Regional Rail (RUR) & North-South Rail Link (NSRL)

F-Line to Dudley

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Building over a railroad tracks is MUCH more expensive than building on open land. That is what held up South Station and the air rights over the Pike. My suggestion of eliminating North Station also eliminates the cost of building over the tracks, and makes the land more valuable .
Who says Jacobs' land is even *mostly* over RR tracks like the 100% stilts job at South Station? Look at the slabs in question on Google, bisected by the cutting Leverett ramps. NS ≠ SS by a million degrees.

Backside of the Garden has slack space for 3 island platforms' worth of westward expansion should Draw 3 get reinstated...but that all ends a full 125+ ft. set back of Nashua St. Jacobs has a perfect rectangle fronting Nashua, north of Leverett ramp, stretching through about 3/4 of the footprint of the expendable ex-Spaulding building that nets 115K sq. ft. no air rights whatsoever...all at ground level. That's already bigger than the Hub on Causeway by a large measure, without engaging a single track's worth in the air. It's only when widening the rectangle on the backside that design considerations go into play for a partial back porch spanning some of the tracks. If you maxed out the entire back space to the contours of the Leverett ramp you net >200K sq. ft. of buildable space, but only a maximum of 35-40% of it has to pass over any tracks. Now, it's highly unlikely anyone would ever go for the max-out because the ramps contour it to pretty irregular shape by the curve in the road. The most 'buff' anyone would ever choose to go with the back porch is maybe a smaller rectangle behind the Nashua-facing one...50K sq. ft. of track overhang tops. Tops...with the sliding scale most likely favoring a much smaller porch.

The other parcel behind the Garden NE corner is a sloppy-seconds pinned in by the ramps and Big Dig vent shaft with claustophobic-at-best driveway access. At most a 50K sq. ft. slab entirely on-stilts, but the access problems would practically necessitate something much slimmer than that. And only after the Nashua St. frontage and any back-porch overreach is finished, because the Nashua access is so incredibly higher-leverage. So the parcel that is an actual SS Tower analogue is the last that will ever be developed here...if it's developed at all.


Lastly...a repeat: Jacobs is the oracle here, not punter's logic. He's not getting any younger, and so if he wants one last career capper he's going to move on the Nashua-facing parcel decades sooner than NSRL. Including back-porch considerations if that's a reach worth going for (but also maybe not). The argument for a zero-out of the surface terminal--already a weak one for the egress defaults on the likeliest tunnel Alt. and the scheduling punctuality standard such a blended system is shooting for--will be that much more weakened by the increased demand fueled by infill development Jacobs has sole rights to here. With or without it spreading onto a large porch, short porch, or no porch. Beware what wormholes our integrity-of-concept target fixations are leading us down. If it's that much easier on ops fluidity and demand to take a pass on touching the pre-existing station, then somebody's idea of zero-out perfection has a very tough hill to climb on self-justification. ^This^ is one such example, because when we say "air rights" we're talking an extremely different (nay, optional if the dev so chooses) maximum scope than SS air rights...but still a quite huge amount of transit demand-generating development putting its hand on the scale. It doesn't take a perfectly clear picture to keep NS Surface; rather, it's going to be the default hedge and fungible do-no-harm choice unless the zero-out schemes can overpower the argument with self-perfection. I just don't see where zero-out is going to score such an utterly perfect self-contained argument in light of the ops-punctuality considerations and what's likely to be built for new demand generation here. It's competing against very few downsides on leave-it-be.
 
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StillInTheHood

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Separate from the issues that F-Line covers above, I think we've lost sight of the objectives again. "North Station" obviously still needs to exist in some form, because the Orange/Green transfer is absolutely critical. In the absence of NS Surface, we are again stripping out platforms that can be used for short-turns, recovery and balance, and we are forcing every train, even long-haul Downeasters and future New Hampshire service into the expected-to-be very busy tunnel. At the risk of repetition, we again need to look at how successful RER systems operate in the real world. Some of the Munich S-Bahn lines need to manage around freights, too, believe it or not ... the "wobble" that F-Line describes is dealt with via LOTS of sidings and passing tracks. And as previously discussed, their system is built with lots of short-turn capacity.

Not long after NSRL is built, there will come a day when the tunnel is either inaccessible for a meaningful period of time during rush hour, or reduced to one track - perhaps there's a signal problem, a switch problem, a disabled train, an idiot who got onto the tracks, etcetera. It's not an everyday occurrence, but it's not THAT infrequent. There are backups of different durations in the Munich tunnels literally every week of the year.

Now what? When this happens in Munich, they short turn trains as necessary, making use of ample platform capacity at stations like Ostbahnhof, where there is good U-Bahn and bus access, as we also have at North Station/Haymarket. They logically prioritize certain lines (such as the airport line, unsurprisingly) and force other commuters to change trains. Obviously commuters grumble a bit when this happens, as the trains are more crowded, and some passengers bail altogether onto the U-Bahn. North Station would work similarly - if there's a problem and the trains need to terminate there, north side commuters can switch to the Orange Line to access Back Bay as they did in the old days. Not ideal, and subways and through trains get more crowded when there's a system hiccup, but it's not a catastrophe. The short-turned trains are often able to approximate the original schedules, and when the problem is resolved, recovery is quite quick. A bunch of people may be 20 minutes late to the office, but they've forgotten about it by lunchtime.

