Crazy Transit Pitches

Wash

New member
Joined
Feb 28, 2017
Messages
66
Reaction score
16
You always hear the chatter about how the state should just hire engineers/construction workers and keep them on full-time in order to save some money on subcontractors. Problem is, we're a small state, and don't have enough projects (well, the budget for enough projects) to keep a full-time staff of construction people (engineers and workers) employed indefinitely.

So, what if instead of being directly state employees, thry were the employees of a technically private engineering firm 100% owned by the state? That way, when they weren't working in MA, they could be hired out by other states (with projects in MA taking priority, of course). If managed well, the firm might even make money. There would have to be strict regulations in place preventing this new firm, "Massachusetts Engineering and Construction, Limited" or something, from using state subsidies to artificially underbid other engineering firms, just to keep the playing field level.

Come to think of it, this would ideally work best as a federal concern, or at least the engineering part of it would (federally operated construction workers could work, but the potential for graft just seems too high to be practical at this current time).
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
6,089
Reaction score
1,017
You always hear the chatter about how the state should just hire engineers/construction workers and keep them on full-time in order to save some money on subcontractors. Problem is, we're a small state, and don't have enough projects (well, the budget for enough projects) to keep a full-time staff of construction people (engineers and workers) employed indefinitely.

So, what if instead of being directly state employees, thry were the employees of a technically private engineering firm 100% owned by the state? That way, when they weren't working in MA, they could be hired out by other states (with projects in MA taking priority, of course). If managed well, the firm might even make money. There would have to be strict regulations in place preventing this new firm, "Massachusetts Engineering and Construction, Limited" or something, from using state subsidies to artificially underbid other engineering firms, just to keep the playing field level.

Come to think of it, this would ideally work best as a federal concern, or at least the engineering part of it would (federally operated construction workers could work, but the potential for graft just seems too high to be practical at this current time).
MTA Construction's incredible unstoppable cost bloat is the cautionary tale to be careful what you wish for bureaucratically. See also: Port Authority NYNJ. While we absolutely need to fill our anemic internal project management ranks so somebody's watching the contractors much more diligently (the big lesson from the GLX quasi-reboot after all the contractor graft was exposed), we absolutely don't want to mime to New York where centralized construction primarily serves to keep politically influential sandhogs extremely well-compensated on the public's backs. The gravitational pull from corrupt NYC transpo construction calls is huge enough to distort costs nationwide, and no way in hell do we want to encourage any more of that insanity.

MassDOT can take a necessarily much bigger role in oversight and best-practices policing without going cosmically off the deep end like New York. There's a proper balance out there to be had, but "MassDOT Engineering & Construction, Ltd." probably isn't it.


But more practically: what specific construction tasks are so everlasting that they can be entirely internalized? If you look at a cross-section of T projects, for instance, it's not obvious at all where there are internal fits for all that much additional labor scale. Now, you've got the in-house track gangs on rapid transit working on shifts all 24 hours 6 days a week plus their Keolis equivalents on commuter rail because basic maint tasks are everlasting enough to fill those shifts. And we do need way more of that trained labor because employee attrition and hiring freezes have left the ranks too threadbare for too long. However, when it's specific surges like the spate of "[G/R/O/B]LT" track work blitzes even the in-house guys need external augmentation from contractors to help scale-up for the more "shock-and-awe"-scope projects. They can't expect to staff in-house for something that big when it's a one-shot deal that's not going to be repeated year-round.

At least with Commuter Rail they draw some efficiencies with Keolis being able to import out-of-state workers as surge labor for track and signal projects, as they're doing right now with the Franklin Line double-tracking project and final sprint to the PTC installation deadline. But while the elasticity of Keolis' ops contract affords some labor efficiences that way, it is still a de facto outside contracting job for Corporate Keolis to have to muscle in the non-Boston labor for those special projects. If commuter rail were run entirely in-house you'd still be seeing those surge jobs advertised to conentional contractors all the same, because it's an above-and-beyond surge past the everday/everlasting tasks the in-house employees are hired for.

