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

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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HenryAlan

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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 don't think they ruled out NSRL. The things they specifically endorsed need to happen first anyway, and are a huge benefit with or without a downtown tunnel. This is hugely exciting news.

And props to Transit Matters, they moved the discussion in ways I never imagined possible.
 

meddlepal

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Worcester and Central MA getting fucked is so very very Massachusetts. I hope state reps push back on this.
 

datadyne007

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I don't think they ruled out NSRL. The things they specifically endorsed need to happen first anyway, and are a huge benefit with or without a downtown tunnel. This is hugely exciting news.

And props to Transit Matters, they moved the discussion in ways I never imagined possible.
This, exactly. Regional Rail is not dependent upon NSRL, but NSRL is dependent upon Regional Rail.
 

Riverside

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Obviously many many details to work out, but this is just such fantastic news. The Transit Matters team should be very proud of themselves.
 

ceo

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Holy schmokes. Dare I hope that this might actually happen?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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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
Disavow oneself of this fantasy forthwith. The Wellington people mover was a goddamn maintenance nightmare for decades before having to be put out of its misery. What are the odds of one twice as long subject to constant intrusion from salt spray off the ocean somehow faring any better on uptime? And do not claim "Jetsons Shit". The agency that has monumental difficulties keeping ho-hum length escalators of every kind of vintage up and running is the wrongest place on earth to be sprinkling magic moving sidewalk pixie dust around as an excuse to not built badly needed expansion projects (BLX) or as an excuse to pursue that dodgy downtown superstation consolidation riders aren't asking for. If the moving parts aren't moving, said stations are outright accessibility demerits to the system.

Rockburyport RER compels BLX-Lynn in a massive way. As detailed a million times over, the Lynn bus hub upon which last-mile trips across the North Shore depend barely maintains representative headways with the equipment siphon of all routes having to thru-route in heavy traffic to Wonderland, Haymarket, and South Station. Nothing fixes that unless you bring Blue up, and the drag of not fixing it hurts RER just as badly when bus frequencies across all that population density remain uniformly terrible and Yellow Line route expansion to improve coverage is impossible so long as the same equipment suck takes a toll on those routes. They've already proposed Wonderland CR multiple times over, and its ridership projections failed (at any frequencies) to keep the lights on because it doesn't address any of the core multimodal mobility issues and is simply too long a transfer queue APM or no. Doing it right on RER doesn't leave them a choice but to do it right on BLX, because the buses don't work without it and the increased RER frequencies are a half-cocked fix without follow-through on last-mile frequencies.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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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.
Problem is to significantly densify Reading service beyond scraping the 15 min. minimum turns you have to pour a shitload of money into grade crossing improvements and do more double-track infilling than just the minimum bits (2 x 2 split w/ Eastern Route + Wellington passer + Reading Station 2nd platform). And that really becomes a megaproject. When those are the primary performance handicaps for the line, electrification alone isn't going to be the killshot. Spiraling Eastern Route traffic means Reading Jct. is going to gradually force more Western Route trains to cede priority over time (esp. if that Sullivan superstation ever happens), which puts pressure on upstream fluidity. The crossings in Melrose and Wakefield are already extremely busy, with Greenwood retaining a staffed crossing tender. There's only so much more they can do in queue dump tricks to offset the increased train traffic, since the crossings are very awkwardly-spaced from adjacent major intersections. And then NSRL might as well be armageddon, because the line is singularly ill-equipped to take a pair-matching without major issues.

What it'll take is a corridor-wide study to ballpark the needs. We're lucky that that nearly the whole of the difference to the minimum RER frequency can come just by vacating thru Haverhill slots to the Lowell Line. So fast-starts on diesel trainsets can happen more quickly here than elsewhere, giving the service a head-start but buying a solid decade to figure out other upgrades. They'll need to see what escalating traffic levels and increasingly brittle traffic-sharing in Somerville highlights as 20-year needs, and then see what dropping NSRL in the mix does in terms of mandating more radical solutions. The fear, highlighted by Alon Levy amongst others, is that the cost for doing it all right such that Reading can thrive at >20-year levels on RER and be in a state of NSRL readiness starts approaching then exceeding the cost of doing an outright Orange Line-Reading conversion. Because you'd have to rip the shit out of Medford-Malden for extra tracks, have to zap probably 75% of the grade crossings at RR grades and rebuild/relocate every single station Wyoming-north because they all abut crossings, and run duplicate 25 kV electrification next to the 600V Orange electrification. Whereas an Orange conversion, despite requiring ALL instead of merely most crossings to be separated, can incline around those eliminated crossings at much steeper grades, can squish into tighter vertical clearances on an underpass than a RR line needing 18 ft. for a 25 kV wire, require zero touches to the Medford-Malden ROW except for extending the express track on-footprint to Oak Grove, completely vacate Reading Jct. meaning the Eastern can flush ever-more dizzying growth instead, and do it all at as little as 3-min. headways (or throttled for the 'burbs with OG short-turns) for the money instead of 15. The crossing eliminations are massive outlays, so if you're forced to three-quarters of them any which way it makes all the cost difference in the world that each elimination can have its project area compacted by the mode choice.

