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Old 04-11-2015, 10:37 PM   #41
F-Line to Dudley
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Re: Green Line eRconfiguration

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Originally Posted by Alon View Post
If the freight operators hit the platforms and foul up the tracks, the MBTA can sue them for damages over maintenance costs and lost revenue. If the schedule's not robust to derailments - which it shouldn't be, because first-world railroads shouldn't plan around frequent derailments - then also for higher operating costs of the commuter rail equivalent of direct-as-needed. Unless there's an agreement somewhere that says it's the MBTA's fault if a freight train derails because it hit an obstacle that's like a foot away from the dynamical envelope, the MBTA has a clear-cut case.
The freights kick in maint money here, and everybody has their ass covered with insurance for freak accidents like the North Billerica platform edge collapse. Those STB filings I referred to about the Conn River Line sale to MassDOT are instructive; they sketch out exactly who pays for what on whose equipment puts wear-and-tear on the infrastructure. It's pretty cut-and-dried, no wiggle room for finger-pointing.

BTW...there's not frequent derailments because of this setup. The one-car mini-highs are designed to take that pounding and be semi-disposable. And the 1-car length where the platform is interfacing with the sway of only 1 freight car at a time is what mitigates the derailment risk. It's when you get a >1 car length platform that the lateral harmonics of the whole consist's sway induce a much higher strike rate and safety risk. Which is why they don't go >1 car with the mini-highs. (Perspective: you're still talking "shit happens" contingencies impossible to zero out even in a perfect world.)

Gauntlets: those do by their very nature have an inherently higher derailment risk because of the switches and rail-within-rail so close to a platform. First-worlder installations included, because they use those in Europe too to get freight around their high platforms. This is why they are the option of last resort.

At certain traffic levels it absolutely becomes worth everyone's while to do the passing track thing. And it'll probably come to that on the outer Fitchburg Line once Norfolk Southern swallows Pan Am's 50% stake and runs its own show. When Ayer and Shirley ever get ADA'd there'll be passers installed so they don't have to bother at all with mini-highs. And N. Leo will someday get a passer; main constraint there is the small home heating oil company that has an adjacent freight siding may have to get land-swapped elsewhere for sake of shifting stuff around. Norfolk Southern doesn't want to forever cut nuisance checks and buy extra insurance if it can avoid it. At certain point a one-time contribution for a permanent solve makes dollars and sense for them. We're pretty close to that threshold as far as the Fitchburg Line's concerned, since the double-stack clearance project is about 5-6 years from completion.

Haverhill Line as I mentioned has some tougher nuts to crack on available space around 3 of the 4 affected stations, but Pan Am's successors will almost certainly look at their growth curve in Portland intermodal and see rationale for paying in to get passers on the stations that can be checked off soonest.

And then a sliding scale by traffic levels from there on the other wide-clearance lines. The mini-highs on the Lowell and Franklin Lines don't take nearly the abuse of the Fitchburg, Haverhill, and outer Worcester and are in a different universe re: mutual pain threshold on maint and liability.

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Hell, the reason the Class Is demand unreasonable track separation for intercity rail (UP with California HSR, CSX for Empire West pretend-HSR) is precisely that they don't want to pay damages in case their trains derail and kill passengers. It's part of a railroad culture that will do anything, anything, to avoid proper maintenance. See for examples this and this from the last years of the Milwaukee Road.
Ah, but that's in the fourth-world west where the Class I's are the landlords on every length of rail. We don't have to deal with that garbage here in the states where Penn Central's big belly-flop put the states in ownership of outright majorities of their rail networks' route miles. As per those STB filings I mentioned, the rights and responsibilities and liability insurance for each party are crystal-clear spelled out. Buying the outer Worcester Line from CSX pretty much removed the last area of conflict in MA, and it's been a complete 180 in neighborliness since then.

This is why GO Transit is just saying "fuck it" and doling out checks to Canadian National and Canadian Pacific to buy every single line on Toronto's commuter rail system, and AMT in Montreal is building a warchest to do the exactly the same with exactly the same Class I landlords it's sick of putting up with.

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The reason I'm pushing this is that the Wachusett station is $23 million, and total project cost is $63 million. It's several times what it cost to build Fairmount Line stations, converting the cost of raising all the platforms from a second-order term (around $400 million at $6 million a pop) to a more significant one, on a par with electrification or new rolling stock.
Caveat: Wachusett's cost includes the Fitchburg Line's new layover yard, since the current East Fitchburg layover (which is tucked around an increasingly congested freight yard) is tapped out of space and the Fitchburg schedule can't increase very much without new digs. The cost has ballooned to WTF proportions, but there's a bit more to that build package than a +1 station in isolation.

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The Master Plan was what made me realize Amtrak was irredeemable; that unwillingness to use smart scheduling to reduce the amount of concrete pouring is a big part of it.

And thankfully, it's not even funded. Amtrak seems to mostly care about Gateway nowadays, anyway. So no, it's not spilled milk. It's a wishlist on a par with the New York Second System.
But...like I said, Mansfield passer isn't optional if you want full-highs at that stop because of that freight exemption. Mansfield's and Attleboro's primary industrial parks are all built around that mid-afternoon CSX local, and there an I-495 situated truck transload served that keeps a lot of big rigs off the two-lane state roads in the adjacent towns. It's not big money for CSX writ-large or Massachusetts writ-large, but it's a profitable job and looms largeish for the tax base of these smallish towns. Not the place to be considering any "go away" blank checks to expunge the clearance exemption, especially since it's a non-factor for passenger slots.

Sharon and points north, Attleboro and points south...sure, debate away on how to remove the crayon from Amtrak's brain.

Last edited by F-Line to Dudley; 04-11-2015 at 10:51 PM.
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Old 04-12-2015, 10:56 AM   #42
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Re: Green Line Reconfiguration

Having fun reading this. Perhaps a new thread?
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Old 04-12-2015, 03:55 PM   #43
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Re: Green Line eRconfiguration

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
The freights kick in maint money here, and everybody has their ass covered with insurance for freak accidents like the North Billerica platform edge collapse. Those STB filings I referred to about the Conn River Line sale to MassDOT are instructive; they sketch out exactly who pays for what on whose equipment puts wear-and-tear on the infrastructure. It's pretty cut-and-dried, no wiggle room for finger-pointing.

BTW...there's not frequent derailments because of this setup. The one-car mini-highs are designed to take that pounding and be semi-disposable. And the 1-car length where the platform is interfacing with the sway of only 1 freight car at a time is what mitigates the derailment risk. It's when you get a >1 car length platform that the lateral harmonics of the whole consist's sway induce a much higher strike rate and safety risk. Which is why they don't go >1 car with the mini-highs. (Perspective: you're still talking "shit happens" contingencies impossible to zero out even in a perfect world.)
Okay, then announce you're building full-length platforms, and if the freight operators complain about derailment risk, forward their complaints to the insurance companies. If anything, doing it this way is better, because it means the freight companies can't lie to themselves "it won't happen to us" if the insurance company hikes their rates.

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Ah, but that's in the fourth-world west where the Class I's are the landlords on every length of rail. We don't have to deal with that garbage here in the states where Penn Central's big belly-flop put the states in ownership of outright majorities of their rail networks' route miles.
The issue in the West, outside Caltrain and some Metrolink lines, is that the lines' traffic is freight-primary, so maintenance and scheduling standards use what works for Class I freight, and passenger trains have to deal. It's the case even in Chicago, on two of the lines (UP-West and BNSF). What I'm proposing is to apply this in reverse on passenger-primary Eastern lines: adjust the scheduling and maintenance standards to be more like those of modern passenger rail operations and charge the freight operators if they force any variation from these that isn't written into the agreements. The agreements do not specify that freight trains get to sway outside their dynamical clearance envelope and hit platforms, they do not specify that late freight trains get priority over on-time passenger trains, and so on.

