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

jms13

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Semass said:
Here we have a public meeting on the stations. I wonder what the recommendation will be? As these three go, so goes urban rail as it will telegraph the T's seriousness. .

https://mbta.com/events/2019-07-25/n...public-meeting
Last I heard with Newtons, the preferred alternative was a single platform at each but designed to not preclude a future second platform at each station, basically plans for two platforms but only designing and constructing one at each. Unless there has been significant pressure on the MBTA since then I don't expect the directives from the MBTA have changed since I last spoke with the designer of the preliminary design for those stations...
I was at the public meeting last night, for the presentation and as much of the Q&A as I could stay for. TL;DR: exactly what HelloBostonHi said, and I hope you don't have any vision of increased service on the inner Worcester line in the next fifteen years, minimum.

This was my first transit-related public meeting, I went in prepared to be disappointed, and I still managed to be underwhelmed. From the (late) start, it was obvious (as someone who has followed the process fairly closely) that the presenter was leading us towards the one-platform design as the preferred alternative. The entire process was run with the assumption that the only service increases currently on the table would be adding the reverse-peak trains. Everything else was casually dismissed with the bullet point "plan does not preclude future Urban Rail Vision".

They have three single-sided platforms scoped at something in the low-mid $40M range total (done in ~2024), three double-sided platforms at $43M per station (done in ~2027), and three island platforms at something like $75M per station (done in ~2030, would require stations to be closed for much of the construction period). Island platforms were eliminated almost immediately. Single vs. double was generally presented as "they're the same solution, but one gets you reverse peak trains and costs $80-some million more, so we're doing the cheaper one". The $43M per station number was compared against other similar projects, but only within the MBTA system and only a selection at that (e.g. did not include Lansdowne or Boston Landing).

The crowd questions were a mixed bag, but the general consensus seemed to be that it was pretty sad that they couldn't manage at least one double-platform station to add some sort of minimum viable reverse-commute option for the city. The co-chair of the commission on disability... I'm sure he's a very nice gentleman, but if my best friend gave a ten minute speech/rant during the Q&A of a packed session that was going to run double the posted time, I'd have words with said friend, so it's hard not to criticize. (He also went for a dig at TransitMatters during said rant, incidentally.) There were about ten city councilors and state rep Khan there, many of whom had some short questions but all of whom clearly already knew how the winds were blowing.

Hats off to the gentleman who got up about half an hour into Q&A and basically said, "I don't really have a question, but all these people are saying nice things, so I just want to say as politely as possible, everything you've said tonight is shortsighted and kind of BS, right?" I started the clap for that one. There were some other critical questions coming in at the end, but I had to take off around 7:30 (with no sign of things slowing down and a baby that needed to get to bed).

The PPT will be posted online at some point, and someone in the audience was taking video, though who knows if that shows up. Time to go send some futile messages to my elected officials.
 

Equilibria

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The PPT will be posted online at some point, and someone in the audience was taking video, though who knows if that shows up. Time to go send some futile messages to my elected officials.
They aren't futile - Ari Ofsevit has already killed one version of this.
 

sneijder

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They have three single-sided platforms scoped at something in the low-mid $40M range total (done in ~2024), three double-sided platforms at $43M per station (done in ~2027), and three island platforms at something like $75M per station (done in ~2030, would require stations to be closed for much of the construction period)
Does it seriously take 3 extra years and $80mm more to build 3 extra side platforms?
 

ulrichomega

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Does it seriously take 3 extra years and $80mm more to build 3 extra side platforms?
It probably has more to do with land-taking/dirt-moving than it does pouring more concrete. Room is lacking around those platforms.
 