The Rail Vision anticipates this being a thorny future dilemma by ID'ing Orange-Reading on some of its slides as a potential future project. That doesn't mean it's likely to happen, but it does mean a corridor study has to pick through the future possibilities in much more detail than "string 'em up and build full-high platforms". For that reason Waltham/Littleton, despite being a lower ridership corridor, might net better bang-for-buck on initial electrification because the Fitchburg Line is extremely far below-capacity and wouldn't take much more than settling up the ADA backlog to net a now-and-forever ready RER corridor. That is going to be a driving consideration, because if absolute priority were ruling then the Lowell Line would be the alpha construction project...but the Lowell Line has a steep premium at needing to raise clearances to run 17' freight cars under-wire.
 

whittle

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Pollack said that the rail vision estimate for the cost of station improvements was well below the cost of Natick Center ($36.2 million). This doesn't appear to be case. Alts 4 and 6 are both estimating $36-37million per station undergoing construction and $34million per station in Alt5 (I don't think Rail Vision has made enough detail public to calculate these numbers for Alts1-3). The difference between Alts 4 and 5 was 6 improved stations and $100million total for stations. One of these 6 stations was Kendall, the cost of which appears to be classified under under expansions. The other 5 are all on the Old Colony Lines, and a lower cost for improving those stations seems reasonable given that 4 of them already have 1 high level platform and the 5th (Braintree) has a high level center island platform. (also I'm curious why there are additional improvements to OC in Alt5 over 4 given that OC is supposedly getting the same service level under each Alternative; and 4 has SCR to deal with)

She also said implied that Natick should be seen as a low end of how much a station improvement should cost. While I'm venturing much further from what I'm qualified to speak about, this does not seem to be the case to me. The cost estimate for 2 side platforms for the Newton stations was $37mil per station (excluding the cost of bridge modifications which Rail Vision seems be accounting for separately). And I think all the new or improved stations we've built recently (Fairmont Line, Lansdowne, Boston Landing, Littleton) have come in considerably cheaper.

And on this note, would anyone who knows what they're talking about care to comment on her claim that high level platforms don't improve boarding times? I was under the impression that even if they don't noticeably improve the speed a single person can enter or leave the train, they enable far more doors to be used without the presence of a conductor.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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@F-Line to Dudley , what if as a temporary solution we just towed electric equipment over the Grand Junction with a diesel?
Needing to burn a switcher assignment to make an equipment move is a waste of time and money. It's more efficient to just limit the amount of intermixing between north and south equipment pools. If you have an initial south investment in EMU's, new shops by Readville capable of handling EMU's or coaches can do that. Then you only need to ship locos and cycled Downeaster equipment up north. By the time you're ready to make first north electrification, Providence/RIDOT + Fairmount + Worcester + Franklin/Foxboro are probably all wired and there is substantial fleet robustness to go around. The EMU's you buy for the north expansion can then strictly run northside, and the swaps can be very rare. Yes...rare enough that it's not a regular waste of time/money to bum a switcher.

But this split initial pool ensures that either south nor north EMU rosters will be threadbare enough that they have to be interdependent. Even moreso than today, because it'll increase the swap needs because EMU's (or even the "sandwich" coaches + power cars like the NJ Transit MLV's) have more cab ends on their rosters that need 92-day "locomotive" inspections. To make that work I think you have to electrify the GJ. It's not that expensive in terms of hardware, but the insulated section under Memorial Drive will be the scene of regular T Alerts for stalled trains that painstakingly need to be "walked" at 1 MPH on aux battery at significant delay. LIRR riders are used to "gapping" misadventures after 100 years, so it's not a killer. But it is going to induce a few groaner moments. Just think how many times--fencing be damned--those stupid Charles River white geese would end up spilling onto the tracks by the bridge and force a stop in the electric gap region to avoid a bloody mess on the front of the train. That kind of inanity can become regular occurrence at that spot, since those honking disease bags already regularly block T/Amtrak moves when the flock is too stupid to get off the tracks.
 

Equilibria

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On a different subject, now that we've changed the thread name and all, Aiello spitballed the name "Regional Urban Rail". RUR is not a good acronym. This effort needs a better brand.
 

Arlington

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On a different subject, now that we've changed the thread name and all, Aiello spitballed the name "Regional Urban Rail". RUR is not a good acronym. This effort needs a better brand.
I agree and my bias shows in that, as Moderator renaming this thread, could not bring myself to insert the "Urban" into Regional Rail, but still, in the interests of search-and-find, think that people are going to be searching for RUR and NSRL. And the act of renaming (away from Commuter Rail and toward something that evokes an all-day mode), was a pretty big political shift and victory for TransitMatters, even if the actual branding sucks.

ArchBoston, and Railroad.net have used RER as shorthand-brand until now. RER is a French (originally Parisian) acronym Réseau Express Régional (transliterates as Network Express Regional or Regional Express Network), and is not particularly catchy either though transit nerds know *exactly* what is meant by it.

London calls their (rough) equivalent the London Overground to stress that it has subway-like operations, but is surface rail.

If we wanted to Backronym RER to mean Regional Electric Rail, that'd be OK by me.
 
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