US passenger rail authorities are too nice to freight guests and not nice enough to their passengers. Take, for example, HSR in Southern California. The tracks from LA Union Station through the Valley are owned by one of the local public agencies. There's a non-binding memorandum of understanding with freight tenant UP giving it one unelectrified track for freight. As the MOU is non-binding, the passenger rail operators can scrap it and electrify. This is important to getting HSR to Union Station. Instead, they prefer to have Burbank Airport (think Hyde Park, not even Back Bay) as the interim southern terminus of HSR and make passengers transfer to a diesel commuter train, as Metrolink has no plans to electrify.

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Caveat: Wachusett's cost includes... there's a bit more to that build package than a +1 station in isolation.
Yes, but the $23 million contract is for the station only. The other stuff you mention is what bumps it to $63 million.

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But...like I said, Mansfield passer isn't optional if you want full-highs at that stop because of that freight exemption. Mansfield's and Attleboro's primary industrial parks are all built around that mid-afternoon CSX local, and there an I-495 situated truck transload served that keeps a lot of big rigs off the two-lane state roads in the adjacent towns. It's not big money for CSX writ-large or Massachusetts writ-large, but it's a profitable job and looms largeish for the tax base of these smallish towns. Not the place to be considering any "go away" blank checks to expunge the clearance exemption, especially since it's a non-factor for passenger slots.
On the contrary, it is the perfect place: if there are four tracks in that area then the express tracks will be used by HSR trains, which require high track maintenance standards, which are incompatible with the axle loads of American freight trains. The maintenance costs would go through the roof, as they do on the NEC already every time a freight train uses it. If there's nothing in the agreement with CSX (or Pan Am elsewhere) that specifies how much CSX trains are allowed to weigh, a 17 t/axle load limit is a good rule for keeping maintenance costs reasonable.
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Old 04-12-2015, 05:53 PM   #44
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Re: Green Line eRconfiguration

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Originally Posted by Alon View Post
Okay, then announce you're building full-length platforms, and if the freight operators complain about derailment risk, forward their complaints to the insurance companies. If anything, doing it this way is better, because it means the freight companies can't lie to themselves "it won't happen to us" if the insurance company hikes their rates.
On lines that have the wide-load exemption, there's no full-highs period without a passer because their trains flat-out won't clear the platform without the lateral sway causing strikes. That's the whole point of the federally protected exemption. It's find the means for doing a passer or a gauntlet, or the retractible-edge one-car mini-high is the only option that meets ADA compliance. The one-car length being the property that limits the strike area to one single car at a time with a platform edge that's disposable. Pay in for the maintenance, and pay the track owner for the labor of sending a guy out there to lift the edge for a freight slot.

This is where, at certain increasing freight traffic like we're gonna see on the Fitchburg Line in a few years (and Haverhill Line a decade later), somebody like Norfolk Southern has no problem whatsoever sharing the cost of building a passer at North Leominster. And may even be the initiating party nagging the T so they can get on with the mods that remove that mini-high. They make money by no longer having to pay fees to the T for that mini-high and for extra insurance, and they can move at full track speed and get to the yard faster instead of slowing up. Everybody wins: passengers get their level boarding, freights can blast through out of the way, both parties net lower insurance premiums.

It's pretty conflict-free when the rights and responsibilities are that well spelled-out. Obviously with only a couple trains per day max CSX is never going to reach that threshold where it needs to care that the Franklin Line has mini-highs and not passers. It does care about that on the outer Worcester Line (which still carries pretty stiff freight volumes to the yards in Westborough and Framingham, albeit on infrastructure that's still running well below-capacity). They won't have a problem chucking in their fair share for the pre-provisioned reconfig at Grafton, Westborough, etc. that drops down a center passer when the time comes. That time just has to wait until the glut of totally ADA non-compliant stations east of Framingham get settled up, because the outer intermediates with the mini-highs at least are fully handicapped-accessible today.

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The issue in the West, outside Caltrain and some Metrolink lines, is that the lines' traffic is freight-primary, so maintenance and scheduling standards use what works for Class I freight, and passenger trains have to deal. It's the case even in Chicago, on two of the lines (UP-West and BNSF). What I'm proposing is to apply this in reverse on passenger-primary Eastern lines: adjust the scheduling and maintenance standards to be more like those of modern passenger rail operations and charge the freight operators if they force any variation from these that isn't written into the agreements. The agreements do not specify that freight trains get to sway outside their dynamical clearance envelope and hit platforms, they do not specify that late freight trains get priority over on-time passenger trains, and so on.
The written agreements as-is allow soooooo much slack space for freight slots that'll never become an issue. As for lateral sway...that's basic physics. Euro freight can no more control that than North American freight. Keep in mind that freight cars get interchanged between 48 states, every mainland Canadian province, and nearly every Mexican province because the Class I's cover every corner of all 3 countries. Those intermodal trains that strike the N. Leo platform have a NAFTA's worth of freight cars and you can probably count a dozen different railroads' 4-letter reporting marks stamped on the sides of those cars pulled by that one Norfolk Southern locomotive at the head. If that one boxcar that originated in Oregon and was handed off umpteen times on its journey to Ayer developed a flat wheel on that several thousand miles it traveled...that's not lateral sway within Norfolk Southern's control. The freight rail network doesn't work without those tolerances. And neither does Europe's freight network when they take cars from nearly every EU country. Fact of life. If we have a need to maintain reasonable prices on goods by not loading them on thousands of trucks pounding the shit out of thousands of highway miles, those tolerances are a feature not a bug.

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US passenger rail authorities are too nice to freight guests and not nice enough to their passengers. Take, for example, HSR in Southern California. The tracks from LA Union Station through the Valley are owned by one of the local public agencies. There's a non-binding memorandum of understanding with freight tenant UP giving it one unelectrified track for freight. As the MOU is non-binding, the passenger rail operators can scrap it and electrify. This is important to getting HSR to Union Station. Instead, they prefer to have Burbank Airport (think Hyde Park, not even Back Bay) as the interim southern terminus of HSR and make passengers transfer to a diesel commuter train, as Metrolink has no plans to electrify.
The passenger rail authorities that have freight landlords. Night-and-day difference on the East Coast. CSX's cold, dead heart is a lot warmer and more cooperative when it's on a trackage rights agreement on a publicly owned line than when it owns it lock, stock and there's no limits to how much or how little give they afford passenger traffic. As landlords they have to dick the passenger trains around pretty badly to get an STB protest from the passenger carrier that'll stick. That's just X decades of caselaw unfortunately working against the passenger tenants and a U.S. Supreme Court case more or less required to change the game.

But this is also why Metra's non-behavior at passing up opportunities to buy its lines like GO Transit and AMT in Canada (or MassDOT re: Worcester and Amtrak re: Albany) are is baffling. BNSF and UP don't run a lot of freights on large parts of Chicago's commuter network and would for pure dollars-and-cents welcome a buy offer from Metra to take little-used property off their hands and convert it to trackage rights. They're scratching their heads that Metra's perennially uninterested. Caltrain--clownshoes Caltrain--does need to be cut just a *smidge* more slack than Metra for its predicament because their landlords' freight volumes are so much higher. It's a much larger payout for them to be able to gain public control and write the kind of clean trackage rights agreements that keep the peace like it does here in the East.

We're lucky to be living in Penn Central's wake. It's just sooooooo much easier, straightforward, and drama-free in the Northeast where near-totality of the commuter routes and outright majorities of in-state track miles are already in public ownership. The fight New York State is having with CSX over half-assed NYHSR on the Water Level Route Albany-Buffalo is practically special-achievement dumbassery on the state's part on the heels of that low-key and drama-free Amtrak buy of the upper Hudson Line. Total one hand doesn't know what the other is doing. In this case, one hand making a handshake and the other punching itself in the face with brass knuckles. But that's Albany for you in a nutshell. They can't even be arsed to remember their own 40-year history of productive best practices when buying and leasing rail lines, because "Fuck you, asshole."

