Reasonable Transit Pitches

Probably not. Any crossing would need to be underground, and the Airport side of Chelsea Creek isn't really space constrained as far as an Incline is concerned. That being said, the tunnel aspect is really what keeps this crazy and not reasonable. If we want to keep things reasonable, the best option I can find for a new large parking facility would probably be this lot along 1A, and then run above 1A and through the road spaghetti into the airport... somehow. This would probably end up as an extension of an APM rather than a new rail line.
"Monorail, monorail, monorail!"

"Cable car, cable car, cable car!"
 
For those who like to use KML-based maps (like Google My Maps for their transit pitches, here's a set of layers for the existing system. Rail lines, rail stations, BRT (Silver Line and the Columbus Avenue busway), and BRT stops. I made it for myself so I could add it to new maps easily, and figured others might be able to make use of it.
 

Attachments

  • Existing MBTA subway.zip
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Is there any realistic chance of a second daily Lake Shore Limited round trip in the 2030s?
 
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Is there any realistic chance of a second daily Lake Shore Limited round trip in the 2030s?
It would need a second something out of New York to lash onto, and right now New York isn't itching for a second Chicago-via-Albany frequency. Basic Niagara Falls-turning Empire service probably isn't enough of an enticement unto itself, and neither is a lash-up with the Adirondack when we have a much closer-to-home Vermonter/Montrealer to exploit. The current Maple Leaf leaves NYC too early in the morning to hit a timed transfer from Boston without leaving South Station before 5:00am when all connecting local transit is closed for the night. At least with that Toronto lash-up there's some hope for the future, as uprating the B&A from Springfield to Albany from Class 3/60 MPH to Class 4/80 MPH bleeds enough time to potentially make the Boston connection work (in which case I'd absolutely try it). But that's going to be contingent on a big East-West funding dump for the western half of the corridor coincident with developing those extra BOS-ALB slots. I can't see that being any priority until the Boston-Springfield-New Haven Inland Route services are well-established at several RT's per day. The current funding award only jump-starts 2 Inland RT's. Lots lots more steps to go.
 
An Organizational (and Lightly Electronic) Alternative to MBTA Fare Transformation

Organization before Electronics before Concrete, the saying goes. The present Fare Transformation project at the T has been stymied by a range of problems with “Concrete”, which I use here to more generally mean “physical infrastructure” (such as new card readers).

I present here an alternative to that project, an alternative which could largely be implemented at the Organization level, with minor additional modifications at the Electronics level (and which would achieve or otherwise render moot other objectives of the Fare Transformation project).

Ultimately, my proposal boils down to this: centralize fare collection to locations where faregates already exist, and provide riders a way to pay for their whole day’s travel at once.

Proposed Changes

In practical terms, this would entail the following changes:
  1. Halt fare collection on the outer parts of the Rapid Transit system
  2. Halt fare collection on most bus routes at most stops
  3. Maintain fare collection in downtown and other employment centers, including certain bus hubs, referred herein as the “Destination Zone”
  4. Shift fares from, for example, $2.40 inbound and $2.40 outbound to a single payment of $4.80 on the outbound trip – keeping costs to consumer equal and preventing a revenue deficit
  5. Modify the Single Ride (at the revised fare) to cover a day’s round-trip with transfers
Changes 1 through 3 can be implemented immediately. Changes 4 and 5 would require some modifications to the Electronic programming underlying the fare system; Change 4 would require nothing more than what is usually done when a fare increase is instituted, while Change 5 may require some minor additional modification.

Benefits

This would provide the following immediate benefits:
  • Implement all-door boarding for almost all Green Line stops, speeding journeys and improving reliability
  • Implement all-door boarding for most bus routes and bus stops, speeding journeys and improving reliability
  • Reallocate resources currently devoted to the Fare Transformation project by completing several objectives ahead of schedule
  • Provide equitable access to transit-dependent non-commuters across the system
  • Provide an easy path to fare-free transit for short journeys within neighborhoods (a small contributor to MBTA revenue but a large local impact)
  • Reduce the operational expenses and burdens of maintaining faregates on the outer parts of the system
“Destination Zone”

Fare collections would remain in the following locations:
  • Red: Harvard to South Station
  • Orange: Assembly to Roxbury Crossing
  • Blue: Bowdoin to Airport
  • Green: Lechmere to Kenmore
    • B: Amory St to Blandford St
    • C: St. Mary’s St only
    • D: Longwood to Fenway
    • E: Fenwood Rd to Prudential
  • Silver Line:
    • SL4/SL5: Tufts Medical Center and all stops north
    • SL1/SL2/SL3: South Station to Design Center and Airport
    • Note that SL1 is already farefree from the Logan Airport Terminals
  • Bus:
    • Haymarket station
    • Financial District + Downtown Crossing
    • Harvard Square
    • Kenmore Square
    • Longwood Medical Area
    • Ruggles station
    • Roxbury Crossing
    • Nubian (for certain trips, see below)
    • BU Medical Center
See additional notes on bus fare collection below.

