Regional Rail (including North-South Rail Link)

ceo

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I don't know that I share your confidence... looking at the piers they've built, the inbound Union Square ramp starts ascending more or less right at the McGrath overpass, so I don't think your GJ duck-under is going to be able to meet it. That's assuming, of course, that that's where you want it to go. If you go out the Urban Ring route instead, you kind of have to build a connecting station there and I've no idea how you'd do that.
 

George_Apley

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I don't know that I share your confidence... looking at the piers they've built, the inbound Union Square ramp starts ascending more or less right at the McGrath overpass, so I don't think your GJ duck-under is going to be able to meet it. That's assuming, of course, that that's where you want it to go. If you go out the Urban Ring route instead, you kind of have to build a connecting station there and I've no idea how you'd do that.
I don't know that I see a problem. The GJ branch would have more ascending to do to meet the Union Branch, but why would the way it's being built block connection?

Why do they have to build a connecting station? Lechmere is the connecting station. It'd be a bummer that riders from Union would need to go to Lechmere and then backtrack, but that's the best option.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I don't know that I share your confidence... looking at the piers they've built, the inbound Union Square ramp starts ascending more or less right at the McGrath overpass, so I don't think your GJ duck-under is going to be able to meet it. That's assuming, of course, that that's where you want it to go. If you go out the Urban Ring route instead, you kind of have to build a connecting station there and I've no idea how you'd do that.
The state long ago confirmed that in meeting Q&A's as the tie-in point if the UR were ever converted to light rail. That answer came after the GLX scoping studies settled on the 2-branch extension currently being built, with the configuration of Brickbottom Jct. more or less stet. There isn't any official doubt about that feasibility. Also, we're not talking a tunnel flyunder, but an open cut with retaining walls overpassed by a tiny Fitchburg Line bridge and then inserting itself under the Union tracks in a box structure. The incline space required isn't large from a 12-15 ft. depth, and with the Grand Junction curve needing to merge onto the GLX side instead of the Fitchburg side at wider angle they'll be cutting through the tip of the Somerville Elder Services parking lot (which sits on a RR easement) to get on-alignment before the first bridge piling rather than follow the current single track.
 

ulrichomega

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The state long ago confirmed that in meeting Q&A's as the tie-in point if the UR were ever converted to light rail. That answer came after the GLX scoping studies settled on the 2-branch extension currently being built, with the configuration of Brickbottom Jct. more or less stet. There isn't any official doubt about that feasibility. Also, we're not talking a tunnel flyunder, but an open cut with retaining walls overpassed by a tiny Fitchburg Line bridge and then inserting itself under the Union tracks in a box structure. The incline space required isn't large from a 12-15 ft. depth, and with the Grand Junction curve needing to merge onto the GLX side instead of the Fitchburg side at wider angle they'll be cutting through the tip of the Somerville Elder Services parking lot (which sits on a RR easement) to get on-alignment before the first bridge piling rather than follow the current single track.
https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/projects/glx/contract/glx-technical-proposal-second-half.pdf (I'm referencing 4-174, about page 34).

Looking at the official proposal, it's going to be really tight. I'd be surprised if the GJ tracks don't branch off immediately after the EB Union Square Viaduct hits. I'm sure it will work in practice, but wow is that a tight margin.
 

whighlander

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

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Sorry -- But -- Electrification has to be sold on its benefits outside of the nebulous environmental benefits

Today and for the foreseeable future Natural Gas burned at the Power Plant [the dominant source of electricity in the region] is not much different from compressed natural gas burned in a bus or a train -- once you move away from using oil-fueled diesel engines its mostly a wash. If the vehicles go to hydrogen power -- you can argue that the direct vehicle motive power [either burned or fuel cell] is cleaner than the mix of electric generation now that we've abandoned so much of the nuclear generation [about 3,000 MW of nuclear left out of about 20,000 plus MW of generation inside New England] *1

