General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

F-Line to Dudley

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Good news: a pair (edit: Transitmatters' New Train Tracker says two pairs!) of type 9's were running today. Whatever issue was present that kept them from running in two-car trains seems to have been resolved.
Somebody on the RR.net Type 9 tracker thread phoned up "someone in the know" and said there was a minor mechanical issue that got them all yanked for a couple weeks, which has now been fully corrected. The fleet is still under warranty break-in period despite 23-of-24 units being accepted for revenue service, so I'm guessing that even if it was an extremely trivial issue they still needed CAF techs to fly in for a site visit to poke under the hood before enacting the fix. Their absence was barely noticed by the riding public because the Lechmere-end shutdown, B shutdown, and quiet Memorial Day Weekend meant so many fewer trainsets have been on-rotation this month in the first place.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Cape Cod Commission held a passenger rail meeting last night. Meeting minutes here.

Highlights:
  • South Coast Rail has thoroughly ratfucked the Cape given what extremely constrained Alternatives are on the table.
    • Alt. 1: A commuter-oriented shuttle service to/from Middleboro requiring a cross-platform transfer to get any further...only running at peak because that's the only time people are likely to hold their nose for that. No off-peak service because there's almost no point. Draws line in sand at Buzzards Bay for now because of bridge opening politics.
    • Alt. 2: A "half-cripple" Regional Rail solution: shuttle service w/M'boro transfer at peak and some off-peak slots because that's all the Old Colony can hold while SCR is weighing it down, but will finagle "early-bird" thru slots and thru slots in the off-peakiest SCR gaps. Overall backfill of shuttles+thrus would be much higher-frequency, resembling Regional Rail clock-facing and reverse-commute featuring to help establish long-game growth. Draws line-in-sand on Cape side of bridge with Bourne stop TBD, requires more bridge openings, but would more significantly defray bridge traffic.
  • The Army Corps' control of the Canal bridge sharply constrains the access to the Cape. And the Corps has already made an example out of this year's Flyer schedule by being extra-special stingy with bridge openings.
    • Background: the state used to have control of the openings, but deeded them over to the military because the military dangled paying for the bridge's 2003 top-down rehab to full state-of-repair leaving the state off the hook for most of the costs. It has now bitten them in the butt as they get allowed even fewer openings total than Cape Cod Central used to be able to get just for the dinner train.
    • Some state-to-Army ransom probably needs to be paid to reassert control, and/or our Congressional delegation needs to lobby Biden to slap someone to be more reasonable here. This is banal hostage-taking for turf warrage not backed up by any real-world need, but right now the Army Corps holds all the cards and is throwing it in our faces.
    • Because the Corps is gumming up the works, the Study can't make an actionable rec on whether crossing the bridge as a baseline service feature is even possible.
This is a terrible but eminently predictable set of outcomes.
  1. The very worst fears about SCR Phase I completely sandbagging Cape access have now come true. Where once a full-schedule extension from M'boro to Buzzards Bay was value-priced at sub-$90M, it now has to be a forced transfer at any halfway-worthy time slot because all ops are now siphoned to propping up the illusion that the over-long/gapped-the-@#$%-out Fall River/New Bedford frequencies have priority over the whole works. Worse...we still have not quantified the likely erosion in service reliability to Greenbush or Plymouth by needing to prop up twin-branch SCR service on the mainline. The study is trying to make lemonade out of lemons by trying to forge the most useful forced-transfer shuttle service they can possibly come up with and leverage other transit modes to try to drive up shares. But no one right now can guess what OTP Fall River and New Bedford are going to sustain, so it's unpredictable whether the timed transfers will be worth a damn.
  2. The Army Corps is still an irredeemable hellhole of political pettiness and score-settling. They overtly created the SCR shit sandwich with their BS sandbagging of the Stoughton Alternative. And now just as the noose is snapping tight around the Cape on mainline access or schedule slotting, they torpedo the 2021 Flyer schedule with extra stinginess on the bridge openings with promises of more hardline tactics to come. It's hard to see how a forced transfer is ever going to be useful if it can't get off the mainland to at least a Bourne/Sagamore stop, but right now the Corps are being such chuckleheads the study can't look past Buzzards Bay. And probably aren't going to relent unless they can successfully bend over the state to buy back the bridge from them.
  3. With the PTC mandate, passenger rail is sharply capped at 8 movements (or 4 round-trips) per day in unsignaled territory. Otherwise you need a signal system with Positive Train Control. Under the old Middleboro-Buzzards Bay full-schedule extension plan, signalization would've been extended on the mainland only to BB. It then would've been possible to super-extend 2 A.M. peak inbounds and 2 P.M. peak outbounds over the bridge to/from Hyannis to more-or-less make the Flyer a daily/year-round thing...without needing to spend for signals on the Cape. A potentially very cheap value-added. That's now thrown into tatters. The need to make this a shuttle makes the 'quality' of those 8 allowable PTC-exempted slots way lower, and the Regional Rail-ification frequency backfill required in Alt. 2 to make people sorta willing to hold their noses for the forced M'boro transfer means the cost shoots way up because the Cape now has to be signalized. It's probably not going to be possible to accommodate Hyannis at all, because just getting to the cross-Canal Bourne stop is going to require signalization cost now.

