Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The Boston commuter rail stops in Franklin. It's about 15-20 minutes from here and takes a little over an hour to get to South Station. I like taking the train, because I can sit an work for most of my commute. Taking the train nearly doubles the time it takes to get to work, though, so it doesn't buy me any extra productivity beyond the fact that I often just work well on the train some days. I think there are fewer distractions.

The big north east cities seem to all have a commuter rail system that is separate from the subway lines. I can only speak of Boston, NY, and Philly from experience. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area do not. The rail systems there double as commuter rail and subway, and do neither particularly well. The difference, I'm told, is that there used to be factories in the towns surrounding Boston which built railways to carry goods into the city and the port. Years later, the MBTA uses some of these lines to ferry workers from the same little towns into Boston.

We're pretty far out here in Hopedale, by Boston commuter standards, but not absurdly so. My drive time is under an hour if I avoid peak times. It's not something I'd want to do more that half the time, but it's nothing compared to hat people in the Bay Area endure.

What annoys me is that the MBTA doesn't come here. Hopedale and Milford (about 100yds from here) both had factories back in the day and the rail right of ways and most of the track still exists. It would be an easy thing (relative to laying new track somewhere) to extend the Franklin line into downtown Milford or Hopedale.

They did a feasibility survey a few years back and concluded that there are not enough riders. Come on! Have a little foresight, please. Milford is one of the bigger towns around and already has a pretty dense downtown just blocks from the old depot. Hopedale is tiny, but the regional hospital is about a 1/2 mile from the old depot and the Draper Factory is standing vacant looking for a reason to be re-purposed.

An MBTA stop may be too much for Hopedale, but it would be great for Milford. The way things are right now, it's hard to live in this area without a car for every adult. There aren't tons of jobs downtown. Most companies are in office parks off of 495. The same is true of most retail. In contrast, the residences downtown are pretty dense. So residents there get all the claustrophobia of a downtown with few of the conveniences.

If Milford gets a rail line, it can take advantage of its density. If not, it will likely continue to grow just in the suburban areas. There are the areas that are being hardest hit by the housing crunch. Meanwhile stuff near downtowns has not crashed the same way. Even in Hopedale, the downtown duplexes are still holding most of their value.

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