MBTA Bus & BRT

millerm277

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What is the "Alewife Access Ramp" mentioned as a planned 2019 project?
Based on description, I suspect they are going to try to restripe the Rt 2 off-ramp heading in to Alewife with a 2nd lane so buses can skip the traffic. Might be a tight fit.
 

HenryAlan

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@HelloBostonHi do you have a link to this slide presentation? I know some people who will be particularly interested in some of the bus lane plans, but would like to be able to give them a source link to the information.
 

millerm277

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If you nuked the sidewalk it would probably be wide enough?

The path from the corner of Acorn Park Dr through the reservation covers the exact same route as that sidewalk segment at about the same distance. And unless you were trying to access the saddest pedestrian bridge in the state, there's no obvious reason why you'd ever even think to use that sidewalk vs walking the reservation path.

After the corner the sidewalk on the Eastern side is a completely unnecessary duplication of the Minuteman.

Not sure a bridge sidewalk was designed to handle a bus, which is probably the "reviewing bridge structure" part of the project description.
 

Arlington

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My pet project: Better Bus proposed that the 95 from Sullivan Sq be re-routed beyond West Medford CR to terminate at Arlington Center instead "dangling up" Playstead road in West Medford. I totally supported this, partly out of "math" and partly out of self interest (I live along the 80 but have to walk to the 94 and even further to the 95's historic route)

Political pushback/compromise was that half of runs would got to Arl Cntr, and half to Playstead. The idea is that bus users will vote with their feet. My sense is that Playstead is a great place for the 326 express bus to run, but not the 95.

Low frequency makes bad transit. I was worried that ridership would be bad on the new segment of the 95.

I'm now optimistic. 1) Arlington Catholic kids have discovered it and are juicing the numbers from Medford (which has2 Catholic elementary schools but no high) 2) Arlingtonians seem to like it.

I just rode a midday run with 5 people boaring (incl me) on the "new" segment. 4 boarded at Arl Ctr, and 1 more got on on the former "80 only" segment. (So, by skipping an 80 and taking the 95, I juiced ridership by 25%)

5 may not seem like much, but it totally dominates vs the previous terminus. (Playstead is a terrible catchment: half of its land used is park or cemetery, and the rest is no denser than 2-flats, and much is single family)
 
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jass

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I like how electric trains are this crazy complicated technology that is risky while electric buses are "rapidly maturing" and we should go all in.

Also, they should be buying 65 foot buses with 4 doors, not 60 foot buses with 3 doors, if they cared about dwell time.

(And yes, LA runs 65-foot buses on interstate highways with a waiver, on their own silver line route).
 

FK4

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Thanks... in looking at this (and in prior documents on "key routes" I just realized how much overlapping routes might act to disguise certain high-volume destinations. Specifically, I'm thinking of Roslindale Square and stops nearby; since multiple bus routes from Forest Hills provide that service, and people choose whichever one happens to be departing when they get to Forest Hills, simply looking at "key routes" or raw route ridership numbers doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. I wonder if somewhere in all this data we have numbers on total bus riders who go between Forest Hills and the 1/2 mile zone around Roslindale Square?
 

swtat

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I like how electric trains are this crazy complicated technology that is risky while electric buses are "rapidly maturing" and we should go all in.

Also, they should be buying 65 foot buses with 4 doors, not 60 foot buses with 3 doors, if they cared about dwell time.

(And yes, LA runs 65-foot buses on interstate highways with a waiver, on their own silver line route).
LACMTA owns the only 65-foot bus in existence in North America. It is a lengthened NABI 60-BRT and was a prototype that never went to mass production. There aren't any other manufacturers that offer 65-foot buses to the North American market.
 

HelloBostonHi

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I like how electric trains are this crazy complicated technology that is risky while electric buses are "rapidly maturing" and we should go all in.

Also, they should be buying 65 foot buses with 4 doors, not 60 foot buses with 3 doors, if they cared about dwell time.

(And yes, LA runs 65-foot buses on interstate highways with a waiver, on their own silver line route).
Electric buses require significantly less infrastructure (although still a significant amount). Electric trains require catenary and significant power for that catenary. Which in turn requires hundreds of miles of work and tons of permitting, land aquisition, moving signals etc that will take years. There's also still a debate over whether to go EMU or electric locos, and the discussion over whether anyone even produces the product they want that meets FRA requirements and various buy america rules. Electric buses are already being made in the USA, fully nhtsa/fta approved and ready to roll with correct local infrastructure changes. And no, we should move away from the idea of pushing the MBTA to buy custom things. The more off the shelf the buses are, the better..
 

jass

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LACMTA owns the only 65-foot bus in existence in North America. It is a lengthened NABI 60-BRT and was a prototype that never went to mass production. There aren't any other manufacturers that offer 65-foot buses to the North American market.
The US bus industry is caught in a horrible chicken and egg loop. The fact is, US bus design has been stagnant for close to two decades since the current US low-floor design was developed.

