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Rail Vision

Updated on May 6, 2019

Logo with "Rail Vision" in purple and a grid layout between the two words

About the Project

Timeline: 2018 – 2019
Status: Planning

MBTA Rail Vision will identify cost-effective strategies to transform the existing Commuter Rail system into one that better supports improved mobility and economic competitiveness in the Greater Boston region.

A thorough evaluation of costs, ridership potential, and operational feasibility of various alternatives, as well as broad public conversation in 2019, will inform the ultimate vision for the future of the Commuter Rail—one that the MBTA will then begin to turn into a reality.

See proposed Rail Vision alternatives

Advisory Committee

The role of the Rail Vision Advisory Committee is to provide informed advice to MBTA leadership and the project team. The members represent diverse perspectives of the MBTA service area.

 Download roster of Rail Vision Advisory Committee Members

What's New in 2019

Over the past year, the Rail Vision team has focused on learning about effective commuter rail service around the world, identifying service models we can test on our system, and understanding the constraints and opportunities with our current infrastructure.

This included:

  • Reviewing more than a dozen domestic and international peer rail systems
  • Developing clear objectives for a future MBTA rail system
  • Evaluating more than 60 service concepts across all 14 Commuter Rail lines to project potential ridership benefits and required infrastructure changes
  • Developing 7 service alternatives, featuring a range of service approaches and technologies, to move forward into the next phase of analysis
  • Hosting 5 Advisory Committee meetings to gather feedback about our objectives, service concepts, initial results, and 7 service alternatives

Rail Vision Alternatives

The Rail Vision team is putting forward 7 Alternatives for how the Commuter Rail could operate in the future. These range in service frequency, vehicle technology, and level of capital and operational investment. We will use several modeling tools to evaluate their feasibility, cost, ridership benefits, and any potential effects on regional land use.

To learn more about each Alternative, download the fact sheet for each one below. Each PDF includes a map of the service area, service features, and a summary of benefits and trade-offs.

Alternative 1: Optimize Current System

Alternative 2: Regional Rail to Key Stations (Diesel)

Alternative 3: Regional Rail to Key Stations (Electric)

Alternative 4: Urban Rail (Diesel)

Alternative 5: Urban Rail (Electric)

Alternative 6: Full Transformation

Alternative 7: Hybrid System

Get Involved

Join us at a meeting, fill out one of our surveys, or sign up for email updates. Check back here often for more opportunities to share your input with the Rail Vision team.

Provide Feedback on Rail Vision Alternatives

We want to hear what you think of each of the 7 Alternatives. Your feedback will help us evaluate each option, and provide insight into how these changes may impact current and future Commuter Rail customers.

If you have any comments or would like to tell us what you would like to see in the future MBTA rail system, please share them with us by emailing

Hearing from Commuter Rail Riders

Twice a year, the MBTA asks Commuter Rail riders for feedback about rail service and what they would like to see in the future. In the fall of 2018, nearly 5,000 rail users provided feedback about the system.

See what current riders are saying

Non-Riders Survey

The Rail Vision team reached out to people who do not frequently use the Commuter Rail in February and March of 2019, and nearly 3,000 responded to an online survey.

See what non-riders are saying

Email Updates

Past Meetings

Contact Information

For all queries and comments related to Rail Vision, please contact:

Scott Hamwey, Manager of Transit Planning, Office of Transportation Planning