General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

Teban54

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If we're branding different trunks of the LRT system currently known as Green Line with distinct colors, why not use drastically different colors instead? Yes, several green-ish colors
is a cute way to acknowledge the roots of the entire LRT network from the Green Line, but they're unnecessary and confusing from an operational perspective.

Imagine a passenger at Park St facing one of the following scenarios, waiting on the same platform:
  • Green Line D/E to Huntington, Green Line A/B/C to Kenmore, Green Line G to Seaport
  • Green Line to Huntington, Emerald Line to Kenmore, Teal Line to Seaport
  • Green Line to Huntington, Gold Line to Kenmore, Magenta Line to Seaport (ok I know gold/yellow has traditionally been reserved for Urban Ring, but still)
(Oh wait, I forgot Nubian.)

As soon as you decide to have multiple lines branded with different colors at transfer stations - and I definitely agree with applying this to GL as @Riverside illustrated - their colors should be as easily distinguishable as possible, regardless of whether they're interlined or not. Most large-scale transit systems I'm familiar with are indeed designed to achieve that.

If anything, the fact that the abovementioned trunk lines share the same LRT system, the same platforms and likely the same fleet makes the distinction more crucial, not less. While green/emerald/teal is better than green/green/green, it leaves much to be desired, especially considering their shades can easily be messed up in different places in practice.

Here's a bad example IMO: National Library station in Beijing. In practice, these colors can be hard to tell on platforms thanks to many different kinds of displays, especially between Lines 9 and 16. And they're not even interlined (4 and 9 have cross-platform transfers, while 16 has its own platform).
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737900er

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But the point about trunk lines is, in my opinion, key, and is what points me toward a more colorful LRT system. NYC uses letters and numbers, but combines those with coloring to create an implicit two-level schema that organizes the routes by their path through Manhattan. I absolutely agree that LRT services would still need letter indicators, but I think coloring them by "trunk line" would make the system much easier to understand. For example, all "Aqua Line" branches would converge at the Seaport, all "Emerald Line" branches would converge at Kenmore and run to Park/GC, and "Green Line" branches are the leftovers (e.g. Huntington + Highland, Nubian, and whatever GLX 2.0 looks like).
I agree that the NYC system of using colors to differentiate paths through the Core could be useful, and then calling the whole thing the Green Line.

image (2).png

As I see it, there would be four kinds of routes:
1. Lines that serve the Kenmore-Boylston Subway. (Green)
2. Lines that serve the Huntington Ave Subway (Teal)
3. Lines running in the subway north of Boylston that don't go to Kenmore or Huntington (Silver Line and Brattle Loop) (Silver)
4. Circumferential Lines (Yellow/Gold)

Bay Village would require special attention, and obviously be dependent on the service patterns offered.

Yes, they would all converge in the Boylston-Lechmere section (athough I could see the Green or Teal cars all ending prior to Lechmere) and then fan out again, but that's actually what's happening.

Also, am I too tired, or are the service patterns could enable a Kenmore-Kendall OSR insane? It seems like there's no way to do it without running a big loop or putting a stub track at Kendall. If you have to run a weird spiral route (Nubian-Boylston-Lechmere-West-Kenmore-GC Loop or Medford-Lechmere-Kenmore-West-Sullivan) your chances of making a decent map seem low. I guess Sullivan-GC would be the best choice, in which case this proposal isn't great given the Lechmere mess.
 
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Brattle Loop

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Getting deep enough into the weeds that the moderators might decide this belongs in Green Line Reconfiguration and/or Crazy Transit Pitches.

Also, am I too tired, or are the service patterns could enable a Kenmore-Kendall OSR insane? It seems like there's no way to do it without running a big loop or putting a stub track at Kendall. If you have to run a weird spiral route (Nubian-Boylston-Lechmere-West-Kenmore-GC Loop or Medford-Lechmere-Kenmore-West-Sullivan) your chances of making a decent map seem low. I guess Sullivan-GC would be the best choice, in which case this proposal isn't great given the Lechmere mess.
West isn't an ideal node, it's too far off the GJ and the B-line. There's not really any service pattern that could serve Kenmore, West, and GJ without a bizarrely distended loop from Commonwealth->West->GJ. Plowing a path from Commonwealth (or, ideally, a tunnel under the current reservation out to the BU Bridge) to GJ (and West/Harvard as a separate spur which I suppose could also be fed by GJ) is one thing, somehow plowing through the BU campus or the godforsaken Pike throat area (please, no more delays on that evil zombie of a project) to loop in West to a Kenmore-GJ run seems...problematic.

