Crazy Transit Pitches

Brattle Loop

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As for closing SFR/Storrow from Cambridge Street (in Allston) to the Hatch Shell, yes it would be an impact on traffic. But it boils down to what will Boston be working towards: auto-centric or transit-centric. I would opt for an HRT Blue Line with a widened riverside esplanade rather than perpetuate a 1950s Robert Moses vision of expressways through a park. That includes the Charlesgate overpass and its spaghetti interchange with SFR as well. Get rid of them all and beef up the transit system with this BLX extension to help make up for the loss of expressway lanes.
I generally agree. I think my real question was a very technical wondering about the impact (because while I don't recall the specifics, I know F-Line suggested provisions for absorbing the lost Storrow capacity on the Pike, and since the SFR section was out-of-scope on Riverbank-to-Kenmore I don't think there was any similar discussion). It'd obviously be part of the project if we built something like this, but that doesn't mean we need all the answers right now (especially if a goal is to simply eliminate some road capacity for its own sake in favor of transit).

For the West Station, space will be tight whether an LRV line comes in from the Grand Junction ROW, or my proposed BLX route comes in, or both. One option is to route the BLX on an elevated structure one level up from the West Station, and possibly over Cambridge Street as well if need be.
LRT over the GJ would replace the RR mode that's already provisioned-for through there, so BLX would be on top of GJ in any event (because if it's not LRT, no way does the T give it up for the sake of BLX space, even if CSX were dumb enough to let them). That said, while I agree that there's certainly technical solutions, I was more thinking that trying to run yet another thing through that throat section would be a political/public/stakeholder nightmare moreso than specifically an unsurmountable engineering obstacle. (I'd go for the elevated version there myself; the views of the Charles would be very nice.)
 

Charlie_mta

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You're right about LRV from Grand Junction not requiring any additional space at West Station. I'm pretty sure a BLX line could be threaded through the West Station area, elevated over the West Station itself if necessary, As for the throat, if SFR is abandoned, there would be ample room for the BLX line plus a wide trail on land along the riverside.

Admittedly, the traffic along SFR and Storrow is a concern. If SFR and Storrow remained open from Allston to Charlesgate, and only the portion of Storrow Drive east of there to Hatch Shell closed, that would be more acceptable politically than closing the entire length from Allston to Hatch shell. Of course leaving SFR/Storrow west of Charlesgate open would require quite a bit more tunneling for a BLX extension to West Station and Watertown, but that would be the tradeoff.
 

Brattle Loop

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You're right about LRV from Grand Junction not requiring any additional space at West Station. I'm pretty sure a BKX line could be threaded through the West Station area, elevated over the West Station itself if necessary, As for the throat, if SFR is abandoned, there would be ample room for the BLX line plus a wide trail on land along the riverside.
Ahh, right, SFR's out of the picture in your proposal, I'd completely brainfarted on that one, now that makes sense.

Admittedly, the traffic along SFR and Storrow is a concern. If SFR and Storrow remained open from Allston to Charlesgate, and only the portion of Storrow Drive east of there to Hatch Shell closed, that would be more acceptable politically than closing the entire length from Allston to Hatch shell. Of course leaving SFR/Storrow west of Charlesgate open would require quite a bit more tunneling for a BLX extension to West Station and Watertown, but that would be the tradeoff.
Yeah, F-Line's BLX-Riverbank only killed Storrow from the Hatch Shell to Charlesgate so I knew that section had been addressed somewhere in one of these threads. Much as I'd fear road interests' hysterics about traffic impacts killing such a project, the idea of nuking the entirety of Storrow to oblivion is very tempting :cool:
 

Vagabond

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Speaking of which, here is my layout for BLX to Watertown Square. The section of SFR and Storrow Drive from Allston interchange to Arlington Street is removed and the BLX uses that ROW, except when the line swings over to Kenmore Square in a tunnel.

