Connecting Montréal to the American Rail Network

A New York-bound route would attract far more passengers than one heading for Boston.

Montréal is one of North America’s most appealing cities and it’s only a few dozen miles from the border. As a result, both American and Canadian politicians have been arguing for the expansion of rail service from the metropolis south into the United States. Yet, after decades of work, little of consequence has actually been completed. But with stimulus funds for high-speed rail soon to be distributed, it’s worth considering what routes would be most appropriate for possible service.

In 2000, at the request of the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, the Federal Railroad Administration designated the Northern New England route as an “official” high-speed corridor. This series of lines would include connections between Boston and Portland, Boston and Albany, Springfield and New Haven, and Boston and Montréal. The three states began studying a connection with Canada and released a report detailing potential services in April 2003. The study advocated 110 mph top speed service on the 329-mile route, providing a 5h48 trip between Boston and Montréal. New Hampshire, more focused on expanding highways into Boston, abandoned interest and the project has laid dormant since.

But the federal stimulus reawakened the possibility of funding the project with national money. Upgrades of the partially abandoned route could be sponsored by the Department of Transportation.

Yet, the City of Montréal and the State of New York have a different objective: connecting the French-Canadian city with Gotham. In the 1970s, hyperactive Montréal mayor Jean Drapeau attempted to connect his city with New York via TGV, a project that was ultimately abandoned due to lack of governmental commitment. New York’s state rail plan pushes an improvement of the connection between Albany and Montréal, but only after the link between Buffalo and Albany is substantially accelerated.

A connection to Montréal may be long-off, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on the minds of U.S. and Canadian transportation planners. Rather, it could be an important route — if it’s planned and routed correctly. What follows is a comparison of a hypothetical major investment on the two most prominent visions of high-speed routes between the cities, at average speeds of 180 mph. By comparing the routes at high speeds rather than the 70 or 80 mph averages typically proposed by the investment-weary states, the ultimate advantages of the different routes can be more easily discerned. The conclusion of this post — that a connection between New York and Montréal would be a far more valuable investment than one between Boston and Montréal — would be the same no matter the speeds of train service offered, but demonstrating consequences at 180 mph allows for best-case circumstances to be analyzed.

* A note at the end of this post describes some implementation problems with the routes described.

New England Rail Connections Boston-Montréal

The map above shows the route of the proposed Boston-Montréal corridor and potential service routing off the line onto existing Amtrak routes. The 329-mile route between the two cities would take almost two hours to complete (and about one hour from Montréal to White River Junction, where the existing line branches off).

When developing high-speed rail networks, a 3h30 travel time constitutes the upper limit of how far people are willing to choose rail travel over air routes. However, I have also included information on travel times of five hours to Montréal with the intention of demonstrating potential future expansions of true high-speed service and the implications for customers willing to travel further. I produced these maps by calculating existing travel times on Amtrak from Boston, White River Junction, and Montréal; the map assumes no improvement of service on any of the other lines shown here.

As the map demonstrates, only one major metro area, Boston, would be within 3h30 distance of Montréal, with several smaller cities such as Burlington also within striking distance. Excluding Montréal, about 5.1 million people live in the metropolitan areas affected by this service, almost all of them in the Boston area. Expanding time to 5h would reach 1.2 million more people and allow travel to Springfield and Portland.

One major problem with this planned route is that trains would enter North Station, not South Station, where most service from Boston originates. This means that it would be impossible to continue service from Boston to Providence or Springfield, unless the North-South Rail Link connecting the terminals is ever built. Yet, even with the North-South Link, service would still only reach 9.1 million in 3h30 (including Providence and New London) and 4.2 million more in 5h (including Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford).

New England Rail Connections New York-Montréal

The longer route between Montréal and New York City, via Albany, at around 380 miles, would provide service to Montréal to a far larger group of individuals — a total of 41.7 million in nine states and the District of Columbia. That’s because the slightly longer than two hour trip between Montréal and New York would provide a direct connection to the center of the speedy Northeast Corridor. In addition to New York and Albany, cities within 3h30 of Montréal would include Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Stamford, New Haven, and Springfield. Within five hours: Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington, Hartford, New London, Providence, and Syracuse.

