Crazy Transit Pitches

Vagabond

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I mean, if we're going to play this "I ain't paying for it anyway so let's make it whimsical" game could we at least constrain the semi-reality to be region-appropriate as a baseline.
First off, we don't need an engineering study in this thread- that's why it exists. Plus - this is not only a primary transportation mode but a tourist attraction, and has different values on top of baseline economics. A new bus lane might be far more effective, isn't going to generate any excitement. Don't forget that Wynn paid more for the Popeye statue ($28 Million!!!) than the cost of the proposed bike bridge.

This application is not that far out of the box, and Everett is looking to capitalize on some serious new revenue opportunities generated by the casino's existence. I hate to look to the Roosevelt Island tram for a positive... but "the Tram can operate in all weather conditions except for lightning and winds over 50 miles per hour."
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Was there an official plan to run the red line to the airport?
No. In its pre-1912 planning stages there was debate about whether to junction it at Charles Circle into a reverse-branch that could either/or down the current Dorchester Subway to Andrew or go to the East Boston Tunnel via a short el extension to Blue's Cambridge St. portal. It would've run Blue Line dimension rolling stock for that despite tthe oversize RL tunnel dimensions.

Now, mind you that was 40 years before Blue was extended to Logan and was before we could speculate about what air travel could become, so you can't draw a straight line from the Harvard-Maverick via Charles plan and retroactively call it an "airport extension". That wasn't even a glint in someone's planning eye before this early Red-Blue plan was scuttled.

Indecision about the conversion of Blue to HRT (which didn't happen until 1924 because of 2 decades of dickering) meant the junction at Charles Circle was never built and mainline Red service was too well established (extension from Andrew to Ashmont-Mattapan already far along in planning) to chance it with a headway-slashing reverse branch. Charles was added as an infill stop on the location of the canceled el junction after a Depression-related construction delay. The reason no station was put there from Day 1 in 1912 is because the junction would've eaten all the space for it above Charles Circle.
 

The EGE

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The innermost ring of residential areas, being relatively close to the CBD, were generally ignored for stations. Arlington didn't open until 1921 (after an outcry by residents and merchants), Charles until 1932, and Science Park until 1955.
 

Charlie_mta

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No. In its pre-1912 planning stages there was debate about whether to junction it at Charles Circle into a reverse-branch that could either/or down the current Dorchester Subway to Andrew or go to the East Boston Tunnel via a short el extension to Blue's Cambridge St. portal. It would've run Blue Line dimension rolling stock for that despite tthe oversize RL tunnel dimensions.
I thought the first plan was to convert the Blue Line to heavy rail, and have it be an elevated line from the Joy Street portal to Harvard Square. Harvard University killed the elevated line concept. Then when that plan was killed, the Red Line as we know it today was built instead.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I thought the first plan was to convert the Blue Line to heavy rail, and have it be an elevated line from the Joy Street portal to Harvard Square. Harvard University killed the elevated line concept. Then when that plan was killed, the Red Line as we know it today was built instead.
Yes...the first plan. Because Boston Transit Commission was so hot to HRT the East Boston Tunnel right from its 1901 opening the second there was an available completed HRT line to pair-match it to, the original plan was a straight Harvard-Maverick run off the Cambridge El. The Cambridge El then got bogged down in the opposition to the elevated structure, which induced a near-decade construction delay as they had to change it into a subway. During that decade's delay the Dorchester Subway plans independently sprouted, and the interface was tweaked so Charles Circle would be a reverse-branching junction. This was still during BTC's "Els everywhere" planning era, so it was assumed that the headway reductions from the reverse-branching would be made up elsewhere on the system as additional El segments got interconnected. With the eventually napkin-sketch goal that Red/Orange/Blue would end up being its own interconnected HRT system hub-and-spoking from Downtown sort of like Chicago.

