General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

Posted this elsewhere but realizing it's better-suited here:

I found this report that was included in today's MBTA board meeting fascinating: https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/...A Jan 2024 TP VF 1.18.24VF posted 1.25.24.pdf

It's a history of funding at the MBTA, with an emphasis on the last twenty five years since Forward Funding and is by far the most succinct summary of Forward Funding, Big Dig-incurred debt, etc. I want a billboard of the conclusion slide on the SE Expressway:
 

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Despite the help of Governor Healy, the MBTA is $93 million short of it's projected budget for the upcoming fiscal year that starts July 1st, 2024.

 
Took a B train that terminated at Packard's Corner and saw a track worker doing what appeared to be manually switching the track once the train passed by so it could cross to the right hand track. I know nothing about railroad ops, can someone educate me why this is the case? I thought switches were automatic?
And if its so simple to turn a train, why are the trains not terminating at for example, Blandford Street, since they don't seem to be working on that chunk of track every day anyway?
 
And if its so simple to turn a train, why are the trains not terminating at for example, Blandford Street, since they don't seem to be working on that chunk of track every day anyway?
FWIW, when I was there last weekend, the whole area between Blandford St and BU East was still cordoned off.

Even during past service changes when they terminated trains at this vicinity, the last inbound stop was usually BU East. Sometimes they allow outbound boarding at Blandford, and sometimes they don't (IIRC).
 
Took a B train that terminated at Packard's Corner and saw a track worker doing what appeared to be manually switching the track once the train passed by so it could cross to the right hand track. I know nothing about railroad ops, can someone educate me why this is the case? I thought switches were automatic?
And if its so simple to turn a train, why are the trains not terminating at for example, Blandford Street, since they don't seem to be working on that chunk of track every day anyway?
Very seldom-used switches often aren't automatic, especially on the Green Line surface where it's outside the realm of the signal system. Frequently-used turnbacks (Brigham Circle, Heath inner vs. outer loop) can auto-fire switches by powering through or coasting through the associated overhead wire, but there are failure modes attached to that so it's only deployed in the essential places. Blandford St. yard requires an inspector to manually switch out of this inspector's hut. All the other emergency- or service outage-only turnback crossovers on the B/C/E I believe are hand-throw.
 
Very seldom-used switches often aren't automatic, especially on the Green Line surface where it's outside the realm of the signal system. Frequently-used turnbacks (Brigham Circle, Heath inner vs. outer loop) can auto-fire switches by powering through or coasting through the associated overhead wire, but there are failure modes attached to that so it's only deployed in the essential places. Blandford St. yard requires an inspector to manually switch out of this inspector's hut. All the other emergency- or service outage-only turnback crossovers on the B/C/E I believe are hand-throw.
The Brigham Circle switch is hand throw and the Heath outer loop is rarely used, but also hand throw. We're not allowed to slap switches by coasting through them anymore. I believe Blandford, Reservoir, and East Somerville are the only switches that are outside of the subway but also not at/near a terminal station to be automated, but I'd have to double check.

FWIW, when I was there last weekend, the whole area between Blandford St and BU East was still cordoned off.

Even during past service changes when they terminated trains at this vicinity, the last inbound stop was usually BU East. Sometimes they allow outbound boarding at Blandford, and sometimes they don't (IIRC).
Blandford siding is presently out of service due to a switch issue, which is why these diversions have had trains crossing back at Naples (the switch between Babcock and Packards) instead of the Blandford siding. (cc: @Longfellow )
Blandford is not accessible so theoretically any diversion would have to have the shuttles going to/from BU East, but this wouldn't necessarily stop them from picking people up at Blandford if desired. I'm too new of an operator to have been a part of a diversion involving Blandford, and I never really rode the B that frequently before becoming an employee, so I'm not sure what protocol has been.

We have another diversion in a little under a month. B service is going to be crossing back at the Naples crossover again and D service will be crossing back at Brookline Hills. C service is now going to be fully bused (originally we were going to be crossing back at St. Mary's, not sure why this change was made as the C is basically slow zone free). E service will run through as normal, not sure if Union trains are going to cross back at Copley or run down Huntington Ave or a mix of both.
 
Some serious problems have been left behind in the wake of the monthlong Green Line Central Subway Tunnel track repairs. https://www.mbta.com/performance-metrics/speed-restrictions

The MBTA left behind 2 speed restrictions at 5 MPH (8KMH), 1,300 ft (400m) long, between North Station and Government Center in the Southbound/Westbound direction.

