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

F-Line to Dudley

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Looking at that proposed Greenbush schedule...and hol-eeee shit did the person who came up with it not have the faintest clue how G-forces work on curves. Weymouth Landing-East Weymouth in particular is the stop pairing where the puke streamers get barfed out en masse.

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I don't know what to say...other than "jam the throttle and leave skidmarks" is not at all how acceleration works in a transit application. The diesel penalty (and, secondarily, the push-pull/non-self-propelled penalty) is almost entirely contained in the first 0-30 MPH, and that's where 90%+ of the improvement happens by the T adopting self-propelled EMU's. The takeoff is much more instantaneously like rapid transit and no longer that antsy first half-minute where a jogger is overtaking the train. 30-60 MPH and 60-90 MPH acceleration has a much smaller degree-of-difference by equipment type once primary momentum is established, and that's mainly because there are very common-sense rider comfort reasons not to full-on floor it:
  • Motion sickness, and prevention therein. Especially when riding in the seats-backward direction.
  • Seats on purely local-oriented modes being lots less cushy than Acela 1st-class for absorbing the dead-stop acceleration G's against your body.
  • The fact that majority of riders are trying to grasp their electronic devices and do some multitasking while sitting.
  • The fact that stop spacing is dense enough that not-insignificant % of riders at any one time are still going to still be moving around the aisles jockeying for position compared to your average Amtrak trip.
  • The fact that there can (by loading or by wholly voluntarily choice) be a significant number of standees to not-throw around on any local CR trip wheres being seated is required on most intercity trains.
Basic considerations like ^that^ where holding on for dear life on the white-knuckle East St. curve in Weymouth doing 60+ mid-acceleration on non-tilting equipment is not a heavily desired outcome of the experience. The curve/cant mods required to make a schedule like this not moderately-or-worse uncomfortable for passengers cost a freaking fortune to implement, and aren't being called for here. So there's an overriding assumption that riders are willing to put up with significant degradation in ride quality for the faster trip.

And, well...that really isn't backed up by several decades of rider surveys. The T gets regular gripes on all modes about individual instances of rough-riding track, flat wheels, seats with shot cushioning, and Larry Leadfoot operators who hit the gas and/or brakes overzealously. All-modes, not just CR. It's pretty immaculately well-quantified exactly what the thresholds are for how much and how little rider comfort rates in the overall mix. The assumption that people are fully willing to put up with *much* rougher acceleration for a 2x faster schedule...is a hell of a claim. I'm sure it would appeal to some folks, but it's a hella polarizing take given the body of data we do have re: ride quality.

Second...the EMU RFI is closed. The reference spec was doled out, was thoroughly spec-vetted by all manner of advocacy groups who didn't find any objectionable deadweight in the requirements other than questions about whether bi-levels could run at idealized door dwells as well as the single-levels, and it attracted all the manufacturer interest it was ever going to attract. None of the cars they did receive bid packages for have the acceleration profiles to run this schedule...not a one. NJT's Bombardier MultiLevels have a high max speed cap for use on the Trenton super-expresses on the schedule that go up to 30 miles between stops on the NEC's Jersey swamp straightway (wider stop spacing than even a Northeast Regional), but that's all confined to the top gearing well above 60 MPH and (because of weight) are only a roundabout replacement to the dead-stop acceleration of the incumbent Arrows they replace. Beefier throttle at the lowest gears plus the extra G's-dampening touches requires cost escalation converging more towards intercity/HSR sets, which explains why the majority of high-speed service worldwide is always tier-priced higher than local/commuter service. The rolling stock ain't cheap at that profile for all the extra force-dampening tricks they carry, and usually requires running under the banner of a pricier service class in order to amortize itself.

So what happens now? If there's a fast-track implementation to be had within 10 years' time, how exactly do we do it without a cooperating global supply chain? That's a damn hard one to hand-wave around. So is claiming everything would just be hunky-dory if South Shore commuters would only shut up and pound more Dramamine on their work trips. What's the real-world pivot when the platonic ideal isn't available to us for reasons more complex than us being born failsons?


I don't get it. All of the evidence to-date in the Regional Rail-ification debate has more or less suggested that "495 within an hour" / "128 in half-hour" are the platonic ideals for driving major-league transit shares to the 'burbs. Some mainlines (Worcester et al.) have a lot of expensive work ahead of them for reaching that vaunted threshold, but the OC trio already snap tight even with clunky diesel ops. Laps the field on time to 128, hits it on-the-button to 495. All they have to do is make sure # of add'l infills fit inside the gains from the EMU's 0-30 acceleration advantage and stripping-out of all the slovenly single-track schedule padding...both very achievable targets. Where did it come to pass that "495 in 45" was the new no-holds-barred platonic ideal? How did Hyannis in sub-1:20 become a strident mandate when that largely hasn't been a thing readily doable in daylight hours by road in almost a generation? What compels this shorter-term oriented implementation plan to be caked in so much extra acceleration-ops "secret sauce"???