That obviously didn't happen as the 1910's were the decade where residents turned sharply against more elevated structures, which deadlocked them once more on what to do with Eastie conversion and the headway balancing for the Charles Circle reverse-branching. At this point construction on the Dorchester and Cambridge tunnels was substantially complete, they needed to start shopping for cars to run it, and there was no prelim design work yet commenced on Eastie HRT conversion informing them what car dimensions would work for the Blue Line. So they had to proceed with buying Red Line-dimension cars at the only known specs they had in-hand...which effectively iced the interlining idea forever. Blue malingered on trolley for another 12 years, and to this day still has never been extended past Bowdoin to pair-match with another routing other side of downtown. Cambridge-Dorchester immediately blew out its ridership projections, and they immediately put the Ashmont extension into planning along the 4+ track Old Colony RR mainline with RR-to-HRT conversion of the Old Colony Shawmut Branch. Which coincided with the era where the RR's were first technologcally replacing their rigid 19th century unidirectional signaling with modern flexible bi-directional signaling, giving all those quad-or-greater track mainlines out of Boston huge surplus capacity as 2-3 tracks could now carry all the traffic that used to require 4+ tracks. And thus BTC started making its big planning pivot from "Els everywhere" to linear expansion along the RR mainlines that had slack to give (Malden, Braintree, Medford, etc.) and taking over some surplus intracity branchlines from the RR's (Ashmont, Wonderland/Lynn, Riverside, Needham). Stuff we are still...struggling...to get implemented 100 years later today.
 

Wash

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Is there any way to expand the Harvard Square Busway to serve more routes? While it does a great job keeping certain busses off the street in Harvard Square, some of the T's heaviest ridership routes (#1 and #66 come to mind) still have to crawl though Harvard Square Traffic dozens of times a day. Let's fix that.

1: Turn the North Harvard Street bridge into a bus/light rail in the future/pedestrian/bicycle bridge. There should be plenty of room for one transit lane, one pedestrian lane, and one generously apportioned bike lane in each direction.

2: Pedestrianise JFK street all the way from Harvard Square to JFK park.

3: Open up the old red line tunnel, have it portal up in JFK park, connect it to the bus subway, route the 66 through it.

Okay, here's where things start to get crazy.

4: Turn the 66 into a trolleybus. With modern trolleybusses able to run off-wire for substantial portions of their route, we shouldn't have to build any extra DC substations.

5: Branch the bus subway off north of Harvard Square, so that busses can run directly to/from the Cambridge street underpass to/from the Harvard Bus Subway.

6: Add a balloon loop to the north side of the bus subway so that busses/light rail trains can loop.
 

JeffDowntown

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Is there any way to expand the Harvard Square Busway to serve more routes? While it does a great job keeping certain busses off the street in Harvard Square, some of the T's heaviest ridership routes (#1 and #66 come to mind) still have to crawl though Harvard Square Traffic dozens of times a day. Let's fix that.

1: Turn the North Harvard Street bridge into a bus/light rail in the future/pedestrian/bicycle bridge. There should be plenty of room for one transit lane, one pedestrian lane, and one generously apportioned bike lane in each direction.

2: Pedestrianise JFK street all the way from Harvard Square to JFK park.

3: Open up the old red line tunnel, have it portal up in JFK park, connect it to the bus subway, route the 66 through it.

Okay, here's where things start to get crazy.

4: Turn the 66 into a trolleybus. With modern trolleybusses able to run off-wire for substantial portions of their route, we shouldn't have to build any extra DC substations.

5: Branch the bus subway off north of Harvard Square, so that busses can run directly to/from the Cambridge street underpass to/from the Harvard Bus Subway.

6: Add a balloon loop to the north side of the bus subway so that busses/light rail trains can loop.
I think you just describe some of the southside BRT Urban Ring proposals, which should include connectivity to West Station and Harvard. (North Side Urban RIng hopefully will be LRV.)
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Is there any way to expand the Harvard Square Busway to serve more routes? While it does a great job keeping certain busses off the street in Harvard Square, some of the T's heaviest ridership routes (#1 and #66 come to mind) still have to crawl though Harvard Square Traffic dozens of times a day. Let's fix that.

1: Turn the North Harvard Street bridge into a bus/light rail in the future/pedestrian/bicycle bridge. There should be plenty of room for one transit lane, one pedestrian lane, and one generously apportioned bike lane in each direction.

