Green Line Reconfiguration

F-Line to Dudley

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I haven’t read this thread in great detail but I have a fairly simple question:

What would it take to turn the Green Line from a Trolley to a TRUE Light Rail similar to say LA’s LRT. Or where they can at least use the longer (and admittedly more modern looking) LRT rolling stock as opposed the trolley looking rolling stock and I would thick increase the capacity of the lines
That's exactly what Green Line Transformation is going to do. Longer, all low-floor trolleys derived from off-shelf makes (no more hyper-customization for Boston) that berth at longer platforms, deploy all-doors Proof of Payment to speed boarding dwells, and go to one-man ops (OPTO) to save on staffing costs. A two-car train of future Type 10's will equal the seating capacity of a three-car lashup on Type 7/8/9's.
 

DBM

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1 future LRT extension to Watertown via de-landbanked H2O Branch with short stretch of median-running on Arsenal St. rates very high on bang-for-buck.

Pardon my ignorance, but can you describe the route of this "H20 Branch" corridor? Living south of Fresh Pond for two years, I was always struck by the neglected/limbo-like status of the ROW that starts at Huron Ave, and runs southwest for just short of a mile, past Star Market and the exquisite Sofra bakery, before meeting the Watertown Greenway at Nichols/Arlington/Coolidge Hill. You're not referencing that?

It's a shame that it hasn't been reactivated for some kind of use, either as a bike path or... something... other than the attractive nuisance it's sadly become.

Given the extreme density of the surrounding neighborhood, and it's ability to link-up Fresh Pond, Mt. Auburn Cemetery, and the Charles/Arsenal corridor, I could see it being as heavily-used as the Minuteman [and indeed it's just 1 of 2 missing links to get the Minuteman connected all the way down to the Charles, no?]

I can only imagine it's being held hostage by some intense neighborhood politics? [unless there's some recent good news I'm not aware of, having moved out of the neighborhood a while back...
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Do people in Waltham and Watertown really like the idea of having to swing wide through Belmont, Porter, and Union to get to downtown Boston? A much straighter route from those cities goes through West Station/Boston Landing/Kenmore.
It's not either/or. For Watertown the 57 *and* 71 *and* 70 are all Top 25 ridership routes spider-mapped as Key Routes, fanning out in third positions. Somehow when we Crazy Transit Pitch this on aB we always manage to fall into this trap of thinking Watertown is a problem solvable by crayon drawing some most-perfect singular uni-lined killshot...then heaping scorn at the toplines of somebody else's corridor for winner-take-all rights. It's not mutually exclusive like that at all. There are very clearly 2 or more distinct rapid transit-caliber corridors here, and numerous problems trying to cross-pollenate any of them. Go trans-Allston/Newton, leave way too much Cambridge demand on the table. Go trans-Cambridge, leave too much Allston demand on the table. Split-the-difference with some tortured megaproject down 70's middle lane via West Station, either leave too much of every audience on the table and/or hit a brick wall in ops kludginess. Watertown is only gonna be perma-solved by "strengthening the net" rather than searching under some new rock for that Most Perfect Uni-line. Watertown is a big hub aligned almost on a mid-radial trajectory; you treat and its unchecked growth profile as it is. Tackling the issue in distributed fashion entails. . .
  • Shorter-term: strengthening the existing modes with BRT featuring and Urban Rail frequencies to Newton Corner on the Worcester Line meeting up with BRT featuring
  • Medium-term: pick spots on cost/opportunity for the first major rapid transit interconnect carving one major corridor. The "71" tack via GLX-Porter that utilizes the easier Red contraflow direction for Harvard access is probably cheaper/more-available than Allston for faster start. The resulting build substantially lightens the load on the residual 71 to make the bus snap tighter for the remainders it serves.
  • Longer-term: tackle the other most un-served direction with picking cost/opportunity spots on a second major rapid transit interconnect. This is probably where BLX Charles-Kenmore extended to run under the B&A to West, Newton Corner, and Watertown-via-Galen ends up doing the job, lightening the load on the residual 57 and 70 audiences to snap tighter for their remainders.
"And...applied over time", not "or...winner-takes-all".


