MBTA Old Colony Line

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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:55 pm

BandA wrote:
YamaOfParadise wrote:I imagine he's talking about the encroachment in towards Plymouth. But at the end of the day, the end-game is still the same: with enough money, power, and connections, anything is possible. Moreover, going into Plymouth, it doesn't help that it isn't just that the track was inactive... it was/is completely gone and abandoned.
If it's no longer a railroad, it wasn't railbanked, and if it is privately owned, someone can squat on it for 20 years and they own it by adverse possession, I think.


It is landbanked and is owned by the MBTA. Sat OOS for a loooooooooong time and I don't think was formally abandoned until the whole commuter rail restoration started breaking down in petty fights over the terminus. Nobody's got adverse-anything rights to it. Though Operation Chaos can always get launched by the highest bidder. :(


I'm not sure where this encroachment is. Looks pretty free-and-clear on Google. Abandoned industrial crap across the street from end-of-track...in the woods well-buffered from condos down to High Cliff Ave....through a grass field down to Robbins Rd...offset 30 ft. in the grass from adjacent condos @ Robbins...back in the woods...trail head in the middle of nowhere...ROW with rails still in the ground amid thick overgrowth across Nelson St...demolished industrial crud and more overgrowth down to Lothrop St...Radisson Inn parking lot (OK...maybe 1 parking row got a little greedy)...shopping plaza @ historical end-of-ROW.

Who was the encroacher? I mean, yeah, abutting NIMBY's gonna NIMBY...but I don't see anyone other than maybe the Radisson who made an outright move to take what ain't theirs. Most of the abutters are not-at-all special middle-class residential pre-dating the end of active freight. And a surprising amount of vacant industrial property nobody's done anything with yet. The trail is weirdly incomplete, and on nearly every block can be shifted over to a beachwalk or a parkwalk at no loss. Station may have to fit shy of the Lothrup grade crossing to fit an 800-footer in there, but that just means open face to Water St. for dropoffs + crossing the street to the ferry terminal, and TOD/parking on the other side replacing the ugly-ass strip mall on Court.


Am I missing something here? I mean, there's the typical hurdles of restoring...and they don't even get to have that conversation until the locals fix the pathetic pace of redev at Cordage Park and make that place earn its keep. But I don't see any salted earth anywhere on those 1.2 miles of Google imagery refreshed this year. It looks to be not only well-preserved but decently well-buffered with many options for rejiggering the trail...and not a concern if it needs to stay that way for another 15 years until Plymouth comes around.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby YamaOfParadise » Tue Oct 06, 2015 11:32 am

The Radisson parking lot is really the only encroachment; my previous post ended up inadequately portraying the role of encroachment in the whole situation. You aren't missing anything, just my bad. The abutters that are the problems are the people who have the oceanside houses... which also happen to be as close to the ocean as they are the RoW. Besides from their complaints about noise, they'd probably also complain that their access to their own homes would be "limited" by the rails going through.

I think the Plymouth itself has a reasonable enough chance of overcoming these folk, though; they're low in number, and the tourism benefits for having a station downtown is immense. At some point, the political pressure of the latter will overcome the political pressure of the former.

The town of Plymouth owns from end-of-track to Lothrop(e) Street; the rest inward to the former end just shy of Park Street is privately owned now. You could probably finagle the line in all the way in to Park Street with only taking parts of parking lots and demo-ing a few small buildings. If the Radisson or the other businesses really don't like having less parking, you could easily put a small parking garage to make up for some lost capacity... but the added benefit of a train station should also make up for that for the stores; the College and the Radisson are definitely places that still need their own parking capacity. And you don't need any significant parking (if any at all) at Plymouth Downtown because of the extant Plymouth station. It's a good place to make a really condensed terminal.

Lothrop(e) Street could be workable if the costs of building that few extra blocks end up being astronomical, but it's definitely beyond ideal walking distance to the historical area of Plymouth.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 » Wed Oct 07, 2015 4:56 pm

Just abandon the Plymouth branch...simple enough...the ridership isn't there, on a good day, we bring down 4 and take back 6 on the 10:50 RT to Plymouth
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby BostonUrbEx » Thu Oct 08, 2015 12:33 am

MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 wrote:Just abandon the Plymouth branch...simple enough...the ridership isn't there, on a good day, we bring down 4 and take back 6 on the 10:50 RT to Plymouth


The branch is flawed and set up to fail, so the solution is to throw the hat in and abandon it?
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby dbperry » Thu Oct 08, 2015 9:26 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:
MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 wrote:Just abandon the Plymouth branch...simple enough...the ridership isn't there, on a good day, we bring down 4 and take back 6 on the 10:50 RT to Plymouth


The branch is flawed and set up to fail, so the solution is to throw the hat in and abandon it?


