Crazy Transit Pitches

HenryAlan

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If you want an incremental solution, eliminate fares and fare collection from local busses but keep collecting fares on the other modes.
This is my favored approach. The operational efficiencies gained from all door boarding on buses would be a huge benefit, and it would also tend to help most the people least able to afford the 'T under the current fare structure. That said, I would also respond pretty favorably to municipalities experimenting along the lines of @fattony's proposal. And that could also follow an incremental approach. Maybe full funded passes for every adult is too expensive at first, but subsidized, perhaps on an income sensitive sliding scale could be more financially viable, and again would likely help most the people who can afford the least. Ultimately, @JumboBuc's point is also important, but it doesn't need to stop us from experimenting and moving the needle a few steps at a time.
 

guitarguynboston

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This is definitely a good idea and should be done but I'd consider this sorta the replacement that should have been built for the old El.

I'm not always great at wording out my thoughts. Let me try again. I meant a new line that would benefit the area that hasn't had it before or has BRT. Like Lynn really needs the Blue Line but that's already been proposed and such.

I was thinking of a decently populated city that could benefit with a fast environmently friendly transportation option to the Boston area but couldn't really fit with just branching another line or causing problems to our already strained system. Red to Waltham has been discussed but a proposal say from there to Newton, Lynn, Everett, Dorchester etc without following spoke and wheel.

We definitely already need a Urban Ring and it's been proposed and study but what about another ring further out or even closer to the center.

What got me thinking about a new subway line was that Boston isn't the only big destination anymore. We have Kendall, the Seaport, LMA, that have alot of jobs plus housing. Why must we travel to Boston center to reach any of those destinations? Why was it so much easier for my husband when we first started dating for him to move in and commute from my apartment in the Fenway vs his in Southern when his work was in the BackBay?

If I can find my old maps from early 2000s that I created with Google Maps of some ideas I'll post them.

Funding is not a factor? And we want this to be one single line, without altering existing lines, and just trying to serve the most need? Based on your parameters, I'll go with:

Brown Line: Mattapan to Chelsea, with stations at:
  • Mattapan Square (connection to Mattapan Trolley)
  • Woodhaven Street (connection to Fairmount Line)
  • Mattapan Library
  • Morton Street
  • Talbot Ave
  • Franklin Park
  • Grove Hall
  • MLK Jr Blvd
  • Nubian
  • Mass Ave
  • Union Park
  • Ink Block
  • South Station (connection to Red/Silver Line, Commuter Rail, and Amtrak)
  • Aquarium (connection to Blue Line)
  • Haymarket (connection to Orange/Green Line)
  • North Station (connection to Orange/Green Line, Commuter Rail, and Amtrak)
  • City Square
  • Navy Yard
  • Admirals Hill
  • Bellingham Square
  • Chelsea Station (connection to Newburyport/Rockport Line and Silver Line)
Tunneling under Blue Hill Ave, Warren St, Washington St, the New York Streets, and the Central Artery Tunnel is crazy.

The rest of it may be god mode.

It hits your parameters as it would:
  1. be an entirely new line, not a branch of any existing line
  2. "hit two city centers on each end of the line that would serve an area that needs it" (Chelsea and Mattapan), not to mention serving Roxbury.
  3. "keep a balance on the current system without creating more chock points," and in fact would help relieve quite a few chokepoints, including Nubian, South Station, Haymarket, and North Station.
Debatably, it converts the SL4/SL5 to a subway, but that isn't necessarily entirely true. BRT could still exist on the surface at Washington Street, and I wouldn't say the nature of this line is a true conversion of the SL to subway. More that this line would serve much of the same ridership that is currently being served by the SL4/SL5.

It definitely serves the city's needs and even provides a one-seat ride between North Station and South Station.

It would be a boondoggle of a project though, especially north of North Station, and might possibly get in the way of NSRL, which is out of scope of your prompt though.
 

bigeman312

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It seems like you're looking for a very niche entity even if it wouldn't be as high a priority as many branches, extensions, conversions, and spokes, correct?

I propose to you the Brown Line 2.0:

A tunnel from JFK/UMass to Waltham/Route 128 with the following stations:
  1. JFK/UMass (on Columbia Point, in the midst of UMass Boston's campus)
  2. Columbia (re-named JFK/UMass to its former name for accuracy and wayfinding, connection to the Red Line)
  3. SoWa
  4. South End (Tremont & Dartmouth)
  5. Back Bay/Copley (between the two with fare-gated pedestrian from the Orange Line platform, down under the Pike, to both inbound and outbound Copley platforms, connection to Green/Orange Line, Commuter Rail, and Amtrak)
  6. Exeter (Exeter & Beacon)
  7. MIT
  8. Central (connection to the Red Line)
  9. Riverside (Cambridge, not be confused with Newton)
  10. Lower Allston
  11. North Brighton
  12. Arsenal
  13. Watertown Square
  14. Waltham - Central Square
  15. Brandeis/Roberts
  16. Waltham/Route 128
It would be a tunnel bore from UMass to at least Cambridge. It would take over the Fitchburg Line ROW through Waltham (with Fitchburg Line moved to Mass Central ROW), with full grade separation through downtown Waltham, and a massive Park n' Ride at Route 128.