The contents of this report contain just about the most duh-straightforward possible implementation plan for integrating the OC lines into Regional Rail-ification. It's in there, and detailed comprehensively enough excepting the weird shade that got thrown at the Cape MPO's omitted preferred station sitings. The problem is that it also contains multitudes of add-ons no one has quantified a demand threshold for, stakes it to a performance standard every ounce of data and global rolling-stock markets say is going to be spectacularly expensive and infeasible for the service tier to ever implement...and seems to do so almost for provoking-argument's sake. Like...is this a setup to tar some large swath of South Shorers as quitter failsons should they not particularly want to feel dizzy or be unable to concentrate on their entertainment gadgets while riding on an already sub-hour trip to Plymouth? Or tut-tut if they question whether those above-and-beyonds are achievable in such a suspiciously low budget quote with suspiciously high number of never-asked-for infill stops??? I can't make heads or tails of what guantlet they're even trying to throw down with these requirements. Who is truly going to be unhappy with :30 to Brockton every :15, :50 to Greenbush every :30, 1:35 to Hyannis every :60-75???
 
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jass

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If 16 year olds at Six Flags can oversee trains launching from 0 to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds every couple of minutes, then surely the adults at MBTA can figure it out as well

am I joking? maybe, maybe not. I do think theres some stuff transit can learn from theme parks when it comes to cutting costs and keeping customers happy
 

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^ I mean... people throw up all the time at theme parks? Which sounds... bad for public transit?

What lessons do you think public transit can learn from theme parks?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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No...seriously. This is insane.

GB2.png


Everything on the mainline to the left of Quincy Ctr. on the graph (shrinking from 13 to 10 mins) is probably full-feasible because of the 0-30 EMU acceleration advantage on a straightaway coming out of the extreme-choppy terminal district. Much slop there to tighten up if they want to go out and grab it. Doubling speed through the Red Line duck-under S-curve and sharp East Braintree Jct. wye for 3 mins. savings, however, is very highly questionable. The quicker EMU recovery off the wye's 25 MPH restriction is worth a little something, but call it 90 seconds at most instead of a full 3 mins.

But everything--and I mean everything--in blue between the wye and the Greenbush "question-mark"-shaped approach curve is pure bugfark insanity. Like...literally every moment the train is in motion on this schedule it's flooring the throttle to the absolute max curves-be-damned and then slamming the brakes into the next stop straight no-chaser. Rinse, repeat at 2.8, 1.6, 0.9, 1.1, 3.1, 1.6, and 4.3 mile intervals through 20 separate curves--4 or 5 that rate severe on radius-- that won't be modified in any way/shape/form because we're told that's unnecessary cost Where on this planet does a commuter schedule with 2-mile-or-less average stop spacing and curves like that attempt to run at perfect brain-scrambling speed? Nowhere. It's a question nobody is morbidly curious enough to ask.

There isn't a commuter-configured EMU on the market you can buy that'll make this not throw you around like a ragdoll, nor a commuter rail agency on the planet that cares so extremely little about customer service to say "suck it up; the intense discomfort is for your own good." Greenbush Station, you might be surprised, is actually further in mileage from Boston than 4 other lines' directly 495-situated stations: Mansfield, Franklin/Dean, Lowell, and Lawrence. Its schedule absolutely meets the "495 in an hour" paydirt threshold as-is and has real potential of slimming down to 50 minutes via the default EMU acceleration gains. Which would be an outstanding feat for that geometry at those spec frequencies, and would be a full-throated validation of the drawing power of that "495 in an hour" Regional Rail threshold chase.

Who then decided to put a gun to this team's heads and told them this wasn't good enough unless they found a way to lop off a full 40% of the schedule, with infills, your sense of equilibrium be damned? So they can maintain absolutely threadbare meets/overtakes on the most extreme possible Train Sim at the fewest infrastructure dollars? Who even thinks like that??? Double-track infill on a corridor already (Hingham tunnel-excepted) pre-graded for it costs cosmically less to lay down for netting those flexible-enough meets/overtakes than pushing the speed to theoretical extremes then needing to spend a kajillion extra to re-grade the curves for laser-precision superelevation and buying tilting and/or superduper-suspension rolling stock in the hope that the resulting train ride is a less constantly-rolling vomitorium. The end-run answer to that isn't: "Just don't spend anything, and re-brand it as an amusement park thrill ride." To what end is sanity and reality being suspended to low-ball the cost? This is a public service, not a drunken bar bet.