Easy solution is one DMU, permanently positioned to go back and forth between Halifax and (current) Plymouth and (future) Plymouth Downtown stations as a feeder service. If needed, between runs, hide the DMU up off Hawks Ave in Hanson if you can't build a siding track to hide it at the Halifax station.

Otherwise, I agree, abandon Plymouth service.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby BandA » Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:04 pm

Sounds like a good plan! The DMU(s) can be RDC or non-compliant euro models, assuming that there is no freight on the Plymouth branch & isolate with a derail. Crossing protection can be calibrated to work with single cars - you could even drag a sensor axle to test and confirm continuity and sound an alarm onboard. Probably operate with only one train active on branch at a time so no block protection or dispatch required.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Oct 09, 2015 4:19 pm

That is not an application where a DMU is going to do better. Where are you going to fuel it without deadheading constantly back to Boston? Where are you going to lay it over when none of the 495-and-beyond layovers' locomotive plug-in pads are electrically equipped for DMU's? You're going to train extra remote staff and inspectors to run those things on only one dinky 30 miles out of town?


That's not a cost-saver; that's a loss leader. This isn't the B&M northside in the 100% RDC era; the DMU's the T was willing to purchase only hit their total cost of ownership advantage running on the Indigoes to 128 at high-frequencies a 10-15 mile roaming range from the central yards and fueling spots. You can make a 30-60 unit fleet outslug P-P operating costs handily within those service specs; that's their great promise. But start deviating from the plan by spreading such a tiny car order around to the outskirts of the system, slipping them in weekend service on conventional lines, and plugging unsatisfactory misfits like the "K-P" dinky...and they are NOT cheaper. They are the single-most expensive vehicles to run in that application, because it's completely the wrong scale for the economics of that size fleet.




It's also not a straight up/down decision on which branch to close and which to keep. There's a lot of economic undercurrents raising their head:

-- Kingston's land use is abysmally one-dimensional. They filled it in with a late-90's style big box megamall with no sidewalks for miles around, and no accessibility to any surrounding environs. It's not only anti-TOD, but it's badly laid out even as late-90's style megamalls go for sealing those parcels in from the outside world. It's inflexible, and hard to renovate and evolve when the time inevitably comes once every 20 years for a retail strip to try to reinvent itself.

-- Recall how 1980's-style indoor suburban megamalls used to be all the rage before a global crash rendered them all closed or obsolete, with these open-facing big box configurations being the 'replacement' style of Mall. Well, instability is showing its head again in the retail sector, with big boxes running on lower margins due to intrusions from online ordering. There is a lot of market speculation of a new "mall crash" on the horizon in the next decade wiping out the less-diversified 90's-style big box malls hardest because of the higher operating overhead in those locations. It's why you see retailers like Target, etc. going all-in on 'urban' store configurations or 'faux-density' locations like Assembly Square, while pulling back from older-style big box malls or indoor malls (see Meadow Glen and the vacant strip across the street from it, right up Route 16 walking distance from Assembly for a particularly stark comparison). The Targets investing early in their shape-shifting will do OK, but the chains that aren't evolving--like your ubiquitous neighborhood Best Buy--are likely just going to implode in bankruptcy.

-- Kingston Collection is going to do particularly poorly in a bubble burst event because of how one-dimensionally that site and its surrounding boxes were constructed. And it'll be a very difficult redev fix to rally around the strongest of what's left and re-cast it in a denser direction because of the short-sighted choices made when the land was first developed.

^^^^So it's not such a simple matter to say, "Alright, Kingston Branch now and forever" when the poor, poor land use choices around the sand pit leave all that development with few coping mechanisms for the type of retail sector crash many economists say is inevitable.


RE: Cordage Park. . .

-- The problem is not that they developed the land poorly, like at Kingston. The problem is that they simply got very little of it built at all because of varying bad luck compounded by rank incompetence. The master plan for Cordage sets the ruling density at about the level of the converted mill buildings that became office space. That's right in line with 'faux-density' suburban mixed-use best practices of the last 10 years. I mean, it's still middling density and nothing all that special...probably could be a lot more attractive compacted with less parking. But as master plans go the fundamentals are decently solid and stay more or less solid if they make no big changes to that ruling density in their desperation to get something/anything built.

-- Because of that they can still do it right at Cordage if competent planners replaced the local leaders who failed so thoroughly to get this thing going. Unlike Kingston where they made flat-out wrong development choices with no appreciable shelf-life and no real integration with commuter rail, enough of the Cordage canvas is still intact and enough of the master plan still sticking to its guns on the mix of density that they can--very belatedly--execute on it. Granted, it's turned into a farcial "Waiting for Godot" situation, but 20 years can change a lot. Including the whole disparity of Kingston vs. Cordage prospects if Kingston Collection runs that high a risk of going splat in a retail crash.