It gets even tougher when the jobs require more intensive specialized expertise. Station construction/upgrade projects are particularly hard to homogenize here. The ancient subway stations are almost always high-difficulty enough from their individual quirks to require very involved design-build process for ADA'ings and thorough renovations, as are a lot of the backlog of commuter rail accessibility projects where the configuration trends much more to specialized than cookie-cutter. Examples of those would include platforms that have to be raised while retrofitted around a historic depot building that's the centerpiece of the station, or when you have viaducted (e.g. Winchester Center) or deep-pit (e.g. Natick) stations with infrastructure stacking a little more complex than average. But even the cookie-cutter ones are arguably not numerous enough to be able to full-time in-house.

If they want to make up some ground on station renos, it still is way simpler for them to bulk-contract out, say, the 6 low-platformed Reading Line stops...excluding Reading-proper with its very tricky depot building. Wyoming Hill, Cedar Park, Melrose Highlands, Greenwood, Wakefield, and North Wilmington are all prefab-as-can-be jobs abutting grade crossings where the only difficulty is gaining community input rubber-stamp for swapping Wakefield onto the south side of the Albion St. grade crossing so it can be a full 800-footer. So there's a case where a 6-in-1 bulk contract with one prefab design and a common set of construction staging per station can gain some efficiencies. But I'm not sure there's too many other jobs you could roll up in a wad like that. Reading Line is simply a lucky coincidence where literally all the station work line-wide (excluding Reading Depot) happens to fit exactly-alike surroundings. You'd be hard-pressed to find roll-up opportunities that large with the heterogeneous nature of all other systemwide tasks requiring design-build.
 

Wash

New member
Joined
Feb 28, 2017
Messages
66
Reaction score
16
Arguably, the sandhogs are so well-compensated because they have valuable skills that few other people have that are nesiscary for any major underground construction project in New York, and the market sets their rate of pay accordingly. If they were private, they might cost the city even more money.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
6,089
Reaction score
1,017
Arguably, the sandhogs are so well-compensated because they have valuable skills that few other people have that are nesiscary for any major underground construction project in New York, and the market sets their rate of pay accordingly. If they were private, they might cost the city even more money.
Except there's mountains of evidence that the exact opposite is true...that they're locked into a vicious cycle of "hometown inflation" by the very fact that all institutions are catered around only them. Sort of as the naturally rancid de-evolution endpoint of everything in Robert Moses' walled garden once mutual corruption has looted the joint. And that the problem is way more widespread than uncompetitive bidding; projects are booby-trapped straight from top-most management to cater to only the way the sandhogs do business so there is no opportunity whatsoever for somebody on the outside to make any greater efficiencies out of the default specs they're handed. People try to look at it one-dimensionally like it's just a worst-case example of union graft, but that isn't even the half of it. The union AND the would-be/could-be union busters are rigging the same game, in NYC and Albany alike.

Alon Levy is required reading on this, because no one has done more thorough math on transpo construction cost comparisons worldwide. And lest anyone mistake him for a born U.S.-hater on this particular subject, he's way up front about the Chinese being full of shit writing checks they can't cash for their HSR manifest-destiny builds, parts of the EU zone (esp. Germany) starting to cough up their lead by de-emphasizing managerial expertise and embracing the same "MBA"-ism the U.S. is, Canada being an all-around dumpster fire, and also there being some good recent U.S. examples of cost control giving signs of hope.

He did go out of his way to praise the GLX cost audit and tossing of the corrupt initial contractors as an unequivocally positive step that needs to be more thoroughly emulated elsewhere (though he goes double-barrels at Baker/Pollack & the Pioneer-folk for brazenly sandbagging any studies they don't like). But nowhere in the world does the math comparison look as utterly terrible as NYC.

