MBTA Bus & BRT

Stlin

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The Agenda for the 9/14 FMCB meeting is out, and at the very bottom is this very intriguing item: L: Bus Electrification. Until monday, what would be some informed speculation on what it will actually be?
 

Arlington

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My guess is a discussion of a portfolio of prototypes. Electrification in other vehicles is generally "make each application one notch more electric" (rather than combustion elimination)

Mechanical transmission -> electric drive (similar to diesel electric locomotives)

Diesel electrics get a regenerative (non lithium) battery

Regenerative batteries on hybrids are replaced with lithium batteries and plugin (or overhead) charging

Plugin mixes with overhead.( I could easily see the seaport silver line ditching their diesel or running the 77 buses by battery beyond the end of the wires in Cambridge)

Plug in / hybrid charging systems move to battery only.

Seems to me we could see any or all of these under the broad heading of electrification
 

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The Agenda for the 9/14 FMCB meeting is out, and at the very bottom is this very intriguing item: L: Bus Electrification. Until monday, what would be some informed speculation on what it will actually be?
Study update and probably not much more, because they've been quietly doing their homework on this for over a year. The more we learn about BEB's, however, the tighter and more aggressively it has to dovetail with bus garage facilities modernization and expansion. If they were going to trial it now, really only small 60-footer & Silver dual-modes specialized Southampton is in any way equipped for it with Charlestown kinda sorta able to multitask with tokenism 40-footer trial routes. But that's about it right now, as nearly all others are still unable to service the diesel-hybrids (i.e. any kind of traction-motor based vehicle) and the new Quincy garage is still stuck in approvals limbo. So they're really not ready for anything greater than a tiny 1-2 route study trial right now in the absence of serious movement on the facilities dependencies side muscling up a yuuuge CIP budget dump.
 

jass

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Train: We must build a dedicated track and test the train for 9 months with no passengers

Bus: Get it on the public highway as soon as the yellow paint dries
 

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Train: We must build a dedicated track and test the train for 9 months with no passengers

Bus: Get it on the public highway as soon as the yellow paint dries
That's an over-simplistic take. It has nothing to do with mode, everything to do with whether breaking in a new technology generation.

The XDE-40 diesel-hybrid has been in production for 12 years and has no customizations whatsoever except for livery. I don't know how many units total exactly are out there, but given the list of adopting agencies well over 5000...maybe closing in on 10K by now. And when we order our first BEB's we'd do well to consider New Flyer's X40 electric in the same XCelsior series that's been in-production for 7 years with perfected modularity (i.e. the battery itself is the only fast-evolving component year-to-year; the rest is all matured). Their straight-diesels, CNG's, hybrids, TT's, BEB's, and hydrogen buses--40- and 60-footer--all chunk together from the same family. But 12 years is a lot of moving-target chasing for shortening the acceptances of a very mature make. I'm sure the prototype XDE-40's in 2008 didn't simply drive themselves to their first purchaser--Brampton, ONT--and start picking up passengers the following Monday morning. It was the first ambitious attempt in the industry at a mass-market modularized hybrid out there. It damn well did not hit set-it-and-forget-it usability overnight. The T wasn't amongst the first five adopters of it, so slow-walk testing all happened to get done on somebody else's time.


Find a railcar that's way past 5000 units in-production without major generational design changes and you'll see an equally short gestational period, but those animals flat-out don't exist anywhere in the world right now. Maybe a couple GE GEVO freight locomotive makes that've been design-stable for close to a decade could fit the analogy of getting dropped off and going straight to work, but that's it. Pretty much everything else worldwide in rolling stock is midway through a major generational adjustment from 1st to 2nd -gen AC traction motors and from solid-state relays to software-dominated train controls. Or making some major build change, like all- stainless steel now being the norm for commuter coaches such that no one's had the fabrication capability to rip out cheap generic aluminum Comet-clone flats on-demand for over 22 years. Or participating in a double-dip with lineside modernization and rolling stock modernization staged simultaneously for maximum slow-walk. It's not just here; extended teething is the norm for the 2010's-2020's in Europe and Asia as well as supply chains quickly cut off previous-gen product and move to the software world. And it's happening simultaneously in each mode flavor of rail.