Does this fit your prompt?

To be clear, I don't think this would be the best use for this corridor. I much prefer a Green Line extension beyond Union to serve Belmont and Waltham (or a Red Line extension as my second choice), but I believe your prompt was for an entirely new HRT Line, correct? Also, if a new HRT Line were built over this segment, I think the best section for it would be between Back Bay and Central, but this doesn't meet your qualification for both ends of the new line to be unserved currently. So I think this is the best I could come up with for your niche prompt, and I don't think it would be a great idea.

Now moving away from your niche prompt to the actual issue you've identified: poor transit connections for trips that don't involve traveling to or from Downtown Boston. The best solution to this problem isn't the super-duper-specific proposal you are requesting. Rather, a series of projects, none of which meet your requirements, would solve the issue you've identified with a better ROI.

For example, you point out that a commute to Back Bay is much easier from Fenway than from South Boston (I think that's what's meant by 'Southern'). The solution to this problem isn't an entirely new line that has termini in entirely unserved areas. Rather, something like davem proposed here would solve that problem without meeting your specific prompt.

In fact, his fantasy map would solve the exact problem you are pointing to for many trips:

1633035478739.png


Notice how many new one-seat rides are created between districts that aren't Downtown Boston. Yet not a single line on this map meets your prompt as I understand it, right?
 

bakgwailo

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Ehh would you call this a subsidy though? They make bank to say they are subsidizing it would imply they are putting in money they aren't getting back and I don't think that seems true. Subsidy is not the word I would use for either really. But if anyone is sacrificing to make Uber possible it is not the investors.
Uber bleeds money. I don't believe they have ever turned a profit, and it is quite normal for them to lose billions a quarter. Q2 this year was a $500+ million loss. Q1 was only ~$150 millon - the smallest in the company's history! in 2020 they lost $6.8 billion. Investors are continuing to float the company with massive amounts of cash, and will probably lose all of it when Uber finally collapses.

That said, comparing Uber to The Ride (and the costs of each) isn't possible, given all of the ADA equipment the ride needs to invest in that Uber doesn't, and the fact that Uber's entire business is built on undercutting markets by subsidizing their costs with VC/investor money to erode competition until they can one day jack up their prices to be profitable when other competition is gone.
 

Stlin

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This is my favored approach. The operational efficiencies gained from all door boarding on buses would be a huge benefit, and it would also tend to help most the people least able to afford the 'T under the current fare structure. That said, I would also respond pretty favorably to municipalities experimenting along the lines of @fattony's proposal. And that could also follow an incremental approach. Maybe full funded passes for every adult is too expensive at first, but subsidized, perhaps on an income sensitive sliding scale could be more financially viable, and again would likely help most the people who can afford the least.
Interestingly enough the major municipalities already do something similar to @fattony's proposal on a very limited basis: Somerville, Cambridge, Boston all issue "M7" MBTA passes to middle and high school students, which are preloaded passes from September to June, reduced fare in between. Admittedly, that covers something like 4% of cambridges population.
 

donkeybutlers

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That link redirected to a quote from one of our posts.
I meant to link this and fixed it. Certainly some of the main investors at least have profited handsomely.

I agree with bakgwailo that Uber is basically trying to monopolize the market and jack up prices. With that being the case displacing public services into their hands, and especially when you are explicitly not guaranteeing or mandating the same level of service for the same price is not a good example to emulate. If anything the opposite.
 

jbray

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...anything other than BRT on Rutherford proper is edging into the Crazy Transit Pitches category even as LRT, and HRT's dead-on-arrival without somewhere to go as you pointed out. All of which becomes so-difficult-as-to-be-impossible if anything other than asphalt gets put down there, so, absolutely preserving the ROW is something that would be beneficial. (That said, if we may indulge in a brief Crazy Transit Pitches interlude, Rutherford-to-Everett as the northern tunnel extension of a Congress Street Subway would at least merit a look.)
As for the 6.5 minute headways, F-Line's point was that Malden center is a bus hub that was straining under the 2019 load and that you could not get a seat by Sullivan Square. This is before any extensions up to Reading. You are seriously underestimating how unfeasible an orange line branch is just because it's easy to draw the line on paper. And this doesn't take into account that Sullivan -> North would be responsible for two orange line branches, the urban ring with station, and two commuter rail branches comprising of three rails with station (one to be dropped for an additional express track for orange needed for the extension). The whole concept (mine, yours) is crazy transit pitches to the hilt. All my point was is/was that we shouldn't be creating future right of way problems on one of the widest non-highways into the CBD.
This, I'm confused by. I'm absolutely sticking with F-Line's hard-no on branching the OL south of Malden Center, but I don't see how the potential Reading extension (oh the Melrose NIMBYs will be something to see if that project ever gets traction again) or the GLX-through-Sullivan are particular constraints there. Sullivan's already triple-tracked on the OL, and there's no particular need as far as I can tell for the OL to eat the Reading CR track until Assembly, and the GLX-to-SL3 pitches I've seen have the Green Line eating Yard 21 on the west side of Sullivan so that's not encroaching either. In my head it'd be south of Community where the two-track main line would be the capacity crunch, because branching off the three-track main north of Community has extra spare capacity from the third track. It's the middle of the night so I could be completely misunderstanding this all though.

