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Old 10-26-2012, 07:33 AM   #1
Commuting Boston Student
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AirTrain Boston Logan

I swear on my life that this is a serious proposal.

Pros:
  • Transit is probably the most useful thing we can ever hope and/or expect to build on the Greenway, now and forever.
  • Single-seat ride from South Station AND North Station to any of the airport's terminals
  • 70~80% of the impact is constrained to highway infrastructure (I count the Greenway as 'highway infrastructure') and the airport itself
  • Hugs the Boston Waterfront for most of its journey, offering scenic views as it coasts into the Financial District (read: total tourist trap)
  • No tunneling required
  • Can build in phases (Phase I: Airport Station - Airport Terminals, Phase II: Airport Station - South Station)
  • Likely cheaper overall than any alternatives, most of which involve tunneling of some description
  • Is an El (read: Els are cool)
Cons:
  • Requires another expensive bridge over the harbor
  • Mitigation Station at East Boston Central Square likely an expensive requirement, Mitigation Station at Charlestown Navy Yard a possible requirement as well
  • Likely precludes a Greenway Green Line Branch or similar surface level trolley
  • Can never be extended into any kind of tunnel
  • Is an El (Read: El-related pearl-clutching moral imperatives)
  • Prime NIMBY target (Read: Shadow-related pearl-clutching NIMBY imperatives)
  • Could be accurately described (by detractors) as a Charlestown El
So... is it worth it?
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:08 AM   #2
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

The bridge over the harbor doesn't seem worth it to me. What about a gondola style set up. Don't some Latin American countries have these? They aren't as fast as a train but you get similar mobility, an easier set up, and the tourist thing is self evident. It would be much easier to build the two towers to give the harbor than a high span. I feel a bridge could never have the lead in spave to get to the necessary height without having a crazy incline. Run them so they come at 7 minute headways and continuously loop.
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:26 AM   #3
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

It's a nice thought, but....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Commuting Boston Student View Post
[*]Is an El (Read: El-related pearl-clutching moral imperatives)
[*]Prime NIMBY target (Read: Shadow-related pearl-clutching NIMBY imperatives)
You're not getting around these two things. There is no way any politician will allow building a new el structure on the Greenway in our lifetime. It's just not happening.
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:34 AM   #4
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

Simplify! This pretty much is the Urban Ring save for the loop around the terminals.

1) Built the UR to Chelsea as designed, as an LRT branch.

i.e. Fork it as a branch off GLX at Brickbottom around the carhouse leads, to Sullivan on the seldom-used freight storage tracks. I would prefer a direct from there across the Mystic instead of the T's plan to do an awkward detour through Assembly and Wellington, but whatever...just get to the Eastern Route on the Everett side however it must. Full grade separation along the Eastern Route at all streets except Chelsea station (impossible because of overhead Route 1 and complexity of the intersection), peel out on the abandoned leg of the wye. Merge onto the Chelsea St. lift bridge for 1 block of mixed traffic, signal-prioritized for trolleys. Merge off onto the East Boston Branch/Haul Road ROW. Go to Airport station.

Build it in stages. I think a Sullivan stub is useful soon for taking max advantage of the carhouse leads and thru-routing another subway branch.


2) Sometime later...next time Logan is up for a major terminal renovation...build a grade-separated busway on the 2nd level of Central Parking looping around all the terminals. Put rails in the pavement, dual-mode trolley + TT overhead. Route the Silver Line and Green Line through here on a dedicated terminal loop so neither line has to sit in mixed traffic on the lower level. Maybe equip a few trolleys on the inside with luggage racks a la SL1.


There...that's maximal infrastructure utilization and full hegemony with the UR mission statement. Plus a line you could build now unlike the Grand Junction leg of the UR where replacing the North-South rail access is a tricky pickle. The only place we would ever want to drop $1B for a new harbor crossing is a transit tube grafted onto the Ted so the Silver Line could go total rail (even heavy rail). And we already blew up an El once on the Greenway footprint...the people spoke on that in 1938. Charlestown just doesn't have those advantages with the Tobin and Sumner/Callahan there already taking a whole lot of existing bus traffic.


None of this precludes a Greenway trolley, BTW. If you set that up as a touristy heritage trolley deal at street level that doubles as a functional transit line a la MUNI's F line you can unseal the Haymarket portal, rig up the track from the portal to Brattle Loop with the dual-mode pantograph + trolley overhead that the whole Green Line used for 15 years in the mixed- LRV and PCC era, and loop the historic trolleys at GC on a short run. And maybe branch it to the Navy Yard using the ex-Orange upper level of the Charlestown Bridge if demand merits.

