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Old 12-03-2018, 09:53 AM   #3401
HenryAlan
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

I think it makes more sense to go with one of the easier ROW options and elevate sections if flooding is a valid concern.
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Old 12-03-2018, 10:19 AM   #3402
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

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I think it makes more sense to go with one of the easier ROW options and elevate sections if flooding is a valid concern.

Basically what they'll be doing with any BLX config to elevate the Saugus Draw approach for a taller fixed bridge carrying CR/BL side-by-side. I guess if the marsh is screwed the whole causeway can be raised above flood stage with a gravel dump. Tough EIS'ing, but they can tackle it piecemeal.
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Old 12-03-2018, 02:55 PM   #3403
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

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Basically what they'll be doing with any BLX config to elevate the Saugus Draw approach for a taller fixed bridge carrying CR/BL side-by-side. I guess if the marsh is screwed the whole causeway can be raised above flood stage with a gravel dump. Tough EIS'ing, but they can tackle it piecemeal.
If we have a stop at Points of Pines, wouldn’t the floods reduce the need of the station? There isn’t much radius where a person can walk to and from that station. You already have the Lynnway stop across the water.
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Old 12-03-2018, 04:17 PM   #3404
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

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If we have a stop at Points of Pines, wouldn’t the floods reduce the need of the station? There isn’t much radius where a person can walk to and from that station. You already have the Lynnway stop across the water.
Does this sidewalk look like any picnic of a walk? The next-nearest stop on the Lynn side of the river is nearly a mile away. Unless you're foregoing the BRB&L entirely for the Eastern Route causeway for reasons of cost blowouts over building impacts on the ROW near PoP, there really needs to be a stop there.

Second, the whole point of flood protection is so that a neighborhood like that DOESN'T get wiped out. Reference the flood maps I linked to in the previous post. PoP as a neighborhood fares pretty well compared to the Rumney Marshes side of the ithsmus. Topping off the currently very short Rice Ave. seawall and adding a short seawall on the Mills Ave. + 1A side that currently lacks any protection largely solves the problem. Notice how Revere Beach Blvd. is high-and-dry on the sea level rise map for its entire length because of its very modest current seawall that needs no extra topping for the worst-case inundation. You're not talking billions of dollars to keep this neighborhood fully dry, or lost causes in-wait like it's freakin' Plum Island. *Very* modest infrastructure investments on the order of a few $10's of million along a handful of street blocks is all it'll take...and those fortification proposals are already taking shape today.

Last edited by F-Line to Dudley; 12-03-2018 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 12-03-2018, 05:28 PM   #3405
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

Unrelated to the BLX discussion, but supposing that everything on our wishlists for regional rail got built - NSRL, full electrification for EMUs, etc. - and we started to hit the physical capacities of the busier lines (the Amtrak lines are the obvious ones here), what are our options? We’ll take for granted that usage will be high enough to warrant asking this question. We’ll also assume ‘bulldoze houses’ is still off the table, politically.

The only thing I’ve got is ‘cut and cover more tracks underneath the current lines,’ but I’m sure there’s a half-dozen reasons that is also impractical.
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Old 12-04-2018, 11:19 AM   #3406
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

Riffing on DominusNovus's thought about stacking subteranian lines under existing tracks, what about building an El above the Fairmount Line? Then that corridor would have actually, true rapid transit (although admittedly, true regional rail would probably also work just fine for that location).
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Old 12-04-2018, 11:43 AM   #3407
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

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Originally Posted by HenryAlan View Post
Riffing on DominusNovus's thought about stacking subteranian lines under existing tracks, what about building an El above the Fairmount Line? Then that corridor would have actually, true rapid transit (although admittedly, true regional rail would probably also work just fine for that location).
You could get pretty damn close to "true rapid transit" headways along the Fairmount Line with just electrification (which is easy, because South Station and Readville are already electrified), and new Euro-style EMU rolling stock. No need for an El.
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Old 12-04-2018, 01:46 PM   #3408
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

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Originally Posted by DominusNovus View Post
Unrelated to the BLX discussion, but supposing that everything on our wishlists for regional rail got built - NSRL, full electrification for EMUs, etc. - and we started to hit the physical capacities of the busier lines (the Amtrak lines are the obvious ones here), what are our options? We’ll take for granted that usage will be high enough to warrant asking this question. We’ll also assume ‘bulldoze houses’ is still off the table, politically.

