MBTA Red Line / Blue Line Connector

datadyne007

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I support the project and share Jim's frustration. Notwithstanding that, I have a couple of issues.

First, there's no acknowledgement here of what the arguments against building the connector before 2030 might be. I don't know what they are or if they're reasonable, but Poftak should be given the opportunity to explain himself, hopefully before the FMCB this afternoon (the Monday morning publication of this piece was of course no accident). You can't rail against "the guardians of the status quo" without identifying why anyone would guard the status quo. Steve Poftak wants a successful MBTA as much as any of us.

Second (and this is a more general issue I have with Jim), there is this laughable quote:



For those unaware: Jim Aloisi was once Secretary of Transportation. He did bupkus to solve any of the problems he writes about now, and his credibility as a TM spokesman is... um... questionable as a result. It's particularly problematic in a piece like this, because he is unquestionably himself a "guardian of the status quo" since the status quo did not change during his own tenure...

So Jim, why does this keep happening? I have a feeling you know better than most of us.
I appreciate someone having the courange to say this in the open. Given his administrative background, there seems to be a lot of deference toward him within the "transit Twitter" community and on an academic level, I'm sure he knows his stuff. But he always strikes me as somone who feels compelled to let the rest of the group know that he is the smartest person in the room and given his ineffective tenure during the Patrick administration, some of his sweeping jabs at Baker and the FCMB come across as a bit..."precious."
Excuse you guys. During his short term as Transportation Sec, the Silver Line/bus service required attention. Jim created the SL4 and promoted the 28X. He has always been hyper-focused on serving underserved communities. The Patrick Admin decisions about the Red Blue Connector indeed came after Jim's term as Secretary.
 

JeffDowntown

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You're right, but the impact of that attention from the Governor's Office and Secretary has been the hiring of dedicated project management staffs for those projects. I get that RBX does not have a dedicated staff yet, and maybe at a $300M project it exists in a kind of purgatory where it isn't small enough for dedicated hiring but too big for the T to manage in the normal course of business. Honestly, though, that's exactly the instiutional inertia that Aloisi is rightly calling out. This project is worth finding a way through it.



It might also be harder to do it all at once in such a limited staging area, or it might mean disrupting lower Cambridge Street for a long time consecutively right after the Longfellow Bridge re-opened.
Perhaps, but it would seem that there is a lot of commonality and opportunity for coordination in the disruption. MGH and the T are both going to be disrupting lower Cambridge Street anyway, it is not avoidable. Designs could even conceivable interconnect some of the end infrastructure (tunnel under Cambridge Street into the MGH campus, for example). Not that we have shown much taste for this level of coordination.
 

Equilibria

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Excuse you guys. During his short term as Transportation Sec, the Silver Line/bus service required attention. Jim created the SL4 and promoted the 28X. He has always been hyper-focused on serving underserved communities. The Patrick Admin decisions about the Red Blue Connector indeed came after Jim's term as Secretary.
Data, I stand by what I said. I took a look to remind myself of what the Aloisi era as Secretary was like. It was... um...


I have no doubt that Jim is a knowledgeable and passionate advocate, but his columns in CommonWealth (not all of which represent TM directly) seem to have the same attitude he had when he actually had the job. That attitude didn't get results, and while we're all frustrated with the current folks sometimes, theirs have. He needs to own that.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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I support the project and share Jim's frustration. Notwithstanding that, I have a couple of issues.

First, there's no acknowledgement here of what the arguments against building the connector before 2030 might be. I don't know what they are or if they're reasonable, but Poftak should be given the opportunity to explain himself, hopefully before the FMCB this afternoon (the Monday morning publication of this piece was of course no accident). You can't rail against "the guardians of the status quo" without identifying why anyone would guard the status quo. Steve Poftak wants a successful MBTA as much as any of us.
Poftak has never been granted the leeway to speak his mind before, so expecting the genuine article now isn't realistic. The T General Manager position is now an agent of the Transpo Secretary and little more. Ever since Bev Scott's resignation signaled the end of that position's independence, and after the brief Luis Ramirez appointment telegraphed considerable degree of outright contempt for expertise qualifications in the role, it hasn't mattered who of the fast-rotating cast of figureheads has occupied the position. It exists only as a PR point person and delegation of whatever secondary decision-making authority Pollack sees fit to delegate at a given moment. The GM is never allowed to lead with an independent thought anymore. Massachusetts was simply able to break the job's independence much more quietly than New York, where Cuomo is just a little too far over-the-top at personally assuming the reins and the pushback by the Andy Byfords got to the level of street fight before it was subdued. The T has been where the MTA is now going for 5 years now in terms of top-down stranglehold.

So for Poftak to be the first of the usual suspects to drop news means he's overwhelmingly likely to be doing someone else's bidding. Let's not forget that his resume prominently features a stint at--where else--Pioneer Institute before he entered the Baker Admin.'s revolving door from the private sector. Nobody is going off-script or taking a risk here. Sec. Pollack concern-trolled Red-Blue relentlessly on her boss' behalf before their handpicked tank-a-palooza cost metrics got torn to shreds by the fact-checkers. The Administration's contempt for this one did not suddenly change out of them being shamed over their funny math. There was always going to be a new round of concern-trolling dropped, picking some new angle to do it. And if Pollack was the one who came off looking over-prominently bad last time, it was likely going to be someone else next time taking the lead playing canary in a coalmine with the public. Poftak being the one to come out as the face of that policy statement (when he is rarely if ever the face of any other big-picture decision of pronouncement) fits that mold, and an umpteenth stab at "...because we can't walk and chew gum at the same time" is a predictably well-hewn meme to lead with on this new take. If there's a fierce public and political backlash again, someone lower than the Secretary takes the drubbing this time, they go dark again, and take the goalposts home for retooling once more before trying again.

