MBTA Bus & BRT

Tallguy

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Every bus that approaches Sullivan AND Wellington from the east go through Sweetser Circle. 50% of the bus route to Malden do as well. With the exception of those folks that get on East/South of Sweetser, why would anyone stay on those busses?
Also, much of the ridership to the west will be closer to GLX. Malden would have to increase nearly 50% ridership before 6 min service would start to pinch in a 3 min service to Sullivan world. While Malden has seen some TOD, it pales against what is planned for Sullivan, Everett and Chelsea.
 

Riverside

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With all the commentary in this thread and the I-90 Allston thread, I’m waiting F-Line to bust in like the Kool-Aid Man and drop a 3,000 word post eviscerating many of the pitches.
I think F-Line is taking one of his periodic sabbaticals from ArchBoston, so you may be out of luck there.

I'm not planning to drop 3,000 words, but I will say this about HRT to Everett: say what you will about the frequencies that branching will cause, say what you will about ridership projections for Everett vs Malden... none of it matters, because HRT to Everett is such an extreme long shot that it's basically not worth considering, nor particularly worth future-proofing for.

There are a few reasons why Everett HRT is so unrealistic. First of all, it would need to be a subway or an elevated in order to be effective. (The Saugus Branch ROW is too remote to be useful.) Depending how cynical you are, that may be enough to stop the proposal right there -- I'm honestly not sure that Boston will ever build a new rail subway or elevated ever again. But even if you're more optimistic, there's another hurdle: aside from streetcars, no rail has ever traveled through Everett. The vast majority of the T's subways were built on the footprints of railroad ROWs. There's nothing like that in Everett.

Even more -- the vast majority of MBTA expansions -- extant and proposed -- are built on corridors that were identified 80-120 years ago. Boston's subway expansion business is exceptionally conservative and afraid of new ideas. In fact, in the last 50 years, there's been only one subway expansion through a corridor that did not previously have rail on it, or previously be identified as a corridor for rapid transit: the Red Line from Harvard to Davis. And even if you go back one hundred years, there's only one other subway that was built "greenfield" (no previous mainline rail infrastructure in place): the Huntington Ave subway, and that had been identified by BERy as a rapid transit corridor a few decades prior.

Virtually all of the HRT expansions that are commonly discussed -- both in official documents and on forums like this one -- involve extensions along existing or abandoned-but-preserved ROWs.
  • Orange to Roslindale Village, to West Roxbury
  • Orange to Reading
  • Blue to Lynn, to Salem, to Peabody
  • Blue to Chelsea via SL3 alignment
  • Red to Arlington, Lexington, 128 via Minuteman
  • Red to Belmont, Waltham, 128
  • even F-Line's "Red X" proposal leverages the Cabot Yard ROW for a significant fraction
There are a few others occasionally bandied about, but they are rare and mostly special cases. Blue-Red Connector is the most realistic of all of these, and is short and relatively well-studied. Blue-to-Kenmore and Red to Arlington via Route 2 are also exceptions, and are viewed with that much more scrutiny accordingly.

The closest comparison to constructing an HRT line to Everett is the Red Line extension north of Harvard. Greenfield corridor, subway construction. But Everett HRT has a number of challenges facing it that Red Northwest did not: water crossing, active rail ROW to parallel, and lack of diverted federal highway monies. The Red Line Northwest Extension was like catching lightning in a bottle: it's not something you can plan to replicate.

Barring political revolution (literal or figurative), HRT to Everett is not remotely realistic.
 

RandomWalk

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On a transit czar level, I would love to see the political fortitude to separate the ROW construction from the station construction. For example run a set of TBMs out the Minuteman to 128, with provisions for station build out at multiple locations. Let the local NIMBYs and YIMBYs fight over which ones get fitted out.

Slightly more realistically, I would like the laws setup such that everything inside 128 was designated as an urban transit zone. File a blanket EIS to cover all possible transit inside the region and remove local veto.
 

jbray

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It's a fair point. That said, and it's entirely possible that I'm just missing something, I'm somewhat confused about the discussion. Rutherford Ave's a long-term obvious option for BRT and/or LRT (probably BRT) but it's much less obviously a candidate for HRT except as the natural pathway for a tunnel, unless you're suggesting it gets taken off the road network wholesale as an arterial road (not that is necessarily a deal-breaker, I'm just not entirely certain of what's being discussed). Either way, anything other than BRT on Rutherford proper is edging into the Crazy Transit Pitches category even as LRT, and HRT's dead-on-arrival without somewhere to go as you pointed out. All of which becomes so-difficult-as-to-be-impossible if anything other than asphalt gets put down there, so, absolutely preserving the ROW is something that would be beneficial. (That said, if we may indulge in a brief Crazy Transit Pitches interlude, Rutherford-to-Everett as the northern tunnel extension of a Congress Street Subway would at least merit a look.)