I just don't think a shotgun marriage of the Greenway trolley + airport is going to be a particularly efficient routing vs. the grade-separated Eastern Route and the longish stop spacing up there that'll allow 50 MPH running between stops. Not to mention way too expensive to carve out a new ROW on infrastructure (El) the public's very hostile to when this UR ROW is already reserved for the exact same purpose and has broad-based support from everyone except the @#$% T itself.
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Old 10-26-2012, 09:47 AM   #5
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

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Originally Posted by statler View Post
It's a nice thought, but....



You're not getting around these two things. There is no way any politician will allow building a new el structure on the Greenway in our lifetime. It's just not happening.
That's why I suggested a phased-build, with Phase I just being the airport.

People are stupid. You tell them you want to build a new El and that's a great way to set yourself up for failure right away. You build an El-that-we're-not-calling-an-El, like an AirTrain Phase I around the terminals, and come back in 20 years with AirTrain Phase II to extend it over to North Station and on to South Station? A lot less hostility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
I just don't think a shotgun marriage of the Greenway trolley + airport is going to be a particularly efficient routing vs. the grade-separated Eastern Route and the longish stop spacing up there that'll allow 50 MPH running between stops. Not to mention way too expensive to carve out a new ROW on infrastructure (El) the public's very hostile to when this UR ROW is already reserved for the exact same purpose and has broad-based support from everyone except the @#$% T itself.
I conceptually think of the Urban Ring as an entirely separate project because it lacks the Terminal Loop, misses South Station for Broadway, and misses North Station for Sullivan Square. Now, let me stress that none of that is a bad thing - and these things are not conflicting projects, they should be complementary projects. The Urban Ring will suffer immensely if it's made to prioritize airport traffic the way this would, because getting people to the Airport is incidental to the primary goal of the Urban Ring - moving people around the spokes of the system instead of sending them all downtown.

Hell, get creative - send the Silver Line into Airport Station via Central Parking, send the Urban Ring from Airport Station to the Harborside, and have AirTrain exist only as a terminals-station circulator. They can even all use the same LRV infrastructure if you like. Make the Airport into a big transfer point sending people every which way on buses, trains and boats - and, of course, planes.
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Old 10-26-2012, 10:27 AM   #6
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

Honestly the airport is well enough connected to the transit network. It could be improved further in a few much less expensive ways:

- Make silver line faster by giving signal priority, getting permission to use the faster onramp, etc,

- better/faster routing of buses (blue line shuttle + silver line) at the airport. The buses get stuck in terminal traffic too often... could be partially helped by using the departures floor instead which has much less traffic... and the people in a hurry are the ones trying to make the flights.

- OR, instead of the buses, a people mover at the airport that stops at airport station would be great and much cheaper than a bridge over the harbor etc.

- An express bus through the sumner/callahan tunnels from Haymarket or NS would help improve connectivity to the airport in a similar way..
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Old 10-26-2012, 10:30 AM   #7
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

I personally never ever want to see an El down the Greenway ever again. (This is not saying that I don't support El's elsewhere in the city though, just the Greenway) The Central Artery separated the city from our beautiful waterfront for about 50 years. I don't care how sleek the El ROW would/could be. That kind of visual and physical divide should never be imposed on Boston ever again.

I completely support a surface trolley though, preferably running down the center of the Greenway in a dedicated ROW.
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Old 10-26-2012, 10:51 AM   #8
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

Quote:
Originally Posted by Commuting Boston Student View Post
That's why I suggested a phased-build, with Phase I just being the airport.

People are stupid. You tell them you want to build a new El and that's a great way to set yourself up for failure right away. You build an El-that-we're-not-calling-an-El, like an AirTrain Phase I around the terminals, and come back in 20 years with AirTrain Phase II to extend it over to North Station and on to South Station? A lot less hostility.
No, people are not stupid. They remember the Artery. And the pain and suffering to get to the point where there was a Greenway. You will never ever slip an "El that's not an El" under the radar.


Quote:
I conceptually think of the Urban Ring as an entirely separate project because it lacks the Terminal Loop, misses South Station for Broadway, and misses North Station for Sullivan Square. Now, let me stress that none of that is a bad thing - and these things are not conflicting projects, they should be complementary projects. The Urban Ring will suffer immensely if it's made to prioritize airport traffic the way this would, because getting people to the Airport is incidental to the primary goal of the Urban Ring - moving people around the spokes of the system instead of sending them all downtown.

