Fall River/New Bedford Commuter Rail (South Coast Rail)

JeffDowntown

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So F-Line explained a little bit of this, but I'm still not clear. Why exactly does the Army Corps of Engineers have anything to say -- to say nothing of actual jurisdiction -- about this project?
The US Army Corp of Engineers has permitting responsibility for wetlands and waterway fill projects under section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Both Phases of SCR involve various levels of wetlands and waterway fill.

 

Riverside

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The US Army Corp of Engineers has permitting responsibility for wetlands and waterway fill projects under section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Both Phases of SCR involve various levels of wetlands and waterway fill.

Well, today I learned! Putting an end to years of confusion over a question I was too embarrassed to ask. Initially the idea of the Army having responsibility for an environmental stewardship project seemed incongruous, but I guess their purview also includes -- for example -- flood protection, which does seem reasonable enough, and it's not a big leap from "flood protection" to "permitting waterway fill projects" (since the latter really does encompass the former).

But still -- boy howdy does it seem like a system that lacks sufficient accountability. What a shame.
 

GP40MC

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Here is F-Line's commentary posted long ago on Railroad.Net.

Yeah. Nobody...absolutely nobody...tries to build a transit line arse-end first. The single most important thing before they even consider giving money to the cities is: "How you gonna get there from Boston?" And that from Day 1 of the current project incarnation has been an afterthought. This Middleboro Alternative BS is just the latest indication of how unserious the Task Force is, and the duplicity of the FCMB still trolling for votes by giving them a regular audience despite knowing damn well how unserious the plan is. No one's said a word about putting this through the GLX cost rationalization ringer for redesign...they just give them their 10 minutes every 2 months to give a threadbare PowerPoint presentation and fart unicorns in front of the board.

If they really wanted to touch this with some degree of problem-solving, Job #1 above all-else is challenging the Army Corps' fraudulent FEIR. Yes, I said fraudulent. Route 24 dumps more pollutants via runoff into that swamp in a single week than a diesel commuter rail line would in an entire year.
  • A Tier 3 emissions-compliant locomotive doing 79 MPH on arrow-straight track on flat land on the longest between-stops and between- grade-crossings distance on the whole route--all due to the swamp--is barely exerting any force at cruising speed. It's basically coasting along nearly as idle as if it were sitting at a station stop...only the emissions are dispersing quick at 79 MPH instead of hanging stationary midair over a platform.
  • The ROW is under a landbank...meaning that existing full 2-track embankment is still zoned for railroad. No one has ever been tasked with building a fucking mile-long causeway on pegs through a swamp because of new-construction upgrades to an active or reanimation of an inactive ROW in order to get up-to-spec with modern EPA regs. Proof of the Corps' bullshit lies in the Greenbush Line, which goes through just as much cumulative wetlands as the Stoughton Line on its de-abandoned segment south of Cohasset (several swamps rather than one large one). They were allowed to use the fully rail-graded embankment as-is without any of this causeway trestle horseshit, only needing to get derelict culverts and drainage up from 1960 to 2007 EPA regs. That part of the Greenbush construction was completely orthodox and fixed-cost, done no-surprises totally within budget (the scandalous NIMBY concessions were all in populated areas, not environmental). It would be no different with the Stoughton Line, but the Army Corps decided to arbitrarily poison-pill it.
  • The electric mandate is already bullshit for scheduling, and designed to paper-over how unachievable the schedule margins are. But the environmental justification is an 8-story mound of horseshit. Guess what...electric locos and EMU's can leak oil and coolant too! Just as much of it as a diesel! Just like any moving vehicle on the face of the earth needs lubricant and coolant to make powered wheels spin. The same oil and coolant leaks that runs off Route 24 into the swamp every goddamn day but maybe only springs a small leak on a trackbed at 79 MPH once a year. And they have this Jetson Shit super-absorbant substance called "plain old rock ballast" that holds the track up 1 ft. or more above ground level with graded sides specifically to trap small spills in-place for easy cleanup. If you don't have enough of it, you're not allowed to run at a 79 MPH track class. Hence, every single passenger route in the state has enough of it. Does Route 24 have a specifically absorbant surface? No...it has ground-level grass with occasional steep dropoff into wetlands wide open on the breakdown lanes.
  • Double-tracking has no effect on the environment because the goddamn ROW is already built-up on a double-track embankment. The only thing the single-track mandate does is whack the schedules so everything has to skip-stop and make long schedule-adjustment pauses at every station platform to compensate for the complete inability to handle train meets. It does nothing to physically limit the number of daily trains crossing the swamp...nothing whatsoever. The same NEC SW Corridor capacity that sets the limiter on Needham and Franklin schedules sets the schedule cap here. All the Corps done has crippled the meets to uselessness, not limited the daily slate of 79 MPH train movements through the swamp. De-crippled for functional meets the century-level cap is the same than the Franklin Line if it double-barreled Foxboro and Forge Park branches: 32 round trips per day, 16 per south-of-Taunton branch. Most likely contingent on Franklin vacating more NEC slots via Fairmount to give Stoughton more oxygen. But that's it...32 via the NEC and not one more without vulturing critical Providence slots that'll never be vultured. Did the Corps model the NEC at all when they were inventing pure bullflop about schedules through the swamp and crippling meets? No...the NEC is seldom-mentioned in the FEIR despite being the fucking first step for getting there from Boston.


