General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

Delvin4519

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This is excellent and fascinating. Using Sunday service as a "minimum guaranteed service" framework is a really interesting idea and a very thought-provoking prism through which to view the network.

I think those last three maps are particularly interesting. The last one is course an indictment of the current service levels. (I half-heartedly wonder whether there's an equity lawsuit there, given that it does look, broadly, like highest frequencies have been maintained in areas that are on average whiter and/or more affluent.)

That 20-min map seems like a pretty good articulation of the "bones" of the network, and of course maps pretty cleanly on to the Key Bus Network and the BNRD's high-freq network. I'm not sure I have anything particularly insightful to say but I do think it's interesting that "services that run at least every 20 minutes on Sundays" seems to map on to what "feels" like the "bones" of the network.

But that 15-min map is really interesting for drawing attention to the 1 and 111 sitting in a tier above the other bus routes. We know they're important, but this is another articulation of that, which is quite striking.

(I think you might be able to do this automatically somehow using Tableau plus Blue Book data?)
Sunday service as a "minimum guaranteed service" mapping, is one of the most important ways to look at a transit system. It has several important connotations, for which, which places can one live without a car, which areas have the most frequent connections in multiple directions, and which commutes/transfers are the most easiest to make without a huge time penality for transferring. It shoes how a transit system caters to riders who do NOT work 9-5 in downtown Boston, by looking at only services that operate 7 days a week and their frequencies on Sundays, late evenings, and early mornings. Therefore, a look at commutes that may need to be made at any time, a transit system that works any time, not just rush hour to downtown.

Technically, if the 22, 23, and 28 could somehow be coordinated on their shared portions, it would theoretically be possible to mark a segment from Ruggles, to Warren St. & Geneva Ave., as a "10 minutes or better", for the 23 and 28. The same is also true for another disjointed segement of Blue Hill Ave. where the 22 and 28 overlap.

I've double checked their Sunday schedules, and their schedules have zero coordination at all, with slightly different headways for each bus route at all hours of the day, hence I've left all of them as "every 15 - 20 minutes" each.
 
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Delvin4519

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This just blew my mind and I completely overlooked it, but the 106 and the 108 buses are actually coordinated! Both of them run 75 minute headways, so for a shared portion in central east Malden, the buses run every 30-45 minutes between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. That's actually not too bad! There are 75 minute headways between 6:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and between 9:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., since the 108 runs a shorter span of service than the 106. However, since there are more than 21 trips in the shared segment, the shared segment corridor in Malden falls under the "every 30 - 60 minutes" classification.

Maps that display hourly service in the original post has been updated.

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Tallguy

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I can see the logic of separating commuter rail in to some larger, state wide focus regional rail agency. I don't think anybody wants the MBTA operating trains in Springfield, even if they originate in Boston. And what of a future in which there are some regional routes that don't involve Boston at all?
What evidence do you have to make the statement that nobody wants the T operating trains in Springfield. I think that having the T operate them would lead to well integrated service through Worcester, as do many of my transit activist associates.
 

Stlin

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I don't think the T/keolis can operate any of the proposed longer distance services? Unlike the Cape Flyer which is entirely on state owned rails, any sort of East-West, Northern Tier etc service would be forced to work with the freight RR who own and control the track, and since the T doesn't have track rights that would have to fall on Amtrak, like with the Valley Flyer.
 

Tallguy

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I don't think the T/keolis can operate any of the proposed longer distance services? Unlike the Cape Flyer which is entirely on state owned rails, any sort of East-West, Northern Tier etc service would be forced to work with the freight RR who own and control the track, and since the T doesn't have track rights that would have to fall on Amtrak, like with the Valley Flyer.
Money solves all.
 

bigeman312

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I don't think the T/keolis can operate any of the proposed longer distance services? Unlike the Cape Flyer which is entirely on state owned rails, any sort of East-West, Northern Tier etc service would be forced to work with the freight RR who own and control the track, and since the T doesn't have track rights that would have to fall on Amtrak, like with the Valley Flyer.
Eventually, I’d like to see something like a “New England Railroad” operate some of these longer-distance routes. Hartford Line, Shore Line East, CapeFlyer, East-West Rail, Downeaster, Inland Route, etc. Of course, it would require some degree of cooperation (looking at you New Hampshire).
 

Wash

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Eventually, I’d like to see something like a “New England Railroad” operate some of these longer-distance routes. Hartford Line, Shore Line East, CapeFlyer, East-West Rail, Downeaster, Inland Route, etc. Of course, it would require some degree of cooperation (looking at you New Hampshire).
It'd be pretty simple (?) to expand the "Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority" into a "New England Passenger Rail Authority".
 

