The Green Line Revisited

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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby #5 - Dyre Ave » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:53 pm

octr202 wrote:Another item not mentioned is that the current GLX proposal includes both the Union Sq stub branch and the Medford line. The increased frequencies of light rail service make it much easier to provide service to both points - and the Union Sq branch is of interest since it could be extended across Somerville towards Porter Sq at some point in the future). I can't see the Orange Line operating with THREE northern branches, especially when one is a one-stop stub, with any level of efficiency.

As others have pointed out, don't automatically dismiss the ability of well-planned light rail to carry large numbers of people efficiently. What I've seen of the plans so far seem to indicate that this line is being built right, and built to handle the traffic. Three-car trains will be possible, and stations are being designed for off-train fare collection allowing the use of all doors - they'll essentially be outdoor subway stations. In the review process for the yard/shop area, as it was debated about, you could see that a lot of attention was paid to handling the yard leads so as to manage traffic flow.

One other note about balancing branches and traffic on opposite ends of lines: In an earlier round of planning for the GLX, the Alternatives Analysis several years ago, there was another line considered for the West Medford route - the Blue Line. The belief was that the Blue Line to West Medford would finally balance out the most lopsided line on the system, allowing it to operate much like the Orange Line does with more equal loads on both ends. Unfortunately, much like your Orange Line branch and commuter rail relocation, this project would have required EXPENSIVE (probably even more so) construction to at minimum extend the BL tunnel from it's current end either to the Science Park area, or tunnel under the river to Lechmere. An interesting idea, but too much heavy lifting to make it worthwhile compared to going with the Green Line.

-"J" (since we're using letters here now)

For a while, I also wondered why the T decided to go with the Green Line to West Medford as opposed to the Blue or Orange Lines. But yours and other posts in this thread help to bolster the T's case for why they decided to go with the Green Line for the West Medford extension.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby rethcir » Tue Dec 07, 2010 2:09 pm

Beating a dead horse pretty badly now, but this brings up a question. I wonder how the costs/political capital of the current plan to build a new green line maintenance facility in the Brickbottom/Boston Engine Terminal/Innerbelt district compares to the costs/political capital involved in extending the blue line? Would an extended blue line require more maintenance capacity?
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby THX-1138 » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:58 pm

To clarify some of the reasons for the cost increase other than due to the passage of time, the Green Line maintenance facility accounts for about $200M and the relocation of the Lechmere Station another $150M. The Lechmere relocation was not part of the project until a year or so ago; the NorthPoint project developer was supposed to pay for it up until then. The proposed maintenance facility largely serves the rest of the Green Line: maybe 25% of its capacity is to serve to the extension. It will eliminate the inefficiency of sending cars to Riverside for all but the heaviest work, but properly it mostly shouldn't be charged to the GLX project.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby SM89 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 4:54 pm

It would have been much cheaper if someone just stood up to those Brickbottom people who decided to convert an industrial building into residences next to an active railroad.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby Arlington » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:07 pm

THX-1138 wrote:To clarify some of the reasons for the cost increase other than due to the passage of time, the Green Line maintenance facility accounts for about $200M and the relocation of the Lechmere Station another $150M. The Lechmere relocation was not part of the project until a year or so ago; the NorthPoint project developer was supposed to pay for it up until then. The proposed maintenance facility largely serves the rest of the Green Line: maybe 25% of its capacity is to serve to the extension. It will eliminate the inefficiency of sending cars to Riverside for all but the heaviest work, but properly it mostly shouldn't be charged to the GLX project.

This is also covered on the real thread about the GLX. The other issue was original estimates assumed just platforms (no fare gates...or buildings to hold them) upgrading stations to heavy transit standards added about $300m.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby ThinkBoston » Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:47 pm

It's taken a week and a half to research, and then to orderly compose the information and replies. There may have been some comments posted here since my last visit, which I'll address separately. I grouped the comments under subject areas to avoid too much duplication.

I very much appreciate BostonChicken, MBTA3247, octr202, SM89, Arlington, BostonUrbEx, and Jonnhrr providing their critiques on the GLR and/or suggestions. Some challenged, and others just challenged my ability to further explain already well considered issues and elements.

I know it does little to offer advance apologies for phrasing and tone which wounds, and while I’ve tried to squish that little devil inside which needs satisfaction, I’m only human and may have left a little emotion in my reply commentary, so please forgive.

The necessary length of the response to the many points offered was much too long to put into a single post on this forum, so I’ve put it here  http://greenlinerevisited.blogspot.com/ ... lysis.html.

Despite my directness in replies, genuine efforts to offer critical examination are not only welcomed, they are encouraged. Critical analysis is important, and I wish half of the effort given to critiquing the GLR would be applied to the GLX as well. The goal here is one which I hope we all share, lest we forget that the shrinking wealth being spent is ours and the results are ours to live with and for future generations to endure, which brings to mind another thought.

It has been interesting to often read criticisms of past decisions made in planning the transit system in Boston. Yet, in having experienced many transit systems and having read considerably on the early development of Boston's system, I largely have a contrary opinion.