This is fraud. And it hasn't been challenged. This is not the first time the Army Corps has submitted a defective-by-design FEIR to tank a project. They play politics all the time with picking winners and losers and swinging the biggest dick in the room for political capital's sake. They'll groove a softball to highway or rail projects they really like, completely torpedo others. They pulled this same shit with the I-384 fast-track extension in CT 12 years ago, with the same swamp BS poison-pilling it. All because they didn't like being told by the FTA what their priorities are.

The state can challenge this if they cared. It's a slew-footing of the FTA and any promised FTA funding commitments too. If they had pulled this shit with GLX you better believe both state and feds would've challenged it and won. It's as much a usurping of the federal Executive Branch as it is trolling the states; the FTA's relationship with the Corps is historically hostile and toxic in itself because of these chronic rogue power grabs, and many a generation of Transpo Secretaries get enraged when the FTA is make to look like fools by a Corps dealing in bad faith. It's very likely the Corps picked this project to torpedo because of how unserious the commitment is...because they don't believe there's any sack at the state level to challenge their obviously fraudulent FEIR...because the FTA knows it's a lost cause as presently constituted...and because it's basically a freebie for swinging their political capital dick around in a consequence-free environment.

But it's still fraudulent. And challenging the fraudulence is worth $1B in savings...instantaneously, before even putting it through a GLX cost eval gauntlet. If anyone cared about actually making this work...by actually caring about how one gets from Boston first...they would've thrown this FEIR right back in their faces and called for a do-over. Not a lot different from how contractor fraud got GLX to take a time-out for a do-over, only this time it's the Corps not a rogue corporation being pants-on-fire liars.

That they won't do this or even hint at it tells you all you need to know about the state-level commitment and the grift that the SCR Task Force continues perpetuating on the voting citizens of that region by pursuing this arse-end-first scam that has never gotten anything built on any other project. Fight the real enemy if this is still a thing that people actually want. "We're owed this because reasons" is just as much a denial of reality as the grift and indifference is at doing arse-end-first to the exclusion of "How you gonna get there from Boston?"
 

Rover

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So again the opposition to this project continues to revolve around fantasyland alternative proposals or assumptions with no basis in reality.

Let's tackle the new Army Corps proposal first. I have no reason to doubt F-Line's take about the original ruling being tainted by corruption. Or better said I'll take his word for it as I have no inside knowledge. But reality needs to be factored in here. Getting another proposal submitted, evaluated, and then updated favorably to generate a cost savings for phase II will take years if ever. Political will would have to be sustained through multiple administrations both here and in DC.

But let's say that happens. Do you think local NIMBY's will say A: "oh well, we lost this one. Good luck with the project.". Or B - Run to any and every court they can find and claim that the original estimate was right and the new one is corrupt? Hmm.... really not a hard call, is it... That takes decades longer to resolve and in the meantime there's no train. Bad option all around, unless your true motivation is to kill the project in which case you should be honest and just say it.

Finally I keep seeing this concept that people feel they're "owed" the train. I fail to see how residents of the South Coast are any less of Mass citizens than the people on the Cape or New Hampshire which the last time I checked is a different state. Simply put it's the largest population in Eastern Mass not currently served by commuter rail. The Boston metro area needs workers. South Coast people need access to higher paying jobs. This will shorten their commute to access those jobs. The benefit of Phase I is the relative simplicity of the project. The right of way exists on an active track. Room exists already to build the new stations and the T is merely running an existing train further down the tracks. All in all a positive thing, but ultimately it's on the people down there to ride it.
 

jklo

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The Boston metro area needs workers.
Said workers (at least the ones employers want) aren't living in Fall River. They're living in Quincy or Allston or Somerville or Malden or Medford. Maybe you can talk them into Lynn. But not Fall River.
 

