General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

The EGE

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I haven't seen any specific plans, but I'm sure they'll skimp out and make it 2-track. Gotta futureproof the income of the engineering firms.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I haven't seen any specific plans, but I'm sure they'll skimp out and make it 2-track. Gotta futureproof the income of the engineering firms.
I don't think they can skimp out unless Amtrak skimps out with them. That one got specced for quad-track with 2 center passers back in the NEC Infrastructure Master Plan. Amtrak being the track maintainer would have to co-sign on any changes.

I do fully expect it'll take that one eons to graduate from design to actual build because of the need for the two partners to join up and dance, so that'll keep the engineering firms' income future-proofed for sure. They'll get around to building it when the just-repaired stairs are about to collapse again.
 

Stlin

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I don't think they can skimp out unless Amtrak skimps out with them. That one got specced for quad-track with 2 center passers back in the NEC Infrastructure Master Plan. Amtrak being the track maintainer would have to co-sign on any changes.
Uhm. Not so sure about that... The MBTA took over maintenance of MA NEC mileage in 2018; it helped the Amtrak infrastructure lines look a fair bit better. I would really hope that the T holds to the master plan though, despite RIDOT skimping on Pawtucket.
 

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Wash

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Okay, question time.

Used to be, when bus routes 77, 71 and 73 were still streetcars (yes, today's route 77 was numbered 79 back then), standard operating procedure was to through-run cars all the way from Arlington Heights to Waverly/Watertown.

Question: How in the WORLD did the MTA stop streetcar bunching from happening? Mixed short-turning probably had something to do with it, but did they do anything else to alleviate bunching that we can learn from?
 

The EGE

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Terminal headway control, for one. You can have a wide-open road and you'll still have crappy service if you're leaving the terminal at uneven intervals. (My research partner showed that you can reduce 50% of headway variability on the Green Line just by having reliable departures from the outer terminal.) The BERy and MTA were known for their professionalism, particularly under Edward Dana's 1919-1959 leadership. (In the 1930s, they proudly announced being permanently banned from a safety contest because they'd already won six times.) BERy had inspectors at every terminal, and they made sure that operators left on time. Operators also made an effort to be on time.

They also had frequency on their side. In 1945, combined headways between Harvard and North Cambridge were 0.9 minutes. At that frequency, bunching is self-correcting to a degree, because you simply can't get much closer than 0.9 minutes behind another streetcar. Headways were still under 2 minutes until the Red Line extension opened.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Tangiental-relation news item. . .


The owner of freight shortline Grafton & Upton RR, John Priscoli, has made an official bid to purchase Cape Rail, Inc., owners of the Cape Cod Central RR passenger carrier (of Cape Dinner Train fame) and Mass Coastal RR freight carrier (Cape Trash Train + shortline operator of Fall River & New Bedford Branches). This is a bankruptcy sale as Cape Rail's current owners, national conglomerate holding company Iowa Pacific, Inc., are liquidating in front of the bankruptcy courts and Cape Rail is one of their most prized and profitable holdings. A "stalking horse" bid was reported to the bankruptcy court a few weeks ago; this is now believed to be that bid. Priscoli made an earlier run at buying a controlling share of Cape Rail about a dozen years ago before Iowa Pacific stepped in, so this is his second bite (this time for the whole enchilada at bankruptcy discount). He's also owner of Edaville Theme Park in South Carver with its world-famous narrow-gauge railway and Thomas The Tank engine. New holding company has been formed for the bid, as G&U and the Cape Lines would have to continue to run separately given the big slice of CSX mileage that stands between them.

G&U is one of the unlikeliest private success stories in freight railroading. When Priscoli bought it they were operating barely a couple days a week on scant half-mile of track in North Grafton serving one customer. In the span of 15 years they've been transformed into a model organization for shortline transloading, reactivating the once-derelict mainline to Hopedale and opening 3 busy new yards along the MA 140 corridor. All self-financed, and self-realizing. Right now they're in the final weeks of mainline restoration to Milford Jct. with 'golden spike' photo-op expected by end of this month, after which they'll be taking over the (recently state-purchased) Milford Branch and Franklin Industrial Track freight rights from CSX and adding their first-ever expansion territory in 146 years of independent operation (the oldest continuously operating chartered RR in the country that's never been merged with another RR). So while Iowa Pacific was neutral-to-good as stewards of Cape Rail (way better than the ruination elsewhere that's driven them to liquidation), Priscoli's hyper-aggressive growth strategizing and willingness to take big calculated risks with his own money (so far handsomely backed up with actual profits) has to be considered a major upgrade. Cape Chamber of Commerce and MassDOT have definite partisan rooting interest in this bid succeeding.