And the reason why it's so terrible for NYC is that you can't quantify a single thing about its "specialness" for construction that tracks with premiums for "specialness" of construction anywhere else in the world, including the only other cities on the planet that can compete with NYC on size/complexity and 'local' premiums. It's a rounding error big enough to quintuple-bore the world's largest TBM through. MTA Construction / PANYNJ and their numerous tendrils are literally bankrupting the city's transportation network on their orders-of-magnitude outsized corruption.


I don't know what the solution to that is. When management and all affiliated institutions including City Hall and the State Legislature are in it as deep as the sandhogs, "blow up MTA Construction" simply isn't enough to do it. The borg will immediately reassemble out whatever structure replaces it, because the graft starts out bigger than the institutions that presently house it. This endtrails has been cooking literally since the days of Moses, so nothing other than a sustained multi-decade assault on across-board corruption is going to rein it in. de Blasio and Cuomo sure as fuck aren't the reformers who are going to leverage their power to start a greater anti-corruption wave, so it's not clear there's a will to change. They may simply have to be shamed into it by other U.S. cities starting to run circles around them getting things built within-cost while their projects continue to flounder at the starting gates in overruns. Not exactly a pretty way to accomplish change, as NYC not getting shit built (Gateway!!!) can be counted in demerits against our economy here in Boston.

But we can do our part by taking out our trash in the form of more oversight like the GLX audit revelation, and stopping the string of self-owns with all this study estimate sandbagging our Gov. so loves. Just as L.A. can keep ramping up the pace opening 10 miles of new subway for every extra $1B that Second Ave. Subway Phase II adds to its paper estimates out of thin air. Sooner or later somebody in Manhattan and/or Albany has to get duly embarrassed by the fact that they're getting lapped in route miles completed by other U.S. cities far "inferior" to them.
 
Last edited:

AusdaciousfromNYC

New member
Joined
Apr 2, 2020
Messages
4
Reaction score
1
Arguably, the sandhogs are so well-compensated because they have valuable skills that few other people have that are nesiscary for any major underground construction project in New York, and the market sets their rate of pay accordingly. If they were private, they might cost the city even more money.
Seeing the thread turn towards New York, I couldn't help but comment. The New York Times did an in-depth-but-far-from-exhaustive examination of the factors behind New York-area construction costs in 2017. F-line certainly isn't understating when he mentions how corrupt it is. But back to sandhogs, per the article,

One part of Local 147’s [Sandhogs' union] deal entitles the union to $450,000 for each tunnel-boring machine used. That is to make up for job losses from “technological advancement,” even though the equipment has been standard for decades.
Now, I have no issue with sandhogs being paid well for their dangerous, skilled work, but it's getting the point where these megaprojects are serving more as a very well-paid jobs program than an actual transit construction project. Not to mention the loads of no-show or low-show jobs. The article even points out that construction companies and labor unions negotiate their labor contracts at an industry-wide level, with neither side having any real incentive to contain costs, while the MTA has no input. At any rate, we are now free of the dysfunction of MTA Capital Construction! Now we have MTA Construction and Development instead.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
6,089
Reaction score
1,017
At any rate, we are now free of the dysfunction of MTA Capital Construction! Now we have MTA Construction and Development instead.
I bet that news was a scary couple tenths of a second for the Borg to read before it shrugged and instantly reassembled. Great one, Cuomo...you're really taking out the trash on that one. Clearly branding was the issue all along and the only thing required was "Development!" to have its hopeless revolving-door corruption with Too Many Chefs spelled out in bright lights, too. :poop:
 

dmdogs900

New member
Joined
Oct 1, 2017
Messages
50
Reaction score
5
Didn’t know where to put this but has anyone made a Google map or kml of the 1948 master highway plan? Also where should I put requests like this in the future?
 

vanshnookenraggen

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
6,476
Reaction score
296
I know I've seen it and I used to have it. I recently updated my computer and I lost it. I'd love to have it again.
 