I give the study commission enormous credit for trying going at this eyes-wide-open, knowing that their whole region has basically been offered up as cannon fodder for everyone else's venal political posturing. They're not pretending this is going to be easy, or that they're going to be able to do much better than "least worst" at the end. And in spite of all that, they're forging ahead with more meetings to at the very least get immaculately measured feedback on exactly where their constituents' transit-shares trigger levels are. So that in the unlikely event somebody pays to fix the Old Colony mainline bottleneck in our lifetimes we will know exactly what service/how-frequent/to-where will bang out an optimal ROI with the Cape. It just may have to be stuffed into a time capsule with what rotten hand they've been dealt by their asshole Governor and at least one asshole Army General.
  • Meeting respondents were resolute that Hyannis needed to be included if the shuttle service were going to be usable. Others put a line in the sand at including West Barnstable in the core service area, since constraining it to one side of the Canal wasn't going to help defray the bad traffic that extends miles outward.
  • Surveys were split between the BB side of the Canal and the Bourne side...but that was mainly because both were unappetizing enough for traffic if you didn't extend the field further out to Barnstable, Sandwich, and/or Hyannis.
  • Respondents also said 2 hours to Boston was the dividing line between service that would attract lots of riders vs. exponentially less. That's good polling news because it would only take rounding up M'boro-Hyannis speeds to a diesel equal of Boston-M'boro to knock things down to 2 hours; NYNH&H schedules from 1958 end of service show a definite path forward there. Electrifying the whole works with stock EMU's might even make that a very nice 1:50 in the end...no need to enact TransitMatters' patently insane 100 MPH/1:19 barf-bag special to hit ridership paydirt. Cape would probably produce the ridership right away if their quality of service were equal to what Boston-M'boro is today. But you'd have to do full signalization and a last-push's worth of on-Cape state-of-repair investment to get to that point. And then the forced-transfer is still going to kill it all the same because the dwell @ Middleboro transfer will drop a big turd on the target threshold. If the South Coast trains have ungood OTP as widely expected because of the conflict-city created by trying to mesh those schedules cleanly with Greenbush and Plymouth on the combined Main...pfft! Looking like a lost cause that way.
I really don't see a path forward with what tattered shards they're left to work with here. The 'paydirt' travel times and frequencies would've been available with the old M'boro-BB extension, available with full-signalization extension to Hyannis, and likely stageable cheaply with a full-schedule M'boro-BB Phase I with a couple skip-stop expresses extended to Hyannis over unsignalized track but making up some mainland time by skipping lesser intermediates stops. That's blown to shreds now by SCR eliminating nearly all direct slots. And tasking the shuttles with precision-timed M'boro transfers likely makes the time threshold to Boston unachievable in any universe, simply because none of the Old Colony is going to run on-time often enough anymore to make forced transfers work well enough.


Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. This originally shaped up so hard to screw up...and they've done it. They've screwed it straight into a smoking crater into the ground. Thanks, Charlie and Steffie...this is your legacy. :(
 

OldColony

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Cape Cod Commission held a passenger rail meeting last night. Meeting minutes here.
The meeting notes posted so far are from the first meeting in November. While the latest meeting notes have not yet been posted, the Cape Cod Commission has posted the June 9th presentation here, as well as a recording of the online meeting here.