The point still stands, though, whether Rutherford is needed for BRT now or not does not mean it never will be, and I agree that care should be taken to ensure it is not eliminated as a potential ROW for transit in the future (at least Charlestown's not as boneheaded as Dedham when it comes to destroying ROWs......right?)
I was responding to both you and @Tallguy in the same post, so apologies for not being clearer. Also, I'm not sure why I went brain dead on the counting the existing OL express track and saying we needed the Reading track to recreate the use of the express track. You're absolutely correct. We have the same sources when it comes to Yard 21 being the GL UR station, but my point is that this then has to cross the entire current row without taking away from what's there, bridge across, and then we need 4 lines on the ER - Everett side plus the northern strand (for the freight siding issue? For a possible GL branch? Who knows?).

But, Tallguy is talking about branching the OL north of Sullivan so now GL UR needs to cross the 3 OL tracks and the Reading commuter rail, leave space for the ER CR and the new OL branch, with 6 tracks crossing the river, and the GJ/ER is designed to handle the 6 on the Everett side? No, it's not. Presumably this future does not have an issue with the northern strand.
There are 5 lines north of Sullivan.
I an suggesting following the ER ROW
I was talking about the current and envisioned tracks directly north of the station, not the tracks specifically headed north.

Tallguy, what I am not understanding is your logic of why splitting the OL at Sullivan is at all valuable in a future where GL riders are already on the ROW. I don't want to strip away the full context of the exchange between you and Brattle, so I'll link it here, but for quick context here in this thread, here's the cliffnotes:
Data seems to show that significant numbers of present ridership from Malden, Wellington and Sullivan will ride GLX and a OL station at Sweetser
No doubt that an OL branch would redirect a lot of bus passengers and change Malden Center from a singular sink to one of many.
The question isn't whether ridership patterns will change when new lines are added, the question is how significant the changes will be... ...so that the end result is not net-negative to the system, immediately or in the future (because ridership cannot be assumed to remain static).
So, presently, Malden receives 6 min service at peak. I prefaced my suggestion by presupposing 3 min service, as on the RL. Thus, splitting the OL at Sullivan means that Malden would get the same level of service.
And the OL peaks at Sullivan, not Malden.
This is anecdotal, but tell that last line to my circa 2019 pregnant wife who could never find a seat at Assembly. That said, you're correct that the crush load is at Sullivan.
That said, any branching south of Malden is, inevitably, going to take trains away from Malden. ...imbalanced branches would be an operational nightmare, so the basic assumption I've been working on [snip] is that half the OL trains would serve Malden and half would serve the new branch (or effectively half, anyway).

...bringing the OL to 3-minute downtown headways nets you 6-minute headways on the branches, which is, as you said, what Malden receives at peak now (or, at least outside of pandemic and fleet-rotting periods). [ I ] was questioning whether it's sufficient to lock Malden into its roughly-6-minute headways long into the future, which is essentially the best-case scenario if the OL gets branched south of Malden. If the numbers actually turned up a net-negative to service from socking Malden with permanent 6-minute headways, that would change the calculus, in my opinion.
Every bus that approaches Sullivan AND Wellington from the east go through Sweetser Circle. 50% of the bus route to Malden do as well. With the exception of those folks that get on East/South of Sweetser, why would anyone stay on those busses?
I agree with both of these points so far. It appears that you, Tallguy, don't agree with Brattle, but it seems like that stems from this:
Also, much of the ridership to the west will be closer to GLX. Malden would have to increase nearly 50% ridership before 6 min service would start to pinch in a 3 min service to Sullivan world. While Malden has seen some TOD, it pales against what is planned for Sullivan, Everett and Chelsea.
This point is almost completely over-exaggerated. Here's the complete system map with all of the buses. On page 2, look at all of the bus routes both west of the OL and north of Sullivan. Everything close to the GLX already goes either to Davis or Sullivan (we are looking at OL capacity north of Sullivan) except for the northern 134 of which the route already runs more than half of its trips from Medford Center to Wellington alone; it's biggest catchment. Everything east of 93 to the OL is still going to the northern OL. Even most of the Malden -> East bus ridership is protected because the bus lines either aren't close to Everett or the stolen ridership is coming out of the to Wellington crowd:
97: 40% destination Malden - 45% destination Wellington
99: The data is incomplete here as only the inbound data for each OL station is given. We cannot see if the morning outbound passengers are going to local stops or Malden Center.
106: 526 Daily passengers to Malden Center vs 475 to Wellington.

