Salem Station on the Eastern Route Discussion

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

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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby Matthew » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:44 pm

Right. I was taking issue with Rinus Oosthoek who wants a bigger parking garage. He says that the smaller garage is "a facility for the 1970s, not the 21st century." I think that is a ridiculous statement. My point is that ALL parking garages are facilities for the 1970s, when we were building new freeways and interstates across the nation.

It has nothing to do with the choice of architecture. A parking garage is blight regardless of its artistic merit. Building massive new parking garages in downtown areas is a throwback to an era when we thought highways would solve all our transportation needs. Since then we've learned better. I think the MBTA Commuter Rail system should aspire to be more than a parking lot shuttle.

Not to mention that Salem is a massive destination for visitors and tourists, people who would arrive at the MBTA station without a car. If they really wanted to make a profitable structure, they would skip the parking garage and lease out that space to businesses.
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:15 am

http://www.salem.com/pages/salemma_webd ... 021612.pdf

The design renderings on this thing run the high platform all the way up to the portal mouth where the stairs currently are. Genius move totally precluding possibility of ever allowing a 2-track station. Another 15-20 feet back and there would've been provisional space for 2 tracks, 2 platforms, and a switch before the portal.


I'm going to go ahead and mail in my award nominations right now for this intrepid project team. . .
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby Elcamo » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:32 am

Matthew wrote:Right. I was taking issue with Rinus Oosthoek who wants a bigger parking garage. He says that the smaller garage is "a facility for the 1970s, not the 21st century." I think that is a ridiculous statement. My point is that ALL parking garages are facilities for the 1970s, when we were building new freeways and interstates across the nation.


So, you're saying that we should COMPLETELY avoid any form of parking garage and ignore the fact that our nation's transportation system is built AROUND THE AUTOMOBILE, because that's what we did in past years? One could apply this same logic with the restoration and improvement of train service throughout the country, just because it was done in the past doesn't mean that it can't be applied to today. Also, you need to keep in mind that the "1970's", or whatever era you seem to have such hatred for, are not that different transportation wise in Salem then they are today or in the near future. Moreover, Salem and the MBTA have yet to provide any substantial alternative to driving to the commuter rail station if you live in towns like Peabody and Danvers, which is what leads to the demand for a parking garage. Now, if the MBTA were able to better provide service to these communities, then the prospect of a parking garage at Salem Station would never be taken seriously. However, this clearly not the case, as the lot seems to ALWAYS be packed whenever I take the train in from Salem, because nobody wants to ride on a bumpy bus ride that takes twice as long to arrive as opposed to a quieter, quicker, flexible(er?) and much easier ride into Salem in their own cars.

Matthew wrote:Not to mention that Salem is a massive destination for visitors and tourists, people who would arrive at the MBTA station without a car. If they really wanted to make a profitable structure, they would skip the parking garage and lease out that space to businesses.


First off, I wouldn't call Salem a "massive" tourist destination, as it really only has lots of tourists during the fall. I actually overheard a conversation this weekend in Salem about how tourists were turned away because of the LACK of parking downtown, which is true even during the off peak seasons. My favorite part of your trolling (if this is a serious statement then I will be VERY shocked) is where you mention that they should skip the garage in order to use the space for businesses. REALLY? The station has a parking problem as it is, and you want to remove the majority of it's spaces for more crappy tourist trap shops and maybe a Dunkin Donuts or two?

The parking garage is defintely a neccessity for Salem and the MBTA to grow, and I can't see how the station can develop further without one. (Although a new tunnel under Salem would be kinda nice, might as well throw in the blue line extension and commuter service to Peabody too)
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby Elcamo » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:36 am

What's the possibility of the MBTA buying a little of the land where those condos are? It looks like they could snag enough without hitting their parking lot to build a second track.
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby BostonUrbEx » Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:12 am

But what's the need for the second track if you can't have a 2nd platform (or center platform, ideally).
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby Matthew » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:21 am

Elcamo wrote:
Matthew wrote:Right. I was taking issue with Rinus Oosthoek who wants a bigger parking garage. He says that the smaller garage is "a facility for the 1970s, not the 21st century." I think that is a ridiculous statement. My point is that ALL parking garages are facilities for the 1970s, when we were building new freeways and interstates across the nation.


