Winter 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Literalman » Mon Jan 26, 2015 3:10 pm

The snowfall in the Washington area is usually measured in inches, not feet. I work in the Washington area and have seen Metro and especially VRE service collapse for days with moderately heavy snowfall. I also lived in Boston during the blizzard of '78, which I was reminiscing about just a little while ago . :-)
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Gerry6309 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 4:09 pm

Literalman wrote:The snowfall in the Washington area is usually measured in inches, not feet. I work in the Washington area and have seen Metro and especially VRE service collapse for days with moderately heavy snowfall. I also lived in Boston during the blizzard of '78, which I was reminiscing about just a little while ago . :-)

If it had been snowing in Washington on Dec 7, 1941, we probably would have surrendered Hawaii!

Seriously, if Washington got the kind of snow we do on a regular basis they would be better off. President Obama, after living in Chicago, could not understand why his daughters' school was closed, when an inch of snow was predicted.
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The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Arlington » Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:32 pm

Look DC's mild winter cuts both ways: it is embarrassing that a southern city, despite its mild winters, is nonetheless fully prepared with an intermediate state between "normal" and "closed", namely a real tunnel-only mode and snow map whenever it is called for, while Boston only has two modes: open and closed.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Gerry6309 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:41 pm

Arlington wrote:Look DC's mild winter cuts both ways: it is embarrassing that a southern city, despite its mild winters, is nonetheless fully prepared with an intermediate state between "normal" and "closed", namely a real tunnel-only mode and snow map whenever it is called for, while Boston only has two modes: open and closed.

Yes, but storms which would cripple DC, don't even cause the MBTA to bat an eye. Few storms are as powerful as that predicted tonight. The MBTA would suffer more damage by trying to operate tomorrow, than it would do good for the public. Operating limited service would only encourage people to be out when they should be inside.

News Flash: The MTA in New York is ending all service at 11:00 PM. No word on restoration.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Arlington » Mon Jan 26, 2015 6:06 pm

It isn't about the storm's size (relative to other metro areas), it is about the storm's relative size to what's normal and what you're prepared for.
It is about having an appropriate level of preparedness for what you get.

Every system is prepared to stay open for its "normal storm"
All are advised to close for the once-a-dozen years storm (for MARTA that's a half inch of ice, for us it's 24" nor'easter)
But what about the once-every six storm? (Which is how these big storms are starting to run)

As the big-but-not-a-record 20-incher storms get more common it will be less acceptable to be 100% closed for them. The T needs to change with the climate if it is to deliver on the popular belief that transit is the better mode in a modern/future world.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Gerry6309 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:09 pm

SEPTA is expecting about 10 inches. Only Trenton CR line is shutting down. Some bus routes diverted.

NJTransit shutting down at 8 PM - systemwide. Service will resume tomorrow where possible.

PATH suspending service at 11:00 PM Mon.

CTTransit shutting down at 8 PM. No word on Tuesday.

Shore Line East cancelled two trains tonight. No morning service Tues. Afternoon service TBD.
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The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby nomis » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:17 pm

Gerry6309 wrote:SEPTA is expecting about 10 inches. Only Trenton CR line is shutting down. Some bus routes diverted.

NJTransit shutting down at 8 PM - systemwide. Service will resume tomorrow where possible.

CTTransit shutting down at 8 PM. No word on Tuesday.

Shore Line East cancelled two trains tonight. No morning service Tues. Afternoon service TBD.


To correct the Trenton "CR" Line is not shutting down, just the NJT connection. Metro North is shuttin gdown starting at 9pm, and should be done running by 11pm or so.


I hardly think a "public" Boiler Plate minimal service plan would be useful for the MBTA. Even if the subways ran underground-only service, the harder portion is to come to a one-size-fits-all CR plan. Specifically: to develop a plan is to stage MoW forces is spread out along the CR at operationally-required switches outside the terminal areas & NS / SS; and enough MoE forces at outlying points for failures of the tired equipment.

An early-rush hour plan can be figured out though, just remember that both equipment and crew rotations need to be taken into account for it, especially HOS since some of those that will be running earlier trains will not getting their 4+ hour mid-day break and may not be able to complete the final runs.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Arlington » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:23 pm

nomis wrote: the harder portion is to come to a one-size-fits-all CR plan.

I don't see the same need for CR to operate (and analysts have often noted that WMATA's Metro, when above-ground, is in near-every way like a commuter rail, right down to the distance-based fares--and nobody thinks it should operate)
- Most CR users use CR only for work trips, and use a car for everything else
- The "purely work" trips are the ones that we don't have a problem closing offices, cancelling meetings, and having folks work remotely
- When their car is snowed in, it isn't like the CR helps to replace it for getting to the grocery store or healthcare.
At most, I'd see keeping the NEC open. Other than that, people should be minimizing trip-miles. CR trips are too long (generate too many trip-miles). It is hard to make a case that long trips are high-enough value.

The case for keeping the Subway open is that
- Users in the core (mostly healthcare and financial) could actually get to work on their regular trip
- Emergency/Essential workers at hotels in the core ve greater flexiblity getting to their worksite
- Users in the core use the subway for non-work trips to city places (those "essential" enough to have kept themselves open for business)
- When their car is snowed in, the subway can take them to same-or-equal alternatives
- In snow, they can probably use the subway to get to groceries or healthcare (even if it isn't their usual store/provider)
- there is usually an interval where roads are bad but subway and short walks are OK
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby The EGE » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:40 am

The current MBTA system serves residential areas (ignoring Back Bay and Beacon Hill which do not generate many transit trips) primarily by the overground portions of its route; only the Red Line past Harvard does so undergound, and it is separated by a bridge vulnerable to both snow and high winds. WMATA serves a much wider swath of residential areas with its underground service; it provides a useful service, versus a city center circulator as the MBTA would.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Jan 27, 2015 7:48 am

I don't think this has a whole lot to do with downtown...or the Longfellow...or anything like that. There is ridership on a day like this to run truncated subway-only or portal-to-portal service for the public good. There's still essential service personnel who have to get around on a day like this, as well as citizens on their day off who have to get to essential services (hospitals, hello?). The difference between subway service and no subway service is all about the yards and crews, and getting a supply of working cars with crews from the yards.