For Waltham there simply isn't a ROW available other than the Fitchburg Line. The Watertown Branch is obliterated by lapsed property lines and encroaching development most of the way between School St. and Waltham, and it had the worst-angled grade crossing clusters imaginable so couldn't run the traffic levels. Subwaying between H2O Sq. and Waltham Ctr. isn't possible without big cost blowouts because it lies in the Charles floodplain and linking the two with sub-surface anything is going to be a waterproofing nightmare. Therefore, Watertown can/will be a hubbing spot for linked trips...but it functionally can't be anybody's mid-line node on a one-seat to 128. The Fitchburg Line, however, does have the space for all that and Green has the ops profile to feed it co-equal branch frequencies that diverge past Porter.

Porter superstation already looms large as a solo GLX project for being able to spray lots of Red/Green/Purple/Yellow linked trips all over the map. It becomes an even deeper gravity well for that same behavior when you start plugging more appendages into the mix. Up to and including what future Watertown, Waltham (via Green or :15 Purple), RLX-Arlington, etc. audiences would make use of in the way of spot Urban Ring patterns piped across to Porter from the Sullivan-Chelsea-Logan quadrant.
 

Blackbird

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It's not either/or. For Watertown the 57 *and* 71 *and* 70 are all Top 25 ridership routes spider-mapped as Key Routes, fanning out in third positions. Somehow when we Crazy Transit Pitch this on aB we always manage to fall into this trap of thinking Watertown is a problem solvable by crayon drawing some most-perfect singular uni-lined killshot...then heaping scorn at the toplines of somebody else's corridor for winner-take-all rights. It's not mutually exclusive like that at all. There are very clearly 2 or more distinct rapid transit-caliber corridors here, and numerous problems trying to cross-pollenate any of them.
I guess the problem is that since Watertown currently has zero subway lines, it's hard to imagine it ever having two. But yeah: porque no los dos?

For Waltham there simply isn't a ROW available other than the Fitchburg Line. The Watertown Branch is obliterated by lapsed property lines and encroaching development most of the way between School St. and Waltham, and it had the worst-angled grade crossing clusters imaginable so couldn't run the traffic levels. Subwaying between H2O Sq. and Waltham Ctr. isn't possible without big cost blowouts because it lies in the Charles floodplain and linking the two with sub-surface anything is going to be a waterproofing nightmare
You'd go under US 20, right? I'm surprised that the water table there would be much higher than in other parts of the city that already have tunnels.
 
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Scalziand

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I suppose it's more understandable when you consider that Watertown used to have one as the A-Line.
 

jklo

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I suppose it's more understandable when you consider that Watertown used to have one as the A-Line.
I looked it up and if I am looking at it right it did end in Watertown it's like the edge of it. The A branch was more of a Newton and Brighton line.
 

Blackbird

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I looked it up and if I am looking at it right it did end in Watertown it's like the edge of it. The A branch was more of a Newton and Brighton line.
Definitely a Brighton line. Didn't really reach Newton. It ended at Watertown's edge, but right across the river from Watertown Square, which is the functional center of the city even if it isn't the geographic center. The 57 bus runs the route today.
 

jklo

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Definitely a Brighton line. Didn't really reach Newton. It ended at Watertown's edge, but right across the river from Watertown Square, which is the functional center of the city even if it isn't the geographic center. The 57 bus runs the route today.
It does go by Newton Corner / Exit 17 . That's been talked about a theoretical Worcester Line stop but it's a pedestrian (and car) nightmare so it'll probably never happen.

