Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

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Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:49 am

52 minute documentary on how the Silver Line to Dudley came to be: http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi633184537/

Now, I know we seem to have some deal with banning all discussion on the Silver Line or something here... but this talks heavily about the former El and the formerly proposed light rail options. It's very interesting.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby sery2831 » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:17 pm

Just for the record. Silver Line and Trackless discussion is allowed. It is the Urban Ring topic that is banned on here. But if this turns into a bus conversation it may get moderated.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby Teamdriver » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:33 pm

In this picture from 1948, at Egelston , there is a trolley under the el. What happened to this line, when was it removed. Upon viewing that documentary, there seems that nothing could satisfy the various groups, mission imposible.Maybe they should have left the overhead el up there, i didnt mind it.It was what it was. You cant make a silk purse from a sow's ear.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby Charliemta » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:48 pm

Thanks for the great picture. I never rode it, but the trolley line went all the way to Park Street, using the Pleaseant Street portal and abandoned Tremont Street tunnel. They should re-establish it,

I watched the video, and light rail on the surface of Washungton Street was the obvious solution for repacing the El. The loss of a few parking spaces wouldn't have mattered.

What struck me the most in the video is that so much funding was spent on the extra tunnel for the Greenbush Line, a route with relatively few riders, yet the light rail along Washington Street couldn't be funded for the same amount of money, a route that would have had a massive ridership. Political corruption was rampant on that stupid decision.
Long live the "El"
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby Elcamo » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:59 pm

Great video. Although you have to admit that the Silver Line now is better than nothing at all, a trolley really should have gone in on Washington Street.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby railwye » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:59 pm

sery2831 wrote:Just for the record. Silver Line and Trackless discussion is allowed. It is the Urban Ring topic that is banned on here. But if this turns into a bus conversation it may get moderated.


Why is the Urban Ring banned here? Wouldn't a rail option for the Urban Ring be appropriate here? Or even a discussion of the comparative merits of a rail option vs. a bus option?
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby Arborway » Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:26 am

Elcamo wrote:Although you have to admit that the Silver Line now is better than nothing at all...


That's the best endorsement I could possibly give the Silver Line.

The back and forth between Roxbury and the T is emblematic of the process that has been repeated time and time again. The T proposes lackluster service, a community objects and this back-and-forth goes on for a while. Eventually the T offers to compromise and do something else, only to abandon the idea at the last minute and runs back to the original plan only the T liked.

Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "We'll run a bus!"
Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "Split the difference? We'll run a trackless trolley!"
Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "OK! We're going to run a bus!"

At the very least, the T should have gone with the trackless option, with real stations and prepayment, instead of looping-back on itself. Not some watered-down concept that invokes something far better than it could ever be. The community didn't even get a compromise, it got the bare minimum. Zero-emissions solution? Nope. Dedicated ROW? Nope. Enforced lane restrictions? Nope. Shelter from wind / rain / snow? Nope. Meanwhile, the Seaportinnovationwaterfront District got trackless trolleys and luxurious, deserted stations.

The reasons why Roxbury and the South End got shafted are endless. The transportation planning and leadership in the Boston metro area has been anything but solution-oriented. Imagine an colleague that comes up to you and constantly says why something can't be done, why something would never work, why compromise is impossible, why inconvenience is a deal-breaker. That's Boston!

Take the main objection to trackless trolleys. Boohoo -- overhead wires. You can barely see them in Cambridge aside from the spiderweb above Harvard Sq, which is a very special case. But Boston has endured stagnant leadership which doesn't use transit, doesn't understand transit, doesn't support transit and doesn't want transit. A few wires overhead would be just too much for them to bear.

Now a grassy median -- that's something they could get behind.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:46 am

Arborway wrote:
Elcamo wrote:Although you have to admit that the Silver Line now is better than nothing at all...


That's the best endorsement I could possibly give the Silver Line.

The back and forth between Roxbury and the T is emblematic of the process that has been repeated time and time again. The T proposes lackluster service, a community objects and this back-and-forth goes on for a while. Eventually the T offers to compromise and do something else, only to abandon the idea at the last minute and runs back to the original plan only the T liked.

Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "We'll run a bus!"
Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "Split the difference? We'll run a trackless trolley!"
Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "OK! We're going to run a bus!"