The only thing I’ve got is ‘cut and cover more tracks underneath the current lines,’ but I’m sure there’s a half-dozen reasons that is also impractical.
Look closely and you'll see that the city is crisscrossed by a web of rights of way, commonly called highways, streets, and roads. There would have to be a whole heckuva lot of demand for travel to max out the rail ROWs at full geometric capacity, but if that ever happened you'd have a very strong case for starting to take lanes from the pike & 93.
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Old 12-04-2018, 04:19 PM   #3409
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

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Look closely and you'll see that the city is crisscrossed by a web of rights of way, commonly called highways, streets, and roads. There would have to be a whole heckuva lot of demand for travel to max out the rail ROWs at full geometric capacity, but if that ever happened you'd have a very strong case for starting to take lanes from the pike & 93.
Does the MBTA have a stake in those ROWs?
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Old 12-07-2018, 07:20 PM   #3410
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

They could take one lane of highway for light rail in the center and build an El above it for the other direction tracks.
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Old 12-11-2018, 09:30 PM   #3411
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

Been meaning to ask this question for weeks now: what sort of freight service (or any other non-commuter rail, non-Cape Flyer service) do any of the Old Colony Lines see these days? Including the Middleboro Secondary.
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Old 12-12-2018, 12:10 AM   #3412
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

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Been meaning to ask this question for weeks now: what sort of freight service (or any other non-commuter rail, non-Cape Flyer service) do any of the Old Colony Lines see these days? Including the Middleboro Secondary.
CSX B729 runs 6 days a week on the Middleboro Sec. and Old Colony. Departs Framingham around PM rush, runs entire length of the Framingham Secondary, down the NEC past Attleboro Jct., then crosses over and reverses to get onto the Middleboro Sec. Goes to Middleboro, then as far north as Braintree Yard. En route it sometimes does mop-up work for the early-afternoon NEC Mansfield-South Attleboro local if that didn't finish its chores. Works the Middleboro Sec., Taunton Industrial Track, and Middleboro Yard throughout the evening, then waits until commuter rail shuts down for the night to go up the Old Colony. Returns to Framingham by morning. If they run out of crew hours they outlaw in Middleboro Yard instead of returning to Framingham, re-crew in the morning, and finish up the OC the next morning after rush hour.

Main business is shortline interchanges, as it exchanges cars with Mass Coastal @ Middleboro Yard and Fore River Transportation @ Braintree Yard. Overflow empties from Fore River will sometimes be stored on the Randolph Industrial Track, visible to passing commuter trains.

Active customers include:
  • Linde (chemical co.), Attleboro near Attleboro Jct.
  • 1 or 2 small customers on the Taunton Industrial Track (lots of unused sidings in that industrial park)
  • some factory in Taunton @ Cotley Jct.
  • Warren Trask (lumber???), Lakeville
  • Middleboro Yard transloads
  • Trojan Recycling, Brockton (adjacent Campello Station, debris cars usually parked in view of the platform)
  • Champion City Recovery (recycling), Brockton, north of Montello Station (big customer...siding has mini-yard with 30-car storage capacity)
  • several unused sidings, Bridgewater-Avon + unused Randolph Industrial Track (Burke Distribution stopped receiving 2 years ago in some sort of dispute)
A few of those unused sidings would be gimmes for a RR that cared about generating local biz, but CSX only cares about the interchanges here.

