North-South Rail Link Discussion

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

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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby Arlington » Tue Nov 22, 2016 2:26 pm

The grades in the NSRL will be prohibitively steep so as to climb over /plunge beneath many cross-obstacles, which generally favors lots of powered axles (EMU, Subway, or a lightweight Acela II with a power unit at both ends). I think it has been shown (sorry no link) that heavy FRA-compliant coaches hauled/pushed by only 2 powered axles will cut it, pretty much necessitating an EMU fleet for an electrified "inner" CR and keeping surface terminating "outer" diesel CR out of the tunnel.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby ohalloranchris » Tue Nov 22, 2016 3:46 pm

Thanks, the devil is always in the details. I wonder if it would be easier/less expensive to double-end the conventional equipment with high horsepower locomotives as opposed to running different fleets. Getting ahead of myself I realize, long way to go before we ever see any of this happen...
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby MBTA3247 » Tue Nov 22, 2016 8:56 pm

The NRSL would be deep bored below any existing infrastructure, partially using a (currently filled-in) space beneath the Big Dig tunnels that was already cleared of obstacles. Depending on where you want to put the portals, the grades could be kept to a reasonable percent. As has been stated previously, any locomotives used in the NRSL would have to be dual-modes or full electrics, which are much more powerful than the T's diesel fleet will ever be.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby BandA » Thu Nov 24, 2016 2:00 pm

Obviously (to me) most of the volume of passengers for this tunnel will have to come from subway and CR riders, there just won't be enough Amtrak riders in the first decade or two to justify the construction.

I forget, would the tunnel portal for the NEC require a new BBY station? Or would this be an opportunity to make up to a 3-layer sandwich of CR - Orange - CR. They already have developer proposal to rebuild the BBY headhouse, making a platform overhaul either easier or much harder.

Changing engines or capping diesel with electrics would be operationally troublesome. Maybe new technology that makes coupling/decoupling/brake tests fast and inexpensive could help. You could also have a cable system that pulled/retarded the trains allowing steeper than normal inclines, like you have on roller coasters.

You could also co-mingle Orange and Red line trains in the tunnel as long as they were switched to different platform tracks. Station could be Orange, southbound island platform, Red, express, Red, northbound island platform, Orange.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby MBTA3247 » Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:08 pm

You wouldn't do engine changes. You'd either get dual-modes or extend electrification down the CR lines one at a time and run straight electrics.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby BandA » Fri Nov 25, 2016 3:02 am

Providence is the busiest line and the easiest to electrify for CR. Framingham/worcester is the second busiest I read. What northside line is the 3rd busiest? Based on the numbers from the GLX project, infrastructure is way more expensive than making the rolling stock "special", so dual mode sounds most likely for runthru IF this were built.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby nomis » Fri Nov 25, 2016 9:53 am

Weekday Boardings per Line - from 2014 Blue Book
    #1 Providence - 19,634
    #2 Worcester - 16,293
    #3 Franklin - 12,480
    #4 Lowell - 11,965
    #5 Fitchburg - 9,556
    #6 Newburyport - 9,387
    #7 Haverhill - 8,843
    #8 Middleborough - 7,182
    #9 Needham - 6,972
    #10 Rockport - 6,869
    #11 Stoughton - 6,831
    #12 Kingston - 6,560
    #13 Greenbush - 5,411
    #14 Fairmount - 1,038
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby BostonUrbEx » Fri Nov 25, 2016 12:43 pm

Just a few select scenarios.


Start - End / Current Best Route (time) / Potential Best Route (time)

Fitchburg - Logan / Fitchburg, Red, Silver (120 mins) / Fitchburg, Silver (102 mins)

Lowell - Logan / Lowell, Green, Red, Silver (84 mins) / Lowell, Silver (66 mins)

Lowell - JFK UMass / Lowell, Green, Red (76 mins) / Lowell, Red (61 mins)

Waltham - South Station / Fitchburg, Red (33 mins) / Fitchburg (24 mins)


This is all assuming that travel to South Station will take 4 minutes longer than current travel times to North Station, which may very well be false as speeds should increase with through-running as opposed to current stub-end terminal setup. I also factored in a 5 minute transfer times for my hypothetical scenarios, which seems to be the average for current transfers according to Google Maps.


Note the burdens removed from the core subway in these particular routes, plus the greatly increased appeal of transit.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby Yellowspoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 9:53 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:Your math is flawed here.

A NS Rail link would benefit, at most, 40% of all commuters


You mean to say 40% of current ridership would have more direct access to Kendall Square. That is different from saying up to 40% of commuters would benefit from NSRL. On the whole, 100% of all riders have more direct access to different places.
Yes, 100% of all riders have more direct access, but that only has value if it is needed or used. How does a NSRL benefit my daughter who commutes from Natick to Yawkee every day? How does a NSRL benefit a lawyer from Fitchburg get to the Cambridge Court house at Lechmere? How does a NSRL benefit a Lowell doctor get to New England Medical Center?

The NS rail link would be used by fewer than 40% of all CR passengers. I stress "fewer" because I believe the actual number of users would be under 25%. The benefit to passengers who do not use commuter rail would be negligible. (e.g. Braintree to North Station passengers will still use the Orange Line because frequence of trains is more predictible and the transfer is free)

And as I pointed out in my previous post, the patrons who want to get from North Station to Kendall would save, at most, two minutes.

octr202 wrote:It's not just about the Lowell, Western, and Eastern Routes having better access to Kendall Square (which will still suffer from being further away from downtown no matter what), but think of the access to the Financial District (direct), Back Bay, the Seaport (close walking distance), and the LMA (much closer if trains serve Back Bay, Ruggles, or Yawkey when through-routed from the North side). And no, not every train will serve everywhere, but until we start trying to advance the tunnel project and the resulting upgrades to the rest of the CR system, commuters going to these areas will continue to eschew commuter rail service. When a commuter from Beverly or Reading spends the same amount of time or more getting from North Station to their workplace as they do on the commuter train itself, large numbers of these commuters will continue to drive. And as expensive as the NSRL is, we can't afford to create more road space and parking space in the city to accommodate these folks.


