General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

DBM

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Hubris ain't just for ancient Greek fables... Baker's worldview was forged at the Pioneer Institute. His current MBTA GM is from the Pioneer Institute. Presumably, he and ex-CLFer Pollack thought it would make sense for her to become Transportation head, because "shore up his left flank," etc., etc.

In the abstract, amongst all the PR mavens and policy directors, etc., etc., it sounded very smart and clever. In reality, it came to this all-too-predictable state of affairs...
 

F-Line to Dudley

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T moving full-speed ahead with Design for replacing Hingham Ferry Dock with new ADA-enhanced facility. I guess with Fed legislation covering the bulk of their COVID shortfall, the ferries are no longer on the chopping block and they can exhale on projects in some state of progress.
 

JumboBuc

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Obviously she's not intentionally trying to commit career suicide, but with a playbook like this you can be excused for being confused at what exactly she hopes to gain from any of this except painting the rest of her policy career into corners.
FHWA Deputy Administrator
 

devnull

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cubalibre

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Depends on the replacement. The Globe writes:

In her place, Baker said he appointed Jamey L. Tesler, the current head of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, to be acting secretary at MassDOT […]

Baker tapped Tesler to lead the Registry in June 2019 when the previous registrar, Erin Deveney, resigned after the deadly New Hampshire crash. He previously served as MassDOT’s chief operating officer, leaving government only months earlier.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Depends on the replacement. The Globe writes:

In her place, Baker said he appointed Jamey L. Tesler, the current head of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, to be acting secretary at MassDOT […]

Baker tapped Tesler to lead the Registry in June 2019 when the previous registrar, Erin Deveney, resigned after the deadly New Hampshire crash. He previously served as MassDOT’s chief operating officer, leaving government only months earlier.
Sounds like "Fix it!" is the directive getting pointed at the brainrot at the top of MassDOT if the same person who got brought in for the rancid RMV scandal cleanup is coming in here on the heels of 2 years of botched-execution study/project/budget outreach significantly angrying up the electorate.
  • The horrible PR over the draconian COVID service cuts. The state was in exactly the same boat as 49 other states at having to give the bad news and facing a public more conditioned than ever for swallowing bad news. So they should have had an easier time explaining the cuts as a result, but still managed to go so above-and-beyond scorched-earth and downright toxic in tone that the opposition bloc they stirred up was 'the' local story of Fall 2020 and spurred an exceedingly rare rebuke from Baker's also-handpicked FCMB. That states equal-or-worse bad on funding shortfalls could massage their messaging on exactly the same degree of potential cuts without such swift and immediate recrimination shows by process of elimination that the MassDOT leadership performed very badly at its stated job in that saga. And it hurts beyond today now that funding reinstatement is in the cards, because absolutely no one trusts them to restore service levels accordingly and every watchdog is in a frenzy ready to pounce at the flattening curve of cuts still being a targeted political hit job. No hope of this crisis evaporating politically even as it starts quickly evaporating financially.
  • The self-owns on the Pike 'throat'...a decision that should've never ever ever become as complicated as it did but for an engagement process so poorly managed it started eating its own. It metastasizes from there, as MassDOT has seemingly lost its mojo all of a sudden at forging consent coming off an earlier string of successes doing just that in Baker's 1st term. That points square to tired leadership at the agency if something that used to work better than in previous Admins. very suddenly and consistently stopped working midway through the 2nd term. Now galvanized by one symbolically very high-profile self-pwnage like the utter implosion of the Pike 'throat' decision.
  • "Tankapalooza" not working like it used to. They have uncharacteristically had to backpedal on too-transparently cooked study books on all things East-West Rail Study, Red-Blue's topline costs, all manner of things Rail Vision, and the nonsensical alt-vs.-alts methodology of the most recent NSRL turf job. Now, we know Baker being a creature of thinktankland likes to utilize lying-with-statistics to prove a point...and that sometimes it's been able to work spectacularly IN his favor like with the GLX project audit where they deftly played both public and contractors like a fiddle with the cancellation threat to get a better price point. That seemed to be this Admin.'s crowning Transpo Mgt. achievement the way they were lionized for the GLX audit nationally. To have backfire after backfire set in ever since that crowning achievement and now getting continuously chewed-up/spit-out by ragtag groups of advocates like TransitMatters and any number of E-W/NNEIRI coalition members on poorly-concealed funny math after that is a bad sign of quickly lost mojo. They're not playing multi-dimensional chess anymore on a clear agenda (whatever you personally think of that agenda) having to issue self-corrections to so many obvious data errors, and E-W creating a whole new slew of fired-up political enemies is starting to show the accruing damage in trust. In short, policy-by-finger-on-the-scale isn't working like it used to...and that's a problem for the Big Boss when his Admin. is so thoroughly thinktanker-stacked to reliance on that means of pushing policy. Damage accrues quickly far and wide across the Admin. when the 'tell' gets too lazy and transparent and starts multiplying the quantity and intensity of counteradvocacies with every public statement. MassDOT's follies with lying badly and getting called out on it boldly & frequently these last 2 years makes every Cabinet department's job harder in the aggregate. No shit the Boss is going to want swift changes at the source before it metastasizes across departments.
So right then and there if a high-profile "scandal-soother" is the replacement pick it speaks volumes that MassDOT is in poorer shape today strictly because of--in the absence of capital-S "scandal"--its last couple years were a foot-in-mouth comedy of errors from the topmost mouthpieces, the accrued damage from that has complicated Baker's overall governing strategy, and direct targeting is being made at horse's-mouth level of the Department to tighten things the eff up before all this freshly-sown opposition mushrooming all around gets out of control and starts attacking the Admin. across the board. With timing at the midterm conspicuous for making the calming results wholly evident by '22 when it's time for Baker to either opt for a 3rd term or (more likely) Polito cashes in her fast-growing campaign warchest for a first campaign for succession to the top job.
 