How is this going to work here without NS Surface? Imagine inbound trains on every single northside line with literally no place in the city to go. Even if the problem is deeper into the tunnel and NS Under is still accessible, there won't be capacity to turn all the inbound trains there, unless we are replicating a bunch of extra platform capacity underground, which would cost a bundle and defeat the supposed purpose of eliminating the existing surface station. So ... ??? I suspect the default would be to cancel a bunch of trains in advance and a whole lot of waiting on all the inbound lines enroute. Maybe if you are on the Fitchburg line you'll be lucky enough to be short-turned at Porter, where at least there's a Red Line connection. Otherwise, though, I'd expect a bunch of very pissed off commuters to be stuck for an indeterminate period of time at remote stations, or, even worse, between stations. Schedules would still messed up hours after the problem is cleared. People end up being hours late, and they not only remember it at lunchtime, they are still pissed about it the following week. A multi-branch system with :15 headways that goes through a central tunnel can get bottled up really, really quickly. And when the end stations are more than 40 miles from the city center - much longer than the longest Munich S-Bahn line, BTW - any little whoopsie leads to a conga line of traffic that needs to be dealt with immediately and efficiently by the ops team.

If you haven't experienced an RER system like this on an everyday basis, as a thought exercise imagine if the Green Line couldn't turn at Park Street or Government Center or reverse at Kenmore ... and instead of ever hearing "sorry, this train is being taken out of service" at Park Street, every single time that situation happened you were instead summarily dumped at Brookline Village or Boston University or Audubon Circle or Brigham Circle and left waiting for a recovery bus. Now imagine that 10x worse, since these heavy rail stations are more remote and much further apart and it's more of a logistical challenge to hurry buses to them. In the present day, we ALREADY see blips causing ridiculous backups on the existing MBTA commuter rail even with infrequent headways and without a tunnel ... we'd just be ensuring our legacy of brittle service continues exponentially into the future.

So North Station surface stays. As for its theoretical future best configuration and how many platforms it requires, I leave that to F-Line and engineers that know a lot more about this than I do. (All of this, BTW, is also why a 4-track tunnel would conceptually be better than a 2-track tunnel ... the latter is inherently brittle even WITH ample short-turn provision on both ends).
 

F-Line to Dudley

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So North Station surface stays. As for its theoretical future best configuration and how many platforms it requires, I leave that to F-Line and engineers that know a lot more about this than I do. (All of this, BTW, is also why a 4-track tunnel would conceptually be better than a 2-track tunnel ... the latter is inherently brittle even WITH ample short-turn provision on both ends).
Tunnel stations would be constructed as such:
  • Station bores are 2 tracks each just like the mainline. On the 4-track unified CA/T bore you'd have semi structural separation of Tks. 1 & 2 from Tks. 3 & 4 at each of the stations.
  • Each 2-track station bore would have 1050 ft. Northeast Regional max-length side platforms 16 ft. wide...and also a center platform 30 ft. wide between the 2 tracks so all doors can open at once. All-doors/both-sides boarding is crucial for retaining TPH throughput in very constrained spaces, because these platforms will be narrow for the intense amount of projected foot traffic. Center platform is where hop-on transfers are most easily facilitated.
    • 16 ft. wide side platforms are wider than T-minimum spec 6 ft., and 30 ft. center platforms are wider than T-minimum spec 12 ft.
  • 3 egresses per station...at ends and center of platforms
  • Mezzanine right upstairs atop the roof of the bore for quickly switching side platforms, or changing from one 2-track bore to the other 2-track bore for the 4-track C/AT builds. You do not have to go all 100 ft. up to the top unless you're changing to rapid transit or surface.
  • Central Station on the CA/T alignment is constrained. Platforms will sit on a slight grade (within ADA tolerances), and will be 800 ft. maxi-T length instead of maxi-AMTK length.

Earlier scoping studies tried a track fan-out instead with 4-track mainline tunnel spreading into 6-8 SS + NS platforms and up to 6 CS platforms for traffic-managing platform dwells. That did not prove feasible, because the only way to make it work was to go with minimum allowable width platforms w/ one-side doors only...and that simply wasn't good enough for managing the boarding/alighting foot traffic. It actually worsened dwells vs. cutting the track margins but fattening the platforms, and the crossover games that had to be played at the fan-outs/mash-ins flanking the stations brought throughput back to par despite the extra tracks.

Keep this in mind, because there is no effing way you're short-turning on-platform anywhere in the tunnel, as that effectively takes 1 whole track of tunnel out-of-service while you're pulling the reverse. Also...2-track only build has very reduced throughput in a disablement or late-running slot so practically we're going to need the resiliency of quad-track in lieu of having any turnouts. And this is going to throw lots of cold water on anybody's dreams of getting rid of NS Surface, given that punctuality has to be immaculate and pairing rotations rationed to good balance to keep dwells from overspilling very tight margins. Deviations from average pairings are really going to need to be prioritized for surface dumps.

In short...we did learn a lot in 20 years about what makes an underground thru station...and it's some bit of good news (Japanese best-practice scheduling + not cutting egress flow to the bone) and some bit of bad (no room for extra turnouts and dwell-safety slack within the engineering constraints, because wider-than-minimum egresses are too critical for throughput). Plot accordingly on what features you're gung-ho to cut vs. hold the line for.
 
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tysmith95

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Crazy transit pitch: put I-93 through downtown on a diet, have trains run through that tunnel.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Crazy transit pitch: put I-93 through downtown on a diet, have trains run through that tunnel.
Wouldn't work. The grades on 93 are too steep and meandering for rail. Drive it NB and see how right at the bottom of the incline you've got the curve + sudden upslope after the first merge. That's a definite no-go for rail grades.