The Google Map to zoom in on is at https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?hl=en&mid=1zrQrXdI1DAHktQyYwmrPwXpk06ebjvfE&ll=42.35559093450284,-71.14104094207886&z=13

Here's a photo of the Google Map. Light blue is tunnel, yellow is surface and red is elevated. The red markers are stations..
We're definitely in Crazy Transit Pitches territory, and should probably move the conversation, but I'll respond here to keep them together. Mods, have at it!

I love the idea of either Blue or Green heading West of West Station, but think you are missing future density corridors in the name of sticking to old ROWs that don't match future patterns:
1. Why cut across Allston instead of jumping North into the massive new Harvard Development, and is fully cleared right now?
2. Why skip the major future density in Watertown at Arsenal? The likelihood of those new tall apartment buildings avoiding using cars are a much better case than the current Watertown Square, and you get to use the overwide Soldiers Field Road and Greenbough for surface instead of elevated service or tunneling.
1640800185672.png
 

Charlie_mta

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We're definitely in Crazy Transit Pitches territory, and should probably move the conversation, but I'll respond here to keep them together. Mods, have at it!

I love the idea of either Blue or Green heading West of West Station, but think you are missing future density corridors in the name of sticking to old ROWs that don't match future patterns:
1. Why cut across Allston instead of jumping North into the massive new Harvard Development, and is fully cleared right now?
2. Why skip the major future density in Watertown at Arsenal? The likelihood of those new tall apartment buildings avoiding using cars are a much better case than the current Watertown Square, and you get to use the overwide Soldiers Field Road and Greenbough for surface instead of elevated service or tunneling.
View attachment 20031
The portion of your route from West Station to Harvard Stadium would be better served by a separate LRV line from West Station to Harvard Square, an extension of a Grand Junction LRV line. The rest of the route you show would be along the Charles River which reduces the walkshed by half and pulls the route away from dense neighborhoods.
 

Charlie_mta

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I'm continuing here the discussion of a GLX to Watertown Square which I began on the MBTA Red Line / Blue Line Connector thread. I've modified my proposal to keep SFR and Storrow Drive open from Cambridge Street (in Allston) to Charlesgate. However, east of the Charlesgate interchange, Storrow Drive would be permanently closed and replaced with a Blue Line extension (BLX), which could be halfway below grade and snug up against the existing retaining wall next to Back Street to minimize visual and noise impacts on the adjacent Back Bay neighborhood as well as the Charles River Esplanade, which would be widened under this proposal with the elimination of Storrow Drive. East of Arlington Street to Leverett Circle, Storrow Drive would remain open..

Here's a photo of the route. Yellow is surface, red is elevated, and blue is tunnel. The red markers designate stations:



The detailed Google Map of the route and stations is at https://www.google.com/maps/@42.357...0_4sJd_dCHM-QwZGTNhVexZHcAj0?hl=en&authuser=0

Getting through the West Station area with a BLX line would be relatively easy if two of the proposed storage tracks plus the proposed commuter rail express track could be utilized for the BLX as shown below, which would still leave two tracks for MBTA layover and/or a commuter rail express track.


Another interesting area on the route would be at the BU bridge. The BLX line coming from West Station would curve over the proposed at-grade Mass Pike and dip down below the BU Bridge as shown in this perspective view. The BLX would then descend into a subway portal on the east side of BU bridge, alongside Storrow Drive which would remain open to Charlesgate. This BLX layout would cut off the Bay State Road off/on ramp from SFR/Storrow Drive, which I don't consider to be any great loss. BU would get a station on the new BLX right at their main campus. The BLX tracks are in blue and the Grand Junction tracks in yellow:


The GLX to Watertown wouldn't be cheap and it is a lower priority than a GLX branch from Lechmere to Everett and Chelsea via Sullivan Sq. but the BLX to Watertown would serve several very dense areas that have no LRV or HRT rail transit.
 