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On the contrary, it is the perfect place: if there are four tracks in that area then the express tracks will be used by HSR trains, which require high track maintenance standards, which are incompatible with the axle loads of American freight trains. The maintenance costs would go through the roof, as they do on the NEC already every time a freight train uses it. If there's nothing in the agreement with CSX (or Pan Am elsewhere) that specifies how much CSX trains are allowed to weigh, a 17 t/axle load limit is a good rule for keeping maintenance costs reasonable.
Nope. The NEC from Mansfield to Attleboro is already up to 286,000 lb. freight railcar loading weight. That got done with the electrification upgrades 15 years ago. NEC Pawtucket-Davisville and Groton-New Haven for P&W are also up-to-spec for 286K heavyweight freights (Groton-New Haven isn't and never was a wide clearance route, however). The freights do pay for 100% of the wear their trains put on the infrastructure. That's spelled out in the trackage rights agreement. East Coast public ownership making it all nice and drama-free like that. Not that the CSX Attleboro daily puts any measurable strain on the tracks. The literal only freight consideration here going forward is that Mansfield full-highs = mandatory center passer because of the wide clearance designation. But that's simply too small-potatoes to care about. The parking wasteland on the west side of the station has room for umpteen more tracks depending on how far back they want to move the southbound platform. As long as it all merges back to 2 tracks before the Route 106 overpass to avoid unnecessary bridge work they can do as much or as little with the track layout as their hearts desire.
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Old 04-12-2015, 06:49 PM   #45
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Re: Green Line eRconfiguration

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
If that one boxcar that originated in Oregon and was handed off umpteen times on its journey to Ayer developed a flat wheel on that several thousand miles it traveled...
...then it should not be allowed on passenger track, unless there's somehow a clause in the trackage rights agreement that maintains the right to run trains with flat wheels.

Incidentally, Continental Europe is standardizing on 55 and 76 cm platforms, and developing rolling stock with level boarding at these heights, to avoid raising thousands of legacy platforms. On four-track lines, there's an increasing trend (at least in Germany) to run the freight trains on the local tracks, with the platforms, because freight trains move at close to local passenger train speed, whereas intercity passenger trains are much faster. I've read somewhere that the NEC Line in New Jersey is starting to experiment with same, for the same reason. When the trains are maintained to normal standards, it's really not a big deal.

This is not even about ADA rules. Intercity trains in Europe do not have level boarding. It's about reducing station dwells: with full-length level boarding, dwells in the 20-30 second region are feasible except at the busiest stations, whereas at platforms with steps, 45 seconds need to be budgeted.

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Caltrain--clownshoes Caltrain--does need to be cut just a *smidge* more slack than Metra for its predicament because their landlords' freight volumes are so much higher. It's a much larger payout for them to be able to gain public control and write the kind of clean trackage rights agreements that keep the peace like it does here in the East.
What the hell are you talking about? Caltrain's trackage is owned publicly, from San Francisco to Tamien. South of Tamien it's owned by UP, but the ridership is a few hundred people per day, on 3 daily trains in each direction. North of San Jose, I don't remember if there are 3 daily freight trains or 5, but either way, Caltrain is the landlord and UP is the tenant, and Caltrain has around an order of magnitude more trains than UP. UP isn't even making money on the line. The trackage rights are in perpetuity, but there's a guillotine clause, which was intended for possible conversion of the line to BART but is phrased in a way that also allows using it if Caltrain modernizes in other ways, e.g. steeper grades for grade-separations to limit viaduct length.

Likewise, most of Metrolink is publicly-owned. The Antelope Valley Line has that non-binding MOU in which, again, UP is a tenant, not a landlord. The only important exception is the inner part of the Orange County Line, which is owned by BNSF because it's part of the Southern Transcon, and where the plan requires separate passenger tracks in the same ROW (there's space, but not for four tracks, only two).

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The fight New York State is having with CSX over half-assed NYHSR on the Water Level Route Albany-Buffalo is practically special-achievement dumbassery on the state's part on the heels of that low-key and drama-free Amtrak buy of the upper Hudson Line.
Eh. Empire South has, what, 5 daily freight trains? CSX's mainline is the West Shore Line (which also happens to be a decent commuter rail route south of the Hudson Highlands, but not without a tunnel to Manhattan). In contrast, Empire West is one of the heavier freight lines from the East Coast to the Midwest.

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Not that the CSX Attleboro daily puts any measurable strain on the tracks.
It doesn't? At least south of New York, Amtrak definitely notices the strain even a single freight train puts on the track. Then again, south of New York, the commuter trains use locomotives with 23 t axle loads and not 33 t ones, so it could just be that the MBTA sucks as bad as freight there (you see why the MBTA should just electrify and be done with it?).
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Old 04-12-2015, 08:54 PM   #46
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Re: Green Line eRconfiguration

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...then it should not be allowed on passenger track, unless there's somehow a clause in the trackage rights agreement that maintains the right to run trains with flat wheels.
Any car can run on flat wheels. Ride X subway system anywhere in the world and you will occasionally get a bumpier ride because an in-service car developed a flat wheel. Make no mistake. You--personally--have run on flat wheels in more than one country. A freight car that travels thousands of miles can develop a flat wheel. It affects the harmonic rocking of an entire freight consist, just like it does a subway consist only with different weight and center of gravity properties. The mini-high is designed to sidestep the sway of the whole consist by being short enough to only interface with one car at a time.

Also..."ban the fuckers" because of one wonky wheel is not how a freight rail network works. ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. First, second, third, ninth-world. We're not even talking practical first-world practices anymore. This is straight down the Transit OCD nihilism rabbit hole. Perspective, please: on the list of top 100 gripes gripes holding back U.S. passenger service, this is somewhere in the mid-eighties. For Chrissakes, we're talking about the Attleboro industrial park local here. It doesn't even rise to the level of single boil on an ass the size of a continent.

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Incidentally, Continental Europe is standardizing on 55 and 76 cm platforms, and developing rolling stock with level boarding at these heights, to avoid raising thousands of legacy platforms. On four-track lines, there's an increasing trend (at least in Germany) to run the freight trains on the local tracks, with the platforms, because freight trains move at close to local passenger train speed, whereas intercity passenger trains are much faster. I've read somewhere that the NEC Line in New Jersey is starting to experiment with same, for the same reason. When the trains are maintained to normal standards, it's really not a big deal.
Only small parts of the NEC, mainly where dedicated freight lines have to cross over to reach big yards or ports, carries anything resembling heavy freight traffic. It's mainly concentrated in the Baltimore area. Most of New Jersey thru southern RI carry a pittance of freight. Almost all of it has been expunged by Amtrak's punitive axle fees and Metro North's New Haven Line ban on six-axle locomotives (due to the weak bridges). Very little of it wide-load.

Only certain types of cars go wide. Any tanker traffic, for instance, will never swing remotely close to the edge of a full-high. And near NJ's "Chemical Coast" the tankers dominate the traffic. So it also depends on type of load. In Massachusetts at least, autoracks and big bulk material hoppers (crushed stone, etc.) are the primary over-wides. And they stick to where you'd expect them to stick: Ayer-west and Framingham-west on the intermodal routes, the north-south P&W and NECR routes in Worcester County, and the routes in/out of the New Hampshire quarries (i.e. the BS&G daily on the Lowell Line). Other runs...it doesn't matter. CSX's overnight local on the Middleboro Line is majority tankers, trash cars from the Cape Cod landfills' transfer stations, with some lumber racks and other small-size miscellany sprinkled in. They don't ever strike the full-highs. The shipping container transload Massport is building in South Boston that will send single-stack shipping cubes down the Fairmount Line to Readville on the graveyard shift won't ever strike the full-highs. The well cars that 'cup' the underside of the cubes slip under the platform overhang of the full-highs with room to spare. Double-stacks ARE compatible with full-highs when it's strictly cubes on well cars...just, that's rarely the only type of car you'll find attached to those big honking CSX intermodal trains heading between Worcester and Albany because there's huge number of autoracks and other stuff mixed in. So it depends on how homogenous the intermodal loads are. As is, it's better for CSX to run longer mixed trains fewer times per day than to segment by type. They save staff, fuel, and money while needing a fraction of the slots. That's why slot allowances in these trackage rights agreements will never matter: the more efficient these big freights get the fewer slots they use. From a schedule standpoint CSX is actually going to decline in # of daily trains the more it ramps up in Massachusetts, then settle into a plateau that never really increases. But their overall carloads and train lengths linearly skyrocket.