2: Pedestrianise JFK street all the way from Harvard Square to JFK park.

3: Open up the old red line tunnel, have it portal up in JFK park, connect it to the bus subway, route the 66 through it.

Okay, here's where things start to get crazy.

4: Turn the 66 into a trolleybus. With modern trolleybusses able to run off-wire for substantial portions of their route, we shouldn't have to build any extra DC substations.

5: Branch the bus subway off north of Harvard Square, so that busses can run directly to/from the Cambridge street underpass to/from the Harvard Bus Subway.

6: Add a balloon loop to the north side of the bus subway so that busses/light rail trains can loop.
For #1 and #3, consider those as potential stagings for the Urban Ring Harvard Branch. The setup is as follows. . .

The as-planned branch (as BRT or LRT) would fork off the UR mainline at bi-directional junction at BU Bridge and follow the last half-mile of the Grand Junction ROW to West Station. Thru routings possible from Kenmore or MIT/Lechmere via that bi-directional junction. Where the branch goes through Allston after West is all TBD as it is explicitly an I.O.U. from Harvard to reserve some sort of contiguous transit reservation through Beacon Park to provision for this. Where that actually lands is anyone's guess, but assume there will be some sort of straight shot from West to Cambridge St. to Western Ave. when all is said and done and buildings start infilling all that empty land. From Western there's open path on one block or another to slip behind the row of buildings hosting Harvard Innovation Lab and run alongside the border of the athletic fields to N. Harvard St. Assume this is doable with either an underpass/overpass of Cambridge St. (possibly recycling some of the bridge/embankment that remains after the existing Pike ramps are deleted) and probable overpass of Western, such that the line going BU Bridge<==>West<==>Cambridge St.<==>Western Ave. is either 100% grade separated or only has at-grade crossings on the low-traffic side streets partitioning Beacon Park on Harvard's TBD transit reservation.

Ideally you want to get right into Harvard Station under total separation, but that's going to require a new tunnel under the Charles River...which is way expensive. So say for starters you build the line to the foot of N. Harvard St., install a pocket track there for if-needed emergency turnbacks, and lay streetcar tracks on N. Harvard as an interim Phase 1 for covering the last half-mile into the Square. That's where your #1 proposal could prove enormously useful for a 10-15 year span of starter service. Have the pocket in-place at the end of grade separation just in case the street gets FUBAR'ed, but otherwise you can:
  1. Go all on-street: N. Harvard/JFK to Eliot St. then loop like the TT's do around the Bennett St. block with maybe a pocket track on Bennett Alley for storage.
  2. Go all on-street, but instead of looping around Bennett on the surface go directly into the bus tunnel. This is obviously more attractive for customer-facing amenities, but will add some complexity to the build by requiring a track loop-around of Cambridge Common and one block's engagement of Mass Ave.
  3. Go on-street only to the Memorial Drive light, then turn into JFK Park on a fenced-in trolley reservation more or less where the current path from Memorial gate is. Split the park diagonally, then split the JFK School buildings through the middle with platforms at the plaza facing Brattle Square. Have the same Bennett Alley loop, but allow for reversing direction on the grade-separated platform on the plaza. All park paths impacted by the bisected trolley reservation are relocated in-full a couple feet to the side, and a ped grade crossing by the (possibly relocated a few feet?) monument retain all existing path connectivity. Though the park is more physically divided than before by the trolley reservation fence, no mobility is affected for park-goers except for maybe someone's Ultimate Frisbee game. This variation comes with the advantage of limiting any/all street-running revenue service to just a linear 2000 ft. of N. Harvard + 2 traffic lights...and skipping any/all congestion in the Square by jumping onto the grass. Also will allow for much fuller platform amenities than any curbside stops near Brattle Sq.
  4. Combo of #2 and #3...do the JFK Park reservation and the Brattle Sq. platform on the plaza, but proceed from there into the bus tunnel with the loopback around Cambridge Common. For continuing the reservation between the Bennett St. and Mt. Auburn St. blocks I guess you could claim the plaza in front of Harvard Square Hotel and/or knock down that ugly-ass stubby parking garage facing Brattle St. that's only used as a makeshift Thrifty Car Rental lot to carve out reservation + plaza between blocks and angle the turn radius at the Mt. Auburn intersection for the bus tunnel portal. While best of all worlds amenity-wise, bus tunnel trip is probably surplus-to-requirement if you can achieve the grade-separated turnback at the JFK plaza.
That's pretty damn good for the first 2 decades of robust service, and a very manageable amount of street-running especially if JFK Park is available to skip a bunch of nasty traffic light queues on the Cambridge side. When it's time to load up for bear to pay for a tunnel, your options are pretty cut-and-dried. First cross N. Harvard St. on grade-separated overpass from whatever intermediate stop is there by the athletic fields. Wind around the back of Harvard Stadium and start inclining down into a portal on the west side. The tunnel trajectory across the river is basically arrow-straight and unobstructed between Stadium and Brattle Sq. splitting the JFK School with only a couple-degree weave required on the Allston side between the old skating rink and the adjacent brick (dorm?) building. No feasibility questions whatsoever...the digging is all under utility-free parkland. It's just the straight-up linear cost of doing a shielded under-river bore at that particular point of Charles Basin...very pricey but no guesswork about the price.