Brattle Loop

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replaced with a Blue Line extension (BLX), which could be halfway below grade and snug up against the existing retaining wall next to Back Street to minimize visual and noise impacts on the adjacent Back Bay neighborhood as well as the Charles River Esplanade, which would be widened under this proposal with the elimination of Storrow Drive.
In open air? It'd make a lot of sense to use F-Line's idea of a quasi-tunnel (basically burying a cut) to close off the line, which has the added benefits of building up the embankment to the retaining wall and improving access to the Esplanade, which you of course wouldn't get with HRT in an open cut. (An open cut would also be noisier, which would annoy the Beacon Street people, but a clever administration might could wring a bit of money out of that for the luxury "quiet version" :rolleyes:)

Getting through the West Station area with a BLX line would be relatively easy if two of the proposed storage tracks plus the proposed commuter rail express track could be utilized for the BLX as shown below, which would still leave two tracks for MBTA layover and/or a commuter rail express track.
Given how much the West Station layover keeps shrinking, I don't think it'd be any great loss as long as they can find adequate alternate storage (looking at you, Widett bowl), though whether that space even survives to see transportation use is somewhat less certain than it might have once been.

Another interesting area on the route would be at the BU bridge. The BLX line coming from West Station would curve over the proposed at-grade Mass Pike and dip down below the BU Bridge as shown in this perspective view. The BLX would then descend into a subway portal on the east side of BU bridge, alongside Storrow Drive which would remain open to Charlesgate. This BLX layout would cut off the Bay State Road off/on ramp from SFR/Storrow Drive, which I don't consider to be any great loss. BU would get a station on the new BLX right at their main campus. The BLX tracks are in blue and the Grand Junction tracks in yellow:
That onramp is deeply unpleasant to use, I for one would not mourn its destruction. That said, the diagram makes me antsy because it looks like it might compromise the ability to link an LRT Grand Junction to a subway-buried B-line, which would have some not-great operational impacts for using the GJ as the northwest quadrant of an LRT Urban Ring, though if there's a conflict there it's presumably surmountable even if it might cost a little more or add some complexity to one of the two lines.

Here's a photo of the route. Yellow is surface, red is elevated, and blue is tunnel. The red markers designate stations:
Running along the Pike makes the construction process easier (apart from the traffic impacts), at the cost of shifting the line away from some of the density (especially the western end before it hits Watertown) compared to, say, the A-branch. Probably worthwhile given the relative ease of construction and operation, but I would be curious as to the various ridership projections of different alternative alignments if this were a real project.
 

Charlie_mta

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In open air? It'd make a lot of sense to use F-Line's idea of a quasi-tunnel (basically burying a cut) to close off the line, which has the added benefits of building up the embankment to the retaining wall and improving access to the Esplanade, which you of course wouldn't get with HRT in an open cut. (An open cut would also be noisier, which would annoy the Beacon Street people, but a clever administration might could wring a bit of money out of that for the luxury "quiet version" :rolleyes:)
I agree. I wasn't necessarily thinking open air. Enclosing the halfway-below-grade BLX with a concrete wall and roof (done with the right aesthetics) would be easy and would satisfy any concerns about noise and visual impact to the neighborhood and Esplanade.
 

Riverside

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I've posted Part 2 in the "Extending the Blue Line west" series. This post looks at general ideas that have been considered in the past for where the Blue Line could go west of downtown, but which have mostly fallen out of favor. These include:
  • Eating the Boylston Street Subway -- impractical due to all of the Green Line branches it would need to replace, and due to the sharp turn at Boylston Station
  • Huntington Avenue -- could be a pretty good idea, if you can figure out how to get from Charles/MGH to the Copley Place building
  • Eating the GLX -- come back in fifty years and re-evaluate this one
  • Swinging back up to Chelsea -- I love this plan for its zaniness, but ultimately feel that there are more practical solutions to the problems it solves
As I look at it now, I actually may go and update my comments about Huntington -- I think I see an alignment which could be feasible for HRT, which could move that idea into the realm of "crazy transit pitch". I still maintain, however, that Huntington is better served by -- and serves better as -- an LRT trunkline.

Even though these ideas have mostly fallen out of the discourse, I think it's worth examining them. For one, there are still interesting ideas here, that may hold kernels of inspiration.