------------------------------

Mass Coastal is the other player. They're a division of Cape Rail, who are in turn a holding of Iowa Pacific, Inc. Cape Rail does business in freight under the Mass Coastal reporting mark and business in passenger under the Cape Cod Central reporting mark...but are one and the same. MC has rights to the Cape Main south of Middleboro Jct., Falmouth Branch, Otis AFB spur, Hyannis Branch (main maintenance yard), Yarmouth spur, Fall River Line (in process of being reactivated by them from the port to RI state line), New Bedford Line, and Dean St. Industrial Track (a.k.a. isolated southernmost tip of Stoughton Line in Taunton). They have overhead rights (i.e. can move goods, but can't serve any customer sidings) on the Middleboro Secondary to Taunton to pass between their Taunton/South Coast and Cape lines.

Their main M'boro-Cape biz is the Cape trash train, transporting municipal garbage from on-Cape at Yarmouth Transfer Station to the large SEMASS energy plant in Rochester. That's how they keep garbage trucks from clogging up the bridges. Trash train runs 3 days a week.

Brand new customer, Cassova, started this summer shipping out construction debris from Falmouth Transfer Station on the Otis spur, necessitating a lot of the recent MassDOT funding for rehabbing the Falmouth Branch. Right now they're only taking 1-2 cars at a time couple times a week, but are supposed to be expanding operations. Otis is supposed to be imminently rehabbing its spur for military uses (likeliest: shipping in/out vehicles on flatbed for training exercises so they don't clog the bridges).

Customers (besides SEMASS):
  • Ocean Spray, Middleboro (just out of sight to east from M'boro Station platform)
  • 2 sidings, unknown status, Middleboro-Rochester
  • ...bunch else in the Taunton/South Coast line cluster (out-of-scope for this discussion, but bullish freight growth here is why the state's dropping an impressive sum of coin right this instant and for the next 3 years on upgrades to the Framingham Sec. and Middleboro Sec.)
The Cape is not a real hotbed for on-line biz, but now that MassDOT owns the Otis spur and the base is warming up to both commercial tenants at the old transfer station and military rail use there's some potentially good upside there (and it pisses off the Falmouth Branch bike path nihilists who think they can tear out active rails!).

------------------------------

Current CSX management is actively shopping low-margin lines across its network to dish off to other players. They already did sell off their Everett Terminal job to Pan Am earlier this month. B729 is the next-likeliest to go because the job is crew-intensive and hours-intensive for the shifts it works, they don't really care about any of the on-line biz, and the Mass Coastal and Fore River interchanges that they do value can be reached through other means. Their bread-and-butter in New England is gigantic intermodal trains, and interchange loads...so it behooves them to pare down their locals to a barest minimum. This job is the last "guilt-free" one they can drop without risking a competitive intrusion.

Mass Coastal's trackage rights for the Cape (only the Cape, not Taunton/South Coast) are up next year for competitive bid, because that's the way MassDOT has managed those lines for decades. They'll either win the renewal, or one of the rival consortiums bidding will end up more or less subsuming the whole Cape Rail system in a buyout from Iowa Pacific. And so it'll probably be when the entire next term-of-contract is secured that CSX will try to cash out its rights on the OC, Middleboro Sec., and the industrial tracks. MC (or successor) interchange would probably get handled at Attleboro Jct. by the mid-afternoon NEC local, and Braintree pickups would get handled by a nocturnal shortie out of Readville (which would later tack on South Boston Marine Terminal when Massport builds out that spur off Track 61).

No real commuter rail impact if this happens, except for the positive of CSX deleting one of its NEC dailies. Mass Coastal can putter around on the OC midday off-peak without getting in the way, since the T doesn't really have much in the way of train meets on the off-peak. If they run into start of rush hour there's Track 3 (a.k.a. Brockton Running Track) adjacent to Brockton Station right at the midpoint between Braintree & Middleboro Yards where they can turn out and park a 1500 ft. train until peak is over.

Last edited by F-Line to Dudley; 12-12-2018 at 12:22 AM.
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Old Yesterday, 08:38 PM   #3413
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

^ Well, that takes a bit of the elegance out of my idea, but here goes anyway...