Now...there is some guesswork on the Square side: ex- Red Line tunnel or bus tunnel. Ex-Red should work if it's LRT, as the end of the JFK School plaza at the corner of Bennett/Brattle/Eliot is literally where the old tri-track portal used to be. Compare 1979 view of temporary Harvard-Brattle station, whose platforms were grafted straight onto the portal, to today's Street View. The 3-story building that houses New England Comics is the common landmark in both images. The former tri-track portion of tunnel runs to a point behind the old ticket windows at the bottom of the main stairs. Past that the tunnel split into bi-level bores feeding the bi-level Red Line bores; that whole portion would be unusable for this project and remain off-limits. A 2-track stub island would fit inside the tunnel dimensions, with the Green Line level accessed by punching through the old tix window area and doing some artful reconfig of the Charlie gates into a sort of 'ring' pattern around the station to cover that new wing. There'd be room outbound of the end of the stub platform for a center pocket track with 1, maybe 2, trains of storage.

If it's BRT or if there's any obscure blockers for LRT (such as the end of the ex- 3-track tunnel being too rough an interface for the fare lobby), you shoot for the bus tunnel instead. Plow through the old Eliot St. portal but bank underneath the Harvard Sq. Hotel plaza and ugly-ass Thrifty garage instead. Use the space under the traffic island at the Mt. Auburn intersection to angle on-trajectory into the busway, and incline-up a connecting tunnel as the main bus tunnel is inclining-down. You will have to figure out something on the Mass Ave. end of the tunnel--either do business with the Cambridge Common surface loop or carve some sort of underground loop--but otherwise the bus tunnel was an ex- dual-mode bus + trolley tunnel until 1958 so much like the Transitway full coexistence is provisioned. For trolley wire you'd simply install combination pole + pantograph compatible wire clips like the Green Line used to have from the mid-70's to mid-90's so poled TT's and panto'ed trolleys can share the same wire...then raise the TT return wire by ~4 inches or so out of safe electrical arc range from a trolley pantograph so nothing shorts out. The end.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Re: Proposal #4 about TT'ing the 66...you probably do not need to do that at all if the UR Harvard Branch gets built in any form. The real load-carrying percentage of 66 crosstown ridership would migrate over to the Ring spine's Kenmore-Harvard routing flavor where cross-platform transfer @ Kenmore behind fare control then opens up quick trips to Longwood via the D. D-to-E connecting trackage would bolster those transfer headways by pumping in supplemental Huntington Ave. headways into Kenmore Loop. And then if/when you relocate the E off Copley Jct. to the South End via Back Bay it would be able to interline with the same junction off Boylston and GL Tufts Med Ctr. station that feeds Silver Line-replacement Seaport and Washington St. service. You would indeed be able to take the 66 to its endpoints on trolley by going Harvard-Kenmore, hopping from the B platform to the D platform and grabbing one of those looping Huntington supplementals, then going Longwood-Prudential-Back Bay, then interlining onto Washington St. streetcar service at that South End junction instead of following the normal churn of relocated E's into Boylston. Two-seater...but it's way faster than the 66 on one seat. Consider these as possible replacement load-bearing patterns for the biggest chunk of 66'ers:
  • Harvard-Kenmore, transfer to Kenmore-Huntington, interline to Dudley. Two-seater.
  • Harvard-Government Ctr. via the Urban Ring mainline through Kendall/Lechmere, interline from GC-Boylston-Tufts to Dudley. More indirect, but a true one-seater.