Yes, those passengers would benefit. I can't help but notice that all of your examples only benefit the riders from the north. Riders whose trains that terminate at South Station would have negigible benefit. However, the north commuters are only 37% of the CR passengers. And you're assuming (A) 100% of the North Station trains continue to BackBay, and (B) 100% of the North Station passengers want to go to South Staion or BackBay. It would not benefit those North Station passengers who want to go to any Green Line destination east of Copley, blue line, or Chinatown, NE Medical. The benefit to Cambridge access is minimal. This supports my belief that less than 25% of the CR passengers would benefit.


Arlington wrote:
Yellowspoon wrote:...A NS Rail link would benefit, at most, 40% of all commuters, or about 1.1 million riders a month. With a monthly amortization cost of $17.9 million, that means that each use would cost someone about $16 per ride. That's about $7500 per year per person

The T has 1.1 Million rides* per day.
If we accept your number of 40%, that's 440,000 rides per day. [text omitted]
Not 40% of all MBTA users, just 40% of commuter rail passengers. There is no benefit to riders who do not use the commuter rail. There are ninety thousand daily commuter rail trips today. Commuter rail usage is not going to increase by a factor of five just because of the NSRL.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby YamaOfParadise » Sat Nov 26, 2016 10:56 am

It might also create demand for it; if there's no quick/easy way to get from point A northside to point B southside, or vice versa, there's simply not going to be demand to go between those points, because no one will be living in one and commuting to work/school/etc in the other. That's hard to project, but it's at the very least a possibility.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby nomis » Sat Nov 26, 2016 11:30 am

The indirect benefit would be a better utilization of equipment with through-running, which would increase service levels for all passengers on a given line. Obviously you would still have equipment utilization like the "one round trip" super-sets on the south side, but keeping the equipment in motion through the central terminals vs. sitting for 20 minutes would decrease the amount of equipment needed to cover current service patterns.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sat Nov 26, 2016 11:59 am

In addition to better equipment utilization, you'd also have better track capacity utilization. I'd estimate that maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of North Station and Tower A's peak capacity is used by idling trains and deadhead/layover moves.

There's a whole smattering of improvements for a healthier system.


Yellowspoon wrote:There is no benefit to riders who do not use the commuter rail.


It has been outlined in numerous ways that the core of the subway system will benefit. I'm going to estimate that at least 50% of all subway trips go through the core of the system.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby BvaleShihTzu » Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:16 pm

Yellowspoon wrote:And as I pointed out in my previous post, the patrons who want to get from North Station to Kendall would save, at most, two minutes.


Sigh. Touting that number illustrates that you've measured the wrong number, which suggests you don't rely on a commute with connections. What a commuter cares about is not the best or even average time to go through all the connections, but the time required to ensure a sufficiently low frequency of being late to work (going in) or missing one's train home. Each connection substantially increases the variance, which is the important number. This is both the variance due to normal variation in train arrivals (i.e. allowing for just missing a connection) and the increased risk of a rare problem (a line in trouble from equipment/medical emergency/etc) completely fouling the commute. Talk to people who don't commute by rail but say they might consider it; two changes is often a deal-breaker; it's a nuisance at it means leaving a lot of time to get from point-to-point reliably.

If you ever ride the EZ-Ride, you'll see that the vast majority of passengers go from North Station to a cluster of stops near Kendall Red Line station, including that station. Best case time between those points is actually taking Red to Green, not the bus. So why do so many take the bus? Convenience and variance.

Ultimately, one can either build infrastructure such as NSRL to pull people out of cars. Or you can watch Boston choke on its own growth, unable to provide enough labor force for its economy because the housing market is saturated and the roads are too choked. Areas on the commuter lines but not well-served by Red/Green/Blue/Orange lines, such as the Seaport District and Allston Landing, will be unable to develop to their full potential unless these problems are solved.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby deathtopumpkins » Mon Nov 28, 2016 9:00 am

I used to do the North Station - Kendall commute via Red-Green, and to catch my 5:15 train home I had to leave my office by 4:30. Sometimes I made it to North Station early enough to catch the 5:00 train, but occasionally I missed the 5:15 and had to wait for the next one (which I believe was 5:40 then).

That should give you some idea of the variance in travel time when you have multiple transfers.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby saulblum » Mon Nov 28, 2016 4:01 pm

deathtopumpkins wrote:I used to do the North Station - Kendall commute via Red-Green, and to catch my 5:15 train home I had to leave my office by 4:30. Sometimes I made it to North Station early enough to catch the 5:00 train, but occasionally I missed the 5:15 and had to wait for the next one (which I believe was 5:40 then).

That should give you some idea of the variance in travel time when you have multiple transfers.


It's 1.4 miles from North Station to Kendall (less if you're going to somewhere between Kendall and Lechmere), or around a 25-minute walk at a comfortable commuting pace. (I do it every day.) And the variance is close to zero. Or it's .6 miles to Charles/MGH, with more than half of that indoors if you cut through MGH.

Not an answer for everyone, depending on whether you can handle the walk.
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