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Old 09-19-2011, 05:36 PM   #1
Digital_Islandboy
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So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

Anyone notice what is missing from this MBTA rendering for South Station?




From the article:

http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/n...4&month=&year=

Credit story to Steve Annear, Metro

Read about the track improvements at South Station on metro.us.

LINK -- http://www.metro.us/boston/local/art...g-improvements
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Old 09-19-2011, 05:43 PM   #2
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

* Does this mean no South Station Tower anymore?
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikiped..._Station_Tower

* Or No North-South Tunnel Rail Link?
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikiped...outh_Rail_Link
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Old 09-19-2011, 05:52 PM   #3
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

So what goes in that empty gray space? Nothing? That side of the channel could certainly use some more life.
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forget it ever happening, its too great an idea.
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Old 09-19-2011, 10:13 PM   #4
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

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Originally Posted by Digital_Islandboy View Post
* Does this mean no South Station Tower anymore?
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikiped..._Station_Tower

* Or No North-South Tunnel Rail Link?
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikiped...outh_Rail_Link
Or expanded bus station.

But wait, guys.


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Davey said the $32 million “planning grant” will go toward developing a conceptual design and is the beginning phase of a multiyear process.
All theyre doing is spending $32 million on a new report, because apparently the old one (2004?) isnt good enough.
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Old 09-20-2011, 12:16 AM   #5
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

I think what we're looking at there is the planned high-speed rail station adjacent to the current facility (I saw a similar render in a report on HSR, which somehow I can't find right now). That expansion would be dependent on HSR ever being built on the NEC, which, in this current political climate, won't happen for many decades. I doubt that the additional, nearly independent station pictured there is a guaranteed part of track improvements.

Then again, it could be a move to separate the Amtrak and MBTA trains and improve platform capacity.
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Old 09-20-2011, 10:10 AM   #6
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

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Then again, it could be a move to separate the Amtrak and MBTA trains and improve platform capacity.
This is more probable. At this point HSR is still a pipe dream. South Station has real capacity constraints which are well documented and deserving of federal dollars. That said I'm sure the new platforms will be built to accommodate future HSR.
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Old 09-20-2011, 11:37 AM   #7
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

South Station needs to add platforms to increase capacity. In addition to future HSR, the Fairmont line could see increased headways (and really run like a rapid transit line... I'd love to see distinct DMUs or something similar but electrified) with added platforms and increased capacity is needed if they ever plan on completing South Coast Rail (and as of now, they do).
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Old 09-21-2011, 10:44 PM   #8
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

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I think what we're looking at there is the planned high-speed rail station adjacent to the current facility (I saw a similar render in a report on HSR, which somehow I can't find right now). That expansion would be dependent on HSR ever being built on the NEC, which, in this current political climate, won't happen for many decades. I doubt that the additional, nearly independent station pictured there is a guaranteed part of track improvements.

Then again, it could be a move to separate the Amtrak and MBTA trains and improve platform capacity.
Actually, what you'd see is that the existing platforms would get taken up by more NEC and Worcester trains, while Fairmount and Old Colony trains would get bumped over to the new platforms. It pretty much has to work that way because of the track layout on approach to the station. The NEC makes a hard right turn so soon after the station that it would slow traffic to a crawl to have to make trains cross over a zillion tracks from the Dot Ave. side to get there. Much easier to manage if you just keep the trains somewhat grade separated with NEC to one side and the Fairmount + Old Colony trains that originate due south to the Dot Ave. side. Same reason why today you never see a Plymouth or Middleboro train anywhere near the Atlantic Ave. side, or vice versa.

Nothing special needed for HSR trains. SS platforms are plenty long enough, and I believe all of them are wired. The new ones would be wired, too, in the rare event they do have to have Amtrak stop there in the event of a disruption.


