MBTA Commuter Rail (Operations, Keolis, & Short Term)

Tallguy

Active Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
685
Reaction score
321
And looking at the new facility rendering, it struck me that at least some of the easternmost tracks could be installed and used for layover while the facility is constructed.
 

Tallguy

Active Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
685
Reaction score
321
And if Needham Line was converted to OL/GL and the Prov, Stoughton, and Franklin all ran 15 min frequencies, then 15 min turn around would require 3 platforms. So that would leave 8 berths extra. So, that averages just a tad under 20 min per turn around. And in many parts of the world, INCLUDING OCCASIONALLY THE MPTA, 10 min turnarounds are a normal occurrence. But hey, let's spend $2B instead.
 

Tallguy

Active Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
685
Reaction score
321
On an unrelated topic, does anyone know when Rozzie Village was single tracked?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
8,318
Reaction score
5,125
On an unrelated topic, does anyone know when Rozzie Village was single tracked?
Late-1950's. After the Needham Line was cut back from its Highland Branch circuiting, the Dedham Branch and its SS-W.Rox-Dedham-Readville-SS circuiting was ended, and frequencies to West Medway were cut back to one daily round trip the traffic levels evaporated and they lifted the second iron. Prior to that double-track was contiguous to W. Roxbury Jct.

Don't know when the unused bridge decks at Robert St. were removed. Probably similar timeframe.


EDIT: You can fuzzily see the 2nd track and 2nd deck over Robert St. on Historic Aerials' 1955 view.
 
Last edited:

Riverside

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
1,123
Reaction score
1,816
I'm on mobile right now, so I may have overlooked something (in fact I'm hoping I am!), but I was operating from the Regional Rail Proof of Concept Report. Shots are taken at SSX from other reports, but this has some meat to work with.

It also occurs to me that assigned platforms becomes a huge issue if we ever add in expresses or peak-direction extras (especially on Framingham/Worcester), but I'll admit that issue is probably a long way off given current ridership.
Thanks for pointing me to that one. Yeah, it's an interesting piece -- I'd love to see more vocal advocacy for modernizing the switches at Tower 1, that seems like a pretty targeted and tractable improvement that would see tangible results very quickly.

I don't have super strong feelings for or against SSX. In principle, I agree with the general argument: there probably are smaller more distributed improvements that we could make across the network that would produce greater benefit sooner. So I think there probably is a particular argument one could make against SSX.

That said, I don't think this report quite gets there. To me, things fall apart when they get into the section about dedicated terminal tracks per line, where they argue that the need for last-minute equipment swaps is eliminated by replacement of the aging diesel fleet with electric. That's well-and-good, except now you've made (systemwide?) electrification the prereq for the capacity increases promised by SSX. In reality, you probably won't need full electrification systemwide, but I have no idea where the tipping point would be.

And regardless of the cost of SSX vs Southside Electrification, electrification will be more complex and more time-consuming. So, unless you can demonstrate that a more modest electrification scope -- e.g. Providence, Stoughton, South Coast Rail, Fairmount -- would generate the needed reliability increases, I think you're still stuck with the need to accommodate last-minute equipment slots.

This reflects a larger philosophical difference I find myself having with TransitMatters: the intermingling of major capital projects (e.g. electrification) with policy changes that can literally be effected with the stroke of a pen (e.g. fare equity); a similar dynamic plays out with incremental (e.g. full-highs at key stations) vs large-scale (e.g. equipment purchases) changes. Maybe their strategy is to consistently present a "package deal" for the likes of Maura Healey to come onboard with and buy into wholesale, and for all I know that could be a wise strategy. But from where I'm sitting, it seems better to present solutions that can be broken up into smaller pieces if needed.
 

Brattle Loop

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
1,006
Reaction score
1,725
Thanks for pointing me to that one. Yeah, it's an interesting piece -- I'd love to see more vocal advocacy for modernizing the switches at Tower 1, that seems like a pretty targeted and tractable improvement that would see tangible results very quickly.

