General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

F-Line to Dudley

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Addendum: I'd also grade these examples a little bit on a scale. It's hard, without a cheat sheet, to parse how 'portable' CRRC's Cali exemption would be given the somewhat alien (to us East Coasters) way transit agencies are funded out there. There are so many regional sub-agencies sharing power under the L.A. Metro umbrella, for example, that it's hard to tell where one transit district ends and the other begins. So there may be reams of asterisks about how much leeway CRRC gets for bidding on all that white-hot LRV marketplace statewide. No such murkiness with Illinois, however. Metra was fully covered under the CTA's contract exemption for total unrestricted CRRC bidding. And CRRC did bid...on what was/is the largest Commuter Rail rolling stock contract that will be bid out anywhere in North America during the 2020's decade.

But the bid was tepid to the point of near-noncompetitiveness. Despite the fact that #1 bidder Alstom bought #2 bidder Bombardier, gaining regulatory approval to complete the purchase after the bid deadline (so in Metra's eyes they were still competing bids)...and that was well-known throughout the evaluation process. Despite the fact that were antitrust not such an afterthought joke in the U.S. that Alstom-BBD's Commuter Rail market dominance is now concerningly large given Nippon-Sharyo's de facto exit from North America bidding, Kawasaki's self-imposed moratorium on non-MTA bidding, and Rotem's self-nullifying of "Buy America" compliance by closing their last U.S. assembly plants. Despite the fact that BBD has had a near-monopoly on commuter coach procurement wins for the last 3 years and is rapidly expanding the market lead for the newly combined company.

I mean...you don't have to speculate about Springfield being some crouching tiger ready to strike. This Chicagoland order just awarded was The Big Enchilada™. The only larger procurement of its kind coming in the next 15 years is the Amtrak Amfleet and Superliner replacements, which both definitely precludes CRRC up-front because of its majority Fed funding streams and state funding participation only on the parasitic option orders. If they were going to go for broke for Manifest Destiny growth sake, Metra was the be-all bid to pull out all the stops for. As well as the one where market optics would've shone most favorably upon them as an alternative because of the whole Alstom-BBD consolidation, plus the fresh change in federal Administrations from the one that imposed the trade sanctions. Not here in Mass...action in Illinois first before anywhere. And they didn't go for broke, by conscious choice. That probably telegraphs all you truly need to know about their growth strategy. They're being very risk-averse right now amid growing pains on ongoing orders about branching out too multimodal too fast after *multiple* competitive equals provided instruction on how NOT to do things impaling themselves with too much too soon. And apparently see more to gain retrenching around getting those Big Three HRT subway car orders on-schedule rather than expanding their horizons to other mode stock.


Project accordingly on the odds for the open/upcoming MBTA orders: CR coaches, LRV's, and CR EMU's. I would not be too surprised if they went *somewhat* spirited at the Green Line order, if only because there's fairly broad supply chain commonality between HRT and LRT modes. "Somewhat" still not quite good enough the way Siemens is absolutely lapping the field right now with LRV bid win after win after win. But I also wouldn't be surprised if they opted entirely out of the EMU order's RFP round, and if they mutedly played Take-It-Or-Leave-It bidding the still-yet-unseen stock SEPTA design for the bi-level coach order (their high-boarding bi make itself starved for follow-on order prospects by SEPTA now buying stock Bombardier MLV trailers via its parasitic options on NJ Transit EMU contract). Which probably isn't going to fend off a newly embiggened Alstom-BBD from price-warring a hot MLV production line. Too much of their RR prospects follow in line with how they chose to play for the Metra megacontract...and right now that play looks very strongly like tea-leaves-reading risk aversion rather than bold expansionary splash. Yes, things can change. Especially if our "Cutting Forward" overlords start slow-walking these upcoming procurements multiple calendar years further out in service of Baker's resurgent austerity push. But it also can't be understated just how much a bellweather the Metra sweepstakes were at predicting immediate-future behavior at CRRC.
 
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RandomWalk

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Aside from the SEPTA order and the extant T orders, what else is CRRC’s Springfield plant going to build?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Aside from the SEPTA order and the extant T orders, what else is CRRC’s Springfield plant going to build?
L.A. Metro's first pilot set was to be assembled in Springfield, because the Cali factory isn't online yet. Not sure if that's still on the table now that they're crisis-triaging all manner of delay recovery with Orange/Red + SEPTA. Other than that, size + duration of the MBTA order keeps them well tied-up for the next several years.
 

