Reasonable Transit Pitches

The EGE

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Reasonable transit pitch: fill some connectivity gaps in the bus network.
  • Extend the 91 to Kenmore via Brookline/Pearl and Comm Ave (with 20 minute or better headways) Getting across the Charles from anywhere west of downtown currently sucks - the 1, 47, CT2, and 66 are all overcrowded and unreliable. This would provide a more reliable crosstown connection between the Green and Red lines, and vastly improve Cambridgeport's transit access. (You could probably get the needed buses just by unfucking the Memorial Drive rotary.)
  • A new route from Watertown to Kenmore via Arsenal, North Beacon, and Comm Ave. Gives East Watertown and the Boston Landing area access to the Green Line (and thus Back Bay), and increases service on the inner section of the 57.
  • Move the 66 to North Beacon, Everett, and Western. Unfucks that section of the 66, and gives Boston Landing station some crosstown connections.
  • Replace the Barry's-Union segment with a new route out of Harvard. I've shown it going to Kenmore (essentially a bus version of F-Line's Harvard branch), but it could just as easily follow Cambridge to Brighton Center or Harvard to Brookline Village.
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F-Line to Dudley

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1) I don't think you're extending the 91 across BU Bridge until there's some meaty effort at controlling the rotary weaving chaos where 2 lanes become ∞ unstriped make-believe-lanes and traffic locks because some idiot managed to get themselves stuck inserting at a totally perpendicular angle to oncoming traffic. I've looked across from the crosswalk sadly at too many 47's getting marooned in the middle like a drowning bug. Fire DCR's parkway control into the sun if they can't be arsed to do a way better controlled-striping job than that. Jesus...the Waverly St. intersection in eyeshot has such extremely effective concrete rumble-stripping to make everyone duly obey the turn lane markings. Does it dawn on no one whatsoever that the rotary could use some of that visual and tactile enforcement in the worst possible way???

2) This needs to be the impetus to stop punt-punt-punting the reconfig of BU Bridge/Comm Ave. into a single-point intersection freed from the distended Carlton St. clusterfuck. The U Rd. vs. BU Bridge vs. Comm Ave. WB weaving and mid-intersection/mid- B tracks backups kill bus schedules dead. Mountfort WB needs to carry 2 thru lanes, and there needs to be protected-lefts on all sides with ONE unified signal. The only infrastructure work required is widening the NW & SE corner 'platforms' slightly over the Pike...which isn't a load-bearing mod to the bridge. C'mon, MassHighway...stop dicking around on all this "we'll revisit it later" that never comes. This isn't a budget-buster at all. You can pretty much pay for it on an installment plan of 5 years' worth of de-hosed 47 schedules.
 

Balerion

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I apologize if there's discussion of this buried somewhere in the thread, but given the size and scope of the Forest Hills hub, shouldn't there be some sort of direct bus connection to Kenmore or at least somewhere in the vicinity of the BU Bridge? If you want to access most of the Green Line from FH, you have to take Orange to Haymarket (which is silly), walk from Back Bay to Copley (which screws people without monthly passes on the transfer), take the 39 to Copley/Hynes (painful at rush hour), take the 51 (which is infrequent and parks you way out of the way at Reservoir), or take the 39 and walk to the 60/65 at Brookline Village (which for most people would mean three buses before you even hit the GL).
 

Riverside

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I like the look of The EGE's proposals. I'm not sure they are rolling stock-neutral -- more buses would probably be needed -- but still, they seem worth advocating for, especially the Watertown-Kenmore and modifications to the 66 etc.

Stacking all of those routes on Commonwealth makes me think about putting bus lanes in. But it seems silly to add bus lanes when you already have the reservation. Would it be that deleterious to B Line service to pave the reservation and run combined LRT and BRT service? (Let's assume that the buses consolidate their stops and only stop at proper B Line stations.)

@Balerion That sounds like a good idea. An obvious route would be to follow the route of the 39 from Forest Hills, turn left at the Riverway stop, and then follow the 60/65 up Brookline Ave. Could be a nice way to double frequencies on the 39 south of Heath Street, where you don't have the E Line to bolster it. But, although this new route might relieve some crowding on the 39 -- siphoning off LMA commuters who would be willing to access Longwood from the west rather than the east -- it's still going to encounter many of the same challenges as the 39 due to congestion on South, Centre and S Huntington. Absent bus lanes, I think you're always going to run into problems.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I like the look of The EGE's proposals. I'm not sure they are rolling stock-neutral -- more buses would probably be needed -- but still, they seem worth advocating for, especially the Watertown-Kenmore and modifications to the 66 etc.