This wasn't supposed to be a tough nut to crack. It's now been made extra-special hard, extra-special implausible for its supposed price tag, extra-special conflicting for would-be riders because ride-comfort compromises have been forced to the fore, and extra-special susceptible to multiple attack angles from an unwilling Baker/MassDOT. Ugh...why?!?


The M'boro and Plymouth schedules are a bit less fractally...wack...between the existing stop pairs. Mostly one-minute shaves per pair, which can mostly be accounted for by EMUs' 0-30 advantage and having a *somewhat* Larry Leadfoot at the controls...but no projectile vomiting likely involved so a decent enough place to start. But the infills?...whoo-boy! Braintree-Braintree Highlands in 2 mins. flat over 1.5 miles, an S-curve, and grade change on one half of the S-curve. Bridgewater-BSU in a 60-second sprint for a half-mile. Middleboro/Center-Middleboro/Lakeville in 2 mins. over 1 mile and an S-curve. Can you even cycle the doors closed fast enough to move a stop-per-minute within the margin of error??? And I hope for the Cape Flyer's sake they've ditched the snack car by this point, because tripling speeds on-Cape--especially the sharp Wareham River S-curve, the big banking S along the Canal, and the Sandwich sine wave--sounds downright terrifying. :confused:


I hate to keep harping on this with another TM report pub, because there's so much good in here. Especially the big-picture Plymouth fixes to the terminal end and the missing intermediates...so good, and so sorely needing of the advocacy push. But again: who proofreads this swill before publication as actionable policy plan???
 
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jass

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^ I mean... people throw up all the time at theme parks? Which sounds... bad for public transit?

What lessons do you think public transit can learn from theme parks?
So Im joking about the 125mph acceleration (and the required safety harnesses), but am more serious about the overall process.

The way roller coasters are assembled in a matter of weeks, versus years, is something worth perusing. Basically the manufacturing companies ship them pre-built sections and Joe-contractor just sticks them together and then Bob-teenager pushes a button and it works. And its not like the end process is unsafe. At the end of the day, the entire system is safe enough that average idiots can get on and off the "trains" every 90 seconds while a kid making $9 an hour supervises.

Versus the 100% customized process transit uses which requires highly specialized people who make highly-specialized problems and it takes years of fixing/testing to get going. IE, look at how the Honolulu rail system is a full decade behind schedule and every 6 months they discover someone has screwed up so badly its delayed another year.

Look at this crap:
Honolulu’s rail project plagued with wheels too thin and tracks too wide
https://www.staradvertiser.com/2021...ued-with-wheels-too-thin-and-tracks-too-wide/
 

F-Line to Dudley

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PART 1. . .

I'm just gonna take a wild guess as to how they came up with such pants-on-head wacky charts:

  1. They inputed the default ROW parameters and config into professional-grade Train Sim. Then input the reference clock-facing frequencies.
  2. Set a goal of backfilling the absolute minimum track feet of double-tracking required to run the spec schedule on the meets required, for purposes of keeping the package estimate low-ball.
  3. Let the meets/overtake points inform a lot of the stop spacing and infill-plugging decisions
  4. Leaned WAY hard on raw speed to gap out the meets in service of fewest double-track infill humanly possible
  5. Let 'er rip on Train Sim withoutbounding any of the secondary inputs in the simulation, such as:
    1. Vehicle-class reference specs (commuter EMU's...and particularly specs for the bids the T got in the EMU RFI)
    2. Service-class reference specs...i.e. what world-practice local/commuter rail is willing to spend vs. world-practice intercity vs. world-practice HSR
    3. Regulatory specs...like how many grade crossings would need their protection levels significantly enhanced at $$$ because the trains are now going 3x as fast as before
    4. "G-forces" specs like cant/cant deficiency, track superelevation...and esp. where that drives up costs by service class
Ran the sim...then straight-published it no-vetting as the recommended plan. "Train Sim said you could do Greenbush 40% faster with 1 infill by doing as little as this track work, and therefore y'all are quitters if you don't rise to that challenge."

That's not how any qualified transpo planner would approach it.

  • Just for doing the sim, the secondary inputs matter the world. Cant deficiency (i.e. G-forces resulting from how the wheels act on the rail elevation) with speeds-over-curves, onboard tilt vs. trackside superelevation, and whatnot is a scalding-hot whole level of research sub-field that apparently wasn't referenced at all here. Precision-grading curves for optimal G's is absolutely a thing that can be done...but it costs not-inconsequential money and this whole report starts out with the premise of spend the absolute minimum physically possible on trackside structures to run the schedules.