And for the second part, you are talking about Malden Center almost totally in isolation with the exception to bus service to the west. What about future development at Assembly and Wellington. Surely they will not remain a sea of parking lots in perpetuity? Surely they will redesign the bus system with new stations in mind, bringing in new bus service, or beefing up shotty service where it exists. What about the extension to Reading? Under the branch plan, it cannot due to capacity. If 2019 ridership couldn't get a seat at Assembly and they're still building, eventually the Sweetser circle ridership won't be the only deciding factor. This is especially true in a theoretical scenario where GL service up broadway already exists or at the very least goes to or near Sweetser circle. What we're really comparing is the loss of riders at Wellington to future development at all current and any potential stations on the northern OL I would argue that given the scenario (GL UR with potential Green branch up Broadway) the potential ease of the branch is not worth the potential of the density for the northern OL.
 

Brattle Loop

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I was responding to both you and @Tallguy in the same post, so apologies for not being clearer. Also, I'm not sure why I went brain dead on the counting the existing OL express track and saying we needed the Reading track to recreate the use of the express track. You're absolutely correct. We have the same sources when it comes to Yard 21 being the GL UR station, but my point is that this then has to cross the entire current row without taking away from what's there, bridge across, and then we need 4 lines on the ER - Everett side plus the northern strand (for the freight siding issue? For a possible GL branch? Who knows?).

But, Tallguy is talking about branching the OL north of Sullivan so now GL UR needs to cross the 3 OL tracks and the Reading commuter rail, leave space for the ER CR and the new OL branch, with 6 tracks crossing the river, and the GJ/ER is designed to handle the 6 on the Everett side? No, it's not. Presumably this future does not have an issue with the northern strand.

I was talking about the current and envisioned tracks directly north of the station, not the tracks specifically headed north.

Tallguy, what I am not understanding is your logic of why splitting the OL at Sullivan is at all valuable in a future where GL riders are already on the ROW. I don't want to strip away the full context of the exchange between you and Brattle, so I'll link it here, but for quick context here in this thread, here's the cliffnotes:




This is anecdotal, but tell that last line to my circa 2019 pregnant wife who could never find a seat at Assembly. That said, you're correct that the crush load is at Sullivan.


I agree with both of these points so far. It appears that you, Tallguy, don't agree with Brattle, but it seems like that stems from this:

This point is almost completely over-exaggerated. Here's the complete system map with all of the buses. On page 2, look at all of the bus routes both west of the OL and north of Sullivan. Everything close to the GLX already goes either to Davis or Sullivan (we are looking at OL capacity north of Sullivan) except for the northern 134 of which the route already runs more than half of its trips from Medford Center to Wellington alone; it's biggest catchment. Everything east of 93 to the OL is still going to the northern OL. Even most of the Malden -> East bus ridership is protected because the bus lines either aren't close to Everett or the stolen ridership is coming out of the to Wellington crowd:
97: 40% destination Malden - 45% destination Wellington
99: The data is incomplete here as only the inbound data for each OL station is given. We cannot see if the morning outbound passengers are going to local stops or Malden Center.
106: 526 Daily passengers to Malden Center vs 475 to Wellington.

And for the second part, you are talking about Malden Center almost totally in isolation with the exception to bus service to the west. What about future development at Assembly and Wellington. Surely they will not remain a sea of parking lots in perpetuity? Surely they will redesign the bus system with new stations in mind, bringing in new bus service, or beefing up shotty service where it exists. What about the extension to Reading? Under the branch plan, it cannot due to capacity. If 2019 ridership couldn't get a seat at Assembly and they're still building, eventually the Sweetser circle ridership won't be the only deciding factor. This is especially true in a theoretical scenario where GL service up broadway already exists or at the very least goes to or near Sweetser circle. What we're really comparing is the loss of riders at Wellington to future development at all current and any potential stations on the northern OL I would argue that given the scenario (GL UR with potential Green branch up Broadway) the potential ease of the branch is not worth the potential of the density for the northern OL.
Very good points. For the moment I want to point out that mostly my focus on Malden Center has been stemming from F-Line's previous discussion of how the MC bus hub would be badly served by slashing frequencies from the current (or, well, pre-pandemic anyway) levels. You bring up a good point, which I didn't quite directly address previously, which is that even if you manage to boost headways on the main trunk of the Orange Line to the point that you're not significantly off from 6-minute peak headways at Malden even when branching south of there, it's an entirely unanswered question as to whether the Malden/Oak Grove/Future Reading? 'branch' of the Orange Line can survive on 6-minute peak headways forever. (I think 3-minute headways in the Washington Street Tunnel is optimistic for this agency; I'd love to see it someday but until I do, I'm not going to count on it happening. Same goes for the Red Line.) If growth and increasing density along the Western Route continues (and, anecdotally, a ton of what was light industrial/commercial space around Oak Grove ten/fifteen years ago is now either converted or being converted into residential TOD) it's entirely possible that it could backfill that branch of the Orange Line beyond what the Everett Branch would take off from MC-Sullivan, in which case you're direct-harming both the existing line and the overall transit network because the branching would mean that capacity is being used inefficiently (even if it'd be more convenient for Everett proper). In my view it's not an argument over "does Everett deserve transit" or even about whether anyone "deserves" anything at all, it's about what is the best and most efficient way to use and expand the system. Socking a trunk line with a permanent capacity ceiling induced by branching, when a number of the objectives of the Everett Branch could be addressed by a Green Line branch on a line with significantly better operational flexibility is not likely to be a viable solution. If there's anything else that needs clarifying, or if I messed some part of the analysis up, I'm happy to engage on that basis, but apart from that, until or unless some actual numbers show that the benefits of an Everett branch outweigh the impacts that branching would induce, I'm sticking with my opinion that branching is a bad idea.
 