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
1,605
Reaction score
243
Didn’t know where to put this but has anyone made a Google map or kml of the 1948 master highway plan? Also where should I put requests like this in the future?
I might give it a go this weekend. I have the book and that era and topic is quite nostalgic for me. My dad used to take me out to look at Boston area highway projects in the 1950's when I was a kid, and that's how I became interested in civil engineering. I'm still crazy about anything to do with transportation history from the 1940's on, or going back to the 1800's for that matter..
 

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
1,605
Reaction score
243
I would suggest using the "Proposed But Never Built" thread in the Boston Architecture and Urbanism section of this website.
 

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
1,605
Reaction score
243

jbray

New member
Joined
May 22, 2019
Messages
61
Reaction score
23
FOAMER ALERT: Please keep your Saugus Branch LRT branch acid fantasies to yourself...it's out-of-scope for the base build to begin with. If you want to direct-duplicate the Wellington-Malden Orange Line and impale yourself on bugfuck-angle schedule-killing grade crossing hell, knock yourselves out in Crazy Transit Pitches but keep it the hell out of this thread. Ditto anyone with a burning desire to MOAR TUNNEL a spur into dead-center Downtowns Chelsea or Everett for personal 'feng-sui' that will never pass a real-world project scoring.
To follow up on this, would provisioning for a future split be practical? Say Everett got an elevated line or MOAR TUNNEL, is there space in the ROW to make the jump because of the strand?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
6,089
Reaction score
1,017
To follow up on this, would provisioning for a future split be practical? Say Everett got an elevated line or MOAR TUNNEL, is there space in the ROW to make the jump because of the strand?
Saugus Branch split is feasible because you're on that side of the ROW and Saugus was double-track at one point. Physical feasibility is zero issue whatsoever with the Saugus Br. split. It's when you get around Malden Ctr. and the bugfuck-angle grade crossings start coming in waves...each requiring a traffic-vs.-transit signal...that you lose the plot on all semblance of schedule-keeping. And that's really not going to do the rest of the NE Quadrant UR any solid diluting frequencies there so they can go to die in Malden traffic instead. So entirely a sense-n'-scruples thing. You absolutely 100% can build it if you absolutely want to. I just don't think the sliding scale of "buildable" vs. "makes for usable transit" is going to pan out decent enough once the resulting schedule is drawn up. The B is comparably well-behaved compared to this because of the difference between squared-up intersection signals on a reservation vs. the grasping-at-straws you have to do signalizing no fewer than 23 mid-block (i.e. not squared-up to the stop line) crossings and pray that transit priority will even get you through 2-3 of those at a time before coming to a screeching halt at the next crossing signal. And Malden puked the Main St. El back in BERy's face 100 years ago when the Orange Line had to settle for 56 years of "temporary" Everett Station as the end of the line, so I doubt a bid to tackle the crossings with stilts is going to go over well with the locals regardless of whether it's build-feasible.


I don't even know where the MOAR TUNNEL options would fork off. The Mystic Working Group's stupid D.O.A. frequency-diluting OL branch proposal to Downtown Everett doesn't even take a crayon stab at where that would go once it leaves the Eastern alignment @ Sweetser Circle. Seems to be a default assumption that it's a cut-and-cover stub-end subway under Broadway...which, well, is laughable. It's D.O.A. because no way can you dilute Orange frequencies to huge Malden bus terminal without City of Malden sending armed militias across the river, and cannibalizing the Eastern ROW space for Urban Ring NE quadrant for a short stub branch (even an Orange one) would be a huge net reduction in potential ridership over building the complete circuit. I'm baffled that one made it into the Mystic scoping report on such flimsy evidence...seems borderline-irresponsible of them to put it in print when the research behind it was so threadbare compared to all their other very common-sense/noncontroversial recs.

