MBTA 2021 - The year the MBTA stop sucking?

ant8904

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Keep in mind stop sucking doesn't necessarily means Japan "we apologize for being 20-seconds late" level good.

  • 152 New Orange Line Trains
  • 252 New Red Line Trains
  • 24 New Green Line Trains
  • GLX completing theoretically around this time (with maintenance rail yard that the real consequential point in this context)
  • Signal Priority is currently being expanded
  • New AFC 2.0 implemented with pertinent benefits of all-doors boarding and integrated fare system with ferries and the commuter rail (ignoring debate that we can do a lot of the above right now if we wanted to)
  • (Edited in) Signal upgrades is coming per comments below.

We're been dealing with the crappy MBTA for so long that it's really hard to imagine anything different. That this is America. This is Boston. Our trains are always going to suck. But I can't help but notice that by 2021, all these deliverables are dated to be completed or close to completion. And from my understanding the above should addresses these problems commonly cited as the cause of the last bad day

  • Reducing of breakdowns by dead trains
  • Rush Hour overcrowding because we have to wait five minutes to the next train during hour because these just isn't enough living trains anymore for shorter headways
  • Green Line losing time to front door boarding
  • Green Line losing time to red lights.
  • Smaller percentage of Green Line trains in the fleet with the derailing issue.


Maybe, just maybe, after all these years of half-hearted that there's actually a light at the end of the tunnel? That we might actually see a "decent" system. It might not be great, but not suck anymore? That we can describe the MBTA in more positive words than "well, at least it covers a lot of the city"?

The counterpoint is not all our bad experience is related to the above. A lot of our problems that is not dead trains is cited to signal problems. And I haven't heard of a real overhaul to any lines of those signal issues. Plus the even ATO systems the ones that were done recently continues to suck. How many years of weekends bustitutions do you need to finally finish "signal work" on the orange line? None of the above stop trash fires. And none of the above addresses power failures (though I vaguely remember they are attacking that too).

But regardless, the above seems to be an actually substantial list. But is it enough? What are the biggest missing projects to not a MBTA that not suck?
 
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Arlington

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I personally think that we will all be pleasantly surprised by how useful a more frequent, higher capacity Orange Line will be to people who can connect to it by bus at Forest Hills, Ruggles, Sullivan, Wellington and Malden--it really is the best networked and yet most sucky line today, and has the opportunity to leapfrog to a great subway with the best connectivity.
 

bakgwailo

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You forgot the signaling upgrades on the Red, too. I think its also being redone on the Orange - should be fully converted to digital and from what I read more of a completely hardware overhaul (with some future proofing) vs new software/etc.
 

FitchburgLine

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It does seem like a cluster of big procurements will start paying dividends around 2020- good time to inject new revenue to speed the next generation of improvements. In addition, there's a huge contract to replace all current green line vehicles current being planned- the RFI should be released in a few months.
 

ant8904

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You forgot the signaling upgrades on the Red, too. I think its also being redone on the Orange - should be fully converted to digital and from what I read more of a completely hardware overhaul (with some future proofing) vs new software/etc.
What's the timeline and status on that project? Unlike the other projects, I don't remember a lot of news. I vaguely recall of reading some plans, but I can't remember anything concrete and googling it.

If it is underway, substantial, and done right (I mean, didn't we just did ATO for the northern half of the Orange Line but there's still plenty of "signal projects" or so they cite?), that should address the other commonly name issue of failures. I guess we'll still deal with trash fires and electrical issues, but all of these procurement have to make a noticeable effect on our experiences, right?
 

FitchburgLine

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A new, ATO enabled signal system for the Red and Orange Line is in procurement now, and will be installed concurrent with the new cars entering service. For the Red, it'll be used to boost service to 20tph at peak.
 

citylover94

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The orange line having the ability to get headways to around 4 minutes is a huge deal in regards to increased capacity. It is the most used line by route mile with 18,821 riders per mile using the route which is the highest ridership per mile of any subway line outside of the NYC metro area.
 

Arlington

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The orange line having the ability to get headways to around 4 minutes is a huge deal in regards to increased capacity. It is the most used line by route mile with 18,821 riders per mile using the route which is the highest ridership per mile of any subway line outside of the NYC metro area.
That's a cool factoid (is there a table or chart somewhere for this?)

I guess the Red has lower riders/mile because of the lesser-used branches south of town, vs the Orange being used solidly for its entire length?