  • Grade crossings. Plymouth and Greenbush have most by far on the whole southside. Many of them have Quiet Zone agreements. Raising the track class from Class 4 to Class 6 absolutely 100% auto-triggers significant amounts of Fed-mandated upgrades to several dozen of them, and nullifies all of the as-is Quiet Zones for total do-overs. This is not cheap at all and unavoidably forces re-haggling with every single uncooperative town gov't en route. A couple of those dozens upon dozens of crossings are no-doubt going to rate so badly on safety at very high speed that they're total no-go for 100 MPH without elimination or extremely expensive reimagination. This can't be treated as a $0 line-item.
Furthermore, if the crossing regs themselves are stupid and over-rigid (quite a lot of them probably are!), explain how MassDOT is supposed to wave a magic wand at the Federal gov't and do this in less than 10 years' time. Specifics, please. Like...lobby *this* Congress to rewrite the Fed regs??? Eminent domain all the town-control streets in non-cooperating towns and hope that doesn't get bogged down in court for generations or get cockblocked by the Legislature? Short-term implementation plans can't be dependent on wholly imaginary frictionless regulatory environments that won't be available to anyone involved with the project in the target timeframe. ID the best-case regulatory environment you think you can wring in the available timeframe against the available socio-political conditions, and plug it into the engineering. That's not being a "quitter", it's being factually honest that a bullet train existing will not have $0 in grade crossing treatments.​

  • The vehicle specs for the T's EMU RFI respondents are all available to fully input. Any halfway-responsible study would pick X many ref vehicles to constrain the values for the resulting ops, because it's no use simulating a service with vehicles you can't practically buy. TM had a front-row seat for the RFI presentations, and noted nothing objectionable about the specs. None of those bids offer acceleration profiles that'll run this service, so now this plan assumes the T...very late-in-game...is going to tear up the RFI, re-spec, re-bid, and attract ???? market interest in super-premium vehicles.

  • Vehicle specs and service class dovetail. Worldwide (but esp. in nearest-comparison Euroland) there's a generally agreed-upon 80-90 MPH max speed on most all-stop "local commuter" services, 90-100 MPH on "express commuter". And average speeds that overwhelmingly scale downwardwith increasing stop density, regardless of what class track the route runs. This is because slamming the throttle harder in the 30-60 MPH and 60-90 MPH acceleration ranges starts really exerting the G's on passengers . "Intercity" fleets usually pack extra overdesign bells-n'-whistles into their trucks/suspension and livery (seat cushions, vibration-damped wall/floor insulation) for task-oriented force damping, because those schedules lay much harder on the mid- and high-gear acceleration and have comparably many fewer total stops. HSR tier goes whole-hog with the special treatment: custom bogies in integrated trainsets, higher-class livery, and often onboard tilt.
    • Few exceptions exist to this parting-of-the-seas. The few operators that hybridize local and intercity tiers tend to do so with higher-tier equipment applied onto the lower class...at stiff cost premium. They can justify it by being administratively set up to absorb outliers...but not many are administratively set up for absorbing ops outliers. Japan has more of these outlier exceptions than Euroland. You don't see many 100 MPH pure-commuter corridors being showcased as model templates to build towards because the economics are usually full of premium-tier asterisks.
    • NJT and MARC running super-expresses at up to 125 MPH is not an exception. They accelerate waaaaaaaay more gradually before topping out. It takes a Trenton clocker several minutes longer than a matching Northeast Regional to hit 80, 90, 100, 110 because they don't want it to be a rolling vomitorium.
    • Crossing the service class streams is usually avoided at all cost. During Thanksgiving/Xmas crush load, Amtrak used to rent NJT, MARC, and SEPTA push-pull coaches to lengthen out cosmically overbooked Northeast Regionals to the absolute extra max. But you got duly forewarned about the motion-sickness potential on your overbooking, and got a discounted fare for your troubles. It appealed to students who were overrepresented in the Holiday crushes and would be willing to 'stomach' the risk when the only not-sold-out alternatives was an asploding Fung Wah bus. "Ragdoll Class" isn't a thing that sells on regular schedules.
    • Equipment orders cleave around suspension/acceleration class. Amtrak's Horizon coaches are carbody-and-electrical identical to the T's Pullman, Bombardier, and MBB single-level cars. But they have Amfleet-derived trucks & suspension instead of Comet-derived trucks/suspension. SEPTA operates push-pull Siemens Sprinter electric locos hardware-identical to Amtrak's...but their onboard computers artificially limit the rate of acceleration because they're pulling commuter Comet coaches instead of intercity-suspension Amfleets. ConnDOT's mid-2000's purchase Amtrak-aftermarket Genesis locos on Shore Line East were not re-geared on purchase, and Amtrak being SLE's contracted operator meant some of their Regional train engineers moonlighted on SLE schedules. They got numerous rider complaints at first because the AMTK engineers accelerated them the same as if they were driving a Regional, and inadvertently turned SLE into a Dramamine Special. Ops practices were then changed to curb the accel/decel more appropriately for the service class and coach equipment.