cden4

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There's nothing citizens hate more than when public officials blatantly lie to them. It's even worse when the public officials try to wrap the lies in data and process. All most people ask for is honesty and transparency. Tell us the options, the real costs, and the tradeoffs. Let's consider them all with open minds and make the best decision given the circumstances. Don't box us into a corner and then complain when we're upset.

The last few years has been MassDOT telling us why things can't be done. This is condescending and insulting. They work for us, the taxpayers. If the community clearly wants or demands something, particularly when it's in line with mutually agreed upon goals, it is their responsibility to try to make it happen, and if they can't, tell us how we can help them make it happen.
 

shmessy

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There's nothing citizens hate more than when public officials blatantly lie to them. It's even worse when the public officials try to wrap the lies in data and process. All most people ask for is honesty and transparency. Tell us the options, the real costs, and the tradeoffs. Let's consider them all with open minds and make the best decision given the circumstances. Don't box us into a corner and then complain when we're upset.

The last few years has been MassDOT telling us why things can't be done. This is condescending and insulting. They work for us, the taxpayers. If the community clearly wants or demands something, particularly when it's in line with mutually agreed upon goals, it is their responsibility to try to make it happen, and if they can't, tell us how we can help them make it happen.
+1. It is now 2021. The past decade has seen
Metastasized technological growth in Robotics, AI, Energy Source, Computerization, Boring/Tunnelling ,etc. Yet MassDot is very clearly humanity’s heavy braking system in what is clearly a time of lost opportunities.
 

ErnieAdams

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MassDOT's rep heard an earful for showing up at a Sandwich Conservation Commission meeting with an after-the-fact request to permit the fall's emergency embankment repair on the Cape Main without also saying how the state planned to fix the pond into which the degraded embankment fell.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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MassDOT's rep heard an earful for showing up at a Sandwich Conservation Commission meeting with an after-the-fact request to permit the fall's emergency embankment repair on the Cape Main without also saying how the state planned to fix the pond into which the degraded embankment fell.
That pond has been a political football for years. Geologically unstable, so the embankment collapse was only the latest problem to flare up in decades worth of soil instability issues. State and locals have always degenerated into finger-pointing over who's on the hook for perma-fixes. Same skirmish, different year.
 

whighlander

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Given the massive fiasco with the handling of the Pandemic [especially the moronic one-size-fit-all lockdowns] and most recently the ongoing mega-screwup of the vaccination deployment -- I doubt that about now -- that Baker gives a "whit or a szitz" ) about transportation planning

However -- assuming all that acute-Pandemic is behind us in mid summer -- then Jamey L. Tesler*1, the new DOT CEO will have a chance to review things which have happened inside his department in the two years since he last was COO of DOT
So -- if anything is likely to happen on the policy front -- I bet on September 2021 after Labor Day -- a bit more than a year from the next election

*1
Past DOT related positions:
Mass DOT:​
COO​
Chief of Staff​
Assistant Secretary for Procurement​
Deputy Secretary for Legal, Policy and Planning​
MBTA​
Deputy General Counsel​
He might turn out to be a good person at the top
 

Java King

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I wasn't sure to put this here or over on the MBTA/Keolis thread, but it may not be short term. :)
I received my January copy of Passenger Train Journal a few days ago and there was a blurb about advancing MBTA Commuter Rail to Manchester, NH. I hadn't heard anything recently so I Googled and found this recent article from my birthday!

F-Line, you are the expert here. Any possible condition to triple track the Lowell line along the GLX Extension to allow for express service? I could see several stops in NH and then Lowell, and then express into Boston. Then, the Lowell line would be local stops. I wonder if the MBTA & MassDOT are thinking long term as they complete the GLX extension.