The point still stands, though, whether Rutherford is needed for BRT now or not does not mean it never will be, and I agree that care should be taken to ensure it is not eliminated as a potential ROW for transit in the future (at least Charlestown's not as boneheaded as Dedham when it comes to destroying ROWs......right?)
I'm going to address the Bus lane parts of this thread and I will go over to crazy pitches to talk about the future of Sullivan as a hub (bad time to not have been able to clarify. link from the future). There are three pieces that are covered by the bus lane:

The first is what is needed now vs the political will to get something in the future by taking back what was given away. The biggest analogy I can come up with here is the Melnea Cass bus lanes/redesign. When it was easier for pols to eminent domain, we provisioned for a highway, then cut it back to a major arterial with linear park space. Now that it has become pressing to come back in and reorganize how the road works, they couldn't make it happen due to the mature trees in the park*. Melnea Cass is part of a theoretical Urban ring that is light rail (or even heavy). We're not able, as a region, to sacrifice our local spaces and politics for a potentially better future (the better future not being a given is really the issue). This is proven across the board with the housing shortage and all the cities and towns in the immediate area looking to each other to solve it instead of themselves or collectively. By not provisioning for bus lanes now, when we know that their future is probable, we are setting up for a near-identical issue in 15 years, perhaps with younger trees and less political baggage.

This leads to the second piece which is how future development responds to the redesigned Rutherford and other development affects it. If the redesign Rutherford to have a park and BRT inherently intertwined, development can respond accordingly around the stops with potential for less parking, zoning for taller spaces, and the creation of integrated stations that neighborhoods and traffic patterns can coalesce around. Sure, three stations from Lechmere over to a theoretical new Rutherford station are too tight for the density, but this is for future people to get to destinations beyond; like choosing between Copley or Mass Ave stations to head west works now.

The final piece is utility alignment. This one isn't important if they're putting all the utilities under the cycle track, but if we are able to restructure New Rutherford where a cut and cover subway that deep bores under the mystic as we go northward is on the table. That's additional savings on utility moves. This is also true if those utility moves have to be built under the park space which brings us back to the first piece.

My point is very simple: Once upon a time, the Mattapan highspeed line was built to be converted to heavy rail and one day we will use that gift. Meanwhile, the rows for Dedham, Woburn, and others were obliterated. We don't need to preclude HRT on New Rutherford because it's not necessary or attainable in our lifetime.


*I am a big supporter of urban tree canopy, so please note that I understand the community decision even if I disagree with the result.
 
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bigeman312

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Slightly more realistically, I would like the laws setup such that everything inside 128 was designated as an urban transit zone. File a blanket EIS to cover all possible transit inside the region and remove local veto.
I really like this and have said something similar many times, but 128 wouldn't be the best line. A better line would more precisely follow density.

One possibility would be using continuous (or fully enclosed within continuous) census tracts that have a density of 10,000+ per square mile (I apologize for the crappy Paint image):

Urban_Transit_Zone.png


This way you don't include rural suburbs like Manchester-by-the-Sea.
 

jass

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Why not, for now, simply establish a bus route on dedicated bus lanes on the RKG surface road from South Station to North Station (and back), with traffic signal override in the buses? Buses would be express with just one stop halfway along the route at Auditorium Station. Seems like that would provide a convenient and quick ride between SS and NS, some service to Logan as well (via the Blue Line), and relieve some of the pressure on the subway lines in the CBD.
They could do that easily with the Washington Street Silver Line, but I think the more important connection is North Station to Seaport and Airport, and those buses are already underground.

As a reminder, Sl Phase 3 was underground to Boylston. Im proposing underground to North Station via the North-south corridor thats never going to happen
 

Brattle Loop

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They could do that easily with the Washington Street Silver Line, but I think the more important connection is North Station to Seaport and Airport, and those buses are already underground.

As a reminder, Sl Phase 3 was underground to Boylston. Im proposing underground to North Station via the North-south corridor thats never going to happen
The SL1/2/3 may be underground at South Station, but not at the same level as the highway tunnel. The northbound O'Neill tunnel ducks below the Transitway, while the southbound highway tunnel is at a different level a block away. Probably the only way to link the Transitway to anything would be by tunneling down Essex at least part of the way, and if you're doing that it's going to very quickly start to make much more sense to keep on tunneling until you hit the Green Line somwhere or other and this becomes a Crazy Transit Pitch.
 

jass

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The SL1/2/3 may be underground at South Station, but not at the same level as the highway tunnel. The northbound O'Neill tunnel ducks below the Transitway, while the southbound highway tunnel is at a different level a block away. Probably the only way to link the Transitway to anything would be by tunneling down Essex at least part of the way, and if you're doing that it's going to very quickly start to make much more sense to keep on tunneling until you hit the Green Line somwhere or other and this becomes a Crazy Transit Pitch.
Supposedly the space for the rail link is there right? You could use it for the silver line and not have to worry about all the grade change issues with the rail lines. Its already there ready to go.
 