[continued. . .]
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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PART 2. . .

  • Train meet agreeability is almost never a deciding factor re: where to backfill an intermediate stop, much less a thing that leads all planning of stop sitings by the nose. No one has ever proposed a Braintree Highlands infill for demand reasons, as it's not in any known transit hole because of the fast bus to Braintree that already runs half-empty every 20 mins. It got put in the base recs here specifically because it was a convenient place to stage meets around a platform passing siding while pinching pennies on double-tracking cost. They similarly picked a completely different set of Cape extension intermediates than the ones the Cape Cod MPO and Cape Chamber of Commerce have done intense amounts of studying for because of train meets on passing sidings. Stations are expensive, and are the thing that requires the most community input of any piece of the puzzle. Nobody can afford to not be maxing out demand-side toplines as first order of business. And (as above) it's not necessary to invert the priorities like this because the 3 OC branches are pre-built for easy DT backfill to scale at very low cost increments.

  • Outside factors/reading the room. "495 in an hour" is a good rough demarcation point for Regional Rail starting to drive yuuuuuuge demand here, because road trips are no longer day-to-day reliable in that span. The masses flock to it if it's day-in/day-out reliable at meeting a ballpark-competitive schedule. It doesn't need to slay the roads to work. Train meets again seem to be wagging the dog here. The zeal to have as few double-track miles as humanly possible on the branches means that the speeds pretty much have to be unrealistic warp-drive timings. The reference schedules wouldn't be stageable on as few add'l DT miles if they weren't warp-drive. Forget the fact that DT cost would be intrinsically low due to the pre-grading, forget the fact that it's probably too dangerous to do at the stet-protection grade crossings, and forget the fact that it would be uncomfortable as fuck on any equipment we can buy. The real-world useless novelty of cramming that many bi-directional meets on so much left-behind single-track is the bar bet somebody's trying to collect on.

The end result is a Train Sim proof-of-concept, not a thing that best-practice transpo planners would ever build here or in our First-world Transit Nation superiors. The ingredients are equal parts unnecessary (paucity of double-track is not a cost-saver!...unnecessary time-keeping infills are unnecessary!), impractical (we know who is and who ain't bidding our EMU's!...know what our grade crossing situation is!), and uncomfortable (🤮). But a few levers in Train Sim got cranked up to 11 and the result got a few oohs-and-ahs in the room, so here you go: your Implementation Plan to get done by decade's end. It's going to get laughed out of the first meeting it gets presented to for solely self-inflicted reasons.

It didn't have to happen this way. The frequencies are OUTSTANDING, half of the selected infills are OUTSTANDING, and the self-propelled electrification is OUTSTANDING. It didn't need to self-invent a performance strongman competition or overwork so hard to bury branchline capital costs. Something got very very lost in translation from the relatively dirt-simple starting premise, and the proofreading once again failed to flag it. I don't think this one is terrible per se because all the ingredients for success are all more or less fully-contained somewhere in there. I had more problems with Eastern Route Draft 1 because of some of the big omissions and too-thin explanation of the more "secret sauce"-type ingredients. This one doesn't have many omissions. But it definitely got put through some weird funhouse mirror on the way through, and as presented is not going to fare well under scrutiny. It's mostly the pointlessness of why the performance standard had to be ratcheted up soooo extremely higher than any comparative project. As read, it's not a confidence-booster at all for plying best practices because of some of the flying-leap assumptions it takes.
 
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Arlington

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So, it sounds like the Bombardiers are the stronger choice on paper?
Yes, the height of the others [Stadler KISS / Caltrain] makes them more expensive to implement.

I wish the presentation would express (or at least have a page on) the rolling stock purchases and other capital costs as "net prices"

Every EMU means one less other coach or locomotive that doesn't need to be bought. Maybe some of the other work replaces work that was going to have to be done anyway. And life-cycle costs: EMUs are way cheaper to repair (and the same fleet replaces many more conventional equipment).
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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So, it sounds like the Bombardiers are the stronger choice on paper?
They're designed for the tightest East Coast vertical clearances: Penn Station, Grand Central/Park Ave. tunnel, Philly Center City tunnel. All of those are more restrictive than anything currently in T territory, so it checks out that they'd find no problem structures here.
 