Brattle Loop

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But let's say that happens. Do you think local NIMBY's will say A: "oh well, we lost this one. Good luck with the project.". Or B - Run to any and every court they can find and claim that the original estimate was right and the new one is corrupt? Hmm.... really not a hard call, is it... That takes decades longer to resolve and in the meantime there's no train. Bad option all around, unless your true motivation is to kill the project in which case you should be honest and just say it.
Doing a thing badly, especially if it threatens the prospect of doing it well, is not a good thing. Is anyone but the NIMBYs happy that the Corps' meddling means that doing SCR the right way (via Stoughton) would take more time and effort than it should? No. And the (hopefully inadvertent) implication that anyone who is opposed to Phase I is only motivated by a desire to kill the project (and the accompanying implication that people are not being honest) is both factually incorrect and, frankly, somewhat insulting.

Finally I keep seeing this concept that people feel they're "owed" the train. I fail to see how residents of the South Coast are any less of Mass citizens than the people on the Cape or New Hampshire which the last time I checked is a different state. Simply put it's the largest population in Eastern Mass not currently served by commuter rail. The Boston metro area needs workers. South Coast people need access to higher paying jobs. This will shorten their commute to access those jobs. The benefit of Phase I is the relative simplicity of the project. The right of way exists on an active track. Room exists already to build the new stations and the T is merely running an existing train further down the tracks. All in all a positive thing, but ultimately it's on the people down there to ride it.
Apart from you when you're setting up your strawman, I haven't seen anyone suggesting that the South Coast's residents are somehow lesser Massachusetts citizens. The state does not have, and has never had, an unlimited budget for transportation projects. Every dollar that goes to SCR is a dollar that doesn't go to any of a dozen other transportation projects, all of which have their own benefits, drawbacks, and constituencies, just as every dollar that goes to any of them is one that doesn't to to improving the transportation situation on the South Coast. Given that the budget it inherently limited, there's a lot of natural, and I think extremely well-justified, opposition to doing a project badly, and SCR Phase I is doing it badly. You shouldn't have brought up the people down the Cape, because Phase I screws them over pretty dramatically. There's nothing in its budget for dealing with the Old Colony main line's single-track capacity crunch, meaning that Buzzards Bay's prospects of a decent CR service schedule are pretty much dead in the water because of all the bandwidth on that main line that SCR's going to take up, none of which would be a problem in Phase II (because its trunk line has higher capacity to begin with). Add to that that the limited capacity (especially at peak) combined with the political hell that would be screwing over the incumbent services (Middleborough's station relocation notwithstanding) meaning that SCR's schedule via Phase I is going to be long, slow, and sparse. Its utility will be subpar from birth because they're doing it on the cheap, meaning that its ridership is very likely to be terrible, which will kill Phase II. (Opinions may vary over whether that's intentional on the part of Baker & Company. I don't think that's why they did it, but I don't think they mind if that's the result.) So what we're very likely to get is a not-very-useful, relatively-poorly-used service which, while "cheap", probably fails the cost-benefit analysis in a world where political considerations don't dominate the decisionmaking.
 

themissinglink

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The right of way exists on an active track. Room exists already to build the new stations and the T is merely running an existing train further down the tracks. All in all a positive thing, but ultimately it's on the people down there to ride it.
Your assertion that Phase I will be 'all in all a positive thing" is absolutely false. Phase I will most likely wreck the OTP percentage of all 3 Old Colony Lines, plus it will prevent any CR extension to Buzzards Bay or Hyannis from happening unless there is majorly disruptive and expensive work done to the Old Colony Mainline. All for an insignificant amount of riders.
 

bigeman312

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Your assertion that Phase I will be 'all in all a positive thing" is absolutely false. Phase I will most likely wreck the OTP percentage of all 3 Old Colony Lines, plus it will prevent any CR extension to Buzzards Bay or Hyannis from happening unless there is majorly disruptive and expensive work done to the Old Colony Mainline. All for an insignificant amount of riders.
I agree with your conclusion but disagree with your reasoning. Transit Matters estimates that double-tracking will cost $40m.