At the very least, the T should have gone with the trackless option, with real stations and prepayment, instead of looping-back on itself. Not some watered-down concept that invokes something far better than it could ever be. The community didn't even get a compromise, it got the bare minimum. Zero-emissions solution? Nope. Dedicated ROW? Nope. Enforced lane restrictions? Nope. Shelter from wind / rain / snow? Nope. Meanwhile, the Seaportinnovationwaterfront District got trackless trolleys and luxurious, deserted stations.

The reasons why Roxbury and the South End got shafted are endless. The transportation planning and leadership in the Boston metro area has been anything but solution-oriented. Imagine an colleague that comes up to you and constantly says why something can't be done, why something would never work, why compromise is impossible, why inconvenience is a deal-breaker. That's Boston!

Take the main objection to trackless trolleys. Boohoo -- overhead wires. You can barely see them in Cambridge aside from the spiderweb above Harvard Sq, which is a very special case. But Boston has endured stagnant leadership which doesn't use transit, doesn't understand transit, doesn't support transit and doesn't want transit. A few wires overhead would be just too much for them to bear.

Now a grassy median -- that's something they could get behind.


Can thank Hizzoner for spiking the trackless option. He's got an aesthetic bug up his arse about overhead wires, and bellyached loud about that when the option was still on the table. Pooh-poohed the idea of running them on the 57 and 39 as well when the trolley restorations died in lawsuit land. In the 57's case they ripped down powered wires that already connect to the TT network at Watertown instead of doing something better than diesel when the A restoration got struck down. They could've had an easier time wiggling out of the Arborway lawsuits if they did the same. As is JP is still fighting the garage expansion tooth-and-nail, and this would've been an amenable solution to softening that blow among other things.

I have no idea what City Hall's deal is with this. The wires truly are invisible in Cambridge, esp. on the 72. Mass Ave.'s fugly bracket-arm supports are the exception, not the rule. And the poles can be integrated into streetlight poles effortlessly (the T's objecting to that for the Belmont streetscaping along the 73, but it's bunk because portions of that route already have it and virtually every new or re-streetscaped light rail/TT installation in the country does it). And for the convenience of dead-silent, emissions-free buses along a streets with traction power hookups closeby at each end...no brainer. TT's are a notch above fossil fuel buses on the public perception 'classiness' scale. If it works on 4-lane Mass Ave. then there's zero blockage risk on narrower streets like Washington and South Huntington.

Hopefully if there's some new blood in City Hall the attitudes will change about this. But they probably blew their chance at ever getting it by passing in the initial build. The T will try to smother all objections to the air quality with inertia that it's "always been this way". The only possible avenue for change is if some new regime starts pestering to get the south half of the Urban Ring off the mat planning-wise and sketches out some vision of TT's on Melnea Cass and Southampton linking Dudley with the Transitway, power source convertible to partial reservation-running trolleys in the future. Then I could see a network starting to take shape if they start making city-wide interconnections between the existing traction power sources. You figure if Dudley can get it and there's a Transitway feed, then crossing Huntington, thru Longwood, to Kenmore/Comm Ave. is easily doable with the traction sources it crosses. Then the 39 and 57 look feasible because their ex-trolley power sources still exist and are live under the street.

Hell, I think the TT route-priming is the only way they ever do moderate their position on street-running rail to join the rest of the world that has no problems with this for new light rail installations.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby CRail » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:18 pm

All of their oppositions to light rail are solved by street running. You don't lose parking, you don't lose lanes, and you don't lose sidewalk space. A nicely designed overhead system can actually add elegance to a street-scape much like old fashioned streetlights do (especially with gas lights like Charles Street's, gorgeous! I'm drifting...). You see wires suspended over the streets in a lot of commercial media, even modern music videos! With that, I challenge the esthetics argument.

Streetcars also greatly add value to a community, with the promise that they aren't going to be permanently diverted to the next block tomorrow. So if you're looking to start a business with a mode of public transit passing by your window, you're going to be more comfortable with that mode requiring expensive, built in infrastructure. Even a trackless trolley provides the same.

The only downside to any of these options, especially trackless, is the great potential for service disruptions. With trackless, those disruptions are minimized because buses can be pushed around (or these days, can switch to battery mode and be driven around, [even though Cambridge's can't]) wire mishaps, and disabled coaches can be moved out of the way. With rail-borne streetcars, a service disruption is much more drastic. I think these factors are far outweighed by the gain of quality of service provided by these modes. The 71s and 73s are at least as busy as the 77s, but operate more smoothly. No bus or TT route could handle the capacity of the Comm Ave line (I'm less familiar with the other branches' typical riderships), since even 2 car trains of articulated streetcars can barely make due. Right here the benefits of each mode are proven.