Chelsea is even more hopeless for that. I'm guessing you'd have to cut-and-cover a huge number of city blocks down Everett Ave. or 6th/Washington. How or where is beyond me. Because the original-original 1924 (and in-planning since 1910) Blue Line HRT conversion to Maverick notched a tunnel wall for possible future extension to Chelsea...way back when the Boston Revere Beach & Lynn ROW to Wonderland was still a profitable off-limits private RR...some folks adopt the stance that this is 100-years unfinished business. When even back then the BTD didn't have a firm idea of how they were going to get there. So you see a lot of map doodles with bad insertion angles galore either forking off Blue somewhere or forking off the Urban Ring somewhere...but there's no further thought put to the mechanics of it other than "what if BERy was on to something?". On geometry alone I think you can rule this fork functionally impossible to pull off from any source line. Lousy angles...frequency dilution in all the wrong places...every possible execution looks half-assed on the service side before you even get to tallying costs.
 
Last edited:

ceo

Active Member
Joined
May 4, 2009
Messages
291
Reaction score
125
Those Malden grade crossings are a killer. You'd have to tunnel or trench the line pretty much all the way through Malden.

Relatedly, I rode out the Northern Strand a couple weeks ago. Wow, is that ever the least scenic rail trail ever built.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
6,089
Reaction score
1,017
Those Malden grade crossings are a killer. You'd have to tunnel or trench the line pretty much all the way through Malden.

Relatedly, I rode out the Northern Strand a couple weeks ago. Wow, is that ever the least scenic rail trail ever built.
No, not scenic at all. Really good connectivity, on the other hand. Figure that going across Lynn Common then re-streetscaping the gap through Central Square between end of the Common and North Shore Community College ends up spanning you straight to the waterfront and the Lynn Shore Dr. + Nahant paths. And only a few blocks of intra-Swampscott street grid bike laneing to span between the Lynn Shore Dr. waterfront path and the Marblehead Branch rail trail. It really is an exponential expansion of bikeable destinations from the near-CBD to have the fast-growing Mystic path network make this connection. The less-than-stellar scenery on that first leg pays itself off handsomely in anticipation for what gets brought into closer access.


I actually kind of like the on-spec idea of doing an El across the worst of the Saugus Branch as a construction-clean means of doing the job. But that's a futile daydream that will never practically translate to real life. Malden already set back the Orange Line's northward thrust by half a century with an El revolt over the 1910's cross-Mystic extension. And the uniformly residential surroundings on north side of the ROW that whole 2 miles where it's mid-block paralleling MA 60 you're going to get legit gripes about trains passing 2nd-floor bedroom windows being a privacy demerit unless you erected a sound wall on that whole side...which would really uglify it a lot and make it act more like a Chinese wall (even if it's dipping much closer to ground level between crossings). Those abutter gripes are a bit more substantial than the usual vapid NIMBY screaming. I would totally see their point and be inclined to support the objection.
 
Last edited:

Vagabond

Active Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2017
Messages
152
Reaction score
246
It really is an exponential expansion of bikeable destinations from the near-CBD to have the fast-growing Mystic path network make this connection.
For the general user, safe connectivity is the key. The Wynn-Mystic bridge is going to see a lot of use if they complete that trail to downtown- If the last connections are done well (down Rutherford?) I would bet more even than the Minuteman.
From the MAPC study of bikeshares -
"The most intermunicipal trip exchange occurs among Malden, Medford, Melrose, and Everett, where 15 – 27 percent of trips start or end in a neighboring municipality."

" Malden sees the highest concentration of Lime bike activity across the region, with hundreds of trips going to or through Malden Center on Main Street, Salem Street, Pleasant Street, and Ferry Street, and on the Northern Strand Community Trail. The sections of Main Street and Ferry Street spanning Malden and Everett rank among the busiest roadways, demonstrating the value of Everett's Bluebikes agreement that permitted concurrent operation of Lime ."