Stacking all of those routes on Commonwealth makes me think about putting bus lanes in. But it seems silly to add bus lanes when you already have the reservation. Would it be that deleterious to B Line service to pave the reservation and run combined LRT and BRT service? (Let's assume that the buses consolidate their stops and only stop at proper B Line stations.)

@Balerion That sounds like a good idea. An obvious route would be to follow the route of the 39 from Forest Hills, turn left at the Riverway stop, and then follow the 60/65 up Brookline Ave. Could be a nice way to double frequencies on the 39 south of Heath Street, where you don't have the E Line to bolster it. But, although this new route might relieve some crowding on the 39 -- siphoning off LMA commuters who would be willing to access Longwood from the west rather than the east -- it's still going to encounter many of the same challenges as the 39 due to congestion on South, Centre and S Huntington. Absent bus lanes, I think you're always going to run into problems.
B reservation isn't quite wide enough for running buses. You'd have to rebuild it on-footprint to eat the shrub barrier that was put in when Comm Ave. was lane-dieted to get the extra width that wouldn't totally clobber the already-clobbered B from the sluggishness. Feasible, but a lot of construction do-over for not a ton of gain. Right now today the only bus the goes up there is the 57, so there just isn't a payoff without exponential expansion. Frankly, too much more hay can be made for the punctuality of any-vehicle on Comm Ave. by MassHighway simply fixing the Mountfort/Carlton dumpster fire with a self-contained BU Bridge intersection that trims the light cycles. And second, I'd rather debate buses on the reservation after we've first removed the tracks east of BU Bridge for the Urban Ring subway extension and have an entire reservation to reassign to new uses.
 

anthtucker312

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If the previously proposed commuter rail extension to Northborough/290 was to be constructed, how much double tracking on the Fitchburg Secondary would be required to operate the line at RUR service levels?
 

Tallguy

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If you only did it to 495, you would need one passer from near Bose east for 30min frequencies
 

F-Line to Dudley

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If the previously proposed commuter rail extension to Northborough/290 was to be constructed, how much double tracking on the Fitchburg Secondary would be required to operate the line at RUR service levels?
The 2002 MPO study for Northborough can directly answer that one, since the infrastructure requirements for conventional peak/off-peak service would've been detailed in there. Frustratingly, however, that study has never been archived anywhere on the Internet even though Boston MPO has plentiful PDF's of much older studies of theirs online. You'd have to wait till the world reopens to make an in-person trip to the State Transportation Library to find out definitively, but I'm sure it's in there. Probably single with a few passing sidings. Step it up from there between their strict peak/off-peak frequencies separation from the '02 study and today's RUR service flavoring and you'd be lengthening some of those passing sidings but probably not adding more. It would not by any means need to be a fully- or mostly- DT line even at :30 frequencies given the lack of other traffic and generously spaced station stops.

Fitchburg Secondary was full double-track at one point, so no feasibility concern over the ROW property lines anywhere. DT + full signalization from Framingham wye to Framingham Center lasted until 1982 when the Conrail-Boston & Maine interchange in Lowell closed and the first 2 (out of 5) chunks of the Framingham & Lowell line were abandoned (North Acton-Billerica and South Sudbury-West Concord). Prior to that there was a daily Readville-Lowell round trip on Conrail that ran nearly 100 cars long. After the F&L branched off the Fitchburg Sec. was also way busier with purely local business than it is now till the 1990 recession started to thin the herd. You can see from the dizzying number of freight sidings in mostly-disuse through all the industrial parks en route. Though it's pretty sadly maintained CSX will never ever let it go abandoned because of the potential of competitive intrusion from Clinton Jct. setting up lucrative I-290/I-495/Pike transload facilities at the industrial parks. Pan Am or Providence & Worcester (via PAR trackage rights) would grab that in a heartbeat, so CSX is in it as least as far as Clinton/Sterling for the long haul. And Leominster, whose local business was looking very sickly up to a year ago, now has a new customer signee that opened back in March spotting 10 cars per trip...so the dailies out of Framingham are running longer than they were even pre-COVID.


Other than a lot of track-mile-rate cost tied up in replacing horrible physical plant with renewed physical plant, the only big-ticket expense for commuter service on this line is grade-separating Route 9 in Framingham Center (yes, the daily CSX crosses that terrorscape twice each trip). Elevating tracks over road also requires whacking the Salem End Rd. crossing just south, doing the last of the incline-down to the north on a curve, and placing the would-be Framingham State U. stop on an embankment...because obviously there's no way in hell regular commuter trains are going to cross 9 without saying a rosary first. But that's not megabucks so much as dirt-messy.
 

