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Old 06-06-2012, 07:59 PM   #41
omaja
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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Originally Posted by Matthew View Post
The trouble with that list is that it's area-wide, so it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to put Guttenberg, which is a few city blocks in size, on the same list with NYC or Boston.

For transportation purposes, you want to look at more specific levels of density along the corridor of interest. Block-level, blockgroup-level or tract-level (census terms).

I also prefer dwelling units per net acre. Why? Because measuring the number of dwelling units tells you how many people can live comfortably in an area. A higher number of dwelling units per acre usually corresponds to less overcrowding because it is easier to get an apartment, so it is less likely that people are forced to live together unsafely. Net acre means per acre of land zoned for residential use. So this excludes roadways, parks, commercial and industrial zones. I think this is important because it is the land where people live that primarily generates customers for the transit service, not the adjacent park (though of course, it does get users too).

Under this lens, the most densely populated areas of Boston are the Fenway (100-200 dwelling units / net acre), north side Beacon Hill (100-200 du/na) the North End (90-180 du/na), Back Bay Comm Ave (75-150 du/na), Allston/Brighton Comm Ave (60-120 du/na), Southie W. Broadway (110 du/na), and the South End (50-200 du/na).

Most of Dorchester and Roxbury falls in the 10-40 du/na range, as does Brighton Center. Oak Square is 10-20 du/na as is most of JP. Typically, younger suburban towns are under 10-12 du/na, and 10-20 du/na is considered semi-suburban or borderline.

Of course that is only one axis to look at, and there's a lot of different history in the various neighborhoods and patterns of usage and growth to account for too. But fundamentally, you want to build transit where the people are (or where they will be) and Comm Ave has a lot more people living there than the Cambridge/Washington St corridor.
I was concentrating on zip codes as a means for measurement and just using the Wikipedia list as a reference point - compared to the vast majority of developed areas in the United States, the inner core of Boston (with a city average of around 13K/sq mi) is significantly denser on average, yet there are certain areas that are out of comfortable reach of rapid transit.

There is certainly a correlation between overall population density and dwellings per net acre, but it does not seem to factor in higher occupancy per dwelling, does it? While the Comm Ave corridor is no doubt home to a large chunk of Brighton's population, there is still a significant portion outside of a comfortable 1/4-mile walking distance from regular rapid transit. Restoring the A Line or running light rail along North Beacon would bring the lopsided density back towards equilibrium as it brings with a significant amount of development and greater density (esp. North Beacon area).

Here's a sampling of 25 Metro Boston zip codes and their densities from 2010:

DENSITY (2010) ZIP AREA
63,135 02113 North End
36,211 02115 Fenway
27,933 02116 Back Bay
25,340 02118 South End
24,819 02108 Beacon Hill
21,667 02139 Central/Inman/MIT
21,274 02446 Brookline-North
21,069 02144 Somerville-Davis
17,817 02145 East Somerville/Magoun
17,334 02141 East Cambridge
16,129 02143 Somerville-Union
15,460 02140 Cambridge-Alewife
15,276 02134 Allston
14,620 02150 Chelsea
14,498 02135 Brighton
13,539 02127 South Boston
12,672 02138 West Cambridge/Harvard
12,080 02129 Charlestown
9,073 02130 Jamaica Plain
8,358 02453 Waltham-South
7,245 02472 Watertown
5,625 02445 Brookline-South
5,285 02132 West Roxbury
4,992 02109 Financial District
4,048 02452 Waltham-East
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Old 06-06-2012, 08:40 PM   #42
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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The express bus works quite well for commuting, but is too infrequent to be effective otherwise in my experience
Is there a non-commute use case? If there is, the schedule can be improved far more easily than an A-line restoration. The A-line would be a rather poor option for transit between Brighton and downtown. The justification for restoration would lie in a local service need that can't be provided by the 57. I don't see that. The reality is that Brighton is a bedroom community.
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Old 06-06-2012, 10:48 PM   #43
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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Originally Posted by omaja View Post
I was concentrating on zip codes as a means for measurement and just using the Wikipedia list as a reference point - compared to the vast majority of developed areas in the United States, the inner core of Boston (with a city average of around 13K/sq mi) is significantly denser on average, yet there are certain areas that are out of comfortable reach of rapid transit.