In other words, a New York route would provide service to Montréal in five hours or less for the majority of the Northeastern seaboard, with the visible exception of Boston, which would be more like 6h30 away save for improvements along the Boston-Albany route. Despite the more expensive costs related to the longer length of this corridor over the previous described, this route would provide a rail option for a far larger number of people — 41.7 million, to be specific — and would therefore make up its value as a result of much higher likely ridership. Here is a chart comparing the two corridors:

Building Rail to Montréal
Boston-Montréal Corridor New York-Montréal Corridor
Population* within 3.5 h 5.1 million 29.9 million
Population* within 5 h 1.2 million 11.8 million
Total population* affected 6.3 million (13.3 million with N-S Link)
41.7 million
Daily flights to Montréal from cities within 3.5 h 10 flights (from Boston) 41 flights (from New York and Philadelphia)
Daily flights to Montréal from cities within 5 h 18 flights (from Washington and Hartford)
Total Flights
10 flights 59 flights

* Population in metro areas of more than 100,000 along the route (not including Montréal).

——

Even if the New York corridor were twice as expensive as the Boston route (it wouldn’t be), it would still provide more travel benefits to more people per unit of cost. These numbers indicate unambiguously that the route from New York would be vastly more productive than the one from Boston. It is in the national public interest to ensure that funding go to the former, rather than latter, route.

But the only government-approved national rail map we have suggests that the Boston corridor is the one that deserves high-speed rail. Meanwhile, the six senators from Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire are undoubtedly collectively stronger than New York’s two — which means that by measure of governmental influence, a Boston-routed corridor seems more likely to move ahead. That fact says a lot about the problems with the American political system and our unwillingness to submit national policy to an objective test. If our high-speed rail dollars are to be well-spent, we have an obligation to compare the benefits of multiple corridors and invest in the most effective option.

——

Note: there are several technical problems that would have to be addressed for both potential routes to allow through-running.

  • In New York, the Empire Connection, the line on the west side of Manhattan that trains would take to enter Penn Station, heads east as it enters the facility. To allow trains to continue southwest to Philadelphia and beyond, the driver would have to go to the other end of the train (it would reverse directions). To speed things up, there could be another driver ready to assume controls as the train entered New York, to allow for a seamless and potentially stop-free transition.
  • In Boston, trains arriving at North Station would similarly have to reverse directions to go northeast to Portland. A direct connection to service emanating from South Station (west to Springfield or southwest to Providence) would not be possible unless Massachusetts built a connection either through the North-South Link or around the city at some location. This seems unlikely. Otherwise, passengers would have to change stations to transfer to other trains, slowing down connections and making through-routing impossible.
  • Trains would have to be bimode diesel/electric for through-routes reaching away from either proposed high-speed corridor and the main NEC.
28 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Loren Petrich

    Good work. It’s nice to see the numbers for this route.

    The Boston – Montreal route seems to me a case of who was studying what; that may also explain some of the other anomalies in the FRA’s HSR proposals.

    Anomalies like the lack of:

    Jacksonville – Orlando, FL
    Houston – Dallas, TX
    Houston – Austin, TX

    And possibly also the lack of:

    Pittsburgh, PA – Cleveland, OH
    Los Angeles, CA – Phoenix, AZ – Tucson

  • Perhaps the easiest solution to overcoming the political imbalance between the two routes is to make Montreal-Albany and Boston-Albany one project: Montreal-Boston-Albany, allowing passengers to transfer at Albany to Boston, or, if demand was sufficient, to create through-service. That would reduce travel times to Boston from Montreal from 6h30 to something closer to 3.5 hours.

    It wouldn’t have the power of three states, but New York and Massachusetts together should be sufficient, especially with the better strategic transportation argument on their side.

  • Remember that New York-Albany and Boston-Albany are both FRA-approved HSR corridors. This means that connecting Montreal to Albany and thence New York would actually require less new construction than connecting it directly to Boston. Furthermore, the terrain is less complex to run HSR in, with fewer mountain crossings. If New York-Montreal HSR detours through Burlington instead of paralleling the existing route, then there will be even fewer mountain crossings.