Get a dozen-years design maturity established...then you've got something to institutionally complain about with too-glacial deployments, because some buyers will certainly start making more haste than others. But that doesn't describe any new product in rail world right now. 20 years ago it wouldn't have been accurate in low-floor bus world, either...as there was a lot of design variation from the early vendors like Nova, Neoplan, NABI, and others before relative latecomer New Flyer grabbed the continental market lead by the throat with its modular forms. The bus transitional era to low-floor kinda sucked too for being too slow-going on the first-time deployments. Then it got enormously better with repetition. You can start to see the repetition savings coming into play now in rail with the Siemens Avanto S70 LRV that it's staking a market lead as the new-gen modular trolley with the most repeat orders and reinforced design stability. But LRT's only a running a shade ahead of every other mode that's still in the thick of it breaking first-time orders of the newest tech, so it's still a typical test-heavy transition era across the board where the stabilizing repeat orders flat-out haven't had time to happen yet in most segments.
 

Stlin

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It defintely also doesn't hurt that buses are self contained systems, road agnostic, and generally don't need to interact with other complex systems, like power delivery, more of itself, or signalling infrastructure. I would assume even if the T buys the TT Xcelsior for SL service, by it's very nature it probably needs trials the standard buses won't. Also, like all vehicles, buses need a run in period. The drive from the factory is probably largely sufficient and far gentler than revenue service.

Also, completely off topic, but should the T go with the bombardier MLV for 200 car bilevel and EMUs, would that adoption go quicker, given I would assume that the 1500 existing and on order NJT and SEPTA cars would have assumed the testing burden?
 

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It defintely also doesn't hurt that buses are self contained systems, road agnostic, and generally don't need to interact with other complex systems, like power delivery, more of itself, or signalling infrastructure. I would assume even if the T buys the TT Xcelsior for SL service, by it's very nature it probably needs trials the standard buses won't. Also, like all vehicles, buses need a run in period. The drive from the factory is probably largely sufficient and far gentler than revenue service.

Also, completely off topic, but should the T go with the bombardier MLV for 200 car bilevel and EMUs, would that adoption go quicker, given I would assume that the 1500 existing and on order NJT and SEPTA cars would have assumed the testing burden?
Yes...the MLV II generation rolled out much quicker than the first. There's still some newfangled tech in there with the cab cars being hyper-computerized and going with all-new door control logic, so MARC's parasitic order of NJT options on the MLV II's ended up going sluggish because MARC were first-time adopters caught in the learning curve. But the MLV III (at least the straight trailer & cab...obviously the brand new EMU power packs are a testing unknown) should get deployed even faster. Much like if/when the Amtrak Amfleet replacement picks Siemens the fact that that'll be the 4th large domestic order of Viaggio Comforts after Brightline, AMTK Midwest/Cali, and VIA Rail should make the deployment of 400+ East Coast replacement coaches suitably aggressive. The only real curb on pace of rollout will be AMTK's limited NEC yard capacity to juggle too many incoming Siemens with standby-service Amfleets at once, requiring them to necessarily throttle the batching over many years.

You could also sort of say that the Stadler FLIRT EMU has achieved design maturity in Euro-land because Stadler's on nth generation orders at this point and, being a medium-sized builder competing with behemoths they exercise much tighter control against overcustomization so the family has had more enforced sameness over the course of multiple re-orders than is typical. Though that doesn't really help North America much at this exact moment because the low-boarding version is the Euro best-seller and the high-boarding variant is so far bottled up only on ex- Eastern Bloc broad gauge territory...so still have to cross the testing threshold of getting that make ported to Western Euro & U.S. standard gauge. Described in earlier posts, the Caltrain unicorn-mod FLIRTs with dual-boarding doors and FRA blessing are way more heavily customized than usual Stadler faire and that unfortunately was that base model they floated to the T for the EMU RFI for customization into a high-floor only make rather than clean import of Eastern Bloc version because of their self-ID'd need for making good off their Caltrain Buy America capacity as a smaller builder using their existing FRA approval. So they've still yet to functionally cross the testing-few threshold with the 'generic' high-boarding family make. Though the FLIRT is perhaps still the best overall candidate to break big domestically because once they do get the broad gauge high-platform version ported they'll have complete mass-market solutions for all North American platform flavors low and high (just unfortunately not at a timetable that jibes with the T's EMU procurement).



