Green Line extension Newton to Needham

WestMedford

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Welcome to ArchBoston.

Part of the impetus for discussion of Needham transit (the prevailing idea is Green Line to Needham Heights or Needham Junction, opinions have varied on exact stop placements) has somewhat less to do with Needham's density or relative "deserving" of investment, and more to do with some problems with the existing transit in the form of the Commuter Rail's Needham Line. The Needham Line's growth capacity is inherently constrained by the fact that its trains have to merge onto the increasingly-congested Northeast Corridor at Forest Hills. The NEC's capacity has a ceiling, and even if and when that's increased, the Needham Line trains are inevitably going to get the fewest slots and be the first ones delayed or cancelled when there are problems, because Amtrak and the Providence Line trains are always going to have priority. Taking Needham off the CR mode obviates that problem entirely and gives NEC capacity over to higher-priority services at the same time, so some of the benefit is located outside of Needham and its environs entirely.
Thanks.

I’m fully aware of the South Station/ NEC capacity constraints and how the Needham Line is low hanging fruit in terms of solving that particular issue. This is why I didn’t outright eliminate fixed rail transit service to the town of Needham.

My point absent the density / development argument is that if Needham CR is replaced, light vs heavy rail makes so much more sense given what the community would want. They already have angst with diesel locomotives and I can’t see heavy rail as the town’s preferred alternative.
 

jbray

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My point absent the density / development argument is that if Needham CR is replaced, light vs heavy rail makes so much more sense given what the community would want. They already have angst with diesel locomotives and I can’t see heavy rail as the town’s preferred alternative.
What's a little bit confusing about your post is that the majority of the people in this section of the forum agree with you. Most of the advocates who are familiar support a branching Green line and/or at least a VFW terminus for the Orange line. I'm not really sure who (here) you are trying to convince by your post; we (probably? I don't want to hard speak for everyone) all agree.

We're responding to your point about density because people are starved for housing near reliable transit so building another green line branch in a less developed area just creates opportunity. It's not an either/or but rather a yes/and especially when the branch would be politically required to upgrade the Roslindale/West Roxbury ROW to the orange line.
 

bigeman312

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With a population of 29,000, a density of 2,300 / square mile, Needham has a lower population than Tewksbury and a lower population density than Reading. The existing four Commuter Rail stations averaged 360 inbound boardings per weekday in 2018. That's less than half the ridership of Dedham Corporate Center or Walpole. That's less than the ridership of East Weymouth, even though the Needham stops had more service.

Current density does not warrant many Green Line stops in Needham, as currently constructed. Add a few hundred more transit-oriented housing units in Needham Center ("yes and") and the extension to Needham Center makes sense. For a successful, well-supported, full-fledged Needham Branch of the Green Line with stops in Heights, Center, and Junction, Needham's population would have to be much closer to 40,000 (which is still less than half of Newton), with a few thousand units worth of transit-oriented development clustered around the proposed stops.
 

jbray

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With a population of 29,000, a density of 2,300 / square mile, Needham has a lower population than Tewksbury and a lower population density than Reading. The existing four Commuter Rail stations averaged 360 inbound boardings per weekday in 2018. That's less than half the ridership of Dedham Corporate Center or Walpole. That's less than the ridership of East Weymouth, even though the Needham stops had more service.

Current density does not warrant many Green Line stops in Needham, as currently constructed. Add a few hundred more transit-oriented housing units in Needham Center ("yes and") and the extension to Needham Center makes sense. For a successful, well-supported, full-fledged Needham Branch of the Green Line with stops in Heights, Center, and Junction, Needham's population would have to be much closer to 40,000 (which is still less than half of Newton), with a few thousand units worth of transit-oriented development clustered around the proposed stops.
You made a couple of posts similar to this back in July with a map picture to prove your point. The archboston search function was down and google was doing its .org issue, but I hunted down that Alewife post from F-Line above to point out how similar the density looked to your map picture trying to prove they didn't need a station. By the time I found it, the conversation had moved on. I don't agree with the perspective because of the additional complexity (cost and disruption) of making an infill. Better to plan it out for cheaper and let the neighborhoods fill in around it. It wouldn't be more than one or two stations anyway.
 