I doubt Street running is going to make a comeback so I think bringing back the A isn't happening. Unless you are talking about a tunnel.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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You'd go under US 20, right? I'm surprised that the water table there would be much higher than in other parts of the city that already have tunnels.
No...not follow 70 bus/US 20 rote-faithfully between Squares. Consider the history. . .
  • US 20 is bounded by totally homogenous residential, mid-density (i.e. half-acre plots, 1-2 family homes, some but not many apartment complexes), totally old-stock with no upzoning possible, and very pronounced 9-5'er demand skew that drops of a cliff on the off-peak. It would be construction-feasible to subway at considerable utility relocation cost, but the uniformity of the corridor makes it weak for any HRT intermediates and it's never gonna grow appreciably more. The 70 segment between Squares would likely snap nice and tight if you could just tame the overloading on Arsenal/Western with rapid transit TO Watertown. The homes a few blocks north of US 20 also start to get into the walksheds of the ex- Clematis Brook (Beaver St.) and Beaver Brook (Massasoit St. under US 20) Fitchburg Line stops if they get reinstated for :15 Urban Rail, so there's also some duplicating catchment once you get to the 2/3rds mark between Squares.
  • The bigtime growth is being driven in the mixed-use upzoning closer to the river...on the fat band traced by Waltham/Grove St.'s and Pleasant/River St.'s, which the ex-Bemis/Watertown Branch helpfully splits on the midblock. When B&M passenger service still ran here, it was the more heavily-patronized corridor than the Fitchburg main because that's where all the factory jobs were clustered. The 558 more or less traces out the old RR route, but because its frequencies are so uselessly poor the upzoning is currently tracking like a carpocalypse (but is definitely happening nonetheless). However, the blocks south of Waltham St. are closer to the floodplain, and the dams right beside each of the Squares temporarily pulses up the flood risk inconveniently close to where you'd be putting stations.
You could tunnel the 70 on dry land, but it's a long slog of utility relocation headwind for a flat-as-board growth curve and feast-of-famine time-of-day demand. The intermediates would probably be HRT low-outliers on ridership. You could also tunnel under the Bemis Branch, leveraging blocks of Pleasant or Waltham as a backup if there are any encroachments that can't be underpinned. Higher-ridership intermediates, less catchment duplication of the Fitchburg, way more even all-day loading profile. Would lessen the cost burden of utility relocations since they'd only be at the former grade crossings, but bite back at higher waterproofing costs. And this is vanishingly unlikely to be a place where they'd approve of an above-ground El structure instead (which admittedly would solve a lot of problems if it were a realistic approval).

In the end, all of the options are kinda fraught and something less than 'killer app' in execution. So you're probably also looking at "thicken the net" here too rather than turning over rocks for a singular uni-lined killshot. If you implant rapid transit "netting" TO Watertown, you've saved the incumbent buses of all of their schedule-killing overloads. 70 BRT and 558 BRT (to wrestle the redev transit shares away from car overcentricity) probably then tag-team nice and tight for spanning the Squares, and the ease of linked trips @ rapid-transitified Watertown makes it all work nicely as a machine. And meanwhile :15 Urban Rail on the Fitchburg handles the northern walksheds and large share of Waltham Ctr. loading tomorrow, Green Line branch out of Porter along the Fitchburg kicks it up a few notches well further future line. The net effect ends up blanketing all with good transit on all the widely varied places they need to go, even though there isn't some absolute stunner of a uni-corridor popping out on the map.

"Netting" is probably the best way to perceive the solutions here. It's difficult because the multi-directionality of Watertown as a hub is so awkwardly 'tweener-placed vs. the orientation of the rapid transit system and even the inner Urban Ring. It needs a different kind of solutioneering to do justice to how incredibly varied the trip pairs are out here, at least while also contending with a typical slate of unfavorable cost escalations on the candidate corridors.
 

bigeman312

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Pardon my ignorance, but can you describe the route of this "H20 Branch" corridor? Living south of Fresh Pond for two years, I was always struck by the neglected/limbo-like status of the ROW that starts at Huron Ave, and runs southwest for just short of a mile, past Star Market and the exquisite Sofra bakery, before meeting the Watertown Greenway at Nichols/Arlington/Coolidge Hill. You're not referencing that?

It's a shame that it hasn't been reactivated for some kind of use, either as a bike path or... something... other than the attractive nuisance it's sadly become.

Given the extreme density of the surrounding neighborhood, and it's ability to link-up Fresh Pond, Mt. Auburn Cemetery, and the Charles/Arsenal corridor, I could see it being as heavily-used as the Minuteman [and indeed it's just 1 of 2 missing links to get the Minuteman connected all the way down to the Charles, no?]

I can only imagine it's being held hostage by some intense neighborhood politics? [unless there's some recent good news I'm not aware of, having moved out of the neighborhood a while back...
Let me be the bearer of good news!

The Cambridge-Watertown Greenway has been in the works for years and is finally scheduled to open this year. It will run from the Fresh Pond multi-use trail in Cambridge to the existing Watertown Greenway. Connecting the “Alewife Network” of multi-use trails through Watertown.
 

DBM

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Let me be the bearer of good news!

The Cambridge-Watertown Greenway has been in the works for years and is finally scheduled to open this year. It will run from the Fresh Pond multi-use trail in Cambridge to the existing Watertown Greenway. Connecting the “Alewife Network” of multi-use trails through Watertown.
The best possible news. Glad to learn they were doing all that behind-the-scenes work while I was living in the neighborhood. Sofra should set-up a satellite cafe down on the bikepath, once it opens!
 