But the other reason (which I don't really get into in the post) is that I think it behooves us to be aware of institutional memory around transit expansion. I'm planning a longer piece on this, but in reviewing the old reports from the early 20th century, it is remarkable how rapidly the system evolved from ~1895 to ~1925 -- not just evolved in form, but in philosophy -- before staying remarkably consistent for the following 100 years; the reports from the early '20s read astonishingly similar to our discussions today, and very different from the conversations that had been happening just two decades earlier.

We've been talking about this stuff for a long time, and I think it's important for us to pause and ask, "Why has x expansion happened already but y hasn't?" Often, the reasons will be shitty: lobbying by auto companies, racial disenfranchisement, disdain for poor people. Sometimes the reasons will be geological or logistical. In my experience, there usually is a reason why something didn't happen, and it behooves us to understand why, so that we may be more successful this time around.
 

Brattle Loop

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Interesting post with some fascinating ideas. As an aside I wonder if this discussion deserves its own thread; it's not the Red-Blue Connector proper but it's also not entirely Crazy Transit Pitches. (The moderators can decide that, I suppose.) I have a few thoughts on your linked post that I'll leave here.

  • Eating the Boylston Street Subway -- impractical due to all of the Green Line branches it would need to replace, and due to the sharp turn at Boylston Station
I thought I remembered someone here (F-Line?) noting that the Boylston curve is big enough to take Blue Line cars, though I wouldn't be surprised if that came with a heavy dose of speed restrictions that would make it an operational nightmare. Reconfiguring that ear-bleeding menace would not be fun given the proximity of both the station and the burying ground. We'd also be talking pure Crazy Transit Pitches territory for converting the Boylston Street Subway to HRT because of the amount of work that would have to be done on the branches. One-seat ride complaints aside, the C and D share tracks at Kenmore meaning the old BERy idea of short-turning the C at Kenmore and turning what's now the B's tracks to HRT is infeasible unless the D is also left as HRT (and that's the one branch that's wouldn't require a Crazy Transit Pitch's worth of digging to convert to HRT in the first place. Not to mention that re-routing the E to the Tremont Street portal tunnel would be a project requirement (well, that or branching the HRT Boylston line at Copley); much as that re-route would be a good thing, it does add to the infeasibility you noted in your post.

As I look at it now, I actually may go and update my comments about Huntington -- I think I see an alignment which could be feasible for HRT, which could move that idea into the realm of "crazy transit pitch". I still maintain, however, that Huntington is better served by -- and serves better as -- an LRT trunkline.
Just from playing with Google Maps I have a hard time seeing how a Charles-Arlington-? alignment can get on-course to eat the Huntington route at Copley Place without some seriously hard tunneling. I'm admittedly no engineer but I can't see a natural place to make the turn off of Arlington that isn't so sharp that it's either physically impossible or at the very least extremely slow. I also prefer an LRT tunnel on Huntington, because I think it's more feasible to be able to interline the D and E that way than trying to do it HRT (though it's probably theoretically possible, I have no idea what the operational impact would be like, especially because they'd have to share a trunk line, which LRT wouldn't if the E got extended up to Tremont, which is its big value add.)

  • Eating the GLX -- come back in fifty years and re-evaluate this one
That's an interesting one, though like all of the Blue Line transit pitches that touch Kendall, it's a big question where they get routed with all that development going on there. It's a pity these discussions weren't fifteen years ago so the powers that be could have left provisions for transit extensions, but I think it's a very real possibility that Blue-to-Kendall winds up becoming either physically precluded or so difficult-expensive as to be effectively impossible (though I'd be happy to be wrong on that one). Eating the Medford branch as a far-future Transit Pitch isn't even really all that Crazy (though it does sound a little weird to talk about the future of a branch that hasn't even opened, Baker & Company would flip out if someone actually mentioned it, which, admittedly, would be very funny).