Plus the highway level leaks like a sieve. The one thing the lower-level dig will have going for it is that the bare slurry walls will be properly sealed with a regular old inner lining to keep it groundwater-tight like a normal tunnel. On the highway level they're unsealed in order to fit the same lane width on-footprint as the old surface Artery. The bare slurry wall leaks are supposed to be a "feature" mitigable through regular maintenance, but the Big Dig engineers underestimated just how much it would leak so the annual maint cost chew is way higher than anticipated. That thankfully will not be a problem on the rail level, 2-track or 4-track CA/T alignment.
 

Riverside

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TransitMatters has released their commentary on the MBTA EMU RFI responses.

Overall, I think it's a nice little explainer piece that could be helpful for laypeople to demystify the procurement process a bit.

I am glad to see more openness to bi-levels in this document. I don't deny that singles are better in many situations, and that it's easy to overlook the impact of dwell times on the rider user experience while being distracted by the larger capacity -- this does tie back to the general mindshift away from "run bigger/longer trains" toward "run more trains a lot more frequently". I'm glad that TM has brought that consideration to the table. But, compared to the other battles that need to be fought, I do not think single-levels are a hill worth dying on.

I'm still concerned about the implicit vision for the Eastern Route. This new post reiterates the idea that the route would be electrified to Beverly, with short-turn EMU service terminating there, and diesel push-pull services continuing out to Newburyport and Rockport. And the whole goal of this proposal is to bring 15-minute-or-better headways to communities like Beverly, Salem, and Lynn.

Sooo if electric vs diesel weren't a factor, the easy way to achieve that goal would be to run 30-minute headways on each of the branches, which would combine at Beverly to provide 15-minute headways to the south.

But if the southern half is electric and the northern half isn't... then where exactly are those EMUs supposed to fit into the timetable? Are we talking about...

A) 30 min diesel headways on branches, which then run express between Boston and Beverly every 15 minutes, while the EMUs cover local stops on an off-set 15 minute cadence?
B) 30 min diesel headways on branches which then stop locally Beverly-Lynn every 15 minutes, while EMUs layer in to raise Boston-Beverly headways to 7.5 minutes?

Option B means that only 50% of service Boston-Beverly would be electric, which dilutes the benefits of that service. Option A seems operationally dicey, although maybe not impossible. (Although neither of the above options take into account the timetabling challenges of turning trains at Beverly.)

(For what it's worth, if you were going to run 4 tph express service from the North Shore, I think Salem makes a much better node than Beverly.)

I'm not trying to be negative here. I recognize the benefits of folding Beverly into a string of North Shore gateway cities alongside Lynn (and Salem). And in general, the Eastern Route hits all of the remaining gateway cities in within 128 that lack rapid rail transit: Everett, Chelsea, Lynn, Salem (and potentially Peabody), so there are good reasons to target it for electrification.

But the vision here is unclear and I worry that exposes it to stonewalling.

And -- not for nothing -- but this question is not a trivial one. By TM's own admission, bi-levels would indeed be effective on the Providence/Stoughton, Lowell, and Framingham/Worcester Lines. The only two cases they specify as better fits are the Fairmount... and the Eastern Route. But if the Eastern Route is going to be saddled with 50% diesel push-pulls, then that's going to put a definite limit on the impact that single-levels would have -- you're simply not going to get that near-rapid-transit experience. So, if that means the only place where singles are better is Fairmount, then it's probably better off to just go with the bi-levels for now.

As I say -- I think that single-levels are not the hill worth dying on.
 

Deetroyt

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if both branches of Rockport/newburyport are electrified, and a line to Peabody is electrified splitting off Salem tunnel, will the inner portions of this line ever see less-than-15-minute headways? Assuming the grade crossings in Chelsea/Everett are eliminated, would it be realistic to get 10 or 7.5 min headways at Chelsea station, for example?
 

Riverside

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^ In short, yes, you could make that kind of thing happen, but that pre-supposes electrifying Rockport and Newburyport all the way out to the boonies, which is explicitly not on the table for the TransitMatters proposal.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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TransitMatters has released their commentary on the MBTA EMU RFI responses.

Overall, I think it's a nice little explainer piece that could be helpful for laypeople to demystify the procurement process a bit.

I am glad to see more openness to bi-levels in this document. I don't deny that singles are better in many situations, and that it's easy to overlook the impact of dwell times on the rider user experience while being distracted by the larger capacity -- this does tie back to the general mindshift away from "run bigger/longer trains" toward "run more trains a lot more frequently". I'm glad that TM has brought that consideration to the table. But, compared to the other battles that need to be fought, I do not think single-levels are a hill worth dying on.
I still think they'd be making their lives easier if they just straight-up recapped the T's RFI responses instead of clinging to abstractia. 6 responses, 3 flats & 3 bi's. 2 of the 3 flats respondants (Rotem and CRRC) are ineligible for federal funding because of either inability to meet Buy America domestic assembly or federal trade sanctions. Ergo, on the procurement process weights with overwhelming odds to a bi-level pick. Bam...nice, clean, and real-world rooted. You don't have any stray tangents open that way (since they cited no dissatisfaction with any of the T's RFI specs as if that would make any other applicable vendors gun-shy about bidding). Therefore a simple "...and this is what the market has said it will bear for the timing" is bulleted right up-front as a major driver of the implementation plan.