Hell, get creative - send the Silver Line into Airport Station via Central Parking, send the Urban Ring from Airport Station to the Harborside, and have AirTrain exist only as a terminals-station circulator. They can even all use the same LRV infrastructure if you like. Make the Airport into a big transfer point sending people every which way on buses, trains and boats - and, of course, planes.
They're not complementary. They duplicate to the same destination. Only you're spending $1B more to get to the same place at no greater speed. With surface impacts people will not swallow. And a superfluous extra Harbor crossing in a half-mile radius of FOUR of them: Tobin, Sumner, Callahan, and East Boston Tunnel. This was studied for 50 years...the Ted was the place to do it. Unfortunately they cut the transit berth out of it, but if we've got to have a second rail crossing out of downtown THAT'S where to do it and hook up South Station.


Look, I don't want to sound like a broken record here. But this is yet another Transit SuperOCD proposal that doesn't have a clearly-defined mission statement, takes on an urban renewal/scorched-earth mindset that will never again be allowed in cities because of the incalculable damage it did the last time, and throws billions extra down a hole where improvements and new service on established, well-studied ROW's does the same job at almost the same speed. Infrastructure isn't meant to be aesthetically perfect. It's meant to be functional. You gotta learn to compromise on the path of functionally lesser resistance over the burdensomely perfect. Real things don't get built that uncompromisingly. Ever.
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Old 10-26-2012, 11:28 AM   #9
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

Do you really need a terminal loop anyway? If rails got out to the aiport a station between central parking and the hotel should suffice, just install more moving sidewalks. Our airport is pretty conpact compared to most, I've walked miles and miles at airports before I feel.
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Old 10-26-2012, 11:35 AM   #10
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

The thing I've never understood about these proposals is why you need to stop at every terminal. Most airports with direct transit access (O'Hare and Midway, for starters) get along just fine with a single station in the center, and their terminal complexes are spread much wider than Logan's.

Sure, there are airports where you connect to transit via a people mover, but those tend to have their stations located at about the same distance as Airport Station already is. Since the airport is so close to Downtown in Boston, that distance seems enormous, but in Miami or San Francisco, it seems much closer.

If we're going for crazy pitches, I'd build a Heavy Rail extension, perhaps a Red Line branch, that has a station underneath Central Parking. For a more reasonable proposal, use an Urban Ring LRT and place the station above ground on one of the floors of the garage (great idea, F-Line). Either way, people can walk from there, especially if you give them moving sidewalks.

An AirTrain concept is only necessary for Logan to aid transfers to the new CONRAC and to the Blue Line in its current location. Move the station to the central hub, and the need for the train goes away.
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Old 10-26-2012, 11:43 AM   #11
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

Then, don't build the Greenway part of the project. Keep it entirely inside the airport terminals/T station. That part is fine, right?

It's going to cost the exact same in money and in public hostility to go for a transit bore on the Ted as opposed to attaching rails to the Tobin or building a second bridge entirely. It's going to hurt the Urban Ring to force it to stop six times at the airport instead of twice, and it's going to hurt it to take seats away for luggage racks that won't be utilized except for Airport trips and MAYBE Assembly Square. And in the other direction, it's going to eventually hurt the airport to continue subjecting their shuttles to general traffic, and it's going to hurt them to have limited or no capacity for baggage.

Redundancy is not inherently bad. Maybe my idea is a bad one, but that's not because it's 'redundant,' and not because it needs to be simplified or consolidated or rolled into any other project.

If it costs us 10 times more to do this and we get 11 times the benefit, that's worth it.
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Old 10-26-2012, 12:00 PM   #12
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

I think the only improvement that needs to be made at the airport is somehow being able to access heavy rail without the shuttle buses. There needs to be some sort of skyway or underground connection or the station needs to be moved. There's certainly no need for an airtrain connecting the terminals because Logan is a ridiculously compact airport.
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Old 10-26-2012, 01:36 PM   #13
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

Airport links on public transit are much less important than you think. They routinely underperform in ridership. People claim that they want airport rail links much more than they actually use it. Case in point: SFO BART.

Not worth spending too much money to worry about.
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Old 10-26-2012, 01:45 PM   #14
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

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Airport links on public transit are much less important than you think. They routinely underperform in ridership. People claim that they want airport rail links much more than they actually use it. Case in point: SFO BART.

Not worth spending too much money to worry about.
That very well could be true for other cities, but no other city in the country has an airport as close to the urban core as Boston. Heavy rail is a no brainer.

In contrast, O'Hare is so far away from Chicago that most people just have someone pick them up instead of the really long El ride into the city.
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Old 10-26-2012, 01:50 PM   #15
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

We have the Blue Line. The shuttles are capable enough. Just need to be improved a bit.

Also O'Hare has highest boardings of any American airport station (7,000 IIRC). Only 20% of them are airplane passengers though.
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Old 10-27-2012, 12:25 AM   #16
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

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We have the Blue Line. The shuttles are capable enough. Just need to be improved a bit.