RandomWalk

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Are the SEPTA cars slated to ship via road or are they going to reactivate the rail siding?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Are the SEPTA cars slated to ship via road or are they going to reactivate the rail siding?
They eventually plan to reactivate the rail siding (on the CSX East Springfield Industrial Track), but that won't happen while the SEPTA cars are on-deadline. I would assume deliveries end up getting trucked to the loading pad at CSX West Springfield Yard right across the river, and get manifested on an Albany-bound freight from there. There's only 45 cars on the total order; it's not a significant-size contract by any stretch.

The siding becomes more useful to them if they end up getting any car repair/midlife overhaul business where they'd need to regularly exchange cars to complete a contract. Assembly alone (least of all majority- rapid transit assembly) isn't going to generate much usage.
 

bigeman312

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Don't know if this has been shared in here before but I stumbled across this data dashboard from MassDOT that shows transit, traffic, bike, ped, frieght, etc activity and how it compares to pre-covid, thought it might be of interest. https://mobility-massdot.hub.arcgis.com/
I love this. Thank you!

Inquiry: the data shows a dramatically higher ridership at Haymarket (both Green and Orange Lines) on Fridays before COVID restrictions were introduced as well as continuing throughout the pandemic. Does anyone know why this is? It might have an obvious reason that I'm overlooking.
 

bigeman312

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Solved! Good work, guys. That's definitely it. Upon closer examination, Saturdays at Haymarket have dramatically higher ridership than Sundays and the surge disappears on days when the farmers market is closed (Christmas, New Years). Here's a graph of Haymarket's daily validations dating to 1/1/20 to nerd out to. The weekly spikes are all Fridays:

Haymarket_Data.png
 

bigeman312

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I know I'm bordering on spam, so apologies. Some of my findings in the linked data are interesting enough to post here.

Last week was the highest bus ridership, systemwide, in 20 weeks.

The bus routes that have the relatively strongest ridership (average weekday ridership) as a proportion of their 2019-2020 peak ridership week:

Bus RouteMost Recent Average Weekday Ridership: Week of 3/22/21% of Week of 2/24/20% of Peak '19-'20 WeekWas 3/22 the highest ridership week of 2021?Notes
81,55651%45%Yes
163,44460%56%YesFrequency adjustment 3/14/21.
171,50054%51%Yes
224,44056%51%Yes
235,90154%48%Yes
2493357%50%YesConsolidation: replaced the 27 on 3/14/21.
286,81360%53%Yes
341,56948%46%-
34E1,70656%51%Yes
395,45050%46%YesRidership increase despite frequency decrease 3/14/21.
421,40357%51%Yes
6120155%47%-Frequency decrease 3/14/21.
651,17645%45%Yes
1042,82269%58%Yes
10552756%46%-
1092,39676%69%YesSee Below
1116,29066%56%Yes
11260753%47%-Frequency decrease 3/14/21.
11424165%47%-
1163,95561%58%Yes
1173,60265%60%Yes
11963965%53%Yes
1201,33050%50%Yes
13768977%56%YesConsolidation: replaced the 136 on 3/14/21. See below.
1925367%53%-Very low ridership route. Single early-morning trip.
43539466%54%YesRoute change 3/14/21.
43636650%47%-
4396887%49%YesVery low ridership route. See below.
45092962%50%Yes
4552,14760%58%Yes
SL33,76850%47%Yes
SL54,97550%46%Yes

Now let's play the nonsensical "which bus route will hit pre-COVID levels first" game:

439

The 439 is a very low ridership route (the only MBTA bus serving Nahant) with lots of relative variability due to its low ridership. Technically, there were seven weeks from 1/2019-2/2020 that had lower ridership than the 439 had last week. But, with just 68 riders/day, the 439 is winning on a technicality. So, let's adjust the rules of the game to be a bus route with >100 riders per day.

137

The 136 and 137 were consolidated into the single 137 route on 3/14/21. Before consolidation, these routes had similar ridership. Unsurprisingly, the 137's ridership has doubled since they were consolidated. Technically, there were eight weeks from 1/2019-2/2020 during which the old 137 had a lower ridership than the new consolidated 137. But, with the consolidation, this is also winning on a technicality. So, let's adjust the rules of the game to be a bus route that hasn't gobbled up a similar-ridership route.