    Also, your VIA Rail map is wrong. There’s only one route from Toronto to Ottawa, as well as a route from Toronto to Montreal bypassing Ottawa. See map here.

  • Kyle

    I completely disagree with the opinion that New York – Montreal should be built and Boston – Montreal isn’t really a priority. I personally believe that both routes should be built. Right now it takes an absurd 5h40m to go from Boston to Albany once a day. Saying the New York – Montreal line should be built and that could serve Boston as well, would also mean that the Boston – Albany line would need to be reduced from 5h40m to 1h30m, I find this highly unlikely.

    A few weeks ago, I took the bus to Montreal from Boston with my roommates and the trip took 7h30m. I really hate traveling by bus and this trip is definitely not the best way to go. Flights are pretty quite expensive to Montreal and normal people like me aren’t going to drop that much money for a weekend trip. The transportation opportunities between Boston and Montreal and extremely limited and overpriced, which in turn reduces the amount of trips that people actually take. A train link between the two cities would definitely increase the amount of inner city trips.

    This article also seems to completely disregard the benefits of all the Vermont and New Hampshire connections in between. Although those population centers aren’t as big, they represent an important part of New England and would create a vital boost to those regions, by providing better access to Boston and Montreal. Also, with this train route, it would be much easier for ski resorts in the winter to connect bus feeder service from the station(s) to the mountain. Tourism around NH and VT the area would be much easier than is currently the case.

    As far as the train pulling into North Station, I don’t see this as an issue. I do agree that the North-South link is needed, but don’t hold your breath. The Downeaster to Portland needs to be improved, for better transit times, but people on the NH coast and southern Maine are used to going into Boston to get other places in New England, simply changing trains at North Station isn’t a burdensome process. Either way, the Boston – Montreal link and the Downeaster both run on the same line into Boston, so people could actually switch trains in Woburn (Anderson RTC) and wouldn’t need to go all the way into the city. Another example of the benefits to arrival and departure North Station are the hockey rivalry benefits. It would be much easier for Boston and Montreal fans to make it to away games (this is a big deal here) and in Boston, the train would pull into North Station, which is part of the Boston Garden; when they’re hammered after the game, they don’t have an excuse to miss the train, it’s right there.

    I believe that connecting the entire New England region and providing a connection to Montreal is extremely important and that forcing New Englanders over to Albany to catch a train to Montreal, not only doesn’t make much sense, it is also a slap in the face to six states. The Boston – Albany connection is needed, but I see this as more of route connecting Massachusetts and for people to make their way to upstate New York and other areas along the current Lake Shore Limited route.

    I’m a daily reader and avid fan of the site, but I think the mark was missed on this article and too much emphasis placed on figures rather than the unique aspects of New England and the need for connections within the entire region. I’m glad this was finally given a look though, I’ve been waiting for a NY – Boston – Montreal discussion.

  • NCarlson

    The problem I see in a lot of the resonses is something I’ve noticed in most of the HSR discussion in general; people seem to talk about rail service as HSR or nothing. On the Boston – Montreal route we are talking about a route that doesn’t even support conventional speed service currently. I’d suggest that yes, New England does require a high quality regional train service, but that does not mean it must be HSR, or even that it should be if the intent is actually regional rather than inter regional.

    In the immediate near term why not just duck the whole issue and upgrade the busiest sections of the northeast network, Boston – NY and the Empire corridor, ideally with Empire electrification (hopefully all the way to Toronto, which when combined with GO and the NEC would make a very nice start at a national electric system)?

    This should be accompanied by an HSR study, but in the long term I really don’t see a way to justify both NY HSR and a parrallel New England route. The Empire corridor does seem to beg for HSR, and once a NY-Albany line is built it shaves so much construction off the route to Montreal that New England looks like a very hard sell. Even if the funding were available for that length of new route, converting the Albany – Boston section to HSR opens up routes to the West and gives comparable trip time for Boston – Montreal as opposed to the basically local regional New Englandroute. Ultimately the New England route would create a northeast HSR network composed of an L shaped line from NY to Buffalo and a completely seperate extension of the NEC on two branches from Boston, only connected by the NEC. My option would create a single north/south route from NY to Montreal via Albany and a single east/west route from Boston to Buffalo via Albany, presumably with various combinations of through routing in Albany. In the process a secondary HSR connection is created instead of two isolated routes. If that doesn’t sound better on its own, try reading (http://www.humantransit.org/2009/04/why-transferring-is-good-for-you-and-good-for-your-city.html); its not exactly the same, and I assume through routing would happen but the principle does apply.