There is certainly a correlation between overall population density and dwellings per net acre, but it does not seem to factor in higher occupancy per dwelling, does it? While the Comm Ave corridor is no doubt home to a large chunk of Brighton's population, there is still a significant portion outside of a comfortable 1/4-mile walking distance from regular rapid transit. Restoring the A Line or running light rail along North Beacon would bring the lopsided density back towards equilibrium as it brings with a significant amount of development and greater density (esp. North Beacon area).
The trouble is that 13k sq/mi isn't really that much. You could have that with a square mile worth of 10 du / acre of 2 person households. Of course that's an oversimplification, but it's firmly suburban. But on the other hand, if the zip code lines were drawn to include significant non-residential pieces of land, then actually the density could be much higher where it really counts, near the potential transit corridors. The zipcodes are too coarse grained to tell the difference. So I'm looking at blockgroup or smaller levels.

Whether to count people per area or du per area is up to you, really. I just happen to like du per area because neighborhoods that are doing well tend to add more dwelling units (when not stifled by zoning) and neighborhoods which have problems tend to have too few dwelling units, along with overcrowding, because residents are having trouble affording them. Which probably means they are not living there by choice, and will move away when given the chance. For a high fixed cost investment like transit, it seems like you want to put it in a place where people are more firmly rooted. But of course, there's always exceptions. And I'm assuming the vacancy rate is relatively normal.

Quote:
Here's a sampling of 25 Metro Boston zip codes and their densities from 2010:

DENSITY (2010) ZIP AREA
63,135 02113 North End
36,211 02115 Fenway
27,933 02116 Back Bay
25,340 02118 South End
24,819 02108 Beacon Hill
21,667 02139 Central/Inman/MIT
21,274 02446 Brookline-North
21,069 02144 Somerville-Davis
17,817 02145 East Somerville/Magoun
17,334 02141 East Cambridge
16,129 02143 Somerville-Union
15,460 02140 Cambridge-Alewife
15,276 02134 Allston
14,620 02150 Chelsea
14,498 02135 Brighton
13,539 02127 South Boston
So let's compare: North End and Fenway definitely top the list. I split Beacon Hill into two parts. The northern part is much much much denser than the southern part. The South End varies a lot. I didn't include non-Boston cities on my list, but Area IV and Cleveland Circle in Brookline are the densest in those towns. However, they do not match the Comm Ave corridor in Allston/Brighton. In fact, none of those other listings match that corridor, and therefore it's a little misleading to put Allston and Brighton so low on the list. A/B is big, and there are large portions which lower the overall average density. So again, zip codes are just too coarse to give the right picture.

Somerville is kind of funny, I was a little surprised since I know it does well in the population density lists, but actually that's mostly because most of the land within the city is devoted to residential. But it's not dense residential, just persistent. It's more akin to Brighton Center, even Davis wasn't that much more.

Of course by that argument Brighton deserves a a Red Line extension. Woot!
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Old 06-07-2012, 08:01 PM   #44
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

A large chunk of Brighton is made up of parks (Rogers, Ringers, Gallagher, Cenacles), schools (BC's Brighton campus, Brighton High) and, of course, Saint Elizabeth's so subtracting out that space would yield higher densities across the entire zip code. Even still, there is a not so insignificant number of multi-family homes within the comfortable quarter mile radius of Washington Street that would certainly provide a dense base for reintroducing rapid rail transit. Perhaps we are simply using the term differently, but I wouldn't consider 13K people/sq mi to be suburban; certainly not considering that Boston's actual suburbs average less than a third of that density.

I don't think density or viability of rail transit along the corridor had anything to do with the MBTA aborting the A Line. I think that had everything to do with their goal of eliminating every street-running rail line from their network because of perceived cost savings with buses, whether that actually made sense in the long run or not.
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Old 06-07-2012, 09:00 PM   #45
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

A big reason to reactivate the A isn't so much service to Brighton, which is already well served, but to help the throughput of the B. First of all it gets people away from the overburdned Warren and Harvard Ave stops, and second puts more trains per hour through BU than would be possible with the current setup. Even if they added a pocket track after Griggs St, it still wouldn't be as good a relief as a short A would.


Also just a bit of history for you all: Before the current hatred of street-running trolleys the long range plan for the area had been to kill off the B between Packards Corner and Chestnut Hill Ave and have the A pick up the slack as it served population centers better. The C would have been extended up to BC via the short Chestnut Hill Ave tracks.
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Old 06-07-2012, 10:36 PM   #46
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

Not to get carried away on a density tangent, but the idea of 13k/sq mi as "firmly suburban" is a intriguing, so just for reference a couple of block-level maps I threw together earlier this year...

