Congestion toll in Boston?

George_Apley

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Tangent said:
Trying to squeeze more capacity out of our existing infrastructure is just going to induce more demand and won't help reduce congestion. And expanding transit is cost prohibitive. Metro Boston is just built out.
Are you trying out a new angle? I don't recall you saying anything this radical before.
 

Rover

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Rover -- it says that you are a senior member -- perhaps you are aware that this concept is older than the Apollo Program dating to pre-MBTA

However, its a non starter -- take the Red Line extension in the mid 80's it stopped at Alewife and the "future" Red Line to Hanscom became the Minuteman Bikeway and by the way hosts a major MWRA sewer line underneath

To dig all that up and put in Red Line to Hanscom would approach Big Dig in complexity, be impossible to sell to the residents of the towns of Arlington, Lexington and Bedford

The only Line with the ghost of a chance of a major extension outward is the Blue Line
My post was a combination of "nice to haves" & "we should be doing this". Living in Arlington I don't expect the Red Line to go to 128 anytime soon (and for the love of God please don't post something about how the residents blocked it 40 years ago. I've seen that like 9 bajillion times already. ;) ).

BUT, Blue line to Lynn and Orange Line to 128/Westwood station should happen as the tracks and right of way are by and large already there. I did some quick research on how the other end of the Orange was supposed to go to Reading originally. Not sure of existing tracks and right of ways for that one....
 

ulrichomega

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My post was a combination of "nice to haves" & "we should be doing this". Living in Arlington I don't expect the Red Line to go to 128 anytime soon (and for the love of God please don't post something about how the residents blocked it 40 years ago. I've seen that like 9 bajillion times already. ;) ).

BUT, Blue line to Lynn and Orange Line to 128/Westwood station should happen as the tracks and right of way are by and large already there. I did some quick research on how the other end of the Orange was supposed to go to Reading originally. Not sure of existing tracks and right of ways for that one....
Orange to Westwood is probably a no-go. F-Line has a huge number of comments scattered around about why, but basically there's only so much room, and Amtrak wants as much of it as possible. Orange to West Roxbury/Needham is far more likely. I think increasing Fairmount service and extending that is a better way to go about increasing service in that area. Dedham Corporate Center is probably a slightly better destination than Westwood there too, as it avoid Amtrak entirely.

So your 128 Stations would be:
  • Braintree - Red Line
  • Dedham Corporate Center - Fairmount line (15 minute headways)
  • (potentially) Hersey/West Roxbury - Orange Line
  • Gould St/Whatever the industrial park is called - Green Line to Needham
  • Riverside - D Line
  • Wherever the Red Line ends up
  • Reading P&R - Orange Line
  • Blue line never really reaches 128, but basically Lynn/Salem if it gets that far.

This feels like some pretty major northside gaps, but probably only because the Green Line isn't going as far in that direction. There are a few potential ROWs up there that could be turned into rapid transit (moving Waltham commuter rail up north and turning the current routing into something for example), but nothing major. If you've got a spare billion or two you could resurrect the Woburn branch and send the Green Line up through there and try to find your way to 128 somehow.
 
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HenryAlan

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The West Roxbury Orange Line station wouldn't be all that close to Route 128. The southward OLX would have to go farther to actually be considered a 128 terminus.
 

ulrichomega

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The West Roxbury Orange Line station wouldn't be all that close to Route 128. The southward OLX would have to go farther to actually be considered a 128 terminus.
Hence why I included Hersey there as well. I feel like if we're going as far as West Roxbury we'll eventually add a +1 to something accessible from 128/abandoned Needham Line riders. I don't imagine such a station would actually be at the current Hersey location, but there's a good amount of open room on the outer side of 128 there.
 

Rover

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Some good info out here. Thanks. I would think the extensions that don't involve tunneling are more doable (so no Red Line to Lexington/Concord). The Orange Line info is interesting.

Wouldn't close all the gaps but I feel would do a lot more for easing congestion than congestion pricing.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Hence why I included Hersey there as well. I feel like if we're going as far as West Roxbury we'll eventually add a +1 to something accessible from 128/abandoned Needham Line riders. I don't imagine such a station would actually be at the current Hersey location, but there's a good amount of open room on the outer side of 128 there.
The 128 location is real dodgy because there's little but one-family residential nearby. Could create a situation where the stop is busy when the 9-5'ers are on the move but D-E-A-D midday and evenings. It's a lot of construction to get between VFW Parkway and 128, so that's not one you embark on unless the usage is supremely well-studied. And it really isn't well-studied, because until the late-70's it was expected that Orange would go to Dedham Mall on the (now cannibalized) Dedham ROW splitting off @ W. Rox. I think you go to W. Rox/VFW on the primary project, stop there, then make 128 the equivalent of GLX-Route 16 as a tack-on with separate fundraising and TBD schedule. A tack-on with probably much poorer odds of ultimately happening than with Green-16.