The presentation discusses two alternatives: Service to Buzzards Bay or across the canal to Bourne. The proposed level of service to Bourne is, to be as charitable as possible, delusional. The Army Corps of Engineers blocked the entirely reasonable plan to add a Saturday Hyannis to Boston and return round trip for the CapeFLYER this season. Clearly no one involved in the study has spoken with the Army Corps about the number of bridge operations that would be required for frequent Bourne service.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. This originally shaped up so hard to screw up...and they've done it. They've screwed it straight into a smoking crater into the ground. Thanks, Charlie and Steffie...this is your legacy. :(
Sadly, 100% spot on. South Coast Rail phase 1 guarantees New Bedford and Fall River will get crap service, to the point that ridership will be so poor that phase 2 won't happen (not that the Baker administration was ever serious about phase 2). As far as commuter rail extensions are concerned, the smarter choice would have been to extend existing Middleborough/Lakeville service directly to Buzzards Bay, but that's not going to happen now. To hell with the transit oriented development around the existing Middleborough/Lakeville station, as well as Wareham and Buzzards Bay. But we'll now have SCR phase 1, with a new Middleborough station. hooray. :poop:
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Wouldn't the easiest way to unfuck all of this be to just go ahead and fix the Quincy Bottleneck?
Yes. Unfortunately, they can't agree on what to do about it because the asphalt lobby always jumps in and demands an I-93 HOV lane extension through Savin Hill. The MPO Study, the most recent undertaken of that, was a godawful mess in that regard. It required tunneling *both* the RL Braintree Branch and the 2 Old Colony tracks to make room for its highway porn. And nobody's quite figured out how to fix the pinching between Wollaston and Quincy Adams, mainly because all of the battle swords are being drawn around I-93 capacity instead of staying on-topic. TransitMatters has its plan; it over-pinches the Red Line into branching past Savin Hill which very likely isn't going to work, but most of the Quincy treatments are solid and more detailed than what anyone else has attempted. However, the rest of their Old Colony plan is hot garbage predicated on "100 MPH barf-bag" service to the endpoints using super-vehicles not available for purchase. And that's a shame, because their mainline work is all regular speed and, excepting maybe not having a complete enough picture of RL ops to base their Savin Hill decision on, pretty feasible on the Quincy side of the capacity pickle. They only have one short single-track pinch just north of Quincy Center by the park which is unlikely to seriously constrain ops. But the whole report is going to get thrown in the trash because of the insanity of the warp-drive meets on the branches, so few of the solid points are likely to get noticed.

There probably would be a consensus on how to do that if MassHighway and its tentacles had it made absolutely clear that there'd be no capacity grabs, but there you are. It's very feasible to fish out South Coast's OTP demerits simply by double-tracking the JFK and Quincy Center platforms at small $$$ now, figure out the running mainline later. JFK can be doubled-up into a 2-track island turnout by taking the inner busway and lightly reconfigging the headhouse entrances. Quincy can be doubled-up into a 2-track island turnout by scooping out loose fill next to the Burgin Pkwy. side now that the upper floors of the garage have been demolished, and punching pedestrian archways every few dozen feet through the current platform's side retaining wall to make the new side of the platform accessible. Neither would be backbreakers, and both would enormously increase service levels and definitely allay all concerns about additional stress on OTP. Of course Chaz & Steffie never considered that, because they were never serious about giving SCR a chance to actually succeed.

I think for real-world solutioneering, you're probably looking at staging it. Double-up the platforms first...DT the Dorchester mainline separately...DT the north-of-QC mainline separately...DT the south-of-QC mainline separately. Platforms first, then whichever mainline order the funding streams contour more favorably towards. Keep the pressure on for funding add'l phases, and try to wrap it all up in 10-15 years. That they haven't considered platforms-first or breaking it into phases is simply the outlying symptom of how much contempt Beacon Hill holds South Shore commuters overall.
 

anthtucker312

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There probably would be a consensus on how to do that if MassHighway and its tentacles had it made absolutely clear that there'd be no capacity grabs, but there you are. It's very feasible to fish out South Coast's OTP demerits simply by double-tracking the JFK and Quincy Center platforms at small $$$ now, figure out the running mainline later. JFK can be doubled-up into a 2-track island turnout by taking the inner busway and lightly reconfigging the headhouse entrances. Quincy can be doubled-up into a 2-track island turnout by scooping out loose fill next to the Burgin Pkwy. side now that the upper floors of the garage have been demolished, and punching pedestrian archways every few dozen feet through the current platform's side retaining wall to make the new side of the platform accessible.
Would doubling up the platforms at Quincy Center and JFK be enough capacity to run all 3 Old Colony Lines, SCR via Middleborough, and commuter rail extension to Buzzards Bay/Hyannis? Or would you need to also double up the running track on the mainline to support such service?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Would doubling up the platforms at Quincy Center and JFK be enough capacity to run all 3 Old Colony Lines, SCR via Middleborough, and commuter rail extension to Buzzards Bay/Hyannis? Or would you need to also double up the running track on the mainline to support such service?
It fortifies the on-time performance a real lot, and allows some slot expansion by sending trains on different branches in/out against each other's taillights then staging meets on a platform. You might be able to backfill enough Cape runs that shuttle trains only need to happen half the time. But no, you can't feed 5 branches without complete (or as complete as it's ever gonna get if the park north of QC and Burgin Parkway's right lanes north of QA pinch it to single for very insignificant lengths). That has to be completely built out, likely on the installment plan. The point is that if anyone were in a mood to go fishing for solutions the platforms are the ripest exploit and can be relatively quick-starting. But nobody's doing that...not even for SCR, which is going to be punitive for overall on-time performance. It's an accounting trick to make the extremely expensive, extremely low-ROI "Phase I" seem less up-front expensive than it actually is. And Baker simply will not budge on it.