Tallguy

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So the Ts POLICY capacity for the OL is, I believe, 157 pax. Crush capacity is 255. (Per car) That means that each train's policy capacity is 942. Assuming 6 min service, that means 5 trains in the peak 8-830 period, or 4710 pax. Crush would add another 3000. MBTA data shows 3400 pax are riding OG-Assembly. If Malden (1500 pax) lost 15% to Sweetser and GLX, and Wellington(900) lost 20%, that would bring it down to 3000 8-830am pax. And that doesn't include any impact of 15 min RR service through the area.
And judging capacity be anecdotal stories of "I can never get a seat"? That's not how RT works. By design.
And lastly, NO ONE IS ADVOCATING "SLASHING SERVICE"!
 

jbray

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Sorry, character limit.
I think F-Line is taking one of his periodic sabbaticals from ArchBoston, so you may be out of luck there.

I'm not planning to drop 3,000 words, but I will say this about HRT to Everett: say what you will about the frequencies that branching will cause, say what you will about ridership projections for Everett vs Malden... none of it matters, because HRT to Everett is such an extreme long shot that it's basically not worth considering, nor particularly worth future-proofing for.

There are a few reasons why Everett HRT is so unrealistic. First of all, it would need to be a subway or an elevated in order to be effective. (The Saugus Branch ROW is too remote to be useful.) Depending how cynical you are, that may be enough to stop the proposal right there -- I'm honestly not sure that Boston will ever build a new rail subway or elevated ever again. But even if you're more optimistic, there's another hurdle: aside from streetcars, no rail has ever traveled through Everett. The vast majority of the T's subways were built on the footprints of railroad ROWs. There's nothing like that in Everett.

Even more -- the vast majority of MBTA expansions -- extant and proposed -- are built on corridors that were identified 80-120 years ago. Boston's subway expansion business is exceptionally conservative and afraid of new ideas. In fact, in the last 50 years, there's been only one subway expansion through a corridor that did not previously have rail on it, or previously be identified as a corridor for rapid transit: the Red Line from Harvard to Davis. And even if you go back one hundred years, there's only one other subway that was built "greenfield" (no previous mainline rail infrastructure in place): the Huntington Ave subway, and that had been identified by BERy as a rapid transit corridor a few decades prior.

Virtually all of the HRT expansions that are commonly discussed -- both in official documents and on forums like this one -- involve extensions along existing or abandoned-but-preserved ROWs.
  • Orange to Roslindale Village, to West Roxbury
  • Orange to Reading
  • Blue to Lynn, to Salem, to Peabody
  • Blue to Chelsea via SL3 alignment
  • Red to Arlington, Lexington, 128 via Minuteman
  • Red to Belmont, Waltham, 128
  • even F-Line's "Red X" proposal leverages the Cabot Yard ROW for a significant fraction
There are a few others occasionally bandied about, but they are rare and mostly special cases. Blue-Red Connector is the most realistic of all of these, and is short and relatively well-studied. Blue-to-Kenmore and Red to Arlington via Route 2 are also exceptions, and are viewed with that much more scrutiny accordingly.

The closest comparison to constructing an HRT line to Everett is the Red Line extension north of Harvard. Greenfield corridor, subway construction. But Everett HRT has a number of challenges facing it that Red Northwest did not: water crossing, active rail ROW to parallel, and lack of diverted federal highway monies. The Red Line Northwest Extension was like catching lightning in a bottle: it's not something you can plan to replicate.

Barring political revolution (literal or figurative), HRT to Everett is not remotely realistic.
I mean I don't agree with your cynical take on HRT never coming back into construction, but I understand your point. I would say that the reason we're still pushing for the starfish is because we never built the starfish. That's the reality. How can we move on if we're a). not at a capacity shortage that cannot be remedied by additional trains on the built lines, b). haven't built the system as available, needed, and valuable in current ROWs, and c). have the flexibility to reach that "good enough" number? I think it's valuable to both consider that federal monies will be required and that that type of investment has seen its decades of dearth, but perspective is changing in regards to the value of passenger rail (pandemic aside). Do you think that in 1898 they envisioned what we have now? Probably not to the scale. My whole point was that we don't get to tear down trees let alone roughshod eminent domain over neighborhoods, so don't give them the political capital to fight back. Here's a blank space, that runs right into the city: let's keep it relatively blank.