WormtownNative

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To expand off of the Fitchburg Secondary discussion, would a theoretical +1 to Clinton be worth it? Not much between 290 and downtown Clinton, and it would be a bit of a reach between stops, but downtown Clinton could have a decent catchment.
 

George_Apley

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Whether or not Clinton makes sense for MBCR, I'd love it those Wachusett towns and MetroWest towns within the 290 Northboro/495 Marlboro/495 Littleton triangle had express bus service from their centers to the nearest highway adjacent train station. Clinton, Hudson, West Boylston...
 

F-Line to Dudley

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To expand off of the Fitchburg Secondary discussion, would a theoretical +1 to Clinton be worth it? Not much between 290 and downtown Clinton, and it would be a bit of a reach between stops, but downtown Clinton could have a decent catchment.
Maybe...it would be worth a look-see on the second study go-around. Worst comes to worst you draw the line at Phase I at Northborough and Clinton is forever available for a later expansion because as described CSX has protectionism reasons for never giving up Clinton Jct. Clinton is a legit 'tweener...moderately dense downtown and outside of any of the nearby RTA bus districts. The mode share would probably be pretty high relative to its size if you extended there. The main concern is simply travel times. Northborough you can safely tuck to under an hour from Boston despite the twistiness of the Fitchburg Sec.; just skip Allston & Newton on the Worcester Line and start picking up local stops outside 128. Clinton and a presumed West Berlin spacer are an added 7.5 miles of more of the same corkscrewing, so I don't know if that starts approaching a mildly taxing schedule length or not (sort of akin to how the Milford extension of the Franklin Line starts to get a little dodgy on the stopwatch even if the ridership is there).

Further future when Worcester becomes a reverse-commute destination unto itself, Clinton Jct. is a useful routing for turning southbound on the PAR Worcester Main to Worcester Union Station. Stops at Oakdale (I-190/MA 12), Burncoat (north end of Worcester by West Boylston town line, also at 190/12), Greendale (190/290 split), Worcester Union Station: western Gardner Branch platform. Now this would be way too long a service pattern to run direct to Boston, but you could instead filet it so the Boston directs terminate at Northborough and a shuttle service pings between Framingham and Worcester Union to backfill frequencies for the northward sweep. Worcester Line frequencies will need to be maxed out enough to make the hop-across transfers at both termini dead-easy to stage at clock-facing intervals. But I could see that as a very viable final configuration for this line that hybridizes it between Boston commutes and Worcester commutes without overextending itself to its own demerit for either audience, and also one of the extremely few instances in MA where a shuttle service can carve out a viable niche without selling itself short. This corridor is overall a very underrated one for growth and flexibility.

So the 'vision thing' long-term for the Fitchburg Sec. is definitely centered on making use of the bend-back to Worcester once reverse-commuting reaches critical mass. And because there will always be that compelling second act to shoot for, plus the CSX protectionism to Clinton Jct., you aren't selling yourself short at all if a Phase I terminates at Northborough. Someday you will have compelling enough reason to go to Clinton even if that cresting has not arrived by the time you want to implant Boston-centric Phase I.
 

Wash

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The next (and every future) MBTA bus order should have left-hand doors. There's already a route that could make use of them but can't right now (cough-77, and that's a legit ADA issue), and with Everett already saying they want center-running BRT we'll be able to use them the minute they hit the pavement. It also opens up dozens of possibilities for future routings.
 
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Wash

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Also if we're talking about EMU cars, the MBTA could totally snag the ones Montreal is throwing out right about now (they're converting a heavy-rail line to light rail/light metro).

EDIT: Never mind, apparently they only have a maximum design speed of 75 mph. Yikes.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Also if we're talking about EMU cars, the MBTA could totally snag the ones Montreal is throwing out right about now (they're converting a heavy-rail line to light rail/light metro).