As of 3:30 PM EDT 10/09/19 ISO New England was showing total System Load of 13307 MW -- supplied as follows:
10/09/2019 15:33NaturalGas7099
10/09/2019 15:33Nuclear3312
10/09/2019 15:33Hydro655
10/09/2019 15:33Coal28
10/09/2019 15:33Renewables [Sum] *770
10/09/2019 15:33Wood+195
10/09/2019 15:33Refuse+362
10/09/2019 15:33Wind+165
10/09/2019 15:33LandfillGas+29
10/09/2019 15:33Solar+19
10/09/2019 15:33Other2
total Generation and long term purchases 11,094
short term purchases [spot market] 2,213

*Note all the sources marked + are summed to give the Renewables marked [Sum]
 

Vagabond

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Sorry -- But -- Electrification has to be sold on its benefits outside of the nebulous environmental benefits
The core environmental benefit isn't from the fuel-switching of the train, its from the population switch in transportation mode. Electrification would mean more reliable, rapid, frequent, (and hopefully more connected) transit, which causes an increase in ridership. Especially with a connected N-S station the benefit is in the regional alteration of the housing dynamics as well, and the increased ability to live along transit lines to reach employment centers. The reduced need for long-distance, traffic clogged, SOV travel is an amazing public benefit. Personally, I'm dying to see what the GLX will do to the travel patterns of Somerville residents. Then extract that change to the greater region.

Side-note... I love that you're taking the energy-grid perspective, but looking at a snapshot of the current electrical grid is mildly disingenuous - if the electrification of the transit system is looking ahead 20 years, then look ahead in the future of the power grid too. The Quebec Hydro line will already be complete, the offshore wind market will be thriving, and battery technology will eliminate most peaking plants. If there is any lesson to be learned, look at how quickly technologies can take over. Gas power exploded over the last 20 years, and renewables paired with customer demand changes will be just as impactful. Quick presentation of the ISONE grid interconnection queue if energy is anybody's thing... https://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2019/04/offshore_wind_conference_mcbride_presentation_april_10_2019_final.pdf
 

bigpicture7

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The core environmental benefit isn't from the fuel-switching of the train, its from the population switch in transportation mode. Electrification would mean more reliable, rapid, frequent, (and hopefully more connected) transit, which causes an increase in ridership. Especially with a connected N-S station the benefit is in the regional alteration of the housing dynamics as well, and the increased ability to live along transit lines to reach employment centers...
This x1000. This is about enabling a greater number of people to give up cars by means of validating previously invalid housing/commuting schemes. This is not primarily about trainset to trainset environmental performance comparisons.
 

whighlander

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The core environmental benefit isn't from the fuel-switching of the train, its from the population switch in transportation mode. Electrification would mean more reliable, rapid, frequent, (and hopefully more connected) transit, which causes an increase in ridership. Especially with a connected N-S station the benefit is in the regional alteration of the housing dynamics as well, and the increased ability to live along transit lines to reach employment centers. The reduced need for long-distance, traffic clogged, SOV travel is an amazing public benefit. Personally, I'm dying to see what the GLX will do to the travel patterns of Somerville residents. Then extract that change to the greater region.

Side-note... I love that you're taking the energy-grid perspective, but looking at a snapshot of the current electrical grid is mildly disingenuous - if the electrification of the transit system is looking ahead 20 years, then look ahead in the future of the power grid too. The Quebec Hydro line will already be complete, the offshore wind market will be thriving, and battery technology will eliminate most peaking plants. If there is any lesson to be learned, look at how quickly technologies can take over. Gas power exploded over the last 20 years, and renewables paired with customer demand changes will be just as impactful. Quick presentation of the ISONE grid interconnection queue if energy is anybody's thing... https://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2019/04/offshore_wind_conference_mcbride_presentation_april_10_2019_final.pdf
You are making a huge assumption that population changes will drive huge changes in housing -- just not going to happen
Typically MA [mostly Greater Boston] builds a few thousand or so housing units per year -- the vast amount of sales of housing is resale of existing houses
Let's assume that there are about 1 million housing units in Greater Boston [4 to 5 million people depending on your boundaries with 4 or so people per unit] -- if you build even 10,000 units per year -- it takes 100 years to replace [or double] the existing units

Realistically -- any changes in commuting patterns will be at the margins -- mostly driven by the locations chosen by the employers for new facilities -- again something which changes relatively slowly*1

*1 -- barring the creation locally of an Amazon-scale company or the importation of a company of that scale
Last locally grown company to have a profound effect on commuting and housing patterns was DEC [circa 1980's] and smaller though still significant Raytheon -- and there hasn't been a recent import of a company with a local footprint of the scale of Raytheon let alone DEC
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Aloisi and Rosenberg urge "go big or go home" on RER, Red-Blue, and Amtrak Inland service...poke holes in Baker/Pollack's stalling-by-incrementalism.