I had the misfortune of having several 9am meetings in the Autodesk Manchester office and having to travel from Scituate. That was one HORRIBLE commute, and I would have opted for a train if it was under 2 hours. The drive was between 3-4 hours sometimes.
 

fatnoah

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I hadn't heard anything recently...
I get the sense that the state is spending Feddybux on this, rather than its own money. I just don't see the case where the state actually spends tens or hundreds of millions on this unless it's someone else's money.
 

whighlander

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I get the sense that the state is spending Feddybux on this, rather than its own money. I just don't see the case where the state actually spends tens or hundreds of millions on this unless it's someone else's money.
Fatnoah - assuming that there is no immediate push-back at the Congressional level - -there is a window of about 2 years for "Crazy Transit Pitches" to be fulfilled
Come 2023 or so -- the US DOT spending binge is probably over -- one way or another

Other point -- one of the Trump Legacies -- assuming Pres. Biden doesn't trash it -- the huge cut in red tape to get a transportation project reviewed and either approved or rejected [about a decade down to 2 years or so] -- hence a plan proposed today could be funded before the huge spending is wrapped-up
 

fatnoah

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hence a plan proposed today could be funded before the huge spending is wrapped-up
As someone who grew up in NH and still travels (well, used to) frequently from the Boston area, I'd love nothing more than for this to come to pass. Hopefully the demographics of southern NH have changed enough over time to get over the "why should I pay for something I don't benefit from" mentality that pervades the state.
 

jklo

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This was talked about earlier... even Nashua is too far for any real practical use. The commute would simply be too long. Remember that you pretty much have to get on the T after getting to North Station.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I wasn't sure to put this here or over on the MBTA/Keolis thread, but it may not be short term. :)
I received my January copy of Passenger Train Journal a few days ago and there was a blurb about advancing MBTA Commuter Rail to Manchester, NH. I hadn't heard anything recently so I Googled and found this recent article from my birthday!

F-Line, you are the expert here. Any possible condition to triple track the Lowell line along the GLX Extension to allow for express service? I could see several stops in NH and then Lowell, and then express into Boston. Then, the Lowell line would be local stops. I wonder if the MBTA & MassDOT are thinking long term as they complete the GLX extension.

I had the misfortune of having several 9am meetings in the Autodesk Manchester office and having to travel from Scituate. That was one HORRIBLE commute, and I would have opted for a train if it was under 2 hours. The drive was between 3-4 hours sometimes.
The official service plan for the extension is layer-cake service. Full-on local Lowell schedules extend to Downtown Nashua (with South Nashua, North Chelmsford, and maybe UMass-Lowell intermediates) to tap the PAR freight yard as badly-needed layover. Manchester/Concord service is run as a separate local-in-NH/express-in-MA service layer running Concord--Hooksett--Manchester--Manchester Airport--Merrimack--Nashua--South Nashua...but then skipping to only Lowell and Anderson inside MA.

Everything is single-filing to West Medford at max speed, so there's no need for any tri-tracking. West Med would be most ideally ADA'd up as a tri-track with full-highs between the Canal grade crossing and the existing MOW siding west of the station, center passer used by Downeaster and freights. The ROW used to be quad-width that side of the river for the leads to the ancient Mystic River freight house. Crossovers 1 per every 2-3 stops can handle the meets/overtakes elsewhere out to Wilmington. And Wilmington itself, in prep for taking interlined Haverhill service (divorced from Reading short-turns, per the Rail Vision), would simply stack both platforms facing each other south of the MA 62 overpass, which then serves up the room under the bridge for a center passing track between full-highs and enough crossovers to make both platforms accessible from Haverhill/Wildcat trains.

The only other consideration then becomes whether it's time to re-signal the line south of Anderson for Class 5/90 MPH for benefit of both the Downeaster and these NHDOT super-expresses and realign any existing crossovers for higher-speed passage. Likewise would involve weapons-grade crossing protection at West Medford like quadrant gates, lane barriers, and queue-dump signals so the current 30 MPH speed restriction through the crossings is uprated to 60 MPH. Then I think you're really cooking with gas, as the DE, the NHDOT expresses, and any interlined Haverhill trains that skip West Med + Wedgemere (heavily emptied-out to begin with by GLX implanting itself down the street) to haul serious ass if they were stocked with all- HSP-46 locos and bi-level equipment (rated for 93 MPH, unlike the single-levels and other loco classes capped at 79) across the full day's schedule.

80 minutes from Concord is totally doable with those kinds of common-sense in-situ touches. No major steel/concrete adds required.
 

whighlander

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This was talked about earlier... even Nashua is too far for any real practical use. The commute would simply be too long. Remember that you pretty much have to get on the T after getting to North Station.
Fitchburg is 10 mi further than Nashua and seems to do fine as a stop on the Commuter Rail
Manchester NH to Boston is almost exactly the same distance as Fitchburg to Boston
 

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