Line/Needham Line
Amtrak Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, and Northeast Regional
2.5 Handicapped/disabled access Yawkey April 29, 1988 Only operated during games at Fenway Park until January 2, 2001, when it opened to daily commuter traffic.
Rebuilt with full-length high-level platforms and accessible street-level connections; new station opened March 10, 2014
Former Brookline Junction with Highland Branch
3.5 Beacon Park Yard Not a station.
Connection with Grand Junction Branch
4.7 Handicapped/disabled access Boston Landing Planned to open in 2016[12]
8.1 Newton Newtonville MBTA Bus: 59, 553, 554, 556
9.1 West Newton MBTA Bus: 553, 554
10.2 Auburndale MBTA Bus: 505, 558
10.9 Riverside closed October 27, 1977; separate from Green Line station
split with Highland Branch and abandoned Newton Lower Falls Branch
12.5 Wellesley Wellesley Farms Originally Rice's Crossing
13.5 Wellesley Hills
14.7 Wellesley Square originally Wellesley
17.7 Natick Natick Former junction with abandoned Saxonville Branch
19.9 Handicapped/disabled access West Natick August 23, 1982
21.4 Framingham Handicapped/disabled access Framingham Amtrak Lake Shore Limited
junction with Milford Branch and Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad (NYNH&H, includes original Framingham Branch)
25.2 Ashland Handicapped/disabled access Ashland August 24, 2002 Former junction with abandoned Hopkinton Railway (NYNH&H)
27.4 Southborough Handicapped/disabled access Southborough June 22, 2002 originally Cordaville
34.0 Westborough Handicapped/disabled access Westborough June 22, 2002
36.4 Grafton Handicapped/disabled access Grafton February 23, 2000 originally North Grafton
junction with Grafton and Upton Railroad
44.2 Worcester Handicapped/disabled access Worcester Amtrak Lake Shore Limited
replaced older terminal
temporarily closed October 26, 1975, reopened September 26, 1994
junction with Providence and Worcester Railroad (NYNH&H), Norwich and Worcester Railroad (NYNH&H), Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad (B&M) and Boston, Barre and Gardner Railroad (B&M)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Ridership and Service Statistics". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Belcher, Jonathan (31 August 2012). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "Sidetracked". Worcester Magazine. 6 September 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Dayal, Priyanka (5 February 2008). "On-time T trains pick up steam: Commuter service to Hub cuts delays". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Monahan, John J. (6 March 2008). "Will city trains go north to go east?". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Archived from the original on 8 January 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Bierman, Noah (February 13, 2008). "T tweaks a train schedule to reflect reality". The Boston Globe. 
  7. ^ "MBTA Scorecard: September 2009". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. September 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail customers: Try our free MBTA Wi-Fi Commuter Rail Connect Test Program!". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. January 2008. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2014. "First, it provides one of the best opportunities from a geographical perspective to test Wi-Fi capabilities as it runs from Boston to central Massachusetts (Worcester) through various terrains (hills, wooded areas, etc.) Secondly, we are aware that the Framingham/Worcester trains have experienced significant performance issues due mainly to the owner and operator of the line (CSX). For that, we want to offer Framingham/Worcester customers the first opportunity." 
  9. ^ a b "PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION FINALIZES AGREEMENT WITH CSX TRANSPORTATION" (Press release). The Official Website of the Governor of Massachusetts. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  10. ^ Town, Your (September 23, 2009). "CSX finalizes agreement to expand rail service west, south of Boston". The Boston Globe. 
  11. ^ Rocheleau, Matt (9 November 2012). "New Balance aims to open commuter rail station in 2014". Boston Globe. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Powers, Martine (30 May 2014). "Brighton rail station opening pushed back to 2016". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Rocheleau, Matt (31 July 2012). "T plans to boost commuter rail trips between Boston, Worcester this fall". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  14. ^ Monahan, John J. (4 October 2012). "At CSX freight yard, Murray touts increased train service". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  15. ^ Associated Press (29 April 2013). "MBTA launches Worcester-Boston express service". Worcester Telegram. Archived from the original on 26 January 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "LT GOV MURRAY ANNOUNCES NEW SCHEDULE FOR INCREASED COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 4 October 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Jessen, Klark (7 August 2013). "State Takes “Absolute Control” over Worcester to Boston Line". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Monahan, John J. (14 November 2013). "State plans to expand commuter trains for Worcester". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  19. ^ "GOV. PATRICK CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING OF YAWKEY STATION". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. March 10, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Expanded Yawkey Station to open in March, T says". Boston Globe. February 27, 2014. 
  21. ^ Monahan, John J. (22 January 2014). "MBTA promises more Worcester-Boston trains by end of February". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  22. ^ "Allston Multimodal Station Study". Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  23. ^ Powers, Martine (9 July 2014). "MassDOT moves to end delays on Worcester rail line". Boston Globe. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 

External links[edit]