Regional Rail (including North-South Rail Link)

eber

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Did anybody attend the FMCB meeting?
I didn't attend but you can watch the meeting here. Rail Vision agenda item starts around 2hr 26 mins in.

Pollack did talk about how this study was done on service levels only and if and when they make decisions, that they should note that this study only can conclude things about service levels and not about greenhouse gas/de-carbonization/diesel futures/other pro-electrification issues. I don't think it was as anti-electrification as her previous stances.
 

Equilibria

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I didn't attend but you can watch the meeting here. Rail Vision agenda item starts around 2hr 26 mins in.

Pollack did talk about how this study was done on service levels only and if and when they make decisions, that they should note that this study only can conclude things about service levels and not about greenhouse gas/de-carbonization/diesel futures/other pro-electrification issues. I don't think it was as anti-electrification as her previous stances.
It sort of is, though, since she's arguing that there's no benefit to electrification if you can achieve the same thing with diesel. Even she, though, had to hedge that the MBTA's ability to do that is pure conjecture. It would be logical to assume from her conclusions that we should be pursuing a diesel solution because it's cheaper and results in the same ridership increase, assuming an impossible diesel service level and disregarding the clear environmental benefits of electrification, to say nothing of the supply chain for DMUs in the US, which is effectively non-existent.

DMU 15/15 service is simply much less plausible and much less beneficial than EMU 15/15 service, and MassDOT's study obfuscates that by design.
 

shmessy

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It sort of is, though, since she's arguing that there's no benefit to electrification if you can achieve the same thing with diesel. Even she, though, had to hedge that the MBTA's ability to do that is pure conjecture. It would be logical to assume from her conclusions that we should be pursuing a diesel solution because it's cheaper and results in the same ridership increase, assuming an impossible diesel service level and disregarding the clear environmental benefits of electrification, to say nothing of the supply chain for DMUs in the US, which is effectively non-existent.

DMU 15/15 service is simply much less plausible and much less beneficial than EMU 15/15 service, and MassDOT's study obfuscates that by design.

My God. How can such a forward-thinking, technologically advanced region like Boston/Cambridge be saddled with such Luddite political leaders???????

.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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It sort of is, though, since she's arguing that there's no benefit to electrification if you can achieve the same thing with diesel. Even she, though, had to hedge that the MBTA's ability to do that is pure conjecture. It would be logical to assume from her conclusions that we should be pursuing a diesel solution because it's cheaper and results in the same ridership increase, assuming an impossible diesel service level and disregarding the clear environmental benefits of electrification, to say nothing of the supply chain for DMUs in the US, which is effectively non-existent.

DMU 15/15 service is simply much less plausible and much less beneficial than EMU 15/15 service, and MassDOT's study obfuscates that by design.
Diesel equipment can cover the service levels as a matter of record, including when that's a boring old 1980's F40 pulling a few boring old 1980's single-level coaches. Indeed that was one of the smelliest things about their past claims about "Well, we have to buy DMU's first before we can even begin to entertain implementing the Fairmount service levels we promised"...which was just a naked ploy to never implement the service. But, yes absolutely, the inefficiency starts to show with repetition and the year-in/year-out diesel subsidy is going to run much higher at Urban Rail headways than any form of electric, even with the up-front capital costs of installing the infrastructure. It's ridiculous on a "LA! LA! LA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" level to pretend that scaling distinction not only doesn't exist but isn't 'the' driving force behind most of these same big-picture decisions everywhere in the world. Give Pollack credit for being a loyal foot-soldier in trying to bullshit for her boss. She has to know full well how ridiculous she sounds, but when a sandbag needs a salesman. . .