Avoiding double fares for Destination Zone residents

Certain commuters (e.g. in Cambridge) will travel between two stations where a fare would be collected upon entry (e.g. Central + South Station).

To avoid these riders being burdened by a double fare, the Single Ride (currently used on CharlieTickets and CharlieCards) would be modified to last 18 hours and 4 or 6 “taps”, very similar to today’s structure, where a Single Ride is good for multiple taps within a 2-hour period in order to accommodate transfers from buses. This would ensure that these commuters do not have to pay extra (as long as they keep their morning ticket for the afternoon).

It is also worth noting that the majority of MBTA riders (77%) use a monthly, weekly, or daily pass, with unlimited transfers. These riders would be entirely unburdened by this fare collection change. Most pay-as-you-go riders would pay the same amount per day as they do now; a small fraction of riders would use the new Single Ride described above, with minor adjustments to their day-to-day.

Revenue Neutral

This proposal is designed to be revenue neutral for the T. Given the three-quarters of riders who pay via a monthly/weekly/daily pass, the majority of the T’s fare revenue stream would be unaffected – most riders already don’t pay at faregates or the front of the bus, they simply show validation of prior payment.

While the T is used for many kinds of journeys, the vast majority of riders will still journey into the Destination Zone, even if not as commutes. Since the equivalent of an entire day’s fare would still be paid, there would be zero impact in revenue from those riders (and may see a slight uptick in revenue, particularly from GLX riders).

There are a very small number of pay-as-you-go riders who would not enter the Destination Zone during their normal day. By my analysis, this would constitute less than 3% of Rapid Transit + Bus fares, which could likely be offset by operational savings and the greater reliability of fare collection at fare gates.

While I cannot prove this, I suspect that many of these non-Destination Zone riders are making journeys that we, as a society, would be more sympathetic to making farefree: elderly riders traveling across their neighborhood, parents carrying bags of groceries back from the store, suburban riders who cannot afford a car and must rely on infrequent bus service.

Bus Fare Collection Logistics

Because bus fares are paid directly at the farebox, next to the driver, there is greater flexibility for implementing modified fare collection. For example, outside of the Destination Zone, drivers would simply open all doors and wave passengers on, while inside the Destination Zone they would open the front door only and monitor passengers paying as they board.

(At high volume bus stops in the Destination Zone, T employees with portable card readers could be strategically deployed at the back doors of buses to speed boarding during the PM peak, without the capital expense of new on-board card readers.)
At certain stations, such as Harvard, Kenmore, and Ruggles, the T could eventually implement faregates (potentially relocated from Outer stations) into the busways to speed boarding further. Front-door fare collection would continue for the first few stops outside of these locations, to deter riders from merely walking down the block to avoid a fare.

Nubian Square fills multiple roles in the system: it is a transfer hub, it is an Origin point for nearby residents, and it is an employment Destination in its own right. To accommodate this, fares would be collected on radial routes (such as the 28) going southbound, but not on radial routes going northbound (including the Silver Line).

For Nubian employees, they would pay their Daily Fare when they start their outbound journey at Nubian; for nearby residents, they will have paid their Daily Fare at the other end of the Silver Line; and for transferring riders, most will have paid their Daily Fare elsewhere in the Destination Zone already, and so would “pay” using their Single Ride transfer.

There are a handful of other nuances. Fare collection on the inner B branch would likely be in the outbound direction only, even though, elsewhere in the Destination Zone, non-transferring riders would need to pay/validate both inbound and outbound. The Inner B, as it passes through Boston University, would benefit from using all doors to offload passengers more than it would benefit from collecting fares from the fewer passengers boarding there (most of whom will have a fare collected elsewhere in the Destination Zone anyway).

Circumferential services do pose some challenges for the model of the "Destination Zone." The most notable of these is the 1 Bus, which journeys entirely within the Destination Zone and serves multiple employment centers. While there is notable turnover across the entire route, there is a significant orientation toward the employment centers and transfers south of the Charles River. Riders who transfer to the Green or Orange Lines will pay their Daily Fare as part of their journeys on those Rapid Transit lines. The riders who most likely will not have paid their Daily Fare elsewhere are commuters heading to BU Medical Center, since the 1 is the primary transit service for that location.

