MBTA @ 50

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

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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby BandA » Tue Nov 11, 2014 2:19 am

Trackless trolleys are so much better than buses. Those Flyers were great; Except for the hard fiberglass seats, they were wide, quiet, and lasted ~~25 years vs. smelly diesel buses that only last 10 years or so. Would love to see busy bus routes converted if that makes economic sense. Maintaining an electric infrastructure and trackless trolleys should be cheaper than diesel or battery buses over the long term.
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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby octr202 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 7:58 am

While I don't follow the project much as I don't live in Belmont anymore, all project materials I've seen refer to the replacement of trackless overhead during the project. I know that there was a small minority in Belmont who pushed for the elimination of the tracklesses in the planning process, but I don't believe that went anywhere.
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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby CRail » Tue Nov 11, 2014 9:50 am

The T told Belmont that Watertown and Cambridge had to agree. Watertown unanimously agreed to disagree (with Belmont) and Cambridge didn't even join the conversation. The 72 and 73 will be trackless again. In the meantime, the TT fleet is getting overhauled (a bit prematurely) because of the inflated spare ratio.
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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Nov 11, 2014 3:52 pm

octr202 wrote:While I don't follow the project much as I don't live in Belmont anymore, all project materials I've seen refer to the replacement of trackless overhead during the project. I know that there was a small minority in Belmont who pushed for the elimination of the tracklesses in the planning process, but I don't believe that went anywhere.


No. Cambridge and Watertown said "over my dead body". The loop where Belmont St. and Trapelo split off is going way, but all overhead and poles are being replaced. I think the new poles are going to hold decorative street lights (sort of like the non-decorative ones the Cushing Sq. trolley poles hold) because part of this massive project involves burying the utility wires and getting rid of the ugly telephone poles that line both sides of the street. Or at least that was the original plan...not sure if if that improvement survived the budget axe or not.
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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby BostonUrbEx » Tue Nov 11, 2014 6:18 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:
octr202 wrote:While I don't follow the project much as I don't live in Belmont anymore, all project materials I've seen refer to the replacement of trackless overhead during the project. I know that there was a small minority in Belmont who pushed for the elimination of the tracklesses in the planning process, but I don't believe that went anywhere.


No. Cambridge and Watertown said "over my dead body". The loop where Belmont St. and Trapelo split off is going way, but all overhead and poles are being replaced. I think the new poles are going to hold decorative street lights (sort of like the non-decorative ones the Cushing Sq. trolley poles hold) because part of this massive project involves burying the utility wires and getting rid of the ugly telephone poles that line both sides of the street. Or at least that was the original plan...not sure if if that improvement survived the budget axe or not.


Sounds like great news for the streetscape! That should actually be very attractive to consolidate the streetlights on the trolleypoles and get rid of the above ground wires. Not sure why they want to get rid of the trolleywire to begin with, adds some visual interest. They're not ugly like telephone wires. Well... in my opinion.
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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby Gerry6309 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 8:31 pm

Boston's trackless network was once bigger than San Francisco's. Unfortunately, a certain general manager in the early 1960s never saw a wire he liked. The four surviving lines were saved only because diesel buses of the day were too smoky for the Harvard tunnel. Miles of trolley wire, span wire and feeder wire and thousands of steel poles were converted into cash. Substations in Arlington and Malden sat idle for years before being removed. Trackless Trolleys in good condition sat in dead storage until fully depreciated. The Cities of Somerville, Malden and Everett all opposed the change, but were ignored. Give thanks for the small bit we have left, and let us hope that the Neoplans last as long as the Pullmans and Flyers they replaced - 25 and 33 years respectively.

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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby ThinkNarrow » Tue Nov 11, 2014 9:47 pm

Gerry6309 wrote:Boston's trackless network was once bigger than San Francisco's. Unfortunately, a certain general manager in the early 1960s never saw a wire he liked.

Yes, Thomas J. McLernon.
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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby Gerry6309 » Wed Nov 12, 2014 7:17 am

ThinkNarrow wrote:
Gerry6309 wrote:Boston's trackless network was once bigger than San Francisco's. Unfortunately, a certain general manager in the early 1960s never saw a wire he liked.

Yes, Thomas J. McLernon.

One of the last events that Mr. McLernon presided over was the renaming of Mechanics Station to Prudential. During the ceremony, the Mechanics Sign came loose unexpectedly, and fell on Mr. McLernon. We often talk about the perversity of inanimate objects, but this might be considered the "Revenge of the Infrastructure".

Mr. McLernon survived into the MBTA era. One of the first actions taken by the MBTA Board was to remove him.
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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby jonnhrr » Wed Nov 12, 2014 12:29 pm

Interesting how many parallels there are between the recent transit history in Boston and in Philadelphia (and probably other US cities)

- Management that never saw a wire they liked
- Allergy to track in streets (when SEPTA took over from PTC they immediately started bustituting any trolley line that didn't connect to the subway even though they had plenty of renovated PCC's, ridership was strong on these lines, and against the wishes of the communities affected. They made National City Lines look pro-rail by comparison)
- Ditto for trackless trolleys (see wire comment above) although a couple routes managed to survive.
- Funding problems exacerbated by a general indifference or even hostility by communities outside the immediate urban area.

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Re: MBTA @ 50

Postby jaymac » Wed Nov 12, 2014 2:55 pm

(This is -- thematically at least -- a repetition of some of my early posting on somewhat the same subject area.)

I grew up in Jamaica Plain at the five-way intersection of South Huntington, Centre, Moraine, and Boylston. My experience was early enough that trolleys were still running to Dudley. Transportation to and from the Agassiz, then Latin, and even later Northeastern was either by foot or by trolley. Trackless trolleys weren't looked on as even honorary trolleys. The modifier diminished them from occupying the same status as center-entries, Type 5s, MTA PCCs, or even Dallas cars.
As much as steel wheels on steel rail and contact shoes on contact wire are part and parcel of my earlier life, I wish neither the reestablishment of trolley service beyond Heath Street nor the imposition of trackless trolley service beyond Heath Street. Why? Because re-establishing and maintaining either of those modes would turn Centre from South Huntington southward into another Big Dig. Long-buried rail would have to be exhumed, leveled, repaired and/or replaced. Long-dormant subterranean electrical distribution would have to be rehabilitated and the contacts wires -- 1 or 2 for each direction -- reinstalled. Additional electricians would need to be hired, and additional equipment and material would need to be secured. Such additional costs on top of the Big Dig potential is good reason for maintaining bus service. Where there is island running, there will be construction/maintenance inconvenience at intersections, but where there is street running, construction/maintenance inconvenience is longitudinal, not briefly transverse.
Any municipal or regional transit system is subject to politics. If management in Boston, Philadelphia or any other city chooses to run contrary to political pressures -- indeed if that management cannot anticipate and accommodate those political pressures -- that management will be elsewhere quickly. Under the MassDOT reorganization, the T is establishing its presence -- physical and political -- in the Connecticut River Valley and the Berkshires, areas that were earlier disinterested and even hostile to the MBTA, especially at budget time.
Assuming there is no reversal of fortune after the Baker inauguration, the T's second half century looks auspicious.
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