  • Harvard-Kenmore LRT, transfer upstairs to Kenmore-Dudley Urban Ring SE quadrant BRT (tracing a more faithful ring-shaped pattern through Mission Hill and Ruggles than the E-interlining pattern...but the existence of the E-interlining pattern as a load-spreader takes enough load off the BRT part of the UR that the bus part of the Ring stays nice and brisk). Two-seater.
And with that, the 66 basically turns into a strictly local bus that overchurns nearly all its ridership multiple times over en route (i.e. dumping/re-loading most riders at the West Station/UR, B, C, D/E/UR transfer points) and no longer has a large audience of end-to-enders tortured by its plodding cross-Brookline corridor because all of them have vacated for higher-capacity rapid transit alternatives teed up by the Urban Ring. Since there's very little you can inherently do to tart up Harvard Ave./Harvard St., removing the lion's share of crosstown load for other alternatives ends up 'the' existential solve for the 66. As a strictly local bus that's constantly overchurning, you only have to worry about OTP on any of the major segments between points of overchurn...such as Harvard-West, West-Brookline Village, and BV-Dudley. It no longer matters much if the whole shebang hits its end-to-end schedule. It just needs to more or less faithfully conform to headway windows when it's on one of the discrete intra-Allston, intra-Brookline, and intra-JP segments...but can now meander around the clock between segments because so few riders are staying on for long stretches. Much more elastic redefinition of what "on-time" means for that schedule, and in the absence of any non-Crazy upgrades to the corridor streets themselves (and there really aren't any sub-Crazy touches) that's exactly the best-case future scenario for it.

So don't think in terms of squeezing blood from stone to "upgrade" the 66 hell or high water. Simply change the very definition of what it's supposed to do by letting the Ring and other useful Ring+Green Line interconnects suck up and radically redistribute the biggest share of rider load. What's left afterwards is a local bus that pretty much works regardless of whatever chaos it encounters on the road and is self-fortified from melting down too much because it's no longer tasked with the same duties or timekeeping degree-of-difficulty as before.
 
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jbray

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Consolidation of the MBTA and the RTAs into one organization with streamlined payment options and commuter rail passes or even link passes serving as a monthly bus pass statewide to promote reverse commutes and last mile connections instead of focusing all resources on parking expansion at commuter rail stations.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Consolidation of the MBTA and the RTAs into one organization with streamlined payment options and commuter rail passes or even link passes serving as a monthly bus pass statewide to promote reverse commutes and last mile connections instead of focusing all resources on parking expansion at commuter rail stations.
Majority of the RTA's, including RIPTA in Rhode Island, are already on Charlie Card. So that part of it already works great, except in Springfield where Charlie'd PVTA buses and Metro-North tix'ed Hartford Line unfortunately have a big state line standing in the way of fare operability.

But yeah...absolutely, the RTA's are underfunded as fuck and outside of nicely robust BAT in Brockton don't make nearly enough touches to CR at anywhere near useful-enough frequencies to matter. RUR is going to shine a light brighter than the sun at the deficiencies of those last-mile connections, and if the state doesn't start treating the strength of outlying bus connections as part-and-parcel with the rail frequency jump the whole works is going to strain and struggle to gain any appreciable mode share.
 