Equilibria

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With a population of 29,000, a density of 2,300 / square mile, Needham has a lower population than Tewksbury and a lower population density than Reading. The existing four Commuter Rail stations averaged 360 inbound boardings per weekday in 2018. That's less than half the ridership of Dedham Corporate Center or Walpole. That's less than the ridership of East Weymouth, even though the Needham stops had more service.

Current density does not warrant many Green Line stops in Needham, as currently constructed. Add a few hundred more transit-oriented housing units in Needham Center ("yes and") and the extension to Needham Center makes sense. For a successful, well-supported, full-fledged Needham Branch of the Green Line with stops in Heights, Center, and Junction, Needham's population would have to be much closer to 40,000 (which is still less than half of Newton), with a few thousand units worth of transit-oriented development clustered around the proposed stops.
It's worth noting that the two new transit stations in Needham that would accompany a GL extension would both serve significant potential TOD on both sides of Route 128, and the Town is moving in a positive direction regarding zoning at WCVB and Muzi. The extension to Needham is also part-and-parcel of serving Needham Street, Upper Falls, and the Northland development in Newton, which do have the density you're looking for.

This is probably the wrong place to discuss GL-Needham details extensively, but we've always assumed there would be two stations at Gould and Reservoir/Wexford. I wonder if it doesn't make more sense to have one adjacent to (or even on top of) 128 and run a multi-use path alongside for linear access. Otherwise, you have 3 stops in 0.64 miles.

FWIW, here's the MAPC study from 2017 on this corridor - it addresses population and employment density (but maddeningly argues for BRT-with-trail): https://www.mapc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Needham-Newton-FINAL-Report.pdf
 
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Arlington

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I worked at 15 Crawford in Needham (on the outer side of 128 north of the rail line). This might be a good application of electric self-driving 8 passenger shuttles. THere's been so much new office built perpendicular to the route (inside 128 on the South--stuff like Trip Advisor) that you'd want to tie it in better.
MAPC-Needham.PNG
 
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BeyondRevenue

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It's worth noting that the two new transit stations in Needham that would accompany a GL extension would both serve significant potential TOD on both sides of Route 128, and the Town is moving in a positive direction regarding zoning at WCVB and Muzi. The extension to Needham is also part-and-parcel of serving Needham Street, Upper Falls, and the Northland development in Newton, which do have the density you're looking for.

This is probably the wrong place to discuss GL-Needham details extensively, but we've always assumed there would be two stations at Gould and Reservoir/Wexford. I wonder if it doesn't make more sense to have one adjacent to (or even on top of) 128 and run a multi-use path alongside for linear access. Otherwise, you have 3 stops in 0.64 miles.
GL Needham should have its own thread if it doesn't already. That said, I can see trolleys in Needham as a really good thing.
Presently, commuter rail locks Needhamiters into a Downtown/Back Bay run and that is all. Trolleys would easily join Needham to everything in between, linking local neighborhoods to local neighborhoods, and encouraging one-seat trips to everything along the D-Line. Picture coffee and a scone in Newton Centre, tailgating at BC, Indian food in Brookline Village, LMA for appointments, a Fenway homestand double header -- all car free, with Needhamtonianites getting absolutely blitzed and spending that extra Hamilton or two that didn't go to some flag-waving parking attendant.
Hell, I might even move there!
 
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WestMedford

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I agree the Needham discussion should be its own thread. Sorry to derail (pun intended) from the new infrastructure topic.

On topic, the only consideration of using funds from the infrastructure bill towards a Needham reconfiguration would be (and should be) to address South Station / NEC capacity constraints. Many other areas within greater Boston lacking fixed rail investment towards which these funds should be directed.
 

millerm277

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I agree the Needham discussion should be its own thread. Sorry to derail (pun intended) from the new infrastructure topic.

On topic, the only consideration of using funds from the infrastructure bill towards a Needham reconfiguration would be (and should be) to address South Station / NEC capacity constraints. Many other areas within greater Boston lacking fixed rail investment towards which these funds should be directed.
Can't agree. Cheap projects with good ROI + ridership numbers are exactly where investment should be directed, and if the project could actually be done for that cost/inflation-adjusted cost with that ridership, the MBTA ought to be cutting a check today to do it.