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I wish the presentation would express (or at least have a page on) the rolling stock purchases and other capital costs as "net prices"

Every EMU means one less other coach or locomotive that doesn't need to be bought. Maybe some of the other work replaces work that was going to have to be done anyway. And life-cycle costs: EMUs are way cheaper to repair (and the same fleet replaces many more conventional equipment).
A little difficult to pound flat enough for easy comparison, since the 6 EMU bids they evaluated don't even equate amongst themselves configuration-wise. The Bombardiers in particular, since the unpowered trailer and unpowered cab car units literally are stock push-pull coaches served up plug-compatible with the self-propelled "power pack" cars. That gets especially complicated because the trailers/cabs can moonlight at any time in push-pull duty on other routes while the T is mid-transition for electrification, and are the probability-likeliest purchase option for the 200+ car bi-level unpowered coach order (owing to BBD/Alstom's market dominance)...meaning the EMU order could theoretically self-furnish buying strictly the "power packs" and supplemental cabs with all trailers pre-existing from the previous order.

Some of the other bids were married-pair or married-triplet. Which have their own pros/cons but are a divergently different form of unit chunking to complicate the comparison. Gets even murkier for accruing maint costs. For example: anything with an operator's cab is on a 90-day FRA inspection cycle, be it locomotive or cab car. How does that compare amongst bids when the BBD "power packs" are just self-propelled slug units driven and signalized from a stock cab coach while any married triplets with unpowered center cars will nonetheless land the whole set in for inspection at the same time? The math may be straightforward/well-established for a procurement expert to parse, but doesn't necessarily chunk out in a way that lends itself to dirt-obvious public PowerPointing.
 

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My apologies for dragging up an old topic, but does anybody know if the new platforms at Andover and Ballardvale will have at-grade level pedestrian crossings between the two platforms? I ask because this will have a major impact on freight operations as freight trains are prohibited from passing a station with "intervening platforms" as at Haverhill, Bradford and Ayer, when a passenger train is discharging passengers.
The rule makes sense on its own, but it often comes down to the freight crews paying close attention to the passenger schedules and humans tend to be quite fallible.
In the case of Andover and Ballardvale, freight crews already have to hold up East/North of the Andover platform as a stop signal at CPF Vale will result in all the crossings being blocked for up to 20 minutes sometimes... Double tracking this section with intervening platforms in other words would only serve to preserve the status quo where freight trains are concerned.
 

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My apologies for dragging up an old topic, but does anybody know if the new platforms at Andover and Ballardvale will have at-grade level pedestrian crossings between the two platforms? I ask because this will have a major impact on freight operations as freight trains are prohibited from passing a station with "intervening platforms" as at Haverhill, Bradford and Ayer, when a passenger train is discharging passengers.
The rule makes sense on its own, but it often comes down to the freight crews paying close attention to the passenger schedules and humans tend to be quite fallible.
In the case of Andover and Ballardvale, freight crews already have to hold up East/North of the Andover platform as a stop signal at CPF Vale will result in all the crossings being blocked for up to 20 minutes sometimes... Double tracking this section with intervening platforms in other words would only serve to preserve the status quo where freight trains are concerned.
The ped crossings at both of these would be at the grade crossing, rather than mid-platform or at the far north ends. Both currently have way out-of-code ped crossings at the grade crossings due to be significantly upgraded. For freights or expressing Downeasters they would thus follow normal grade crossing rules, and there wouldn't be any inherent trickiness after the platforms are doubled up. MassDOT money has been appropriated to Town of Andover to moderately reconfig the intersection mashups abutting each of these stations to straighten out the kinda dangerous traffic conditions on those town streets. The ped crossings will get done over up-to-code as part of those individual projects.

Ayer needs a more substantial fix, because current conditions with the track crossings hellishly suck there. It's going to cost $$$, and the town is notoriously self-deadlocking to deal with which is why making any improvements to current station access has been an exercise in futility for decades. The safest configuration there is doing up an 800 ft. island full-high spanning one end of the wye to the other, with total up-and-over passenger access...no human touching track level. Then have freight passers on both the north (current crappy-condition third track) and south (new, spanning both legs of the wye) sides for fluid movements around the busy junction, and have only passenger trains pass through the station platforms themselves. Nothing's been officially proposed yet. It's getting to be kind of urgent that they do get something conceptual kicked off here, because the freight traffic's only going to increase at the junction with CSX buying out Pan Am.