109

The 109 is a legit entrance in this contest. With 2,396 riders/day last week, the 109 saw its highest ridership week in over a year. Some of the boost is likely due to the suspension of Orange Line service north of Sullivan. The continued additions of bus lanes in Everett surely help long-term ridership, too. All of that being said, last week's ridership on the 109 was higher than the week of 3/18/19! That must have been a crappy-weather week with a breakdown, construction, and some other delays on the 109, but I'll count it. Last week's 109 ridership was 99.4% of Thanksgiving week 2019 and 97.5% of a week in mid-May 2019.

Even though the Orange Line problems have helped boost the 109's ridership in recent weeks, the 109 has had relatively high ridership for months: >50% of the baseline week (2/24/20) every single week since last June. Last week, the 109 had a higher ridership than the SL1, SL2, or SL4. The Broadway corridor through Everett is really proving to be a key bus corridor. I hope we see continued investment into BRT elements on this corridor.

EDIT: Because a picture is worth 1,000 words:

109_Bus_Ridership_Data.png
 
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clam

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Stood up on the OL for the first time yesterday, but still didn't seem that packed because everyone is one seat apart. Kill the frequencied and use t
Solved! Good work, guys. That's definitely it. Upon closer examination, Saturdays at Haymarket have dramatically higher ridership than Sundays and the surge disappears on days when the farmers market is closed (Christmas, New Years). Here's a graph of Haymarket's daily validations dating to 1/1/20 to nerd out to. The weekly spikes are all Fridays:

View attachment 11770
This rocks
 

bigeman312

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The data dump for last week's (3/29-4/4) bus ridership is in. Bus routes that have strong ridership relative to pre-COVID (>45% of peak): 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 28, 34E, 42, 61, 104, 105, 109, 111, 112, 116, 117, 119, 120, 137, 192, 411, 435, 436, 442, 450, 455, SL3, SL5. I've bolded routes that were among the 20 highest ridership routes last week.

This week, I want to focus on the SL3:

SL3.jpg


Last week, the SL3 registered its highest ridership in 55 weeks. At 3,771 riders per day, the SL3 had a ridership 47% of its highest 2019-'20 ridership week (10/14/19) and 50% of the index week (2/24/20). In fact, the SL3 was the 12th highest ridership route in the system last week, ahead of even the 15, 77, and SL4.

Ridership on the SL3 has proven more resilient than on the system as a whole over the last year and is continuing to further rebound.

Some background:

The current SL3 is a part of the long-proposed Urban Ring, a would-be 25-mile circular corridor through Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Medford, and Somerville. In 2010, the Urban Ring project was canceled, but some elements of the project continued to be studied, including this segment. This segment, originally dubbed the Silver Line Gateway, was funded in 2013, broke ground in 2015, and opened in 2018.

Even amidst the pandemic, this route is proving to be a necessary link for a dense, transit-dependent population in Chelsea.

The SL3 is not without its issues though:

There is a conflict at D Street:

A 2003 study indicated extending the Transitway tunnel under D Street ("T under D") for grade separation was feasible, with a cost around $75 million. The light has attracted criticism from riders due to the delays it causes. A 2013 study found a median delay of 1.5 minutes per round trip at the light. In early 2016, the Boston Transportation Department modified the traffic light to use a fixed cycle, rather than relying on the detection of buses (only done during part of the cycle) to give a green light for the Transitway. However, the BTD's modifications did not modify the unusually-long 100-second cycle length nor actively prioritize buses, leading to criticism from transportation planners that the solution was inadequate.
There is an ongoing controversy over the use of a ramp:

MassDOT claims the ramp was not designed for buses, though Big Dig planner Fred Salvucci has claimed it was ... A 2010 study indicated that the ramp was safe for use by the Silver Line. Transit advocates have since pushed to allow use of the ramp by Silver Line buses ("Free the ramp"), though MassDOT claims the ramp is not safe to use when highway traffic is freely flowing ... In May 2019, MassDOT agreed to a limited test of ramp use, though advocates criticized MassDOT for limiting the test to only the evening peak hour, and only when highway speeds did not exceed 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). The three-day test in August 2019 resulting in average time savings of 3–8 minutes per bus, with significantly larger time savings at the most congested times. After these results, MassDOT agreed to make modifications to the ramp entrance to eventually allow use of the ramp whenever traffic speeds are below 30 mph.
There are also major issues with the Chelsea Street Bridge