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This is not even about ADA rules. Intercity trains in Europe do not have level boarding. It's about reducing station dwells: with full-length level boarding, dwells in the 20-30 second region are feasible except at the busiest stations, whereas at platforms with steps, 45 seconds need to be budgeted.
Points north/west of Albany, west of Harrisburg, and south of D.C. don't have level boarding either. Except for Metra Electric, the South Shore Line to Indiana, and time-separation operations like SMART. This is strictly an East Coast consideration the way level boarding was unavoidable 100 years ago in NYC third rail territory. With freight volumes in the east a pittance of what they used to be, this mini-high issue isn't a geographically widespread phenomenon. CAHSR, Caltrain, etc. have to get their house in order, but every other place in North America that has no above-and-beyond need of the CAHSR variety to implement level boarding does not and never will have a conflict with platforms.

Perspective, pretty-please: these are Massachusetts freight volumes, and *incidental* overlap with the MBTA district. These are not big issues. If Mansfield station's wide-load exemption is the straw that breaks the U.S. rail network's back...well, that's insane because it does no such thing. Our economy would grind to a halt if we had to pay for the steepening cost-of-living increase of nuthin' but truck traffic to get goods to our region. Freight rail is non-optional, and we've got so much slack space to play with on the slots the trackage rights agreements do allow that it's in Massachusetts' best interests to take advantage. You may not like that Mansfield to Attleboro has a width exemption and higher loading weight...but if Mansfield's and Attleboro's industrial parks went out of business, became tax revenue zeroes on the towns' ledgers, and crowded their streets with too many trucks...it harms their economies in hard-to-solve ways. Which becomes the state's problem. A borderless perspective isn't going to take into account that Mansfield, Attleboro, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have a vested interest in not shooting their economies in the foot for somebody's idea of pure conceptual perfection. That's the gap that has to be bridged from the multi-national to the local perspective. Or else it's meaningless abstraction that can't translate to meaningful action.

Attleboro does not care what Germany does when it needs that freight-farm of an industrial park to kick in the tax revenue that pays for the town's schools. That's their real-world concern. I would much prefer getting something done in the real world. If that means conceding Mansfield station and a short stretch of 286K loading weight that CSX has to use, it's no setback. Practically or conceptionally. Do first-world nations not think locally while acting globally?

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Eh. Empire South has, what, 5 daily freight trains? CSX's mainline is the West Shore Line (which also happens to be a decent commuter rail route south of the Hudson Highlands, but not without a tunnel to Manhattan). In contrast, Empire West is one of the heavier freight lines from the East Coast to the Midwest.
River Line (a.k.a. West Shore) is the single most over-capacity freight line in the CSX system. Water Level Route is running somewhat under-capacity. (There's a 'heat map' of CSX network congestion somewhere out there on the interwebs, and the River Sub is in bright red with intermittent yellows while the WLR is mostly green with small patches of yellow). NJ Transit's going to have a very hard time trying to get in on CR service on the West Shore because projections are that restoring double-tracking (which CSX is starting to do) is a temporary relief before volumes re-swell. There's such a N-S vs. E-W discrepancy on the system because Norfolk Southern in PA and the Southern Tier is the stronger competitor E-W with CSX's yards/facilities in upstate not quite firing on all cylinders. Whereas they're vastly stronger N-S and haul down all the Canadian Pacific traffic out of Montreal that comes down the Amtrak Adirondack route.

The stupidity of New York's spat with them is that they don't realize what MassDOT did: you have to negotiate in terms of revenue to get their attention. "Aww, be reasonable" doesn't cut it. They're just going to say, "OK...you build us the frickin' freight Hyperloop and maybe we'll let you use our tracks. Because every inanity you're saying has absolutely no relevance to our ability to make more money." Not once has anyone discussed upgrading the trucking access to their big DeWitt intermodal yard or coordinating for builds of other facilities upstate. Not once has the state talked with them on facilities that let them take better advantage in the Niagra region of Canadian traffic and the St. Lawrence Seaway they have direct access to...so CSX can't reduce its over-reliance on Canadian Pacific up the Adirondack and straining the River Sub to the limit.

Where MassDOT finally learned to grow up was when the conversation shifted to revenue. Helping build them a bleeding-edge intermodal facility in Worcester with double-stack clearances that increased CSX's efficiency twice over from Beacon Park, in exchange for being able to redevelop Beacon Park. Both parties will make money on the deal. Out-of-state trucks that used to shred the Mass Turnpike's pavement from Albany-east and clog up traffic now originate locally at the highways fanning out from the Worcester area. The truck companies pay Massachusetts taxes, hire Massachusetts tax-paying employees. Instead of paying New York or Ohio taxes and hire New York or Ohio workers. They do short-haul trips at off-peak hours and finish their shifts away from rush hour. The cost of goods drops substantially. Norfolk Southern gets a competitive fire lit under its ass and buys 50% of the Patriot Corridor to Ayer with aims on eventually buying the other 50%. And self-funding the majority of its double-stack upgrades. We'll have better price competition for it. And the competition has buoyed P&W's autorack biz out of RI bigtime. Then throw in the real estate redev on the Beacon Park property and tax revenue therein.

History shall record that when all is said and done that Massachusetts will have made a profit on the $100M they spent on the CSX package (and the far far less they spent on Norfolk Southern). Even if Harvard gaks it on Beacon Park redev. This situation changed because they stopped butting heads over control of the tracks and started talking mutual fits with profit motive. Surprise, suprise...they liked doing business with each other.

Next step...when Northeast Regionals service on the Inland Route gets brought back (whole separate debate if that's a good idea) and track sharing needs to get hashed out is: do a second round of "Pimp My Yard" on CSX's large West Springfield facility. Which needs some state coordination improving the truck access before CSX can spend the bucks on facility modernization, but which would similarly improve the I-91 corridor and Western MA the way the Worcester deal improved Eastern MA. And let CSX stay a step ahead of Norfolk Southern which is 30 miles up I-91 in East Deerfield licking its chops. Even if MassDOT doesn't actually buy those tracks (it probably doesn't need to for those passenger volumes), there's not gonna be any conflicts there in hashing out that deal because both sides know what they want and where they both profit.

New York State doesn't get this. If they wanted cooperation on Albany-Buffalo they'd be looking for mutual revenue generation and seeing that disparity on the CSX system's congestion 'heat map' as a troubleshooting opportunity. It's an ex- 4-track ROW too, with nearly all the freight yards and sidings hugging the north side and all station platforms hugging the south side. Not like there isn't infinite room. But Albany isn't even asking the right questions to have a basis for conversation. Then getting pissy and shouty when they get the cold shoulder.