EDIT: Never mind, apparently they only have a maximum design speed of 75 mph. Yikes.
Worse than that. 75 is the design speed for the Bombardier MR-90, but the service speed they're maintained to is a pathetic 68 MPH (much like SEPTA Silverliner V's are 100 MPH factory, 90 MPH operated and Acela 1's are 170 MPH factory, actual-150/paper-165 in the field). You can run Fairmount or Riverside Urban Rail on that speed because they accelerate real nice and top speedometer rating doesn't matter much for intra-128 schedules with very dense stop spacing. But Amtrak dispatch will literally ban them outright from the Providence Line for being everyone's worst toilet clog, so for purposes of the T's initial electrification rollout the inability to run them as any sort of pool fleet is an instant deal-breaker. The MR-90's are physically incapable of running a 73-minute all-stops local PVD schedule like the incumbent 79 MPH diesel sets all can; they'd have to be padded out to at least 80 minutes, which ends up outright cutting daily service levels. Over those 44 NEC running miles there's enough unbroken 79 MPH cruising between the outer stops that MR-90's superior starting acceleration isn't anywhere near enough to pull it out of its top-speed deficit. This is a problem even if it's a disaster commute of delay recovery from a FUBAR'ed Terminal District and a Fairmount-assigned MR-90 has to get emergency-summoned from Readville Layover to spot-plug a PVD slot that's missing its regular equipment. Instantaneously you're 10+ minutes late running the round-trip and overtly worsening the southside's delay FUBAR where literally any spare diesel scrambled into the same slot is baseline-capable of 100% schedule adherence or ramping up via dispatch assistance to gradually recover lost time. So even a de jure separation of MR-90's to only the 128 runs doesn't work well enough in-practice to bite on, because Terminal FUBAR's are regularly recurring enough that Run As Directed NEC pool duty out of Readville is an unfortunate fact of life.

Plus the HSP-46 diesel locos and all Rotem + rebuilt Kawasaki bi-level coaches are default-rated for 93 MPH design speed (90 MPH practicing), unlike the 79 MPH-capped single-levels and F40PH/GP40MC locos where if one single 79 MPH make is mixed into an otherwise all-uniform 90 MPH set the whole lash-up defaults down to 79. Right now the equipment reserves just aren't robust enough to draw up a PVD schedule predicated on all- 90 MPH equipment where no 79 MPH buzzkills are forced to take up rotations, but given the +80 Rotem bi-levels on-order for 2022, coach assignment gerrymandering to all- 90 MPH equipment for Providence is probably well in the cards within 3 years. In which case they'd just need to pick up a few bargain-basement shortie rentals of surplus Amtrak Genesis P42 beaters to safeguard the reserves from slower F40's being slipped into spot rotation. Then the whole daily PVD schedule can be uprated for a 90 MPH baseline before the new-buy EMU's arrive on-property, cramming a few more outright slots onto the daily schedule. The flip to EMU's filling out the schedule then keeps the same top-line speed but slashes the margins for station dwell variance to account for the superior acceleration (i.e. why level-boarding upgrades are an ironclad requirement even with EMU's having rote standard low-level door traps). So that sequence of schedule re-drafts starting potentially sooner than EMU delivery also zeoes-out any potential for gimp-speed rentals like the MR-90's right up front.