^^^^Abandoning the branch could end up leaving them in the worst of all worlds if Kingston's surroundings is fated to a future of likely trouble. The T has to do what it has to do by not throwing good train slots after bad in the short term, but the solution here before things like abandonment come on the table is to get other parties of authority at the state to put a boot firmly to Plymouth's ass to get it done here. There are no purely economic conditions that explain why Cordage is still an undeveloped moonscape 20 years later with rather middling rents in the small part that's completed. By all logic the place should've easily continued being built upon on nothing but blind momentum/demand. So this is rank incompetence and bumbling planners who can't develop their way out of a paper bag. A fixable problem if you line them up and have them shot against the wall of the abandoned Walmart and bring in people who know what they're doing.

It means the T is best-advised to keep its toes in the water on the Plymouth Branch while finding a short-term solution for this ops awkwardness, with means that doesn't keep them from taking a money bath keeping it open. Local Chamber of Commerce should be expected to step up and help subsidize Cordage train slots. And then the state would be well advised to make every threat and cajoling effort to get them to redouble their game at this master plan. It is on the locals to make good on this. They demanded the line be built in such mangled fashion, and they're the ones who are going to have to chart their way out of it. The T owes them nothing until they show they can.


But abandonment? I don't envy the position the T's in, but the risk hanging over Kingston 'so-called' TOD's head for the future is scary unto itself. In no way, shape, or form is choosing their single branch an easy decision, or throwing in the towel on one an option that's going to help things when a future economy changes the game at Kingston or Cordage. Like it or not, some form of modified status quo is going to have to hold. It should involve relentless amounts of pressure on the local planners/leaders and their developers to fix this (and probably due warning to Kingston that they are not setting themselves all that well for future conditions), but let's not pretend their real-world options are numerous or all that clear-cut. I'd rather they try to chart a course towards rehabilitation than making a rash decision, since they do have decent "you owe us bigtime" leverage to play re: amping up the pressure on these site plans.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby dbperry » Mon Oct 12, 2015 12:18 pm

ok, in general I agree with everything you say, "F Line."

Here are some answers...

That is not an application where a DMU is going to do better.

Better than what? The silly back and forth move that makes the inbound mid-day Kingston-Plymouth trip ridiculously impractical? It would definitely be better than that.

Where are you going to fuel it without deadheading constantly back to Boston?

From a diesel delivery truck at the new plug-in pad at either Hawks Ave, Halifax, or Downtown Plymouth. Or maybe find a way to layover at Kingston (with the addition of DMU supporting infrastructure there)?

Where are you going to lay it over when none of the 495-and-beyond layovers' locomotive plug-in pads are electrically equipped for DMU's?

Implementing new DMU service would require new infrastructure. See above.

You're going to train extra remote staff and inspectors to run those things on only one dinky 30 miles out of town?

I never said my idea was cost effective or even a good idea in the grander scheme of the commuter rail system. Nobody can argue that any expansion of service makes any sense in the current MBTA fiscal situation. But it would solve the scheduling / practicality (from a rider perspective) problem. And we would all be rushing down there to ride it and take pictures ;)

That's not a cost-saver; that's a loss leader.

As "MBTA F40PH..." notes above, I can't see how there is enough ridership to Plymouth to make anything 'cost effective.'

It's also not a straight up/down decision on which branch to close and which to keep.

Agree. My only inclination to abandon Plymouth rather than Kingston is based on current ridership numbers (which admittedly is a function of the limited schedule to Plymouth), the existing layover infrastructure at Kingston, and the easier access to Route 3.

My idea of 'abandon' is to remove Plymouth service from the schedule, not necessarily 'abandon' in the formal railroad sense of the term. And keeping the rail line but without current service would specifically address the concerns about future changes in the developments around those stations - keeps options open for my DMU service somewhere in the future. But for now, take it off the schedule, because I agree, my DMU idea won't ever happen.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby BandA » Tue Oct 13, 2015 2:20 pm

Instead of DMU's, you could run a low-power loco such as a switcher (of course must have HEP) + a couple of coaches. You'd still have the problem with staff twiddling their thumbs between runs, but you would have equipment that would be common, could be centrally maintained/stored/serviced, and would be more fuel efficient than current service. Would bustitution of one of these branches be able to make better time than the current service?
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Oct 13, 2015 6:07 pm

BandA wrote:Instead of DMU's, you could run a low-power loco such as a switcher (of course must have HEP) + a couple of coaches. You'd still have the problem with staff twiddling their thumbs between runs, but you would have equipment that would be common, could be centrally maintained/stored/serviced, and would be more fuel efficient than current service. Would bustitution of one of these branches be able to make better time than the current service?