Quote:
It doesn't? At least south of New York, Amtrak definitely notices the strain even a single freight train puts on the track. Then again, south of New York, the commuter trains use locomotives with 23 t axle loads and not 33 t ones, so it could just be that the MBTA sucks as bad as freight there (you see why the MBTA should just electrify and be done with it?).
Amtrak's histrionics about freights are also way off-scale for actual impacts. So I'd take that with a grain of salt. It's a way for them to cover their ass on their own inefficiencies. As noted, they have chased so much freight off the NEC in their 40 years of stewardship that there's almost nothing left except for the criscross movements to ports and yards where there is no alternative but to co-mingle for short distances. It's very far from a homogenous traffic profile. But they get mileage not having to answer for their own inaction by whining like it's an oh-so-terrible burden up and down the whole coast.

Lot of noise for very little signal.

BTW...I'm at a loss as to where there's a comprehensive list of all the freight jobs that overlap with what parts of the NEC how often. Which would make this analysis a ton easier. Too much of it NJ-D.C. is divided up between CSX and Norfolk Southern and areas of overlap, with too many quick-on/quick-off criscrossing movements. It's not as easy to parse as the one CSX local that slips nearly unnoticed from Bronx to New Haven, the P&W RI and CT jobs, the CSX Attleboro job, and the nocturnal P&W crushed stone train that runs express to/from the Bronx entirely within the hours Metro North is asleep.
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Old 04-13-2015, 09:43 AM   #47
dwash59
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Re: Green Line Reconfiguration

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And third, the Worcester plans involve too few infill stations: Allston and Brighton, at not-great locations (but TOD! we swear we'll get right this time even though we haven't even done that at existing underdeveloped stations!), but nothing at BU, or at the location Allston should be (i.e. Harvard Avenue).
It may be odd, but I have more faith in Boston Landing than West Station.

Boston Landing is located somewhere that development is occurring, regardless of transit. There are multiple BRA-approved projects in the adjoining area getting under way. Penniman on the Park demolished the old garages it is replacing[1]. 61-83 Braintree looks to be getting underway[2]. 37-43 North Beacon will happen once ownership gets sorted out[3]. There are also 450 Cambridge and 61 North Beacon nearby, which I assume will happen[4,5]. And of course, New Balance pushing its whole project.

Multiple developers pushing small projects along with a large developer actively building on a large chunk of land is a useful mix. Development is occurring before the station is built, much of it not dependent on the station in any way. There is a lot of existing residential underserved by MBTA nearby in North Allston. If the indigo line occurs with more frequent service downtown, they would be willing to walk to the station to get to work more quickly. There is also existing underutilized office space on both sides of the pike near the station.

West Station is heavily dependent on Harvard's timelines for development. Everyone in Allston knows that Harvard's vision is a century, not 5-10 years. They have no issue sitting on the land forever. Having a single landowner can be great, but if Harvard decides to wait, nothing will happen.

[1] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...an-on-the-park

[2] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...aintree-street

[3] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...-beacon-street

[4] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...et-development

[5] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...cts/district-9
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Old 04-13-2015, 10:52 AM   #48
F-Line to Dudley
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Re: Green Line Reconfiguration

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It may be odd, but I have more faith in Boston Landing than West Station.

Boston Landing is located somewhere that development is occurring, regardless of transit. There are multiple BRA-approved projects in the adjoining area getting under way. Penniman on the Park demolished the old garages it is replacing[1]. 61-83 Braintree looks to be getting underway[2]. 37-43 North Beacon will happen once ownership gets sorted out[3]. There are also 450 Cambridge and 61 North Beacon nearby, which I assume will happen[4,5]. And of course, New Balance pushing its whole project.

Multiple developers pushing small projects along with a large developer actively building on a large chunk of land is a useful mix. Development is occurring before the station is built, much of it not dependent on the station in any way. There is a lot of existing residential underserved by MBTA nearby in North Allston. If the indigo line occurs with more frequent service downtown, they would be willing to walk to the station to get to work more quickly. There is also existing underutilized office space on both sides of the pike near the station.

West Station is heavily dependent on Harvard's timelines for development. Everyone in Allston knows that Harvard's vision is a century, not 5-10 years. They have no issue sitting on the land forever. Having a single landowner can be great, but if Harvard decides to wait, nothing will happen.

[1] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...an-on-the-park

[2] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...aintree-street

[3] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...-beacon-street

[4] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...et-development

[5] http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...cts/district-9
NB's also got much more convenient bus transfer options to the high-frequency 86 and 64. And 3 blocks to the 70. So get those Indigo frequencies to 15 mins and it'll pool those transfers nicely. And also merit a couple Worcester/Framingham locals stopping there (lot of WGBH employees coming in from the 'burbs). It's not as dense a bundle of bus routes as the Newton Corner infill would have, but in combo with the employment destinations packing that area full it's a nifty little sweet spot of mixed demand that'll realize itself within the 5 years it takes for NB to be ready to start erecting steel and concrete by the tracks.

In similar vein to what I was talking about with MassDOT and CSX finding mutual profit motive once they started asking the right questions of each other, this is how good public-private partnerships like New Balance are born. Ask the right questions and all of a sudden the public and the private find all these mutual revenue generation matchups. The TOD fairy so often fails to work its magic because the public side doesn't understand what a space with good revenue motive is vs. one that either doesn't have it or doesn't speak well enough to businesses' profit motive. Here at least, New Balance came to them and spelled it out, and it was like "Cool! I had no idea." Nobody's going to spell it out them other places where the space is a blank slate yet to attract an anchor tenant. They're really got to go to school and get their redev instincts honed.


West doesn't have as many radial transfer options. It's primarily for walk-up density at Harvard-Allston and BU. And not that urgent because the land isn't going to be ready for its first building until the Pike realignment happens. Then Harvard is going to build on the Cambridge St.-facing parcels first before it starts backfilling the rear of BP closest to West. You're looking at a 20-year view where the redev density is going to float the ridership. If the station gets built before that it's wholly expected that it'll get low ridership and be a long-term grower that tracks with the Harvard backfill.

Doesn't mean it shouldn't be built. But I hope the messaging is open about preaching patience on how this is a long-term prospect so there's no outrage from people who see the low Day 1 ridership and start screaming °GUBMIT FLEECING!. And I am worried about the messaging because the initial hype last year was so deliriously over-the-top.
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Old 04-13-2015, 04:12 PM   #49
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Re: Commuter Rail Reconfiguration

Boston Landing is good to go because it's funded. That's nice.

However its location leaves something to be desired. First of all, the 86 and the 64 are not high-frequency. And second, they would be better connected if the station was placed near Market Street, not Everett Street.

The Everett Street location makes it easier to walk from Union Square. Which isn't nothing, especially with the redev going on around there. But there is no easy bus transfer. I've proposed rerouting the 64, mainly to serve the NB area better and rationalize the route, but I doubt it will happen.

Restoring the original station locations would be ideal: Faneuil, Market and Franklin Street. But they chose Everett over Market Street, and the old Allston depot at Franklin is owned by the Arcand family and occupied by a Regina Pizzeria. The Arcands are actually pretty friendly to ideas about redevelopment, but I don't think they want to push out a successful business for a station.

West Station could also be located on the other side of Cambridge Street, right around where the 20 Linden Street business center is. That would connect it easily with the 66 bus, and give a good excuse to completely redo the overpass properly (current plans are to refurbish it). But MassDOT feels that it would be "too close" to the Everett Street station, plus, they think that they're doing the neighborhood a "favor" by moving the "nuisance" away further east. God forbid anyone might want to live close to a train station!