Haverhill is a relatively easy fix if the skyway from the MARTA parking garage had an up-and-over appendage grafted on for the outbound side. Would only require the mid-size power line wires to be raised a few more feet for doing the extra ramp-up over the tracks. Right now that's not a high priority because the station is fully ADA-compliant in its current configuration with the track crossing. The garage access was simply built before the Mass Architectural Board significantly toughened its CR station accessibility regs in 2005, so is grandfathered under the last-generation MAB regs. Since there are still plenty of non fed ADA-compliant stations left to tackle on the system, the ones that are full-compliant but grandfathered under the older/more-permissive state-level regs aren't a high priority yet for bumping up. We've got to tame the backlog of outright non-compliant stations (like damn near all of them Wyoming-N. Wilmington) first.
 
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Arlington

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Why hasn’t Haverhill gotten its new layover ? (To support RUR frequencies)
 

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Why hasn’t Haverhill gotten its new layover ? (To support RUR frequencies)
Because it's not fully-funded yet. They got money for. . .
  1. property acquisition (somewhere off Hilldale Ave. at/near the state line, but not disclosed which exact parcel it is)
  2. any required environmental remediation or permitting costs for RR land usage
  3. relocation or abatement compensation for any affected industrial property owners impacted by the new site
. . .but it's not yet fully-funded for design and construction. Somebody's still got to find money between the couch cushions to backfill that part onto the CIP. It'll happen; renewed complaints by the beleaguered residents around Bradford will ensure it doesn't drag with open-ended delay. But right now they've only got land + permits in-hand, not design and construction services.
 

Stlin

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Ayer needs a more substantial fix, because current conditions with the track crossings hellishly suck there. It's going to cost $$$, and the town is notoriously self-deadlocking to deal with which is why making any improvements to current station access has been an exercise in futility for decades. The safest configuration there is doing up an 800 ft. island full-high spanning one end of the wye to the other, with total up-and-over passenger access...no human touching track level.
This was my neighborhood CR stop; Ayer recently took a couple of parcels by eminent domain as part of the station's parking garage project. Funding for that was contingent on that access being guaranteed, so the town took it. The town is currently in the middle of building a kiss n'ride and a small park, complete with a bathroom structure and historic fountain. I'm fairly certain that that park is supposed to be officially complete sometime this month, but Google maps shows it in basically complete condition.
 

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This was my neighborhood CR stop; Ayer recently took a couple of parcels by eminent domain as part of the station's parking garage project. Funding for that was contingent on that access being guaranteed, so the town took it. The town is currently in the middle of building a kiss n'ride and a small park, complete with a bathroom structure and historic fountain. I'm fairly certain that that park is supposed to be officially complete sometime this month, but Google maps shows it in basically complete condition.
Yes. The town was about 100x more focused on the window-dressing car amenities than the extremely narrow, nearly-shelterless non-accessible platforms being deathtraps and the track crossings being extremely dangerous and blocked all the damn time by gigantic freight trains. That's a perfect description of Ayer. Stop the world over a fight for parking spaces...continued big shrug at the game of pedestrian chicken being played across the tracks of one of the busiest rail junctions in New England.

Safe and accessible platform shouldn't be too enormous a production there. Some minor interlocking modifications for the pair of outer freight passers framing a middle 12 x 800 ft. full-high passenger island. Space is abundant inside the wye for doing both the track setup and the up-and-over access from both the station kiss-and-ride and Faulkner St. It just may take to the heat death of the universe to get the town to agree on those straightforward plans, or for the T to hold it to a construction schedule given their track record of late with renovating CR stations.
 

Stlin

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Yes. The town was about 100x more focused on the window-dressing car amenities than the extremely narrow, nearly-shelterless non-accessible platforms being deathtraps and the track crossings being extremely dangerous and blocked all the damn time by gigantic freight trains. That's a perfect description of Ayer. Stop the world over a fight for parking spaces...continued big shrug at the game of pedestrian chicken being played across the tracks of one of the busiest rail junctions in New England.

Safe and accessible platform shouldn't be too enormous a production there. Some minor interlocking modifications for the pair of outer freight passers framing a middle 12 x 800 ft. full-high passenger island. Space is abundant inside the wye for doing both the track setup and the up-and-over access from both the station kiss-and-ride and Faulkner St. It just may take to the heat death of the universe to get the town to agree on those straightforward plans, or for the T to hold it to a construction schedule given their track record of late with renovating CR stations.
Just for reference, this is the only image I've ever seen of proposed build conditions at Ayer; back in the day it was presented for the ED vote, I believe that it was presented that having the land for the access was absolutely mandatory for even release of the garage funds, and that completion of station access was an absolute prerequisite to even getting on the shortlist for funding for an accessible rebuild.