 

Stlin

New member
Joined
May 16, 2020
Messages
8
Reaction score
6
The MBTA should acquire the Acela trainsets once Amtrak retires them, and immediately run them on the Providence line in regional rail local service pending delivery of actual EMUs for rail vision. You're not going to get the acceleration performance of actual EMUs, or the maint. cost savings, but should be more than enough for 12 sets (I think) to get you near half hour frequencies. I believe that all platform tracks north of Providence are electrified, and the only bits missing south are the short platform sidings @ TF Green and Wickford. You know these work very well on the NEC, and if Amtrak leaves it's ACSES equipment in place, plug and play. Frankly, if you set some of them up as express RI-BOS trains, you might even get RIDOT to chip in.

Of the 20 Acela trainsets, Amtrak only owns 1; it leases the other 19 from BofA, BNY, and Phillip Morris. All of these should be returned to their lessors by the end of 2022, assuming the Liberty is on schedule. I'd assume at least one set will go to a museum, but if MassDOT is willing to pay even a little bit more than scrap value, I presume that the lessors will be pleased to hand them over. Frankly, these are newer than the Kawasaki bilevels the T is rebuilding. (And you handily beat CA to first intrastate high-speed rail)

the issues are:

Perhaps the biggest issue is platforms, but surely in the interim single door boarding at minihighs is acceptable. Seat count is also much lower than current trains, but retrofitting for denser short haul seating, gutting the cafe car etc probably isn't that much of an ask. the issue is... The T has no ability whatsoever to maintain these famously high maintenance sets. Perhaps a downrate, removing things like tilt would be a good idea. Shortest term though... Amtrak has the know how, experience and parts inventory, if not space at Southampton that you might be able to contract with.
 
Last edited:

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
6,089
Reaction score
1,017
The MBTA should acquire the Acela trainsets once Amtrak retires them, and immediately run them on the Providence line in regional rail local service pending delivery of actual EMUs for rail vision. You're not going to get the acceleration performance of actual EMUs, or the maint. cost savings, but should be more than enough for 12 sets (I think) to get you near half hour frequencies. I believe that all platform tracks north of Providence are electrified, and the only bits missing south are the short platform sidings @ TF Green and Wickford. You know these work very well on the NEC, and if Amtrak leaves it's ACSES equipment in place, plug and play. Frankly, if you set some of them up as express RI-BOS trains, you might even get RIDOT to chip in.

Of the 20 Acela trainsets, Amtrak only owns 1; it leases the other 19 from BofA, BNY, and Phillip Morris. All of these should be returned to their lessors by the end of 2022, assuming the Liberty is on schedule. I'd assume at least one set will go to a museum, but if MassDOT is willing to pay even a little bit more than scrap value, I presume that the lessors will be pleased to hand them over. Frankly, these are newer than the Kawasaki bilevels the T is rebuilding. (And you handily beat CA to first intrastate high-speed rail)

the issues are:

Perhaps the biggest issue is platforms, but surely in the interim single door boarding at minihighs is acceptable. Seat count is also much lower than current trains, but retrofitting for denser short haul seating, gutting the cafe car etc probably isn't that much of an ask. the issue is... The T has no ability whatsoever to maintain these famously high maintenance sets. Perhaps a downrate, removing things like tilt would be a good idea. Shortest term though... Amtrak has the know how, experience and parts inventory, if not space at Southampton that you might be able to contract with.
Is the object of this Pitch to kill the MBTA dead? Because that's what it would do. The Acela is the literal most expensive train in the world to operate. Besides, 4 whole sets are already sidelined long-term from the roster and stuffed at the Amtrak boneyard at Bear, DE for mechanical wear issues expected to take months to repair. The slow-walk COVID restart is a blessing in disguise, because fleet availability would already be eating into service levels. These things are toast and already showing it before the first Aveila sets enter NEC burn-in testing.


