Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

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

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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby CRail » Mon Mar 28, 2011 4:23 pm

FP10 wrote:Just from being in there I would say the air quality at Back Bay is far worse then the Harvard "yellow train" tunnel. Ive spent a decent amount of time waiting in there and haven't noticed any obvious diesel fumes. Then again the real problem is CO2, which of course is odorless so that may still be an issue. Perhaps the tunnel is constructed in such a way that it naturally ventilates?

CO2 is harmless, CO is deadly.

The heavy research of a Seashore member (retired news media tech) revealed that the 3 trackless lines survived not because of any environmental pull by Cambridge, Watertown, or even Belmont, but because of the tunnel. According to his findings, the theory in place is called the piston effect. A vehicle traveling through the tunnel forces air out in front of it and in behind it, similar to a piston in its chamber (this is also very evident in the rail subways). A diesel bus will pollute the air that it's pulling in, but a trackless trolley will force out that pollution while pulling in clean air behind it. Naturally this doesn't eliminate all of the pollutants, but it certainly cuts down. To this we owe the survival of the tracklesses. On a second note, I believe from what I've been told that there is some sort of ventilation in the tunnel now, although I have never seen it.

RailBus63 wrote:I understand that in theory, but in practice it forces a large number of riders to walk a longer distance to a substandard waiting area, which can get very crowded and often forces passengers to stand close to the curb as multiple coaches pass by (none of them going the posted 10 mph speed limit). It's obvious that no one in MBTA management or customer service has ever been a regular 77 rider.

The waiting area is no shallower than the rest of the berths in the tunnel, and it's certainly larger than that where the 2 most popular routes from the station pick up (Watertown/Waverly). Making passengers walk a couple hundred extra feet is not detrimental, and is not an issue worthy of creating serious operational difficulties to correct. Again, I often ride the service in question and board at that exact location, which I've done for decades, and never have I been significantly dissatisfied with the set up. If the station is that much of a problem, more passengers would transfer at Porter.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby 3rdrail » Mon Mar 28, 2011 5:00 pm

CRail wrote:CO2 is harmless, CO is deadly.


Carbon Dioxide (CO2) can be deadly, Corey. In high levels for prolonged periods, suffocation occurs. Beneath that level, all sorts of ill effects to the human body occur. Nothing to be messed with.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby jamesinclair » Mon Mar 28, 2011 5:22 pm

CRail wrote:The waiting area is no shallower than the rest of the berths in the tunnel, and it's certainly larger than that where the 2 most popular routes from the station pick up (Watertown/Waverly). Making passengers walk a couple hundred extra feet is not detrimental, and is not an issue worthy of creating serious operational difficulties to correct. Again, I often ride the service in question and board at that exact location, which I've done for decades, and never have I been significantly dissatisfied with the set up. If the station is that much of a problem, more passengers would transfer at Porter.



First of all, yes, berth 3 is narrower than the rest, this is a fact.

Second, the 3 busiest yellow line routes at Harvard are:

Route 1: 13,000 weekdays
Route 66: 11,000 weekdays
Route 77: 7,600 weekdays

Not the trackless lines. And in no way, shape or form is Porter an option for those transferring between these lines.

Of course the MBTA has it set up so that the 3 busiest lines are as far away from each other as possible. Youve clearly never transferred from the 66 to the 77. It's not just a hassle, it's as bad as to encourage abandoning the MBTA system in its entirety.

The MBTA lives off ridership. Making things a PITA for riders is not the proper way of going about things.

"but it costs money". Well no duh. You need to spend money to make money*.


*The MBTA will never make a profit, but they can increase ridership which has a positive economic value to the state.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby CRail » Mon Mar 28, 2011 5:53 pm

Paul, I guess I underestimated Carbon Dioxide. I always felt that because we breathe it out, such exposure has no effect. Now that I think of it, though, automobile fumes are deadly, and locomotive fumes can be nauseating, and they're certainly not CO. Please strike that statement from the record.

Jamesinclair: Firstly, we're discussing routes that enter the tunnel. A tunnel which used to be used by rail vehicles. We've already been pushing our luck with bus discussions without going off into routes that aren't any kind of trolley nor run in former trolley infrastructure (the tunnel, the topic of this thread). Have you measured the platforms or posses such dimensions? Until you do, you can't throw statements around and declare that they are facts.