Personally, I don't think it's necessary. The Green Line branch to Needham Jct. will have monster 128-serving potential with stops on each side of the highway at fast-developing New England Business Center (more jobs) and TV Place (straighter ramp access/more parking). Highland Ave. will be a mega ridership generator.

Elsewhere, don't forget that RER on the commuter rail lines can pick up the slack. Dedham Corporate if Franklin+Foxboro combined to give that 15-min. headways in/out of the city, can blow up really big as a ridership siphon. And that will definitely affect the valuation on a potential OL-Needham 128 stop since it and Green-Highland split the distance on that 128 quadrant pretty well. Then of course Westwood getting the same (provided South Coast FAIL doesn't ruin Stoughton frequencies).

I mean, these are the potential 128 stops we could be looking at in just a few years (southeast to northeast):

  • Quincy Adams (Red Line)
  • Westwood (Providence + Stoughton RER, combine to 15 min. frequencies)
  • Dedham Corporate (Franklin + Foxboro RER, combine to 15 min. frequencies)
  • TV Place/Highland Ave. (Green Line)
  • Riverside (Green Line + Riverside Urban Rail)
  • Weston (Fitchburg Line RER, 30 min. frequencies + short-turns, combine to 15 min. frequencies
  • Anderson RTC (Lowell + Haverhill Lines, combine to 15 min. frequencies)
  • Quannapowitt (Reading Line Urban Rail)
  • North Shore Mall (Peabody Line Urban Rail)


Except for that depressing gap in Lexington we let slip through our fingers 40 years ago, that's a pretty well-spaced ring of high-frequency stops to chop and siphon some congestion. Unfortunately doesn't do enough for highways like 93, but 128 is such a critical cog and this will definitely keep it freer-flowing and more resilient for more decades.
 

tangent

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Are you trying out a new angle? I don't recall you saying anything this radical before.
That this view is considered radical is part of the problem in my view.

Just frustrated by the build-baby-build mentality in the face of obvious infrastructure limitations. Build first fix the infrastructure later is a recipe for hitting a brick wall that could take Boston metro backwards. Systems break when capacity gets closer to 100% and a congestion toll to reduce congestion indicates we are hitting that limit. Infrastructure investment needs to happen hand in hand with new development, not 30 years later or never.

Congestion tolls would only work with rationing. Otherwise you are just increasing the cost without an effective means to spend the money towards infrastructure that would increase capacity. Even during peak times cars are currently faster than mass transit, so congestion charges are just going to increase costs, increase commute times and add burden to a transit system that is heavily subsidized therefore increasing the tax burden further.

Transit infrastructure costs need to come down so we can afford to grow.
 

ulrichomega

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  • North Shore Mall (Peabody Line Urban Rail)
Not to derail (haha) this thread any more, but do you really see Peabody being turned into Commuter rail this early? I've always been dubious of that extension because it feels like there's nowhere to go for what is essentially a slight frequency bump to Salem+limited service extension to Peabody. Density drops off so fast once you go past 128 there. If the goal is 128 service, wouldn't a Tozer Road stop on the Newburyport Line be a far cheaper option?

I'm not saying it's a bad extension. I think you've posted math here before to the degree of "Three branches is about how much two tracks can support at Urban Rail frequencies", and so there's room here (ignoring the tunnel). It just doesn't feel high-priority for how little it extends service.
 

fattony

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Congestion tolls would only work with rationing. Otherwise you are just increasing the cost without an effective means to spend the money towards infrastructure that would increase capacity. Even during peak times cars are currently faster than mass transit, so congestion charges are just going to increase costs, increase commute times and add burden to a transit system that is heavily subsidized therefore increasing the tax burden further.
I think you can look this from another angle. Really, something as complex as transportation systems needs to be looked at from many angles.

The point of adding the congestion charge is to deter trips by car. Period. Not all car trips need to be replaced with a transit trip. Not all car trips need to be replaced by a car trip at another time. Some car trips into Boston will just not happen at all. Some low value economic activity will be rerouted away from the high cost CBD. Some pass-thru traffic will choose another route.

This is not a all or nothing proposition. You can tap the breaks (pun) just a little bit and relieve a lot of congestion. Just like the Fed increases interest rates to slow down an overheated economy, if we have a "cost" knob to turn, we can dial traffic volumes up and down at will. Any benefit to transit derived from the revenues collected is independent. A city with no public transit of any kind can still use a congestion charge to control traffic.