WormtownNative

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It'd be pretty simple (?) to expand the "Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority" into a "New England Passenger Rail Authority".
Honest question, what would it take, legally? I thought NNEPRA was a Maine state agency? And if that's the case, are we approaching Amtrak's territory with interstate travel?
 

lainpimicaja

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Honest question, what would it take, legally? I thought NNEPRA was a Maine state agency? And if that's the case, are we approaching Amtrak's territory with interstate travel?
The Port Authority of NY & NJ is a prominent example of an authority between states to improve shared transportation goals, so I think a New England Passenger Rail Authority could be possible if you had the buy-in from the states involved (pretty likely - without NH that is) and sign-off from Congress (perhaps less likely in times like these).

Quick P.S. I wanted to add - this Wikipedia article on interstate compacts and some examples (including a couple geared toward passenger rail): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_interstate_compacts
 
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Koopzilla24

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Eventually, I’d like to see something like a “New England Railroad” operate some of these longer-distance routes. Hartford Line, Shore Line East, CapeFlyer, East-West Rail, Downeaster, Inland Route, etc. Of course, it would require some degree of cooperation (looking at you New Hampshire).
Even just domestically in MA, only 4 lines would need to open to regular passenger service to have a fairly comprehensive statewide rail system.
  • Fitchburg Secondary from Leominster or Clinton to Mansfield.
  • Worcester Main Line from Lowell to PVD
  • Gardner Branch-Norwich Branch from Gardner to Webster (ideally all the way to New London , CT)
  • Northern Tier Freight Main Line from Haverhill or Lowell to Williamstown which had a study done by MassDOT
In an ideal world, operating these lines on 30-60min clock face schedules like countries in Europe would connect most of the major population centers in MA to each other by rail. Of course this would involve expanding service on the lines with existing passenger service as well.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Even just domestically in MA, only 4 lines would need to open to regular passenger service to have a fairly comprehensive statewide rail system.
  • Fitchburg Secondary from Leominster or Clinton to Mansfield.
  • Worcester Main Line from Lowell to PVD
  • Gardner Branch-Norwich Branch from Gardner to Webster (ideally all the way to New London , CT)
  • Northern Tier Freight Main Line from Haverhill or Lowell to Williamstown which had a study done by MassDOT
In an ideal world, operating these lines on 30-60min clock face schedules like countries in Europe would connect most of the major population centers in MA to each other by rail. Of course this would involve expanding service on the lines with existing passenger service as well.
Of those, the P&W from Worcester to New London and Worcester to Providence are the only ones that have any juice.
  • The Worcester Main is time non-competitive with buses because of the slow speeds from excess curvature on the line, so rail will never be first option for linking Worcester and Lowell. Buses running on I-290 and I-495 will make substantially better time.
  • The Gardner Branch resides in a stark population cavity. So stark a cavity that it is perhaps the last prospect in the entire state for passenger rail service, behind even things like Berkshire Rail Danbury-Pittsfield. During 'peak' RR travel 100 years ago this was an extremely lightly-patronized route.
  • The ex-Old Colony from Mansfield to Fitchburg similarly suffers from major population cavities, low-margin city pairs (Providence-Framingham, etc.), historically very low ridership the last time RR was the preferred mode of travel, and very long travel times due to geometry. The Walpole-Mansfield has some utility because of Foxboro, and the lower Fitchburg Secondary to Northborough or Clinton is an above-average Boston Regional Rail prospect, but that's about it. Nothing but freight is likely to use the upper Framingham Secondary or upper Fitchburg Secondary, and those towns would be better served with better connecting bus service to Walpole, Framingham, or Fitchburg.
  • The Northern Tier has extremely poor ridership outside of current Commuter Rail territory. Gardner gets a faster schedule on a Route 2 bus to Wachusett than the curvy ROW, there's almost nothing between Gardner and Greenfield, literally nothing between Greenfield and North Adams, and the line was not fast the last time (mid-1950's) it hosted North Station-Albany intercity. The ongoing study shows dire ridership across the corridor (even un-tanked those numbers would be too dire to proceed), and Route 2 is not at all slow or congested so this is probably a corridor where buses will perform better and more right-sized for the audience.
I think in the end the statewide rail network does robust hubbing at Springfield, pairs the two southern tacks out of Worcester with robust (and faster) bus coverage to the north, and emphasises bus connectivity and hubbage across the Northern Tier. That'll be plenty useful. But a return to the 1920's where literally every length of track statewide hosts passenger service it will never be. There are more efficient ways to multimodally string it together.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Honest question, what would it take, legally? I thought NNEPRA was a Maine state agency? And if that's the case, are we approaching Amtrak's territory with interstate travel?
It is a Maine agency. They manage the corridor in NH because NHDOT declined to participate, but all their funding for out-of-state Downeaster improvements has to be federal because they can't spend one dime outside of ME.