G&U's expansion into Franklin makes some sense in light of this move. While their daily CSX interchange is going to remain at North Grafton with all CSX traffic between Walpole and Milford ceasing after the territory handoff, G&U did gain "rainy-day" overhead trackage rights between Franklin Jct. and Walpole Jct. from the MBTA to hit CSX at Walpole Yard in a contingency. Not expected to ever be used in real practice unless the Worcester Line is disrupted, but now that the same ownership is bidding for Cape Rail Walpole becomes the preferred staging place for passing equipment and loads between G&U and the Cape, since it's en route for CSX's Middleboro daily that interchanges with Mass Coastal. G&U has also mostly retired its antique collection of old freight locos for a couple newer CSX hand-me-downs pre-equipped with cab signals and to-be-equipped with PTC signals for running inbound of Forge Park in MBTA territory. Could be a not-insignificant amount of CSX-assisted interchanging between the RR's happening at Walpole in the future. Which may include passenger excursions on the G&U with the gained access to Cape Rail's nicely flush passenger fleet. Priscoli has always wanted to do more of that given that he got his start buying Edaville, and indeed the very last-ever recorded run of a classic MBTA F40PH "Screamer" loco was pulling a Santa train of loaned-n'-decorated T coaches on a much-publicized North Grafton-Hopedale excursion a few years ago. So probably will end up expanding the Dinner Train's reach, which is good for the general public. And makes MassDOT look good for dumping a fortune's worth of on-Cape upgrades--mainline, Falmouth Branch, and all--into the CIP with another busy construction season now underway.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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T announces it will no longer be transporting police to protests, after T buses were used for that purpose as late as yesterday. This largely isn't a Boston thing at all, as T-transported BPD by-and-large didn't have half as bad a night Monday as the self-transported staties and Nat'l Guard did. Rather, this is concession to the official stance issued by the national TTU union after this commandeer/shuttling practice caught major flak with Minneapolis Metro Transit and Philly SEPTA workers earlier in the week. One by one major transit systems across the U.S. are falling in line for purposes of workplace peace and buttoning up the loophole about whether this would be a future consideration to legally cover butts on any top-down pressures to shuttle personnel in future incidents.

Your (strong) opinions may vary overall, but the T's specific action here was running with a crowded pack nationally so isn't overly noteworthy unto itself.
 

Tallguy

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Tangiental-relation news item. . .


The owner of freight shortline Grafton & Upton RR, John Priscoli, has made an official bid to purchase Cape Rail, Inc., owners of the Cape Cod Central RR passenger carrier (of Cape Dinner Train fame) and Mass Coastal RR freight carrier (Cape Trash Train + shortline operator of Fall River & New Bedford Branches). This is a bankruptcy sale as Cape Rail's current owners, national conglomerate holding company Iowa Pacific, Inc., are liquidating in front of the bankruptcy courts and Cape Rail is one of their most prized and profitable holdings. A "stalking horse" bid was reported to the bankruptcy court a few weeks ago; this is now believed to be that bid. Priscoli made an earlier run at buying a controlling share of Cape Rail about a dozen years ago before Iowa Pacific stepped in, so this is his second bite (this time for the whole enchilada at bankruptcy discount). He's also owner of Edaville Theme Park in South Carver with its world-famous narrow-gauge railway and Thomas The Tank engine. New holding company has been formed for the bid, as G&U and the Cape Lines would have to continue to run separately given the big slice of CSX mileage that stands between them.