I’ve found that there was more accomplished in the first twenty years of Boston's transit history, with rather simple tools, materials and limited experience than in the last 90 years, with ever advancing tools, sophisticated materials and massive experience. I attribute this disparity to the shift in our means of funding local public works projects, which occurred around the middle of last century, but that is a subject of economics and political science.

The participants in this forum, more than any other identifiable group, are better positioned to act as a watchdog and public crier for the public’s interest and welfare when it comes to the expenditures of the common wealth on matters of public ‘rail’ transportation. Coming from a locale where it’s difficult to get two brain cells in the same room, I’m encouraged to see the several online forums, or topics within, which deal with Boston’s public transit. But most deal only with the consumer end of the issue, expressing critiques of service. And, of course, those are very important.

The knowledge base of posters on this forum is such that it is a good place to brain storm, act as a think tank, to piggy back on each others creativity while being grounded in the reality of physics and economics. And while its members are good at critiquing each others’ ideas, and those of the past which were manifested into reality, it seems to give a pass to the government’s proposed transit projects of today.

In the 1890’s, some of Boston’s leaders looked outside the confines of the United States for new ways of handling urban traffic issues. That effort produced the first subway transit in the U.S. It would be good if someone in Boston would once again look farther than the U.S. in finding better ways to deal with urban issues, both technically and fiscally

Thanks.
-RL
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby Arlington » Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:30 pm

ThinkBoston wrote:It's taken a week and a half to research, and then to orderly compose the information and replies. There may have been some comments posted here since my last visit, which I'll address separately. I grouped the comments under subject areas to avoid too much duplication.


Is there someplace where you have a simple chart that compares alternatives on things like service levels and costs? If you aren't going to provide a summary, peoples minds are free to wander and write their own ;-) Here's where mine ended up:

1) It still seems like service on the Oak Grove branch is going to "fund" some of the cost savings (either by losing seats or headways), and the Lowell CR is also being asked to "give something up"

2) Money. Is there someplace where you price alternatives? I didn't see one. How long/deep do I have to look. Can you provide a link with an anchor tag? I'd like to know what the needed orange line rolling stock would cost to maintain service on the Oak Grove branch while adding a Lowell Branch.

ThinkBoston wrote:I’ve found that there was more accomplished in the first twenty years of Boston's transit history, with rather simple tools, materials and limited experience than in the last 90 years, with ever advancing tools, sophisticated materials and massive experience. I attribute this disparity to the shift in our means of funding local public works projects, which occurred around the middle of last century, but that is a subject of economics and political science.


Well, these old projects look good today because of a Survivorship Bias. Heck, they basically built lines everywhere they could, and saw what worked. A lot of bad/redundant lines had to be tried and abandoned (often bankrupting their investors) in order to trim all the streetcar and heavy lines that *didn't* work, like the Middlesex Central (now the Minuteman Bike Path) and the Massachusetts Central (abandoned in the 1930s)or the Tremont Tunnel. It makes the survivors look like geniuses, when they may, in fact, just be lucky.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby ThinkBoston » Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:43 pm

Oy vey.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby Charliemta » Mon Dec 13, 2010 9:42 pm

Arlington wrote:
ThinkBoston wrote: A lot of bad/redundant lines had to be tried and abandoned (often bankrupting their investors) in order to trim all the streetcar and heavy lines that *didn't* work, like the Middlesex Central (now the Minuteman Bike Path) and the Massachusetts Central (abandoned in the 1930s)or the Tremont Tunnel. It makes the survivors look like geniuses, when they may, in fact, just be lucky.


I disagree that the Lexington Branch or the abandoned Tremont Street tunel were mistakes. The former should be converted to a Red Line extension, and the latter used for a light rail line to Roxbury.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby FP10 » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:04 pm

The tremont tunnel especially wasn't a mistake, it was just simply outmoded by the Washington Street El, similar to how the Pleasant Street, and later Kenmore Square inclines were later closed in favor of extensions.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby Arlington » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:14 pm

Charliemta wrote:I disagree that the Lexington Branch or the abandoned Tremont Street tunel were mistakes.

I suspect that's because you weren't a stockholder in the companies that built them.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby Arlington » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:33 pm

FP10 wrote:The tremont tunnel especially wasn't a mistake, it was just simply outmoded by the Washington Street El, similar to how the Pleasant Street, and later Kenmore Square inclines were later closed in favor of extensions.

THe point that ThinkBoston was making was that planning wasn't so much better now. Yet all that trimming, fixing, abandoning, reconfiguring (and indeed bankruptcies) was how they got those systems to "look good" in retrospect. That they were outmoded so quickly is bad (or no) planning. A good example is the NYC subway's City Hall station (the flagship station, chandaliers and stained glass)...no way should that kind of $ been lavished on a station that was quickly abandoned. Or that the Boylston St Green Line is built for a conversion to heavy rail that will never come within the economic life of that decision. Or that platforms had to be later extended. Or entrances sealed up.

Meanwhile, BART and WMATA have virtually no such waste at age 40. The worst they have is a couple of very short track stubs (for as-yet-unbuilt branches) and knockouts in the concrete for extra entrances.