My suggestion would be to collect 1 fares in the northbound direction at Nubian, BU Medical Center, and potentially the Green + Orange transfer points, depending how many riders are boarding as transfers. Riders can always use the Single Ride option described above to avoid paying a double fare.

Conclusion

By consolidating fare collection into stations with existing faregates, the T can achieve many of its Fare Transformation objectives at a fraction of the cost and years ahead of schedule. This can be achieved in a revenue neutral fashion, and with essentially zero impact on riders. This consolidation would also improve reliability and travel times, and would lead to a long-term reduction in maintenance costs and, potentially, a small improvement in the rate of successful fare collection.

As a classic example of Organization before Electronics before Concrete, this proposal would enhance service, reduce expenses, and be achievable at very low cost.
 
It is also worth noting that the majority of MBTA riders (77%) use a monthly, weekly, or daily pass, with unlimited transfers. These riders would be entirely unburdened by this fare collection change.
Given that this is the case, should we maybe go further? I would say in general people don't want to be fare evaders, but if you make collecting fares as difficult as it is at the GLX stops for example, it's not surprising that most people do it. If all stations except maybe a few select ones had freestanding fare readers instead of gates, would that be an even better solution?

I also thought I'd chip in with a scaled down version of this focused mainly on buses. What if fare collection was stopped entirely on routes like the 32, 73, or 111, where >50% of riders (Or >80% in the case of the 32) start or end their bus ride by transferring to/from the subway? In that case, (And especially for the 32) the T would not be losing a significant amount on fares, and operations could improve so that potentially service levels could be increased, possibly leading to more journeys made, and more transfers made to the subway, further offsetting the loss.
 
Conclusion

By consolidating fare collection into stations with existing faregates, the T can achieve many of its Fare Transformation objectives at a fraction of the cost and years ahead of schedule. This can be achieved in a revenue neutral fashion, and with essentially zero impact on riders. This consolidation would also improve reliability and travel times, and would lead to a long-term reduction in maintenance costs and, potentially, a small improvement in the rate of successful fare collection.

As a classic example of Organization before Electronics before Concrete, this proposal would enhance service, reduce expenses, and be achievable at very low cost.
Coincidentally, the Globe published a piece today about the ending of the farefree pilot, and included a figure I had been looking for (unsuccessfully):

Fares from subway, ferry, commuter rail, paratransit, and bus customers are expected to total $418 million this fiscal year, covering less than 20 percent of the T’s operating budget, according to the agency.

Last fiscal year, fares from bus riders totaled about $79 million, according to T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo.

I assume that the "fares from bus riders" only counts fares where riders did not subsequently transfer to subways and pay the higher fare there. (Although that is definitely an assumption.) I'll also assume that that figure includes revenue from monthly bus passes and monthly express bus passes, but excludes revenue from the monthly LinkPass/7-day/1-day passes.

The T projects its FY24 revenue at about $2.6B. Of that, the $79M from bus fares forms less than 3% of that revenue. And to put that number in context, the T is going to spend over three times that much on interest payments alone.

The vast majority of the T's fare revenue comes from journeys that pass through the subway (or commuter rail) system. Losing the revenue from bus-only rides wouldn't be trivial, but it's not significant.
 
Given that this is the case, should we maybe go further? I would say in general people don't want to be fare evaders, but if you make collecting fares as difficult as it is at the GLX stops for example, it's not surprising that most people do it. If all stations except maybe a few select ones had freestanding fare readers instead of gates, would that be an even better solution?
It might, but my goal here is to minimize any physical changes that need to happen. Opening the fare gates on Outer stations can be done trivially on Day 1 (with faregate relocation eventually happening later). Also, "freestanding fare readers" (from what I understand) have turned into one of the more challenging and delayed parts of the Fare Transformation project.
I also thought I'd chip in with a scaled down version of this focused mainly on buses. What if fare collection was stopped entirely on routes like the 32, 73, or 111, where >50% of riders (Or >80% in the case of the 32) start or end their bus ride by transferring to/from the subway? In that case, (And especially for the 32) the T would not be losing a significant amount on fares, and operations could improve so that potentially service levels could be increased, possibly leading to more journeys made, and more transfers made to the subway, further offsetting the loss.
I'm less confident on this part, but I believe that targeted changes like this are more likely to trigger a social equity analysis, which I believe have been weaponized against making change that actually address equality and equity issues. Plus it would introduce a delay. Part of my hope of implementing this proposal systemwide is to avoid that issue by not singling out any particular neighborhoods or routes.
111, where >50% of riders start or end their bus ride by transferring to/from the subway
I know you mentioned some potential data sources earlier, would you mind elaborating on how you determined this figure?
 