Also O'Hare has highest boardings of any American airport station (7,000 IIRC). Only 20% of them are airplane passengers though.
If you add blue line airport + silver line airport, I think you get to 7000 (although many of those riders are probably Eastie locals). The SFO bart station has 6000 daily exits... and there is nothing nearby but the airport (unless some people take advantage of the airport lots to commute? probably not the cheapest way).
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Old 10-27-2012, 10:17 AM   #17
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

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We have the Blue Line. The shuttles are capable enough. Just need to be improved a bit.
Speaking of, I just noticed about a week ago that they got new vehicles for the shuttle routes when I flew out for a conference. Looked like they were low floor buses from NABI (based on this press release).
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Old 10-27-2012, 12:07 PM   #18
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

Yeah, the new shuttles look much nicer.
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Old 10-27-2012, 12:20 PM   #19
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

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Then, don't build the Greenway part of the project. Keep it entirely inside the airport terminals/T station. That part is fine, right?

It's going to cost the exact same in money and in public hostility to go for a transit bore on the Ted as opposed to attaching rails to the Tobin or building a second bridge entirely. It's going to hurt the Urban Ring to force it to stop six times at the airport instead of twice, and it's going to hurt it to take seats away for luggage racks that won't be utilized except for Airport trips and MAYBE Assembly Square. And in the other direction, it's going to eventually hurt the airport to continue subjecting their shuttles to general traffic, and it's going to hurt them to have limited or no capacity for baggage.

Redundancy is not inherently bad. Maybe my idea is a bad one, but that's not because it's 'redundant,' and not because it needs to be simplified or consolidated or rolled into any other project.

If it costs us 10 times more to do this and we get 11 times the benefit, that's worth it.
Redundancy does get bad when it goes down the urban renewal rabbit hole. What you're proposing is not unlike the highway frenzy, where every route had to be in triplicate to the point where it was totally unsustainable and the impacts got so severe and widespread the plans collapsed under their own weight. This is not feasible. Making it rails instead of roads doesn't make the Robert Moses mentality of blowing up anything hell-be-damned to get multiple straight-line paths from everywhere to everywhere any more feasible. On the scale you're proposing it's caustically disruptive and unsustainable. Move on from this mapmaking perfectionism; it's divorced from any plausibility.


We have underutilized EXISTING transit corridors. Make them better. The actionable studies are there and have been there for 50 years. Just like throwing our energy into reworking interchanges and upgrading deficient expressways to full interstate standards is improving our roads and traffic flow a shitload more than plonking new induced demand traps everywhere would. The Urban Ring plan goes to the Airport on ROW's that already exist to the Airport with no property takings. The proposed stop spacing and grade separation are such that a light rail vehicle could pretty much go around the Mystic-Everett-Chelsea horn at 50 MPH between stops and hit higher-ridership transfers. At a time difference of no more than +5 minutes off a Haymarket fork that costs a couple $B, rips the shit out of everything in its path, and wouldn't have the same ridership (first of all because it misses North Station and forces them to the UR if they want to get to Logan without a transfer).

Move forward on the UR. And build the Silver Line like it was intended, as light rail with a Central Subway-South Station direct...only use the NEC/Pike/Southampton wasteland instead of ripping up the heart of Chinatown. Transfer in a dual-mode Transitway cross-platform and SL1 will explode to mega-ridership. Just like the Airport stop-terminal shuttle with UR and Blue feeding it. Get these north & south touches to Logan cranking along at their full potential. That'll force the impetus to renovate the parking garage with a dedicated transit ROW on the 2nd level to funnel SL1 and UR on a common loop. And satisfy all ridership growth to the Airport for 50+ years without need to build anything more. I don't even think the Ted needs a bolt-on rail berth till second half of the century if they execute the already-studied radial circulation with effectiveness.

There is enough slack space on the existing routes to satisfy all the city's needs without bringing back the specter of scorched-earth urban renewal. Everyone knows this. And it doesn't matter how many billions get reallocated to infrastructure...sustainability is of paramount importance and one of the driving issues of the 21st century. We will never see a return to the postwar era where anything on a map was expendable, anything was buildable with enough raw resource might, planners could scoff at traffic shaping with a "Why build one when you can blow up some more to build three?" mentality, and no one had to think who was going to maintain it all in 50 years because resources and leverage would be forever infinite.

See the bolded passage in your post. What you're talking about is not progressive thinking; it's very regressive 1950's thinking. Just because the mode is more progressive doesn't mean the scorched-earth attitude behind the builds is progressive.
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Old 10-27-2012, 03:37 PM   #20
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Re: AirTrain Boston Logan

I was always wondering why they didn't use low-floor buses for people with luggage. I haven't been out to the airport in a while, so glad to hear Massport is getting that sorted out.
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