Anyway, the further east location at Malvern/Babcock could be used for an urban-ring style bus route (Harvard - Longwood - Ruggles via West Station) if they build a new overpass to carry it. But BU wrote that letter that was reported in the Boston Globe, threatening to withhold funding if any buses or cars went through the streets next to West Campus. So that's where we're at.
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Old 04-13-2015, 04:39 PM   #50
dwash59
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Re: Commuter Rail Reconfiguration

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The Everett Street location makes it easier to walk from Union Square. Which isn't nothing, especially with the redev going on around there. But there is no easy bus transfer. I've proposed rerouting the 64, mainly to serve the NB area better and rationalize the route, but I doubt it will happen.
Will the 64 not go to Arthur St & Guest St, which would be next to one entrance to the station? That's what the MBTA maps show, but with the construction, I'm not sure that's where it is currently running.
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Old 04-13-2015, 09:43 PM   #51
Matthew
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Re: Commuter Rail Reconfiguration

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Will the 64 not go to Arthur St & Guest St, which would be next to one entrance to the station? That's what the MBTA maps show, but with the construction, I'm not sure that's where it is currently running.
Under normal circumstances it would, with that very forlorn looking bus shelter next to the Stop and Shop. That's still a block away from the station, about as close as it gets.

Under this proposal it might travel the length of Guest Street, which would put the bus shelter ever so slightly closer. Or it would shift to N. Beacon entirely in order to speed up round-trip time. Though I doubt it.

I don't anticipate the 64 stirring much connecting ridership with the Framingham line. Low freq + low freq is killer. Current 64 riders can get to South Station on the Red Line. Or Back Bay on the 57.
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Old 05-07-2015, 08:40 AM   #52
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Re: Green Line Reconfiguration

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Alon's DMU-gone-EMU-proposal-cum-NSRL-S-bahn would definitely improve many transit options across the urban area. It would be transformational along Fairmount, Worcester to Riverside, Fitchburg to 128, etc.

The problem to me, though, is that none of this would be GLX territory - different idea, different thread. Of the GLX destinations we've all basically agreed on - Dudley, the Seaport, even Watertown Square - the S-Bahn plan doesn't get close. Meanwhile, to places like Chelsea and the current planned Somerville GLX, these could be done S-Bahn style, but I really wonder whether doing so would be that much cheaper. In both cases the ROW is there, the tie-in to the GL system is (relatively) easy and painless - yes, some new construction required, but it doesn't involve introducing and accommodating an entirely new mode. Plus, major benefit, as Davem mentioned above, the GL takes riders where they want to go. Yes, an S-Bahn style system would have downtown and Back Bay stops - but few and far between. I'll also throw in one other aspect, which may or may not be all that important: the GLX Chelsea could loop around the Airport terminals (personally I'm not sure how useful or redundant exactly that would be... would love to hear thoughts. I know Alon would not approve!)
That's a valid concern, but at the same time, the GLX doesn't solve a lot of other problems. Yes, it solves GLX problems, but it doesn't solve BLX, OLX, RLX (well, sort of helps that one on the Cambridge end). MBTA/S-Bahn would in many respects replace the need for BLX, OLX, and substantial portions of RLX. For me, living in Roslindale, a 20 minute headway EMU would be more useful than an OLX*. Either is a good option, but if Alon is correct that improved commuter rail is less expensive/easier to achieve, then that's a better and more useful system enhancement.

* This would ideally include extending the 39 to Rozzie Square, for better local service.
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Old 05-07-2015, 01:57 PM   #53
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Re: Green Line Reconfiguration

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That's a valid concern, but at the same time, the GLX doesn't solve a lot of other problems. Yes, it solves GLX problems, but it doesn't solve BLX, OLX, RLX (well, sort of helps that one on the Cambridge end). MBTA/S-Bahn would in many respects replace the need for BLX, OLX, and substantial portions of RLX. For me, living in Roslindale, a 20 minute headway EMU would be more useful than an OLX*. Either is a good option, but if Alon is correct that improved commuter rail is less expensive/easier to achieve, then that's a better and more useful system enhancement.

* This would ideally include extending the 39 to Rozzie Square, for better local service.
No, Indigo-ization really wouldn't solve the OLX issue. Or BLX. Or GLX. Or any of the functions served by the utmost-priority rapid transit builds.

1) Rozzie pulls in 4 of the 8 buses that go down Washington duplicating each other to Forest Hills, and lack of a rapid transit station there really congests the hell out of Washington and the hell out of Forest Hills Orange. Too many of those transit trips are small-scale ones with people needing to get to the Orange intermediates that an Indigo branch hitting only FH, Ruggles, and BBY would serve to cover enough of the need. It's bread and butter square-to-square transit that is the primary need here, and the NEC is an imperfect solution at serving that. Much like the SW Corridor Orange relocation was an imperfect solution for serving that compared to the old Washington St. El, hence the crying need for rapid transit augmentation of that South End-Dudley corridor better than the Silver-painted bus.

There are some commuter rail lines--Fairmount above all others--that do match up remarkably well with square-to-square catchment. Which is why it's Indigo priority #1 dwarfing all others. Each line's going to be different in that regard, with most of them a mix of hits and misses on the map where judicious site selection is the key for mapping out their services. No magic bullets. Transit needs are served by a diverse portfolio, some modes capturing more of that diversity than others. Indigo's a tool in the toolbox, and quite valuable one at that. But it's not 'the' killer app.


2) Frequencies always rule when it comes to transit demand, and here the sheer number of buses to FH for those 7-minute Orange frequencies (and to-be 5-minute when the Orange fleet expands in 5 years) is always going to outslug 15 minutes on the Indigo. It would draw some trips away, but the ceiling is probably more like 35-40% tops. And that's not nearly good enough to clean up the Washington/FH congestion. Only an Orange extension can do that.

This is basic transit rider psychology, and the reason why every time Boston MPO does a study of potential ridership at a Wonderland commuter rail station, or Union Sq., or Alewife to quantify the feasibility of setting up the easy mode transfer the ridership numbers come back nonexistent. The stations of that type that do work serve completely unique destinations at high frequencies out of the transfer: Ruggles with the east-west bus routes, Porter with the 77. The same dynamic with OLX is in play with BLX: huge bus terminal, huge route duplication between Lynn and Wonderland, too many people who instinctively grab the first thing that pulls into the station, the convenience of something direct not drawing enough people to change modes. In Lynn's case there would be more unique commuter rail ridership still remaining with the North Station--Chelsea--Lynn chaining that BLX does not replicate...but an Indigo solution wouldn't serve anything close to what BLX and a majority of the buses serve and it's spurious logic that one could be a replacement for the other. They do completely different things at completely different frequencies. The modes answer completely different questions that can't be conflated with each other, and which mode the bus concentration has affinity for looms massive at shaping the mode questions.

That's not something that's going to show up on a map of convenient routes, or the linear convenience of a one-seat. You have to look at the local patterns. With the Needham Line an Indigo solution wouldn't lick the Forest Hills buses limiter for reasons outlined above and wouldn't lick the square-to-square trips that the NEC's more limited inbound stop selection skips...despite the fact that the Needham Line out to West Roxbury does hit every square in the outer neighborhoods on the branch-proper. It unfortunately just isn't nearly as homogenous a corridor for those patterns because of the NEC on RR vs. Orange. BLX vs. Eastern Route is the same way.



3) Simple political expediency. The Needham Line is the forever bottom-of-pile commuter rail user of the NEC and all the lines that use the Cove Interlocking curve approach into South Station. It's not an Indigo candidate because you simply can't get the frequencies out to Forest Hills to make it do Indigo's job. The crossing movements at the FH junction and fact that it has to stop at Ruggles every single trip while all other users are not tied down and can skip at less favorable slots...imposes a low ceiling on Needham. And a frequent shuttle that terminates at FH without proceeding any further is completely unacceptable from where Needham Line riders need to go because of the way it severs the corridor.

This is not going to get that much better even if RR ops in this country could be reformed to Euro standards. There are 4 other commuter rail lines and all of Amtrak sharing Cove. There'll be a shitload more Amtrak as NEC service increases, Inland Service re-commences, and the Gateway Tunnel exponentially increases the schedules north of Penn Station to Boston. All with Amtrak dispatch controlling Cove and the NEC, so we know who gets the slots above all others. There'll be 2 Indigo branches sharing if the BCEC dinky and Riverside get built. There'll be a 5th commuter rail user if South Coast Rail adds +1 branches to the Stoughton main. There's potential for a 6th commuter rail user if the Worcester Line ever branches north at Framingham.