Diesel's role in the whole mix--at least for the inside-128 Urban Rail services--is holding down the fort until electrification comes. The upcoming 200-coach order and some easy-grab loco lease opportunities (i.e. Amtrak having 50-75+ worn but reliable GE Genesis P42's about to be replaced by a new Siemens order arriving 2021-24) means they can quite easily set aside the pretty good-condition Pullman single-level fleet and a few of the least-crap Bombardier or MBB cab cars to put together a dozen-plus 4-car Urban Rail sets. Perfect for starter service because the price is right, the guesswork is minimal, and buying literally anything else--DMU or EMU--is going to take longer to arrive and longer to alleviate the equipment shortage. But you most definitely get those Fairmount and Riverside wires strung up as quick as possible so the diesel bridge era is short-lived as possible, because you want those services to move closer in the direction of sustainability with time. Ridership increases will help, but in Pollak-speak it's forever tying one hand behind back to call that "good enough" and nevermore. Were it not knowingly bullshit, frozen-in-time higher-than-average ops cost would be a deeply bizarre 'feature' to stan for. Moving in the direction of sustainability means getting the EMU's down south, then shifting those beater sets up north for additional Urban Rail frequency expansion to continue their job as short-term sercice seeders. Eventually up there you're going to want DMU's, because it's pretty clearly established that northside electrification isn't going to be a thing until you've got the southside at least 75%+ wired (i.e. all except for the Dorchester-pinched Old Colony and South Coast-dependent Stoughton Line, which have other big-picture question marks to answer first). You'll probably get at least a full pre-rebuild's lifespan out of that north DMU fleet before all 4 mainlines have been wired up at least to 128.


In a way I find it refreshing that they're just throwing new shit at the wall each meeting to try to scuttle this. The fact that the talking points have to keep changing like this means they're grasping at staws at both the fiscal and technical levels to make their objections stick and are getting antsy that they haven't ID'd any/enough allies on the board willing to swallow it hook/line. That doesn't mean RER or electrification are any more likely to happen in this (unlikely to run 3 terms) Administration. But it's clearly got traction with the public and within enough corners of State Gov't that they're too risk-averse to just go right out, nuke it, take their ball, and go home...instead choosing to bitchily play along. That's good. Even if there's a short-term setback the proposal's achieved staying power.
 

whittle

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The presentation shows the Reading urban rail line having it's terminus at a new station next to 93. Does anyone else feel this is fairly redundant in addition to Anderson (which is probably the only station for which the "unrestrained parking" assumption is truly accurate)? If there's a desire to have a park and ride stop on the line it would make more sense to me to put it on 128.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I
The presentation shows the Reading urban rail line having it's terminus at a new station next to 93. Does anyone else feel this is fairly redundant in addition to Anderson (which is probably the only station for which the "unrestrained parking" assumption is truly accurate)? If there's a desire to have a park and ride stop on the line it would make more sense to me to put it on 128.
The 93 stop approximates the old steam-era Reading Highlands stop that lasted to the mid-50's...which was important less for its population catchment (mediocre) than the abundant land for yards and engine shops. It's reappeared from time to time as short-lived crayon doodles, and wouldn't be a bad fetch because land is still fairly abundant by that exit to do it cheaply.

But unless it's a package deal with the loudly/consistently demanded Quannapowitt/128 infill it's not answering any demand question that Anderson hasn't already spoken for. The Quannapowitt site currently occupied by car dealerships has huge redev potential complementing an already fast-growing business park across the street, nearby retail, a nearby legacy residential neighborhood, and direct bus tie-ins in addition to the onsite offramp. Very well-rounded mix very likely to hit on its TOD potential because it's unusually multifaceted for an offramp site in a fringe beltway 'burb. P'nR capacity as a 128-side alternative to Anderson is great...but only a part of the mix Quannapowitt has going for it.

Reading Highlands has nothing around it, not even as much as Anderson which is denseish but a bit skewed to industrial. You're never going to densify it enough to be anything more than a parking sink. That's OK if the pecking order says Quannapowit is a more multi-dimensional prospect whose car owners need to be spending more of their money at all that TOD and Reading Highlands is just the pure-commuter reliever lot affording that 128 TOD more room to breathe. That makes logical sense because you can do Reading Highlands cheap and barebones without deigning it "Regional Transportation Center"-level investment importance like Anderson. As a strictly complementary piece it's an easy grab that doesn't act too redundant.

As a mutually-exclusive alternative to Quannapowitt...fully agreed, it's a baffling choice. Like...they took an honest look at sitings, what could be done with them, and how they played off Anderson and said "No...that one" as pure binary choice??? I almost have to wonder if they're trying to tank Urban Rail line-by-line now by pitching it as un-impactful as humanly possible on the tax bases of the host 'burbs. Wakefield's going to blow a gasket over the shade that just got thrown at one of their most promising growth districts.