Brattle Loop

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Supposedly the space for the rail link is there right? You could use it for the silver line and not have to worry about all the grade change issues with the rail lines. Its already there ready to go.
Which rail link?

There's space for the NSRL under the highway tunnels. There's no meaningful way to access that depth from the Transitway. The Silver Line platform at South Station is above the northbound highway tunnel. It's impossible for the Silver Line tunnel to be extended any meaningful distance south under Atlantic past the bus loop before it's breaking into the highway tunnel, which at that point is still descending from its portal. The only place that tunnel can be extended past South Station is under Essex Street, where there's probably not enough room to dive down to be under the highway. Even if there were, you'd still have to build essentially half the NSRL tunnel anyway, which would be a far better use of money and tunneling equipment than sending the Silver Line down there.

There's also the oft-proposed idea of linking the Transitway to the Green Line at Boylston (originally proposed with BRT as the Silver Line Phase III, which fell apart under its own weight fifteen-plus years ago). The only viable option there is extending the Transitway down under Essex to the plaza at Essex and the Surface Road in front of the building across from the State Street bank building, then choose your own adventure (see the Green Line Reconfiguration thread) as to where to go from there (presumably as LRT rather than BRT).
 

jass

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Which rail link?

There's space for the NSRL under the highway tunnels. There's no meaningful way to access that depth from the Transitway. The Silver Line platform at South Station is above the northbound highway tunnel. It's impossible for the Silver Line tunnel to be extended any meaningful distance south under Atlantic past the bus loop before it's breaking into the highway tunnel, which at that point is still descending from its portal. The only place that tunnel can be extended past South Station is under Essex Street, where there's probably not enough room to dive down to be under the highway. Even if there were, you'd still have to build essentially half the NSRL tunnel anyway, which would be a far better use of money and tunneling equipment than sending the Silver Line down there.

There's also the oft-proposed idea of linking the Transitway to the Green Line at Boylston (originally proposed with BRT as the Silver Line Phase III, which fell apart under its own weight fifteen-plus years ago). The only viable option there is extending the Transitway down under Essex to the plaza at Essex and the Surface Road in front of the building across from the State Street bank building, then choose your own adventure (see the Green Line Reconfiguration thread) as to where to go from there (presumably as LRT rather than BRT).
Do you know where I could find a diagram of the existing tunnel?
 

Brattle Loop

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Do you know where I could find a diagram of the existing tunnel?
F-Line posted it in the Green Line Reconfiguration Thread here. Not sure if there are any better-quality versions floating around, but that gives a decent idea of how the Silver Line is configured. The Silver Line section including the bus loop is under Atlantic Avenue.
 

Charlie_mta

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Supposedly the space for the rail link is there right? You could use it for the silver line and not have to worry about all the grade change issues with the rail lines. Its already there ready to go.
The problem with building an SL tunnel northward from the SL station at South Station to dip under the the Central Artery tunnel (CAT) into the space reserved for the NSRL, is the elevation difference. The SL tunnel is only one level below street level, whereas the CAT NB tunnel is 3 levels below at Dewey Square, then 2 levels below ground a few blocks north. There is no room alongside the Central Artery tunnels north of Dewey Square to build a new tunnel to dip down below the CAT, as the CAT hugs the eastern side of Atlantic Ave.
 

donkeybutlers

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From Streetblogs: "Fare-Free 28 Is a Hit With Roxbury, Mattapan Bus Riders: Ridership on the route has surged back to pre-pandemic levels, outperforming the rest of the MBTA bus system"

This is promising and shows that free service drives demand (which will make mode shifts to more efficient means of travel easier):
In the last week of August, the 28 averaged 7,695 riders every weekday – roughly 64 percent of its pre-pandemic ridership.

But in the weeks immediately after fare collection ended, ridership climbed steeply, and plateaued around 11,000 trips per weekday – about 92 percent of the route’s pre-pandemic average from September 2019.

Ridership on the rest of the T’s bus system has also increased, but not nearly to the same degree. During the last week of August, the bus network as a whole was attracting about 226,000 riders each weekday (about 55 percent of the system’s pre-pandemic ridership); last week, there were an average of 270,000 riders per weekday (66 percent of pre-pandemic ridership).
This is really interesting:
Interestingly, ridership is also up on some of the other bus routes that use the same streets as the 28.

For instance, the 23 shares bus stops with the 28 along Warren Street from Nubian Square to Grove Hall, before it diverges east towards Ashmont.