  • Swinging back up to Chelsea -- I love this plan for its zaniness, but ultimately feel that there are more practical solutions to the problems it solves
Definitely got a Crazy Transit Pitches vibe, which is fun, though I agree that there are more practical solutions (I'm partial to the LRT Urban Ring discussed ad nauseam elsewhere). I doubt there are studies, but I am curious to know which of these (and other) options for where to send the Blue post-Charles would bring in the highest ridership (and which would be the most cost-effective, which is not necessarily the same thing). The lack of alignments to Chelsea other than the Tobin makes me concerned about the cost proposal for that specific option.

Even though these ideas have mostly fallen out of the discourse, I think it's worth examining them. For one, there are still interesting ideas here, that may hold kernels of inspiration.
Thanks for the effort you've put into this, it's absolutely fascinating to me.
 

Riverside

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Thanks for the effort you've put into this, it's absolutely fascinating to me.
Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated!

As an aside I wonder if this discussion deserves its own thread; it's not the Red-Blue Connector proper but it's also not entirely Crazy Transit Pitches. (The moderators can decide that, I suppose.)
Oops! I meant to mention this in my post here -- yes, mods definitely should feel free to move my post(s). There's some relevance to the Blue-Red Connection because the recent alternatives that were released would preclude various extensions I'm discussing here, but certainly the next posts in my series will be better fits for the Crazy Transit Pitches thread -- the original impetus for this series was finding myself repeating to enthusiastic newbies the reason why the Blue Line shouldn't eat the Riverside Branch -- classic Crazy Transit Pitches. There may be a "Historical Transit Proposals" thread that today's blog post could fit into well? Not sure.

I agree with all of the points you raise. Regarding a subway between Arlington Station and Back Bay Station -- absolutely there would be a lot of very difficult tunneling, and it still may not be possible. And you outline effectively the challenges with integrating the B and C Lines into an HRT Boylston Subway.

It may be possible for the Blue Line cars themselves to handle the curve at Boylston -- they are quite short. But if memory serves, that curve is too sharp for many standard LRT vehicles already. I'd hate to introduce a new limiting curve into that system.

The other challenge with routing the Blue Line to Boylston, which I only briefly alluded to in the post, is that the tunnel between Park and Boylston currently has tracks arranged like this:

DOWN DOWN UP UP

In order to set up the flying junction at Boylston, as well as the short-turn loop on the inner tracks at Park. In all the diagrams I've found of the original plans to connect the East Boston Tunnel in to Park Street, the two western tracks get shifted to the Blue Line -- which would mean the new layout would be

DOWN UP DOWN UP

Which would require completely rebuilding the loops north of Park Street, would require completely rebuilding the junction at Boylston, and generally make you wonder why we tried to shoehorn the one into the other, to say nothing other the disruption to the Burial Ground and Common. (Mayyyyybe you could build some sort of flying junction north of Park Street to preserve DDUU? It would be an incredible nightmare, though.)

Regarding Blue-to-Medford: yeah, that one has grown on me a bit. A more intensive alternative would be to go via Inman and Union -- cut and cover to Inman, tunnel bore from Inman to East Somerville.

1641337578885.png


The alignment via Union makes a Blue-Green transfer possible, which isn't really feasible on the Grand Junction alignment. There are definitely things I like about sending the Blue Line to Medford, but I also think it's a political non-starter for at least a generation.

And your point about ridership is key: most of our ideas for extending the Blue Line west are complete wildcards, in part because there is zero historical precedent. (Another reason why I keep beating that drum.) Once Blue-Red gets built, hopefully we'll start to see more study into ridership for different corridors.

That being said -- at the risk of spoiling some upcoming posts -- I think it'll be important to evaluate Blue Line West extensions not only by the ridership in a specific corridor, but by the extension's ability to improve the entire network overall. HRT extensions aren't equivalent to LRT, and I think HRT has a special role to play.
 

Scalziand

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Eating the GLX -- come back in fifty years and re-evaluate this one
As I recall, that was officially studied at one point as one of the alternatives, or at least unofficially proposed by Ari or Vanshnookragen before the current iteration got going.