So, here's actually why I disagree with your premise: the big dig sucked out a huge amount of political will in the commonwealth, but the people who were there for it won't be around forever let alone be the majority for that long. If millennials and gen z are more gung ho for capital spending to mitigate climate, public transit will be a smart investment. It will be BRT and some light rail, but when those corridors get used over years and are stretching their capacity, they'll be converted out of desperation just like the original Tremont street tunnel. That's the litmus and it will always exist in cities that are growing. Everett is eager for a transit solution and so is the 28/Nubian corridor. That doesn't have to be the thru-line but those people aren't going to be using BRT forever if the ridership grows. Also, the next big capital focus outside of the starfish (Regional rail/N-S/Electrification) has already taken the oxygen (read: theoretical money) out of the room for big projects so of course HRT feels impossible right now. I think you're right to feel cynical, but that doesn't mean you can't help envision the next generation's "starfish" while we complete the old one. Think of it as part aspirational goal and part conservation of resources.

As a side note: I also don't think the Northern Strand is nearly as valuable as a direct line up route 99.
On a transit czar level, I would love to see the political fortitude to separate the ROW construction from the station construction. For example run a set of TBMs out the Minuteman to 128, with provisions for station build out at multiple locations. Let the local NIMBYs and YIMBYs fight over which ones get fitted out.

Slightly more realistically, I would like the laws setup such that everything inside 128 was designated as an urban transit zone. File a blanket EIS to cover all possible transit inside the region and remove local veto.
That's got its pluses and minuses like useless/inefficient station placement to appease the locals. It'd be interesting to think about where that could and couldn't lead.
To the second: if only regional planning could be that efficient.
 

Brattle Loop

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So the Ts POLICY capacity for the OL is, I believe, 157 pax. Crush capacity is 255. (Per car) That means that each train's policy capacity is 942. Assuming 6 min service, that means 5 trains in the peak 8-830 period, or 4710 pax. Crush would add another 3000. MBTA data shows 3400 pax are riding OG-Assembly. If Malden (1500 pax) lost 15% to Sweetser and GLX, and Wellington(900) lost 20%, that would bring it down to 3000 8-830am pax. And that doesn't include any impact of 15 min RR service through the area.
Where are these numbers from? And, more importantly, where are the numbers about the percentages that would or might be lost to the GLX and/or a Sweetser branch coming from? Was there a study? Do the numbers take into account ridership growth? (I'm asking because if there's a source or sources, it's not cited so I can't read and answer the questions on my own.)

And lastly, NO ONE IS ADVOCATING "SLASHING SERVICE"!
I've been trying to keep my use of "slashing" to the conditional. That said, advocating for branching becomes arguing, in effect, for service cuts on the Malden Center branch if the ultimate impact is that the MC branch can't keep up with ridership growth. This is why I've been pushing back a bit on the 3-minute downtown headways as a cure, because it nets you 6-minute headways on the Malden branch, which is effectively no better than today. If Sweetser/Everett and GLX (and maybe Reading regional rail, but that single track's going to be annoying, and ever-more-tempting for converting Reading to Orange) can take enough of the ridership off the MC branch to allow it to absorb future ridership growth such that 6-minute headways are acceptable indefinitely, then that's not slashing service, and I have no objection. If, and because of a lack of numbers I have to keep using conditional phrasing, if that's not the case, then redirecting trains away from the Malden branch to Everett becomes an effective service cut to Malden even if you boost downtown numbers so that Malden's headways are the same as today (essentially diverting mainline capacity that could be used for more Malden frequencies to Everett) because it won't be able to handle growth.

That's the nature of my objection. I, personally, consider it to be slashing service if we're talking about taking most of the entire growth prospect of a line that has already seen increasing ridership in recent years and severely limiting it in order to direct that service elsewhere. For it not to be a service cut that redirected service has to be sufficient in terms of load-relief to offset the impact on the existing line. I've yet to see numbers that tell me that would be the case; should that data exist and/or a study show that the existing line would not be unduly impacted, I'd be in favor of an Everett branch.
 

Riverside

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I mean I don't agree with your cynical take on HRT never coming back into construction, but I understand your point. I would say that the reason we're still pushing for the starfish is because we never built the starfish. That's the reality. How can we move on if we're a). not at a capacity shortage that cannot be remedied by additional trains on the built lines, b). haven't built the system as available, needed, and valuable in current ROWs, and c). have the flexibility to reach that "good enough" number? I think it's valuable to both consider that federal monies will be required and that that type of investment has seen its decades of dearth, but perspective is changing in regards to the value of passenger rail (pandemic aside). Do you think that in 1898 they envisioned what we have now? Probably not to the scale. My whole point was that we don't get to tear down trees let alone roughshod eminent domain over neighborhoods, so don't give them the political capital to fight back. Here's a blank space, that runs right into the city: let's keep it relatively blank.