A little disappointed that these renderings have zero storefront space on Dot Ave. That's one of the last great black hole city blocks downtown and I would think it's essential with it being restored as a thru street to have some commerce on it to help knit Southie and the Financial District together. You have to give foot traffic some reason to travel between Broadway and Summer. From what I've read constructing some standard-footprint (i.e. about half the width of the USPS) street-facing buildings south of the new station entrance just fills open land not even earmarked for any track space. And that if the N-S Rail Link were built it'd be a deep-bore under the station approaches and Dot Ave. not affecting those parcels.

I gather this is pretty prelim and will hold judgment until there's something more detailed explaining what all that empty space is. I always assumed that small- or medium-height retail/office space was a part of the plan from Day 1 further down on that street-facing strip (wholly unrelated to the probably-dead tower proposal). I'd be very disappointed if it wasn't at least provisioned, because that's a golden opportunity to breathe some life into that side of the Channel.
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Old 09-21-2011, 11:16 PM   #9
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

I'm sure that the "renderings"are very sketchy -- not even defining massings and footprints

where the planners are now is probably just playing off the various competing uses and identifing the priorities for various resources

I can't believe that the magnitude of the transformation to come at South Station wouldn't at lest re-open Dot Ave for cars with a piece of Harborwalk along the channel, shops and restaurants for pedestrians in addition to adding the patforms and other train-related facilities.

The wish list obviously includes offices and hotel rooms to take advantage of the nexus of transportation.
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Old 09-22-2011, 07:52 AM   #10
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

The "rendering" was obviously created in SketchUp by an intern or someone right out of college. I can picture a big engineering firm saying "let's get new guy to do this, it would probably add some value to the vision". I was once in that position

The South Station Expansion Project will mostly accommodate MBTA trains from existing southern and western routes but more importantly add capacity for the South Coast Rail Project. The station currently has 13 platforms and I believe the expansion would add 7-11 new platforms (5 for MBTA 2 for Amtrak) depending on the final count.

Even though this is funded by HSIPR stimulus money, it is not really a "high speed rail" project. Portions of the Northeast Corridor between NYC and DC would get the boost in speed sooner than the north end, so higher speed trains (and increased train frequencies) might layover on these 2 platforms.

The vision for Amtrak HSR to Boston would be more in the 2030-2040 time-frame. And I believe the final vision would be a deep level station under existing South Station and the South Station Expansion to accommodate capacity demands (since we're now in 2040) and not preclude the North-Shore Rail Link. MassDOT or MBTA would have to work a deal with Amtrak for such a link to happen. Obviously that will get talked about more down the road.

Either way - this is a step in the right direction. Even though $32.5 seems like a lot, it covers the environmental assessment report and preliminary engineering (and gives architects/engineers/planners more hours to bill to). The report in 2004 is almost 10 years old and a lot has changed since then (or at least in the FRA's opinion).
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Old 09-22-2011, 11:40 AM   #11
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

The number of tracks they're adding pad the capacity needs beyond what's needed for South Coast Rail, Fairmount, increased Worcester service, and general-purpose growth. Building that out now is supposed to also leave enough flex to support future schedule slots for Buzzards Bay/Cape extension of the Middleboro Line, Milford extension of the Franklin/Forge Park Line, and restoration of Millis via Needham Jct. commuter rail (was a T service until 1967).

Which is all more a statement about just how tight things are today than how much future space they're getting. You literally cannot expand the southside at all--not even increased frequencies on the existing lines--without adding more SS platforms, so this is badly needed even if they don't get a single new service running in our lifetimes. Many fewer delays, many fewer overstuffed Worcester and Providence rush hour trains with the dispatching flexibility this brings. It's one of the biggest single improvements they can make to the entire system.
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Old 09-22-2011, 12:15 PM   #12
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

I hear that ... it seems like a lot of existing stations/facilities across the country are going through growing pains (capacity constraints).