I don't see a single thing tactically inconsistent here about how anyone is operating. The Administration has been resolute about what types of projects it lends its support to and which ones it consistently tries to shank with fuzzy math and moving goalposts. They are nothing if not completely consistent about that, and where sustained public advocacy has chastened them for being too obvious about their aims they've usually been more likely to temporarily table the issue (whether or not that concedes temp momentum to the advocates) then come back later with a subtler angle to telegraph their opposition rather than actually modify their original core stance. NSRL has been multiple bites at that apple: tanking action so over-the-top it defies credulity, a very public chastening of the moving goalposts, a response of re-analysis followed by a prolonged quiet period to get the issue off the front pages, then an inevitable pivot to new opposition angle that expresses rote sentiment but is purposefully coated in more abstraction to keep the tit-for-tat exchanges with the advocates more obtuse. The same thing is happening here. And the same thing is for damn sure going to happen with RUR and commuter rail electrification before this term is up, because Requests for Information don't have to be acted on and they are too consistent at not letting top-down resistance die without exhausting their pivots.

This is two long games colliding: the advocacy's, and the Administration's. The only thing you can really say for sure is that nothing is likely to get outright decided before the end of this term, and if Baker is as sick of this job as the vibe he's giving off he won't be seeking a third term at all so--regardless of who from which party wins the next election--governance by thinktank shuck-and-jive tactics probably isn't going to be the next flavor of the month post-'22. Now, that next flavor could be equally bad depending on who's cadre of hangers-on we're foisted with, but it definitely won't be a continuation of this. If for no other reason than after 6 years the revolving door is well past the Pioneer 'D'-team in diminishing returns with ample amount of built-up contempt all around every corner Beacon Hill for that particular brand of do-nothing hackery.
 

shmessy

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I'm no Commonwealth budget expert, but this caught my eye when I was gritting my teeth that even a "layup" like the BRC is being slow danced:


"......To remain on track to fully fund the liability by 2036, the state's annual pension contribution will have to grow at a clip far more rapid than the forecasted growth in state tax revenue....."
".......PERAC decided in November to recommend that A&F adopt a funding schedule that assumes the state’s contribution will increase 9.63 percent each year until fiscal year 2035, with the final payment coming in fiscal 2036."

Maybe one explanation for Poftak's 'beyond 2030' remark?

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whighlander

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As the marching orders for the Financial Board stated -- the first priority is to finish the existing expansions and then get everything under a state of reliable, efficient operations

Further expansion [short of micro-experiments with scheduling especially CR] are low on the priority list until the system is running reliably -- so that means GLX finished, new Red and new Orange Trains and a handful of other smaller scale projects

While many of us would like the Red-Blue connection to be a high priority for various reasons -- from the standpoint of the DOT and the Fin Board -- it is not a high priority

Now as the Legislature ruminates on the proposed $18B for transportation and eventually spits out something for the governor to sign -- there might be room for some projects to get fast tracked such as Red-Blue

But as they always say on Beacon Hill -- there are layers to the Onion which you have to unpeal until you get to the Salami [or something of that nature]
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Nothing is going to run reliably or efficiently when the Red Line is so overloaded in 10 years it can literally no longer clear the platforms at Park and DTX during peakmost load. That's what eliminating the double-transfer to/from Blue is worth in congestion mitigation...at timeframes more dire than this new date they're floating. 3 min. projected headways from the new fleet and signal modernization won't be sustainable if the ped gridlock on those very old and constrained platforms stakes the whole line to a new and more restrictive de facto headway limiter. You pretty much have to do this to make the "RLT" ops streamlining work at any lasting level. It's barely a half-decade's kick of the can without a perma-solve that actually restructures some of the transferee crowding. In the real world, no sane or rational planner can call this ticking time bomb a "low priority".

Not only that, it's a sad cognitive dissonance that they can perceive the Green Line Transformation payoff in terms of all its moving parts: no-holds-barred assault on platform dwells co-equal with the ops tightening if it's to work. In that case it's doubling the sizes and door capacity of all trains and doing a platform-lengthening blitz at large pre-planned capital cost. In Red's case cars can't be lengthened, doors can't be added, and structural allowances are tapped out for more spacious platforms. So no-holds-barred dwell taming treated like a co-equal condition for real Transformation means engaging Red-Blue to attack transfer station dwells from the supply side. GLT is easily worth $300M tucked into the pu-pu platter of lineside and vehicle-side fixes to run more taut service against lower dwells. The equivalent investment for Red just happens to include one discrete extension project because there's little else they can do on Red's line- or vehicle-side beyond what they're already doing. If that most recent revised-down $300M+ estimate for R-B is accurate, they already know how to amortize the cost of doing an equivalent dwell-taming. But because system expansion projects are perceived in way different, more tortured terms than system optimization projects and because the touches for solving the double-transfer crowding are all to Blue...it's "Thar be dragons!" to those who made careers out of thinking only inside of a deep, dark bureaucratic box.

Fuck this. Why don't we stop calling this a "Blue Line Extension" and start rhetorically calling it a "Red Line Transformation" just to see if it confuses them into thinking inside a different box. We already know the consequences of not doing it already make for an "RLT" cruelly withheld. Forget the development coattails on Eastie and the North Shore for one second and just picture a stinking hot DTX platform elbow-to-elbow with woefallen humanity from wall to platform edge and the doors never being able to close on-time...forevermore. And that being the future you experience while still in the workforce. We can safely call it what it is: it's a Red Line Transformation...the half of the coin where they aggressively and substantially do something about dwells where the dwells are most lethal. Is it so damn hard to come up with a little basic urgency when the value proposition is coached in those kinds of terms???
 

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