Their other point about differentiating fleets later by Urban Rail vs. Regional Rail service tiers are right on-point. As is the (very correct) statement that differentiation is key and that mixing flats and bi's in same set is a "worst of all worlds" for dwell management. Now...hang those around the RFI results and you've got a driving mandate for how the implementation is going to break out. Because now you know you're 75% or higher likely to be getting bi-levels for Phase I because the market has spoken, so the contours are already set for putting your best foot forward.

Small nitpick...but I sense a slight hesitation to get out of the shallow-end comfort of abstract whitepaper-land and actually start return-volleying the plan vs. "world practice" conditions that have already been settled. Such as an RFI that just did a totally "world practice" stab and got the return bids it got from the world vehicle market. The game-time clock is already running in the real world. It would actually HELP enormously to frame implementation against a process that is already real and on-the-ground moving.

I'm still concerned about the implicit vision for the Eastern Route. This new post reiterates the idea that the route would be electrified to Beverly, with short-turn EMU service terminating there, and diesel push-pull services continuing out to Newburyport and Rockport. And the whole goal of this proposal is to bring 15-minute-or-better headways to communities like Beverly, Salem, and Lynn.

Sooo if electric vs diesel weren't a factor, the easy way to achieve that goal would be to run 30-minute headways on each of the branches, which would combine at Beverly to provide 15-minute headways to the south.

. . .
Right...still utterly incoherent on its face. How is there a "justice" mandate for electric when 100% of the baseline headway -providing schedule is still diesel. If electrics are simply above-and-beyonds to the same-old Rockburyport diesels (which, make no mistake, can make the reference schedule during a bridge era)...then when do we see the share of the pie actually quantified in shares between the :30 Newburyport diesels, :30 Rockport diesels, and ??? Beverly short-turn electrics. The "justice" & priority value proposition is completely and totally contingent on hanging real numbers on those shares. Let's see those numbers at long last before continuing to assume that this is as utmost a Phase I priority as advertised. And then...after showing those electric vs. diesel share numbers...explain how the Beverly mandate triumphs over the more brittle traffic situation they engage by passing up their Salem throttles, engaging the swing bridge with its big seasonal swings in utilization, and fitting a layover yard that last mention said was going to be on the opposite side of all bottlenecks (i.e. south of tunnel portal) requiring re-engaging of all said brittleness on purely deadhead moves.

This is second 'official' statement on the Eastern's über priority. This substantive proving can't still be left to "That Be Dragons" imagination. We're being told this is a higher priority than other options that do have their build/ops details nailed down with certitude. Certitude's now required here. Fill in the detail...now.

I'm not trying to be negative here. I recognize the benefits of folding Beverly into a string of North Shore gateway cities alongside Lynn (and Salem). And in general, the Eastern Route hits all of the remaining gateway cities in within 128 that lack rapid rail transit: Everett, Chelsea, Lynn, Salem (and potentially Peabody), so there are good reasons to target it for electrification.

But the vision here is unclear and I worry that exposes it to stonewalling.
Maybe more indicative of they're now struggling with whether the bold initial "mandate" statement on the Eastern is implementable in the real-world as a first priority. But as I noted with the very academic non-citation of market forces on the vehicle purchase, maybe also an internal struggle to let go of the reference-whitepaper world and acknowledge that we are to some nascent degree already real-world underway here where adjusting to outside realities IS the only "world practice" that matters. Let's face it...it's way easier to write a convincing manifesto than it is to implement one. So what happens when somebody takes your new world order and says "Sure, I'll buy that...now show me how it's done." You're not living amongst the safety of "theory" anymore, that's for damn sure.

In the real world I'm not sure how you draw up a maths pie of Rockburyports vs. all-electrics and fill a cup to anywhere near the degree of urgency first presented. Simply because it's a maths problem. Piecemeal-northside electrification in and of itself might be too big a reach if the sunk cost of electrifying the terminal district means that either/or or both 495-land Eastern branches can't be expedited at-once or in very quick succession. A natural self-check question would be "Do we get a whole lot further doing Franklin/Foxboro in Phase I and loading up for bear with multiple northside lines on the next installment?" That's not a hard pivot to spin if you crunched the maths and just can't portion a pie in Phase I that lives up to its value proposition. It would be the same thing as making peace with bi-levels because the market has spoken. You can level with the North Shore over that, because they still will be getting :30 + :30 = :15 if there's a diesel bridge era and utilizing the Salem capacity offsets can goose the inner zones with still-fatter service during that bridge era.

It's all about whether they're ready to admit that ideals have to contour to reality, and the party that learns to contour BEST is the one that gets the most real-world accomplished. And first step therein is realizing we're not writing whitepapers anymore...this is action time.

And -- not for nothing -- but this question is not a trivial one. By TM's own admission, bi-levels would indeed be effective on the Providence/Stoughton, Lowell, and Framingham/Worcester Lines. The only two cases they specify as better fits are the Fairmount... and the Eastern Route. But if the Eastern Route is going to be saddled with 50% diesel push-pulls, then that's going to put a definite limit on the impact that single-levels would have -- you're simply not going to get that near-rapid-transit experience. So, if that means the only place where singles are better is Fairmount, then it's probably better off to just go with the bi-levels for now.

As I say -- I think that single-levels are not the hill worth dying on.
As above, I think they've mostly got this answer in reach (though way moreso on the vehicular realities than their northside priority picks)...but there's some apparent hesitancy to give up the safety of the abstract for the game of adjustments that is real implementation. Not necessarily worrisome as this is a maximally stressful point in time for TM needing to multitask while recovering from self-inflicted stumbles on what has--frankly--been a 2020 chock full of unforced errors and inadequate self-checking by their 'manifesto'-writing arm. What we're seeing now is pretty much the definition of learning how to swim for-real by getting chucked in the deep end.
 