Taking two tracks from the Red Line Braintree branch by changing the location at which Braintree and Ashmont trains diverge. Instead of diverging at JFK/UMass station, both branches would instead run through both JFK/UMass and Savin Hill on the same tracks. The branches would then diverge at a flying junction just north of Park St in Dorchester. This would increase frequency of service to Savin Hill, and would free up two tracks for Regional Rail, resolving the bottleneck between JFK/UMass and the Neponset River Bridge. The cost for this is $30-50 million, similar to a suburban grade separation, as the area is unconstrained.
Regardless of South Coast Rail, this reconfiguration to double-track the Old Colony Main Line should be pursued.
 

themissinglink

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I agree with your conclusion but disagree with your reasoning. Transit Matters estimates that double-tracking will cost $40m.
I wholeheartedly agree that OCL Mainline double tracking is badly needed. But let's be realistic here - none of it, not even just Quincy Center and JFK/UMass getting double tracked platforms, will be complete by the time SCR Phase I opens. Granted, Phase I service with improvements to the OCL Mainline would be a big improvement over the currently proposed Phase I service, but I don't see any way in which the OCL double track would be completed in time for SCR Phase I.
 

Brattle Loop

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I agree with your conclusion but disagree with your reasoning. Transit Matters estimates that double-tracking will cost $40m.
From my read of the report, that number requires reconfiguration of the Red Line (though F-Line might have quibbled with the need for that particular element) and regardless of whether that cost is included in that number, it would be a big moving part that'd have to get teed up first. It also seems like their plans require station modifications to allow double-tracking, which don't appear to be included in the "double tracking" number, though I'm a bit confused by the details and might be reading it wrong. Add to that I wonder how much of the estimate is TM's "should cost" best practices versus the less-than-stellar construction practices and costs we tend to actually find here.

Either way, I think it's a worthy investment, but I suspect that actually doing it will cost more than TM's estimates. (Much as I wish that wasn't the case, I'm too cynical to be very hopeful of reasonable cost control.)

I wholeheartedly agree that OCL Mainline double tracking is badly needed. But let's be realistic here - none of it, not even just Quincy Center and JFK/UMass getting double tracked platforms, will be complete by the time SCR Phase I opens. Granted, Phase I service with improvements to the OCL Mainline would be a big improvement over the currently proposed Phase I service, but I don't see any way in which the OCL double track would be completed in time for SCR Phase I.
Yeah, there's no way it'd ever be possible. Project timelines don't work like that; Phase I would have to hit eight million NIMBY potholes to lose the lead it has over the still-theoretical double tracking project (assuming that one didn't hit any bumps in the road either, which is la laughable idea).
 

bigeman312

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I wholeheartedly agree that OCL Mainline double tracking is badly needed. But let's be realistic here - none of it, not even just Quincy Center and JFK/UMass getting double tracked platforms, will be complete by the time SCR Phase I opens. Granted, Phase I service with improvements to the OCL Mainline would be a big improvement over the currently proposed Phase I service, but I don't see any way in which the OCL double track would be completed in time for SCR Phase I.
Oh yes absolutely. My agreement was that SCR is putting the cart before the horse and these necessary improvements will not be complete in time. We are on the same page there.

My disagreement lies firmly in the statement "unless there is majorly disruptive and expensive work done to the Old Colony Mainline," as there is a solution that is not majorly expensive, at least by transit-planning world standards. If I was given a $40,000,000 bill for anything, I'd cry.
 

bigeman312

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From my read of the report, that number requires reconfiguration of the Red Line (though F-Line might have quibbled with the need for that particular element) and regardless of whether that cost is included in that number, it would be a big moving part that'd have to get teed up first. It also seems like their plans require station modifications to allow double-tracking, which don't appear to be included in the "double tracking" number, though I'm a bit confused by the details and might be reading it wrong. Add to that I wonder how much of the estimate is TM's "should cost" best practices versus the less-than-stellar construction practices and costs we tend to actually find here.
My reading of that number is that it includes everything involved in the double-tracking, except the new flying junction just north of Park St in Dorchester. That's a little bit of inference, though, so that could be incorrect.

Nonetheless, $40m + the cost of a new Red Line flying junction is a small price to pay to solve this major bottleneck.
 