The old systems look good because we have the luxury now of keeping the bits that worked, shedding the parts that didn't and through the miracle of bankruptcy, ignoring all those spurs that have become bike paths (somerville, Arlington) or strange parcels (Medford Sq) or eyesores (Malden) and stiffing some ancient shareholders and bondholder with the bill.
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby Arlington » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:00 am

ThinkBoston wrote:Oy vey.

These politically difficult service reductions are required to "fund" the putative savings:
1) End CR service at Winchester & Wedgemere( or make infrequent and circuitous) from these two politically well-connected stops.
2) End CR service at Mishawum (a flawless idea and yet, apparently politically impossible, which augurs poorly for #1)
3) Run Orange line to West Medford (which repulsed the GLX as wrong for the neighborhood fabric and they didn't want "terminus parking"...exactly what Winchester people would need if they were to be re-accommodated. It wasn't just the need for new MV Pkwy/River bridges )
4) Add a net 8 minutes to all Lowell Line trains north of A/W (10 min reverse at A/W - 2mins faster for running nonstop to NS) Nikki Tsongas will not be pleased.
5) Remove 10 seats (1/6th of seating) from every OL car.
6) Reduce Oak Grove Frequencies from 17 per hour (~4 min headway) to 12 per hour (~5 min headway) (a 30% reduction)
7) Crowd Oak Grove trains as badly as Forest Hills.
8) Does Haverhill lose its express?

That's a lot to take away from a lot of people. A lot of relatively-rich, relatively-well connected, relatively-car-loving people. The reality is that the neighborhood consensus in favor of rapid transit peters out somewhere between College Ave and the MVP...for better or worse, just where the GLX is slated to end. The people of Massachusetts Bay have spent 380 years burrowing in and entrenching their interests. As the adventuresome moved west and south, those left in the Northeast are likely to be the most thoroughly entrenched. Just sayin' ;-)

Then I don't see these priced out:
1) Rebuild Orange Line and two stations to two tracks (from three)
2) Restore Haverhill to 2 tracks
3) Anderson-Haverhill connector? (is the topography suitable?)
4) Cost of extending OL to Winchester (but frankly, if Melrose was repulsed by the Orange Line (and repulsed it) Winchester would do so 3x as fast)
"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 rethcir » Tue Dec 14, 2010 11:20 am

Arlington nails it right here. In this state's unique political and economic landscape, hobbled by the legacy of the Big Dig, we are lucky to be getting a public transit project on the scale of the GLX and the fact that it has support from the citizens and politicians of the City of Somerville and the Patrick administration is really about as good as it's going to get right now. It will deliver a lot to the neighborhoods in question and really not cost a lot in terms of regional service disruption or right-of-ways. I think we all appreciate your "compliment sandwich" ThinkBoston but I really don't see any reason why it would be any worse than a heavy-rail extension and it's really kind of quixotic to fight it.

Now the Fall River/New Bedford plan on the other hand..
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Re: The Green Line Revisited

Postby Arlington » Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:20 pm

rethcir wrote:I think we all appreciate your "compliment sandwich" ThinkBoston but I really don't see any reason why it would be any worse than a heavy-rail extension and it's really kind of quixotic to fight it.
Count me among those who are very grateful/appreciative/admiring of the work that's been done on the GLR. And I'd be happy to stipulate that ThinkBoston's thinking/approach on this subject is superb. Better than anyone else's even. Thorough, un-hedged, and aimed at getting what's right from an economics an engineering standpoint. The problem here is that the GLR is certainly clever enough to be worth lots and lots of thinking, and potentially better than the GLX, but ultimately not enough better to trump the careful cultivation of neighborhood support that has lead to where we are now.

Neighborhood cultivation clearly can impose huge costs on these projects as they go from pure engineering concept to reality.

The stuff in GLR that are kind of throw-aways (like that Mishawum riders should use Anderson, and Winchester riders should be accommodated at a West Medford terminus) are 100% true from a engineering standpoint, and yet are the kind of things that if they were actually floated in public, they'd get larded up with NIMBY payoffs (here picture a bored tunnel alignment from West Medford to Winchester Center, with acres of underground parking with landscaped park on top ;-) Nobody here is proud of this sad reality.

The MPO / EOT stuff, by way of contrast, is always so hedged and so vague that its hard to know where their project ratings come from. The cheery little pie-ratings (bad circle, bad-half-circle, happy half circle, full happy circle) are never quite connected to any work they show. Of course the big reason they don't show all their work is for fear they'll confuse or offend skittish readers or politicians at public hearings. For better and worse this is both a weakness and a strength, the strength being that it is perfectly calibrated to the political climate of the state. A perfect example of this is how they completely decline to say what effect the GLX will have on Somerville/Arlington/Medford bus service (their answer: "we'll wait until after its open").
rethcir wrote:Now the Fall River/New Bedford plan on the other hand..

Meanwhile, yes, http://www.southcoastrail.org is crying out for a similar take-apart and put-back-together
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