HenryAlan

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Also, that's three extra elevators which seem to cost a ridiculous amount of money.
 

ulrichomega

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I'm more interested in why the island platform is so much more expensive as an option. I'd think that it would be less work on all fronts. You don't need a pedestrian standing area right next to a highway, you need slightly less platform area in total. You need half the elevators and ramps. I would guess it has something to do with the stations not being well located for ramp access or something?
 

datadyne007

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I'm more interested in why the island platform is so much more expensive as an option. I'd think that it would be less work on all fronts. You don't need a pedestrian standing area right next to a highway, you need slightly less platform area in total. You need half the elevators and ramps. I would guess it has something to do with the stations not being well located for ramp access or something?
My understanding is island platforms would require rebuilding bridges.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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My understanding is island platforms would require rebuilding bridges.
It all depends on placement. The 3 stops are each built between overpasses, and have extremely long--well greater than MBTA 800 ft. standard--platforms for reaching the far overpass. An 800 ft. island would slot between bridges comfortably and require zero touches...only retaining wall work and decisions on how to lay out switchback ramps or elevators. Each of the stations is also shiftable between street pairs if that makes it any easier, though that would obviously be more controversial a change for people who use one street's entrance. Only Auburndale, because it's on a curve, is an inherently poor candidate for island and better candidate for side platforms.


Overall there is enough flexibility with the layout that we should not be seeing such brain-damaged presentations from the T. There are far too many possible options from good to OK to meh to try here than to just keep phoning it in with the same lazy one-platform design that requires spending >twice the price to finish the job. More viable options exist than that, and they know it. They just don't care. A state so eager to tank RER service has incentive to tank these small platform projects so it can throw cold water on implementing in this lifetime one of the keymost planks of RER on the Worcester Line's service layer cake. They're playing City of Newton for leverage on that overarching Delay...Diminish...Extinguish goal.
 

Java King

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It all depends on placement. The 3 stops are each built between overpasses, and have extremely long--well greater than MBTA 800 ft. standard--platforms for reaching the far overpass. An 800 ft. island would slot between bridges comfortably and require zero touches...only retaining wall work and decisions on how to lay out switchback ramps or elevators. Each of the stations is also shiftable between street pairs if that makes it any easier, though that would obviously be more controversial a change for people who use one street's entrance. Only Auburndale, because it's on a curve, is an inherently poor candidate for island and better candidate for side platforms.


Overall there is enough flexibility with the layout that we should not be seeing such brain-damaged presentations from the T. There are far too many possible options from good to OK to meh to try here than to just keep phoning it in with the same lazy one-platform design that requires spending >twice the price to finish the job. More viable options exist than that, and they know it. They just don't care. A state so eager to tank RER service has incentive to tank these small platform projects so it can throw cold water on implementing in this lifetime one of the keymost planks of RER on the Worcester Line's service layer cake. They're playing City of Newton for leverage on that overarching Delay...Diminish...Extinguish goal.
I don't disagree, but I'm curious to hear your opinion. Why does Massachusetts seem eager to tank RER service? Is it just about money? This state has many wonderful amenities, but weather and housing costs are not big selling points. I keep thinking a crazy good transportation system would make up for January weather, high housing costs, and sleepy nightlife options.
 

FK4

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One issue with the NSRL is that the current bi-level cars really aren't great for subway like service. It takes a couple of mins to board and unboard all passengers from North Station with double decker sets.

I think the trains need wider doors, and ideally stations that can accommodate doors at both the upper and lower levels of the trains (so 2 level stations).
It's been 15 years since I was in Paris, but I remember being very impressed with the actual RER, and being able to use it to zip under the whole city. I seem to remember it having double-decked cars, but I might be wrong?
 

FK4

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I was at the public meeting last night, for the presentation and as much of the Q&A as I could stay for. TL;DR: exactly what HelloBostonHi said, and I hope you don't have any vision of increased service on the inner Worcester line in the next fifteen years, minimum.

This was my first transit-related public meeting, I went in prepared to be disappointed, and I still managed to be underwhelmed. From the (late) start, it was obvious (as someone who has followed the process fairly closely) that the presenter was leading us towards the one-platform design as the preferred alternative. The entire process was run with the assumption that the only service increases currently on the table would be adding the reverse-peak trains. Everything else was casually dismissed with the bullet point "plan does not preclude future Urban Rail Vision".

