HeartToHub Offers One Hour Commuter Rail Service
WORCESTER – The Express Train’s weekday non-stop rail trip from Worcester to Boston is only one month old, but is attracting new riders and delivering on its promise of a long sought one-hour commute.
An array of elected officials, business and public transit leaders as well as local students and regular commuters participated in the inaugural journey on Monday, May 23 aboard the MBTA’s new “Heart to Hub” commuter rail service. The Express Train will depart Union Station at 8:05 a.m. daily and arrive in one hour ending at South Station in Boston. View a video of that press conference here.
Trading in car keys for ticket stubs will offer commuters a net time savings of around 30 minutes per trip. The previous Worcester-to-Boston commuter rail schedule for the Framingham/Worcester lines could take more than 90 minutes with as many as 16 stops along the way.
“This to me is a talent train,” said Worcester Polytechnic Institute President Laurie Leshin. “This brings the talent in Worcester to the opportunities in Boston. My dream is Lincoln Square is the next Kendall Square.”
The non-stop train service has long been not only a dream but an active pursuit for former Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, now president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. Murray said the train would link millennial workers to high tech and new economy start-up companies, spurring economic development in both cities.
“The things that drive the Worcester economy are the same things that drive the Boston economy. There is a natural synergy in the underpinnings of both economies,” Murray said. “This was not just a transportation imperative, it was also an economic one if we’re going to be serious about keeping people and companies in Massachusetts.”
Crediting current Lt. Gov Karyn Polito for making sure this service remained a priority for state transportation officials, Murray said the state has invested in significant improvements along the tracks to facilitate the non-stop service over the past 10 years. Those enhancements have included moving the rail yard, acquisition of the track, new rail ties and better signalization, and new rolling stock with locomotives and coach cars to add capacity, adding up to more than $30 million in de-stressing tracks and infrastructure upgrades. Murray helped envision and channel some of these enhancements during the Gov. Deval Patrick administration and previous to that as a city councilor and mayor working alongside the Worcester legislative delegation.
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Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty called the new line critical to the continued transformation of Worcester’s economy, building the middle class, taking traffic off of the MassPike, and getting city residents to Boston faster. “Worcester is closer than people think with our thriving biomedical industry, medical breakthroughs at UMass Medical, and growing neighborhoods,” Petty said. “One train is good, two would be better, and three would be wonderful.” City Manager Edward Augustus called the new service the most important tool to entice investments by developers in the city. “When I tell them we’re going to have one hour service back and forth from Worcester to Boston, their eyes light up. They understand the opportunity this presents for them and to take advantage of a very expensive housing market in Boston,” Augustus said.
Echoing the city manager’s thoughts, Polito added that Worcester is “an affordable, livable place to have a good and exciting life yet still feel connected to the innovation economy in our capitol city or even here in Worcester.” Congressman Jim McGovern spoke to the tax benefits commuters can now capitalize upon in parity with drivers. “It never made any sense to me that our tax code gave preference to parking benefits over mass transit. That has changed permanently on the federal level.” McGovern said similar Massachusetts’ legislation is now in the works.
MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack, who rode on the train Monday with Polito and her peers, reflected on the Express Train as part of a wider update of commuter rail schedules, calling the new times the most substantive changes in decades that will lead to improved service and customer dependability. While there are no ridership projections for the new non-stop service, Pollack is confident that word of mouth will spread fast in the city supported by active promoters at WPI, the city, Worcester Chamber and Action Worcester.
Kathryn Meng, a senior program advisor at the Worcester Clean Tech Incubator that provides low cost space and supports environmentally-friendly business start-ups, rode the train Monday to celebrate the milestone. Her own frequent trips to Mass Clean Energy Center business events in Boston cost hours of her day during driving commutes. “What’s more viable – sitting at my mobile desk or commuting to Boston in a car?”