So, you're saying that we should COMPLETELY avoid any form of parking garage and ignore the fact that our nation's transportation system is built AROUND THE AUTOMOBILE, because that's what we did in past years?


No, just that it doesn't belong in downtown Salem. There's plenty of stations out near the highways away from urban areas that have room for parking garages. Does the MBTA aspire to nothing more than being a parking lot shuttle?
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby atsf sp » Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:11 pm

The point of a commuter railroad is to be a shuttle, and to get to the staion most people have to drive. So yes the T does aspire to be a parking lot shuttle to stop highway congestion. It is not trying to set up luxury trains will overnight all Pullman service. It is a commuter railroad. This is what they do.
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby Matthew » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:30 pm

You are making a false comparison. The options are parking lot (1970s style solution) or development of the downtown Salem area (21st century solution). Pullman coaches and overnight service have nothing to do with this discussion. Rinus Oosthoek said that "bigger parking lots" are more modern. I have challenged that claim.

It seems that the MBTA is trying to have it both ways. In the plans, they are clearly attempting to address pedestrian and bus access to the facility, as well as its integration with the surrounding urban area. On the other hand, they are going to build and subsidize 553 parking spaces in an expensive garage.

Personally, I think they would be better off reducing the number of parking spaces and focusing that money on better bus service to the surrounding area. Why? Because parking lots are the weakest and least effective way of generating ridership. The amount of land and resources that goes into storing 500+ stationary automobiles for 8-10 hours a day is far too high. The costs of this project will never be recovered by serving a mere 500 commuters. Adding a level won't do it either. Parking lots should only be employed in areas where land is cheap. The infrastructure required to support parking also has negative side effects on other modes that have the potential to bring large numbers of riders into the station without costing the MBTA much money: walking, bicycling and buses. There are already bus routes that serve the area, these should be strengthened and expanded. The station itself should aim for minimal land usage because that land is valuable and can generate more revenue when put to commercial uses other than merely serving as paved open space.
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:59 pm

Elcamo wrote:What's the possibility of the MBTA buying a little of the land where those condos are? It looks like they could snag enough without hitting their parking lot to build a second track.


They don't need to. There's spacious room for a second track and platform today. See the pic on p.24 of the design PDF: http://www.salem.com/pages/salemma_webd ... 021612.pdf. Nothin' but weeds and trees on flat ground where the second platform would go, the second track berth is mowed grass, and there's ample room for a switch right now ahead of the portal. They protected the property lines very well when the adjacent development went up. Problem is that by extending the platform all the way to the portal's edge, an outbound train can't switch without blocking the first car on the inbound side, which renders the last couple dozen feet of platform useless. If they stopped the new high platform 20 feet shy of the current low at the stairs, then they've got all the provisional space they need for 2 platforms and safe/efficient switching. Doesn't even have to compromise the stairs...just narrow the high platform into a walkway by 1-2 feet for extra track clearance around the switch and put a railing on it. I suppose they can easily do that later if the high platform edge is one of those ones where the yellow strip is on a slight overhang with hollow space underneath. But then they'd have to construct a 20-foot platform extension on the north end to offset. That's pointless; why not do it now instead of having to overspend on more construction later when they decide "OMG we totally need a second platform!" There's a full 100 feet of slack space on the north end of the platform before it reaches the end of the MOW equipment storage siding.