I don't have super strong feelings for or against SSX. In principle, I agree with the general argument: there probably are smaller more distributed improvements that we could make across the network that would produce greater benefit sooner. So I think there probably is a particular argument one could make against SSX.
I don't know if anyone here has a clear answer on this, but unless I missed something there didn't seem to be much about Amtrak in there. My understanding from previous discussion here is that part of the problem is caused by the Amtrak moves to and from Southampton yard (adding conflicting moves across the squashed interlocking), and I'm curious if anyone knows if any of that is factored in to TM's considerations here? Even the push-pull Regionals they're planning aren't necessarily going to avoid the need to run up to the yard at least some of the time.

That said, I don't think this report quite gets there. To me, things fall apart when they get into the section about dedicated terminal tracks per line, where they argue that the need for last-minute equipment swaps is eliminated by replacement of the aging diesel fleet with electric. That's well-and-good, except now you've made (systemwide?) electrification the prereq for the capacity increases promised by SSX. In reality, you probably won't need full electrification systemwide, but I have no idea where the tipping point would be.
There's a chunk of the report here that I think you absolutely correctly identify as lacking, and to me it fits in with a trend in TM's work which I've noticed frequently has elements that don't quite pass the smell test. I think it's outright questionable overall whether you can eliminate equipment swaps like they seem to be suggesting. Part of the problem the T has now is that they can't interchange sets between lines, because a set of Needham flats would be overwhelmed on a Providence or Worcester run, and one of the monster bilevel sets from Providence would be extremely oversized for something like Needham. Just making the vehicles electric rather than diesel doesn't change the capacity discrepancies, unless they're suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach (which seems like it'd be rather inefficient).

This reflects a larger philosophical difference I find myself having with TransitMatters: the intermingling of major capital projects (e.g. electrification) with policy changes that can literally be effected with the stroke of a pen (e.g. fare equity); a similar dynamic plays out with incremental (e.g. full-highs at key stations) vs large-scale (e.g. equipment purchases) changes. Maybe their strategy is to consistently present a "package deal" for the likes of Maura Healey to come onboard with and buy into wholesale, and for all I know that could be a wise strategy. But from where I'm sitting, it seems better to present solutions that can be broken up into smaller pieces if needed.
To my point above, referencing not passing the sniff test. I do think it's about presenting a packaged vision for wholesale change, but I agree that it's questionable from a strategic standpoint. I'm not wholly convinced by their arguments that the need for SSX can be eliminated wholesale by electrification and by operational improvements (the absence of information on Amtrak is part of the reason for my skepticism). That said, the fact that the entire argument appears to require electrification and wholesale fleet replacement as prerequisites is deeply problematic. The lack of engagement with the depressingly cynical reality we have to live in is problematic, and too frequently shows up in TM's work. It's all well and good to present a quality vision of an upgraded system, but they don't come to life fully formed. There's a lack of discussion of "how we get there" that engages with the realities of politics and economics. The insistence on single-level cars is an example: yes, there's a ton of reasons why they're better (and probably not many places on our system where we'd have persistent capacity issues at max-length, max-frequency without bilevels), but that's meaningless if you wind up with crap equipment or overpriced bids because of your insistence on single-levels. In the T's own EMU RFI, all the single-level bids were either vaporware imports, or the crudtastic Silverliner V. Similarly, on a bigger scale, with electrification; if you make wholesale electrification a prerequisite, you're telling the politicians they have to swallow all of those costs (because that's an infrastructure and an equipment cost) up front to eventually (allegedly) make SSX obsolete. If that initiative dies somewhere along the way (take your pick of which of Worcester, Old Colony, or miscellaneous winds up cut after the costs balloon, because TM can complain about out-of-control costs all they want, complaining that it shouldn't happen doesn't mean that it won't), and you then can't get the benefits, you wind up having to build the freaking expansion anyway.

