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

Equilibria

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From the FMCB today.... EDITED: SEE BELOW.

I need to turn off the livestream now - someone else can keep going for resolution 3 :).
 
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jass

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Any talk about short term fixes like filling 3 hour evening and weekend headways?

Im skeptical MBTA will be able to do 15 minute headways if they cant even do hourly now.
 

Equilibria

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I'll start over since the meeting is over. FMCB approved 3 resolutions:

1) Vision for EMU-based rapid-transit-adjacent "Regional Urban Rail" service ("Commuter Rail" is a dead term in MBTA planning as of today), with rapid transit fares and frequencies and high-level boarding.

2) MBTA directed to begin planning immediately for EMU service on Providence/Stoughton, Fairmount, and Newburyport as far as Lynn.

3) Establish a regional rail/urban rail transformation office.

The other two resolutions TransitMatters cited were different efforts around the Bond Bill and Bus Network Redesign (creation of a third "transformation" office for bus to go with RUR and Green Line).

TM is declaring victory, which they should, since this is a pretty heavy repudiation of where Pollack and Baker chose to stand back in July. Interestingly, it's basically all Aiello. He wrote the resolutions, and while he took comments, he essentially took a vote of affirmation on his own opinions.

In that vein, I stand by my take that it is foolish to start with both northside and southside lines. Aiello's take was that the Lynn people were very persuasive in public and private comments, and that electrifying Worcester during the Allston construction would be too logistically difficult (which is probably true, honestly).
 

stick n move

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No nsrl is still a fail. Its basically just doing a couple things that should have been done a long time ago and saying its a win... its not. Its better than what we have now, but that shouldnt be the bar.
 

Equilibria

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No nsrl is still a fail. Its basically just doing a couple things that should have been done a long time ago and saying its a win... its not. Its better than what we have now, but that shouldnt be the bar.
I didn't hear them discuss NSRL. The package they tacitly endorsed included it. I think it would be a separate debate and a separate decision.

It's over $30B in this vision. It's not "a couple things" and it doesn't matter if they should have been done. They haven't been.
 

jklo

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Any talk about short term fixes like filling 3 hour evening and weekend headways?
That's more of a demand issue than anything technical.

In that vein, I stand by my take that it is foolish to start with both northside and southside lines.
Lynn could really use eletrification, especially if it means if that line would be subway fares.
 

cubalibre

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electrifying Worcester during the Allston construction would be too logistically difficult (which is probably true, honestly).
Isn’t the Allston project two years off and slated to take eight to ten years? That would push the Framingham/ Worcester line to somewhere in the very late 2020’s.
 

jass

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That's more of a demand issue than anything technical.
Thats my issue. Are we going to drop a few billion to make 15 minutes possible so that the T turns around and says "nah 2 hour headways"

If it sounds outlandish, think of all the US cities that have built light rail systems over the last 20 years and then destroy their use by offering 20 minute headways (or worse).

Or how Miami, after spending big money extending their metrorail to the airport soon after cut all weekend service to every 30 minutes because the operations pie and the capital expenses pie are in different kitchens.

(theyve since restored it to every 15 minutes).

I'd feel a lot more confident in the MBTA if they corrected some of those glaring gaps in schedule today, the ones that require zero dollars in capitol spending.
 

Equilibria

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Thats my issue. Are we going to drop a few billion to make 15 minutes possible so that the T turns around and says "nah 2 hour headways"

If it sounds outlandish, think of all the US cities that have built light rail systems over the last 20 years and then destroy their use by offering 20 minute headways (or worse).

Or how Miami, after spending big money extending their metrorail to the airport soon after cut all weekend service to every 30 minutes because the operations pie and the capital expenses pie are in different kitchens.

(theyve since restored it to every 15 minutes).

I'd feel a lot more confident in the MBTA if they corrected some of those glaring gaps in schedule today, the ones that require zero dollars in capitol spending.
I'm with you, but the vision voted on today was about frequencies, not about dollars. They mentioned the need for short-term improvements with existing equipment several times, but they need to set this vision today to get the EMU procurement and electrification infrastructure started.
 