The MBTA has NO future diversion planned between Science Park and Park St.. The only nearby diversion after the monthlong January 2024 closure; is a North Station - Lechmere shutdown after Election Day 2024, which has no overlap in the 2 slow zones between Government Center and North Station.

What is the MBTA's plan to lift these 2 speed restrictions between North Station and Government Center? The MBTA had a whole month in January to fix the slowzones between North Station and Gov't Ctr, yet they were not placed in the queue when they had a monthlong access during the January 2024 closure. Now that the closure has passed and 12 speed restrictions were lifted "as planned", the T has NO plan to repair the remaining 2 slow zones between North Station and Government Center. Every other speed restriction is slated on the MBTA's timetables for repairs by January 1st, 2025. It's not in the diversion calendar post-January 2024 with no future diversion in this area planned. These 2 speed restrictions were seemingly left behind.

The original daytime closure of the Lechmere Viaduct was cancelled back in December 2023, after the MBTA seemingly had problems turning back streetcars at Lechmere. I would assume that the North Station, Haymarket, and Gov't Ctr turnbacks would all need to be closed in order for slow zone track repairs to take place between North Station and Gov't Ctr. It just seems like the T completely forgot that these 2 slowzones existed.


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Some serious problems have been left behind in the wake of the monthlong Green Line Central Subway Tunnel track repairs. https://www.mbta.com/performance-metrics/speed-restrictions

The MBTA left behind 2 speed restrictions at 5 MPH (8KMH), 1,300 ft (400m) long, between North Station and Government Center in the Southbound/Westbound direction.

The MBTA has NO future diversion planned between Government Center and Science Park. The only nearby diversion after the monthlong January 2024 closure; is a North Station - Lechmere shutdown after Election Day 2024, which has no overlap in the 2 slow zones between Government Center and North Station.

What is the MBTA's plan to lift these 2 speed restrictions between North Station and Government Center? The MBTA had a whole month in January to fix the slowzones between North Station and Gov't Ctr, yet they were not placed in the queue when they had a monthlong access during the January 2024 closure. Now that the closure has passed and 12 speed restrictions were lifted "as planned", the T has NO plan to repair the remaining 2 slow zones between North Station and Government Center. Every other speed restriction is slated on the MBTA's timetables for repairs by January 1st, 2025. It's not in the diversion calendar post-January 2024 with no future diversion in this area planned. These 2 speed restrictions were seemingly left behind.

The original daytime closure of the Lechmere Viaduct was cancelled back in December 2023, after the MBTA seemingly had problems turning back streetcars at Lechmere. I would assume that the North Station, Haymarket, and Gov't Ctr turnbacks would all need to be closed in order for slow zone track repairs to take place between North Station and Gov't Ctr. It just seems like the T compleely forgot that these 2 slowzones existed.


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I saw that too. I dont think the T said they'll remove all restrictions. Maybe these could possibly be handled during night work?
 
I saw that too. Could possibly be handled during night work?
You can do most stuff during night work, the question is how long it takes to do overnight vs with dedicated closures. But for Gov Center to North Station southbound, I have to imagine the time savings to be had are pretty minimal due to the very short station spacing and tight curves, and therefore this section was the first to get pushed back to night work when something came up in the central subway that needed more man-hours than expected.
 
You can do most stuff during night work, the question is how long it takes to do overnight vs with dedicated closures. But for Gov Center to North Station southbound, I have to imagine the time savings to be had are pretty minimal due to the very short station spacing and tight curves, and therefore this section was the first to get pushed back to night work when something came up in the central subway that needed more man-hours than expected.
1300 ft (400m) of slowzone at 5 mph (8 kmh) is 180 seconds (3 minutes) of travel time. If the design speed is 10 mph (16 kmh), there is a 1.5 minute time savings (1.5 min travel time). A 15 mph design speed (24 kmh) is a 2 minute time savings (1 min travel time). If a roundtrip on the E takes 95 - 105 minutes, and if there's 1.75 minutes of slowzone left over, that will still cost 2 - 3 roundtrips off the daily schedule (150 -> 147/119 -> 117 daily trips), lengthening headways between streetcars by 11 - 17 seconds. Not insignificant.

The problem with night work is that the slow zones are a huge drag to get the system shut down for the night. The MBTA still has trains scheduled to depart at 12:30 a.m. from the terminals, even with slow zones, yet will take extra time to finish the last run for the night by 20 minutes, or longer. Especially since the MBTA tries to guarantee last connections from downtowns.