Here's a thought. Would you be able to use some of the capacity at North Station for South Shore services (via Grand Junction RR)? It would greatly reduce trip time, but it's an option.
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Old 09-22-2011, 01:15 PM   #13
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

They are planning to do that with the Worcester line, diverting about ten trains to North Station. I can't see it working with any of the other lines, though, because the trains would have to be almost at South Station by the time you re-route, and then you are adding about 30 minutes to the trip time. Might just as well cancel the trains in that case.
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Old 09-22-2011, 02:07 PM   #14
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

Grand Junction upgrades do help SS capacity, but Tim Murray is overstating the benefits by claiming that it's reasonably going to be built before SS is expanded. Nothing ever happens that fast, even relatively easy ones like upgrading a very short stretch of track through Cambridge. More likely that service is going to start right about the same time the new SS platforms go online. It's mainly a win for Worcester commuters who go transfer out to the North Station area in large numbers already, and for getting an intermediate station at Kendall for the hot biotech economy.

Those are reasons enough. The Worcester Line is showing such explosive growth the dual routings will be hugely convenient. And it also has upside for the national network because Amtrak is planning to resume inland route NEC service full-time after the Springfield Line gets upgraded. Direct NYC-North Station service has never ever run before--not even in the golden age of passenger railroads--because of track ownership differences, so it's a pretty big symbolic deal to go there for the very first time. Plants a little deep long-term momentum in favor of building the N-S Rail Link if you start getting out-of-staters demanding that one-seat ride and getting that nice cross-platform transfer to the Downeaster for continuing north.

Basically, this is one of the rare extensions that can actually pay for itself in revenue because it's such an easy one. It's too logical not to happen even if the SS expansion is fully capable of absorbing a maximum Worcester schedule expansion. Just wish the Lt. Gov. would choose his words more carefully; South Coast Rail-level hyperbole isn't needed here.
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Old 09-23-2011, 08:03 AM   #15
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
Grand Junction upgrades do help SS capacity, but Tim Murray is overstating the benefits by claiming that it's reasonably going to be built before SS is expanded. Nothing ever happens that fast, even relatively easy ones like upgrading a very short stretch of track through Cambridge. .....Basically, this is one of the rare extensions that can actually pay for itself in revenue because it's such an easy one. It's too logical not to happen even if the SS expansion is fully capable of absorbing a maximum Worcester schedule expansion. Just wish the Lt. Gov. would choose his words more carefully; South Coast Rail-level hyperbole isn't needed here.
Don't count on grand Junction through Cambridge -- Between MIT, Novartis and Broad there are strong opponents of even letting the existing trains keep running

That "very short stretch of track through Cambridge" -- just happens to pass through a belt of facilities whose very anathemas are:

1) Vibration -- bad enough with the Red Line
2) electromagnetic interference -- bad enough with the Red Line -- but at least somewhat shielded by dirt, concrete and pavement

add a frequent train running along the now infrequently used Grand Junction and you will have serious vibration and EM noise which existing and future high resolution imaging equipment will not tollerate well
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Old 09-23-2011, 08:48 AM   #16
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

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Don't count on grand Junction through Cambridge -- Between MIT, Novartis and Broad there are strong opponents of even letting the existing trains keep running

That "very short stretch of track through Cambridge" -- just happens to pass through a belt of facilities whose very anathemas are:

1) Vibration -- bad enough with the Red Line
2) electromagnetic interference -- bad enough with the Red Line -- but at least somewhat shielded by dirt, concrete and pavement

add a frequent train running along the now infrequently used Grand Junction and you will have serious vibration and EM noise which existing and future high resolution imaging equipment will not tollerate well
Well then, some people were careless to build such facilities along an active ROW. I would think that they provisioned the facilities properly to handle this issue. Were I betting man, I'd say the real opposition comes from folks who want a light rail line to use the ROW.
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Old 09-23-2011, 10:40 AM   #17
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

