General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

millerm277

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This is the best point you made. Bus lanes require enforcement. One of the biggest missed opportunities (unless it’s been recently rectified) would be for buses to have cameras on the front with the ability to take a snapshot of a car blocking a bus lane or bus stop. I’ve talked to multiple bus drivers who would happily support that system.
To note: camera enforcement is not legal in MA currently for anything other than highway tolls. It's not a matter of the MBTA choosing not to do it, it's not legal at present.
 

donkeybutlers

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It should be done on Huntington too, really why not both here? Central stops also should make it harder to ignore the bus lane than turn lane bus lanes and provide pedestrians with safer crossing.

The expansion of public transit should be fast, I personally would like it to be a lot faster. There has been decades of inaction and even retraction. Population has grown a lot, new job centers have emerged. There are needs for better public transit and the car should not have priority in the city anymore, especially as we face impacts of climate change in the here and now and transportation continues to be the primary contributor of greenhouse gasses in the state.

Here is what that little stretch looks like on an MBTA bus map, this is a no brainer.
Screen Shot 2021-09-13 at 9.53.00 PM.png
 

JeffDowntown

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To note: camera enforcement is not legal in MA currently for anything other than highway tolls. It's not a matter of the MBTA choosing not to do it, it's not legal at present.
So maybe put "tolls" on passenger vehicles using bus lanes. Then the cameras would be legal? It is not 'enforcement" it is just a hefty toll for use (say $500 per mile or fraction thereof).
 

HelloBostonHi

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The operator involved in the green line crash this summer has been fired and is being criminally charged for it: https://www.wcvb.com/article/mbta-b...urner-operator-charged-september-23/37712058#

So maybe put "tolls" on passenger vehicles using bus lanes. Then the cameras would be legal? It is not 'enforcement" it is just a hefty toll for use (say $500 per mile or fraction thereof).
This would also require a change in state law, each toll road is specially written into state law and outside of that they are illegal. At which point, just legalize enforcement cameras. https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleII/Chapter6C/Section13
 

Wash

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It is September 25th, 2250. Humans have figured out FTL travel and colony ships are on their way to three neighboring star systems. The Third American Republic has been declared in Philadelphia.

The Red Line will be closed this weekend between Harvard and Alewife for floating slab repairs.

 
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MrDee12345

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I've got a dumb question that maybe someone could answer.

I was looking at the possible plans of a silver line extension to Everett and the possible branching off of the two lines around Sullivan Square.

Would there also be a route that continued through Chelsea and eventually to South Station as well? It wouldn't make sense to me to make passengers get off in Chelsea and switch busses.
 

Stlin

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It is September 25th, 2250. Humans have figured out FTL travel and colony ships are on their way to three neighboring star systems. The Third American Republic has been declared in Philadelphia.

The Red Line will be closed this weekend between Harvard and Alewife for floating slab repairs.

Please correct me if I'm wrong/ just have missed the sark, but this latest round of weekend closures isn't floating slab; it's testing for the new signal system that's being installed.

Also... Operationally, will this new digital system operate in parallel with the old analog? I don't know if the trainsets have a PTC/cab signal equivalent, with signal train comms. Does the soon to be retired fleet need upgrades to be compatible?
 

bakgwailo

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Please correct me if I'm wrong/ just have missed the sark, but this latest round of weekend closures isn't floating slab; it's testing for the new signal system that's being installed.

Also... Operationally, will this new digital system operate in parallel with the old analog? I don't know if the trainsets have a PTC/cab signal equivalent, with signal train comms. Does the soon to be retired fleet need upgrades to be compatible?
Well, that is some good news. Have been wondering what was going on with the new signal systems, great that they are making progress. But, yeah, I always assumed they would keep the analog system running in tandem with the retirement of the old fleet and then switch to the new digital system fully when all of the old is gone. Maybe they were able to make the new system backward compatible? I can't imagine they would invest in upgrading the old fleet to be able to use the new signal system.
 

Riverside

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"9 Hurt After Escalator Malfunctioned And Flattened Into 'A Slide' At Back Bay Station"

I'm going to step on to my soapbox here for just a second.

In the last 60 days, the MBTA has been associated with three separate incidents which resulted in injury or death:
  1. The Green Line collision on Comm Ave
  2. The death of a BU professor on a staircase adjacent to MBTA property at JFK/UMass
  3. This recent malfunction at Back Bay
Additionally, this comes at the same time that Amtrak has suffered a fatal (and visually arresting) derailment in Montana, that saw cars strewn about on their sides, like a 2-year-old's playset.

Obviously the Amtrak derailment isn't the MBTA's fault, and current indications suggest that the (now-demolished) staircase did not fall under MBTA jurisdiction either. But those distinctions are certainly lost on many people, and interact with a much much larger problem.

Fundamentally, American society is grappling with the question of trust in our foundational institutions. The siege occurs on multiple fronts:

According to a UChicago study, some 47 million American adults (about 1 in 5) believe that Joe Biden's presidency is "illegitimate"; of those, some 21 million believe that Donald Trump should be restored by (violent) force.