Edit: and getting around to read your post, I see you did mention that.
 
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The EGE

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I don't think there's ever been an official proposal for the Blue Line to take over GLX, though it's been thrown around on forums for a while. The idea of Red-Blue is very new - even into the 1970s, extension proposals usually turned it south to Park Street - and the 1986 study had station designs that would have precluded any further extension:
1641362598713.png


The 2005 Beyond Lechmere study - the first time during the MBTA era that planning was taken seriously enough to look at mode choice - considered several modes and alignments, but the Blue Line wasn't among them. That's probably because the extra cost and difficulty of the Charles River crossing and the Cambridge tunnel would have been too much for the limited timeframe. (Note that the alternative with a Union-Gilman tunnel also tanked.) That's not to see it wouldn't be feasible in the future, or possibly quite desirable, but it wasn't feasible for the initial build of GLX.
 

Teban54

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I've posted Part 2 in the "Extending the Blue Line west" series. This post looks at general ideas that have been considered in the past for where the Blue Line could go west of downtown, but which have mostly fallen out of favor. These include:
  • Eating the Boylston Street Subway -- impractical due to all of the Green Line branches it would need to replace, and due to the sharp turn at Boylston Station
  • Huntington Avenue -- could be a pretty good idea, if you can figure out how to get from Charles/MGH to the Copley Place building
  • Eating the GLX -- come back in fifty years and re-evaluate this one
  • Swinging back up to Chelsea -- I love this plan for its zaniness, but ultimately feel that there are more practical solutions to the problems it solves
As I look at it now, I actually may go and update my comments about Huntington -- I think I see an alignment which could be feasible for HRT, which could move that idea into the realm of "crazy transit pitch". I still maintain, however, that Huntington is better served by -- and serves better as -- an LRT trunkline.

Even though these ideas have mostly fallen out of the discourse, I think it's worth examining them. For one, there are still interesting ideas here, that may hold kernels of inspiration.

But the other reason (which I don't really get into in the post) is that I think it behooves us to be aware of institutional memory around transit expansion. I'm planning a longer piece on this, but in reviewing the old reports from the early 20th century, it is remarkable how rapidly the system evolved from ~1895 to ~1925 -- not just evolved in form, but in philosophy -- before staying remarkably consistent for the following 100 years; the reports from the early '20s read astonishingly similar to our discussions today, and very different from the conversations that had been happening just two decades earlier.

We've been talking about this stuff for a long time, and I think it's important for us to pause and ask, "Why has x expansion happened already but y hasn't?" Often, the reasons will be shitty: lobbying by auto companies, racial disenfranchisement, disdain for poor people. Sometimes the reasons will be geological or logistical. In my experience, there usually is a reason why something didn't happen, and it behooves us to understand why, so that we may be more successful this time around.
As one of the "enthusiastic newbies", I really enjoyed reading your post, and it gave a lot more information and insight than what the title would otherwise suggest. Sorry if the following contains things that are unrealistic or have been discussed before - I haven't managed to even ride some of the branches yet (due to time and Covid), though I do have an idea of ridership patterns etc from reading the old posts (I've been digging through them but it's been slow).

I actually love your revised Blue-to-Huntington proposal the more I think about it. I wonder why you think Huntington is a better fit for LRT than HRT, especially when you said the opposite could possibly hold for GLX - I always had the impression that demand to Longwood would be enough to justify HRT, and the alignment via Columbus Ave seems feasible enough. HRT conversion would also improve the headways along Huntington, unlike the E branch being limited by the Central Subway with all 4 branches (possibly more in future) and delays. It also frees up some capacity on the Central Subway for future branches like Nubian and Harvard.

LRT does provide a one-seat ride to GLX, but on the other hand a Blue extension also provides a one-seat ride to the current Blue Line towards Wonderland. The detour via Charles is a potential issue, but I don't think it matters that much as most one-seat rides are still maintained. One weakness I do see is that it's not quite compatible with the frequently mentioned Huntington-Bay Villege-Seaport subway.