Arlington

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Aiello's take was that the Lynn people were very persuasive in public and private comments
We know that Chelsea-Revere-Lynn are
  • densely-populated,
  • traffic-choked (at key pinch points on Rt 1 and 1A)
  • bus-dependent (transit-patronizing)
  • Land use that'd support all-day demand
So I'm persuaded that EMU to Lynn makes a great demonstration project (The first "Northside" implementation).
  • Lynn has long deserved frequent rail service
  • River Works is prime for TOD
  • Wonderland-Blue infill at dog track--also prime TOD
  • Chelsea-SLG ready for the big time
  • Sullivan probably should get a RUR stop too
Sure, I'd love it if they'd picked my own Lowell Line as the Northside "first" but really I don't think Medford and Winchester (nor Melrose) would "take to" that "minimum viable segment" for frequent rail transit all day as enthusiastically as would Chelsea-Revere-Lynn, which is a clear patronage win.

And nice set up for "who is going to use the NSRL?" -- connecting Chelsea-Lynn-Revere-Lynn to South Station and Back Bay and Ruggles all day long
 
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tysmith95

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Salem is the busiest commuter rail stop in the state outside of Boston. Beverly, less than a mile past that, also sees very high ridership, and Beverly is allowing dense zoning near the train station. Swampscott, on the border with East Lynn, also receives high ridership.

It makes sense to extend electrification out to there. You could have some local turns at Beverly Depot using EMU's.

Out of all the commuter rail lines, the up to Beverly is where I could see the most off peak trips, and trips not going to Boston.

Of course it was boneheaded to single track Salem, that's the biggest issue.
 
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datadyne007

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I'll start over since the meeting is over. FMCB approved 3 resolutions:

1) Vision for EMU-based rapid-transit-adjacent "Regional Urban Rail" service ("Commuter Rail" is a dead term in MBTA planning as of today), with rapid transit fares and frequencies and high-level boarding.

2) MBTA directed to begin planning immediately for EMU service on Providence/Stoughton, Fairmount, and Newburyport as far as Lynn.

3) Establish a regional rail/urban rail transformation office.

The other two resolutions TransitMatters cited were different efforts around the Bond Bill and Bus Network Redesign (creation of a third "transformation" office for bus to go with RUR and Green Line).

TM is declaring victory, which they should, since this is a pretty heavy repudiation of where Pollack and Baker chose to stand back in July. Interestingly, it's basically all Aiello. He wrote the resolutions, and while he took comments, he essentially took a vote of affirmation on his own opinions.

In that vein, I stand by my take that it is foolish to start with both northside and southside lines. Aiello's take was that the Lynn people were very persuasive in public and private comments, and that electrifying Worcester during the Allston construction would be too logistically difficult (which is probably true, honestly).
This is incorrect. The fourth (and originally last) resolution IS related to this. It resolves to immediately report this board vote to the legislature so they can approve the bond bill and its provisions including legalizing P3 procurement for the MBTA (they currently cannot under MGL) which Toronto and Wales indicated were crucial components of their Regional Rail procurement.

Resolution 5 was weird and unrelated by Monica but the FMCB keeps delaying better bus and bus things in general so she figured she might as well get in the creation of the Bus Transformation Office while she still could.
 

jklo

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Thats my issue. Are we going to drop a few billion to make 15 minutes possible so that the T turns around and says "nah 2 hour headways"
Ultimately I think that's the goal, but my opinion is that the demand for that level of service would only be within 128; and I have no idea how you would be able to do that and still have the existing legacy diesel burb commuter rail service, so I'm guessing you would need the poliitical support to cripple the diesel frequencies. Might take awhile for that to happen, but it will.

Isn’t the Allston project two years off and slated to take eight to ten years? That would push the Framingham/ Worcester line to somewhere in the very late 2020’s.
That is my understanding yes. Grand Junction will be completely out of commission during that time too, for all purposes.
 

Java King

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Reading from the most recent presentation report on October 23rd, 2019:
https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/2019-11/2019-10-23-rail-vision-public-meeting-presentation.pdf

*Note: Approximate 30 minute peak period and 60 minute off-peak period service applies to all stations, with the exception of Mishawum, Plimptonville, Wickford Jctn,
TF Green and Old Colony/SCR Stations, which are consistent with today’s service schedules.