So, here's actually why I disagree with your premise: the big dig sucked out a huge amount of political will in the commonwealth, but the people who were there for it won't be around forever let alone be the majority for that long. If millennials and gen z are more gung ho for capital spending to mitigate climate, public transit will be a smart investment. It will be BRT and some light rail, but when those corridors get used over years and are stretching their capacity, they'll be converted out of desperation just like the original Tremont street tunnel. That's the litmus and it will always exist in cities that are growing. Everett is eager for a transit solution and so is the 28/Nubian corridor. That doesn't have to be the thru-line but those people aren't going to be using BRT forever if the ridership grows. Also, the next big capital focus outside of the starfish (Regional rail/N-S/Electrification) has already taken the oxygen (read: theoretical money) out of the room for big projects so of course HRT feels impossible right now. I think you're right to feel cynical, but that doesn't mean you can't help envision the next generation's "starfish" while we complete the old one. Think of it as part aspirational goal and part conservation of resources.

As a side note: I also don't think the Northern Strand is nearly as valuable as a direct line up route 99.
This is a reasonable response all around. Yes, I think a major factor is my cynicism resulting from years of living in the Big Dig's shadow, and it's definitely fair to push back on it.

One minor quibble:

Do you think that in 1898 they envisioned what we have now? Probably not to the scale.
Possibly not in 1898, no, but I think by 1910 and certainly by the 1920s, yes they did envision what we have now. If you go back and read the Boston Transit Commission reports from the early 20th century, they discuss most of the ideas which came to fruition, as well as many more which were drastically more ambitious. I agree that it's important to leave options open for the future, but I also think it's important to recognize the incredibly long lifespan (and incubation time) these expansion proposals have had.

But yes, I do take your overall point. I do agree with the suggestion that the Rutherford linear park is needed now and should take precedent over futureproofing for a rail corridor that is multiple generations away at best.

Agreed that the Route 99 corridor is much better than the Saugus Branch/Northern Strand!

If somehow HRT in Everett became feasible, my suggestion would be to use the northern end of a "Red X" subway via Congress St. (I think you've been around long enough to see F-Line's "Red X" proposal? This is a short summary.) I don't remember the details but I do think we hashed it out once and found that you could parallel the Orange Line up to Sullivan before veering off.

I'm not super interested in wading into the argument, but yes, I am also opposed to branching the Orange Line at Sullivan. (Hmm, although that does give me an interesting idea, I'll need to do some sketches...)

My preference for transit to Everett is high-quality LRT, using dedicated lanes on Broadway (eating parking lanes) that double as bus lanes for feeder bus routes (which will still be an integral part of the overall network). Everett's position in the network offers a unique opportunity for LRT service -- because Sullivan would remain a major transfer point, the LRT service can be beneficial even if not every trolley runs to downtown.

I'd feed an Everett branch from multiple sources:
  • ~40% from Government Center and beyond
  • ~40% from the Grand Junction, offering direct service to Kendall, Cambridgeport, Allston and potentially Harvard
  • ~10% from Porter, Watertown, and Newton Corner
  • ~10% from Sullivan short-turns
In a worst case scenario, an LRT line to Everett could be kept out of the Central Subway all together, though I think that is not preferable and probably not necessary. Northside LRT will have a lot more potential for circumferential operations, so having, say, 5 northern branches (Watertown, Arlington, Woburn, Everett, Chelsea/Airport) really is a different story than having 5 southern branches is.

Not for nothing, but that flexibility -- blurring the distinction between Green Line and Urban Ring -- is a major benefit of LRT over HRT for that corridor, with the potential for one-seat rides to many more locations.
 

Tallguy

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Where are these numbers from? And, more importantly, where are the numbers about the percentages that would or might be lost to the GLX and/or a Sweetser branch coming from? Was there a study? Do the numbers take into account ridership growth? (I'm asking because if there's a source or sources, it's not cited so I can't read and answer the questions on my own.)



I've been trying to keep my use of "slashing" to the conditional. That said, advocating for branching becomes arguing, in effect, for service cuts on the Malden Center branch if the ultimate impact is that the MC branch can't keep up with ridership growth. This is why I've been pushing back a bit on the 3-minute downtown headways as a cure, because it nets you 6-minute headways on the Malden branch, which is effectively no better than today. If Sweetser/Everett and GLX (and maybe Reading regional rail, but that single track's going to be annoying, and ever-more-tempting for converting Reading to Orange) can take enough of the ridership off the MC branch to allow it to absorb future ridership growth such that 6-minute headways are acceptable indefinitely, then that's not slashing service, and I have no objection. If, and because of a lack of numbers I have to keep using conditional phrasing, if that's not the case, then redirecting trains away from the Malden branch to Everett becomes an effective service cut to Malden even if you boost downtown numbers so that Malden's headways are the same as today (essentially diverting mainline capacity that could be used for more Malden frequencies to Everett) because it won't be able to handle growth.