The contractor corruption on this project is disgusting. Pretty close to worst of any recent project. This needs to get thrown right in their faces at Legislative hearings as Exhibit Q of things that much change with the way the T does (or doesn't) do business.
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby highrail » Thu Feb 23, 2012 6:57 pm

I find it amazing that this project has been discussed and discussed for well over thirty years! Still nothing. I remember being part of a committee called the Northshore Transit Improvement Project back in the 1970's where this and other projects were discussed. The cost of all the "studies" probably would have paid for the dam thing by now. Hell, bring back the station on the other end of the tunnel, create a large parking lot behind the police station; and there are already double tracks in that old station and let's be done with it. I say this only in half jest...it could just work. :)
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby jbvb » Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:59 pm

The problem with a garage on the engine terminal site is conflicting interests. Salem's bus routes aren't adequate to get residents to the train station, and Salem is large enough that it's quite a long walk for many. For most of Peabody and all of Marblehead, Lynnfield and MIddleton, it's out of the question. Hopefully, Swampscott residents use the Lynn garage when their own station parking is inadequate. However, adding more traffic to the intersection of Bridge and North Streets will be regretted by all; it's been bad there for 50 years and there's no doing anything to improve it.

If there was any chance that this money could be spent on extending service to Peabody and Rt. 128 by the North Shore Mall on the old Salem & Lowell roadbed, that's where it should go...
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Feb 24, 2012 2:34 pm

jbvb wrote:The problem with a garage on the engine terminal site is conflicting interests. Salem's bus routes aren't adequate to get residents to the train station, and Salem is large enough that it's quite a long walk for many. For most of Peabody and all of Marblehead, Lynnfield and MIddleton, it's out of the question. Hopefully, Swampscott residents use the Lynn garage when their own station parking is inadequate. However, adding more traffic to the intersection of Bridge and North Streets will be regretted by all; it's been bad there for 50 years and there's no doing anything to improve it.

If there was any chance that this money could be spent on extending service to Peabody and Rt. 128 by the North Shore Mall on the old Salem & Lowell roadbed, that's where it should go...


Exactly. 128 is where the parking makes all the difference in the world, especially where they're situated at major interchanges. And yet all these expensive garage proposals are in suburban downtowns pretty far-flung from the interstate grid. Where's the Waltham/Route 20 on the Fitchburg Line? Where's Lake Quannapowitt on the Reading Line? Where's Peabody? Where's the Needham Highlands or relocated Hersey stop on the Needham Line? Couldn't at least one of those, especially badly-needed 20/128 on the biggest transit gap along the highway, been built for the cost of these very preventable overruns in Salem and Beverly? A few of these have enough open space for expandable lots...no need for garages.
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby octr202 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:21 pm

In either of those cases, is there much undeveloped land with both rail and road access that isn't wetlands? A quick look at Google Maps (and many trips under 128 on the Reading Line) leaves me under the impression that a lot of those areas (esp in Reading) are in wetlands, which will make the work much harder and more expensive.

I also have a hunch that the MBTA/MassDOT will be unlikely to place a large park & ride just a few exits up 128 from Anderson, where much of the lot goes empty each day. Never mind that the location in Reading would attract riders from a different area, I suspect they'll be gun-shy for a while about building a new facility so close to one that's overbuilt for today's demand.

Like it or not, "low hanging fruit" are about the best we can hope for in the current environment. Expanded bus service or a Peabody branch isn't going to happen anytime soon, so the garage in Salem provides a way of getting more people access to the trains that are there in the short term. And since there's proven demand, so the T's not running the risk of building a new white elephant.
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby BostonUrbEx » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:29 pm

There's 2 car dealerships right off 128 on the Reading Branch. They're plenty of room and they could probably be bought out fairly easy compared to other land uses. And it's probably the only potential lot/garage space that's not wetlands or already home to something well established/not moving.
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Re: New Salem Station Plans Mostly Well Received

Postby octr202 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:39 pm

Yeah, that's probably the only shot. Anything west of the tracks (in addition to requiring a new grade crossing or new highway ramps to access) is probably more wetlands-ish than the east side. If the car dealer site could be acquired easily, that would be the best, perhaps only, shot.

The next hurdle would be that the site is actually in Wakefield, but I wonder how many of their residents it would actually serve. My non-scientific observations are that there are often empty commuter spaces left around the station in Wakefield, so the town itself might have little reason to support a park & ride that's just going to serve out-of-towners. When we look at the big picture, it makes sense, but politics being local, it might be a hard sell in town.
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