Riverside

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Majority of the RTA's, including RIPTA in Rhode Island, are already on Charlie Card.
To my knowledge, there is nothing on RIPTA's website that indicates cross-honoring of Charlie Cards, nor for commuter rail passes, for that matter. If they do indeed take Charlie, they're hiding it pretty well.
 

KCasiglio

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Consolidation of the MBTA and the RTAs into one organization with streamlined payment options and commuter rail passes or even link passes serving as a monthly bus pass statewide to promote reverse commutes and last mile connections instead of focusing all resources on parking expansion at commuter rail stations.
May I humbly suggest adding bluebikes to that list
 

F-Line to Dudley

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To my knowledge, there is nothing on RIPTA's website that indicates cross-honoring of Charlie Cards, nor for commuter rail passes, for that matter. If they do indeed take Charlie, they're hiding it pretty well.
As of at least 4 years ago you could. RI is rolling out their own AFC 2.0-like digital pass system for RIPTA which may break compatibility with the T's older system until we figure out our way-delayed replacement, so they could be downplaying it now if it takes a FVM intermediary to issue a ticket.
 

guitarguynboston

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If done right an oversight committee of some sorts for fares and schedules could go a long way with how local buses and systems all work together. I'm not saying one whole system for the entire state/regional area but a committee made up of each system that can make each system interact better

Not too sure about other systems in the state but the one local to me, MRTA, is not very convenient and the only thing it has going for itself is the fact they except Charlie Cards.

The bus schedule is not synced with the Commuter Rail schedule and also needs how to function as a successful and viable public transportation system.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The Hartford Line vs. PVTA divide brings up a good point: the need for EZPass-like transit interoperability like critical mass of states now have with road tolls. CTrail chains off MNRR ticketing for Shore Line East and Hartford Line because it's quite simply the hugest thing out there...way huger than the T and every fare system MA will ever integrate. So Springfield Union Station is one interoperability hole that will never be closed by purely MassDOT solution.

But it shouldn't be insurmountable for everyone's AFC 2.0 backends to talk to a universal card if EZPass has been able to do that for 20 years. That should be some sort of overarching goal even if the lowest-common denominator has to be a slush debit account because everyone's fares structure different. I mean, there's a market for this just with Amtrak biz travelers who are going to be riding different NEC cities' local transit on the same day. Or hell, just between the MTA and NJ Transit modes on either side of a single river.
 

MjolnirMan

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As of at least 4 years ago you could.
Last year I saw someone flash a Zone Monthly CharlieCard to the driver of a RIPTA R-Line at Providence Station and be allowed to board. After failing to find any information on their website, I emailed RIPTA customer service to inquire about their policy. This led to a frankly Kafka-esque series of email and phone exchanges, starting with:
We accept The MBTA Commuter Rail Pass Zone 8, 9 and 10 (It is white I think), but it does not apply to all buses/trips. As we understand it, we do not accept the Charlie Card (which is yellow). There may be some confusion regarding the two cards, hence a driver mistakenly accepting a Charlie Card for example. The Commuter Rail Pass can only be used for routes associated with the MBTA, such as the 62 Wickford Junction bus and the R-line etc. We are trying to determine if there are details regarding said policy at this time.

Thank you,
RIPTA Customer Service
After writing back to clarify if this policy would apply to the added lines on the new Downtown Transit Connector route, and what to do if a driver isn't aware of the policy, I was given a phone extension to call to speak to "Kevin". Several calls and voicemails went unanswered, as did my eventual emails to his work address. Trying to follow up with customer service again led to the following information:
MBTA passengers with a monthly pass showing an 8, 9 or 10 Commuter Rail Zone can transfer to local bus service right at the station, by showing to the driver when boarding.

It has to be any pass in those zones, but not the plastic Charlie Card for bus and subway fares. The products accepted must be monthly, not single ride. If you still have questions about this fare you can try to check with Kevin again or contact the MBTA
(My follow-up questions along the lines of, "what about trips TO the train station", and "what if our needed bus is a short walk away at Kennedy Plaza, because the route we need to take doesn't come directly to the train station" were directed to Kevin, who has not responded to me.
 
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George_Apley

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From here.