Also, to measure ridership at a stop you need to measure boardings and alightings at said stop. Passengers who board or disembark at Dudley and don't ride the entire route cannot be counted. This goes for both the 1 and the 66, which from my observations, do not carry more passengers to/from Harvard square than the trackless routes.

The complaints were also regarding the Arlington Heights berth, which is certainly very easily (and perhaps more conveniently in times of traffic) substituted by transferring at Porter Square station.

Note: I often transfer from the 86 inbound (which stops at the same place as the 66) to the 77 which is fairly easy by walking to the Holyoke gate or to the stop opposite Waterhouse Street. Both are relatively short and are even accessible!
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby MBTA3247 » Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:14 pm

There's a reason we exhale CO2, Corey: it's a waste product, and therefore toxic. However, it is in fact the CO in car exhaust that's deadly, since it gets absorbed into the bloodstream more easily than oxygen.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby 3rdrail » Mon Mar 28, 2011 7:00 pm

That's a common mistake and understandable. Monoxide gets all the headlines because it's usually more dramatic. That's why they wanted to pump in oxygen to the miners that were trapped for months- it was the dioxide rising that was the threat from all the miners. There was no monoxide as I'm sure they were smart enough to extinguish any source of it. Even two people sleeping together in a small room, especially in a newly constructed building, should have a fresh air source (such as the window open a crack with prowler stops). It's no fun to wake up dead. (I don't think, anyway - maybe it is ?)
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Mar 28, 2011 7:08 pm

Glimmer wrote:Is there any sort of diagram that compares the Harvard station pre- and post-renovation?


There's precious little in the way of photo evidence of any sort of the old Harvard station. Kind of frustrating. Beyond a couple oft-used shots on NErail from the late-70's of trains loading at one of the platforms shortly before construction started. But there's almost nothing documenting different angles of the station or showing the concourses. Most Harvard shots you find are surface pics of the iconic headhouse (now the Out of Town News kiosk) and inside Bennett Yard...tons from all decades and vantage points. And just a precious few of the bus tunnel, mostly also late-70's documenting the final days of the beat-up old Pullman TT's before the Flyers retired them.

And definitely nothing vintage like the amazing Boston Transit Commission records of the downtown subways being built. BTC wasn't involved in building anything across city lines, so the Cambridge subway's beginnings were not nearly as well documented for posterity.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby FP10 » Mon Mar 28, 2011 7:09 pm

CRail wrote:Paul, I guess I underestimated Carbon Dioxide. I always felt that because we breathe it out, such exposure has no effect.

At least you didn't confuse CO and CO2. And to think I used to be great at science in high school. I guess my knowledge of trains replaced all that.


And as far as the 77s berth. Perhaps its inconvenient, but at least you don't have to wait at Dawes Island in the rain, heat, snow, and freezing cold for the 86 and 66 as I do constantly. I would wait on the wall of the tunnel if it meant not having to be out there.

The piston effect (which is much more evident on the subway) is a good call, I wouldn't be surprised if that has some effect on air quality. Also is it possible that the warm air in the station proper rises in the winter and exits through the tunnels, perhaps doing the opposite in the summer? You can feel a substantial blast of air walking by the Newbury St exit at Hynes most days, I wouldn't be surprised if some kind of stack effect was going on as well.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby 3rdrail » Mon Mar 28, 2011 7:16 pm

FP10 wrote:At least you didn't confuse CO and CO2.


Godzilla does that.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby danib62 » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:37 pm

The thing is you won't wake up dead from breathing in CO2. Breathing in too much CO2 would trigger your suffocation/choking/gag reflex and wake you from your sleep. Part of what makes CO so dangerous is that since your body confuses it with oxygen it doesn't trigger the same suffocation/choking/gag reflex.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby danib62 » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:41 pm

CRail wrote:The heavy research of a Seashore member (retired news media tech) revealed that the 3 trackless lines survived not because of any environmental pull by Cambridge, Watertown, or even Belmont, but because of the tunnel. According to his findings, the theory in place is called the piston effect. A vehicle traveling through the tunnel forces air out in front of it and in behind it, similar to a piston in its chamber (this is also very evident in the rail subways). A diesel bus will pollute the air that it's pulling in, but a trackless trolley will force out that pollution while pulling in clean air behind it. Naturally this doesn't eliminate all of the pollutants, but it certainly cuts down. To this we owe the survival of the tracklesses. On a second note, I believe from what I've been told that there is some sort of ventilation in the tunnel now, although I have never seen it.