In other words, I agree with these folks completely. They should get a streetcar, and it should run in the street (whacky concept, I know). Especially if you put the tracks in the make believe bus lane that exists now, the only difference will be that when someone throws their hazards on to run in to Gino's pizza or Starbucks real quick, they'll come back to their car and find that the BTD performed a David Copperfield stunt with it. That ought to fix the habit rather quickly.

F Line, I think your user name is the answer here!
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby jwhite07 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:21 am

Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "We'll run a bus!"
Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "Split the difference? We'll run a trackless trolley!"
Roxbury: "We want light rail."
MBTA: "OK! We're going to run a bus!"


While I was at Northeastern and later living on Mission Hill, I attended a number of community meetings regarding Washington Street replacement service. The above pretty much sums it up.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby wicked » Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:30 am

Was there any point at which street car service on Washington Street was ever remotely backed by TPTB at T headquarters? I barely remember the El's closure, and in the coverage in intervening years it seemed like it was more a pipe dream than reality. I easily could be wrong, though.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby Charliemta » Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:31 am

Light rail development is always a pipe dream in Boston. Other metro areas in the US have been going full speed ahead in developing light rail lines, but Boston seems to be stuck at square one. Even the Green Line north extension to Somerville and Medford is taking decades.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby jwhite07 » Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:09 am

Is the opposition to street running solely "TPTB", as you say, at the T? I think not. Perhaps even moreso, the City of Boston has long held street running as anathema. At least the T occasionally pays lip service to the concept, but without solid political backing at Government Center and a commitment to make it work (parking enforcement, preemptive traffic signaling, adequate snow removal en route, etc.), it would never succeed. The sole extension of street running light rail since the end of World War II wasn't even an extension per se, but a resumption of service from Brigham Circle to Heath Street in 1989 after a 4 year absence. And that was due in large part to political pressure imposed by the VA Hospital (read the Feds and the enormously influential veterans lobby), not by any demand by the City or desire by the T to do so. Fast forward to the present, and while Heath Street service still runs, it is routinely suspended beyond Brigham Circle middays or whenever there is heavy traffic or an automobile fender bender on Huntington or South Huntington. And nobody's bashing down doors when it happens. The next step is to suspend weekend service on the entire line. If that "goes well", weekday streetcar service beyond Brigham Circle is not likely to survive for long.
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby jscola30 » Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:12 am

For what it is, a pretty good doc, showed view points from various sides etc. Couple things though, was this doc completed before the South Station extension of the Silver Line was added? While one could definitely argue that it is also not "Equal or better" than the tunnel, I feel they should have at least mentioned it. The other thing which remains unclear to me, because I was a wee one when the El closed (4-5 years old) and lived in the burbs, was the light rail option as a line with a fully or mostly separated median or street running? I can definitely see either working at the top of Washington Street, but as Dudley nears, I can only see street running and that itself being quite difficult. I think also they should have looked at this in relation to the 57/A Line and 39/Arborway-E Line and looking at the states/MTA/MBTA's dim view of light rail.


I think if money was no object, I feel (and realizing that I don't live in the area) the best overall solution would have been, dare I say it, a SUBWAY under Washington Street. One of the "equal or better" issues that wasn't talked about is vehicles (and capacity thereof). On the orange line, you have a several cars strung as a train. You'd have it in a limited with a streetcar and in a MUCH more limited way with even an articulated bus. With a subway you'd have the trip time of the EL, but not the "nuisance" of it since "everyone hated it", and you'd have capacity, etc. Now of course, that being said, such a project would cost TONS of money and to be honest, I don't know if it's physically possible.

But one thing this film reminded me of is a few years ago, I was walking on Mass Ave (I might have been waiting for the #1 bus), it was a weekend day, and the traffic was really bad. I thought to myself, what will this look like in 20-25 years and are we ready for that?
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Re: Equal or Better: The Story of the Silver Line

Postby Red Wing » Sat Apr 21, 2012 4:15 pm

Let's have a railroad.net jack hammer party. If I were a betting man, I would bet you that there is still a lot of rails under them there streets. Now stringing wires, opening an old tunnel and running rails from the portal across the Pike will be a little tougher.
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