Generally speaking, 90 minutes is about the comfort threshold for Commuter Rail livery before it gets to be too much on the body. So some of these corridors, like East-West, need Amtrak equipment if for no other reason than your legs will go numb trying to sit that long in a commuter coach. It gets simply easier to go with the operator that has the intercity-designed livery instead of self-investing in different cars. That's why you don't see any alternative operators (outside of short/unsuccessful stabs like Iowa Pacific, Inc. briefly operating the AMTK Hoosier State) getting into the intercity game. It's too easy to use the PRIIA state-funding process to create new Amtrak routes than go it alone.
 

Tallguy

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Greenfield and N Adams are the closest things to pop density west of Athol. It would make a lot more sense to rebuild the missing part of the Adams-Pittsfield line and run N-S service than across the tier. Greenfield or Brattleboro could be the northern anchor for Spr-Hart-NH service with connection for W-E service.
 

Tallguy

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It is a Maine agency. They manage the corridor in NH because NHDOT declined to participate, but all their funding for out-of-state Downeaster improvements has to be federal because they can't spend one dime outside of ME.

Generally speaking, 90 minutes is about the comfort threshold for Commuter Rail livery before it gets to be too much on the body. So some of these corridors, like East-West, need Amtrak equipment if for no other reason than your legs will go numb trying to sit that long in a commuter coach. It gets simply easier to go with the operator that has the intercity-designed livery instead of self-investing in different cars. That's why you don't see any alternative operators (outside of short/unsuccessful stabs like Iowa Pacific, Inc. briefly operating the AMTK Hoosier State) getting into the intercity game. It's too easy to use the PRIIA state-funding process to create new Amtrak routes than go it alone.
I agree about 90 min being a decent cutoff. But with decent EMUs and track maintenance, Springfield and Manchester are doable, and if the ER was revived, then Portland would be just past that limit
 

Arlington

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Abbreviation Alert: ER = Eastern Route = Boston - Portland via Newburyport, a missing bridge ($$$ to reconstruct), and Seabrook nuke plant. More direct, historically fast but currently impossible.

Contrast with Western Route via Haverhill which the Downeaster uses (that has struggled to get trip time down towards 2hrs)
 

Koopzilla24

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Of those, the P&W from Worcester to New London and Worcester to Providence are the only ones that have any juice.
  • The Worcester Main is time non-competitive with buses because of the slow speeds from excess curvature on the line, so rail will never be first option for linking Worcester and Lowell. Buses running on I-290 and I-495 will make substantially better time.
  • The Gardner Branch resides in a stark population cavity. So stark a cavity that it is perhaps the last prospect in the entire state for passenger rail service, behind even things like Berkshire Rail Danbury-Pittsfield. During 'peak' RR travel 100 years ago this was an extremely lightly-patronized route.
  • The ex-Old Colony from Mansfield to Fitchburg similarly suffers from major population cavities, low-margin city pairs (Providence-Framingham, etc.), historically very low ridership the last time RR was the preferred mode of travel, and very long travel times due to geometry. The Walpole-Mansfield has some utility because of Foxboro, and the lower Fitchburg Secondary to Northborough or Clinton is an above-average Boston Regional Rail prospect, but that's about it. Nothing but freight is likely to use the upper Framingham Secondary or upper Fitchburg Secondary, and those towns would be better served with better connecting bus service to Walpole, Framingham, or Fitchburg.
  • The Northern Tier has extremely poor ridership outside of current Commuter Rail territory. Gardner gets a faster schedule on a Route 2 bus to Wachusett than the curvy ROW, there's almost nothing between Gardner and Greenfield, literally nothing between Greenfield and North Adams, and the line was not fast the last time (mid-1950's) it hosted North Station-Albany intercity. The ongoing study shows dire ridership across the corridor (even un-tanked those numbers would be too dire to proceed), and Route 2 is not at all slow or congested so this is probably a corridor where buses will perform better and more right-sized for the audience.
I think in the end the statewide rail network does robust hubbing at Springfield, pairs the two southern tacks out of Worcester with robust (and faster) bus coverage to the north, and emphasises bus connectivity and hubbage across the Northern Tier. That'll be plenty useful. But a return to the 1920's where literally every length of track statewide hosts passenger service it will never be. There are more efficient ways to multimodally string it together.
I look at this not as a “how do we move existing people for existing trips” but to create and expand new population centers and bring new industry and growth back to more than just the Boston area. These “gateway cities” used to have industries of their own leaving not much reason for people to leave. Worcester is experiencing this right now surpassing its peak population from 1950.
Again this is my personal ideal but attractive and comfortable transportation options away from roadways and motor vehicles are needed for a better future. Just the fact that it is a bus puts people off of taking it instead of driving. Why get in a more uncomfortable vehicle to just go the exact same route in a greater time than if you were to get a car and drive yourself? Of course there are people who cannot take a car and would use the service but a wider demographic would be enticed by a train. Even when people still continue to majority drive having more options available would be great. Myself personally, and I’d assume I’m not alone, can’t do bus or car passenger journeys longer than 30 min without feeling violently sick. And I’d assume the same is true the other way with trains. The options should be there. Current commuting and decades past demand is a shallow metric for the potential of implementing a public transportation option socially speaking. Bringing service to a place where it doesn’t currently exist could be a driving force behind people and businesses choosing to be there. Other countries around the world have shown that rail service doesn’t need to always be a big long full train through only high demand corridors with buses making rural connections. They utilize both in harmony to create a better connected region. Two things that come to mind are as follows:

1-3 car DMUs or EMUs to and through rural villages and towns that operate a few round trips a day during peak hours mixed with intercity buses in the off-peak. This completes a full day schedule where trains are available to bypass traffic around a city during rush hours but buses take advantage of the more direct route when traffic is light in the midday.


An implementation of the flag stop system used in parts of Germany where stations have buttons that can be pressed to alert the incoming train that there are passengers wishing to board. These are used in low-ridership stops and areas so that trains can generally run fairly express between key stops but access to the train is still available in the lower demand areas.

I understand neither of these are possible with the current infrastructure with signaling, freight conflicts, and track availability, but it’s the kind of future investment I’d want to see made in steps. Expanded local and intercity bus service would be a fantastic start.
 

Tallguy

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I look at this not as a “how do we move existing people for existing trips” but to create and expand new population centers and bring new industry and growth back to more than just the Boston area. These “gateway cities” used to have industries of their own leaving not much reason for people to leave. Worcester is experiencing this right now surpassing its peak population from 1950.
Again this is my personal ideal but attractive and comfortable transportation options away from roadways and motor vehicles are needed for a better future. Just the fact that it is a bus puts people off of taking it instead of driving. Why get in a more uncomfortable vehicle to just go the exact same route in a greater time than if you were to get a car and drive yourself? Of course there are people who cannot take a car and would use the service but a wider demographic would be enticed by a train. Even when people still continue to majority drive having more options available would be great. Myself personally, and I’d assume I’m not alone, can’t do bus or car passenger journeys longer than 30 min without feeling violently sick. And I’d assume the same is true the other way with trains. The options should be there. Current commuting and decades past demand is a shallow metric for the potential of implementing a public transportation option socially speaking. Bringing service to a place where it doesn’t currently exist could be a driving force behind people and businesses choosing to be there. Other countries around the world have shown that rail service doesn’t need to always be a big long full train through only high demand corridors with buses making rural connections. They utilize both in harmony to create a better connected region. Two things that come to mind are as follows:

1-3 car DMUs or EMUs to and through rural villages and towns that operate a few round trips a day during peak hours mixed with intercity buses in the off-peak. This completes a full day schedule where trains are available to bypass traffic around a city during rush hours but buses take advantage of the more direct route when traffic is light in the midday.


An implementation of the flag stop system used in parts of Germany where stations have buttons that can be pressed to alert the incoming train that there are passengers wishing to board. These are used in low-ridership stops and areas so that trains can generally run fairly express between key stops but access to the train is still available in the lower demand areas.

I understand neither of these are possible with the current infrastructure with signaling, freight conflicts, and track availability, but it’s the kind of future investment I’d want to see made in steps. Expanded local and intercity bus service would be a fantastic start.
This is actually my other reason for anER Down Easter as we have achieved a fairly good separation of freight and pax rail, with Ayer west and the last 10ish miles to Haverhill being the major joint routes. An integrated Worc-Ayer Line/Fitchburg Secondary could take some of the freight to Framingham, if that ever became desired.
 

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