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Well then, some people were careless to build such facilities along an active ROW. I would think that they provisioned the facilities properly to handle this issue. Were I betting man, I'd say the real opposition comes from folks who want a light rail line to use the ROW.
Henry -- we are talking people who knew the ROW was there -- but figured that since almost all of the things that it used to service were long gone that the ROW would fade into oblivion

Note that these "people" have many $B of investment in the area at stake and will not likely let a nearly abandoned rail line combined with some romanitc views of some transit affectionados stand in their way

" nano-Materials, Structures, and Systems (nMaSS) facility
Still in the early stages of planning, this new building focusing on materials research at the nanoscale would accommodate programmatic priorities expressed by the deans of the School of Science and the School of Engineering. MIT is engaged in the preliminary analysis of the programmatic and technical requirements for this advanced research facility. A site for the new building has not been selected. "

as of Saturday -- MIT has publicly stated that the search for the site for nMaSS is still on-going due to the aforementioned EM noise and mechanical vibrations at the 1rst choise site (Main and Albany St.)
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Old 09-23-2011, 10:54 AM   #18
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

Let's be real, "upgrading" the Grand Junction will end up costing a good deal because you know the people and businesses of Cambridge will demand the MBTA bury the line to avoid traffic tie-ups. It will be Hingham all over again.

Edit:Here is a quick map: http://g.co/maps/as5t3 Keep in mind this is a rough sketch, I'm sure the distances are grade requirements are different.
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Old 09-24-2011, 05:04 PM   #19
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

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Let's be real, "upgrading" the Grand Junction will end up costing a good deal because you know the people and businesses of Cambridge will demand the MBTA bury the line to avoid traffic tie-ups. It will be Hingham all over again.

Edit:Here is a quick map: http://g.co/maps/as5t3 Keep in mind this is a rough sketch, I'm sure the distances are grade requirements are different.
Van... you are not going to be able to do the digging to bury the line where it runs between and behind MIT and Novartis, etc without extensive agreements -- there are too many vibration sensitive things along the ROW

For example many of the hgih resolution measurements done at the Magnet Lab builng (Albany west of Mss Ave) need to be done between 02:00 and 05:00 AM already due to the noise and vibration during the day time such as when the T is running. -- I would presume a similar schedule for the Picowar Imgaging Center (between Albany and Vassar and Main).

so you would hve to propose to start digging after rush hour and finish before the measurement block of time. This would give you a generous working period of from 20:00 to 01:00 -- or a maximum of 5 hours during the weekdays and some weekend time -- it will take forever to finish it.
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Old 09-24-2011, 08:20 PM   #20
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Re: So long S. Boston Post Office (annex)

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Henry -- we are talking people who knew the ROW was there -- but figured that since almost all of the things that it used to service were long gone that the ROW would fade into oblivion

Note that these "people" have many $B of investment in the area at stake and will not likely let a nearly abandoned rail line combined with some romanitc views of some transit affectionados stand in their way

" nano-Materials, Structures, and Systems (nMaSS) facility
Still in the early stages of planning, this new building focusing on materials research at the nanoscale would accommodate programmatic priorities expressed by the deans of the School of Science and the School of Engineering. MIT is engaged in the preliminary analysis of the programmatic and technical requirements for this advanced research facility. A site for the new building has not been selected. "

