The Green Line Revisited

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

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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby SM89 » Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:45 pm

With the GLX, the buses that near parallel the line will probably be cut or terminated at stations along the GLX. I'm assuming that they just don't want to deal with people complaining about the bus that used to come down their street not coming anymore. Let's also remember that there still is another 5 years at least before the GLX opens so there is still plenty of time to analyze the routes. Lots can change over 5 years and I would rather them wait then have some proposal based on outdated ridership.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby Arlington » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:31 pm

SM89 wrote:With the GLX, the buses that near parallel the line will probably be cut or terminated at stations along the GLX.

Seems obvious, right? But such is the rail transit planner's need to build neighborhood consensus, that at the hearing in West Medford where it was raised, GLX planners were categorically unwilling to admit *any* intermodal implications for the GLX (bus or a Tufts CR stop) whether connections, cannibalization, or complementarity, or even that the same MBTA operates all 3 services.

It isn't that they're dumb, siloed, or short sighted, its that the neighborhood consensus-building is so very slow, delicate, and potentially expensive. One slip, and the next thing you know, you're buying off another NIMBY faction with $50 million worth of promises.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby ariof » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:09 am

Just stumbled across this (actually via a post, about the Grand Junction branch) and have a few comments (yes I know it is a couple years later:

1. Yes, $1b is expensive. But it is the cost of rebuilding a four-track right-of-way (hopefully improving service on the commuter rail side as well) as well as a branch to Union Square.
2. Light rail here is far different than light rail on the existing branches of the green line, which are pay-as-you-board and (except for the D line) street-running. The maximum speed of a D-line train (40 mph) is the same as any other line. With prepaid fares and grade separation, the only difference is lower overall capacity on the Somerville/Medford section. In other words, this is not going to look like the B line.
3. This leverages excess capacity in ways other extensions wouldn't. Running two lines through Lechmere to Union and Medford is better than looping them at Government Center. And if you need excess capacity, you simply extend another line. Using the Green Line allows you to add capacity to this segment without adding any additional trains to any core subway line in Boston. In addition, using the Green Line serves both downtown and Back Bay. (The Orange Line would do this too, fwiw.)
4. You can not reroute the Lowell Line. Period. First of all, it is the only northbound line with any higher-speed potential. Eliminating the two grade crossings in West Medford (probably doable) would yield a grade-separated line from Boston to Lowell. Express runs from Lowell to Boston are currently time-competitive with free-flowing traffic, making the trip in 40 minutes. Adding ten minutes to this would have dramatic adverse affects on the service and ridership on this line. Also, between the Lowell and Haverhill Lines and Downeasters (the evening runs at 5:00 and 5:40 regularly sell out) there are 22 trains, inbound and outbound, between 4:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. That's one train every 6:45. There is no way you are going to run that kind of service on the single-tracked Haverhill Line. c'est impossible. If everything fell in to place, you might be able to attain almost-as-good speeds, but the complexity of reverse moves and an at-capacity single-track line would mean that any kink in the system would reverberate for 10,000 daily commuter rail riders.
5. Closing the Lowell Line hamstrings any efforts to increase speed. Since it is all-but-grade-separated, speeds of 90 or 110 would certainly be attainable (current speed limit is 70). The line, laid out in the 1830s, is mostly straight and very flat, and with minimal rolling stock investment by the T half-hour service to Lowell would certainly be possible. But certainly not with a reverse move and curves through Anderson. You might, with appropriate design, be able to match current speeds with this kind of project, but you would throw away any possibility of higher speeds. As a comparison, note that in 1840 travel from Boston to Lowell took 45 minutes, so obviously there is room for improvement.
6. If you close the stops in Winchester, you'll probably wind up extending the Orange Line up there due to political pressure, which is probably not all that cost effective. But this reduces the commute speed for these commuters, who can currently get to North Station in less than 20 minutes at rush hour.
7. One way streetcar loops in Cambridge would be incredibly expensive with little added utility. Better to have more frequent bus service serving transit lines. (The Boston system has always, more than any other system in the country, been based on streetcars and then buses feeding rapid transit lines, see Andrew, Broadway, Central, Harvard, Sullivan, Dudley/Roxbury, Forest Hills, Maverick, Kenmore, Alewife.)
8. Proposing the Silver Line pretty much anywhere is going to get people up in arms, it hasn't worked particularly well in any of its incarnations from a speed or capacity standpoint.
9. The Green Line in this instance could probably be repurposed as heavier rail if loads ever dictated that. It would probably require some sort of north-south rail link and urban loop (via the Grand Junction) to serve downtown areas and transfers, and could be integrated with the existing rail service in a local-express service pattern using existing tracks and overhead infrastructure (although with new platforms). A lot of the cost here is rebuilding the right-of-way, something you don't get with your Orange Line proposal.
10. I highly doubt you can build two miles of greenfield commuter rail, four-plus miles of heavy rail and infrastructure and connect the orange line across several active highway ramps and rail rights of way for $250m. Construction costs in the area are, for a variety of reasons, quite high, and there's no way your proposal would come in at one quarter the cost of the Green Line proposal.
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