Also, 2 freight passers? There's only 3 tracks here, and the CSX/PAS STB filing don't make mention of quad tracking it, unlike yard improvements at the autoport. Is it a build requirement to ensure 2 tracks with horizontal clearance for freight alongside the CR with high platforms pinching the tracks?

AyerBase-465940e6.jpeg

Part of the reason for the push, Pastor said, is that if the current access route remains the same, the platform will not need to be rebuilt to provide handicap access.... “(W)e have been advised by the FTA and MBTA that when the next round of funding becomes available, with the completion of the parking and access project, then the platform would be upgraded to handicap accessible,” he wrote.

 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Just for reference, this is the only image I've ever seen of proposed build conditions at Ayer; back in the day it was presented for the ED vote, I believe that it was presented that having the land for the access was absolutely mandatory for even release of the garage funds, and that completion of station access was an absolute prerequisite to even getting on the shortlist for funding for an accessible rebuild.

Also, 2 freight passers? There's only 3 tracks here, and the CSX/PAS STB filing don't make mention of quad tracking it, unlike yard improvements at the autoport. Is it a build requirement to ensure 2 tracks with horizontal clearance for freight alongside the CR with high platforms pinching the tracks?

View attachment 13655
That proposed render wouldn't be design-kosher for the T's own Engineering Dept., so I doubt it was sourced from the agency itself.
  1. The Greenville Branch diverging north has customers on it that take Plate F boxcars which won't clear a full-high. Pretty sure that situation holds to this day and hasn't changed. The branch is also used to temp-shove cars between the junction and the Brook St. grade crossing when they're trying to triage clearing strings of cars out of the yard, so could see anything (including supersize cars like autoracks) at this very spot on any given day. That's an insta-rejection via Pan Am Southern or future owners/operators who have the protected clearance route designation here. NO PERMIT...start over with new design.
  2. The depicted stopping spot of the locomotive on top of an automatic switch would also be illegal, as that wouldn't shunt track circuits correctly for the signal system (note also: Pan Am, not the T, is the dispatcher here...so third-party liability means they won't look the other way on not shunting the track circuits around a switch). The shortie 450 ft. outbound platform would thus only be able to berth 6 complete cars, not 5 + two half-doors at the ends. The T Design Guide mandates 800 ft. platforms for new construction in all cases except where there's a physical obstruction inducing a cost blowout to try and correct...in which case the M.A.B. will consider a waiver for a shortie. Ayer is unlikely to gain such a waiver, since there's no onerous space constraints for doing all of the 800 ft. if it's done as an island touching anywhere else except the Greenville switch. This is one of the design points where the M.A.B. are specific national-toughest bastards about accessibility perfectionism, as they don't want any scenarios where cars can't platform all-doors-open if it's avoidable. NO PERMIT...start over with new design.
So right there they aren't even at a starting spot for a station redesign that'll get blessed with the necessary permits. Maybe the town wants at least one platform ground-level and as little up-and-over action as possible informing its preference for side platforms. They aren't going to get that. If they're trying to in spite of these blockers, they need a reality check pronto.


800 ft. but as an island is fully doable within the space provisions, so that's where they'll have to pivot. And it wouldn't cost much different, so the M.A.B. waivering process is a futile escape with what bastards they tend to be. This then forces the 4th freight track because the amount of crossing over required to route ALL passing freights on the northerly track is going to make a royal mess of ops with all the new conflicting crossover movements it generates. And cost a fortune by requiring entirely new interlockings to be created from-scratch bookending the station as direct outlay for defraying that extra awkwardness. Center island would end up outright cheaper by requiring fewer interlocking mods @ $$$ for its more flexible traffic profile, and less perfectionism on how immediately adjacent those crossovers get placed. You do it this way:
  1. Re-space the tracks through the platform area in one day with a track critter so you can fit the new 800 x 12 ft. island.
  2. Take the existing southerly/4th track west of the junction and snake it across the wye infield. The western interlocking/crossovers for that are fully existing, and just need 1 switch tweak to that existing interlocking to append the extra passing track length through the station.
  3. Leave the interlockings for the northerly passer completely as-is far east and far west of the station.
  4. Add 1 new easterly switch tying the extended 4th iron back into the inbound main by Main St. bridge. No additional crossovers because there's already 2 of them east to Willows Jct. for redundancy...so the only Signal Dept. touch is a single switch.
The non-invasiveness of those Signal Dept. mods with 2 passers is less costly than the extra tricks you'd have to do for 1 super-congested passer staging elongated crossover maneuvers, so in this case the design with more tracks ends up the cheaper one by considerable margin.
 

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