The best overall comparison in rail world to the bus maturity, however, might be the 8-inch boarding Bombardier BLV bi-level coach. The basic design is a venerable oldie in continuous production since 1976 with over 1200 units produced, 14 current operators and counting (including a couple upcoming systems with rebuilt old units as starter fleets), and a slew of brand new Generation IX orders signed on in the last 18 months for GO Transit, COASTER, ACE, and Sounder. And briefly straight-cloned by Rotem, though they did such a shitty job with Metrolink's and Tri-Rail's faux-BLV's that it contributed--along with the botched MBTA K-car clones and all-world botching of the SEPTA Silverliner V EMU-- to Rotem exiting the "Buy America" market entirely. The basic BLV design is set-it-and-forget it the same across generations with only gradual/evolutionary cosmetic livery changes like enhanced ADA, WiFi, bike racks, LED lighting, etc. The cab cars got a pretty radical redesign with sloped Crash Energy Management noses in Generation VII close to a decade ago, but they still sell the older style flat-faced pass-thru cabs as a catalogue option. That's the build template the 30-years later MLV is chasing for maturity as it rounds into Gen 3. And likewise Bombardier is planning to back-port the self-propelled MLV EMU power pack to the BLV frame for the sake of GO Transit electrification (the largest overall user of BLV's). If the MLV EMU sells well, the BLV EMU may sell even better with GO as debut anchor customer and L.A. Metrolink as the targeted encore that gives them instant dominance.

The Comet lineage of single-level cars (like the T's complete roster of flats from the very worn Bombers and MBB's to the better-condition remanufactured from ground-up Pullmans) would be in the same category, as those were continuously produced by Pullman (then Bombardier) from 1970-1998 and second-sourced by many clone makers. Probably over 2000 produced, though harder to count since they've been subject to more scrappings than the 4-1/2 decades of BLV's still mostly in continuous use. But as per last post being all-aluminum bodied when no large builder is producing aluminum cars anymore they're in total supply-chain obsolescence with nobody having the fabrication capability to pick it up for a refresh despite their simplicity and flexibility to evolve. The only serious attempt at porting the same generic guts over to a modern stainless steel body, the NJT/MNRR Alstom Comet V, was a one-and-done order with slight lemony whiff because of its porky weight profile and notoriously rough ride quality that makes them a perennial fleet least-favorite of NJT riders. That was it...that was the last crack at trying to transition a mature old make. Everything else under the sun save for the BLV (and some of the GE GEVO freight locos mentioned in past post that scaled up to the severest Tier 4 emissions standards at minimal touch because that world-leader engine platform was design ahead of its time) is a post-2006 total new design taking on new Jetsons-shit tech transitions multiple fronts at a time, with the predictably long gestation periods.

It's just a coincidence that virtually every flavor of rail mode is passing through that critical transition era in a giant overlap. Explainable by market factors driving a sea change in supply chaining from old to new across many critical build systems. Some market segments are a little further ahead than others and will turn the corner sooner...while some, like HRT in particular, are entering the most painful and drawn-out thick of it right now. It is what it is. Euroland and Asia are not having a swell time with extended teething, either; the trade press abounds with all the same preaching-patience stories we've heard to the nines from our local flaks. There's not a lot of broad-based conclusions you can draw until the individual market segments start to jar loose and you can gauge who is significantly shortening their testing clock and why vs. who isn't. We really don't have those sample sizes to judge by in any rail mode segment right now because the totality of it is still in the thick of the disruptive tech transition.
 
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Arlington

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Train: We must build a dedicated track and test the train for 9 months with no passengers
Bus: Get it on the public highway as soon as the yellow paint dries
My last OT response: Red or Orange: New Manufacturer. New Factory. New Design. New integration of US & China-sourced parts.
 

millerm277

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Bus Electrification slides posted in advance of the meeting: https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/...-14-fmcb-L-bus-electrification-accessible.pdf

I'll have to watch the meeting to see what the discussion has, but the message of the slides is pretty clear that the ones they've trialed have serious drawbacks and don't appear to meet their needs yet, but it's something they expect to improve in the future. The message I'm getting from the slides is "no large-scale order yet, but they'll probably make more pilot/small-scale orders in the next few years."