All of the lines are probably going to see ridership losses if their OTP, which today is pretty close to the best grouping on the system, starts falling because those super long-distance meets from the South Coast are making a mess of meshing in the Plymouths and Greenbushes in Quincy.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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FWIW...here's the MS Paint renders of how you'd DT just the platforms at JFK and Quincy Center, no extras. Yellow shade is the existing 6 ft. wide full-highs, mustard shade is the doubling of width to 12 ft. wide. CR track is purple, dotted purple is new track, and switch turnouts are indicated. Egresses are shown in red.

JFK
JFK.jpg

Old Colony Ave. is deleted (shown greyed-out and barricaded with black) on the slip ramp into the station busway. This assumes that Morrissey Blvd. is going to get parkway-tamed so the rotary gets greatly simplified. That's where most of the room comes from for the track turnout. Berth #2 and the idling spot on the big busway get deleted (berth #1 is OK as-is), and compensated by modding the rest of the somewhat inefficient busway layout. Plenty of space since the station "plaza" (such that it is) is expendable for something laid out a bit better. Slight mods to the ramps + ped overpass as needed, but they are likely minimal. The east end of headhouse #2 would need to be demoed/rebuilt so it can bowleg over the platform/track expansion, but most of that 80's-construction building is salvageable. I-93 overpass pegs are not shown, but there is confirmed (Street View gives an open look from Sidney St.) weaving room between pegs for doing the turnout. No mods whatsoever to the Red Line side required.

Quincy Center
QC.jpg

Current retaining walls bookending the CR side of the station are drawn in thin black. The wall stays for the platform doubling, but has regular ped archways punched through it (say...every vestibule stopping spot on the platform) for passing to the other side. All of the expansion area is loose gravel fill, including where the sidewalk platforms over the works abutting Burgin Pkwy. South egress stairs/elevator would be modded for the platform extension. North switch would be a slower-speed turnout because it's pinned in fairly tight by the Dimmock St. overpass. South switch is not constrained. Again assumes no Red Line mods.


Slot gains would come from "running against the taillights" on the combined mainline whenever possible. For every JFK-stopping Greenbush train, have a leapfrogging M'boro or Plymouth immediately follow it in the same direction so there's an easy on-platform overtake in the same inbound or outbound direction. For every Quincy-stopping M'boro/South Coast train, have a leapfrogging Greenbush or Plymouth right behind it. Thus, you'd essentially be managing all the mainline single-track the same way as today, except "doubling up" the trains by direction to increase the supportable traffic density to the absolute max. The rest of the time, let the chips fall with opposite-direction meets to maintain strong OTP, especially when a South Coast super-long is potentially misbehaving by running late. In the end you will get much fuller all-day schedules because the absolutely painful midday gapping on the OC will no longer be the rule, as each "double-up" slot introduces +1 unidirectional trips to dole out equitably amongst the 3 Quincy/Braintree-splitting branches. South Coast FAIL, while still a shitty schedule with its own painful off-peak gaps to the endpoints and too little double-tracking south of Braintree to manage its own meets well, is still a sunk cost for its own audience but at least is fortified from tanking the on-time performance of all other branches serving the South Shore. You're going to need to backfill the mainline double-tracking in a major way before there's any Regional Railification like :30 frequencies per branch or any zero-cripple Cape appendages of course, but doing up these two stops is a very major start for not-enormous money. Practically cheap @ JFK if you can shotgun it with DCR/MassHighway for a rotary revamp. And the gettin' is good for scooping out that loose fill at Quincy Center now that the garage is completely demolished. They really want to get on that before there's any construction starts on new station air rights.
 
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