One might expect that ridership on the 23 would dip while its competitor goes fare-free, but that hasn’t been the case: at the end of August, the 23 was getting an average of 6,670 riders per weekday (61 percent of pre-pandemic ridership), and at the end of September, the line was getting 8,129 riders a day (74 percent of its pre-pandemic average).

And the 31, which shares Blue Hill Avenue with the 28 from Mattapan Square to Morton Street, where it heads northwest to connect to Forest Hills, also saw a jump in ridership during the past month, going from 63 percent of its pre-pandemic ridership at the end of August (3,381 riders a day) to 71 percent last week (3,770 riders a day).
This seems obvious and I look forward to seeing the results:
Advocates of fare-free buses suggest that the 28 may also be faster now, because the pilot has eliminated the time that’s otherwise wasted at bus stops while riders wait in line to tap their CharlieCards.

So far, though, there’s only anecdotal evidence that that’s the case (your correspondent did observe several riders skip the line to board through the rear doors and save his bus a little bit of time on a ride towards downtown on Tuesday morning).

Before the pilot ends, the T plans to conduct an analysis of the 28’s run times to see whether, and how much, all-door boarding and the lack of fare collection might be contributing to faster trips along the route. The City of Boston will also conduct a survey of the program later this month to evaluate other performance benchmarks.
I hope they keep or even expand it to other busses after November 30th when it is due to expire.
 

Wash

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The fact that ridership is up on bus routes that share the #28 corridor makes sense. If riders are drawn to the corridor by free service on the #28 bus and then have to stand around waiting, they might decide that they're willing to pay $1.70/$2.00 to avoid a wait for the next #28 and jump on the #23 that's coming right now.
 

jass

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F-Line posted it in the Green Line Reconfiguration Thread here. Not sure if there are any better-quality versions floating around, but that gives a decent idea of how the Silver Line is configured. The Silver Line section including the bus loop is under Atlantic Avenue.
Thanks. Odd they built it straight down when even then the planw as SL along Essex
 

Brattle Loop

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Thanks. Odd they built it straight down when even then the planw as SL along Essex
I assumed that the loop was always intended as a permanent part of the tunnel, and that not all buses would have gone through the Essex tunnel to Washington Street (and that end may have also had a loop planned). It's also possible that Essex isn't wide enough for a loop and Atlantic was, but even if not it wouldn't have been very helpful to have the main line running right through the turnaround loop.
 

The EGE

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By the time the FEIS came out in 1993, the project was split into two phases: South Station-Seaport in 2000 (ha), followed by South Station-Boylston in 2006 (ha!). The South Station loop was to be built in any scenario, though the route listing in the FEIS seems to indicate that it wouldn't have been used as a regular terminal after the Boylston segment opened.
1634017541590.png


It's worth noting several divergences from the FEIS plan versus what was built / later planned. One, airport service was not anticipated. At that time, Massport was planning a Logan people mover, and the NSRL was to have its Central Station connected to Aquarium, so the Blue Line was anticipated to remain the gateway to Logan. The people mover was cancelled in 1997, and the connector road east of D Street ("Silver Line Way") was added to the project in 1998.

Two, through-routing between Dudley and the Seaport was not part of the project. Boylston was to be the terminus, with provision made for a "future operational connection" (i.e, the station designed not to prevent connection) to the Washington Street service. Not until 1999 were their fates bound together as the Silver Line. If they hadn't been bound together, the Sputh Station Boylston section might have been built; while there were some engineering issues to solve with that segment, a lot of the bellyaching and delays were about the Boylston-Washington Street connecting tunnel.

Three, the stations were originally designed as island platforms. I'm not sure what prompted the switch to side platforms.

Four, with some optimistic growth scenarios for the Seaport, there was to be extremely high-frequency service in the tunnel plus a dense network of surface buses. Tunnel service was to be 23 buses per hour to BIMP plus 12 running down D Street to a loop on Fargo Street in the low-growth scenario, with 37 and 17 buses per hour in the high-growth scenario. Pre-COVID, actual service was about 9 buses per hour on SL1, 12 on SL2, 6 on SL3, and 6 on SLW - slightly lower than the low-growth scenario. (The MBTA adjusted its 2006 tunnel ridership projections from 45,000 to 14,000 shortly before the tunnel opened; pre-COVID ridership was about 23,000.) The surface network was to include high-frequency MBTA shuttle service from North Station plus moderate frequency from Copley Square and other points. This was the operating plan for the surface network in the scenario where only the South Station-Seaport tunnel opened:
1634020335470.png

Of those, we have the #4 (ex-#6) running at low frequency, the #7 running at high frequency at rush hours but no Sunday service, some private shuttles to North Station, and none of the othe planned routes.
 

jass

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Great info. Sad that we got like 10% of what was planned
 

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