Rover

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Apart from you when you're setting up your strawman, I haven't seen anyone suggesting that the South Coast's residents are somehow lesser Massachusetts citizens. The state does not have, and has never had, an unlimited budget for transportation projects. Every dollar that goes to SCR is a dollar that doesn't go to any of a dozen other transportation projects, all of which have their own benefits, drawbacks, and constituencies, just as every dollar that goes to any of them is one that doesn't to to improving the transportation situation on the South Coast. Given that the budget it inherently limited, there's a lot of natural, and I think extremely well-justified, opposition to doing a project badly, and SCR Phase I is doing it badly. You shouldn't have brought up the people down the Cape, because Phase I screws them over pretty dramatically. There's nothing in its budget for dealing with the Old Colony main line's single-track capacity crunch, meaning that Buzzards Bay's prospects of a decent CR service schedule are pretty much dead in the water because of all the bandwidth on that main line that SCR's going to take up, none of which would be a problem in Phase II (because its trunk line has higher capacity to begin with). Add to that that the limited capacity (especially at peak) combined with the political hell that would be screwing over the incumbent services (Middleborough's station relocation notwithstanding) meaning that SCR's schedule via Phase I is going to be long, slow, and sparse. Its utility will be subpar from birth because they're doing it on the cheap, meaning that its ridership is very likely to be terrible, which will kill Phase II.
You're throwing out speculation as fact. You have no idea what ridership will be but would rather embark on a decades long re-review instead with no promise or even better odds that the Corps will reach a different conclusion! Okay for you, but not so much for the people needing the service, no?

Furthermore, the population served by this service has to be greater than running the train to the beginning of the Cape. The tracks don't go further than Hyannis maybe? Yet you want to prioritize their access to transit over the South Coast? Why exactly?

Finally you're argument about unlimited resources is the true strawman here so I will put it to you. Name me a project that impacts more people that is being delayed directly because of SCR? Not speculation, but in actual reality?

Said workers (at least the ones employers want) aren't living in Fall River. They're living in Quincy or Allston or Somerville or Malden or Medford. Maybe you can talk them into Lynn. But not Fall River.
And you know this..... how? Elitist, much?

I'm not here to dunk on people, but over the years many of you were sure this project would never happen. You'll have to forgive me if I take your current predictions with a grain of salt...
 

themissinglink

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My disagreement lies firmly in the statement "unless there is majorly disruptive and expensive work done to the Old Colony Mainline," as there is a solution that is not majorly expensive, at least by transit-planning world standards. If I was given a $40,000,000 bill for anything, I'd cry.
My point regarding the "majorly disruptive and expensive" comment was mostly referring to the fact that it would be too complex and too costly of a project to complete in time for SCR Phase I. I probably should have been more clear about that part.
 

themissinglink

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Furthermore, the population served by this service has to be greater than running the train to the beginning of the Cape. The tracks don't go further than Hyannis maybe? Yet you want to prioritize their access to transit over the South Coast? Why exactly?
There's a lot more to be considered than just raw population data. Cape Cod is a major seasonal tourist destination, and tourists aren't taken into account when comparing populations.

I'm not arguing against the needs of better transportation for the South Coast, but I wouldn't be so dismissive about the importance of bringing rail transit to Cape Cod. Furthermore, it's important to note that it doesn't have to be an either/or situation. There could reasonably be both South Coast Rail and Cape Rail if it wasn't for the operational nightmare that is introduced thanks to SCR Phase I.

That being said, I'm glad that the South Coast will finally have Commuter Rail service. But the service levels being proposed are very underwhelming and the potential drawbacks of SCR Phase I are worrisome, especially when it comes to SCR Phase II and Cape Rail ever happening.
 

Brattle Loop

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My reading of that number is that it includes everything involved in the double-tracking, except the new flying junction just north of Park St in Dorchester. That's a little bit of inference, though, so that could be incorrect.

Nonetheless, $40m + the cost of a new Red Line flying junction is a small price to pay to solve this major bottleneck.
I think that number was probably including the RL junction (which is acceptable if the impact to the RL is not severe). One section seemed to be talking about the need for station reconfiguration in Quincy, I thought as a prerequisite for double-tracking, which is what confuses me about whether that's included in the double-tracking $40 million or if that's part of the $50 million station work figure (not that that's necessarily a deal-breaker, just that I'd like to know what exactly we're talking about).

You're throwing out speculation as fact. You have no idea what ridership will be but would rather embark on a decades long re-review instead with no promise or even better odds that the Corps will reach a different conclusion! Okay for you, but not so much for the people needing the service, no?
As far as I know, you're the only one saying "decades-long re-review". I'm not unaware of how slow bureaucracy can move, but if you're going to claim that it's going to take decades you should probably explain where that idea's coming from. The much-maligned Corps mangling of the Stoughton alignment was less than twenty years ago; that the state didn't bother to challenge that at the time or in the decade-plus since doesn't mean that a.) they couldn't have, b.) that it would never have worked, or c.) that it would have taken multiple decades.