Whether or not that study is realistic or artificially cheap, I'm not qualified to examine, though.

I would agree that Needham should have to agree to upzone some acceptable quantity of land near some or all of the stations to get the investment.
 

Arlington

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I like where this is going: communities that want transit should be able to improve a projects score by adding TOD, perhaps distance-adjusted housing units.

it would and should result in state transit being directed more effectively at dense or densifying areas. If Needham won’t density but Revere and Lynn will (for a BLX example or but don’t let it derail this thread), then state level investment scores should favor those other places ahead of Needham
 

bakgwailo

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I like where this is going: communities that want transit should be able to improve a projects score by adding TOD, perhaps distance-adjusted housing units.

it would and should result in state transit being directed more effectively at dense or densifying areas. If Needham won’t density but Revere and Lynn will (for a BLX example or but don’t let it derail this thread), then state level investment scores should favor those other places ahead of Needham
I would generally agree if that didn't mean Rozzie and Westie getting kneecapped with an Orange Line extension if Needham doesn't play ball - unless you are implying the Needham Line goes away w/o replacement in Needham. That said - rather agree with the sentiment of expansion and to places willing for TOD. If taken one more logical step forward, we start thinking like systems in Japan & HK where the MBTA could actually captilaize on TOD and use it to fund system expansion and improvements.
 

themissinglink

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If anyone is unclear about where exactly in Newton and Needham this extension is being proposed, a few months ago I posted a map I made of the proposed extension and the supplemental Orange Line extension. The map is here in the "Fantasy T maps" thread.
 

mass88

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You're never going to see large scale TOD in Needham. Not a whole lot of space around Needham Heights, Needham Center, and Needham Junction. Hersey, which saw a full parking lot consistently pre-pandemic, is surrounded by a golf course and residential neighborhoods.

I would be curious to know the numbers for each stop.
 

Tallguy

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But GL Needham is necessary for NEC growth, as was pointed out earlier, and, as the cost is so low, ridership does not need to be that high
 

Brattle Loop

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But GL Needham is necessary for NEC growth, as was pointed out earlier, and, as the cost is so low, ridership does not need to be that high
I'd need to go back through F-Line's copious posts on this subject to double-check if Needham's actually going to be a problem for NEC/Providence capacity down the line, or if it's more that Amtrak and Providence (and potentially SCR if they ever built it out properly via Stoughton/Taunton, but that's a different thread) would eat up so much capacity that Needham would have a low ceiling for service (or service increases) a-la Reading in a Regional Rail/NSRL universe.

The calculus is somewhat different if we're talking about Needham remaining CR indefinitely with a low ceiling for service increases (in which case W. Roxbury is the ones really getting screwed because at least a one-stop OL extension to Roslindale is possible without replacing Needham) versus if we're talking about Needham literally having to go away or have its service slashed because capacity from Forest Hills-inbound is eaten up by higher-priority services.

That's just me nitpicking, I acknowledge, at least when it comes to aB discussion of the general concept. I do think it's relevant for real-world considerations, particularly political considerations, because it hits differently when the proposal is "replace what you have with something new" versus "new transit or no transit". (I'm from Melrose, a town somewhat notorious in these parts for saying "no thanks, we'll keep the old train" at the prospect of the Orange Line coming through.) I think the NIMBYs will have a stronger voice if the option to keep the CR mostly as-is is available, whereas if that option is literally infeasible then it can't be used so much as a political wedge.

All of this is separate from the fact that replacing the Needham Line is a good transit pitch that wouldn't cost all that much compared to some projects, and beyond the discussion of Needham itself, it's a prerequisite for extending the Orange Line past Roslindale to West Roxbury (which has considerably greater population density). I mean, I suppose it's not actually necessary to extend the Green Line if Needham doesn't want it. Just take the CR ROW for the OL to W. Roxbury and tell Needham they can have the Green Line or nothing. (That might be me projecting based on how annoying it is to have to go to Oak Grove all the time thanks to Melrose not wanting the OL, but it's nice to dream of a political landscape that's less tolerating of NIMBYs.)
 