If a train was scheduled to take 45 minutes without slow zones to finish the last trip of the night by 1:15 a.m., and waits 15 minutes for last connections, the train may be in service until 1:30 a.m.. With the slow zones in place, a 15 minute delay of slow zones and 15 minute delay to wait for connecting trains, stuck in slow zones, trains are now waiting until 2 a.m. to finish their runs for the night.

Take a look at this screenshot pulled from reddit (I don't use reddit anymore, thank u/CriticalTransit for the pictures on reddit). Buses are still waiting for the connecting train at 2:10 a.m..

If the MBTA wants to do night work with the slow zones in place, then what they probably should have done, is if the last train was previously scheduled to depart Riverside or Braintree at 12:05 a.m., but there are 30 minutes of slowzone, is to shift the departure of the last train to 11:30 p.m., to compensate for the 30 minute slow zone delay, and get the system shut down at the original time they closed for the night.
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If the trains are still running at 2:08 a.m., how could the MBTA possibly get any overnight work in? The Green Line has to start service up again at 4:45 a.m.
 
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If the trains are still running at 2:08 a.m., how could the MBTA possibly get any overnight work in? The Green Line has to start service up again at 4:45 a.m.
But this is how transit agencies always work. Repairs can only get done in a few hours in the middle of the night. The T worked alright for decades doing this. Other transit agencies do it too. It's also possible to close the line early a night or two, depending what is needed.

I'd be curious to know what exactly is causing those remaining slow zones, and what specifically needs to be repaired, because I think that makes a big difference. My understanding is some of these repairs can take a lot more time than others to set up and clean up equipment, which cuts that 2.5 hour work window even shorter. Hopefully the MBTA prioritized that kind of work during the shutdown, and what remains are problems that be fixed (relatively) easily at night.

I totally agree, it's disappointing they couldn't fix all the slow zones during the shutdown. But this doesn't seem as obviously bad as you're making it out to be. They fixed a lot of slow zones. They'll have to come up with new plans to fix the remaining couple. And hopefully we'll see some travel time improvements on this stretch pretty immediately.
 
...the T has NO plan to repair the remaining 2 slow zones between North Station and Government Center.
Can I ask for a source on this, other than the fact that they're not on the current schedule? As others have stated, this could be work they can do during nightly shutdowns, or they're still trying to figure out a good place to fit another multiday shutdown in, or they're just planning to address it in 2025.
 
The MBTA has NO future diversion planned between Science Park and Park St.. The only nearby diversion after the monthlong January 2024 closure; is a North Station - Lechmere shutdown after Election Day 2024, which has no overlap in the 2 slow zones between Government Center and North Station.

What is the MBTA's plan to lift these 2 speed restrictions between North Station and Government Center? The MBTA had a whole month in January to fix the slowzones between North Station and Gov't Ctr, yet they were not placed in the queue when they had a monthlong access during the January 2024 closure. Now that the closure has passed and 12 speed restrictions were lifted "as planned", the T has NO plan to repair the remaining 2 slow zones between North Station and Government Center. Every other speed restriction is slated on the MBTA's timetables for repairs by January 1st, 2025. It's not in the diversion calendar post-January 2024 with no future diversion in this area planned. These 2 speed restrictions were seemingly left behind.
Remember the time when you were saying the exact same thing about the Lechmere Viaduct, that there will certainly not be any actions taken until November 2024, just because the T wasn't scheduling any closures? That they will definitely become the longest-lasting slow zone in the system, or that the T forgot they existed?

Just 1-2 months later, there are no more slow zones on the Lechmere Viaduct, according to the MBTA speed restrictions dashboard.

The plan for closures and repairs is just that: a plan. They can be adjusted if needed. New full-time closures that were not planned in November 2023 can be scheduled, weekend and night closures can take place, and repairs can also be done during non-revenue hours (like they're planning on the Blue Line).

Also, note that tracks between North Station and Haymarket are needed to turn GLX trains at North Station efficiently. If that section needs to be closed, you can only rely on the North Station yard, which will then draw complaints about each GLX branch having 25-min headways.

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Historically, lifting speed restrictions has taken a few days after the work was actually performed. It seems over the last year they've changed that practice to extend the closures so that they're re-opening without restrictions still in place. Just because the restriction is still there doesn't mean it will be a week from now.
 