    Anyway, I just want to finish up be reiterating that I’m not opposed to a New England train, in fact I would campaign for it, I just don’t see it as HSR. Reextending the Vermonter isn’t much of a project at all, especially if we can get customs handled in Montreal. Adding a Boston section to that train (or ideally a seperate run) is more challenging, but is perfectly realistic. Even bearing in mind that major upgrades are needed to make even the Vermon train provide acceptable service I have a hard time saying that this route makes more sense as HSR rather than multiple units running somewhere around 100+ mph and stopping much more often.

    Kyle called the NY – Montreal route a slap in the face to New England, but his discussion of it as a route for Massachusetts makes a regional service much more sensible. My suggestion of HSR through Albany and upgraded regional service in New England serves more people with service better tailored to their needs and at lower cost than three seperate routes for the Empire Corridor, Boston – Montreal and Portland, which I would hardly call a slap in the face to anyone. We need to move beyond a discussion of high speed rail to a discussion of a national rail system. HSR makes sense in a lot of places, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we can or should do; just because HSR is the politically popular technology at the moment does not mean it should be slapped onto every new rail corridor.

  • NCarlson

    Sorry to double post, but I cant edit on here, and the link didn’t come out properly. The addes is http://www.humantransit.org/2009/04/why-transferring-is-good-for-you-and-good-for-your-city.html

  • Kyle

    NCarlson, good points. To sum up something rather quickly, which I should have added, true HSR 150mph+ between New York – Montreal is a good idea, while Boston – Montreal should be 110mph+, hopefully with transit times between 4h30m – 5h. Although I would like a 3h30m travel time, at over 150mph, I think the middle speed option is the most realistic.

  • Peter J. Griffin

    The title of the article “Connecting Montréal to the American Rail Network” is at odds with the focus of the article that is how can we connect New York to Montreal.
    The diversity of the region demands more than one option.
    Boston to Montreal restores rail connectivity lost in the 1980’s when the Concord Lebanon section of the NH main line was abandoned.
    It would allow the development of the resion’s universal industry which is tourism. We are marketing to geographic areas such as Europe and the Orient whose populace is conditioned to the availibbility of a balanced muliti-modal transportation system. Do we leave them with the experience of a New England traffic jam as what they take home?
    A Boston-Albany-Montreal route cuts off Northern New England. So does a New York – Monteal route. However should these be the other options?
    What also needs to be developed is the restoration of some of the historic routes for seasonal and year round use that connect our major tourist destination.
    Such destinations as Newport, RI, Cape Cod, the NH Seacoast, Bar Harbor, ME historically had great raill connectivity but are now inaccessible except by the automobile. In many cases the rail to trail initiative has taken over many connecting corridors for use as bicycle corridors preventing their use as rail corridors. Can some collaborative arrangement be developed?
    On also has to remember that any upgrade of rail also
    encourages the development of freight rail.
    There are many aspects that need to be explored not simply how to get from point A to B.

    NH Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association, http://www.nhrra.org

    • Matt Fisher

      That same sort of rail to trail initiative happened in Newfoundland and Labrador after the Newfoundland Railway was closed in 1988, when I was one year old. Thank you very much, Prime Minister Mulroney. This was also the same in Prince Edward Island, as well as some rail lines in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (for example, Frederiction, NB, the province’s capital, has no rail lines anymore, and neither does in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, west of Halifax).

    • Matt Fisher

      By the way, I should add that I believe both the route from Montreal to New York and the one from Montreal to Boston make sense. I’ve been wanting to go to New York for a long time, but have never gotten around to doing it. I have, however, been in Upstate NY myself.