You previously complained about people talking about whether the South Coast "deserves" the service, now you turn around and talk about the people who need the service, almost as if their needs are the only ones in the state, and sounding as though there's no transportation options from the South Coast to Boston at all (the thread is replete with reference to buses, though their schedule and price competitiveness with CR is not something I'm in a position to assess). I have no objection to an argument based on "there's a need for transit" combined with "this is the best way to do it" combined with "this is an efficient use of transportation funding", but all three of those things require facts and evidence to bolster the arguments. Talking about it in a Simpsons-esque "oh won't someone please think of the people" way isn't an empirical argument, it's a political-emotional argument that essentially boils down to questions of who "deserves" what; and while that's a valid political argument, it comes off as a bit rich from someone who literally complained about just that line of commentary.

Furthermore, the population served by this service has to be greater than running the train to the beginning of the Cape. The tracks don't go further than Hyannis maybe? Yet you want to prioritize their access to transit over the South Coast? Why exactly?
"The population served by" is not equal to "ridership". For one thing, the travel times are not equivalent, and given that Buzzards Bay (and potentially onwards to Hyannis) would be a single branch off the Old Colony main rather than two it would get twice the capacity that either Fall River or New Bedford could ever get on Phase II because of the split, meaning that the schedule has the potential to be far more robust. It's anecdotal, I know, but I live close to a CR stop and an annoying-but-not-too-far distance from the Orange Line, and routinely (pre-Covid) took the Orange Line because its schedule was far more convenient, even though it was harder to access. So not only does design-induced poor scheduling make the service less convenient (and therefore dampens ridership), it's entirely possible for a lower-population area with better service to have higher ridership than a higher-population area with poor service.

The part that's driving me crazy about this is that we don't have to choose! The only reason we have to weigh Buzzards Bay/Cape versus FR/NB (with some Middleborough collateral damage thrown in for good measure) is because the state went the lazy, cheapskate route that forced that choice. Build SCR via Stoughton like they were supposed to, rid of the stupid Corps cruft, and both Fall River and New Bedford benefit from better schedules than they could ever get with Phase I, and you don't screw over Buzzards Bay in the process.

I acknowledge that the state's failure to challenge the cruddy Corps decisions in the 2000s over the ensuing years means that we are unfortunately left in a situation where the South Coast would effectively be asked to wait a bit longer for transit in order to do it the right way. That's regrettable, and that's the fault of successive administrations. It does not, however, justify a born-flawed build that inherently screws over Buzzards Bay and the Cape, with a significant chance of killing Phase II stone dead (keeping the Buzzards problem around forever) if the ridership is a severe disappointment.

Finally you're argument about unlimited resources is the true strawman here so I will put it to you. Name me a project that impacts more people that is being delayed directly because of SCR? Not speculation, but in actual reality?
Stating the fact that the state has limited resources to spend on transportation (indeed, on anything, given that states can't print their own money) isn't a strawman. I note with amusement your effort to change the argument to one that I wasn't making, but I didn't say anything about other, more impactful projects being delayed. My argument was about the efficient, effective, appropriate allocation of money to generate the most return on investment; doing SCR badly by building it in a way that makes it less useful than it could be while simultaneously screwing over the prospects of an unrelated proposal (Buzzards) is a bad use of money. All it does is get SCR built in a lesser fashion with a nice side dose of potentially killing both full-SCR and Buzzards/Cape. (Oh, and given that the data's not in a position to analyze, it's entirely possible that the Buzzards/Cape service which is directly being delayed would impact more people, because raw population isn't the number to go on here.)

If you want to argue that spending money on a poor-quality version of a project, just so it gets done sooner, damn the consequences, is what should be done, that it's the right move, by all means, argue it. Such arguments do have a tendency, however, to devolve into ones of who "deserves" what, which tends not to lend itself to empirical answers.

And you know this..... how? Elitist, much?
I imagine that such comments reflect that most people who can afford to live closer in to the core tend to do so. I can't speak to whether there's elitism in that, though I will say that I tend to doubt that there are huge numbers of high-demand, well-paid workers who would live in FR/NB if only it had Commuter Rail service. That doesn't mean that workers won't use and benefit from the service, let alone that it shouldn't be built, but it is a generally-accurate reflection of how people tend to behave. (I for one don't think it's in itself elitist to note that people with the means to do so often behave in elitist ways.)