A congestion toll helps give us tools to make a soft landing rather than running smack into a brick wall (as you say). We are, collectively, paying a VERY high cost burden in time right now. For some reason which baffles psychologists and economists, human beings are very bad at considering wasted time a cost. They/we respond much better to financial costs. That means a congestion toll isn't a tax burden - its a conversion of pure waste into tax revenue and other utility.
 

Rover

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I think you can look this from another angle. Really, something as complex as transportation systems needs to be looked at from many angles.

The point of adding the congestion charge is to deter trips by car. Period. Not all car trips need to be replaced with a transit trip. Not all car trips need to be replaced by a car trip at another time. Some car trips into Boston will just not happen at all. Some low value economic activity will be rerouted away from the high cost CBD. Some pass-thru traffic will choose another route.

This is not a all or nothing proposition. You can tap the breaks (pun) just a little bit and relieve a lot of congestion. Just like the Fed increases interest rates to slow down an overheated economy, if we have a "cost" knob to turn, we can dial traffic volumes up and down at will. Any benefit to transit derived from the revenues collected is independent. A city with no public transit of any kind can still use a congestion charge to control traffic.

A congestion toll helps give us tools to make a soft landing rather than running smack into a brick wall (as you say). We are, collectively, paying a VERY high cost burden in time right now. For some reason which baffles psychologists and economists, human beings are very bad at considering wasted time a cost. They/we respond much better to financial costs. That means a congestion toll isn't a tax burden - its a conversion of pure waste into tax revenue and other utility.
I think this is fine from an academic standpoint, but I keep trying to bring people back to political reality. To actually have an impact on traffic, and not just to piss people off, the tolls would have to be punitive or people will keep driving either out of necessity or because they're not going to notice the extra few bucks a day (unless they're poor). So from the get-go a small increase is doomed to have a marginal impact if even that.

So that leaves a punitive increase, after which the voters will put a referendum on the ballot the first chance they get and repeal it much like they did with indexed gas tax increases. I say this as someone who rides the T every day.
 

Arlington

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^ As we saw upthread (from INRIX data), a reduction of 5% in traffic (at congested times & places) results in a 20% increase in speeds.

For this to work, you just need to move 5% of trips out of car-at-peak-in-core.

That's potentially as un-punitive as:
-1% of trips that didn't really need to happen
-1% of trips that can be moved to non-congested times
-5% of "must go" trips where the user has always been "on the fence" between driving and taking bus/train/carpool, and the charge tips them into non-car
+2% of "must go" trips where the thought of an uncongested core actually lures people to drive
===================
-5% net car commute at congested time.

(and we get a bunch of other people who remain committed to their previous car or transit mode where car gets faster and more expensive, and transit is unchanged but hopefully sees additional convenience (added freqs on CR,, and Orange-Line, Red-Line, and Green-Line transformation))

A great time to implement the CG would be 5 years from now when the "transformations" are mostly in place.
 

Rover

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^ As we saw upthread (from INRIX data), a reduction of 5% in traffic (at congested times & places) results in a 20% increase in speeds.

For this to work, you just need to move 5% of trips out of cars. That's potentially as un-punitive as:
-1% of trips that didn't really need to happen
-1% of trips that can be moved to non-congested times
-5% of "must go" trips where the user has always been "on the fence" between driving and taking bus/train/carpool, and the charge tips them into non-car
+2% of "must go" trips where the thought of an uncongested core actually lures people to drive
===================
-5% net car commute at congested time.

(and we get a bunch of other people who remain committed to their previous car or transit mode where car gets faster and more expensive, and transit is unchanged but hopefully sees additional convenience (added freqs on CR))
Again you're missing the politics. Perception is 9/10ths reality. In reality, its very unlikely you see much of any benefit as a commuter because of population growth. This is the same phenomenon that bedeviled the Big Dig marketing people who told us that traffic would be much, much better with the new highway. I'm sure it would be, assuming the old highway hadn't fallen down by now, IF population growth remained stagnant or declined in the inner core and Massachusetts in general. In 1980 the state had 5.7M people, barely growing the previous decade. This is when the Big Dig was being planned. An extra 1.3M people have crammed into the state and almost exclusively the metro area since then. They're still coming. Nobody will notice the impact of congestion pricing and if they're being charged for something with no perceived benefit, voters will exercise their constitutional authority and repeal it as they recently did with the gas tax.

If there's no tangible benefit to the public, this effort is doomed.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Not to derail (haha) this thread any more, but do you really see Peabody being turned into Commuter rail this early? I've always been dubious of that extension because it feels like there's nowhere to go for what is essentially a slight frequency bump to Salem+limited service extension to Peabody. Density drops off so fast once you go past 128 there. If the goal is 128 service, wouldn't a Tozer Road stop on the Newburyport Line be a far cheaper option?