I know you mentioned some potential data sources earlier, would you mind elaborating on how you determined this figure?
It's all taken from the 2022 bus ridership data. I have a whole bunch of posts in the bus thread, and the spreadsheet is attached. But for the 111 in particular the methodology is almost certainly faulty. At stops like Forest Hills likely almost all bus riders go straight onto the OL, but this isn't true when the bus terminates downtown, like at Haymarket, where many riders likely walk to their final destination. I'll also just compile everything for the (major) routes I've found where 50% or more pax are (likely) transferring here and list all the assumptions made:
  1. At these stations, bus riders always transfer to the subway.
  2. There are not significant numbers of riders going between rapid transit stations on opposite ends of a bus route. (Say, Maverick to Wonderland on the 116/117 for example) More borderline cases will be indicated with a * and an alternative lower estimate will also be given.
  3. For a given direction, number of boardings = number of alightings. (It's close enough)
  4. Crosstown routes have entirely different traffic patterns and are best saved for another time

RouteRapid Transit StopsPercentage of transfers of overall boardings
22*Ruggles, Roxbury Crossing, Jackson Square, Ashmont81% (55% ignoring Ashmont)
23* Ruggles, Roxbury Crossing, Ashmont58% (30% ignoring Ashmont)
32Forest Hills80% (Completely absurd)
39Back Bay, Copley, Forest Hills56%
71Harvard52%
73Harvard59%
77Harvard, Porter53%
109Sullivan72%
116/117Maverick, Wonderland59%
 

Attachments

  • BusRoute-StopByStop.xlsx.zip
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Motivated by the ongoing discussion about lack of bus lanes in the McGrath redesign, which is apparently due to a lack of demand for bus routes using that corridor:

Are there any suggestions for a bus route (new or rerouted) to use McGrath Highway for a greater length? (Perhaps especially to the north of Highland Ave)

I feel it may be good for a north-south bus route across Somerville, which the city lacks, but I'm not familiar enough with the area to say whether it's a good corridor compared to other potential routes. Another issue with McGrath is that it misses GLX Gilman Square and has a very inconvenient transfer to East Somerville. You need to go down all the way to Lechmere for a good GLX transfer, but that's something the Bus Network Redesign was trying to avoid because of duplication with GLX.
 
Motivated by the ongoing discussion about lack of bus lanes in the McGrath redesign, which is apparently due to a lack of demand for bus routes using that corridor:

Are there any suggestions for a bus route (new or rerouted) to use McGrath Highway for a greater length? (Perhaps especially to the north of Highland Ave)

I feel it may be good for a north-south bus route across Somerville, which the city lacks, but I'm not familiar enough with the area to say whether it's a good corridor compared to other potential routes. Another issue with McGrath is that it misses GLX Gilman Square and has a very inconvenient transfer to East Somerville. You need to go down all the way to Lechmere for a good GLX transfer, but that's something the Bus Network Redesign was trying to avoid because of duplication with GLX.
In addition to the parallel to GLX for local travel, for regional travel, McGrath/Route 28 is also awfully parallel to the OL, too. So, it seems like there's not a huge potential "market" for travel that isn't already partially replicated by rail-based rapid transit today.
 
Motivated by the ongoing discussion about lack of bus lanes in the McGrath redesign, which is apparently due to a lack of demand for bus routes using that corridor:

Are there any suggestions for a bus route (new or rerouted) to use McGrath Highway for a greater length? (Perhaps especially to the north of Highland Ave)

I feel it may be good for a north-south bus route across Somerville, which the city lacks, but I'm not familiar enough with the area to say whether it's a good corridor compared to other potential routes. Another issue with McGrath is that it misses GLX Gilman Square and has a very inconvenient transfer to East Somerville. You need to go down all the way to Lechmere for a good GLX transfer, but that's something the Bus Network Redesign was trying to avoid because of duplication with GLX.
You could do Assembly-Union Sq-Central, but I'm not sure how much demand that would have.
 
You could do Assembly-Union Sq-Central, but I'm not sure how much demand that would have.
The BNRD's redrawn 85 bus is already slated to do Assembly-Union-Kendall and a cut up Vassar St. to scoop almost the whole of the MIT campus. That doesn't leave a whole lot Central-adjacent left on the table, so I'm guessing a 'leftovers' alt route distinct from the 85 would have a pretty poor showing.