I'm not here to dunk on people, but over the years many of you were sure this project would never happen. You'll have to forgive me if I take your current predictions with a grain of salt...
That's fair enough. Speaking for myself, though I suspect some of the others here may share the sentiment, I for one didn't expect the state to agree to build something so inherently, stupidly, and needlessly flawed as Phase I. Don't get me wrong, I hope that the ridership is excellent. But I can't bet on it, and I can't really say I approve of a project with this much collateral damage, especially when there's a very distinct possibility not that ridership is as projected (and even based on the projections the costs-per-rider are through the roof) but that it underperforms a-la Greenbush and takes Buzzards/Cape and Phase II with it, and leaves SCR itself the lowest-hanging fruit on the chopping block at the next CR budget crunch.
 

bigeman312

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I think that number was probably including the RL junction (which is acceptable if the impact to the RL is not severe). One section seemed to be talking about the need for station reconfiguration in Quincy, I thought as a prerequisite for double-tracking, which is what confuses me about whether that's included in the double-tracking $40 million or if that's part of the $50 million station work figure (not that that's necessarily a deal-breaker, just that I'd like to know what exactly we're talking about).
Nope. One thing that was clear was that section was only talking about Dorchester. If you read on, it makes it clear that Quincy was in need of further study and that $40m was within the section to double track to the Neponset River, but not beyond.
 

themissinglink

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Nope. One thing that was clear was that section was only talking about Dorchester. If you read on, it makes it clear that Quincy was in need of further study and that $40m was within the section to double track to the Neponset River, but not beyond.
The Quincy segments of single track would be drastically harder to make into double track segments, and in some particular areas it looks to maybe be completely infeasible.

It's too bad there isn't an official study on double tracking the entire Old Colony Mainline from Dorchester to Braintree, I'd be extremely curious to see the results of a study regarding the double track.

At some point there could possibly be a new thread for discussion about the hypothetical Old Colony Mainline double track project, as there's certainly a considerable level of complexity and attention to detail required with the project.
 

Rover

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I appreciate the wudda cudda shoulda on the Army Corps study, but I keep coming back to this. People seem extremely confident that a new assessment would yield a significant reduction in costs. As best I can tell this is based on F-Line's opinion. I appreciate his technical knowledge as much as the next poster, but take a step back for a second. I don't believe he works for the Corps nor does he have any actual influence on the study. So what are the odds these new cost savings actually happen? You would have put off transit for years with the real possibility or probability of the same assessment. This is before you get to the inevitable litigation over any changes to the project particularly anything environmental. That's a big gamble but what this entire alternative seems to be predicated on.

Also a lot of the Phase I work is needed for phase II anyway. All the track work and new stations for Taunton/NB/FR had to occur anyway. It's really just the stretch from Taunton to Middleborough along existing track that won't be part of Phase II so why not run the trains in the meantime while waiting to see how phase II plays out, if ever?

Moving on to the Cape, given that it's seems about the same travel time from Buzzards Bay to Boston as it is from the South Coast, I'd really have to see a study saying that a much less populated region would produce more riders. Until then population totals is the best we can go on. I also believe the Cape might have an issue with the Corps (them again!) operating the railroad bridge over the canal. I don't believe the Cape Flyer is affected at all by SCR. A seasonal and weekend service from Boston it would run its exact same route especially since it's just the same Middleborough train as before only it's running further down the line. If that is affected (again the seasonal train which someone brought up) I'm curious how.
 

Brattle Loop

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I appreciate the wudda cudda shoulda on the Army Corps study, but I keep coming back to this. People seem extremely confident that a new assessment would yield a significant reduction in costs. As best I can tell this is based on F-Line's opinion. I appreciate his technical knowledge as much as the next poster, but take a step back for a second. I don't believe he works for the Corps nor does he have any actual influence on the study. So what are the odds these new cost savings actually happen? You would have put off transit for years with the real possibility or probability of the same assessment. This is before you get to the inevitable litigation over any changes to the project particularly anything environmental. That's a big gamble but what this entire alternative seems to be predicated on.
The main cost issue with the Stoughton route that the Corps' meddling caused was that they demanded that the state build a (single-track) trestle through a long stretch of wetlands, despite the fact that there's a pre-existing (disused) railroad embankment graded for two tracks, and despite them never requiring anything similar apparently anywhere (including basically the same situation on the Greenbush Line, where it was fine to re-use the old embankment through the wetlands; their dressing the trestle requirement as an environmental issue was also curious given that they had no apparent concern for all of the runoff from the nearby highway, which is more of a threat to the wetlands than a railroad on the embankment). The single-track (primarily but I don't think exclusively the trestle) then gave rise to an electrification requirement (again I believe ostensibly on environmental grounds, and again not common practice) which was actually necessary to make the schedule work at all on paper because of the single-track meet staging forced by the trestle requirement.