Ive spoken to both bus manufacturers and transit agencies about why they dont use 3 door models on 40-foot buses and 4 door models on 60-foot buses.

Bus company: The agencies never ask for that and we build what the demand is
Transit agencies: The bus companies don't offer that and we buy off the shelf

Washington DC decided to import European buses so they could get better buses for the Circulator line. Unfortunately, their newest order used federal funds so they had to step back in time 15 years and buy US models.

I'm assuming the same issue with 65-foot buses. Never went to mass production because there wasn't a larger order base. There wasn't a large order base because it wasn't in mass production.

Aside from passenger comfort and decreased dwell time, you see the issue with basic safety issues. American buses have larger blind spots than European models. American buses are less accessible.
 

HelloBostonHi

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Anyone know what's going on at World Trade Center Station? Full SL tunnel closures every weekend in October.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Electric buses require significantly less infrastructure (although still a significant amount). Electric trains require catenary and significant power for that catenary. Which in turn requires hundreds of miles of work and tons of permitting, land aquisition, moving signals etc that will take years. There's also still a debate over whether to go EMU or electric locos, and the discussion over whether anyone even produces the product they want that meets FRA requirements and various buy america rules. Electric buses are already being made in the USA, fully nhtsa/fta approved and ready to roll with correct local infrastructure changes. And no, we should move away from the idea of pushing the MBTA to buy custom things. The more off the shelf the buses are, the better..
That's a bit of an optimistic take. Off-shelf battery buses are available, but adopting cities (esp. in colder/wetter climes) have consistently undershot reference expectations on charging ranges, duty cycles per charge, and fleet sizes required to sustain battery adoption. It's emerging technology with immediate applications, but some of the battery evangelists in the transpo planning intelligensia are stanning for blanket adoption and smearing anyone who exercises more caution than that as born regressives. The reality is adoption is going to be mixed and more readily-suited up front to the shorter-haul routes until charging tech can overcome a cold maritime climate's HVAC drain enough to satiate near-systemwide demand. And meanwhile, the T would still have to build the fleet-expansion garages to take on the different duty cycles for that technology...something that to-date they have not yet signaled a clear willingness to pony up the capital $$$ for.

They are most definitely not plug-and-play in totality as of 2019, inasmuch as the T doesn't have enough actionable data for which route clusters a batt bus fleet can handle them ASAP without problems and which routes would too-much strain the charging range of currently available makes under maximum cold-weather energy drain. We don't even know if SL1/SL3 are going to be able to hack it on their own regenerative braking for the whole route without the next-gen 60-footer fleet needing to touch Transitway overhead to get a recharging assist. Higher up-front costs and all, there at least is no question with an overhead-wire mode that you can run the intended service 24/7/365...and that is a very important distinction before getting too optimistic about the near-term promise of battery tech. *True* "electric" (i.e. external power source) and "regenerative internal battery" are very different beasts. They don't belong in an attempted apples-apples comparison.
 

HelloBostonHi

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I'm confused what you're saying about SL1/3 here. They've already proven BEB can run the route just fine... The battery buses have about a 200 mile pure electric range, of course they can manage a 5 mile bus route without recharging. And if you're talking about the extended range hybrids, 1294 started service on October 1st, 2018 aka over a year ago and ran through the winter just fine.

And you completely missed my point which was that electric buses are far easier to adopt than electric trains. I'm not advocating for a total switch over, I was simply responding to the point that jass made.
 

stick n move

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Cities like Shenzhen have their entire bus fleet of 13,000 busses as electric battery powered. A few American electric bus companies exist and are shipping the busses over seas. When are we going to make the switch?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Cities like Shenzhen have their entire bus fleet of 13,000 busses as electric battery powered. A few American electric bus companies exist and are shipping the busses over seas. When are we going to make the switch?
Shenzhen IS the cautionary tale about leaping too fast into the battery bus game. They spent themselves stupid wholesale-converting their fleet to battery buses, then they found out that they overestimated the charging range for their route network by nearly 30%. The Chinese gov't slashed their funding for procurements to overturn the rest of their fleet and make up the equipment shortfalls for batt bus downtime, and the back half of their adoption is now running a half-decade behind schedule and cosmically over-budget. And that's not even a cold-climate city; it hasn't dropped below freezing there in years. They just whiffed the biggest whiff on what reference vs. actual battery cycles would bear for their route network, and are up to their eyeballs in debt spending trying to pull out of that miscalculation. They are the poster child for "shoot-first, ask questions later" when it comes to batt bus adoption. Cities worldwide are taking their sweet time fleshing out their adoption studies thanks to Shenzhen's impatience.