I'm not saying it's a bad extension. I think you've posted math here before to the degree of "Three branches is about how much two tracks can support at Urban Rail frequencies", and so there's room here (ignoring the tunnel). It just doesn't feel high-priority for how little it extends service.

It was studied extensively in 2004 and benchmarked at very reasonable cost, while the city vociferously supports it. It's arguably very late, not early.


The reason why it's necessary is because the tunnel pinch negatively impacts the Rockburyport side. If the Salem platforms were doubled up you could thread 30 min. headways per Beverly-splitting branch. But not more...the tunnel and Beverly swing bridge cap it there, meaning you can't do Urban Rail frequencies to North Beverly/128. You can, however, hit that target on the Peabody Branch because it has its own dedicated turnot inside the tunnel...with platform starts/stops keeping the branches out of each other's way.


To the congestion topic of the thread, you need Peabody for 128 relief because Newburyport can't sustain the Urban Rail frequencies. That, along with its well-studied ridership bona fides, reasonable cost, and bus coattails cementing Peabody Sq. as a mini-hub for more routes at better frequencies, make it a no-brainer. Its ability in an NSRL universe to aid with pair-matching make it a long-term need.


As for whether it's too short...this build is just the essentials. There's reasonable potential to extend a little further to West Peabody/I-95/US 1. That's just surplus to base requirement on a study that was trying to keep its recs lower on cost. 95/1 hasn't been studied yet or thrown a dart at possible station sites, but it's reasonable fodder for a later look.
 

whighlander

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.....Again you're missing the politics. Perception is 9/10ths reality......ou see much of any benefit as a commuter because of population growth. This is the same phenomenon that bedeviled the Big Dig marketing people who told us that traffic would be much, much better with the new highway. .... IF population growth remained stagnant or declined in the inner core and Massachusetts in general. In 1980 the state had 5.7M people, barely growing the previous decade. This is when the Big Dig was being planned. An extra 1.3M people have crammed into the state and almost exclusively the metro area since then. They're still coming. Nobody will notice the impact of congestion pricing and if they're being charged for something with no perceived benefit, voters will exercise their constitutional authority and repeal it as they recently did with the gas tax.

If there's no tangible benefit to the public, this effort is doomed.
The problems with analysis & planning of public matters such as transportation based on the past and projections is exemplified by the unchangeable observation that NO ONE incorporated Uber [and the like] into any of the models

Similarly, no one involved with the Big Dig plans could have anticipated Kendall Sq., the Seaport District or the nascent Suffolk Downs district or even the growth of Logan

Other things unincorporated even into models in use in 2015 are fracking and directional drilling which has made the US the once and future capital of Petroleum / Natural Gas Production and burred the Obama aspirations to have everyone pay LA gas prices

Throw Uber into the congestion pricing model and your outcome is unpredictable as Uber is viewed as a good alternative to buses and even subways by many
 

tangent

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If there's no tangible benefit to the public, this effort is doomed.
And my point is that it should be doomed unless there is a tangible benefit to the public.

I think there is potentially a very narrow window of opportunity where a congestion charge actually reduces congestion enough to help and/or raises enough money for transit improvements to help.

The fundamental problem being that transit improvements are too slow and expensive to be responsive to public needs and development pressures. A problem that better efficiencies and not more money will solve.

Devil is in the details. Otherwise a congestion charge sounds a lot like a carbon trading system which in practice was just a small tax that raised prices and passed those prices on to consumers without effectively reducing consumption enough to make a damn bit of difference.

To be effective there should be a reservation system for commuters and uber/lyft which enforces peak capacity limits (95%) during peak times. Actual rationing instead of merely charging people for worse service at peak times. Such that without a reservation or available capacity cars are simply turned around or diverted to available parking garages with transit. Or actual fines for not having a reservation of say $30 where you get to choose to either pay the fine and proceed or turn around.

Look at it this way. I don't want to create a system which actually rewards the government for providing crappier service. Which is what dynamic congestion charging does. The government gets more revenue for more congestion with congestion pricing.
 

tangent

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https://www.wcvb.com/article/state-investigating-ways-to-improve-your-commute-around-boston/28668977

The point about congestion pricing is a bit off. The governor wasn't questioning whether it "worked"... I think the point was that it disproportionately hurts people that don't have flexible jobs. And for it to work you have to hurt them enough to force them to choose a different job. It isn't a purely benign policy decision.

Increasing transit options and availability is more benign. I disagree wih the building more housing around transit though... even if 70% choose jobs on transit that means rhe remaining 30% of that growth is making vehicle traffic even worse.
 

Arlington

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That's quite a ridiculous straw man: "for it to work you have to hurt them enough to force them to choose a different job."
 

George_Apley

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Build out the transit system on bonds then use congestion pricing to pay it back. Congestion pricing without a reasonable transit alternative is political suicide.
 

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