The SL3 route is subject to frequent delays due to the opening of the Chelsea Street Bridge – as many as ten times per day – for ships serving the upstream oil terminals. Each bridge opening causes a delay of up to 20 minutes, and the only alternate route involves a lengthy detour on Route 1A. Federal regulations give priority to marine traffic.
Yes, these issues are quite frustrating. This route has proven to be important but is not treated as such at all. There needs to be more solution orientation for these issues plaguing the SL3. Ridership is there and will only be increasing as the year progresses. This pandemic has shown that these riders are transit-dependent and this is a crucial link. Time to "free the ramp," "T under D," and come up with some solution for the Chelsea Street Bridge.
 

clam

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Yes, these issues are quite frustrating. This route has proven to be important but is not treated as such at all. There needs to be more solution orientation for these issues plaguing the SL3. Ridership is there and will only be increasing as the year progresses. This pandemic has shown that these riders are transit-dependent and this is a crucial link. Time to "free the ramp," "T under D," and come up with some solution for the Chelsea Street Bridge.
If Mass is serious about supporting new development, it's crucial to get these online while that area is being rapidly redeveloped right now. Its a lot easier to get new resident onto an existing effective service than a couple years down the line when they're all used to driving in. They'll lose so much potential by waiting on any fix
 

Stlin

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There are also major issues with the Chelsea Street Bridge (snip) ...and come up with some solution for the Chelsea Street Bridge.
I'm not actually sure anyone *can* come up with a physical solution for this one. Unless you can get the Coast Guard to buy into limited opening windows, (which as yet, despite the wiki claim, I don't think has happened, and will be hard to negotiate, given the traffic precedent) I don't think you can get actually fit a fixed span bridge into this area with the clearance requirements here, hence the less than a decade old new lift bridge. Moving the terminal and its tank farm that's the source of the shipping demand is also an issue; where else could you put it, south of the bridge? Deliveries to those farms and terminals comprise 41% of New England’s Petroleum Products, 66% of Regional Home Heating Oil, 79% of Gasoline for Massachusetts, and 100% of the Jet Fuel for Logan Airport. [1]

Transitway under D I think is good future proofing, though probably not the highest priority for ~1 minute in savings. Freeing the Ramp permanently is probably the most consequential thing that can accomplished quite quickly with a minimum of investment.
 

jklo

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I'm not actually sure anyone *can* come up with a physical solution for this one. Unless you can get the Coast Guard to buy into limited opening windows, (which as yet, despite the wiki claim, I don't think has happened, and will be hard to negotiate, given the traffic precedent) I don't think you can get actually fit a fixed span bridge into this area with the clearance requirements here, hence the less than a decade old new lift bridge. Moving the terminal and its tank farm that's the source of the shipping demand is also an issue; where else could you put it, south of the bridge? Deliveries to those farms and terminals comprise 41% of New England’s Petroleum Products, 66% of Regional Home Heating Oil, 79% of Gasoline for Massachusetts, and 100% of the Jet Fuel for Logan Airport. [1]
You could do Orange/Indigo going the other way. But I think a decent amount is going to the Airport to work.
 

Arlington

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Done right you could have it be 100% as good. Set it up to operate like a rail crossing, screw the traffic on D St.
Somehow they plead that their bus detectors weren't always detecting their buses. I'm not saying it makes sense, but their claim to be unable to Transit Signal Priority was that they couldn't reliably detect the transit.
 

HelloBostonHi

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Somehow they plead that their bus detectors weren't always detecting their buses. I'm not saying it makes sense, but their claim to be unable to Transit Signal Priority was that they couldn't reliably detect the transit.
Yeah I heard that and I'd accept that in a a mixed traffic area but since it's an exclusive busway they could use literally any basic object detection to make it happen if they really wanted. Ideally yes there is specific TSP hardware that can communicate when a bus is approaching and when it's cleared but here since it's all buses you could literally just mount an infrared beam on either side if you wanted.
 

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