Density greater than the Boston average (~13k/sq mi): http://bostonography.com/wp-content/...han_boston.jpg
Density greater than the Somerville average (~18k/sq mi): http://bostonography.com/wp-content/...somerville.jpg
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Old 06-08-2012, 05:14 AM   #47
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

These are cool maps. It would be interesting to see one with gradients. For example, my block is blue on the "greater than Boston" map, but is not blue on the Somerville version. Some nearby blocks are still blue on that one, though, so I'm curious as to where mine falls within the range. Is it closer to 13,000 or 18,000?
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Old 06-08-2012, 09:03 AM   #48
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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While adding rapid transit along this route would be nice, I can't help but feel this would be worse than the B line is. The stretch from Packards Corner through the North Beacon/Cambridge Street intersection would be an absolute mess.
Signal priority.

This isn't brain surgery.
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Old 06-08-2012, 09:34 AM   #49
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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Old 06-08-2012, 02:54 PM   #50
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

Just happened to glance at NextBus for the 57 bus a moment ago. There's a 30-40 minute gap between buses at the beginning of PM peak.

That's unacceptable for a key route. Shit like this is why people keep wishing for the "A" line, I suppose. But there's no reason the bus can't fulfill that need. It just needs to suck less.
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Old 06-08-2012, 05:51 PM   #51
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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Just happened to glance at NextBus for the 57 bus a moment ago. There's a 30-40 minute gap between buses at the beginning of PM peak.

That's unacceptable for a key route. Shit like this is why people keep wishing for the "A" line, I suppose. But there's no reason the bus can't fulfill that need. It just needs to suck less.
And much like the 39 mode vs. mode doesn't capture all the reasons why the corridor is poorly served by transit. They didn't just remove functioning transit, they then overburdened the replacement mode with conditions that left it unable to adequately do its job. Stop over-saturation, too many duplicate stops with other modes (remember when the 57 still ran express to Packard's?...until it became yet another BU school bus), and upended by the exact same double-parking problems used as a wedge against trolleys?

Transit politics in the Menino Epoch have more much frequently been about zero-sum spoils and neighborhood vs. neighborhood than little details mode vs. mode. Brighton Ctr. and the A restoration was one that unfortunately bears his choke marks more than others. Herb Chambers et al still outslug the whole of the neighborhood when it comes to who gets a seat at the transit planning table, so of course the 57 is going to get zero improvements, be perennially unable/unwilling to scale to the ridership demand, and undergo very gradual attrition over the years (loss of express service, subject to above-average number of dropped runs, thinning off-peak service). Then all you have to do is count the number of Harvard-owned properties along its route (just about none) to see what the odds are of those fortunes changing in the foreseeable future. JP and Roxbury know this drill, reinforced many times over on matters far-flung from just the E and Silver Line. It's not enough to merely be ignored from lack of adequate crony starpower...no, the beatings must continue unabated so that cronies in other neighborhoods may prosper. That's the problem in a nutshell...the zero-sum pointlessness of the way this regime's brain is wired on these things.
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Old 06-08-2012, 06:36 PM   #52
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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I am in 100 percent agreement that the B Line should be elevated to the hill just past Warren, but I'm not sure I see much benefit in routing a restored A Line via Warren.

You'd really only increase one-seat access to Downtown to a small area, most of which is consumed by St. E's and Brighton High.


The circles represent a walking distance of 1/4 mile from each station; the new A Line stops are in blue while existing B Line ones are in green.

Compare that with restoring the A Line to its original route:
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Old 06-08-2012, 08:41 PM   #53
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

Omaja - I completely agree - and thanks for showing it visually - that the original A line routing has better coverage than the Warren St option. Nonetheless I think Warren is more expedient. The goal IMO is not to cover more area but to reach the central node of Brighton Center (we can disagree on this). Warren does this best and easiest. Except for a few residences by Comm Ave there are no commercial or residential frontage or cross streets. Very easy street running straight to Brighton Center with minimal hassle.
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Old 06-09-2012, 05:48 AM   #54
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
And much like the 39 mode vs. mode doesn't capture all the reasons why the corridor is poorly served by transit. They didn't just remove functioning transit, they then overburdened the replacement mode with conditions that left it unable to adequately do its job. Stop over-saturation, too many duplicate stops with other modes (remember when the 57 still ran express to Packard's?...until it became yet another BU school bus), and upended by the exact same double-parking problems used as a wedge against trolleys?