      And in my earlier comment, if Prince Edward Island had kept the trains, they could have made the Confederation Bridge, which opened in 1997 (linking P.E.I. to Canada’s mainland for the first time), a combined rail/road bridge.

  • Kyle, the problem with what you say about connectivity in Boston is that it’s equally true for New York, which is three times as big. There’s no such thing as a slap in the face for six states; there’s a slap in the face to a certain number of people, which Yonah shows is less than a third the number of people who get a slap in the face from the lack of New York-Montreal service.

    Moreover, New York is a bigger tourist destination than Boston. That means that for the people in Montreal, service to New York is more important. This was confirmed decades ago when local leaders tried to pitch HSR to New York as a way of competing with Toronto. Boston they never even bothered with.

    As for Vermont’s rail connectivity, it’s far too rural for HSR. Vermont’s population is about one third urban, well below world average and on a par with the third world. It’s not even big rural – it has fewer people than Westchester County, New York. If you want good rail service in Vermont, ask the state to pay money for electrifying the Vermonter to have through-service to the Northeast Corridor; if there is New York-Montreal HSR, it might make sense to do the same to the Ethan Allen Express. But even that is pork to one of the few Northeastern states that get more federal spending than it pays in taxes.

  • AL

    Can someone provide information on how these two options (NY-Albany-Montreal and Boston-Albany-Montreal) might interface with an upgraded NEC? I assume that to remove many of the curves and other bottlenecks along the NEC between NY and Boston wil require some new alignments along a more interior route. How would this interface with the Montreal options?

    Taking it a step further, I also assume that a future HSR bypass of NYC will eventually be needed, not unlike the HSR lines around Paris France. This could be used for through routed trains without a NY stop. Has this iotion been mapped out, and if so, how would it interface with the lines to Albany, Boston, etc?

  • NikolasM

    Well, NYC to Albany as HSR is envisioned within other HSR lines anyways. All you need to do is provide a line from Albany to Burlington to complement a line from Boston to Montreal to cover all the bases. This way you guarantee the NH vote and probably the ME vote in congress.

  • TransitCommuter

    I have driven from downtown Boston to downtown Montreal before, and it took 5 hours. If a HSR were to be built from Boston to Montreal, a ticket would have to cost less than gas/renting a car or take much less than 5 hours for people to start taking advantage of its benefits over driving (apart from sustainability views). Using estimates traveling at 110mph and a 4.5-5hr trip, there would not be clear benefits for people to take the train, especially when travelling with more than one person.

  • Adam

    Keep in mind that anything heading into New York City on the Hudson River from the north will also have to deal with heavy commuter rail traffic on that line (NY’s Metro North-Hudson Line). However, regular service from NY-Penn to Albany is already frequent, and the track is laid (although I have to wonder about how exactly that line is going to be converted to HSR – it literally runs only a few feet from the Hudson River, and is very narrow at points).

  • (1) What happens to the maps if “existing services” are replaced by “Rapid Rail versions of existing services” … for example, the realistic HSR proposal for Portland to Boston is an Emerging HSR corridor at 110mph, cutting travel times down to an hour … would that bring Portland inside the 3.5 hours radius?

    (2) What happens to the second map if the NY/Montreal corridor becomes a NY/Boston/Montreal Y at Albany? It would seem that Boston/Albany/NY would be under 3 hours, Boston/Albany/Montreal would be under 3 hours, and even before upgrades to the Acela service, Montreal/Albany/NY+Acela connection would be under 3.5 hours for a very large area.

  • Adirondacker

    Trains would have to be bimode diesel/electric for through-routes reaching away from either proposed high-speed corridor and the main NEC.

    150 MPH seems to be the current limit for how fast diesels can go. If you want to go faster than 150, you have to use electric trains.

    Service on the Empire Corridor is already bimode. You’d need trimode if you want to get from the Hudson line to anyplace else. Metro North uses third rail. The NEC uses catenary. Unless they electrify north of Croton you need a diesel/third rail/catenary locomotive.

    Both Boston/Montreal and NYC/Montreal have to cross mountains. It’s either slow or expensive to upgrade the ROW. If I remember correctly the existing ROW Boston-Montreal can be upgraded to 125 MPH. Albany to Montreal can’t, it has too many tight curves, mostly between Whitehall and Plattsburgh, NY. A new ROW would be needed. Through the Adirondack Park. Can’t build big things like new railroads in the park without amending the state constitution.