Kenmore <--> Kendall does have a wrinkle in that, while it's not particularly complicated to find a way to fling cars off the GJ onto the B-to-Kenmore, B's lack of access to the Kenmore loop means all those cars have to feed Boylston Street->Park. Probably enough spare capacity to handle that loop if D's been pawned off on Huntington and both D and E are feeding Tremont Street rather than Kenmore (nuking Copley Junction), but probably still worth seeing if something can be done at Kenmore to at least have the option of flinging GJ cars back to Kendall at Kenmore.

I'm way too tired to try and find it right now, but somewhere in one of these threads F-Line had a pretty thorough rundown of the name of the game being flexibility in terms of the available trunks and connections, such that there were many options in terms of service patterns. Like why you'd want to connect GJ and Sullivan LRT to each other as well as to Lechmere to maximize flexibility; for the same reason it'd be good for GJ to have proper connections on both ends; it doesn't matter if most of the GJ cars looped at Brattle (or Kenmore if that loop got reconfigured), you still get to the transfers. Someone going Kenmore->Kendall doesn't care if the trolley goes to Lechmere or to Sullivan after they've gotten to Kendall, and we get a lot more value out of the LRT network if we break people on the idea of all-one-seat-rides however that happens.
 

Jahvon09

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According to the Feds, the new OL trains have been removed from service at least 5 times & they feel that with new equipment, it's been taken out of service too many times. :eek: :unsure:
 

thepianoperson

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bakgwailo

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Direct link to the directives:


Sounds like the FTA had decided things are pretty dire to warrant this, along with threatening to withhold federal funding if the MBTA/state doesn't comply. Wild this is what it is taking to finally address things like the track slow down between Back bay and tufts which I feel like has been there forever at this point.
 

ant8904

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The thing I can't reconcile is how since the winter of 2015 that there been so much noise including the Building a Better T program with its metrics, the long track work shut downs, the signal upgrades, and old weekend shutdowns - all in the name of "Transforming the T", yet somehow we still have 9.6% of heavy rail under a speed restriction with a specific mandate to fix the slow zone between Tufts and Back Bay.

Was the past 7 years just a noisy spectacle while things just stayed the same or got worse? Or was things even more dire back then?

And the above didn't even discuss the finding about staffing. Like the dispatchers should not be working 20 hour shifts, that can not be legal and I can't comprehend why is management is creating these conditions in the first place.
 

thepianoperson

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The thing I can't reconcile is how since the winter of 2015 that there been so much noise including the Building a Better T program with its metrics, the long track work shut downs, the signal upgrades, and old weekend shutdowns - all in the name of "Transforming the T", yet somehow we still have 9.6% of heavy rail under a speed restriction with a specific mandate to fix the slow zone between Tufts and Back Bay.

Was the past 7 years just a noisy spectacle while things just stayed the same or got worse? Or was things even more dire back then?
I think things were even worse back then. It says 2 miles of Green Line is under speed restrictions, mostly in the Central Subway, my guess is before all the track work they’ve been doing on the surface branches that number would have been much higher although I don’t have data to back that up. Also, the signals are just starting to be upgraded (only new signals currently in use are between Alewife and Davis) so hopefully that will also speed things up once fully implemented.
The good thing is that Green Line Transformation has been doing a great job with fitting track upgrades into unrelated shutdowns, so hopefully now that Red and Orange have joined that program that will help more upgrades in along with the new mandate.
 

millerm277

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Was the past 7 years just a noisy spectacle while things just stayed the same or got worse? Or was things even more dire back then?
I think things were even more dire back then.

But I also think it suggests that the MBTA hasn't really made the same (or any?) kind of progress with "routine maintenance" that they have with capital projects.
 

Jahvon09

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Where'd you see that? I'm curious what they said, and I hadn't seen that part.
It was on the news. It was reported that an Old Orange Line train was in motion with an end door open, & that it had operated that way for about 8 stops!! I once was on a Blue Line train that had the same problem! I reported it. :unsure:

 
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Stlin

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The MBTA's operating budget has been thin for literally years, hence it's historical tendency to fund positions through the capital budget. That's changed recently, and while the T has been short on headcount and budget space for years, the challenges the T has recently had in hiring for literally any position is rather remarkable.

Since the 2019 Safety Panel Report, the T has annually trumpeted new safety related jobs as part of its commitment, and points to it as proof its working to make things better. Unfortunately, even as authorized head count grew in FY21 and FY22, that hasn't actually translated into new bodies. When the T announces each quarter that "wage expenses over this period were favorable to budget," a fair chunk of that is unfilled vacancies then counteracted by unfavorable overtime expenses. For FYs 2021 and 2022 the T added 151 and 125 budgeted safety positions, covering the period from June 2020 to June 2022, following the 2019 Safety Panel report. In that same period, even as 276 positions were added, at fiscal year ends vacancies grew from 200 positions to 586. As the T was attempting to add an additional 151 safety related positions in FY2021, it instead lost 160 across almost every department, resulting in a net of 311 fewer positions filled than expected by management and the FMCB. Over two years its added up to 110 more vacancies on top of the new positions added, and hasn't even begun to consider the additional 148 approved for FY23.