I feel like green line-style service along Grand Junction to Sullivan would be a great use of that space if they ever stopped being used for freight. Would obviously take work to reconfigure the tracks to separate them from the main rail network but that sounds a lot more practical than running trains to North Station.

But that's thoroughly in the realm of fantasy transit pitches which have their own thread.
Not so much a mere fantasy. It's certainly not on the MBTA's capital projects radar, but it's easily one of the more feasible transit expansion projects after Red-Blue, and BLX-Lynn
 

Riverside

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Last year I saw someone flash a Zone Monthly CharlieCard to the driver of a RIPTA R-Line at Providence Station and be allowed to board. After failing to find any information on their website, I emailed RIPTA customer service to inquire about their policy. This led to a frankly Kafka-esque series of email and phone exchanges, starting with:

We accept The MBTA Commuter Rail Pass Zone 8, 9 and 10 (It is white I think), but it does not apply to all buses/trips. As we understand it, we do not accept the Charlie Card (which is yellow). There may be some confusion regarding the two cards, hence a driver mistakenly accepting a Charlie Card for example. The Commuter Rail Pass can only be used for routes associated with the MBTA, such as the 62 Wickford Junction bus and the R-line etc. We are trying to determine if there are details regarding said policy at this time.

Thank you,
RIPTA Customer Service


After writing back to clarify if this policy would apply to the added lines on the new Downtown Transit Connector route, and what to do if a driver isn't aware of the policy, I was given a phone extension to call to speak to "Kevin". Several calls and voicemails went unanswered, as did my eventual emails to his work address. Trying to follow up with customer service again led to the following information:

MBTA passengers with a monthly pass showing an 8, 9 or 10 Commuter Rail Zone can transfer to local bus service right at the station, by showing to the driver when boarding.

It has to be any pass in those zones, but not the plastic Charlie Card for bus and subway fares. The products accepted must be monthly, not single ride. If you still have questions about this fare you can try to check with Kevin again or contact the MBTA


(My follow-up questions along the lines of, "what about trips TO the train station", and "what if our needed bus is a short walk away at Kennedy Plaza, because the route we need to take doesn't come directly to the train station" were directed to Kevin, who has not responded to me.
I congratulate you on your initiative -- I myself have thought of contacting RIPTA many times to get clarity on this practice, especially after a somewhat frustrating discussion with a driver. I think part of the reason I never did was fear that somehow it was all one big loophole that would get closed if I drew attention to it.

I understand why they made a bit of a fuss about Charlie Card for subway/buses vs the Monthly Pass. It's confusing because the Monthly Pass actually is also a Charlie Card in most cases these days -- you can use it to tap into the subway and on Boston buses. But you can't tap on to RIPTA buses with it, which is why the driver needs to be able to verify that it is a valid fare based on sight alone. So they look at the Zone, and the current month.

To your unanswered follow-up questions: mine is regularly accepted on trips to the station, and if memory serves has also been accepted on a couple of routes I took out of Kennedy Plaza which did not go directly to the station. I always did carry a spare RIPTA ticket, just in case a driver insisted. If I had to guess, I would suspect that they would be fine on the new DTC route, since all or nearly all of those routes will serve the station anyway.

From my perspective, given the absolutely ungodly amount of money that the Monthly Pass costs, it seems reasonable to ask the MBTA, RIPTA, RIDOT and whoever else needs to sign off on it, to include access to RIPTA. Certainly it is in Providence's interest to make it easier to access the commuter rail without a car -- parking at and around Providence Station is at a premium, and the more of the city which can tout itself as being "friendly to Boston commuters," the better. When I don't take RIPTA or drive to one of the stations, it's a 20 minute walk to the station, uphill in the evenings. That is manageable enough for me because I'm not carrying groceries, I have a small backpack, and I'm young enough. But in the summer, or in the rain, or in the snow, or if I was older, or if I needed to carry stuff... it moves out of the realm of convenience, and most people would drive.

But the policy itself -- though very clearly real and understood by virtually every driver, and by many long-time commuters -- does not seem to be advertised or written down, anywhere.
 

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