And Amtrak wishes that godawful lease ended as quickly as 2022. No...those tentacles dig much deeper than that and include all kinds of booby-traps for retention on time after last run. Exactly the same lease terms as the HHP-8 locos, which made their last run in 2014 and are still rotting away in Bear on active lease 6 years later. Phillip Morris sued AMTK last year on grounds that they were not maintained properly in their last couple years of service, and thus the 'sunset' provisions on the lease never began. And that by the sunset provisions never beginning, they're owed damages from Amtrak cannibalizing parts from the Hippos to plug the Acelas (instead of buying fresh components from the HSR trainsets' S&S deal) and are seeking back-dated default damages going back 3 years.

Exactly the same rope-a-dope is about to break out on the Acelas the second they're removed. So Amtrak is NOT going to keep them as supplementals...NOT going to reassign them to the Keystones per RR.net's most tiresome foamer fantasy...NOT splitting them up and making regular coaches out of the hard-coupled carriages (probably not even structurally possible)...and NOT leasing them out to commuter rail operators much less finding one suicidal enough to go near such a radioactive set of lease entanglements. All they are concerned about is stuffing them in the deepest, darkest corner of Bear and affixing a 24/7 webcam to them to prove to the courts that they didn't touch one fucking lugnut on the thing when it's time for somebody to agitate the next lawsuit. They'll be as rusted-out as the woefallen Turboliner rebuilds by the time the settlements are inked and Bombardier shows up to haul them off the property to be turned into razorblades.

There's no "scrap value" to be had here. The grifters control the lease, and with the S&S gravy train over as of last run there's no further service value to wring out of them. So the only value they seek is what they can net out of legal harassment tactics. It may or may not have worked already with the HHP-8 litigation. It definitely worked to get some lawyers paid after New York State got fleeced on the Turboliner rebuilds. Fact is...even if they did have further service life left in them (debateable), the tactical game of sending the lawyers onto the battlefield means they won't have moved an inch before so many years that they are no longer worth scrap value. The last 2 intact Turboliners are still sitting at Cedar Hill in New Haven with no scrap offers whatsoever a full year after Amtrak was finally allowed to move them off the property. "Best" case given the cast of characters involved is that Amtrak plays it careful enough that the first wave of nuisance suits get dismissed and the trainsets 'only' accumulate 5 years of decay from sitting perfectly still in an unprotected yard before they're hauled off into oblivion. And that you'll be able to visit the lone AMTK-owned set nicely kept-up as a static museum donation.

That's it. We, unfortunately, aren't the ones who even have the power to make Crazy Pitches out of the Acelas. That's all with a bunch of well-compensated lawyers who...are so well-compensated on this lease for reasons completely other than having any interest in keeping the trains running.
 
Last edited:

Stlin

New member
Joined
May 16, 2020
Messages
8
Reaction score
6
I don’t dispute that the Acelas are past their prime, and expensive as hell to maintain. Not to question you though, but what I knew about Amtrak's entanglement with the Acela sets doesn't quote jive with yours; that said, I could be missing a few things here.

And Amtrak wishes that godawful lease ended as quickly as 2022. No...those tentacles dig much deeper than that and include all kinds of booby-traps for retention on time after last run. Exactly the same lease terms as the HHP-8 locos, which made their last run in 2014 and are still rotting away in Bear on active lease 6 years later. Phillip Morris sued AMTK last year on grounds that they were not maintained properly in their last couple years of service, and thus the 'sunset' provisions on the lease never began. And that by the sunset provisions never beginning, they're owed damages from Amtrak cannibalizing parts from the Hippos to plug the Acelas (instead of buying fresh components from the HSR trainsets' S&S deal) and are seeking back-dated default damages going back 3 years.