It really must be terrifying having to live inside Pollack's head these days when this is the bleakness she has to wake up and try to sell every day on her boss' behalf.
 

The EGE

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Reading Highlands was at Mineral Street; it got dropped pre-1964 (even before the small yard there was gone, I believe) because it was so close to Reading. There's never been a stop between there and North Wilmington because it's all low-density and mostly swamp. Maybe you can put a station with a little bit of parking at Lowell Street, but there's zero room for Anderson-style parking sink. Might be a worthwhile parking reliever for downtown Reading, but probably only with local parking permits required.
 

Equilibria

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Yesterday's presentation:


From CommonWealth - Pollack now floating that they'll have to extend Keolis to allow time to plan a more radical rethink. Extending Keolis is a bad, but it's a sign that she and Baker understand that they've lost.


Also impressed that Mohl is presenting the costs without shocked emoji language. They're big numbers, but they get smaller when you consider that this isn't one project but a whole suite of them over two decades or more. For context, the MBTA is budgeted to spend $8.3 billion on capital projects from 2020-2024, in 2019 dollars, or about $49 billion discounted from 2030 at 4% over a 20-year period.

Not to mention that the "all-in" solution is, well, all-in. Tho other capital spending would be expected that isn't within that $28B. That's not true for some of the more limited alternatives, since they don't include some station improvements, NSRL, GJ, etc. Next to about $50B in total spending, $28B for a completely new rapid transit system (which would account for all CR capital spending over a multi-decade period - including the whole of NSRL) doesn't look too bad.
 
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cden4

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We should be electrifying the commuter rail if for no other reason that it will have immediate health and environmental benefits to all the communities it runs through. The air pollution when a train starts up at a station has been shown to be significant, and damages the health of everyone in the area.
 

ceo

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Interesting that the presentation claims $10B for NSRL and double-tracking Old Colony from Braintree to South Station (and Grand Junction shuttle service with it). That sounds... optimistic. But it also sounds like they're not highballing the cost as they have done with so many other things.
 

ceo

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And this is the first I've heard of a Grand Junction shuttle service. If that's full urban rail, gates down every 7.5 minutes at Mass Ave, Main St and Broadway is going to be fun and excitement for sure. I wonder how hard that'll be to convert to light rail if they've already double-tracked and electrified it, other than connecting it to different things at each end and re-profiling the tracks.
 

Equilibria

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And this is the first I've heard of a Grand Junction shuttle service. If that's full urban rail, gates down every 7.5 minutes at Mass Ave, Main St and Broadway is going to be fun and excitement for sure. I wonder how hard that'll be to convert to light rail if they've already double-tracked and electrified it, other than connecting it to different things at each end and re-profiling the tracks.
It's not really much different than a signalized intersection, and a signalized intersection would stop traffic a lot more than once every 7.5 minutes.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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It's not really much different than a signalized intersection, and a signalized intersection would stop traffic a lot more than once every 7.5 minutes.
Under light rail it's not much different. On an FRA crossing it's very different indeed with longer mandatory-minimum gate timings, no ability to share phases because RR has absolute priority, and queue dumps (like DTMF switches) that are reactive rather than anticipatory and more often are less effective for one traffic direction than the other. We have a Worcester-NS study on the books with every crossing impact data point available. Any tap-dancing allowable on the technological end and any xMU vehicle choice barely puts a dent in the problem vs. what the new frequencies would further exacerbate.

Plus it is physically impossible to wire 25 kV lines under the Memorial Dr. overpass. It's way too low for safe clearance over a T bi-level. Insulated section coming off the bridge is the only solve, and with the bridge speed limit very low coming off the Allston curve that leaves gap-out potential for the train to cover. As LIRR riders know too well, it's excruciating to get stuck dead in an unpowered gap and have to wait for the backup battery to twist the wheels at walking pace to get on the other side. Multi-unit EMU might be long enough to keep enough coasting momentum, but a singlet or pair running an off-peak shift?