Very well-written piece. I really like that they stuck to only a shortlist of starter projects on a shortlist of lines...but used that very choosiness as a means of kicking the door wide open on other badly-needed ones like BLX, Green to Transitway, next-in-priority electrifications, SCR, and Berkshire rail. i.e. Highlighting that we have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time, but sketching out how one gets there off the backs of an initial wave of project starts rather than letting incrementalist attitudes about the very bigness of the bucket list shut all progress down. Also a heaping dose of "learn from the Big Dig, don't learn to fear it" re: why incrementalism has stalled us out.
 

jklo

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I mostly disagree with the premise of this article. What GBA needs is more good quality, dense housing in the Core; and Anti-NIMBY laws to go with it, to ensure they actually get built. I'd like to see Red-Blue get done and some electrifciation (with something Indigoish), but some of the ideas were just silly.

BLX for instance, I don't think is necessary with the CR being there already. Could use electrification to Salem.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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BLX for instance, I don't think is necessary with the CR being there already. Could use electrification to Salem.
This could not be further from the truth.

1. Primary ridership demand driving BLX is distributed amongst trips between North Shore buses, Lynn, Revere, and Eastie...not to Chelsea and North Station at the exclusion of the others. Commuter rail doesn't and never has gone where these folks need to go, so the BLX mobility problem is not solved by improvements to commuter rail. That's a separate audience.

2. The North Shore bus system out of Lynn terminal is completely broken by the absence of a rapid transit transfer and the need to send all Lynn-terminating buses on super-extended runs to Wonderland or downtown at Haymarket and South Station. This deprives Lynn terminal of bus equipment and gaps out the headways of the entire North Shore because of the equipment imbalance it creates...a problem which is worsening with traffic on the only 2 roads loading south out of Lynn. Even the routes that just loop at Wonderland are getting bogged down on 1A/107 trying to get there. Last-mile transit on the North Shore is going to suffer until the terminal can start acting like a real terminal re-feeding completed runs right back out as new local frequencies. Simply building better or relocated facilities won't do it, because a one-way drain is a one-way drain. Increased commuter rail frequencies are not going to solve this problem because the bus siphon to Wonderland will still be in effect, Blue being where most North Shore residents need to go as per #1. This will keep getting worse with time, even if some of the Haymarket/SS thru-runs end up getting trimmed from the impossibility of dealing any further with tunnel traffic.

3. RER to Salem is going to be capped on growth if you can't unbottle the local bus frequencies from their equipment drain. Salem itself is a mini-hub in its own right, but because it's dependent on Lynn and Lynn is stripped of its equipment cycling by the broken transfers the frequencies are pathetic up there. RER creates new dependencies on better last-mile transit, and Salem hub is one of the areas that'll have to deliver that. So it is critical for Urban Rail's growth that you build BLX and take the handicap off North Shore buses, otherwise you're depriving that region of the missing piece that lets their commutes go car-free.


Everyone has tried to come up with excuses for substituting BLX with tarted-up commuter rail over the years. None of those--more Purple Line service, build a CR station across the street from Wonderland, nip/tuck some more around the bus problem--have proven anywhere near adequate to begin to address the demand skew of the region or the multimodal considerations of covering the last mile. Even top-level pols aren't as pretending as much as they used to that this one can be substituted by any other half-measures that would have any chance at successfully getting people out of their cars. You have to have a fully-functioning Yellow Line for that to happen...and the only way for that to happen is to bring Blue up to the place where Yellow diverges across the North Shore. Northside RER is held back too if it doesn't happen, so "go big or go home" absolutely does have to start with BLX as a key plank.
 

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