No HEP is a deal-breaker. HEP is power-hungry, and unless you're borrowing some vintage Cape Cod Central equipment you're not using a HEP jury-rigged switcher. A couple of K cars with A/C, passenger electrical outlets, and an active cab car is going to give a switcher with some gimp HEP output a heart attack. Hell, MARC's GP39H-2's, which are nothing more than GP40 freight converts like our MC's that instead got an engine de-rating, have such wimpy HEP they can barely pull their 4-car maximum without showing advanced signs of stress. And those are a hell of a lot more powerful than a jury-rigged switcher.


All of these solutions are costlier and more convoluted than the obvious: slap Plymouth leaders silly to finish Cordage Park. There is nothing inherently wrong with the site or its master plan that explains why it's still empty 2 decades later. Have them commit to a recovery plan in exchange for some state-level help recruiting better people to manage the project, come up with an interim commuter rail service plan that fixes the ops problem but keeps their toes in the Plymouth Branch, and hold the locals to development milestones with the execution of the master plan so there's no tolerance for another wasted decade of stagnation. It's not even transportation-specific, just Economic Development 101. They need help, and if help is available they need to hold up their end of the bargain responsibly.

I'd much rather they do that and shore up the site with the master plan that is solid in theory, or else the future of Kingston/Plymouth's rump end starts looking very scary indeed when the predicted big box crash eventually hits and imperils one-dimensional Kingston Collection too. Unlike the in-theory solid master plan at Cordage, the Kingston TOD master plan was pants-on-fire stupid and a textbook example of painting oneself into a corner long-term for cheap short-term gain. Everything south of Halifax needs a major troubleshooting on what development the stations are trying to hang their hat on.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby dbperry » Tue Oct 13, 2015 8:18 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:All of these solutions are costlier and more convoluted than the obvious: slap Plymouth leaders silly to finish Cordage Park.


Not necessarily disagreeing with you, but how does this solve the problem of the fork at the end of the line for commuter rail operations? Are you suggesting running full consists from Boston to Plymouth and separate full consists Boston to Kingston on a 'normal' high frequency peak and lower frequency off peak (for both 'tines of the fork') if Cordage Park gets fully developed?
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby dbperry » Tue Oct 13, 2015 8:26 pm

BandA wrote: Would bustitution of one of these branches be able to make better time than the current service?


I think so. Put the bus on the Plymouth branch. Then, instead of an inbound off-peak Kingston passenger having to ride the train from Kingston to Plymouth on the silly back and forth move, the train could originate at Kingston and meet a bus from Plymouth at Halifax. Or have the bus go to Kingston. The bus could even go all the way to downtown Plymouth to the tourist spots to solve that gap. And (just like they do on some Amtrak schedules) print the connecting bus service directly on the commuter rail schedule, so people can see that although it is a 'two seat' trip, it is a synchronized connection.

I'm sad to recommend bustitution instead of a DMU or a regular consist feeder train.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Oct 13, 2015 8:40 pm

dbperry wrote:
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:All of these solutions are costlier and more convoluted than the obvious: slap Plymouth leaders silly to finish Cordage Park.


Not necessarily disagreeing with you, but how does this solve the problem of the fork at the end of the line for commuter rail operations? Are you suggesting running full consists from Boston to Plymouth and separate full consists Boston to Kingston on a 'normal' high frequency peak and lower frequency off peak (for both 'tines of the fork') if Cordage Park gets fully developed?


Yes, because that was the original ops plan for the line when Cordage Park TOD became self-sufficient on ridership. The reverse-a-thon kludge persists because that never happened.

The fork was a stupid design decision no doubt, but it was supposed to be able support Boston directs on both branches.
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby BandA » Fri Oct 16, 2015 4:36 pm

how did the Old Colony/NYNH&H solve these problems historically?
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Re: MBTA Old Colony Line

Postby The EGE » Fri Oct 16, 2015 4:52 pm

The Plymouth Line wasn't originally forked like this - the Kingston Branch was completely new in 1997. It was actually the last section of mainline rail to be opened since the Needham Cutoff in 1906, and the last to be built since the Hampden. But historically, the Old Colony actually did have difficulty because it had so many branches to feed. (Before it acquired the B&P in 1888, there were something like 18 viable branch and mainline terminals, most of which did have direct Boston service. Compare to (approximately) four on the NY&NE, 7 on the Eastern, 8 on the B&A, etc.)

They quad-tracked pretty early on to deal with the number of branches, and they split trains a lot. They actually did flying switches for a while, wherein cars would be dropped from the rear of the moving train, braked, and coupled to a waiting engine on the branch. That ended after a scary situation where Mattapan cars failed to brake and ran to the end of the line uncontrolled.
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