Tallguy

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It was already heavily studied and the route on Washington St has enough row for a dedicated ROW for pretty much the entire length. If I recall, the only land taking needed was around the Cathedral, which I think they even had a deal in principal for a swap to take a bit of the sidewalk. There might have been one other with a corner store, but it was the same pretty minor thing. Washington St is pretty much the defacto routing and is very well understood/studied from back when the El came down.
Can you direct me to any study documents? I am working with a local college civil engineering dept. on a possible Nubian/Seaport study and could use the background
 

Tallguy

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I will soon be working with a group of local civil engineering students on a study of GL to Nubian/Seaport. Any research/calculations etc of GL out of the Pleasant St portal that folks could provides us would be helpful.
 

Brattle Loop

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I will soon be working with a group of local civil engineering students on a study of GL to Nubian/Seaport. Any research/calculations etc of GL out of the Pleasant St portal that folks could provides us would be helpful.
No idea what GL/LRT research or documents might exist, hopefully some other members can help you with that.

I'd suspect that there'd be some potentially useful nuggets of information in the Silver Line planning documents, particularly the Silver Line Phase III documents, given that they had to study the potential portals for connecting SL Washington Street and SL Seaport. GL to Nubian and GL to Seaport as concepts are basically the Silver Line (minus SL3) as it should probably have been built in the first place, so there's enough overlap that there's probably some good info there, though I don't really know if those documents are publicly available or how accessible they are.
 

Tallguy

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Several folks have proposed route details over the years. Hoping they might have some checking.
 

Riverside

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This isn't directly relevant to anything in particular, but has been rolling around in my head for a few months now, so I am tossing it out into the ether.

Infamously, the commitment was made to replace the Washington Street El with "equal or better service". The Silver Line (rightfully branded as the "Silver Lie") falls absurdly short of that standard. According to a 1988 T system map, the 49 bus was estimated to take 22 minutes to travel from Dudley (now Nubian) to downtown; the Better Bus Profile for SL5 shows that it also typically takes about 22 minutes (maybe 20 on a good day) to complete the same journey. The larger buses used today may perhaps result in reduced crowding, but there seems to be little improvement in travel times.

How far short does the Silver Line fall of the standard set by the El? Let me present some charts:
Journey​
Distance​
Travel Time​
Nubian - Chinatown via Silver Line
2 miles​
15-19 min​
Ruggles - Chinatown via Orange Line
2 miles​
8 min​
Nubian - Ruggles via buses on Malcolm X
1 mile​
7 min​
Dudley - Essex via Orange Line El
2 miles​
<8 min (est.)​
Andrew - Downtown Crossing via Red
2 miles​
7 min​
Cleveland Circle - Hawes St via Green Line C
2 miles​
14 min​
Brookline Hills - Kenmore via Green Line D
2 miles​
10 min​
Riders journeying from Nubian to downtown have the choice between Silver Line and bus + Orange. However, in practice these two routes will take roughly the same amount of time (even though traveling via Ruggles increases your distance by half again). What's more, when journeying southbound, the experiences will not be equivalent, as journeying south on the Silver Line requires waiting outside at a relatively unprotected bus stop, whereas Orange + bus entails waiting inside a subway station, and then inside a modestly protected busway at Ruggles.

I haven't been able to locate travel time estimates for the El. However, Dudley - Essex was almost exactly the same distance as Chinatown - Ruggles is today (timetabled at 8 min), but with two intermediate stops instead of three. The Red Line is timetabled at 7 min to travel an equivalent distance from Andrew to Downtown Crossing. So we can be pretty confident that Dudley - Essex took at most 8 min on the El, and may have been even faster.

On a good day, the Silver Line takes twice as long as the El did, and on a bad day it's nearly three times as long. And riding to Ruggles and transferring there instead doesn't help you either.

The Silver Line reguarly averages 20 minutes to go from its terminus to downtown. How far out do we have to go on the Orange Line to find a comparable journey time? As a matter of fact, nowhere: Forest Hills, Oak Grove, Alewife, Ashmont, and Wonderland are all timetabled at (comfortably) less than 20 minutes from downtown.

Closing down the El was the equivalent of picking up Nubian Square and relocating it as far south as Forest Hills or Roslindale Village.

Now, why am I posting this in the Green Line Reconfiguration thread?

Extending the Green Line to Nubian Square will address a number of shortcomings of the Silver Lie. LRT vehicles will offer greater capacity. LRT vehicles will be better for the environment even than CNG buses. A protected ROW will improve reliability and reduce delays due to traffic and double parking in bus lanes. And through-running into the subway will increase the number of one-seat journeys, and provide a better transfer experience than today's surface transfers.