(This reply initially contained a lot of Blue-to-Riverside stuff beyond this extension, until I found one of your earlier posts that mentioned problems with Needham. Would love to read that part whenever it comes to see if it answers my tons of questions.)
 

Brattle Loop

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I know the questions were addressed to Riverside, but I'll throw in some info since I'm awake.

I actually love your revised Blue-to-Huntington proposal the more I think about it. I wonder why you think Huntington is a better fit for LRT than HRT, especially when you said the opposite could possibly hold for GLX - I always had the impression that demand to Longwood would be enough to justify HRT, and the alignment via Columbus Ave seems feasible enough. HRT conversion would also improve the headways along Huntington, unlike the E branch being limited by the Central Subway with all 4 branches (possibly more in future) and delays. It also frees up some capacity on the Central Subway for future branches like Nubian and Harvard.
Converting Huntington to HRT would be a sizeable project in and of itself, and would also introduce a number of operational impacts that don't necessarily have obvious solutions. Tunneling from Northeastern to Brigham Circle is not all that big of an ask (on HRT or LRT) because of the reservation. it would be feasible (if not necessarily super-cheap) to keep tunneling down Huntington to kick over to Brookline Village to link up with the D; for that to work they'd obviously have to both be the same mode, and converting the D to HRT without Blue-Riverbank to Kenmore doesn't have a trunk line into downtown (I expect branching the Blue at Charles/MGH would be infeasible). LRT would obviously be possible today if a D-E connector was built (though there's no urgency for as long as the E is stuck feeding Copley Junction.) More problematically, you'd either have to tunnel Brigham-Heath or just cut it entirely (and that big VA Hospital has repeatedly demonstrated that it has enough political influence to keep the T's hatred of the street running section at bay, so tunnel it is, which is probably a losing proposition on value anyway even before you factor in that tunnel costs would kill stone-dead even the barest possibility of ever resurrecting Arborway service).

The E's main problem is less the Central Subway than it is Copley Junction, which bogs down the entire line by virtue of being a flat junction that was built on the cheap. E (and D, if you connect them) solves that problem (to a useful degree, anyways) by tunneling (via Back Bay for another connection if you do it right) to the abandoned Pleasant Street Portal tunnel under Elliot Norton Park on Tremont Street. Boylston's a flying junction without the operational impacts Copley has, and you gain currently-unused capacity by reactivating the two outer tracks Boylston-Park full-time. The trade-off is, as you identified, not taking capacity off the Central Subway which a Blue Line version does. The ability to have, essentially, a second Riverside trunk line is useful in and of itself, and comes up again in this discussion later. Moreover, the specific capacity crunch on the Central Subway isn't in the Boylston-Park four-track stretch. Worst-case scenario, some of the stuff coming out of the Tremont tunnels might need to turn at Park Street, either as an endpoint or as layered service. (Given that the F-Line to Nubian would involve a good bit of some kind of street running, it might make sense to have that one be full-time Park Street turning to keep the headways nice and stiff, but that's an operational arrangement question and service patterns can and should be shuffled and layered far more than they are these days.)

LRT does provide a one-seat ride to GLX, but on the other hand a Blue extension also provides a one-seat ride to the current Blue Line towards Wonderland. The detour via Charles is a potential issue, but I don't think it matters that much as most one-seat rides are still maintained. One weakness I do see is that it's not quite compatible with the frequently mentioned Huntington-Bay Villege-Seaport subway.
HRT just doesn't tend to play well with branching and interlining compared to LRT. If we're worried about Central Subway capacity, routing some cars Huntington-Bay Village-Seaport keeps good headways on both branches while completely avoiding touching the Central Subway at all, with a fringe bonus of anyone needing to get from a node on one to the other now doesn't need to clog up any transfer stations. Add in a D branch connection and now the Kenmore-Boylston stretch has an alternative capacity pipeline so that C's and B's (and Harvard/Urban Ring runs off the B) have room to run too. One-seat rides should, in my view, take a back seat (no pun intended) to maximizing the utility of the network, and I think LRT on Huntington does that moreso than HRT, even if a Blue run is technically (somewhat) feasible.