G&U is one of the unlikeliest private success stories in freight railroading. When Priscoli bought it they were operating barely a couple days a week on scant half-mile of track in North Grafton serving one customer. In the span of 15 years they've been transformed into a model organization for shortline transloading, reactivating the once-derelict mainline to Hopedale and opening 3 busy new yards along the MA 140 corridor. All self-financed, and self-realizing. Right now they're in the final weeks of mainline restoration to Milford Jct. with 'golden spike' photo-op expected by end of this month, after which they'll be taking over the (recently state-purchased) Milford Branch and Franklin Industrial Track freight rights from CSX and adding their first-ever expansion territory in 146 years of independent operation (the oldest continuously operating chartered RR in the country that's never been merged with another RR). So while Iowa Pacific was neutral-to-good as stewards of Cape Rail (way better than the ruination elsewhere that's driven them to liquidation), Priscoli's hyper-aggressive growth strategizing and willingness to take big calculated risks with his own money (so far handsomely backed up with actual profits) has to be considered a major upgrade. Cape Chamber of Commerce and MassDOT have definite partisan rooting interest in this bid succeeding.

G&U's expansion into Franklin makes some sense in light of this move. While their daily CSX interchange is going to remain at North Grafton with all CSX traffic between Walpole and Milford ceasing after the territory handoff, G&U did gain "rainy-day" overhead trackage rights between Franklin Jct. and Walpole Jct. from the MBTA to hit CSX at Walpole Yard in a contingency. Not expected to ever be used in real practice unless the Worcester Line is disrupted, but now that the same ownership is bidding for Cape Rail Walpole becomes the preferred staging place for passing equipment and loads between G&U and the Cape, since it's en route for CSX's Middleboro daily that interchanges with Mass Coastal. G&U has also mostly retired its antique collection of old freight locos for a couple newer CSX hand-me-downs pre-equipped with cab signals and to-be-equipped with PTC signals for running inbound of Forge Park in MBTA territory. Could be a not-insignificant amount of CSX-assisted interchanging between the RR's happening at Walpole in the future. Which may include passenger excursions on the G&U with the gained access to Cape Rail's nicely flush passenger fleet. Priscoli has always wanted to do more of that given that he got his start buying Edaville, and indeed the very last-ever recorded run of a classic MBTA F40PH "Screamer" loco was pulling a Santa train of loaned-n'-decorated T coaches on a much-publicized North Grafton-Hopedale excursion a few years ago. So probably will end up expanding the Dinner Train's reach, which is good for the general public. And makes MassDOT look good for dumping a fortune's worth of on-Cape upgrades--mainline, Falmouth Branch, and all--into the CIP with another busy construction season now underway.
Now if we could get him to buy PAR.....
 

HelloBostonHi

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Increased service returns to the MBTA on June 21st, not up to weekday level of service but fairly close on RT, buses not so much and quietly buried in there they mention a few more routes are getting the permanent suspension. Select express bus routes 325, 326, 351, 352, and 501 that were previously operating will no longer operate beginning June 21: https://www.mbta.com/news/2020-06-09/mbta-services-increase-significantly-month

They also slipped out the news about the "structurally deficient" Rockport drawbridge at the same time to bury it under the news about service changes: https://www.mbta.com/news/2020-06-0...rockport-and-west-gloucester-replaced-shuttle
 

stick n move

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Has Nh or Maine ever been propositioned to help foot some of the nsrl bill since it will directly benefit them to be able to go to dc, nyc, philly, baltimore etc...? Its not just a Boston problem its a new England problem. On top of that, that should make it more elegible for federal funds. Idk I just feel like itll be harder to keep stalling with pressure from other states as well.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Has Nh or Maine ever been propositioned to help foot some of the nsrl bill since it will directly benefit them to be able to go to dc, nyc, philly, baltimore etc...? Its not just a Boston problem its a new England problem. On top of that, that should make it more elegible for federal funds. Idk I just feel like itll be harder to keep stalling with pressure from other states as well.
No. But states can't constitutionally fund projects in other states to begin with. It's only permissible when there's an official cross-state governing authority explicitly created to pool resources for shared-jurisdiction infrastructure...like Port Authority NYNJ for all the bridges and tunnels between NYC/Jersey, or the legacy Penn Station compacts for the Jersey tubes, or the holding authority for the Sarah Long Bridge between Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, ME. Or, in the case of the MBTA's Pilgrim Agreement with RI (templated for NH), the public authority in one state gets treated--via subtle legal trickery--as a private authority on the other side of the state line on 1:1 cost compensation basis to sidestep some of those nasty interstate commerce traps. Commuter rail can fly seamlessly under the T logo on a totally extracurricular Providence-Westerly run via RIDOT cutting 'dem checks for a purely mercenary operator and retaining an ownership stake in the "company" fleet commensurate with what % of equipment duty cycles run south of the border. And conversely the same for CTrail into Springfield or any run-thru ops to Greenfield that may be contracted out to ConnDOT to run.