Transit politics in the Menino Epoch have more much frequently been about zero-sum spoils and neighborhood vs. neighborhood than little details mode vs. mode. Brighton Ctr. and the A restoration was one that unfortunately bears his choke marks more than others. Herb Chambers et al still outslug the whole of the neighborhood when it comes to who gets a seat at the transit planning table, so of course the 57 is going to get zero improvements, be perennially unable/unwilling to scale to the ridership demand, and undergo very gradual attrition over the years (loss of express service, subject to above-average number of dropped runs, thinning off-peak service)....
F-Line -- I think you are missing a major aspect of the Transit Planning -- its called the MBTA advisory Board which to a large extent has to represent the interests of the suburbs who:
1) have most of the population in the Greater Boston Area
2) pay most of the taxes and therefore most of the money to run the T
3) Feel that they are getting short-changed on service as it is

Menino really has minimal say on the matter of where the T's $ are spent on expansion -- its the Legislature and the Advisory Board both of which are creatures of the populated and politically connected inner suburbs
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Old 06-09-2012, 09:07 AM   #55
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

Whigh, I somehow feel like you're overstating the power of the Advisory Board. For example, according to the Advisory Board, the MBTA and MassDOT passed the FY2013 budget and share with them until after. What can they actually do aside from publish meaningless reports after the fact?

Not to mention, the inner suburbs haven't seen any expansion either, we're only seeing planned commuter rail extensions to nowhere. It isn't so much suburbs-versus-Boston as it is every small community under the sun versus every other small community under the sun. High time to consolidate MA's absurd geopolitical structure centered around villages/local neighborhoods, that way things would actually be accomplished in this state.
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Old 06-10-2012, 07:06 AM   #56
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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Whigh, I somehow feel like you're overstating the power of the Advisory Board. For example, according to the Advisory Board, the MBTA and MassDOT passed the FY2013 budget and share with them until after. What can they actually do aside from publish meaningless reports after the fact?

Not to mention, the inner suburbs haven't seen any expansion either, we're only seeing planned commuter rail extensions to nowhere. It isn't so much suburbs-versus-Boston as it is every small community under the sun versus every other small community under the sun. High time to consolidate MA's absurd geopolitical structure centered around villages/local neighborhoods, that way things would actually be accomplished in this state.
Omaja -- From the day that I arrived at MIT -- I've advocated a Metro County for essentially everything inside I-495. Boston or Suffolk+ == BOS -- >essentially a revived "MDC on Steroids" and with better governance and with power to tax -- BOS would own and control :
1) Massport
2) BCEC
3) MBTA
4) Parks
5) all arterial roads
6) State Police like functions within
7) Courts within

There would be an elected Executive and a uni or bicameral legislature -- population of about 3. to 4.+ M depending on precise boundary -- economic super city-state

The rest of MA would be composed of the rump Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk and the rest of the traditional counties, cities and towns
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Old 06-10-2012, 09:42 AM   #57
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

That's great but didn't really address my question about the advisory board. Seems like it is all bark and no bite. My guess is the real non-starter behind restoring A service is local Brighton interests (Herb Chambers et. al.) and the absurd power NIMBY neighborhood associations have in the city.
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Old 06-12-2012, 07:04 PM   #58
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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F-Line -- I think you are missing a major aspect of the Transit Planning -- its called the MBTA advisory Board which to a large extent has to represent the interests of the suburbs who:
1) have most of the population in the Greater Boston Area
2) pay most of the taxes and therefore most of the money to run the T
3) Feel that they are getting short-changed on service as it is

Menino really has minimal say on the matter of where the T's $ are spent on expansion -- its the Legislature and the Advisory Board both of which are creatures of the populated and politically connected inner suburbs

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Originally Posted by omaja View Post
That's great but didn't really address my question about the advisory board. Seems like it is all bark and no bite. My guess is the real non-starter behind restoring A service is local Brighton interests (Herb Chambers et. al.) and the absurd power NIMBY neighborhood associations have in the city.
omaja pretty much answers this one. Yes, Menino will occasionally uncork a you're-not-helping level barb a la "Eww...overhead wires is ugly" or his diatribe to the JP Gazette about the Casey Overpass a few weeks ago. But the fate of the entire project never comes down to his actively campaigning against it. Hell, the Casey saga was noteworthy for how eerily silent City Hall was through the whole duration of that very contentious public comment period...and then he musters that response under pressure weeks after the fact. The willful lack of any input from City Hall let that one degenerate into a MassHighway vs. neighborhood pissing match. The vacuum shaped the debate, and the debate got played largely on MassHighway's turf with how it boiled down to options decided solely by highway capacity: enormously complex highway overpass or enormously complex at-grade highway intersection. Well, if "greenspace" is the goal, Youzonnor, how come nobody was stepping up that viewpoint when the argument had taken a turn for the zero-sum?