On the pandemic front, polling shows that 19% of American adults (again, about 1 in 5) do not intend to get vaccinated, despite overwhelming endorsement from nonpartisan agencies such as the CDC.

Despite controlling the White House, the House of Representatives, and (barely) the Senate, the Democratic Party is struggling to pass a large infrastructure bill and also somehow is potentially days away from a government shutdown. (To be honest, I haven't quite been able to piece together exactly how the situation devolved to that -- and I follow politics moderately closely, so I have a feeling that many Americans are similarly baffled.)

And then there are longer-running, but equally acute erosions on American institutional confidence. Large swaths of younger generations do not believe Social Security will be available to them. Even before the pandemic, increasing distrust in American institutions was well-documented. And of course, all of this occurs against the backdrop of the climate crisis, which becomes more and more visceral with each passing year and each passing superstorm.

So let's bring this back to the T.

Public transit is one of the strongest and most common ways that people interact with a public institution. City councilors, mayors, and governors win and lose elections based on voters' perceptions of how they will handle public transit. Whether operated by the MBTA, Keolis, or MassDOT, voters believe that the ultimate responsibility sits with their elected officials.

The abject failures of public institutions that I laid out at the start of the post do not occur in a vacuum. They are visible and visceral and they hit close to home (literally and figuratively).

(I mean, seriously -- "escalator turns into a slide"? That's the stuff of horror films looking to make the mundane grotesque. The protagonist falls down the esca-slide, and finds that the conductor on the platform has turned into a cannibal zombie. And we the audience enjoy the film because it's so ridiculously absurd.)

When people lose faith in institutions, they turn elsewhere. When those institutions are the very instruments of democracy and public governance, we teeter on the edge of the fascistic abyss.

My point: the T (and Amtrak and MassDOT and the Commonwealth and the country) are playing with fire here, and seem to evince no awareness whatsoever of the calamity which they are now actively contributing to.

EDIT TO ADD: Newsweek has published an article on the accident at Back Bay, with interviews with bystanders. The details are graphic, but this tweet gives a sense of it:

 
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tysmith95

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Regarding Amtrak, we don't know exactly what caused it, but in a lot of these accidents positive train control would have prevented them.

The MBTA has been putting in PTC on all of the commuter rail lines.
 

donkeybutlers

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Free the T and fund it abundantly. A universal and cost free service that runs efficiently and brings you wherever you want to go would go a long way.
 
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BeyondRevenue

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Free the T and fund it abundantly. A universal and cost free service that runs efficiently and brings you wherever you want to go would go a long way.
Right on! Most people don't know that nearly 2/3 of MBTA funding comes from state taxes, not revenue service. Let's make it 100 percent... like all of the public streets and nearly all roads in the Commonwealth. Why do people who do the right thing for relieving traffic congestion, pollution and energy consumption get pay-gated, while people who do the wrong thing -- driving like idiots, circling endlessly for elusive free parking, blowing through red lights -- they get to be subsidized 100 percent? Why the double standard? Kill the Charlie card. all the turnstiles, and move everyone who works in revenue service, collections, and accounting onto broom detail if they want to stick around.
Free the T! Pay for it with congestion fees, gas taxes, and whatever else makes sense.
 

Riverside

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The Globe has an article with additional quotes. It sounds like it was just after the return of a Patriots train as well, with a bit of a crowd. (And indeed, one person compared it to a movie scene, just as I did above.) Really is just unbelievable.

Regarding Amtrak, we don't know exactly what caused it, but in a lot of these accidents positive train control would have prevented them.

The MBTA has been putting in PTC on all of the commuter rail lines.
Oh yeah -- for sure. PTC is good, and indeed we don't know what caused the accident. (Although based on the photos I've seen and a couple of quotes from people on the scene, it sounds to me like the points of the switch moved while the train was passing through it at something higher than yard speed.)

Still -- I think that distinction is lost on a large segment of the voting public. We're seeing frequent and increasingly consistent failures of public services at all levels of government -- whether it's the federal government flirting with shutdown or the Boston Public Schools not having enough bus drivers. It's extremely dangerous, as it allows a would-be dictator to rally a populist fascist movement made of people who ask themselves, "What has democracy actually done for me? It can't bring my kids home from school on time, it let our highways crumble, and it turned the escalator at the train station into a literal deathtrap."

One way fascists ride into power is by capitalizing on the failures of democracy. I know I sound alarmist, but there are plenty of historians, political scientists, and others who are saying the same.

This is not the time for the T -- one of Massachusetts' most visible public agencies -- to be making highly visible and surely preventable mistakes.
 

Brattle Loop

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The Globe has an article with additional quotes. It sounds like it was just after the return of a Patriots train as well, with a bit of a crowd. (And indeed, one person compared it to a movie scene, just as I did above.) Really is just unbelievable.



Oh yeah -- for sure. PTC is good, and indeed we don't know what caused the accident. (Although based on the photos I've seen and a couple of quotes from people on the scene, it sounds to me like the points of the switch moved while the train was passing through it at something higher than yard speed.)