But extending the Green Line to Nubian Square will not necessarily solve the travel time shortcoming. Another chart:

Journey​
Distance​
Travel Time​
Speed​
Silver Line, Nubian to Chinatown​
2 mi​
15-19 min​
6.3-8 mph​
Green Line E, Northeastern to Brigham Circle​
0.78 mi​
8 min​
5.85 mph​
Green Line C, Cleveland Circle to Hawes St​
2 mi​
14 min​
8.5 mph​
Green Line subway, Kenmore to Arlington​
1.3 mi​
8 min​
9.75 mph​
Green Line D, Brookline Hills to Kenmore​
2 mi​
10 min​
12 mph​
Orange Line, Ruggles to Chinatown​
2 mi​
8 min​
15 mph​
Only under the most ideal circumstances does the Green Line start to approach the speed of the Orange Line (past or present) -- in the subway and in a grade-separated sealed ROW with distant stop spacing.

This is where a bit of history is illustrative. The El had only two stops in the South End north of Dudley -- at Northampton St and at Dover St (East Berkeley St). Local service was provided by bus, and then before that by a streetcar which (until the late '40s '30s) journeyed underneath the El at street-level before running into the Tremont St Subway.

[EDIT: Sorry, got the decade wrong there.]

The 49 bus and the Silver Line both resemble that old streetcar more than they ever could resemble the El.

So -- to my mind -- this raises an obvious question: can a Green Line branch down Washington approach that standard set by the El? And how do you do so without reducing the quality of service for passengers using the Silver Line like a local streetcar?

I don't have answers, but I think there are a few potential pieces to a solution.

First: hard separated center-running ROW. Second: layer local bus/BRT/LRT service on top of limited-stop LRT service. Third: provide passing lanes for "express" service at "local" stops.

(Passing lanes are a bit tricky, but I think could be achievable using offset stops on flanking sides of intersections, where local and express lanes merge within the intersection; one side would have SOUTHBOUND ALL | NORTHBOUND EXPRESS | NORTHBOUND LOCAL | PLATFORM, while the other side would have PLATFORM | SOUTHBOUND LOCAL | SOUTHBOUND EXPRESS | NORTHBOUND ALL, with limited reduction of on-street parking lanes for the 60-150 feet of the platform.)

Are those a definite solution? Oh I have no idea.

But my point: the corridor from Nubian to downtown has historically had two purposes, reflected in the separate modes that once served it: El and streetcar. We should make sure that the future of rapid transit along Washington Street is able to serve both purposes.
 
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JeffDowntown

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You can never get to EL level performance on the Washington Street corridor (BRT or LRV) without prepayment and all-door boarding. One of the major factors in poor SL4, 5 service is the very long dwell time at stops waiting for boarding and payment. This is also a major contributor to bunching on the line (buses skip past each other). It is not uncommon to have 3, 4 even 5 inbound SL 4, 5 buses arrive at Tufts Medical Center at the same time. That means the wait for further inbound service is now almost an hour (the line from Nubian is essentially empty of service at that point).
 

Riverside

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Agreed. The Green Line subway speeds suggest to me that there still would be additional pieces to the puzzle, since those stations do have prepayment and all-door boarding. However, perhaps a modern transit priority signaling system on Washington could exceed the antiquated one in the subway and enable trains to pass through faster.

We know from the fare-free pilot on the 28 that dwell times can be reduced by removing fares. Perhaps improvement on SL4 and SL5 would be possible through a fare-free program; unfortunately, as I understand it, the Silver Line is the rare MBTA service which actually pays for itself. So, that idea is probably a non-starter.

Returning to prepayment and all door boarding: my question then becomes, how much closer do those get us? The El had two stops north of Nubian; the Silver Line has eight. Between deceleration/acceleration and dwell times, how much of a penalty do those exact?
 

Tallguy

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I guess I will ask specific questions about the potential route.
Does anyone know how deep the OL is under Marginal Way?
 

Brattle Loop

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I guess I will ask specific questions about the potential route.
Does anyone know how deep the OL is under Marginal Way?
Best I can find is that the top of the OL tunnel was supposed to be no less than 1.5 feet below the bottom of the Mass Pike. The bridges over the Pike in that area all have more than 14 feet of clearance over the highway, so the tunnel has to be deeper than that 14'+1.5' at the very least, and there's not exactly a ton of running room between the Pike's trench and Marginal even if it's a grade there.
 

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