They've always maintained this one as a TBD pending further analysis of the problems, and a likely first cut if it starts running into a technical headwind or if throughput limits at the junctions cap bi-directional frequencies at something less than name-brand Urban Rail limits. While absolute feasibility is achievable if you twist the screws hard enough, it's just not strategic enough on that particular mode to go to the mat for when Orange/Red improvements bring the 2-seat trip to more parity and Urban Ring remains the really high-leverage option exercisable at any time.
 

Arlington

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We should be electrifying the commuter rail if for no other reason that it will have immediate health and environmental benefits to all the communities it runs through. The air pollution when a train starts up at a station has been shown to be significant, and damages the health of everyone in the area.
This is truer where trains run frequently and stops are closely spaced in dense areas--which I don't actually see many places.

At current frequencies and station spacing, it is hard to argue that Stage 3+/4 diesels are net-harmful (I'd say they are net-wins--even at double the frequency--compared to suburbanites driving themselves)

But exactly on the Fairmont, Stoughton/Providence, & Framingham/Worcester lines the case overlaps for more trains, closer/infill stations, and electrification as a matter of "all of the above reasons"
 

George_Apley

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And this is the first I've heard of a Grand Junction shuttle service. If that's full urban rail, gates down every 7.5 minutes at Mass Ave, Main St and Broadway is going to be fun and excitement for sure.
I really wish they'd drop this and focus more on how to use the Green Line on GJ to realize part of the Urban Ring. Connecting Lechmere to BU (and potentially to Harvard) provides new rapid transit service, relieves pressure on the Red Line and the Central Subway, and accomplishes the same goals as the MBCR shuttle as long as there's a transfer at West Station.
 

stick n move

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Its probably too late now tbh, glx is going to be on the opposite side of the cr tracks that go between the gj tracks and future green line tracks. The mcgrath hwy overpass is also right there. The gj tracks could go under the highway but then theyd have to link up with the college ave spur which is on a viaduct crossing the cr tracks. I mean its probably possible but itd be much better to be designed in now vs having to connect it later.
 
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George_Apley

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Its too late now tbh, glx is going to be on the opposite side of the cr tracks with the mcgrath hwy overpass right there. The gj tracks could go under the highway but thats where the glx tracks are on a viaduct to get over the cr tracks and in the video the college ave tracks go straight with the union sq tracks on the opposide and curving downward. Basically itd be the biggest shit show of all time trying to connect gj to glx.
I think it can definitely be done, but I'll let @F-Line to Dudley weigh in, because I'm pretty sure I've seen him explain this before.
 

stick n move

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It probably can idk, but it would just be better to design it in now vs finagle it in later because I imagine both gj tracks would have to go up a viaduct and connect to the college ave spur, because the union sq viaduct is on the opposide side. F-line would definitely know better how the switching of both directions of gj track with both college ave tracks would work Im not familiar with that much track being crossed like where the northbound college ave track would have to cross the southbound track to get to the westbound gj track... it seems like a shitshow. I just think if they are considering it at all later, it would be better to design in the future expansion now vs making it work later.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Its probably too late now tbh, glx is going to be on the opposite side of the cr tracks that go between the gj tracks and future green line tracks. The mcgrath hwy overpass is also right there. The gj tracks could go under the highway but then theyd have to link up with the college ave spur which is on a viaduct crossing the cr tracks. I mean its probably possible but itd be much better to be designed in now vs having to connect it later.
Nothing whatsoever to do with feasibility or timing. Shovels-in-ground GLX is plunking a bi-directional junction on top of a football field's worth of commuter rail tracks, and is switching sides of the Lowell ROW once on the Medford Branch. The underside of the McGrath overpass is enormous. You trench an open-cut duck-under of the Fitchburg tracks from the GJ trajectory, and send under the Union Branch tracks in a flying junction until each of them inclines-up on the east side of the overpass. Easy...single $2-4M expenditure at most. You don't have to design it now because there's no other infrastructure to shift around and it isn't necessary at all to mount until the mode change is fine.


I do not, however, know how you're going to snake BRT busways through there as a different-mode Urban Ring alternative, because there definitely is a space problem with 3 modes instead of 2 + a graft-on. Most of the UR-referencing renders I've ever seen (both old and more recent recycled bits) have the bus crossings between the GJ and Brickbottom going much further afield to make that connection.
 

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