Using "Safety Headcount" vacancy data from the June 9th MBTA Planning, Workforce, Development & Compensation Subcommittee meeting, I created the below chart. In many departments, despite increased budgeted positions, actual head count has shrunk rather than grown. Notably, Rail Maintenance hasn't had a single new hire in 2 years, and the OCC has lost 13 with only 1 hire. There have been many many hires across all groups, (some of the new hire numbers don't make much sense, but they could be internal position transfers) but retention is terrible. The T reported 439 new hires in FY2022, but that has only translated into 50 positions actually filled as of May 31.

1655414078222.png


A different problem is that of the MBTA's dedicated Sales Tax apportionment and it's sluggish growth. It hasn't been a particularly lucrative source of funding for the T and had actually decreased in real terms as sales tax revenues failed to grow and track inflation. Only in these last couple of years (FY20-23) did it start to exceed the base amount, which is the funding source of non-capital maintenance expenses. The T is already projecting significant operating shortfalls in future years.
 

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Jahvon09

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It's the permanent art they've had displayed since last year. So not pride related.
The MBTA has embarked on an all-out mission to fix some things up, but in the meantime, it seems to have lost its way as far as safety goes, & so the Feds have grabbed notice on this & are mandating & micromanaging them on this. :unsure:
 

Riverside

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The MBTA's operating budget has been thin for literally years, hence it's historical tendency to fund positions through the capital budget. That's changed recently, but the T has been short on headcount and budget space for years - the challenges the T has had in hiring for literally any position is rather remarkable. Since 2019, the T has annually trumpeted new safety related jobs as part of its commitment. Unfortunately, even as authorized head count grew in FY21 and FY22, that hasn't actually translated into new bodies. When the T announces each quarter that "wage expenses over this period were favorable to budget," a fair chunk of that is unfilled vacancies then counteracted by unfavorable overtime expenses. For FYs 2021 and 2022 the T added 151 and 125 budgeted safety positions, covering the period from June 2020 to June 2022, following the 2019 Safety Panel report. In that same period, even as 276 positions were added, at fiscal year ends vacancies grew from 200 positions to 586. That's 110 more vacancies on top of the new positions added, and hasn't even begun to consider the additional 148 approved for FY23.

Using vacancy data from the June 9th MBTA Planning, Workforce, Development & Compensation Subcommittee meeting, I created the below chart. In many departments, despite increased budgeted positions, actual head count has shrunk rather than grown. Notably, Rail Maintenance hasn't had a single new hire in 2 years, and the OCC has lost 13 with only 1 hire. There have been many many hires across all groups, (some of the new hire numbers don't make much sense, but they could be internal position transfers) but retention is terrible. The T reported 439 new hires in FY2022, but that has only translated into 50 positions actually filled as of May 31.

View attachment 25496

A different problem is that of the MBTA's dedicated Sales Tax apportionment and it's sluggish growth. It hasn't been a particularly lucrative source of funding for the T and had actually decreased in real terms as sales tax revenues failed to grow and track inflation. Only in these last couple of years (FY20-23) did it start to exceed the base amount, which is the funding source of non-capital maintenance expenses. The T is already projecting significant operating shortfalls in future years.
Great analysis. You should send this to the Globe. Finger-pointing has already begun, including blame being laid at the feet of rank-and-file workers. I'm not denying the problems arose from people working on the frontline [EDIT: I’m not denying the existence of problems arising from the frontline, to clarify] -- but it seems disingenuous to have that conversation without also talking about what you've laid out here: this is a systemic issue that goes beyond the T.
 
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HelloBostonHi

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They are seemingly permanently swapping the tracks in use at Park Street, moving the D to the wall track and the C to the fence track. Perhaps allowing the C to short turn at Park? Not sure honestly, unfortunate that they just finished the new signage and are now moving everything around.

 

Jahvon09

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t
They are seemingly permanently swapping the tracks in use at Park Street, moving the D to the wall track and the C to the fence track. Perhaps allowing the C to short turn at Park? Not sure honestly, unfortunate that they just finished the new signage and are now moving everything around.

They, at times, will switch back & fourth with that. Confusing because at times if you're not careful, you could end up getting on the wrong train! :unsure:
 
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Highwayguy

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