But those buses are actually rolling even though they're bleeding the transit agency dry with cost overruns and punitive budget cuts, so Shenzhen gets breathlessly oft-cited stateside as the "Why can't we have nice things?" fallacy for instant gratification critique. Local pols over there dug their own fiscal grave on their self-promotion as a city of visionaries with their no-holds-barred pursuit of early adoption, so they're stuck digging that hole on this current fleet generation and don't have the option of slowing it down with a mixture of technologies until the next generation of batt buses can close the gaps.

Moscow's case is even worse than Shenzhen's because they rushed just as headlong with just as little pre-modeling of charging ranges on their route network (in this case, ripping out the overhead on their extensive TT network). It nearly paralyzed them as they underestimated by a whopping 44% the number of spares they needed on a daily basis to spell units that were out-of-service for charging, to the point where last year they ended up deep in service interruptions before the end of September...nevermind the onset of winter.


When the FCMB preaches patience in needing to really study this fleet strategy out to the nines, Shenzhen is why. Shenzhen is not an argument for rushing into it. If we did what Shenzhen and Moscow did going for the 100% battery bragging rights, the very act of pursuing that goal would've left Boston with no substantial battery bus network at all because the first-wave procurements would've absolutely bankrupted the agency and broken the back of the route network because we can't/won't spend our way out of self-made holes with debt spending like authoritarian governments can. I don't know why the prospect of some Jetsons Shit vehicle tech tickles enough short attention spans that we're willing to go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ at the risks, but it makes for bad transit to pick a tool that can't do its job simply because the tool is sexy-sounding as an idea.

They'll ID the routes that can take the charging cycles for the first procurement, NOT make too-big a first procurement so they can bank a few years (and winters) worth of real-world data before hitting any sort of tipping point, and stage it out. The next 1-2 generations of regenerative battery tech will be a lot better than what's available in 2019 and plug a lot more of the range/duty cycle gaps that are iffy prospects today. And those new generations take a quantum leap from R&D into production lines on roughly 5-year timeframes so it's not like we have to wait too long to address any major question marks. By 2030 we'll pretty much be majority-there all the same. Does that sound too boring and methodical? Well thank fuck, because I'd hate to be out there curbside in January waiting for a sardine can running triple-long headways because we Shenzhened/Moscowed ourselves straight into a fleet shortage with our own procuring pee-pee dance to have bragging rights on the latest toy.
 

whighlander

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F-Line -- once again on target with the tech [promise vs reality]
The one key fact is that outside of some lab tests [irrelevant in the real world] battery tech for things like buses and trains has not really made much of a leap

The guys and gals in the labs are all about storage density both volumetric and mass density -- that's important but the practical limits are less sexy -- the classic Gozinta and Gozouta of anything involving electric currents

Every time you discharge or recharge a battery some of the energy goes into heating the wiring and that applies to the wiring inside the battery as well as outside -- heating batteries has a lot of effects on things -- most of them bad to very bad

The problem is that heating stuff depends only on a few parameters:
  1. the resistivity of the conductor,
  2. the length of the conductor [you want short]
  3. and the cross sectional area [you want fat]
Outside of making the battery wiring out of a room temperature superconductor [not yet even in the lab] -- the best you can do is use silver [very expensive on a big scale] else you are stuck with copper [which has been optimized to the near the theoretical limit] or else just make the conductors have larger cross sections and shorten the runs

So -- don't hold your breath --- the wet lead-acid battery that powered the car owned by Larz Anderson 100 years ago [on view at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline] is not that far removed from today's battery in a electric bus as you would like to think

The other problem is of course heating in the winter as F-Line has described -- here too the physics is against any significant improvement [Anderson's car used and Alcohol heater]