It bothers me that the Old Colony lines have their capacity constrained by the single track available to them between Southampton and Vic, when there are literally five parallel railroad tracks for a good chunk of that stretch. And likewise, in Quincy, where there are three railroad tracks in parallel.

If this were the UK, the commuter rail and Red Line could share trackage, but that's not an option here, due to FRA regulations because (as I understand it) our mainline trains are theoretically built to be a lot beefier than our heavy rail trains. This means that a collision between the two would be pretty bad. So, at best, we see timesharing segregation, where mainline rail can only use heavy rail tracks off-hours.

Assuming that all of the above is unable to be changed (a discussion I am hardly qualified to have), it leaves us with the current situation: triple-or-better tracked segments that still see overall capacity constraints, despite multiple tracks having capacity to spare. Competing modes ends up limiting both.

So, what if we made them all one mode?

(For the moment, let's imagine there were no freight customers on the Middleboro Line. We'll come back to this.)

Here's the crazy transit pitch: string up catenary wires along all three Old Colony lines, plus the Braintree Branch of the Red Line. Replace the diesel-locomotive-hauled Commuter Rail trains with Red Line-style rolling stock, powered by overhead catenary. Use the current Commuter Rail track as a passing track for peak-direction express. The current Red Line tracks become mixed "local" tracks, serving both Red Line metro trains and suburban trains to/from Greenbush, Plymouth, Kingston, and Middleboro/Lakeville. The local tracks almost certainly have capacity, since they're currently constrained by Red Line upstream in the subway.

At JFK/UMass, suburban trains would continue aboveground through a slightly reconfigured Southampton/Cabot Yard that would continue to segregate the Old Colony heavy rail trains from the mainline Commuter Rail and Amtrak trains, into a set of dedicated platforms at South Station. This allows more trains to flow through the under-capacity Braintree Branch without putting more trains into the at-capacity subway.

The Old Colony Lines are well-suited to this semi-conversion to rapid transit service, as all the stations are all ready full-length high platforms, and the branching pattern (and thus frequency distribution) corresponds pretty well to the decreasing population density as you go further out.

You could replace the entire Red Line fleet with dual-mode third rail/catenary rolling stock (like the Blue Line), and run some/most/all of the suburban trains through the subway, but unifying the Cambridge Subway with service that terminates 30 miles away seems like a dispatching nightmare, and ultimately not that much more beneficial.

Being able to use 3 tracks north of Braintree instead of 1 (with a couple of passing loops) would mean that the Old Colony lines are constrained only by the single track stretches on each branch itself. Those constraints aren't trivial, but they're more manageable. That, combined with the increased frequencies afforded in general by electrification, plus some clever short-turning, could really help take pressure off Route 3 and the current Red Line park-n-rides.

Now, back a little bit closer to reality...

The continued use of the Middleboro Line by freight is a significant problem for this idea. Likewise, the Cape Flyer and any hypothetical commuter rail service beyond Middleboro (whether to Buzzards Bay, Hyannis or the South Coast -- a discussion for another time) would not fit well into this model, in part because there is absolutely no way you could take away mainline trains from the Cape -- if nothing else, you need the trash train.

So, a modified version keeps the existing commuter rail track north of Braintree largely as-is (maybe going ahead and electrifying, in anticipation of system-wide electrification at a later date), but still converts the Greenbush and Kingston/Plymouth Lines, and continues to run them through the Red Line "local" tracks.

Even though those are the two lower ridership lines of the three, the Middleboro Line still benefits by having all of those slots on the single track freed up. That means increased frequency service to Brockton (which ought to get RER-level service), and more slots available for long-distance trains to points south of Middleboro.

Worth saying that I don't think of this conversion as being toward "Indigo Line"- or "RER"-style service. We're not talking about walk-up level frequencies, post-conversion. I'm imagining 30-min peak headways, maybe 20-min if the "Red Line metro" gives up a couple of slots (potentially feasible-- some passengers would lose the one-seat ride to Cambridge, but others would gain an express ride to South Station).