George_Apley

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This is second 'official' statement on the Eastern's über priority. This substantive proving can't still be left to "That Be Dragons" imagination. We're being told this is a higher priority than other options that do have their build/ops details nailed down with certitude. Certitude's now required here. Fill in the detail...now.
I wonder if it has something to do with them not wanting to back or advocate for BLX-Lynn. I got into it with Ari on Twitter about BLX vs Urban Rail. He's very dug into the "UR makes BLX moot" position.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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if both branches of Rockport/newburyport are electrified, and a line to Peabody is electrified splitting off Salem tunnel, will the inner portions of this line ever see less-than-15-minute headways? Assuming the grade crossings in Chelsea/Everett are eliminated, would it be realistic to get 10 or 7.5 min headways at Chelsea station, for example?
^ In short, yes, you could make that kind of thing happen, but that pre-supposes electrifying Rockport and Newburyport all the way out to the boonies, which is explicitly not on the table for the TransitMatters proposal.
Correct and correct. Tri-branch line would be :30 + :30 + :30 layered on top (regardless of power source), though in that case you would probably see *some* skip-stoppage by the long-haul schedules for the sake of incentivizing better end-to-end travel times to 495-land. So, for example, Riverworks (or Lynnport, per that apartment developer's public-private scheme to redev it) probably is only going to be featured on 2 of 3 schedules...and Salem State U. only featured on 2 of 3 schedules. And any other infills like a reanimated East Lynn stop, or even Swampscott because it's of considerably less importance than the flagship Chelsea-Lynn-Salem trio. So you may see genuine sub-:15 headways as the Big 3 monster stops with all the bus transfers...but a looser :30 + :30 = straight-:15 at the other inner intermediates.

As discussed extensively prior, TM's bullheadedness on Beverly-or-bust is baffling because of the way it passes up eminently/immediately usable traffic throttles at Salem. The Peabody Branch turnout is inside the tunnel making it possible to have unimpeded tunnel passage for a headway-booster if BOTH would-be mainline platforms north-of-portal are occupied. You could basically have a situation where out of 3 total Salem platforms and 2 total South Salem platforms that any 4-out-of-5 platform berths can be occupied at any given moment and still afford free passage through the tunnel. That's a MASSIVE above-and-beyond reach for capacity...something you absolutely do not get at Beverly where every single thing has to thread through the same north-of-portal track split to the same 2 mainline platforms. And engage the variability of the swing bridge to boot. Throw in layover space: 1750 ft. x 3 tracks at North St. Freight Yard on the Peabody Branch immediately adjacent to Salem Station (expansion room for a 4th track if pax layover + freight storage have to coexist) vs. 2 MOW tracks @ 950 ft. and 750 ft. each at Bev Depot...no expansion possible because the power line poles run through the middle of that yardlet. That's why the TM plan for Bev-or-bust required copious deadheading back south over the bridge (and curiously...also through the tunnel in ignorance that North St. Yard even exists) to triage those turns.

You can easily see what a feast-or-famine difference it is in trying to flush the schedules fuller with electrics. The math doesn't compute. And for whatever reason...they simply are not adjusting at all here, whereas this new statement of theirs does demonstrate real accommodation-to-circumstance with the modified statement on vehicle purchase options. So it's baffling. This is a huge honking conflict, and not a hard one to quantify vs. available adjustments when right down the road in Salem has a whole shitton of adjustment potential. I guess they're just not ready to relent on this Bev-or-Bust mandate yet. Eventually they'll have no choice because when maths don't work they just don't work.


And yes, the Chelsea grade crossings are TERRIBLE for current schedule adherence. Eastern Ave. alone is responsible for inducing the longest speed restriction on the entire line, which is why crossing elimination there was a top rec of the 2004 North Shore Transit Improvements study. Everett Ave. is going to be genuinely brutal to try and eliminate, but thankfully it is not a train-traffic problem because of all schedules slowing to a stop there. It's a local carpocalypse problem; City of Chelsea has to decide how much it's worth it to them. If you can do the Eastern Ave. elimination, and outright close 6th/Arlington in favor of a pedestrian underpass you've probably settled all that needs to be settled for RUR schedule adherence. 2nd and Spruce really don't matter until Urban Ring or expanded SL3 frequencies force the issue. 3rd should've been barricaded off years ago but Peter Pan Bus long ago bought off all the local-yokel pols so they could have their precious shortcut from their bus yard. Oak Island Rd. in Revere is a nothing crossing except for its unseemly-high pedestrian fatality rate, and they could easily steamroll the Beverly NIMBY's over barricading Water St. by citing Homeland Security blah blah over access proximity to the swing bridge. You're pretty much just picking off loose ends after the big clog Eastern Ave. gets taken care of, so in no way does real-deal RUR prep (diesel or electric) require up-front completism here.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I wonder if it has something to do with them not wanting to back or advocate for BLX-Lynn. I got into it with Ari on Twitter about BLX vs Urban Rail. He's very dug into the "UR makes BLX moot" position.
Whelp, that explains "Zombie Wonderland's" inclusion. Good God...what bullheaded stubborness. Even the pols are getting wise to the fact that they serve DIVERGENTLY different travel patterns.