The three areas where things have improved a lot and can improve more are:
  1. Lighting -- much higher efficiency, improved lifetime and consequently much lower cost of maintenance
  2. Controls -- the old days it was all dissipative -- just a honking big resistor in series with the motor which the motorman switched by hand -- today it can be all solid state switching regulation -- and of course the Computation controlling the control electronics
  3. Brakes -- almost all braking can not be done regeneratively [until you are moving too slowly to generate much voltage]
Moral of the story -- don't get to excited by electric buses powered by batteries except in specialized applications such as Logan Passenger Shuttles
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Right. When charging range gets consistently underestimated in the real world vs. reference/test specs and the shortfalls hit seemingly similar route networks harder than others (e.g. Shenzhen being a mild-weather city but performing more poorly on fleet uptime than same makes/models deployed elsewhere)...then there's still big unknowns out there that haven't been identified. You can't just cite "of course a vehicle rated range of X miles, plugged into this route of ours at X - Y miles, with one test bus that made mincemeat of extremely small samples sizes on one route" as justification when that's exactly the assumption those other cities made before impaling themselves.

I read in one of the link-outs on an article about Shenzhen's and Moscow's problems that the electricity budget on the average modern traction-power (TT, battery, or hybrid) bus goes only 20% to propulsion, 40% to HVAC, and 40% to "all other" such as lighting, 'kneeling' hydraulics, cameras/sensors, ASA, radios, etc. Sticking a miles-of-range reference quote on it literally is much less than half the story on where that energy budget gets apportioned during the course of the trip, and that's how the planners of Shenzhen--who certainly didn't set out on this adventure to look like dummies--ended up whiffing so badly on their range targets.

The HVAC figure didn't shock me at all; in fact, heating takes more power in an electric bus than a diesel because cabin ambient temperature isn't getting any boost from waste heat trapped off the engine by radiators. That, in addition to the physical degradation of the battery's ability to take/retain a charge in cold and/or cold + wet weather, is why the HVAC budget looms so incredibly large. But I was floored that all the other electronic doodads gobble up such a massive share of the budget. There's basically a whole server room stuffed in there for the computer controls and sensor plant, stuff that's always-on and living up to computers' and routers' reps as electricity guzzlers. Don't anyone get too precious about demanding onboard WiFi in the next battery bus fleet in the name of Jetsons Shit-begetting-Jetsons Shit frills; that's going to murder the energy budget a little bit more. Quantity of stops probably has a big effect as well and opens up stark disparities in routes where the kneeling mechanism has to be used often vs. rarely. Dedicated infrastructure like the express-oriented Silver Line is probably going to fare better than a dense city bus route once electricity chew on kneelings is tallied up, but the number of routes a test bus would have to be cycled on throughout the district to establish those ranges is huge before they have enough actionable data to make good decisions. One Transitway test bus tells them almost nothing about what it takes to convert the whole damn district over to batteries. And some individual routes are going to fare better than others when Boston traffic congestion characteristics are factored, because reference charging ranges are based on some league-average of regenerative braking charges taken en route. Well, what kind of braking maneuvers do you have to do over the course of a trip through city streets to hit the 'reference' range? Do you get enough charge-lets sitting in stop-and-go traffic downtown the whole time, or does that charging energy need to pile up braking by blocks/traffic lights at 15 MPH instead of braking in 10 ft. increments by the taillights of the cars in front at 5 MPH? Some routes in Greater Boston are going to present wildly different energy recapture because of that. What about hills?...do the routes that have some easy recapture coasting downhill on a brake application fare better in traffic than those running at flat elevation?


Don't get me wrong, these questions are getting backfilled with answers at a pretty good clip. But I don't see how anyone can take a look at the energy budget for that type of vehicle, tally up all the ways the nooks and crannies of one city's route network--route-by-route--gobbles that energy budget at divergently different rates, and conclude "MOAR IMPATIENCE!" as the answer. There's no practical choice but to slow-walk the adoption, because that's the only way to sniff out all the network-specific asterisks that impaled Shenzhen and Moscow. Work smarter, not faster, when it comes to planning this adoption out.
 

HelloBostonHi

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Regenerative braking doesn't really care what speed you're stopping from or how often, it works on simple energy conservation formulas at the end of the day. And the MBTA already has tons of data on it, every hybrid mbta bus uses regenerative braking.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Regenerative braking doesn't really care what speed you're stopping from or how often, it works on simple energy conservation formulas at the end of the day. And the MBTA already has tons of data on it, every hybrid mbta bus uses regenerative braking.
Great. Cross that single solitary item off the list of reasons why the early mass-adopters are blowing their predicted charging ranges by such incredibly whopping margins.

Now what of the other hundreds of specific variables that haven't been pinned down yet? Is test bus #1294 covering a single test route answering for the entirety of the route network's uncertainty spread so we can hurry up and jump without a chute on this procurement for optics' sake?
 

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