How do you run the Green Line when the only car storage not susceptible to a windblown downed wire are North Station, Boylston and Brattle/Haymarket pockets, and Kenmore Loop? With *short-term only* use of the Blandford, Northeastern, and Lechmere storage between turnbacks. Theoretically, yes, you can run a barebones Central Subway dinky, keep Blandford/St. Mary's/Fenway/Northeastern/Lechmere clear, and not have any issues up on the Viaduct where the unshielded wind is going to do a good job clearing the drifts. But what happens when a train dies? Park it at Lechmere and it's gonna be dead for days on end with sandblasted snow crammed in every crevice. During a week when they've got a real bear of a fleet availability issue that's going to outlast the storm by many many days. What happens when you have to get crews in from HQ for a shift change or tend to a problem? Doubt they've got many maint trucks with chains on their tires out at Riverside ready to make the treacherous trip down Route 9 to go fix something. Or expect that heavy equipment is going to take less than hour to transport from Riverside.

On Red...how do you run it at all when it takes 1-1/2 miles to get a train out of Cabot through the drifts being blown out of Dorchester Bay, then reverse at JFK, then take your chances with all the ice-gummed switches at Malfunction Junction? Can you even rely on Alewife Yard for skeletal service when all it takes is 1 dead (very ancient) trainset you can't get back to Cabot to KO your capacity to run at better-than 25-minute headways? What are the odds after last night's rush hour meltdown that after 6 hours you've got 2 or 3 dead trainsets stuffed at Alewife and down to zero margin of error?

On Orange...sure, you can run Wellington-Ruggles or whatever the nearest set of turnback crossovers are after Back Bay/Mass Ave. The Mystic Bridge is another one like Lechmere Viaduct where the howling Atlantic is its own snowblower; Sullivan-NS is well-protected by I-93 overhead, and the rest is subway with only that block or so of daylight outside Back Bay. But jury-rigged hairnet 'snow caps' aren't going to keep those fragile traction motor blowers on the Hawkers from getting all clogged up today. And Orange can't spare a single OOS car from shorted-out motors when that's going to be a war of attrition for days and days on end until the snow packs down enough to stop going airborne in the slightest breeze.


That pretty much leaves Blue...which you can easily run Bowdoin-Logan from just the Bowdoin tail tracks with a few 4-car sets of the newest rolling stock on the system. But what's the point? Not a single flight is going to take off or land at Logan until Wednesday afternoon at earliest. The only one you can run is the one whose end-to-end turnstile count for the whole service day may not even reach 4 digits.



I don't think you can compare snow maps of various transit systems without comparing the yard locations, underground storage options, crew/MoW bases, and ground transportation alternatives from crew/MoW bases in event of impassible tracks. All of which are going to be more constrained and less well-distributed the older a transit system is, the less centrally-planned its system growth was, and the fewer inter-line connections it has. To say nothing of how over-reliant are the T as a system is on cars of the sort of state-of-repair where winter availability is only as strong as the hairnets covering its traction blowers. I could buy that NYC Subway overreacted by shutting the whole works...that seemed a lot more authoritarian than practical when plenty of their lines and plenty of their yards have no trouble feeding truncated service. I'm not so sure it would accomplish any more on the T than set themselves up for failure when cars start dying and there's no place to put them and no place to get more. Know your weaknesses, and don't project a false sense of security to the riders who might get burned by it on a day like this. They can't guarantee with enough confidence that they would've been able to finish the service day had they started the service day today. In that case, it IS their public service as a public service to be honest about it and not put their riders at any risk trying to go places they might not arrive safely at or return from today.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby nomis » Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:16 am

3688 is running as plow service, outbound near Northeastern this morning. NS3010 texted me a pic of it ...
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Gerry6309 » Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:45 pm

F-Line:

I started to write a response to the value of truncated service, but never got through it. You did a great job.
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The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Adams_Umass_Boston » Tue Jan 27, 2015 1:26 pm

Does anyone think that the Subway will stay shut down all day? Or perhaps they will get it up and running later?
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby The EGE » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:37 pm

As of 2pm the snowfall totals I'm hearing are only about 12-14" in Boston, though Framingham topped out at 30". I don't expect to see any service tonight; they'll be better of focusing on being able to run full service tomorrow. I would expect commuter rail service only on some lines; the Worcester Line and Fitchburg Line are well buried, and there's likely trees down everywhere.
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Re: Winter Storm of January 26-27, 2015 and Impact on MBTA

Postby Gerry6309 » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:40 pm

Most NYC area operators resumed service between 9 AM and Noon. Update from around the region…

SEPTA: Normal Service

NJTransit: Sunday schedule today, Normal service tomorrow.

PATH: Weekend service today, Normal service tomorrow

MTA/NYCT/SIRT: Sunday service today, Normal Service tomorrow.

LIRR/MNCR: Weekend service today, Normal service tomorrow.

SLE: Service suspended indefinitely

CTTransit: No service today, Normal service tomorrow.

AMTRAK-NEC: Service Suspended east of New York City.

AMTRAK-DOWNEASTER: Service Suspended

MBTA: Service Suspended.
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The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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