Similar to the critique that Aloisi needs to start cracking the whip on free-associative blog posts not being fully vetted before they're published as official policy statements under the ENTIRE organization's masthead...some lessons need to start getting doled out about picking online fights about supposedly knowing what's better for a commuter's commute than the needs plainly enumerated by the very groups of commuters making those commutes. Alon Levy has SIGNIFICANTLY evolved on this front ever since he started taking paying invites to speak at conferences and do involved gig work on city bus network reboots. You don't find him going off-rails dogmatic at people describing their own local mobility needs like that popcorn-worthy couple weeks he crashed here on aB a few years ago. Kind of kills the gig work dead real quick to be biting the hand that feeds you a little *too* hard.

Ari's still prone to throwing poo on UHub threads...UHub!...when he's in a filthy enough mood, so that's one who unfortunately has not yet gotten the hang of the whole 'living with optics' aspect of gig work. Which, OK...fair enough, everyone learns for the first time. But where's Aloisi's choke chain been hiding this year if TM reps are still not getting with the program that they wear their affiliations on social media?
 
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George_Apley

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Well to be fair, he was courteous in our brief convo, just very dug in.
 

Riverside

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I wonder if TransitMatters sees coalition-building benefits to a Phase 1B to Beverly. The original proposal for electrification several months ago only ran to Lynn. Operationally, that still would have encountered a number of similar issues to the present proposal -- you still ultimately will have 4 diesel trains per hour going into the Boston. But, given that a Lynn-Chelsea-North Station-Chelsea-Lynn round trip can be completed in 1 hour (with turning time), it would only take four EMU sets to bolster those frequencies from Lynn into actual rapid transit frequencies. So, depending on the size of the EMU order, it may be that much easier to get to "Mission Accomplished" of some sort with Lynn.

But like I mentioned earlier, that whole corridor is very attractive. Maybe there are non-trivial inside-baseball benefits to getting Salem and Beverly onboard too.

I don't know. Purely from an ops perspective (and an armchair ops perspective at that), it would seem to me to make the most sense to electrify Reading first: reroute the Haverhills over the Wildcat, which can then give you 15-minutes-or-better within 128 on the Lowell Line; use EMUs for the short-turn service to Reading, which is an ideal target for EMUs given the shockingly close stop spacing; and redistribute the Reading diesel sets onto the Fitchburg and Eastern Routes to bulk up frequencies, especially on short-turn service within 128. As F-Line mentioned, it is possible to get 15-minute headways between Beverly and Boston on diesel rolling stock, no question about it.

But... compared to the Eastern Route, the Reading Line serves smaller sleepy suburbs which are generally more affluent. Hell, Lynn alone has more residents than Melrose, Wakefield and Reading combined. Justifying to the public and politicians alike why Reading is a better candidate for electrification is a tall order, especially if we are leaning into the heuristic that "electrification = better service in all cases".

TransitMatters tosses cold water on the idea of dual-mode locomotives by comparing the cost of individual locomotives to the cost of electrifying north of Beverly. But if we need to go with an incremental approach to northside electrification, then I think it's not so obvious.

Electric trains on the southside is a no-brainer: Providence is electrified end-to-end, and Fairmount service can be self-contained. (And can also handle some minor level of thru-running Franklin diesels -- unlike south-of-Beverly, you don't need to funnel every single Franklin train down the Fairmount in the short term, the NEC's longterm capacity notwithstanding.) That's what I mean by northside electrification being incremental -- electrification works well when you can run self-contained service end-to-end within its bounds, which is not really available on the northside topology -- except on the Reading Line.

Dual-mode locomotives bring their own world of problems -- it's definitely not something to jump to as a first resort. But dual-modes would also have a long life of usability for the T. Beyond use on the Eastern Route, they could also be used by Franklin and Stoughton trains, which would reduce air pollution further along the NEC and Midland Route, which would in turn free up diesel sets for routes that need them. And the availability of dual-modes would smooth the expansion of electrification further, as you'd be able to reap incremental benefits sooner, rather than being forced into the all-or-nothing conversations we're having now. Plus, the benefit on the Eastern Route would be real as well -- imagine the slogan: "No more diesel fumes in Lynn -- clean transit for all".
 

jklo

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I wonder if it has something to do with them not wanting to back or advocate for BLX-Lynn. I got into it with Ari on Twitter about BLX vs Urban Rail. He's very dug into the "UR makes BLX moot" position.
I'm convinced that BLX would just be NIMBY'd, even if you somehow got the EPA to approve of laying new track in a marsh. Not to mention it would be extremely expensive. EMUs is more realistic and would be a nice win.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I wonder if TransitMatters sees coalition-building benefits to a Phase 1B to Beverly. The original proposal for electrification several months ago only ran to Lynn. Operationally, that still would have encountered a number of similar issues to the present proposal -- you still ultimately will have 4 diesel trains per hour going into the Boston. But, given that a Lynn-Chelsea-North Station-Chelsea-Lynn round trip can be completed in 1 hour (with turning time), it would only take four EMU sets to bolster those frequencies from Lynn into actual rapid transit frequencies. So, depending on the size of the EMU order, it may be that much easier to get to "Mission Accomplished" of some sort with Lynn.

But like I mentioned earlier, that whole corridor is very attractive. Maybe there are non-trivial inside-baseball benefits to getting Salem and Beverly onboard too.