But the legalese is all very artificially constructed around the specific purpose of commuter rail ops. It's a much different matter of finding a legally permissible way for there to be a funding pot for MEDOT/NNEPRA or NHDOT to pay into an NSRL construction contribution on a Downtown Boston construction project, even if they wanted to. Serving those interests are entirely where the feds come in to square up funding awards in the name of interstate commerce. So if we build NSRL, there will be some obligation of fed funds because that's the Federal Gov't's function in life to step up to the plate when interstate commerce is at stake. The same similarly would happen for making NNEPRA's lower-case dreams on a NY-Portland Amtrak train via the Inland Route + Grand Junction come true. Amtrak's the conduit there so the PRIAA statute's means for funding for the state-by-state ops splits is already obvious. But to the degree the Inland Route is only a ConnDOT/MassDOT state-sponsored joint (and any New Haven-NYC continuation solely a ConnDOT-NYSDOT joint) and the Downeaster a strictly MassDOT-NNEPRA state-sponsored joint with the respective corridors cleaving at that Allston-North Station diversion...that's where the fed fun bux award wadded up in some token Grand Junction construction upgrades carries the water for NNEPRA's interest in chaining itself onto an Inland slot diverted to Portland. That wad may in turn be buried in the fine print on any state-funded Purple Line usage of the GJ, but you can expect at least some token award from Washington buried in the mix for the sake of encouraging that NY-POR daily on Maine's behalf.

You're obviously talking WAY larger fed contribution to NSRL being a transformative regional project, but it's functionally happening on the same grounds. And the NH + ME Congressional delegations would be placing their votes accordingly for it...as well as being in a tactical funding mood for Amtrak writ-large because that's the banner the most economically significant run-thru service is going to be flying under for their purposes. Now...this in no way compels the feds to fund exactly as much as you'd wish them to fund in said NSRL award. That's life & politics right there. If they deem it primarily an intrastate commuter rail beneficiary, MassDOT's getting stuck with lion's share of the bill. NSRL isn't--by orders of magnitude--as regionally impactful as Gateway NYC any way you measure it, so it's hard to rationally see how this ends up becoming a 51%-or-greater fed funding project. The question is whether we can make it qualify for anything substantial in fed contribution, or if they're going to stiff us with tokenism. Remember when the Romney Admin. nearly broke its own back trying to pitch South Coast Rail as a "regional" project despite never crossing the state line, and how much money the feds felt compelled to give us for those "regional" coattails? Yeah, neither do I...though you can empirically argue the G.W. Bush-era feds were sending an overdue message that project cost-control was nowhere near ready for prime time by appropriating the big fat $0. NSRL won't be a free ride any way you slice it, but how much is fair is the very reason why we have a Congressional delegation in the first place to lobby the shit out of their colleagues.


NONE of this is something we need to be worrying about in 2020, seeing as how we're a million miles from getting our own shit together on basic-most existential decisions for this project. We still can't get our own advocating pols to stop shooting themselves in the foot (SHUT UP, DUKAKIS!) with contradictory messaging to our own citizens, and have an incumbent state Admin. more currently invested in tanking the project than advancing it. Nobody is making a pitch to the federal government for advancing this until we learn how to cleanly make a pitch to ourselves for advancing this, so first priorities always come first.
 
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tysmith95

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NH would never in a million years pay for a rail project in Massachusetts. They don't fund the Downeaster at all, that's a Maine project that happens to pass through New Hampshire.

Extending the Lowell Line to Nashua is a no brainer, but NH refuses to fund any of it.
 

jklo

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Extending the Lowell Line to Nashua is a no brainer, but NH refuses to fund any of it.
Not really, It's too far. Esp when factoring in you almost certainly would have to transfer to Subway once you got to North Station.
 