McGrath isn't totally useless in BNRD-land. The 90 and 85 both loop near GLX East Somerville. But it's not very much usage, despite the East Somerville neighborhood faring better in the redesign than most of the rest of the city.

1707948755900.png
 
The BNRD's redrawn 85 bus is already slated to do Assembly-Union-Kendall and a cut up Vassar St. to scoop almost the whole of the MIT campus. That doesn't leave a whole lot Central-adjacent left on the table, so I'm guessing a 'leftovers' alt route distinct from the 85 would have a pretty poor showing.

McGrath isn't totally useless in BNRD-land. The 90 and 85 both loop near GLX East Somerville. But it's not very much usage, despite the East Somerville neighborhood faring better in the redesign than most of the rest of the city.

View attachment 47637
The fact that the revamped 85 (basically an 85 + CT2 combo) doesn't even get hourly service isn't very promising, either.
 
The fact that the revamped 85 (basically an 85 + CT2 combo) doesn't even get hourly service isn't very promising, either.
It's weird we talk about urban ring so much in here, but we can't even get an hourly bus for the route. Realistically the grand junction is East Cambridge -> BU, its not harvard square or union square -> BU, why can't we at least throw a bus down through that route that runs with a decent frequency and start gathering riders for the eventual rail line??
 
It's weird we talk about urban ring so much in here, but we can't even get an hourly bus for the route. Realistically the grand junction is East Cambridge -> BU, its not harvard square or union square -> BU, why can't we at least throw a bus down through that route that runs with a decent frequency and start gathering riders for the eventual rail line??
Because an urban ring only makes sense if it's faster than going into downtown and back out again, and a bus usually isn't.
 
Because an urban ring only makes sense if it's faster than going into downtown and back out again, and a bus usually isn't.
Rough travel times east cambridge -> BU:
- Uber/Drive: 15 min
- Bike: 15 min
- Walk: 1 hr
- Green Line or walk to Kendall / Green Line: 1 hr
- CT2: 37 min

The current no good, terrible, very bad CT2 bus is absolutely better than the circuitous and slow central subway at least for my neighborhood.

Edited to add -- this also isn't to mention that MIT is basically abandoned at night, 8pm-1am service would probably be no slower than 15 minutes.
 
You could do Assembly-Union Sq-Central, but I'm not sure how much demand that would have.
I think this could have strong demand - it's strangely hard to get from most parts of Cambridge and Somerville to Assembly given how it's stuck between the river and the expressway. It would also provide a rather direct connection between Red Line, Green Lines (technically 2 branches if you count the transfer to East Somerville Station at Washington and McGrath), and the Orange Line north of the Charles.
 
I think this could have strong demand - it's strangely hard to get from most parts of Cambridge and Somerville to Assembly given how it's stuck between the river and the expressway. It would also provide a rather direct connection between Red Line, Green Lines (technically 2 branches if you count the transfer to East Somerville Station at Washington and McGrath), and the Orange Line north of the Charles.
My guess for the lack of such a connection is that some of these circumferential connections are provided at least partially by Key Bus Routes under BNRD (15-min frequency all day). Namely, T109 (today's 86 corridor from Harvard to Sullivan), T47 (Central to Union Sq, today's 91 corridor), and T101 (Sullivan to Kendall).

Granted, none of them serve Assembly. Perhaps they figured a one-stop Orange Line transfer from Sullivan is good enough given limited resources, especially with two Key Bus Routes between Orange and Red Lines (three if you count SL6). Likewise, Central may have been thought of as not worth the additional resources, when Harvard and Kendall both have frequent connections to Sullivan.
 
My guess for the lack of such a connection is that some of these circumferential connections are provided at least partially by Key Bus Routes under BNRD (15-min frequency all day). Namely, T109 (today's 86 corridor from Harvard to Sullivan), T47 (Central to Union Sq, today's 91 corridor), and T101 (Sullivan to Kendall).

Granted, none of them serve Assembly. Perhaps they figured a one-stop Orange Line transfer from Sullivan is good enough given limited resources, especially with two Key Bus Routes between Orange and Red Lines (three if you count SL6). Likewise, Central may have been thought of as not worth the additional resources, when Harvard and Kendall both have frequent connections to Sullivan.
It could simply be the pragmatic take that Assembly is not set up to be a bus terminus -- Sullivan is. The developers of Assembly may not want buses clogging the roads to the station area.
 

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