That's the nature of my objection. I, personally, consider it to be slashing service if we're talking about taking most of the entire growth prospect of a line that has already seen increasing ridership in recent years and severely limiting it in order to direct that service elsewhere. For it not to be a service cut that redirected service has to be sufficient in terms of load-relief to offset the impact on the existing line. I've yet to see numbers that tell me that would be the case; should that data exist and/or a study show that the existing line would not be unduly impacted, I'd be in favor of an Everett branch.
MBTA RO Technical Specification October 22 2013.pdf
MBTA Better Bus Route Profiles
Transitmatters analysis of 15 service on Reading Line
 

Brattle Loop

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Appreciate the links, thanks. Unless I missed something, though, I didn't see anything about what GLX/Everett-Sweetser/Reading Regional Rail would do in terms of diverting OL ridership away from the Oak Grove branch (which presumably would not be addressed directly in any existing documents given that we're talking a Crazy Transit Pitch here). Those were the numbers I was really curious about, though I could have made that clearer, because that's what's going to determine whether branching's permanent impact on Malden/Oak Grove/Reading's headway ceiling is going to be self-defeating or not.
 

Tallguy

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Appreciate the links, thanks. Unless I missed something, though, I didn't see anything about what GLX/Everett-Sweetser/Reading Regional Rail would do in terms of diverting OL ridership away from the Oak Grove branch (which presumably would not be addressed directly in any existing documents given that we're talking a Crazy Transit Pitch here). Those were the numbers I was really curious about, though I could have made that clearer, because that's what's going to determine whether branching's permanent impact on Malden/Oak Grove/Reading's headway ceiling is going to be self-defeating or not.
Well, for instance, if you look at,say, the 105 profile and look at the number of pax that alight between Ferry St and Sweetser. They would presumably get onto OL there if offered the chance. Go through the other routes. 106 puts nearly the same number of people into Wellington as Malden, most of whom alight before Sweetser.
Also, pre-covid, there where two Reading trains in the 8-9am period. RR would double that, giving us two trains between 8-830. A six car consist of flats would hold 700+ pax. 396 was the last pass count from precovid. If ridership increases by 50% because of RR, that would mean 600 extra seats for Oak Grove to Sullivan, plus standees. Not insignificant. And if thats no enough, add another two cars and 500 more pax.
 

Tallguy

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And GJ GL would divert considerable traffic off at Sulllivan, replacing the numerous shuttles from NS
 

Tallguy

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And Revere was the fastest growing city in the state. The closed power plant in Everett will be just one of several large scale developments near Encore and the 2nd St area is already seeing considerable high-rise development. Changing food distribution patterns have already lead to the closing of one of the warehouses south of the tracks.
 

Brattle Loop

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Well, for instance, if you look at,say, the 105 profile and look at the number of pax that alight between Ferry St and Sweetser. They would presumably get onto OL there if offered the chance. Go through the other routes. 106 puts nearly the same number of people into Wellington as Malden, most of whom alight before Sweetser.
Also, pre-covid, there where two Reading trains in the 8-9am period. RR would double that, giving us two trains between 8-830. A six car consist of flats would hold 700+ pax. 396 was the last pass count from precovid. If ridership increases by 50% because of RR, that would mean 600 extra seats for Oak Grove to Sullivan, plus standees. Not insignificant. And if thats no enough, add another two cars and 500 more pax.
And GJ GL would divert considerable traffic off at Sulllivan, replacing the numerous shuttles from NS
And Revere was the fastest growing city in the state. The closed power plant in Everett will be just one of several large scale developments near Encore and the 2nd St area is already seeing considerable high-rise development. Changing food distribution patterns have already lead to the closing of one of the warehouses south of the tracks.
So, out of curiosity, would a fair characterization be "there's some evidence that GLX, Reading regional rail, and an Everett branch would take sufficient ridership off of the Malden/Oak Grove branch to make up for the lack of frequency growth to Malden that branching would eventually induce, but we're not entirely sure whether that's actually the case because it has not been studied"? If so, that's a decent argument that the proposal is less-crazy than some Crazy Transit Pitches and could benefit from further study rather than reflexive dismissal like some of the more out-there ideas this thread has seen.
 

Tallguy

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So, out of curiosity, would a fair characterization be "there's some evidence that GLX, Reading regional rail, and an Everett branch would take sufficient ridership off of the Malden/Oak Grove branch to make up for the lack of frequency growth to Malden that branching would eventually induce, but we're not entirely sure whether that's actually the case because it has not been studied"? If so, that's a decent argument that the proposal is less-crazy than some Crazy Transit Pitches and could benefit from further study rather than reflexive dismissal like some of the more out-there ideas this thread has seen.
Thank you. And it would more sense if NSRL was implemented as EWNSRL with one tunnel across the harbor up the other part of the old GJ ROW through Eastie
 

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