Tallguy

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I'd need to go back through F-Line's copious posts on this subject to double-check if Needham's actually going to be a problem for NEC/Providence capacity down the line, or if it's more that Amtrak and Providence (and potentially SCR if they ever built it out properly via Stoughton/Taunton, but that's a different thread) would eat up so much capacity that Needham would have a low ceiling for service (or service increases) a-la Reading in a Regional Rail/NSRL universe.

The calculus is somewhat different if we're talking about Needham remaining CR indefinitely with a low ceiling for service increases (in which case W. Roxbury is the ones really getting screwed because at least a one-stop OL extension to Roslindale is possible without replacing Needham) versus if we're talking about Needham literally having to go away or have its service slashed because capacity from Forest Hills-inbound is eaten up by higher-priority services.

That's just me nitpicking, I acknowledge, at least when it comes to aB discussion of the general concept. I do think it's relevant for real-world considerations, particularly political considerations, because it hits differently when the proposal is "replace what you have with something new" versus "new transit or no transit". (I'm from Melrose, a town somewhat notorious in these parts for saying "no thanks, we'll keep the old train" at the prospect of the Orange Line coming through.) I think the NIMBYs will have a stronger voice if the option to keep the CR mostly as-is is available, whereas if that option is literally infeasible then it can't be used so much as a political wedge.

All of this is separate from the fact that replacing the Needham Line is a good transit pitch that wouldn't cost all that much compared to some projects, and beyond the discussion of Needham itself, it's a prerequisite for extending the Orange Line past Roslindale to West Roxbury (which has considerably greater population density). I mean, I suppose it's not actually necessary to extend the Green Line if Needham doesn't want it. Just take the CR ROW for the OL to W. Roxbury and tell Needham they can have the Green Line or nothing. (That might be me projecting based on how annoying it is to have to go to Oak Grove all the time thanks to Melrose not wanting the OL, but it's nice to dream of a political landscape that's less tolerating of NIMBYs.)
Needham has expressed a desire for GL(at least as far as NH) for a while now. The type 10s should result in a quicker ride in.
SCR2, Regional Rail, and Amtrak plans to expand will all be hindered by Needham line.
 

Arlington

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But GL Needham is necessary for NEC growth, as was pointed out earlier, and, as the cost is so low, ridership does not need to be that high
I'm OK if that gets included in the score. Typically the official score for capital projects relies heavily on [NEW riders per capital $], and only as directly loaded on the segment in question and TOD can plug directly into that ( particularly car-lite/car-free TOD). TOD should then also get bonus points for solving the more general metro-wide need for housing to support economic growth.

So, specifically with respect to off-loading congestion from the NEC, There ought to be a way to include [Network New Riders] and also [amortized/discounted future Value of Time Savings on the Network]
 

BeyondRevenue

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I approve of this proposal. Because it makes the most sense, has great opportunities for growth, and it'll likely take a few dozen cars out of my town. That said, it may fail to get traction despite all logic.

I have always been of the opinion that there is a general bias against public transportation, mostly because of the perception or reality of cash-fights with auto-centric interests for a limited budget slice. The unfortunate hacks and wonks approving new public transportation routes get their ears knuckle-punched by Pioneer Institute goblins and their short-sighted budget cutting ilk. They also take flak from every construction company with a pending onramp or bridge contract. Oh, and the general gearhead zealots who see no other religion other than the Cult of The Piston.
This nation and this region does not have rail-centric industry nearly as formidable as the Auto Industrial Complex and its many tentacles. I would hypothesize that those same Auto Erotocists use their weight and influence to make rail construction estimates much higher than they really are. I'd offer Arup's pegging NSRL estimates at $20B as an example -- discounting many other independent studies that brought it in much cheaper. That $20B whopper gave the Baker Admin all the cover it needed to say no.

Building rails has been hard since the passenger rail industry was hunted to near extinction. We need to carve out a new preserve so rail creatures can flourish. Needham has room... so there's that.
 

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