Modern ops means everyone gets modern ops. And if everyone still has higher priority for those modern ops and Needham Line's still at the bottom of that priority pile, no amount of extra cake to go around is going to ensure that Needham gets its fair share. That's how political expediencies work. The only way to solve this is to solve the problem of it being at the perpetual bottom of that pile: excise it from the pile. There's only one Orange Line schedule, one Orange Line headway. And no competing interests vying for those slots.



As for Alon's analysis...look at his own "About" blurb on his blog:

Quote:
I grew up in Tel Aviv and Singapore; subsequently lived in New York, Providence, and Vancouver; and currently live in Stockholm. Iím a pure mathematician, with a side interest in urbanism and mass transit that is entirely unrelated to my work. Iíve lived in enough countries that I tend to prefer cross-national comparisons to find the best way to run transportation and deal with other political issues. American political culture tends to be exceptionalist and shy away from such comparisons, and New York political culture even more so; to the extent Iíve said things others have not, itís often because I was willing to look at what other cities around the first world do.
That pretty much encapsulates it. He looks for mathematical solutions, and borderless comparisons. It produces some groundbreaking research. Nobody...nobody...can cut through the bullshit on construction costs like he does. But that perspective sets pretty clear limits on what it doesn't account for: omission-by-choice of local factors like the baked-in psychology of square-to-square trips specific to Boston, the role of freight specific to the regional economy that's going to be different from any other region's economy, political expediencies vs. construction priority and timelines, etc. Those things are real but qualitative, and won't show up very well on a purely quantitative mathematical analysis. Because a mathematical analysis isn't designed to serve that function. Nor is a borderless perspective going to account for local effects. It does what it does very well, but it has its set scope and isn't designed to account for everything by its lonesome. To account for local effects you have to synthesize that analysis with other sources.

You can't, for example, say "RER-ops all of Boston...full-stop", "ban the freights", "force-build to the numbers that say this density should generate this demand" when the local enthusiasm doesn't match up with what the numbers say. Eastern MA is not Germany, the transportation network is not two-dimensional in needs served, and the people who live here are the people who live here while the people who live here need to do what the people who live here do...they're not replaceable by generic European counterparts. Hell, Europe itself is wildly more heterogeneous in travel patterns than the Northeastern U.S. is. Unfortunately, Alon sometimes forgets his own mission statement when he's in full double-down mode, and this holds him back a bit at achieving real rarified national influence as an advocate for better transit when it all goes down that rabbit hole.

Things from the AB discussions like davem's statement about "Well, commuter rail doesn't go where I need to go like the Green Line does" or expressed local demand for better Worcester service vs. better Franklin service contradicting his agnostic crunched numbers become points of outrage. Well, you can't replace locals and the psychology of the locals with generic every-man world counterparts, even if you can reform regressive transit attitudes locally and nationally. Bostonians still need to go where Bostonians need to go, and no single mode is a magic bullet for that. That can't be framed within total abstraction, because our real world and our real needs in Eastern MA are not abstract. And definitely not borderless and part of a two-dimensional calculation. RER and S-Bahn are no more interchangeable...dig down into the local effects that shaped the development of those networks and I'm sure they'd be just as oil-and-water a local mismatch if they traded places--and countries--in complete abstraction.

This is why multiple transit modes exist. It takes a portfolio of 'em to serve the needs, and serve all the subtle ways they interact with each other.
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Old 05-07-2015, 03:46 PM   #54
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Re: Green Line Reconfiguration

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
Unfortunately, Alon sometimes forgets his own mission statement when he's in full double-down mode, and this holds him back a bit at achieving real rarified national influence as an advocate for better transit when it all goes down that rabbit hole.

Things from the AB discussions like davem's statement about "Well, commuter rail doesn't go where I need to go like the Green Line does" or expressed local demand for better Worcester service vs. better Franklin service contradicting his agnostic crunched numbers become points of outrage. Well, you can't replace locals and the psychology of the locals with generic every-man world counterparts, even if you can reform regressive transit attitudes locally and nationally. Bostonians still need to go where Bostonians need to go, and no single mode is a magic bullet for that. That can't be framed within total abstraction, because our real world and our real needs in Eastern MA are not abstract. And definitely not borderless and part of a two-dimensional calculation. RER and S-Bahn are no more interchangeable...dig down into the local effects that shaped the development of those networks and I'm sure they'd be just as oil-and-water a local mismatch if they traded places--and countries--in complete abstraction.

This is why multiple transit modes exist. It takes a portfolio of 'em to serve the needs, and serve all the subtle ways they interact with each other.
Well said F-Line. Alon's contributions to this forum are enlightening and force us to look hard at preconceived notions which is invaluable when it is so easy for locals (which is most of us posting) to fall into the "well this place is just different" trap. However, you articulate very well the pitfalls of an analysis that essentially disregards local conditions in their entirety.
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Old 05-08-2015, 05:09 AM   #55
Nexis4jersey
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Re: Commuter Rail Reconfiguration

I love how once he feels hes milked a Forum of info , he moves on.... He used to be well liked a few years ago , but now after hes pulled the I know whats good for your region routine a few times. Its damaged his reputation... He's said hes lived all over , but it appears it amounts to a few months....not enough time in my opinion to fully understand a regional transportation system.

Last edited by Nexis4jersey; 05-08-2015 at 07:04 AM.
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Old 05-08-2015, 08:16 AM   #56
HenryAlan
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Re: Commuter Rail Reconfiguration

Very valid points, F-Line. I consider my statement about Indigod Needham vs. OLX to be fairly agnostic, and quite likely self-centered. For me, either solution works for the vast majority of transit trips I would take. The occasional transit trip to JP would still be done via bus, etc. But I do think your point about bus and passenger choke points is pretty strong from a systemic point of view. So, OLX it is! Now, let's get it done!
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Old 05-08-2015, 09:34 AM   #57
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Re: Commuter Rail Reconfiguration

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Originally Posted by HenryAlan View Post
Very valid points, F-Line. I consider my statement about Indigod Needham vs. OLX to be fairly agnostic, and quite likely self-centered. For me, either solution works for the vast majority of transit trips I would take. The occasional transit trip to JP would still be done via bus, etc. But I do think your point about bus and passenger choke points is pretty strong from a systemic point of view. So, OLX it is! Now, let's get it done!
Well, thanks to an old freight yard close to FH the Needham Line is a 3-track ROW out to Rozzie Square, including the 2 stone arch bridges by the Arboretum. So it has been proposed in the past to do the +1 extension without displacing the rest of the Needham Line, since displacement to W. Rox would require a mandatory build of the Newton Highlands-Needham Junction branch off the Green Line to prevent transit loss to Needham. And much more cost because of the mandatory double-barreling of projects. Actually, I think Marty Walsh has expressed tacit support for the +1 Rozzie extension in the past...before he took office.

Issues to square:

-- Train storage at Forest Hills. The tail tracks at FH are set up for extending the mainline. However, because storage is so tight to begin with in that mini-yard the displacement of 2 storage tracks. I *think*, if I'm reading the subway track map correctly, the 2 middle tracks are the mainline and the 2 flanking tracks are storage sidings.
** The bare pavement at the end of the line contains +1 trainset's length on each track no problem. But that still loses 2 (4?) trainsets of storage. And flanking the mainline tracks with storage may be more ops-awkward.
** You might be able to take the 2nd track on the Needham Line where it levels out at the same grade as the Orange yard and add another pocket track with 1 trainset's worth of storage. Or, do some reshaping of the commuter rail's grade 500 ft. closer to the portal to drop it ~1 ft. so it's level with the Orange yard for +1 more trainsets. But that probably pinches Needham ops around the FH platforms so may not be feasible.