I don't know. Purely from an ops perspective (and an armchair ops perspective at that), it would seem to me to make the most sense to electrify Reading first: reroute the Haverhills over the Wildcat, which can then give you 15-minutes-or-better within 128 on the Lowell Line; use EMUs for the short-turn service to Reading, which is an ideal target for EMUs given the shockingly close stop spacing; and redistribute the Reading diesel sets onto the Fitchburg and Eastern Routes to bulk up frequencies, especially on short-turn service within 128. As F-Line mentioned, it is possible to get 15-minute headways between Beverly and Boston on diesel rolling stock, no question about it.

But... compared to the Eastern Route, the Reading Line serves smaller sleepy suburbs which are generally more affluent. Hell, Lynn alone has more residents than Melrose, Wakefield and Reading combined. Justifying to the public and politicians alike why Reading is a better candidate for electrification is a tall order, especially if we are leaning into the heuristic that "electrification = better service in all cases".
Well...Reading electrification starts begging the questions "why not Orange"? Granted...I think the self-containedness of the infrastructure running a solo :15 service while thru Haverhill runs are booted back to the NH Main justifies the wire-up now because there really isn't much in the way of other upgrading to square. The "whither Orange" debate, which TM is definitely clued in on, looms larger when NSRL enters the picture more seriously and you have to start hashing out a map where the inner Western Route does a very poor/systemwide-gimp job at absorbing a pair matching without lots more upgrading.

The Eastern is hands-down the highest demand. Nobody's ever doubted that. This is simply a matter of whether first-dip electrification that has to spend proportionately a real lot on the terminal district can afford to not electrify all the way to Newburyport or Rockport when the resulting service is...???...and vast majority still diesel. No one's yet taken a stab at what share the electric Beverly short-turn supplementals are going to be, or how they square with the capacity constraints of Beverly-proper across the bridge solely on the mainline vs. the wider options of a Salem traffic filet. If those service levels are like <10% electric, you can't justify it. Either the wad for breaking the northside has to be way larger up-front to complete at least one of the branches and get that electric share to >50%, or it's simply biting off more than they can chew for Phase I/IB and they have to reevaluate whether they can mount their own mandate.

Yeah...Reading and Waltham/Littleton can/should enter immediately into the alternatives question if it is too big a first bite. But chances are the answer is going to be: circle back to more southside completism first because dividing efforts is the reason why you can't afford to go far enough on the North Shore for it to service-matter. Finish another high-leverage gimme like Franklin/Foxboro and twist some screws with MassDOT for more answer clarity on South Coast Phase II-via-Stoughton plans so Canton vs. Easton substation placement on the Stoughton Branch isn't this unplannably wide-open question no one at state level is willing to take crack at. When you've got Providence, Fairmount, Worcester, Franklin/Foxboro, and RIDOT Intrastate settled that's like 70% of the southside fleet requirements flipped to EMU right there. Old Colony isn't answerable today because there's been no action on studies for fixing the Dorchester pinch, Stoughton has the substation placement dilemma that is actionable but requires that somebody MUST speak thoroughly to SCR Phase II's future status before a sub siting decision is made, and Needham's the gimp that can't run the schedules to begin with because OL/GL conversion is the only way to sidestep the SW Corridor bottleneck. You don't have much *big* to do on the southside after the first-dip priorities and a second follow-thru dip like Franklin, so that means a northside introduction stacked to Phase 2 can really load up on necessary funding and not be a divide-and-self-conquer job like the current Eastern plan is shaping up to be. Since RUR is implementable with the diesel baseline, that's not a hard conclusion to level with the North Shore over.

TransitMatters tosses cold water on the idea of dual-mode locomotives by comparing the cost of individual locomotives to the cost of electrifying north of Beverly. But if we need to go with an incremental approach to northside electrification, then I think it's not so obvious.
Yes. The only viable application for commuter dual-modes is an unventilated tunnel. Meaning: NJT, Metro North, and LIRR...no one else. And Exo Montreal is no longer a member of that club anymore since the Mt. Royal Tunnel was (somewhat biz-dubiously) sold to that private firm for LRT conversion with electric service now officially ended on their CR network. Absent the tunnel prereq where duals are still the most practical means to an end despite the premiums they are overweight/inefficient pigs by design, and the need to deal with compromised prime movers to work full-capability diesel mode in one frame usually means the fuel and emissions efficiency sucks pales compared to a conventional diesel. NJT's ALP-45DP's are pretty slick bastards in E-mode, but their dual gensets guzzle fuel like drunken sailors in diesel mode. NJT's very heavy investment in equal-mode capable duals like that thus immediately begs the question: when are they going to electrify more of the North Jersey Coast Line and Morris & Essex Lines to tame those $$$-suck diesel miles? Half-and-half territory is really inefficient for them without any plans on the books to plug some more unwired gaps on those lines. And their ops practices have been extra-super sloppy with the duals being equal-opportunity Hoboken vs. Penn assignees when a straight-diesel would literally cost less than a half-wire schedule beginning/ending outdoors @ Hoboken. While duals are more numerous in Europe and especially in the U.K., they aren't exactly "smart" practice there either sans the unventilated tunnel prereq. In the UK they're kind of the hacky political solution for the diesel branches still being the third-class have-nots of Network Rail, not an application born of much ops efficiency.