Can someone help me understand the thinking? As I've stated before, the current Weekday evening Greenbush schedule has two hour gaps between trains after 6:30pm. I don't understand how they can say the current schedule is every 30 minutes peak and 60 minutes off-peak.........when I can point to quite a few 2+hour headways. It makes me wonder about ALL the modeling and numbers for the reports when basic information like this is wrong. We just had a lengthy discussion with my visiting family members about why the train is not viable for many occasions because of the 2+ hour gaps in the evening.
 

anthtucker312

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Reading from the most recent presentation report on October 23rd, 2019:
https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/2019-11/2019-10-23-rail-vision-public-meeting-presentation.pdf

*Note: Approximate 30 minute peak period and 60 minute off-peak period service applies to all stations, with the exception of Mishawum, Plimptonville, Wickford Jctn,
TF Green and Old Colony/SCR Stations, which are consistent with today’s service schedules.


Can someone help me understand the thinking? As I've stated before, the current Weekday evening Greenbush schedule has two hour gaps between trains after 6:30pm. I don't understand how they can say the current schedule is every 30 minutes peak and 60 minutes off-peak.........when I can point to quite a few 2+hour headways. It makes me wonder about ALL the modeling and numbers for the reports when basic information like this is wrong. We just had a lengthy discussion with my visiting family members about why the train is not viable for many occasions because of the 2+ hour gaps in the evening.
The single-tracked sections of the Old Colony Lines through Dorchester and Quincy are likely to blame.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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We know that Chelsea-Revere-Lynn are
  • densely-populated,
  • traffic-choked (at key pinch points on Rt 1 and 1A)
  • bus-dependent (transit-patronizing)
  • Land use that'd support all-day demand
So I'm persuaded that EMU to Lynn makes a great demonstration project (The first "Northside" implementation).
  • Lynn has long deserved frequent rail service
  • River Works is prime for TOD
  • Wonderland-Blue infill at dog track--also prime TOD
  • Chelsea-SLG ready for the big time
  • Sullivan probably should get a RUR stop too
Sure, I'd love it if they'd picked my own Lowell Line as the Northside "first" but really I don't think Medford and Winchester (nor Melrose) would "take to" that "minimum viable segment" for frequent rail transit all day as enthusiastically as would Chelsea-Revere-Lynn, which is a clear patronage win.

And nice set up for "who is going to use the NSRL?" -- connecting Chelsea-Lynn-Revere-Lynn to South Station and Back Bay and Ruggles all day long
The problem with this is that the initial implementation costs for terminals + maint facilities are massive, and really don't wash on the northside unless you're doing at least 2 mainlines on the initial thrust. There's also a dearth of high-voltage lines capable of supplying 25 kV current immediately to NS and Boston Engine Terminal, so the hardware costs for getting across the Mystic River to the nearest suitable trunk source is huge. Likewise, they're perpetuating the north-south equipment shuttle for a new generation and requiring the Grand Junction to go under-wire in tandem. Only the Memorial Drive overpass won't take 25 kV electrification because of the lowest vertical clearance in the entire state. They'd have to do it as an insulated section, which given the slowness of the bridge + approach means taking on perpetual risk of "gapping out" in the same way LIRR is prone to at grade crossings when--for any number of random-chance reasons--trains aren't coasting fast enough to cover the gap. Finally, it's a lot of substations to cover the entirety of the Eastern Route + branches. One each for Rockport and Newburyport, and one for the main + slack capacity for Peabody. You can do Worcester in 2 subs despite it being a longer trip because it's one unbranched line, and depending on how close to 128 you phase-break Franklin from the terminal district you might even be able to cram Forge Park + Foxboro on a single sub.

No question Rockburyport has the ridership to slot that high on priority, but the amount of capital and operational fugliness they're taking on front-loading that install ahead of more southside completions seems like a decision they're going to revisit again and again...until they finally decide they bit off more than they could chew. With what Sharon substation upgrades enable down south, they've pretty much got wind to their backs on getting everything except the Old Colony (which needs a fix for the Dorchester pinch before it's ready) and Stoughton (which needs final decisions on South Coast Rail before it's even possible to pick a substation site). And while I get their logic on Worcester delays, it seems there's a bigger problem there with the Pike project going too slow for comfort than needed to pick a substitute electrification up north. Front-load Franklin/Foxboro if Worcester needs a substitution. For the stiff expense of debuting any northside wire-up, the sunk costs in the terminal district + BET mean they're going to have to have something more than just one demonstration line to show for it. I know they want political equity to show for it, but in dollars and sense north needs more time to incubate. Load up for bear and either fund Rockburyport + a pricier (because of the numerous clearance touches) but very consequential Lowell Line retrofit, or scrape together an easier throw-in like 1-sub Waltham/Littleton to make a bigger show of the initial scale.
 