From a branding perspective, you'd want this kept clearly separate from within-128 Indigo Line services. Maybe you just keep calling it "commuter rail" (maybe paint the new heavy rail cars purple), or call it a massive expansion of the Red Line, or come up with a new category all together. Red + purple apparently = magenta, so the Magenta Line?
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Old Yesterday, 10:30 PM   #3414
F-Line to Dudley
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Re: Crazy Transit Pitches

The #1 killer for that pitch (amongst many) is the electrification scheme. RR electrification standardizes on 25 kV AC because you only need substations roughly every 30 miles. That's the most popular voltage in the world by a mile, and what the T would be buying for EMU's in an RER era. T rapid transit (Green/Red/Orange/Blue/Silver Transitway/trackless trolleys) is 600V DC, requiring substations every mile or two because of the lower current and nature of DC. And rapid transit tunnels don't have anywhere close to the over- (for catenary) or under- (for third rail) clearance to support 25 kV. So substation spacing alone makes that scheme a cost-blowout nonstarter for going 30 miles each over multiple branches.

Second killer: HRT rolling stock is not safe enough to send through grade crossings, because the high floors and exposed underside increases the fatality risk for a vehicle in a collision and increases the risk of the train jackknifing. RR stock has more protection down low, as do trolleys. As all of these lines have many, many grade crossings it's not going to be practical to try to eliminate them all.

Third killer: Fore River Transportation freight. That state-owned shortline runs the "poop train" from Quincy Shipyard where it sends outbound tankers of processed sludge from Deer Island Treatment Plant offloaded from ship, and exchanges them with CSX to send to the Midwest to be processed as fertilizer. That's a core function for MA Water Resources Authority in the post- Harbor cleanup era to reduce Deer Island's waste footprint, so those freights are mission-critical. They back up from the Fore River Branch onto the Greenbush Line almost to the foot of Weymouth Landing Station, then proceed onto the East Braintree Jct. southbound wye and ride the mainline for about 1/3 mile before turning out into the yard. Usually runs around lunchtime. So you can't convert Greenbush because that's Fore River's link to the outside world.

Fourth killer: You still need CSX or someone else to be able to fetch loads from Fore River. Right now that's from the south on B729, but if CSX sells off the OC territory they'll be switching those pickups to the north out of Readville + Fairmount Line + OC main. As CSX already has federally protected rights through Dorchester it's not currently using, there's no way they'd voluntarily waive those rights for a mode change when there's $$$ to be made potentially cashing out and switching routings.

Potential fifth killer: If Mass Coastal (or successors) pick up territory from CSX as far north as Braintree Yard, they would if they see fit be able to petition the T for freight trackage rights on the Plymouth Line. Plymouth hasn't had a freight carrier since 1998, but there a few potential business prospects and the trackage rights would be inexpensive while slightly padding the T's coffers. Then all 3 OC lines could have small amounts of freight traffic.

--------------------

I drew this almost 2-1/2 years ago. It shows a fairly simple way to fix the single-track constriction in Dorchester. "Braintree Under Ashmont" shallow box tunnel for the Red Line Braintree Branch, with the bare roof supporting the Ashmont tracks. Frees up the space for an extra CR track and regulation breakdown lanes on that stretch of I-93. Also features a beneficial compacting of Columbia Jct. from the sprawly duck-unders to create double-track room further towards South Station, and the resulting reconfig of the JFK platforms features a far less-confusing separate inbound & outbound islands. Crossovers not to scale on the drawing.



At Savin Hill the Braintree tunnel shifts under the CR tracks to avoid the station pilings, and then it portals-up on current alignment somewhere between where I-93 pulls away and the Freeport St. overpass. Widened Freeport and Park St. overpasses ensure the double-track continues straight through over the bridge.

There's other challenges Wollaston to East Braintree Jct. that would need to be tackled individually, but it's not as daunting as it seems. Nor does it require anything truly crazy.
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