-- Rozzie extension is pretty straightforward. Cut the 2nd Needham track at the end of the storage yard where everything Orange has merged back and shifted away from the Arboretum onto the Needham ROW. Other than a security fence separating commuter rail from Orange no modification to the footprint of the ROW is needed.

-- At Rozzie Sq. you would build a new station on the north/Orange side of the ROW. Malden Center station is 80 ft. wide across all 2 OL tracks + a center platform and 1 commuter rail track + a side platform. 80 ft. of width here is Robert St. station sidewalk on the north side to Robert St. station sidewalk on the south side. South side is all grass--easy take--, north side a row of parking. The bridge abutments are fortuitously exactly that wide. Headhouses would have to eat parking space if it's a utilitarian structure like Malden Center, but the entire works fits on MBTA land without a single disruption to any surrounding structure.

-- It's tight, however, so you may want to consider whether the commuter rail platform should even be adjacent or if you're better off offsetting it east behind the Citizen's Bank kiosk and the municipal parking lot to save a little width for the Orange platforms + fare control headhouse. That reduces the ROW width by the Orange platform to 60 ft., leaves the bridge a less-snug fit around the abutments, lets you leave the stairs intact, etc.

-- T will need to resist the urge to go palatial with that headhouse to keep the width no wider than utilitarian Malden. And they shouldn't go fishing at all for 1:1 compensation of the eaten parking spots. This station lot and Highland's already have way outsized parking capacity vs. every other Needham station. 164 spaces today and the metered municipal lot is right next door? Tad excessive given how tightly-packed and pedestrian-oriented the rest of the neighborhood is. It's an induced demand pit.

-- South side busway needs to be expanded across the entire parking lot so there's both more space for buses and parking spots for idling between runs. Need a new busway exit aligned with Poplar St. The buses that keep going straight up and down Washington will now be making a 1-block diversion to loop into this station, so need to square them up for the return trip onto Washington. Washington buses keep going to Forest Hills, Belgrade Ave. buses terminate. That whacks half of the FH route duplication while not causing any transit loss. Off-shift buses would still proceed to FH garage, so Rozzie itself is just an on-shift idling spot.

-- Tail tracks on the other side of the overpass would probably mash down to single-track Oak Grove-style since the ROW is only 2 tracks wide here. Stretch it back towards Walworth St. so you've got a couple trainsets of storage and a place for a terminating train to run around and pull into the opposite platform if need be. You will have to do some deadheading to Forest Hills Yard to balance out the storage, and terminate some outbounds at FH on shift changes. But that's not unusual because Wellington does the same thing. Hopefully this serves the storage needs, but there might still be some ops awkwardness with storage requiring additional troubleshooting the way these storage tracks are spread around 2 stations. It's solvable, but not very much cushion and may need some other tricks to comfortably work.

-- Needham Line is going to have to have another passing track installed to the west, and probably need some of its formerly 2-track bridges that were busted down to single rebuilt decks in the mid-80's re-doubled up to add/lengthen a passing siding. I couldn't predict where it would go because that's all predicated on likeliest train meets. Probably looking at somewhere between any of the station pairs out to W. Rox...but probably not any need to to add 2nd platforms to any of those stops. So save for shivving in that intermediate passing siding and any bridge re-decking therein the rest of the Needham Line would be untouched, stops would remain the same (although obviously Rozzie's CR ridership is going to crater from the diversions), and schedule would remain the same.

-- Electrical substations on Orange would need a boost. But you may not need to install a brand new one out here. If a new substation is needed it can probably go in Arborway bus yard entirely within T property since FH is where all the underground trunk feeders (including the still-active one from the Arborway trolley) converge.



Total extension length: 1.2 miles. +1 stations. Some need for supplemental Orange cars to serve demand, although if you re-signal the line with CBTC and moving blocks that allows for shorter headways end-to-end and a need for couple dozen more cars in itself on the existing line. This construction would knock off 40% of the Orange extension distance to W. Rox when the time comes to formally displace the Needham Line, so it's a nice down payment at not huge money if they can keep the station costs in-check and if the storage situation is manageable.


I don't think anything trumps Red-Blue on the priority order, but if the price is right you could definitely move this up in the queue as low-hanging fruit...much lower-hanging than the billion-dollar projects like Seaport-downtown or the near-billion projects like BLX-Lynn. So it's got that going for it. It just requires the T to get its head on straight about the value of neighborhood transit and cleaning up the bus network. +1-Rozzie is the Forest Hills congestion saver that really, really makes the Yellow Line perform much better in JP and Roxbury. It's not so much about attracting new transit riders because it serves some already transit-dependent neighborhoods. But it's hugely beneficial for speeding up the buses and clearing out the Washington St. toilet clog that's going to decay so many routes' performance if there's no relief (and that relief is never coming with more Needham Line service given its perpetual 80 lb. weakling status amongst shared NEC users).
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Old 10-03-2015, 03:21 PM   #58
Joel N. Weber II
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high level commuter rail platforms

Quote:
Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
FWIW...the new Worcester Line intermediate stops Framingham-west constructed 2000-02 are each pre-built with ability to go level-boarding by moving one or both of the side platforms back a few feet to plop down a center freight passing track (or, in Framingham's case, dropping the passing track on the grass behind the station). Southborough needs an adjacent bridge widening, but the others are set up for relatively painless mods. It didn't get done right upon build because that was in the bad old days when landlord Conrail was a spiteful beast that didn't bargain in good faith. But 100% level boarding to Worcester on all current and proposed stations is straightforward. They've just got a big ADA backlog east of Framingham to churn through first.
Is there space to potentially end up with four tracks, and side platforms on the outer two tracks (similar to the Newark Penn Station to Zoo Interlocking section of the Northeast Corridor, excluding Newark Penn itself (and the extra platform tracks at Trenton)) or is this going to be limited to a single express track?

Quote:
Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
-- Franklin Line. Primarily the Walpole-Readville stretch where Readville Yard takes daily wide-loads.
The satellite images on Google Maps leave me with the impression that having a total of three tracks at each affected station would probably at least not run into any buildings. Norwood Central / Norwood Depot seems to be the tightest area, and the bridges appear to have been designed to carry four tracks over Guild St. (I suspect consolidating the two stations into a new Norwood Central between Guild St and Nahatan St is likely the way to go there.) And the amount of bridge work required for full tripple tracking is likely excessive, so a freight passing siding at each station is probably the way to go.
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Old 10-03-2015, 04:26 PM   #59
Uncivil_Engineer
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Re: high level commuter rail platforms

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Originally Posted by Joel N. Weber II View Post
Is there space to potentially end up with four tracks, and side platforms on the outer two tracks (similar to the Newark Penn Station to Zoo Interlocking section of the Northeast Corridor, excluding Newark Penn itself (and the extra platform tracks at Trenton)) or is this going to be limited to a single express track?
Eyeballing things Framingham-west, all of the stations except Grafton are on flat enough land that you could probably quad-track through them (with Southborough taking second most difficult because of the Route 85 bridge). However, the B&A roadbed was only built out to two tracks for most of this stretch, so long runs of >2 tracks will require bridge work and earthmoving. Framingham-Riverside could likely be quad'ed with very little effort since it was historically a four-track RR and all of the structures except one (looking at you, 128 overpass) are still wide enough. East of Riverside the ROW is completely pinched by the Turnpike all the way to Cove, with the exception of the stretch through Beacon Park.
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Old 10-03-2015, 04:34 PM   #60
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Re: Commuter Rail Reconfiguration

I would guess that a properly-signaled 2-track commuter line with a 3rd middle freight & express track would set WOR up "forever" when you look at say, BWI and how far it got as a 3-track setup (and is only now being set up for a 4th and optional "Acela III" 5th)
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