Interesting theory though how does Sunday's tracklessless operation factor in? You have no trackless trolleys rolling through on Sundays to help with ventilation. My best guess is that since service is lower so it's not as important.

Also based on numbers I got from materials I got at recent "key [yellow trains with rubber tires and diesel/cng engines] routes" community meetings the #1 has about 1143 ons and 1405 offs each weekday on average while the #66 has 2166 ons and 2220 offs. (I included not just the first and last stops of each line but also the stops that are also within spitting distance of harvard sq. For the 1 this is the first 4 stops and the 66 this is the first 3 and last 2.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby 3rdrail » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:40 pm

I'm interested in that theory also regarding trackless trolleys having a "plunger effect". Was that study ever published and was there empirical evidence to back it up ? As far as the CO2 causing death in bed thing is concerned, it happens and it happens fairly regularly. It can be a cause of originally percieved "crib-death" in which a baby holds a blanket close to his face, restricting his oxygen level coming in as well as causing him to re-breathe CO2. After a while, the CO2 blocks any oxygen from coming in, causing death. It can also affect the elderly and persons who are medicated, who, due to their own physiological make-up or side-effects of the medicine, reduce the body's autonomic nervous system into little or no such self-defense mechanism reaction such as you describe.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby jamesinclair » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:02 pm

The plunger effect is interesting, but I doubt the MBTA has ever studied it.

I mean seriously, in the past 20 years, how many times do you think an MBTA executive has had to wait in that tunnel?

Not even the drivers get affected by it, as theyre not standing in there for 20 minutes. It's the passenger that gets to breathe in all the wonderful diesel exhaust. And unfortunately, the passengers don't have a union to lobby for safer breathing conditions.

The tunnel was designed for electric vehicles, and I've yet to see anything indicate that it's been modified for non-electrics.

Corey, due to the curve of the tunnel, the final berth is more narrow.
Image


Looking towards the only entrance to the tunnel, you do see it gets even more narrow, but no train stops between berth 5 and 6. The berths all the way back have ample waiting room (and more fresh air)

Image


My proposed stairs would go straight here. The fare machines would simply move to the other side of the fare gates, towards the main escalators.

Image


I feel this would be a much wiser investment than the redundant elevator project currently underway.




Did the streetcars have assigned berths, or did they unload wherever? The length of the platform is quite generous if you think about it.

Anybody know why the upper tunnel waiting area is so much longer than the lower tunnel waiting area?
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby 3rdrail » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:37 pm

James - I've been waiting for Corey to come back on to make the correction, but maybe he's gone for the night. His statement was that a Seashore member who was a "retired news media tech" made that study - not an MBTA executive.

I hate to dispute another point with CRail, but due to the seriousness of the issue, feel it necessary. Corey, I just read your statement that "locomotive fumes can be nauseating, and they're certainly not CO". Is that a typo ? A locomotive with a diesel engine certainly does emit carbon monoxide (CO). A diesel engine is a very efficient internal combustion engine, so it's emissions of CO are low. Having said that, without casting aspersions on anyone at BET, those emissions change radically with an untuned engine. Should a locomotives engine be untuned, it's possible that those CO emissions could be pretty extensive- especially in a confined area such as Back Bay Station. Same is true of a diesel bus in the Harvard Tunnel.
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Re: Harvard Square Station and Tunnel Discussion

Postby jamesinclair » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:07 pm

3rdrail wrote:James - I've been waiting for Corey to come back on to make the correction, but maybe he's gone for the night. His statement was that a Seashore member who was a "retired news media tech" made that study - not an MBTA executive.
.


My point being that as long as the people in charge of commissioning the study dont ride the system, they won't know what needs attention. How do you know about poor conditions if you've never experienced them? Delays, bad concrete, bad lighting etc are general issues that can easily be brainstormed in an office. Diesel emissions in the bus tunnel? You only think about that if you have the misfortune of waiting 20 minutes in it.
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