They have three single-sided platforms scoped at something in the low-mid $40M range total (done in ~2024), three double-sided platforms at $43M per station (done in ~2027), and three island platforms at something like $75M per station (done in ~2030, would require stations to be closed for much of the construction period). Island platforms were eliminated almost immediately. Single vs. double was generally presented as "they're the same solution, but one gets you reverse peak trains and costs $80-some million more, so we're doing the cheaper one". The $43M per station number was compared against other similar projects, but only within the MBTA system and only a selection at that (e.g. did not include Lansdowne or Boston Landing).

The crowd questions were a mixed bag, but the general consensus seemed to be that it was pretty sad that they couldn't manage at least one double-platform station to add some sort of minimum viable reverse-commute option for the city. The co-chair of the commission on disability... I'm sure he's a very nice gentleman, but if my best friend gave a ten minute speech/rant during the Q&A of a packed session that was going to run double the posted time, I'd have words with said friend, so it's hard not to criticize. (He also went for a dig at TransitMatters during said rant, incidentally.) There were about ten city councilors and state rep Khan there, many of whom had some short questions but all of whom clearly already knew how the winds were blowing.

Hats off to the gentleman who got up about half an hour into Q&A and basically said, "I don't really have a question, but all these people are saying nice things, so I just want to say as politely as possible, everything you've said tonight is shortsighted and kind of BS, right?" I started the clap for that one. There were some other critical questions coming in at the end, but I had to take off around 7:30 (with no sign of things slowing down and a baby that needed to get to bed).

The PPT will be posted online at some point, and someone in the audience was taking video, though who knows if that shows up. Time to go send some futile messages to my elected officials.
Whoa. Welcome to the world of posting. And thanks for the rundown!
 

HenryAlan

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It's been 15 years since I was in Paris, but I remember being very impressed with the actual RER, and being able to use it to zip under the whole city. I seem to remember it having double-decked cars, but I might be wrong?
I was just there and rode two different RER systems (B & C). C did feature double deck cars, though B did not. In both cases, the cars were configured as 2x2 seating and had wide doors at both ends and mid-car. I can't envision multi-level boarding, but it really wouldn't be needed with the wide doors, high level platform, and third set configuration as standard.

By the way, it was fantastic to be able to use multiple stations within Paris. We took the train to Versaille from Les Invalides, but then coming back, we wanted to go to the Latin Quarter, and were able to deboard at St Michel. If the MBTA could achieve something half as effective, it would be a huge mobility upgrade for Boston.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/07/29/supporters-north-south-rail-link-rally-testify-city-hall/ea1raJ7rFneAYhkoHe2uNN/story.html
https://www.universalhub.com/2019/south-station-now-bears-mike-dukakiss-name-love

This week's NSRL hearing was not a good one for making tight, relateable talking points to the citizenry on why they should support the project. Dukakis was the featured speaker chosen by meeting sponsor the Sierra Club. As good as the kiss of death from how much the ex-Guv. and the ubiquitous thinktank have mangled their talking points on this before. And mangle them again, they very much did. They let Duke rant on entirely too much about "blah blah blah STUB-END SUCKS" and "blah blah blah ONE END OF BOSTON TO THE OTHER". With lots and lots of ranting about how SSX and intracity train yards need to be killed off in isolation, without making any rationale whatsoever as to how the projects do or don't relate. Just "Thing A is baaaad, says I. Therefore Thing B is a duh!" Followed by a lot of talk on dueling cost estimates, which only confused the issue further on why the speakers had such zeal to kill some projects but not others for what reason because it made them look exactly like what they were accusing Baker of on playing favorites. I can only imagine most of the room was thoroughly confused by that point and had less idea than before what the project was.

Depressingly little mentioned (from what I could gather from spotter reports on the Twitters) about frequencies, which says about all there is to know about what a failure the meeting agenda was.


Seriously...just disinvite Duke from any more hearings, because all this word vomit is doing the project's advocacy a grave disservice. Again. And the Sierra Club?...they don't have any transportation expertise whatsoever, and frequently embarrass themselves when they try to dive into a subject they know next to nothing about. How did they end up running point on this meeting? If we can't just put TransitMatters in charge of drilling this into everyone's heads with, like, 3 simple truths about transformed service that can be repeated like mantra until two-thirds of the voters in the room are ready to take a petition signing by storm...then what are we wasting our time having hearings for?