(This reply initially contained a lot of Blue-to-Riverside stuff beyond this extension, until I found one of your earlier posts that mentioned problems with Needham. Would love to read that part whenever it comes to see if it answers my tons of questions.)
Also looking forward to more on the Needham topic, that one's been getting a lot of attention here for a bit of time now. The Needham Line's growth is inevitably going to be constrained by the Northeast Corridor having only so much to give, and that being taken by higher-priority (Amtrak, Providence, etc.) services. Meaning if Needham wants to someday have something better than system-worst Commuter Rail (well, fighting with Reading for that title anyway) it'd have to be rapid transit. Around here that's generally interpreted as some variant of Orange Line to West Roxbury and a Green Line branch off the Riverside Line to Needham proper. I'm not sure what the cityscape situation in Newton-Needham is with respect to HRT versus LRT, but as discussed LRT tends to have more flexibility when it comes to branching, so you'd have to solve that issue for the Blue to be able to eat the Riverside trunk line. Again not impossible, but another situation where it might actually be harder than it's worth compared to "settling" for LRT.
 

Badusername

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What are the prospects of creating automated light metro style service on grade separated portions of the green line? It would be a substantial upgrade but allow us to maintain similar station sizes compared to converting LRT stations to HRT. Is the GLX signaling system built to allow for automation, or are more upgrades required?
 

Brattle Loop

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What are the prospects of creating automated light metro style service on grade separated portions of the green line? It would be a substantial upgrade but allow us to maintain similar station sizes compared to converting LRT stations to HRT. Is the GLX signaling system built to allow for automation, or are more upgrades required?
I don't know what provisions may have been made in the GLX proper for future signal upgrades, but it's going to open with the same atrociously antiquated signaling system as the rest of the Green Line. The T is working (slowly) towards modernizing the signal system to allow for future operation of the Type 10s, which are planned to be much larger than current vehicles. The line still doesn't have any system of enforcing the signals beyond the operators, though they're also working on fixing that problem (doing it without killing the line's throughput on an ancient, kludgy signal system has not been an easy problem to solve). There's little point to adding cost and complexity in trying to make chunks (i.e. GLX and the Riverside Line) run differently right now when they're just going to be feeding into the Central Subway. The GLT project with new signals and the Type 10s already represents a major change to the line's operations, and a good capacity boost if done properly.
 

HenryAlan

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What are the prospects of creating automated light metro style service on grade separated portions of the green line? It would be a substantial upgrade but allow us to maintain similar station sizes compared to converting LRT stations to HRT. Is the GLX signaling system built to allow for automation, or are more upgrades required?
Not sure on the specific details, but I believe the GLT/Type 10 program envisions a Green Line that is much closer to "light metro" standards.
 

The EGE

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The remaining non-accessible B and C stations are planned for reconstruction soon, and I imagine with that will come discussion about some minor consolidation and/or closing less-used grade crossings. Similarly, the outer Huntington Avenue segment is proposed for rebuild that will hopefully include dedicated lanes and accessible platforms. Along with projects on the D and at Hynes and Symphony, it's entirely possible that by the time the Type 10s enter service, the system will be almost entirely accessible, with TSP on the whole surface segment.

That said, I'm not sure that full automation is really possible. The surface lines are an incredibly complex operating environment - vehicles block grade crossings, drunk college students stumble across the tracks, and human operators make a lot of judgment calls that would be difficult for machines. Every D surface station has pedestrian level crossings, as do Park Street and two GLX stations. You'd have to at least gate+intertrack fence the crossings to allow automation, and even then I think you still need a human in the cab to keep watch. Realistically, only the Central Subway and GLX (with its crossings removed) and mayyybe the D would be suitable for any kind of automatic train operation - and even then, only if automation would actually increase travel times and throughput.
 

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