It really would be interesting if they, perhaps in addition to their preferred vision, made clearer offers of "partial-build" alternatives, ones that could help illustrate the trade-offs and why the preferred vision is considered the best. It's not wrong per se to operate from the starting point of "SSX isn't necessary, here's how to make that work", but it'd also be valuable to have a clear layout of where the tipping points are, and how best to proceed for various system goals in the events that the prerequisites for their full vision aren't necessary accepted and built. It would be depressing as hell to stand in an expanded South Station full of diesels thirty years from now, and legitimate to complain that none of it was necessary, but infinitely better than a permanently-crippled system if they accepted the anti-SSX noise but didn't do anything to mitigate the crowding.
 

Tallguy

Active Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
685
Reaction score
321
You ignore the non-operational reason for electrifcation, climate change. We need to rid the system of diesels, asap. If you accept that premise, then the question becomes is SSX necessary in that electrified world. The cost of electrification is non negotiable (in the sense that some form of it is needed). Will OC take longer to electrify? Very possible. But TMs vision of RR and specifically SS ops are not incompatible with diesel on the OC for 15-20 years. The single tracking constrains frequencies much more than platform space does. And taking Needham off the rail system and moving it to RT is much cheaper than SSX and has better utility for most residents of the area. That leaves 7 platforms for the assumed 12 tph up the NEC and 8 tph from Worcester. Again assuming an ability to turn a train around in 15 is non unreasonable, with it seems to be nearly everywhere else in the world, there would be a nearly 40% cushion of slots.
And Amtrak? There are only three times in the AM and three at night where there are more than one train per hour. In a world where that increased to 30 min frequencies all day, that still would give an hour for each Amtrak train to cycle through the station. Even if you then throw in double Acela frequencies, you would reduce that time to an average of 40 min, which still seems more than enough to me.
Also assuming Fairmount gets to, say , 6tph.
That again means a 20 min turnaround and I despair of the ability to do more than 6 round trips per hour on OC. That means that if, for some reason, a platform is tied up, then the 12 tph would have to share platforms during the crisis, still maintaining 15 min average turnaround.
But, hey , if we're still running diesels in 30 years, the number of available tracks in SS will be determined by the tides as much as anything;)
 

Tallguy

Active Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
685
Reaction score
321
And regarding equipment offered in the RFI, the old GIGO phrase comes to mind. The MBTA, as well as several other agencies in USA, has made their preference for bilevels more than clear. Of course vendors will respond with bilevels.
 

HenryAlan

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2009
Messages
3,127
Reaction score
1,904
This reflects a larger philosophical difference I find myself having with TransitMatters: the intermingling of major capital projects (e.g. electrification) with policy changes that can literally be effected with the stroke of a pen (e.g. fare equity); a similar dynamic plays out with incremental (e.g. full-highs at key stations) vs large-scale (e.g. equipment purchases) changes. Maybe their strategy is to consistently present a "package deal" for the likes of Maura Healey to come onboard with and buy into wholesale, and for all I know that could be a wise strategy. But from where I'm sitting, it seems better to present solutions that can be broken up into smaller pieces if needed.
Interestingly, that was their initial approach. The original white paper was very much a tool box filled with options that collectively would be transformative, but that did not need to all happen at once or in a particular order, or even in total. What they have put out since then, to me seem more like proofs of concept, but presented, as you suggest, as an all or nothing. They imply, "we can have this amazing concept, or we can have the current garbage."
 

Koopzilla24

New member
Joined
Dec 20, 2022
Messages
39
Reaction score
60
Maybe a topic for a different thread but is there any realistic option for better bike accommodation on the Commuter Rail?

The biggest issue I can think of is the lack of high platforms at most station stops. Full sized bikes are not able to easily go up the stairs and around the sharp corner into the coach. Otherwise I’d think they could have a bicycle car in the middle or end of a train set where half the seats are removed and replaced with bike storage facilities (think ski train). However that brings in the next issue of staffing the bike car during off-peak when conductors usually only have a coach or two in service at the locomotive end. From the equipment listings I could find very limited train sets have doors that can be opened from a controlling coach. None of which are the old Pullman(?) coaches that are the only bit of current rolling stock that could accommodate this. On top of everything is the issue of removing seated passenger capacity for what would be less efficient use of space on board.