whighlander

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We know that Chelsea-Revere-Lynn are
  • densely-populated,
  • traffic-choked (at key pinch points on Rt 1 and 1A)
  • bus-dependent (transit-patronizing)
  • Land use that'd support all-day demand
So I'm persuaded that EMU to Lynn makes a great demonstration project (The first "Northside" implementation).
  • Lynn has long deserved frequent rail service
  • River Works is prime for TOD
  • Wonderland-Blue infill at dog track--also prime TOD
  • Chelsea-SLG ready for the big time
  • Sullivan probably should get a RUR stop too
Sure, I'd love it if they'd picked my own Lowell Line as the Northside "first" but really I don't think Medford and Winchester (nor Melrose) would "take to" that "minimum viable segment" for frequent rail transit all day as enthusiastically as would Chelsea-Revere-Lynn, which is a clear patronage win.

And nice set up for "who is going to use the NSRL?" -- connecting Chelsea-Lynn-Revere-Lynn to South Station and Back Bay and Ruggles all day long
Arlington -- some won't like this but here's the bottom line as I see this:

Suffolk Downs [formerly Amazonia] -- which while it has issues -- really has amazing potential for development along the Blue Line -- it could be more with better interface to the other lines

As for the rest of the near-by undeveloped or under developed areas:
Lynn, Chelsea and Everett are primed for reconquesta [in a good way]
These places are close to the core, have been cities for a long time and so have city like features [including a lot of nice old houses] some nice parks and Lynn even has its own harbor and shoreline [plus Nahant as a State run beach]
They have fallen from being industrial hotspots of the late 19th through mid 20th C and now are underutilized -- none of them will ever be Kendall's or even Seaports -- but they could very well become Alewife's or Assembly's -- and become heavy on middle income home owners
What they lack is what an EMU-based rail can deliver -- prompt, easy connectivity to the core -- and importantly easy access to Logan if the Blue to RER easy connection [i.e. moving sidewalk] is made at Wonderland - the connectivity to Kendall and the Seaport can be really enhanced through either a DTX HUB or Red-Blue @ Charles / MGH

This kind of investment in transportation will enable another couple of decades of Boston / Cambridge core growth because the folks to populate the next gen of Amazon's , Googles, Akamai's , etc., will be able to find reasonably affordable housing with good access and relatively short reliable commutes

As for Salem and Newburyport -- that's a vestige of the era when the Finance People all lived on the North Shore and commuted via North Station to State Street -- I don't see future Googlers hanging out with the Gov.

Worcester is still too far to support 15 minute frequencies. Plymouth has a lot of land -- but it lacks any infrastructure and has a small town vibe

However -- Framingham as a newly minted and developable city [with huge growth potential being both on the Turnpike and ideally located on Rt-9 between Rt-128 and I-495 is on the fringe of the critical distance -- perhaps circa 2035

The other one that could benefit from EMU high frequency service is of course Waltham -- but there are issues with where the business and people are located and where the stations are located

I think the rest is just feel good stuff from Aiello and probably Pollack

The one really key essential link is from MIT-ish to Lechmere and ultimately North Station [west station on the other end eventually] -- whether via a reborn Grand Junction or something else along that general right of way -- it should be implemented by a dedicated bus now and later converted to something more robust
 

tysmith95

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^How about electrifying Reading after Rockburyport?

The close spacing means that it'll see some of the best time improvement, and that corridor is denser than Winchester/Woburn/Wilmington.
 

Equilibria

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This is incorrect. The fourth (and originally last) resolution IS related to this. It resolves to immediately report this board vote to the legislature so they can approve the bond bill and its provisions including legalizing P3 procurement for the MBTA (they currently cannot under MGL) which Toronto and Wales indicated were crucial components of their Regional Rail procurement.

Resolution 5 was weird and unrelated by Monica but the FMCB keeps delaying better bus and bus things in general so she figured she might as well get in the creation of the Bus Transformation Office while she still could.
Thanks for the clarification!

Another operational element to consider about Lynn: It needs infill stops, which adds cost. Even if Encore/Gateway proves physically impossible, you probably need to build platforms at Sullivan, Route 99, and Wonderland, with maybe more at Eastern and Winthrop Avenues, plus a fully-rebuilt Riverworks/South Lynn.

Thanks to prior MBTA investment, the Fairmount has all its stations, while Providence is more about proving the effectiveness of the technology at long-distances and taking advantage of existing electrification.
 
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