So when's a good estimate for when the Orange Line will stop sucking?
 

citylover94

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That's a cool factoid (is there a table or chart somewhere for this?)

I guess the Red has lower riders/mile because of the lesser-used branches south of town, vs the Orange being used solidly for its entire length?

So when's a good estimate for when the Orange Line will stop sucking?
No I just looked at the ridership and the length of the line and did the calculation myself. Wikipedia gives the riders per mile on the subway/heavy rail ridership list pages but only for a whole system not individual lines.

I believe it is the Braintree branch killing the red lines numbers although even that has over 12,000 riders per mile which is only behind the Market-Franford Line in Philly, MBTA Orange Line (of course), PATH, and NYC MTA. So it still does fairly well compared to other US systems. Even the red line in Chicago which is the busiest line per mile their has 2,000 less people per mile.

As a whole rail based transit in Boston outperforms every american transit system aside from NYC by a pretty large margin. For example the Green Line carries more riders per mile than every other heavy rail subway in the country aside from the MBTA, PATH, and NYC MTA. I think this is because the streets in Boston do not work very well for buses leading to a greater emphasis on using buses to feed people into trains that can avoid the congestion on the narrow and often winding roads in the city. This rail advantage can be seen when looking at ridership projections for the GLX which are estimated to be around 52,000 whereas the buses currently serving the area only carry 16,900 riders because they are not able to provide service that is as effective as the GLX.
 

fattony

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This isn't about 2021, nor should it be. We should always have some big transit contract to be talking about because we should always be upgrading, improving, and expanding the system.

I read in a recent article that Baker is planning to spend $1 billion PER YEAR for the next 15 years on state of good repair for the T, not counting capital expenditure. They still haven't yet spent that much in a single year, but they are ramping up to it.
 

ant8904

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Are there details on this somewhere?
The one I first heard in a confirming way is via UHub but here's the MBTA's official page giving details on this.

2021 or 2022 -- all new rolling stock and new signals on the entire line.
Keep in mind that 2021/2022 is the estimated time of completion. The new trains will starting rolling around as soon as 2019. So things should start improving hopefully sooner than later.
 

ant8904

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This isn't about 2021, nor should it be. We should always have some big transit contract to be talking about because we should always be upgrading, improving, and expanding the system.
It's not all about 2021, you are right that there's should always be another big project or contract to be talking about.

However, I think there arguably some there's some significance to 2021 versus the other years is because of the number aforementioned projects projected to complete on or just before that point of time while we having spent decades of how everything suck. For year after year, we operated on how everything on the MBTA is dysfunctional.

With my mind stirred of a functional MBTA, it makes me think about a bit of how long things have sucked. Anyone remember the "BadTransit" blog? How long ago was that? Yet, we're still basically in the same spot. Sure, we had moments of hope. Like having a Democrat for governor or when we dumped the GM, or completion of the renovations some of the stations. Also the development of the countdown timer and subsequent apps are substantial and real quality of life improvements.

But none of that really attacked the real root issues of why we have so many grips with our system: frequency and reliability. While it's a pretty Bostonian thing to complain of how much things suck, so I guess it won't change that much, but it has been pretty justified. Shiny new Government Center doesn't change that just today another train died again at Charles MGH. Wouldn't it be nice to complain and not be justified? So many discussions of poor headways, MBTA refusal of improvements like signal priority, and breakdowns. But all the solutions that actually fixes these issues never seems close. But now, I can actually see solutions that actually attacks those issues and a date for them. And I think that's arguably a big deal. We may always want to look to the next project, but having a state of projects while having a "good system" versus a "dysfunctional system" including our collective perception of the system is significant. And this shift may happens around 2021. Assuming the projects are accomplished and done right.
 

datadyne007

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Not to derail this (pun intended), but that RL train today ran over a piece of rebar on the Longfellow.
 

bakgwailo

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I just realized 2021 is also the year for the new Acela 2 trainsets to rollout, too. While not really MBTA related, still makes for an even better year (if everything happens on schedule).
 

ant8904

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Here's a question to everyone? Assuming all these projects are coming to fruition at the same time? What are the missing major projects want it comes to reliability? Or does this covers all the major causes of our bad days?

If that is so, then what about the cited billions of dollars in deferred maintenance. Is it all commuter rail issues after that point? Or is are there more categories of equipment beneath the surface? Or that amount we need to spend to keep up - regardless we replace all the old trains and signals with new ones?
 

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