as of Saturday -- MIT has publicly stated that the search for the site for nMaSS is still on-going due to the aforementioned EM noise and mechanical vibrations at the 1rst choise site (Main and Albany St.)
It's not almost abandoned. CSX does a freight round-trip to/from Everett Terminal 7 days a week, and MBTA and Amtrak equipment transfers almost every day. It averages 3-4 total moves per day. Ever been by the Mass Ave. grade crossing when CSX comes crawling through? The whole area rattles from a long freight consist even at 10 MPH. It takes a lot of power to get 20 freight cars up that steep Mystic River bridge on the Eastern Route and haul the terminal tonnage back to Allston, so those are not light engine moves. Sometimes they run it with two locomotives at the head belching exhaust in tandem. Considering the tracks are in crud shape and under FRA Exempt status (10 MPH max, no passenger, no hazmat cargo) things like bad ties, bolted rail, substandard trackbed, and unpadded grade crossings increase the vibration substantially. As does the locomotive physically going so slow past the buildings and having to be constantly full-power without coasting to maintain such low speed. If there's a vibration concern, they already experience it every single day and built those labs while experiencing it every single day. It's a prior condition, and they know there has never been a cap on how many trains can be run over it and that any changes in the volume of intermodal cargo coming through Everett could've caused CSX to double its schedules. Circa '96-98 when Boston Engine Terminal was being torn down and rebuilt ground-up the T had to use the GJ many more times a day to shuttle trains from every temporary storage spot it could find grab while the main maintenance facility was out of commission.

Class 3 (59 MPH) passenger track with continuous welded rail, new ties, regraded ballast, and new grade crossings is not going to rattle the same. Nor will passenger locomotives passing by at 40 MPH and (especially northbound heading towards Kendall) coasting off the long Cambridgeport straightaway. And, as noted, MIT and every lab in the area knows it's an active rail line. Not only an active rail line, but one that was historically double-tracked with many sidings. All of those back alleys from Mass Ave. to Main St. are built on temporary easements from the railroad. The newer air rights buildings had to be constructed to fit restoration of second track. All structures built next to the ROW have to be built to clearance and vibration standard to support restoration of the second track. This isn't a new proposal; that's been the chosen Urban Ring routing for years--right up through Phase III heavy rail configurations--and this Worcester-North service has been periodically studied before.


Now, I'm not surprised there's hand-wringing. But that's mainly because Murray sprung it on a whim and won't shut his piehole about how this thing is shovel-ready. City of Cambridge is pissed that nobody gave them a heads-up before he started saying things in front of a podium. MIT wants a hand in this because every master campus plan they've drafted has the GJ serving some sort of passenger purpose, and they want to make sure they get their piece of the pie before the pols start blabbing off-the-reservation. Neither party is going to oppose if it plunks a lucrative intermediate station in the heart of biotech boomtown. Least of all MIT. Cambridge Center isn't some bedroom community like Hingham where people have nothing better to do but tend to their picket fences. A commercial center that's all big business, all big-University, and no residential will play ball with something that enhances their locational value. Every time, as long as there's something in it for them. It was politically unwise for Murray to just throw it out there off the cuff without first making the behind-the-scenes case that there's something in it for them.


As for the grade crossings...10 trains per day hauling 5-7 coaches each is not going to tie up the crossings any longer than a traffic light cycle. They don't need to eliminate the Mass. Ave. crossing until the full-build Urban Ring truly does come to fruition and sends trolleys through there every 5 minutes. Sync the Albany St., Vassar St., and center-campus crosswalk traffic lights to the grade crossing circuitry to give a longer than usual priority green after the train crosses to empty the traffic queue. Residual traffic's gone in under 5 minutes. Grade crossings all over the country are programmed to do that, on roads with equal or higher volumes than Mass Ave.. Commuter rail already has crossings way worse than this...try Route 60 in West Medford center or Routes 135/126 in Framingham where two of the busiest lines on the system crawl to extra-slow station stops smack through bad-angle intersections of crisscrossing downtown thoroughfares or state highways, and stop traffic in every direction at the queues. Those are the crossings that need elimination pronto.

It's not about total volume or density, but queue management. You can manage a grade crossing with Mass Ave.-level volumes if there's a way to cleanly disperse traffic. Crossings only have to go when there is nothing--not light cycle timing, not anything--that prevents a total, long-lasting clusterfuck or a lethal safety risk (blind angles, etc.). Mass Ave. and Broadway/Main are not all that high degree of difficulty crossings by commuter rail standards for managing queues.
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