Can I ask for a source on this, other than the fact that they're not on the current schedule? As others have stated, this could be work they can do during nightly shutdowns, or they're still trying to figure out a good place to fit another multiday shutdown in, or they're just planning to address it in 2025.
The primary issue is the fact that they aren't on the current schedule. Also note the MBTA has a fiscal cliff shortfall for FY25, so everything after this summer is in uncertainity.

The Blue Line is noted as "night orders" on the track repair timeline. The MBTA does not have any "night order" designation for the 2 GL slow zones between North Station and Government Center in the slides, nor a full diversion anywhere planned announced publicly.

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Remember the time when you were saying the exact same thing about the Lechmere Viaduct, that there will certainly not be any actions taken until November 2024, just because the T wasn't scheduling any closures? That they will definitely become the longest-lasting slow zone in the system, or that the T forgot they existed?

Just 1-2 months later, there are no more slow zones on the Lechmere Viaduct, according to the MBTA speed restrictions dashboard.

The plan for closures and repairs is just that: a plan. They can be adjusted if needed. New full-time closures that were not planned in November 2023 can be scheduled, weekend and night closures can take place, and repairs can also be done during non-revenue hours (like they're planning on the Blue Line).

For the Lechmere Viaduct. The MBTA reported during the board meetings they switched to performing the work during early access alongside GLX work, and the work was presented to the board/public within a dedicated powerpoint slide during the board presentation. https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/2024-01/TIP Update Full Board 01.25.2024 v6b.pdf https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/2023-12/GM Report to the Board 12.13.2023 v10a.pdf

Also note that the GLX was already undergoing track repairs to begin with, MBTA General Manager Eng noted that they were piggybacking on the GLX work by adding the Lechmere Viaduct work during the early access closures in the evening.

Slow zone work between North Station and Gov't Ctr doesn't have a diversion to piggyback upon, at that I'm aware of. The garage at Haymarket has already been demolished to the point that there doesn't seem to be a need for any more GL closures related to the garage anymore, plus the use of the Haymarket crossover (in the area of the Haymarket slowzones) to turn back streetcars at North Station.

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Also, note that tracks between North Station and Haymarket are needed to turn GLX trains at North Station efficiently. If that section needs to be closed, you can only rely on the North Station yard, which will then draw complaints about each GLX branch having 25-min headways.

The tracks between North Station and Haymarket are noted as having a speed restriction in the SB/WB direction. If I had to guess, they would likely need to cut off at least everything south of the North Station platform to perform repairs to the tracks to remove the slow zone between North Station and Haymarket. So I highly doubt they can use the Haymarket crossover if the tracks between North Station and Haymarket need repairs to remove the slow zone.

The same goes for the Haymarket - Government Center slow zone with the Government Center turnback.

Does the MBTA need to take the entire stretch between Science Park and Park Street offline in order to fix 1,300 feet (400 meters) of slow zone between North Station and Government Center?
 
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The MBTA does not have any "night order" designation for the 2 GL slow zones between North Station and Government Center in the slides, nor a full diversion anywhere planned announced publicly.
The reason those slides don't show updated plans for the last couple slow zones is those slides are from Jan 25th. It says so in the bottom right of one of your screenshots. The GL was still closed on the 25th, and work was still being done. They didn't yet know for sure what would get finished during the closure.

The GL closure ended yesterday. More accurately, it ended about 4:30 this morning, so the track has only been open again for about 12 hours. It's fine and reasonable that they haven't devised and announced an new schedule in those 12 hours. I don't think they've forgotten about it. And I'm willing to give them at least a few business days to organize their next steps to fix the remaining couple of slow zones.

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The reason those slides don't show updated plans for the last couple slow zones is those slides are from Jan 25th. It says so in the bottom right of one of your screenshots. The GL was still closed on the 25th, and work was still being done. They didn't yet know for sure what would get finished during the closure.

The GL closure ended yesterday. More accurately, it ended about 4:30 this morning, so the track has only been open again for about 12 hours. It's fine and reasonable that they haven't devised and announced an new schedule in those 12 hours. I don't think they've forgotten about it. And I'm willing to give them at least a few business days to organize their next steps to fix the remaining couple of slow zones.

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The slides mentioned that the track repairs would lift 12 slow zones between January 16 and January 29. 12 slow zones were lifted this morning. This seems to be something that was known long beforehand if the slides state that 12 slow zones would be addressed as part of this closure. They probably knew 2 slow zones would be left behind, yet were not placed on the calendar year 2024 schedule accordingly.

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