F-Line's entire thesis, which seems well-supported (though I'm just a random commenter reading this stuff), is that the Corps was not a fan of the project for whatever reason (this was the Bush administration, well, Bush the Younger) and slapped a bunch of bull-crap requirements on it basically to kill it (they have a demonstrated history of playing favorites with projects). If that was indeed the case here, the idea is that if the state (and its quite-influential allies and representatives in Washington) were to exert political pressure, the Corps would reconsider (ideally for the right reasons, more likely because getting the politicians mad enough that they think about Reform with a capital "R" is bad for business). It's not a guarantee by any means, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying. (Especially since it's really only the trestle and associated single-tracking that's the hard blocker. The bull-crap electrification requirement was there to make the schedule work with the single track, so if the single track goes the actual need for electrification goes with it; on top of that, we on this board (and increasingly the powers that be, albeit much more slowly) tend to agree on the desirability of electrifying the CR system anyway, so it would be a reasonable compromise to promise future electrification (which we would likely do eventually anyway) in exchange for not having it as a project requirement from day 1 (where it was, and may well have been intended as, a project killer).

Also a lot of the Phase I work is needed for phase II anyway. All the track work and new stations for Taunton/NB/FR had to occur anyway. It's really just the stretch from Taunton to Middleborough along existing track that won't be part of Phase II so why not run the trains in the meantime while waiting to see how phase II plays out, if ever?
With the exception of the transit-oriented development denizens in the vicinity of Middleborough/Lakeville whose station is basically turning into a pumpkin so that Phase I can work at all, it's not really that bad a project if it's actually the first phase. Middleborough's not a fun pill to swallow, neither is telling Buzzards Bay (and the Cape) that they're going to have to wait indefinitely for enough capacity on the Old Colony main to open up for them to have a reasonable prospect of a decent schedule of service, but that's how it goes sometimes, and that cost isn't too great.

The problem is that nothing we've seen from this state administration (and at least some of its predecessors) gives any confidence that they'll actually build Phase II anytime soon, if ever. The reason I (and others) keep harping on the SCR Phase I ridership numbers is that if the numbers come in below projection, it'd be all the excuse that Baker & Company need to "temporarily suspend" work on Phase II (and some suspect that's the plan altogether; I don't know if I agree with that, but I'm not ruling it out from these people). If that happens, we're stuck with Phase I basically forever (or at least until there's enough political will to get Phase II done with bad-ridership headwinds, and look how long this took without the headwind), which means that Buzzards and the Cape are basically screwed forever, and the South Coast itself is stuck with a better-than-nothing but still sub-par service with no meaningful prospect of improvement. Don't mistake my mistrust-based concern that they'll leave it permanently broken for opposition to rail to the South Coast at all; again, I want it done right, and doing it quickly has, to me, an unacceptably high risk of doing it very wrong.

Moving on to the Cape, given that it's seems about the same travel time from Buzzards Bay to Boston as it is from the South Coast, I'd really have to see a study saying that a much less populated region would produce more riders. Until then population totals is the best we can go on. I also believe the Cape might have an issue with the Corps (them again!) operating the railroad bridge over the canal. I don't believe the Cape Flyer is affected at all by SCR. A seasonal and weekend service from Boston it would run its exact same route especially since it's just the same Middleborough train as before only it's running further down the line. If that is affected (again the seasonal train which someone brought up) I'm curious how.
I think Buzzards is maybe something on the order of twenty minutes closer, but that's a ballpark estimate. I've not seen ridership studies for there, but it's absolutely the case that lower-population areas can provide higher ridership than higher-population ones, particularly depending on what kind of populations they are and what kind of riders. The Cape's got a lot of tourists who don't show up in the permanent population, but who generate a disproportionate number of trips (all modes) because they're short-term stays; it's why there's enough demand to sustain the CapeFlyer in the summer season but not year-round (because it is a weekender/tourist schedule, not optimal at all for commuting). We do need better numbers, though.

Again, the Corps is a weird one with the bridge. They've got no answer that anyone can discern as to why the bridge was fine opening a lot more than it does now in the not-too-distant past (beyond F-Line's musings of either turf warring or just a desire to annoy the state into paying to take it off their hands, which they should probably do anyway for rail flexibility). That's even smaller-potatoes than the Phase II nonsense, and probably could be dealt with if enough of the state's political heavyweights were to take an interest (not that Baker's likely to ever care enough for that). CapeFlyer itself is not affected by any of this, and the bridge itself isn't an obstacle to serving Buzzards Bay itself (that's on the mainland side of the canal), just to on-Cape service which was a secondary consideration (and probably later phase) to the Bourne/Buzzards service proposal proper.
 

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