They do look to be planning for all new bus facilities to be built with the expectation of an electrified future fleet, I presume that means Quincy will be designed for that.
 

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Bus Electrification slides posted in advance of the meeting: https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/...-14-fmcb-L-bus-electrification-accessible.pdf

I'll have to watch the meeting to see what the discussion has, but the message of the slides is pretty clear that the ones they've trialed have serious drawbacks and don't appear to meet their needs yet, but it's something they expect to improve in the future. The message I'm getting from the slides is "no large-scale order yet, but they'll probably make more pilot/small-scale orders in the next few years."

They do look to be planning for all new bus facilities to be built with the expectation of an electrified future fleet, I presume that means Quincy will be designed for that.
Nearly all facilities need major upgrades just to service traction-motor drive vehicles at all, including the hybrids. That's the biggest impediment right now. In the interim they've still got an open procurement item fishing for 40+ more 40-footer hybrids on top of the +60 they've already tapped from an unexercised Virginia option. So in the interim it looks like they're gung-ho about flipping the rest of the straight-diesels to hybrids and simply getting rid of all non-CNG traditional drive vehicles period. Which is a plenty good start.

So, say, if New Quincy is built there's ASAP--regardless of the BEB slow-walk--an 80+ capacity hybrid garage displacing the equivalent number of straight-diesels. The New Flyer D40LF straight-diesels just finished their midlife rebuild program this year, and are still a vendor-supported model orderable new from the New Flyer catalogue despite their 15+ -year lineage. So unlike the retired Neoplans that are being removed from Everett to be chowed down by the scrappers the state can re-sell all of the D40LF's as fully working units for somebody else's stopgap means. Either a lateral transfer to other in-state RTA's who need service expansion bodies, or to the private market (like the University shuttles, etc.). So I would expect even with the BEB slow-walk being an uncertain thing that they're going to keep guns blazing at a full-fleet hybrid flip on its own merits...everything except the TT's, CNG's, and dual-modes. It's a vector for getting the garages prepped for BEB's, and maximizes their lateral options for moving bodies around if/when the time comes for that first substantial BEB investment.
 

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T does formal environmental filing for new Quincy bus garage. Filing includes some hyper-technicalities about what precisely the facility is going to feature...such as increase from 80 to 135 bus storage, infrastructure accommodations for eventual 100% BEB fleet. Also includes details about ratios of storage to maint to office space, traffic patterns in/out, and so on. Not exactly light beach reading, but probably the most exacting specs to-date of what's planned here.
 

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Where does the T stand in the process of Quincy approvals for the Garage ? (which I recall was more political signoff than legal, yes?)
I think this document looms large in the (wholly political not procedural) process. If for little other reason than if it's kosher with state-level MEPA the City loses considerable leverage to block. Other than that...still counting this staring contest in individual blinks.
 

KCasiglio

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Thought I snapped a picture but can't seem to find it on my phone. At some point yesterday the MBTA put up signs at the Lowe's lot that its now being used as supplemental paid parking during the ongoing rehab of the QA parking garage.

They had said previously this is something they wanted to do if they acquired the property, but I guess they must have worked some kind of deal with the landlord?
 

The EGE

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Thomas Humphrey (CTPS planner, and one of the foremost experts in Boston transportation history) just put a revised edition of his 1974 research paper online. It has a complete history of the development of bus service in the Boston area, detailed service histories of every public and private-carrier local bus operator in the region, and start and end dates for all streetcar lines of the BERy/MTA/MBTA, Eastern Mass, and Middlesex & Boston street railways. It's hard to overstate just how incredible this is.
 

ra84970

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Thomas Humphrey (CTPS planner, and one of the foremost experts in Boston transportation history) just put a revised edition of his 1974 research paper online. It has a complete history of the development of bus service in the Boston area, detailed service histories of every public and private-carrier local bus operator in the region, and start and end dates for all streetcar lines of the BERy/MTA/MBTA, Eastern Mass, and Middlesex & Boston street railways. It's hard to overstate just how incredible this is.
That's an incredible history
 

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Uh-oh. Feds reject the grant offer for Blue Hill Ave. BRT, opts to lump MA-obligated funds into rebuild of Pike/495 Hopkinton interchange instead.

$15M for BHA, nein. $300M for Hopkinton that adds a lane, yay. That's the joke. 🤡
 

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