It bewilders me how we're still after all this time running around shooting ourselves in the foot on what the project's barest, most boiled-down value proposition is. But the wrong mouths keep getting the prime speaking assignments over and over again. And we just end up fiddling in confusion while the advocacy blows another chance to take a leap forward.
 

datadyne007

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https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/07/29/supporters-north-south-rail-link-rally-testify-city-hall/ea1raJ7rFneAYhkoHe2uNN/story.html
https://www.universalhub.com/2019/south-station-now-bears-mike-dukakiss-name-love

This week's NSRL hearing was not a good one for making tight, relateable talking points to the citizenry on why they should support the project. Dukakis was the featured speaker chosen by meeting sponsor the Sierra Club. As good as the kiss of death from how much the ex-Guv. and the ubiquitous thinktank have mangled their talking points on this before. And mangle them again, they very much did. They let Duke rant on entirely too much about "blah blah blah STUB-END SUCKS" and "blah blah blah ONE END OF BOSTON TO THE OTHER". With lots and lots of ranting about how SSX and intracity train yards need to be killed off in isolation, without making any rationale whatsoever as to how the projects do or don't relate. Just "Thing A is baaaad, says I. Therefore Thing B is a duh!" Followed by a lot of talk on dueling cost estimates, which only confused the issue further on why the speakers had such zeal to kill some projects but not others for what reason because it made them look exactly like what they were accusing Baker of on playing favorites. I can only imagine most of the room was thoroughly confused by that point and had less idea than before what the project was.

Depressingly little mentioned (from what I could gather from spotter reports on the Twitters) about frequencies, which says about all there is to know about what a failure the meeting agenda was.


Seriously...just disinvite Duke from any more hearings, because all this word vomit is doing the project's advocacy a grave disservice. Again. And the Sierra Club?...they don't have any transportation expertise whatsoever, and frequently embarrass themselves when they try to dive into a subject they know next to nothing about. How did they end up running point on this meeting? If we can't just put TransitMatters in charge of drilling this into everyone's heads with, like, 3 simple truths about transformed service that can be repeated like mantra until two-thirds of the voters in the room are ready to take a petition signing by storm...then what are we wasting our time having hearings for?

It bewilders me how we're still after all this time running around shooting ourselves in the foot on what the project's barest, most boiled-down value proposition is. But the wrong mouths keep getting the prime speaking assignments over and over again. And we just end up fiddling in confusion while the advocacy blows another chance to take a leap forward.
Our TM COO Jarred emphasized Regional Rail improvements/importance of a frequent modern rail system to run through the tunnel. And thanks for the kind words about us.

Agreed though. The buzzword speeches are tiring and confusing and it seems like the NSRL advocates still don't seem to understand the importance of the actual service that runs through the tunnel. It's just about connecting the dots to them.
 

FK4

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Our TM COO Jarred emphasized Regional Rail improvements/importance of a frequent modern rail system to run through the tunnel. And thanks for the kind words about us.

Agreed though. The buzzword speeches are tiring and confusing and it seems like the NSRL advocates still don't seem to understand the importance of the actual service that runs through the tunnel. It's just about connecting the dots to them.
What about Chris Dempsey? He seems like someone who might be able to compress the actual, important points well. Does Transitmatters do anything with him? (Maybe this is more of an offline sort of question, but I think he's on the right track and seems like he has a role to play in this whole debate).
 

DominusNovus

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https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/07/29/supporters-north-south-rail-link-rally-testify-city-hall/ea1raJ7rFneAYhkoHe2uNN/story.html
https://www.universalhub.com/2019/south-station-now-bears-mike-dukakiss-name-love

This week's NSRL hearing was not a good one for making tight, relateable talking points to the citizenry on why they should support the project. Dukakis was the featured speaker chosen by meeting sponsor the Sierra Club. As good as the kiss of death from how much the ex-Guv. and the ubiquitous thinktank have mangled their talking points on this before. And mangle them again, they very much did. They let Duke rant on entirely too much about "blah blah blah STUB-END SUCKS" and "blah blah blah ONE END OF BOSTON TO THE OTHER". With lots and lots of ranting about how SSX and intracity train yards need to be killed off in isolation, without making any rationale whatsoever as to how the projects do or don't relate. Just "Thing A is baaaad, says I. Therefore Thing B is a duh!" Followed by a lot of talk on dueling cost estimates, which only confused the issue further on why the speakers had such zeal to kill some projects but not others for what reason because it made them look exactly like what they were accusing Baker of on playing favorites. I can only imagine most of the room was thoroughly confused by that point and had less idea than before what the project was.