  • Taking it a step further, I also assume that a future HSR bypass of NYC will eventually be needed, not unlike the HSR lines around Paris France.

    The reason the TGV has a Paris bypass is that Paris has four separate TGV stations, one for each direction, with no direct connections between them. This makes it impossible to run trains from the LGV Nord through the Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon to the LGV Sud-Est, requiring a bypass. In cities with just one central intercity train station, like New York and Tokyo, this problem doesn’t exist.

    All you need to do is provide a line from Albany to Burlington to complement a line from Boston to Montreal to cover all the bases. This way you guarantee the NH vote and probably the ME vote in congress.

    This is a gigantic waste of money. Even a single line from Montreal to the US would barely make any money – the economic connections just aren’t there, just like with the Channel Tunnel. To build two lines, especially when one is just a bypass of Boston-Albany-Montreal, would be pouring concrete for the sake of pouring concrete.

    The only HSR line that needs a Congressional vote is the first one (and even that’s dubious – SNCF raised bonds on Wall Street to build the LGV Sud-Est). Beyond that, the line’s success would generate profits for investment in further lines, as well as interest from local governments and private sector investors.

    Keep in mind that anything heading into New York City on the Hudson River from the north will also have to deal with heavy commuter rail traffic on that line (NY’s Metro North-Hudson Line).

    Hudson Line traffic isn’t heavy at all. At its peak, it runs 12 tph in the peak direction, with four tracks. Even under my regional rail proposal, it wouldn’t run more than about 20 tph. The capacity of even a two-track commuter line is 24 tph per direction. New York-Albany traffic is probably going to stay light enough to be able to run on the express tracks without interference from express commuter trains overtaking slower trains.

    The Water Level Route was built with four tracks all the way to Buffalo, just reduced to two north of Croton-Harmon in the era of rail disinvestment. It goes without saying that any Empire HSR would involve restoring the line to four tracks, to avoid interfering with freight and commuter rail.

    What happens to the maps if “existing services” are replaced by “Rapid Rail versions of existing services”

    That’s more favorable to New York, because it adds Buffalo, Harrisburg, Hartford, and Richmond to the 5-hour catchment area from Montreal. Boston would only get more catchment with a North-South Rail Link.

  • Dan Berez

    How about a Northeast/Canada rail system consisting of a East-West Line and a North-South Line. The East-West Line would run from Toronto to Boston and the North-South Line would run from New York City to Montreal. The major transfer point in the system would be in Albany. Trains could run in the following services: New York-Montreal, New York-Toronto, Boston-Toronto, Boston-Montreal. If the lines were designed to permit operating speeds of around 200 MPH, it would also be viable to run New York-Boston trains. This could possibly be an alternative to the incredibly expensive projects that would need to occur to increase the NEC from NYC to Boston to 200+ MPH.

    If packaged with upgrades and reintroduction of local passenger service in New England, this system would benefit all of the states involved. New Hampshire and Maine could be connected to the system through Boston. Vermont could have rail lines terminating in Springfield or Albany. Connecticut will also be connected at Springfield. The package would bring support from 6 state governments, something that will probably be needed in order to receive federal funding.

  • Dan, the expensive NEC projects you refer to include a) tunnels in the vicinity of Stamford and Bridgeport, b) new track following I-95 from New Haven to the Rhode Island state line, and c) getting Metro-North to allow tilting on its tracks. This is expensive, but less so than new HSR construction from New York to Albany to Boston, which at least on the Albany-Boston leg requires new tracks all the way.

    I can’t disagree with the north-south/east-west scheme, but it’s probably going to happen after there is true HSR on the NEC, not before. And many of its segments, such as New York-Albany-Buffalo, have little to do with cross-border connections. They’ll be useful if there is a connection to Canada, but their politics and economics are much easier even as standalone lines.