We'll be considering them in due time if and only if NSRL comes to fruition, because there may still be some tough nuts to pound out on complete 100% system electrification by then. Places like Haverhill where double-stack freight clearances are going to make that northside's clear last-ups, and for diffuse-traffic regions like weaving Cape, FR-Newport, Manchester/Concord into the mix. Probably a *small* and very hyper-targeted fleet given the remainders in consideration. Right-sized to the job that's no problem. But, yeah...it's absolutely bunk that you save one penny buying slovenly duals for that bridge era on Rockburyport schedules where the wires stop at Bev Depot. You will burn so much extra $$$ in ops/maint of those complicated beast then you will ever save in tokenism E-mode. Any half-electrified line is going to be running its thru schedule to un-electrified territory with straight diesels...full-stop. Because that's still the most cost-effective way. Unless/until NSRL becomes an ops reality, they can't take a hard enough pass on entertaining duals. It's a purchase guided by necessity--namely, ventilation or lackthereof--not incrementalism.


(**Differing economics for Amtrak, which is strongly considering NEC duals for the Virginia & Springfield Regionals + Pennsylvanian Their economic gain is in eliminating time-chewing engine swap moves at D.C., New Haven, and Philly...and clearing out premium yard space at those mega-city terminals from being wasted by storing duplicate-count locos for every multi-power trip. And they aren't planning to lose their minds on this procurement like NJT arguably did...just enough to do the bandwidth-clearing job without getting sucked into too much extra overhead.
 

millerm277

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I'm convinced that BLX would just be NIMBY'd, even if you somehow got the EPA to approve of laying new track in a marsh. Not to mention it would be extremely expensive. EMUs is more realistic and would be a nice win.
By who? I don't think a couple blocks of Revere homeowners have that kind of political clout and there's certainly no one with a reason to oppose it on the Lynn side.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I'm convinced that BLX would just be NIMBY'd, even if you somehow got the EPA to approve of laying new track in a marsh. Not to mention it would be extremely expensive. EMUs is more realistic and would be a nice win.
Won't take a gander at the NIMBY question, because until there's a study where you're actually interfacing with Revere community for fresh input that's but a wild guess. It's been a pretty long time since their opinion was last half-seriously sampled on the matter.

But EMU's "more realistic". No...just no. How many times does this have to be spelled out: WILDLY DIFFERENT AUDIENCES. Look at Blue vs. the Eastern corridors on the all-modes fold-out system map. Bus origins and destinations in particular. Chelsea and Lynn are not direct-connected by much of anything, and never have been because they grew up on opposite sides of a great big swamp. It's a Lynn-Revere, Revere-Lynn, Maverick-Chelsea, Chelsea-Maverick point-to-point transit world out there, and Broadway in Revere is the only tangible melting pot where the Maverick 1xx's and Lynn 4xx's intertwine. That's the most succinct reason that "Zombie Wonderland" studies out an absolute loser on ridership every...damn...time it gets brought up anew. That direction is not where anyone's making their local connections No one ever projects crossing the 1000 ft. of parking moonscape to make a transfer, because Revere Beach & Eastie are not where the bulk of anyone boarding the Purple Line @ Lynn are going and Chelsea is not where the bulk of people riding any 4xx route into Lynn are going.

The shorefolk are making their local connections on the taffy-stretched Lynn-Wonderland extensions of all the 4xx's where their schedules go to die in 1A traffic, an artificial routing contraption in place since 1970 because Blue never connected to Lynn and there was such enormous weighting of originating 4xx route travelers needing to get to Blue and nowhere else. The Chelsea rats are primarily going to Maverick and Wellington/Malden. There is very greatly ample long-hop demand from Salem/Beverly to Chelsea and vice versa, and also great potential for the outer North Shore to take advantage of Chelsea superstation, SL3, and future Urban Ring along SL3 to make east-west moves they've never been able to before. Make no mistake...RUR is hauling mega demand. But Lynn is not the linchpin of it, which is why the half-assed Rail Vision takes at a Lynn short-turn have more or less disappeared from debate and we're now locked in on Beverly vs. Salem and whether TM's Bev-or-bust mandate or ops realities/flexibilities draw the line at one side of the river or another. But there's already been a big pivot away from "assumptions" about Lynn never borne out by reality, and a turn towards chasing the traffic where it is going. Namely, longer-hop as primary RUR growth vector.

But it is not a drop-in replacement for BLX. That myth has been defeated so many times--just like the "Zombie Wonderland" myth--that even the corridor pols have been edjumacated enough to get it now as a basic survival tactic for reelection from their constituents who've always known the difference. It only gets invoked these days as a throwaway excuse for "never spend anything ever"...or, the occasional contrarian hardhead like Ari O. who in his vast brain should know better by now but is letting social media righteousness get the better of him. North Shore locals have long since settled the score amongst themselves on what the double-barrel needs are for their divergent commute patterns. They're not listening to this split-the-difference talk anymore. It's not addressing the right questions, and they know from enough decades of lip service that being lectured about "drop-in replacements" is an instant tell that the person doing the lecturing has no interest whatsoever in serving their real-world mobility.
 

Tallguy

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"Small nitpick...but I sense a slight hesitation to get out of the shallow-end comfort of abstract whitepaper-land and actually start return-volleying the plan vs. "world practice" conditions that have already been settled."
F-Line, this is the accusation you hurl at Transitmatters, yet it is exactly what you are guilty of. There is a tradition in poker that the dealer calls the game. The FMCB decided that the ER was a phase one priority, not TM. This was based on political pressure, not operational rationality. TM is playing the dealers game.
TM has also offered not just one, but two options for the outer line, full electrification or Bi-modeMUs. They are not advocating for the diesel and EMU operations tangle you accuse them of. A simple reading of the response should make that clear. But I guess we shouldn't let truth get in the way of a good story.
 

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