Arlington

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Not really, It's too far. Esp when factoring in you almost certainly would have to transfer to Subway once you got to North Station.
By 2022 North Station will be a way better multi-modal hub, and will be "worth it" for about the same reason that service from Rhode Island works to South Station:
  • Orange Line: New trains, more frequent service
  • Green Line: All-day service on the D & E (and probably C) (both to Back Bay & Copley & Lechmere)
  • Offices: State Street HQ and Verizon as employers
  • Bus: Plenty of Kendall/Lechmere And maybe a Congress St Busway to POSq & Seaport
 

jklo

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By 2022 North Station will be a way better multi-modal hub, and will be "worth it" for about the same reason that service from Rhode Island works to South Station:
Providence has one stop to Ruggles (LMA) and Back Bay, not to mention plenty of employers right near South Station. Not really comparable.

If you lived in Nashua, you're probally working in Nashua itself or driving to something like Burlington/Waltham.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Not really, It's too far. Esp when factoring in you almost certainly would have to transfer to Subway once you got to North Station.
It isn't, though. The plan is to fork the schedules so the district-serving all-locals terminate at Nashua with 60 min. travel times and the RUR-spec 30-minute all-day frequencies, while the Concord trains run on a separate schedule layer (probably no more than hourly) making all stops in NH but skip-stop Lowell + Anderson only inside MA only at net ~78 min. travel times. You should check the study's charts...CON-BOS was jaw-droppingly fast run that way instead of as a conjoined local. I actually don't see how NH's economy is going to survive without eventually building that; the massive population declines in most of the state's counties mean the Capitol Corridor is going to have to suck that much harder than ever at Greater Boston's paycheck-doling teat to carry the whole state economically on its back. 78 mins utterly slays the present-day car trip. It makes NHDOT seem all the more insane for debt-spending itself straight into a crater on the I-93 add-a-lane megaproject, which involved them raiding the statewide bridge repair fund to bankruptcy to help pay for.

The T needs the project simply because Lowell is an outsized cost chew for lacking a layover yard, PAR Nashua Yard is the most logical candidate, and RUR service to Lowell run with acceptable cost recovery basically requires crossing the state line to tap Nashua Yard. The rest of the value proposition for them is simply about diverting the NH plates the sell out Lowell Garage capacity each day at the border @ South Nashua so there's more room for local increases, and expanding outright in-district reach to Vinal Sq. North Chelmsford (LRTA bus diverging point) and UMass-Lowell. Purely selfishly those require crossing the border to accomplish, so the "go it alone" efforts City of Nashua has engaged in to inoculate themselves from getting fucked over by the NH Legislature again are being enacted with *significant* egging-on from south of the border. Lifetime irrevocable MBTA trackage rights to Concord and quid-pro-quo's with PAR for use of Nashua Yard were squared 12 years ago in the GLX land swaps between state and PAR, so the ops side is all set as well as what MA "freight grants" get wink-wink reciprocal PAR self-investment for upgrading the track between state line and Nashua. All they need is somebody in NH to actually fund & design-build the stations and they're otherwise ready to push this over the finish line.

Thankfully at this exact moment NH State is still funding the latest Nashua study, so we're in an "on-again" 2-year term. Who the hell knows what next election will bring in short attention-span theatre, but right this second City of Nashua doesn't have to play the "go it alone" card.

If you lived in Nashua, you're probally working in Nashua itself or driving to something like Burlington/Waltham.
No...they're taking up parking spots in Lowell garage. That's fact, not supposition, documented to the nines in the studies. This is why there's such purely selfish, in-district motivation for hitting Nashua and why they need the minimal assist for the cross-border stations to make it happen. In-district mobility is tremendously upgraded diverting those NH plates so MA plates have a shot.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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I think Nashua has better ridership potential than Fitchburg or the South Coast Rail.
Definitely. Also think North Chelmsford is sneaky-underrated if LRTA frequency increases meet RUR frequency increases, because Vinal Sq. is a significant diverging point for Tyngsboro vs. Billerica local routes...exactly the sort of last-mile feeder presence you need to see more of in the outer fringes to make RUR pay off long-term. And while officially-officially still unproposed, a UMass-Lowell intermediate seems like a shoo-in for checking off a lot of statewide boxes for the direct accessibility to another major State U campus. But really, Lowell Line RUR is going to be painfully inefficient to run if you don't get the layover yard situation squared, as all other sites (Billerica, etc.) are ham-fisted at best. At its most boiled-down in-district serving selfish the T needs Nashua to get carried over the finish line by someone north of the border solely for that if nothing else. Which is why City of Nashua's willingness to go it alone if NH State flakes out again is so significant.
 

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