    As for attracting the support of six states, this is not necessary for federal funding – in fact, LaHood indicated that the favorite project to receive federal funds is California’s, which is entirely intra-state. At most, multi-state support is necessary for getting 50 Senators to vote for the measure, which, in a chamber where the Democrats have 60 votes and a few Republicans support HSR, should not need pork.

  • A New York – Albany – Montreal route should run via Rutland and Burlington, rather than up the pretty but curvy former D&H RR on the shore of Lake Champlain. The former Rutland Railroad route is straight and serves more population. It would be a better foundation for a 110mph or higher operation.

    Here is the link to the study on Montreal – Boston “high speed” (110mph) service:
    http://www.aot.state.vt.us/Planning/BostonRail.htm

  • Nathaanel Nerode

    You should spec out the “Montreal-NY route via Rutland”. That seems the best by a long shot. No current pasenger rail service, but the route Vermont is trying to reinstate runs Albany-Hoosic-North Bennington-Manchester-Rutland-Burlington-Essex Junction-St Albans-Swanton and the continuation would be Cantic and Montreal.

    Slightly longer than the west of Lake Champlain line, but hits more population centers and the ROW has better geometry.

  • Nathaanel Nerode

    Perhaps the easiest solution to overcoming the political imbalance between the two routes is to make Montreal-Albany and Boston-Albany one project: Montreal-Boston-Albany, allowing passengers to transfer at Albany to Boston, or, if demand was sufficient, to create through-service. That would reduce travel times to Boston from Montreal from 6h30 to something closer to 3.5 hours.

    It wouldn’t have the power of three states, but New York and Massachusetts together should be sufficient, especially with the better strategic transportation argument on their side.

    Actually, given that the best Albany-Montreal route is the one through Rutland and Burlington, it would have the support of three states: Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. Sorry, New Hampshire.

  • F. Bruce Sleeper, Trainriderrs Northeast

    Most of this discussion ignores the line from Boston through Portland (the Downeaster route), and then up to Montreal through Auburn, Bethel, and northern New Hampshire. That route has already been designated as a high speed rail corridor through to Auburn, Maine and is a natural extension of the ever successful Downeaster service. About 10 years ago, Maine’s DOT studied the route and concluded that it would generate about 400,000 passengers a year. Maine’s unique connections with Canada (Maine’s largest ethnic group are Franco-Americans who came from there) makes it a natural. One other item has not been mentioned and that is the time required for border inspections. Traveling at 110 miles per hour or more looks pretty good until you spend almost two hours or more hours sitting in an unmoving train waiting to cross the border.

  • Adirondacker

    You should spec out the “Montreal-NY route via Rutland”. That seems the best by a long shot. No current pasenger rail service, but the route Vermont is trying to reinstate runs Albany-Hoosic-North Bennington-Manchester-Rutland-Burlington-Essex Junction-St Albans-Swanton and the continuation would be Cantic and Montreal

    There’s a lot of mountain between Hoosic and Rutland. The route between Albany and Whitehall is relatively flat. North of Whitehall or Rutland ….. there’s lots of mountains… No matter where they go there’s going to be lots of fill, viaduct and tunnel. If your goal s Montreal to NYC the cheapest route is probably through Saratoga Springs, Fort Edward ( Glens Falls ) and Whitehall.

  • 400,000 riders a year is nothing in HSR terms. In Japan the small intermediate cities generate 2-3 million riders a year each. The only reason the route through Maine was designated as an HSR route was to make Snowe and Collins happy.

    Border inspections don’t have to take hours. Amtrak Cascades does border controls in Vancouver, with passengers boarding and alighting the train via a special fenced platform. This makes border control much more efficient, much like on US-Canada flights, where it takes 20 minutes rather than an hour.

  • Adirondacker: not really. There’s some small mountain between Hoosic and Bennington, but the line between Bennington and Rutland runs in a valley (along with US Route 7) between the mountains.

    I like the concept of an Albany-Montreal line that dips into western Vermont. Especially given that Vermont is pretty progressive when it comes to alternative transportation (for starters, they’re the ones mainly funding Amtrak’s Vermonter).

  • ultimately, any HSR or high-performance rail network will have to run through every congressional district to be fully realized. that’s what happened with the interstates, so not sure why we should expect the politics to be any different.

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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