Maybe he doesn't have a horse in this race. But that's the problem...it's zero-sum all the same because the neighborhood simply becomes flyover country. They're getting the same treatment over the Arborway garage expansion proposals. That's been left to state vs. neighborhood. Arborway was a "temporary" garage opened so they could shuffle operations around while demolishing dilapidated old Bartlett garage and construct its replacement at Southampton. Well...Southampton's been open 8 years now but instead of closing Arborway we're now gonna triple it in size so we can close another dilapidated old garage in Fellsway and load-shift everything around. And the terms of the debate were set again on zero-sum state vs. neighborhood "either make this VASTLY bigger and more invasive, or we'll have to gut your transit options because you must clearly hate transit." Where's City Hall in all of this giving a reminder that they broke their promise to make it temporary??? Why is the debate being allowed to be framed on these lines???

Oh, wait...because the biggest open parcel of T-owned land to build a mega-consolidated bus garage is Readville. In sweet home Hyde Park. Where he's coveted all that unused train yard land for years to bring in "mixed residential/commercial"...and greenspace. (Well...maybe not so much any more because every half-interested developer he brought in there backed out). So, suck it JP...Roxbury didn't get very far with its air quality lawsuits either.

That's how it played out in Brighton Ctr. He wasn't out stumping for "death to transit!" He was AWOL altogether. Except when Herb Chambers had a problem. Then there would be an unambiguous show of support in the papers the next day for Herb Chambers...maybe not directly related to the transit matter at hand, but implicit and unambiguous and in stark contrast to not saying a damn thing to community groups or the A-B Tab for years on end about making the 57 any better. And, ohbytheway...look who's simultaneously looming large at the center of the hype machine during the same era for all the magic bus tunnels to be carving up the Waterfront, Chinatown, and South End.

Like I said, the "flyover" neighborhoods on the commute from Hyde Park to Gov't Ctr. know this drill well. They're relegated to trying to better themselves without an alpha-dog (beyond what limited influence their district counselor can wield) who can shape the terms of the narrative, and vulnerable to the NIMBY's and other very invididual interests who can get a live voice on a private line from downtown...any day, any reason. Yes, controlling the terms of a debate is very very important indeed. The 3 most recent Mayors of Somerville are testament to that. Menino himself is testament to that on numerous other things. It's hard not to notice the areas where he willfully withholds that attention, but JP, Roxbury, and the not-Harvard/not-BU parts of A-B are quite used to it after 20 years.



And the Advisory Board?...seriously? If it were even structurally up to the task to wag a finger and have its finger wag duly noted by the state, it's a hell of a big leap to picture "the burbs" voting as a bloc for "the burbs'" interests. NIMBY-on-NIMBY they do a pretty fine job tearing their own guts out in hand-to-hand combat. Inside of their own town borders, let alone cross-district. I would love to see an attempt at cramming 100 North Shore suburban commuters and 100 South Shore suburban commuters in a room together and trying to get them to vote in their common interest as a suburban bloc. It would be a fascinating sociological experiment.

No, it's a ranking Legislator here, and a Selectman-with-coattails here, and this-guy-who-has-these-guys'-backs, and a "pillar of the community" businessman here who gets his phone calls answered with a live voice like Herb Chambers-of-the-small-town, and so on. Business as usual.
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Old 06-12-2012, 07:44 PM   #59
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

Question: what's Herb Chambers' beef with transit? An ideological disdain or something more truly logical?
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:35 PM   #60
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Re: A-Line Reactivation

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Question: what's Herb Chambers' beef with transit? An ideological disdain or something more truly logical?
Herb Chambers makes his living selling college students and 'the poor' beat up junker cars. I'm sure he has the same level of disdain for Zipcar, another thing that is directly competing with his ability to keep making a living doing what he does.
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