Depressingly little mentioned (from what I could gather from spotter reports on the Twitters) about frequencies, which says about all there is to know about what a failure the meeting agenda was.


Seriously...just disinvite Duke from any more hearings, because all this word vomit is doing the project's advocacy a grave disservice. Again. And the Sierra Club?...they don't have any transportation expertise whatsoever, and frequently embarrass themselves when they try to dive into a subject they know next to nothing about. How did they end up running point on this meeting? If we can't just put TransitMatters in charge of drilling this into everyone's heads with, like, 3 simple truths about transformed service that can be repeated like mantra until two-thirds of the voters in the room are ready to take a petition signing by storm...then what are we wasting our time having hearings for?

It bewilders me how we're still after all this time running around shooting ourselves in the foot on what the project's barest, most boiled-down value proposition is. But the wrong mouths keep getting the prime speaking assignments over and over again. And we just end up fiddling in confusion while the advocacy blows another chance to take a leap forward.
Agreed so much on Dukakis.

Maybe Transmit Matters should do their own town halls and have you as one of the speakers - or at least draft up some PPT slides.
 

datadyne007

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What about Chris Dempsey? He seems like someone who might be able to compress the actual, important points well. Does Transitmatters do anything with him? (Maybe this is more of an offline sort of question, but I think he's on the right track and seems like he has a role to play in this whole debate).
T4MA and TM are partners. Regional Rail is one of the things we partner with them on. Dempsey of late is just preoccupied with his off peak tolling thing that I've got him to admit on Twitter won't really solve the region's mobility problems.

Agreed so much on Dukakis.

Maybe Transmit Matters should do their own town halls and have you as one of the speakers - or at least draft up some PPT slides.
This is actually what we are doing with our Whistlestop Tour series. We've done them in Haverhill & Providence and are planning one or two more this year. The Providence one was a huge success. We've also presented to the town of Newburyport clean energy council.
 

FK4

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T4MA and TM are partners. Regional Rail is one of the things we partner with them on. Dempsey of late is just preoccupied with his off peak tolling thing that I've got him to admit on Twitter won't really solve the region's mobility problems.


This is actually what we are doing with our Whistlestop Tour series. We've done them in Haverhill & Providence and are planning one or two more this year. The Providence one was a huge success. We've also presented to the town of Newburyport clean energy council.
Good to hear. I didn't know of the partnership. I have to say, I'm very heartened by both T4MA and TM, as both groups seems to be gaining attention more and more. Hoping the momentum continues to build.
 

ssresident

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Interesting comments about issues on the Old Colony lines in this article. I hadn't heard that they are looking at stopping Kingston and Greenbush trains in Braintree--was that the reason one of the rail study options showed a large reduction in ridership on those lines? Personally as someone who can easily take a Middleboro or Kingston train, I would go to downtown Brockton all the time if it had a train every 30 minutes.
https://www.enterprisenews.com/news/20190808/fast-track-could-brockton-get-trains-to-boston-every-15-minutes
 

FK4

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Interesting comments about issues on the Old Colony lines in this article. I hadn't heard that they are looking at stopping Kingston and Greenbush trains in Braintree--was that the reason one of the rail study options showed a large reduction in ridership on those lines? Personally as someone who can easily take a Middleboro or Kingston train, I would go to downtown Brockton all the time if it had a train every 30 minutes.
https://www.enterprisenews.com/news/20190808/fast-track-could-brockton-get-trains-to-boston-every-15-minutes
Interesting - but will obviously never happen.

Sad to see it stated that the MBTA has never even studied what it would cost to unjam the bottleneck on Old Colony.
 

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