Exactly the same rope-a-dope is about to break out on the Acelas the second they're removed. So Amtrak is NOT going to keep them as supplementals...NOT going to reassign them to the Keystones per RR.net's most tiresome foamer fantasy...NOT splitting them up and making regular coaches out of the hard-coupled carriages (probably not even structurally possible)...and NOT leasing them out to commuter rail operators much less finding one suicidal enough to go near such a radioactive set of lease entanglements. All they are concerned about is stuffing them in the deepest, darkest corner of Bear and affixing a 24/7 webcam to them to prove to the courts that they didn't touch one fucking lugnut on the thing when it's time for somebody to agitate the next lawsuit. They'll be as rusted-out as the woefallen Turboliner rebuilds by the time the settlements are inked and Bombardier shows up to haul them off the property to be turned into razorblades.
By all indications in Amtrak Financials, and contemporary publications, these leases are over starting June 2020. I assume the BNY, BofA and PM leases are similarly structured, with allowances for actual date of delivery, but I believe quite a bit of the Aveila Liberty rush is because these leases are ending. Source (1) Now, the only capital equipment that Amtrak leases are those HHP8s you mention, the 19 Acela sets, and a gaggle of superliner Is. (probably because they learned their lesson,) but notably the biggest obligations drop off by no longer exist by the end of 2023. Source (2) I don't dispute that the turboliners and HHP8 are disasters though.

There's no "scrap value" to be had here. The grifters control the lease, and with the S&S gravy train over as of last run there's no further service value to wring out of them. So the only value they seek is what they can net out of legal harassment tactics. It may or may not have worked already with the HHP-8 litigation. It definitely worked to get some lawyers paid after New York State got fleeced on the Turboliner rebuilds. Fact is...even if they did have further service life left in them (debateable), the tactical game of sending the lawyers onto the battlefield means they won't have moved an inch before so many years that they are no longer worth scrap value. The last 2 intact Turboliners are still sitting at Cedar Hill in New Haven with no scrap offers whatsoever a full year after Amtrak was finally allowed to move them off the property. "Best" case given the cast of characters involved is that Amtrak plays it careful enough that the first wave of nuisance suits get dismissed and the trainsets 'only' accumulate 5 years of decay from sitting perfectly still in an unprotected yard before they're hauled off into oblivion. And that you'll be able to visit the lone AMTK-owned set nicely kept-up as a static museum donation.
There is no S&S agreement on the Acelas anymore. That was terminated in 2006, as part of the 2004 lawsuit, and Amtrak became wholly responsible for maintenance, unless Amtrak has since signed a new maintenance deal I'm unaware of. Source (3) I'll definitely concede that the sets were expected to only have a useful life of 25 years, so they'll be pretty tapped out, but that was assuming NEC intercity service. Lots of first line equipment, transit and otherwise, get second leases of life in less demanding applications.

Now I don’t dispute that the acela sets are expensive things to maintain, and probably beyond the T’s means. But purely as a thought exercise, I ran the numbers. Acela currently costs, by Amtrak’s accounting of $358M to operate and maintain. But Amtrak Accounting is… flawed, in many ways, with that figure including $29.7M in MoW, 58.6m in Sales and marketing; expenses unrelated to the operation of the sets themselves. Stripping these figures out gives an true O&M cost of closer to $110M, operating 20 sets over 3,313,867 miles. I’m going to use MoE only at $72.6M, so as to compare on an equal basis with the Keolis Contract. Source (4)

Wickford Junction is 63 miles from Boston. At current speeds, the MBTA requires 1h44mm to run a trip. Assuming extant speeds and dwells, with a 15m turnaround, that would require a minimum of 8 sets to run :30 service, 16 for :15. Assuming :30 service, each trainset would need to make just about 9 round trips daily; with 8 sets, that’d yield a total mileage nearly identical to Acela annual mileage at 3,311,300 miles. Annual equipment maintenance on the current diesel locos and coaches per the keolis contract MCS for this level of service would cost the T $9.2M in maint. Source (5). An overall increase in annual maintenance expenses of $62M frankly isn't all that bad when you're talking about the MBTA and its $2+billion dollar budget; it spends more on overtime.
 

Top