MBTA Issues RFP for Rail Improvement Study

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to study and identify current and future commuter rail needs and improvements as part of the MBTA's Commuter Rail Vision. A contract for the study is expected to be awarded in September 2017, and the study is anticipated to begin several weeks later. 

"Now is the appropriate time to think about the future needs of people in terms of our Commuter Rail system," said Stephanie Pollack, secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). "Commuter Rail is going to play a more important role than ever before in the years ahead as people seek to reduce their carbon footprint, look for more efficient travel options, and strive for more life-work balance by putting the time spent commuting to good use in either relaxing or finishing up with office responsibilities." 

Current rail service is limited in its potential to grow ridership during off-peak times, encourage reverse commuting and provide frequent connections between gateway cities and Boston. 

"With the results of this study, we can better plan future infrastructure, future technology, and future service," stated Brian Shortsleeve, MBTA acting general manager. "We'll be able gain a more detailed understanding of our current Commuter Rail ridership and future customers so we can continue to best serve those communities now and in the years to come." 

MBTA and MassDOT will use the Commuter Rail Vision study to understand the demand for changes to service in order to strategize the best ways to use current resources, plan for infrastructure needs, understand potential customer demand, and study the impact of new technology on transit options. The results will identify the most cost-effective strategy for leveraging the MBTA's rail network to meet new trends in travel and address the economic growth needs of the Greater Boston region. 

Topics that will be examined under the study include: the type of fleet needed to optimize the existing network and deliver new service; system upgrades needed to accommodate service expansions; sections that should be electrified; and where new stations should be located. The study will also include: a review of previous studies; objectives for a 2040 Commuter Rail Vision; identifying potential service alternatives; the operating costs of service alternatives; final recommendations; and an implementation plan. 

The study is proposed to take place over 2 to 2.5 years with project funding of $3 million from the MBTA Capital Budget.