Note also: the 90 MPH diesels will always have to cover some share of co-NEC schedules no matter how whole-hog we go on EMU's. RIDOT Woonsocket commuter rail is perma-diesel because of the double-stack freight clearances on the P&W main. But that relatively cut-rate service's greatest ridership share is the double-up it offers on the '295 midsection' NEC between Pawtucket-Wickford. The 90 MPH P-P sets can coexist just spiffy with Amtrak & the Purple EMU's on those runs; they simply trade running up against lower margins on their NEC station dwells for relaxed margins with built-in recovery on their station-few P&W miles. More temporarily, Stoughton isn't going to be electrified until South Coast Phase II has some sort of final plan because substation placement is contingent on whether the end of the line is ever extending. And RIDOT has to pass the penny jar to fundraise for T.F. Green & Wickford wire-up, so the super-long schedules will have to malinger on diesel for 2-5 extra years while they build matching NB platforms at each stop and do the wiring touches. Service levels are going to remain naturally crap at those stops as long as they're single-platform, so the 90 MPH P-P sets have no trouble doing that on the same gapped-out schedules as today. However, the 79 MPH sets are still a problem because if they have *any* chance of taking up these rotations the whole schedule gets leveled down to their lowest-common denominator. And that's where the slow stuff needs to get NEC shadow-banned and where the T can find some attractiveness in wholly-gravy Amtrak-dispersal beaters above the *absolute* level of loco reserves. But...also means the slow electric stuff like Montreal's good-condition orphans also can't be an option any way/shape/form at all, not even on short-term plug.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Is trolley-stituting route 77 a crazy transit pitch, or a reasonable one?
Crazy, but only because it's sort of a mis-read of what the corridor is. Upper Mass Ave. is characterized by hyper-local on-line ridership on the 77, 77A, 79 that significantly overturns at several points en route...and is generally not a one-seat corridor where people are riding for long distances. The overturn at Porter, for instance, is so enormous that you can almost cleave the Harvard-Porter and North Cambridge intracity halves off each other as unique catchments so few people ride thru the Porter divide. Similar effect with intra-Arlington travel cleaving at the city line with the 79 running into Alewife. So right then and there the corridor already eschews any BRT service identity (and thus all the same things you'd evaluate LRT on), as you would not be looking to prune stops for a faster end-to-end trip when end-to-end is such an inconclusively middling piece of the demand pie and hyper-local is where it's at. The dense stop spacing is a feature, not a bug. Thus, the everlasting needs of the corridor trend heavily to more/better relief valve bailouts at those 1.5-2 mile intervals so the increases in hyper-local demand have more substantial means of dumping their transfers. For example:
  • Alewife-Mass Ave. busways to speed the 79's last leg.
  • Possible extension of 77A to Alewife busways to mirror-image the intra-Arlington 79 for intra-Cambridge trips.
  • post-GLX bus revamp strengthening Arlington Center-Mystic Valley Parkway pipe (enhanced 80 frequencies + etc.)
  • post-GLX Route 16 BRT Alewife-Mystic Valley Parkway-Wellington-(possibly) Chelsea, creating major 77 transfer point at the parkway stop.
  • GLX Union to Porter superstation.
  • Fitchburg Line Urban Rail to 128 @ Porter superstation.
  • Red Line to Arlington Center & Arlington Heights.
Some of those are short-term like the Alewife busways and studies of post-GLX diverging bus revamps. Some of them are longer-term, like the proper Red extension. And some are medium-term, like GLX-Porter. But you get the idea. The most meaningful reaches addressing the Upper Mass Ave. corridor are all at the overchurn nodes, and with every additional strengthened touch accomplished there's always a next priority to turn to at strengthening another overchurn node. BRT (or LRT) on Mass Ave. itself never rates on this bucket list, because the dense stop spacing is the ever-differentiator between taking these buses vs. all the other modes & routes that hop straight to the overchurn points. The only schedule that matters for the on-corridor buses is keeping it reasonably efficient within every 2-mile hyper-local chunk to the next relief valve...not timing on-the-clock from Arlington Heights all the way to Harvard. Too few ever utilize it like that for BRT speedup features to rate. When the first change in BRT-ification is stop consolidation, it's already at odds with how people ride the constituent routes and begs the question of whether force-feeding those features because "sounds efficient" is in fact a mis-read of the corridor's vitals.

On-corridor the only big thing left improvements-wise is North Cambridge streetscaping. City has a lot of nice renders on what a transit- and biking- friendlier Harvard-Alewife Mass Ave. should look like. Right now it's stuck in vaporware purgatory without much in the way of kickstarter push, as they're content to study it about once per decade but never take any action. The renders themselves seem to be well thought-out, however. Seeks a net reduction in the truly excessive number of side-street traffic lights north of Porter and better turn-lane configurations across the board so the number of curb cuts isn't such a traffic clog. Simply moving forward with that and implementing transit priority signaling is pretty much all they need to do to tighten the bolts on the 77/77A. Arlington's re-streetscaping is long complete, and is a major improvement to 77/79 fluidity, so if Cambridge achieves similar the local conditions become about as good as they're going to get.

Most consequential state/not-municipal touch that could get cued up quickest would be finally--at long fucking last--building those Alewife-Mass Ave. busways. It's not a big-ticket item by any stretch, so long past time to stop talking about it and actually grade the grass on the sides of the parkway for this. It would be the perfect companion piece to funding-lump with GLX Mystic Valley Parkway, since spanning Alewife-MVP-Wellington with a BRT 'outer ring' Crosstown route is a mucho high-leverage touch implementable cheaply. Would also tag-team the Arlington-side improvements by substantially speeding the 79's rapid transit transfer at same time that the post-GLX bus revamp is strengthening the 80's Arlington Ctr.-GLX transfer pipe. Start right there, and sell it on the very strong GLX coattails for leveraging Mystic Valley Parkway. Sell job is important, because all the advocacy to-date has been about what a clusterfuck the current Alewife station access is with that carpocalypse rotary...and all that's netted in action to-date is ineffectual garbage like the most recent "Brownsberger Square" cosmetic re-striping of the rotary. Pols like the (unofficial) State Senate namesake/effigy of the last round of unimproved "improvements" still don't fucking get it and never fail to succumb to Alrewife car-centric zoning brainlock in the end, so the pivot to selling the busways on GLX (which by and large even the dumbest amongst them do seem to grasp at a basic-most level) is also explicit for shaking the cobwebs loose by changing the prevailing narrative. I've totally given up on Alewife-centric improvements ever originating from within Alewife itself; the local planning attitudes there are just hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. So literally can't hurt to try to turn the tables outside-in fashion by bootstrapping onto the GLX rejuvenation machine to try to get some overdue action here.
 
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