Still -- I think that distinction is lost on a large segment of the voting public. We're seeing frequent and increasingly consistent failures of public services at all levels of government -- whether it's the federal government flirting with shutdown or the Boston Public Schools not having enough bus drivers. It's extremely dangerous, as it allows a would-be dictator to rally a populist fascist movement made of people who ask themselves, "What has democracy actually done for me? It can't bring my kids home from school on time, it let our highways crumble, and it turned the escalator at the train station into a literal deathtrap."

One way fascists ride into power is by capitalizing on the failures of democracy. I know I sound alarmist, but there are plenty of historians, political scientists, and others who are saying the same.

This is not the time for the T -- one of Massachusetts' most visible public agencies -- to be making highly visible and surely preventable mistakes.
I don't want my usual nuanced take to give the impression that I disagree with your analysis in any way. The big picture takeaway of the concern of what happens in the vacuum of loss of trust in institutions, and the opening for demagogues to enter, is absolutely spot-on.

That said, the specific examples do a great deal to illustrate why it's a case of easier said than done when it comes to fixing - and preventing - these kinds of incidents. Of the four incidents mentioned; the Green Line collision, the BU professor, the Back Bay escalator, and Amtrak's Empire Builder derailment, only one of those was wholly within the relevant government agency's purview. That was the Green Line collision, which involved an MBTA train operated by an MBTA employee over MBTA track with no positive train control system of any kind. Even there there is nuance; the T is, however belatedly, working towards a form of PTC on the Green Line, and having to balance the need to prevent (dangerous but rare) collisions against the risk of crippling the Central Subway's throughput because of the difficulty of trying to graft PTC onto a continuously-operating 124-year-old subway line.

We obviously don't know the cause of the escalator accident at BBY or who was responsible for that yet. The rotting staircase jurisdictional mess appears to have been MassDOT's failure and not the T's (and while not excusing the confusion and inaction I personally have trouble fully blaming the state if the staircase was properly fenced off because there's an element of taking on the risk if you deliberately bypass what amounts to "keep out" signs. That a dangerous staircase was left in place without any care for what might happen to anyone who used it despite it being closed is on the state, but unless we find that the signs and/or fences were gone I'd say that there's also some blame on anyone who bypasses them. It sounds heartless to say, I know, like I'm blaming the poor guy for his own death, but I can't quite get past that if indeed the staircase was fenced off because that just screams "don't do this, it's too risky" to me.)

As for the Empire Builder, it's also very early, though if it was a track problem (like a split switch) rather than something with the cars it'd be a BNSF problem (the track maintenance department's going to want to very carefully scrutinize their records of that interlocking) rather than an Amtrak one, whereas a car problem would be on Amtrak.

That kind of nuance, vital for understanding the actual complex causes and elements of accidents like this, is also completely lost on most people (including, unfortunately, too much of the news media). What that means is that Riverside is absolutely right in the impact things like this can have on confidence in institutions. My view of it, speaking as someone with a background in PR/communications, is that a good chunk of it is, for lack of a better phrase, a messaging problem. It's admittedly hard to concisely communicate the nuances of these things, especially to an audience which may not be receptive, but I also think there's a distinct lack of even trying. Instead of the buck-passing and finger-pointing, it would be much more eminently helpful if the T's response to, for instance, the JFK/UMass incident had meaningfully engaged in discussion of how the overlapping jurisdictions can lead to a number of these problems as no one has any clarity on whose responsibility it is to fix problematic infrastructure. Similarly, the public sees repeated incidents of Green Line collisions over the years, with limited to no discussion let alone understanding (outside of forums like this one) about the fact that this keeps happening because of a lack of PTC, which is, at least in part, a result of the enormous difficulty of providing this necessary safety system without rendering the Green Line useless by slashing train capacity. I feel like it would be enormously helpful if, rather than trying to deny or diminish the magnitude of some of these things, agencies like the T acknowledged that these things matter, and used them as an opportunity for growing trust. Does anyone here really think the T would be harmed rather than helped if instead of just looking like they keep permitting crashes it's made clear that they're having to deal with trade-offs between avoiding limited accidents and dramatically crippling the line? Does anyone think Amtrak would become less trusted if it was clearer that they're all too often at the mercy of the freight railroads (and thus need more funding and better controls on the freight railroads) rather than just leaving it muddled? The opacity and apparent belief in some political quarters that the public is too uninterested, or, worse, too stupid to understand the very real nuances, complexities, and trade offs that are involved in some of these things isn't helpful, it directly contributes to that lack of trust that Riverside's so on-the-nose about the dangers of.
 

Riverside

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^ This merits a lengthier reply (perhaps tomorrow), but I do want to say that I think this is an excellent response.
 

tysmith95

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I stand corrected from my previous comment, the train was going under the speed limit so it was likely not an issue that PTC could have corrected.
 

jklo

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The Orange Line was having problems too due to a lightning strike at Wellington.
 

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