Thursday, April 16, 2015

Post Script on “what happened to the Downeaster?”

             An Amtrak engine, right, pushes the disabled Downeaster back to the Portland Transportation Center after the passenger train derailed Tuesday.

Two days ago, we posted this little item remarking about how the talk of five daily round trips between Boston and Brunswick had, without any fanfare, changed to three daily round trips.

No doubt some, most likely those in AAB, the local booster group for the Downeaster, were saying we made that up; that we were just imagining it.  Au contraire, mademoiselles.

We were dubbing around just a bit ago, as is our wont, when we ran across the passages just below in the Grant Application Narrative for the Downeaster Service Optimization Project submitted by NNEPRA less than a year ago (April 25, 2014).  This was their third try at a TIGER Grant, and if you’re a Red Sox fan given to baseball metaphors, it resulted in a called strike three.

Maximum ridership/revenue growth and cost effectiveness can be achieved when improvements are made to facilitate the operation of all five daily round-trips to operate between Brunswick and Boston daily.

The Downeaster Service Optimization Project includes three project elements with independent utility which will collectively enable all five Downeaster trains to serve Freeport and Brunswick.  This will improve financial and operational efficiency of the Downeaster service, increase connectivity and mobility, support public and private development initiatives which create jobs and generate tourism and contribute to the long term sustainability of the economy and the environment.

Current track capacity constraints between Portland and Brunswick limit the Downeaster to only six one-way trips on that segment daily. Schedule string-lines indicate that if all five round-trips were operated between Brunswick and Boston daily, passenger train meets would take place west of Royal Junction, where the Brunswick Branch separates from the freight main line.

The construction of a second main track, extending approximately four miles west from Royal Junction, will provide the capacity necessary to allow all five daily
Downeaster round-trips to operate on that segment.

The two additional round-trips are expected to generate approximately 40,150 more Downeaster riders and $843,000 in revenue annually, and reduce net system
operating costs by $.55 per train mile.

Fully expanded service (five round-trips daily) between Brunswick and Boston will eliminate the need for crew ground transport and redundant train servicing operations for trips which may begin in Brunswick but terminate in
Portland or vise versa. This will save labor and mechanical costs while increasing mobility and supporting economic growth in the region. Pan Am Railways has provided engineering plans for a passing siding at Royal Junction and has agreed to permit the operation of five daily round-trip Downeaster trains between Portland and Brunswick upon its completion.

Emphasis in the above passages, as usual, is our own.  Funny how the goal line keeps moving, and how no-one in the AAB is making any noise about this.  It may mean that the current service will be far more crowded than expected, making it even harder to get tickets for destinations down south.  You probably read that the train that derailed two days ago had 36 souls on board, out of a capacity of over 250 or so.  Shouldn’t this have been a prime train for folks heading to Boston for ‘dinner and a show’ or other cultural attractions?  If so, why was it not even at 20% of capacity, especially since spring conditions should inspire folks to break out of their cabins and indulge their wanderlust.

No wonder folks in Brunswick can’t get tickets, right?  At least that’s the popular story line.


If you can’t get a ticket to ride, you may just have to bite your tongue and stay home.


Or now that spring actually seems to be here, you could get outside and work the farm.  Please.

Get out of town
Before it's too late, my love
Get out of town
Be good to me, please

Why wish me harm
Why not retire to a farm
And be content to charm
The birds off the trees

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