I primarily wonder if there is anything possible to be done with current or minor infrastructure upgrades. On the off-peak/reverse direction trains in which bikes are permitted almost every train I’ve been on has become overcrowded in the limited accessible space that a bike can be stored in. Being able to allow bikes even in peak direction is a huge stretch but would be a huge transformation for movement throughout the city and suburbs.
 

as02143

Active Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2021
Messages
165
Reaction score
203
Maybe a topic for a different thread but is there any realistic option for better bike accommodation on the Commuter Rail?

The biggest issue I can think of is the lack of high platforms at most station stops. Full sized bikes are not able to easily go up the stairs and around the sharp corner into the coach. Otherwise I’d think they could have a bicycle car in the middle or end of a train set where half the seats are removed and replaced with bike storage facilities (think ski train). However that brings in the next issue of staffing the bike car during off-peak when conductors usually only have a coach or two in service at the locomotive end. From the equipment listings I could find very limited train sets have doors that can be opened from a controlling coach. None of which are the old Pullman(?) coaches that are the only bit of current rolling stock that could accommodate this. On top of everything is the issue of removing seated passenger capacity for what would be less efficient use of space on board.

I primarily wonder if there is anything possible to be done with current or minor infrastructure upgrades. On the off-peak/reverse direction trains in which bikes are permitted almost every train I’ve been on has become overcrowded in the limited accessible space that a bike can be stored in. Being able to allow bikes even in peak direction is a huge stretch but would be a huge transformation for movement throughout the city and suburbs.
The California commuter rails all seem to have dedicated the lower levels to bikes and sporting equipment on their Bombardier bi-levels. Seems like the T just needs to make the coach closest to the locomotive a bi-level with bike racks on the lowest levels. You'd get the access to a mini-high, bike spaces, and such all in one go.
 

Brattle Loop

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
1,006
Reaction score
1,725
The California commuter rails all seem to have dedicated the lower levels to bikes and sporting equipment on their Bombardier bi-levels. Seems like the T just needs to make the coach closest to the locomotive a bi-level with bike racks on the lowest levels. You'd get the access to a mini-high, bike spaces, and such all in one go.
Aren't all of California's operators 8-inch boarding? Doing as you suggest, everyone would need to maneuver their bikes through the short split-level section then down the stairs (and vice-versa on disembarking), which would be cumbersome at least. The flats at least don't require navigating a staircase when the train stops at a high-level platform.
 

#bancars

Active Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Messages
670
Reaction score
2,359
I don't ride the Fitchburg line often so until recently I didn't realize it had an at-grade crossing in Cambridge! Photos from 12.30.22.

Commuter Rail Tracks 1.JPG
Commuter Rail Tracks 2.JPG
 

jklo

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2015
Messages
1,009
Reaction score
280
I don't ride the Fitchburg line often so until recently I didn't realize it had an at-grade crossing in Cambridge! Photos from 12.30.22.
It might make sense to do infill stops there and at Brighton Street? I imagine the burbs would complain but whatever.
 

bigeman312

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2012
Messages
1,868
Reaction score
885
I don't ride the Fitchburg line often so until recently I didn't realize it had an at-grade crossing in Cambridge! Photos from 12.30.22.
You might be interested to learn that there is also an at-grade crossing in Somerville (Park St) that could be a logical one to eliminate in the event of a Green Line extension beyond Union to Porter.
 
Joined
Jun 19, 2021
Messages
191
Reaction score
423
Many in this area question whether S Attleboro will actually get the funding and be fully renovated. The Pawtucket station just two miles to the south officially opens this Monday 01-23-2023. Prior to Covid, I think the plan was very much to upgrade S Attleboro as it was then much needed. It has an extremely convenient location for those that drive to a station as it has nearly 600 parking spaces and it is literally right at RTE 95 off/on ramps. The drop in ridership due to the new WFH model adopted by many businesses for Covid has however now thrown things into limbo. My guess is that the state will take a slow approach (which it already appears to be doing since it closed in Feb-2021) to S Attleboro continuing to monitor the ridership on this line and studying the effects of the new Pawtucket Station. The S Attleboro station will likely not go forward until the state fully feels it is needed.
 
Last edited:

Top