Travel times: 2015 v. 1955

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Travel times: 2015 v. 1955

Postby Yellowspoon » Fri Nov 20, 2015 5:19 pm

Why are travel times increasing in the 21st century? One would think civil engineers would be able to speed things up.

(1) In the summers of the 1950s, my grandfather used to commute from Wareham to South Station. The scheduled time was under 63 minutes, depending on the number of stops. Today, the CapeFlyer takes 75 minutes with fewer stops.
(2) When the Riverside line opened, there used to be a sign at the entrance, "35 Minutes to Park Street". I can't find the sign on the internet, but the time is confirmed by a recent article in Rollsign. I remember the PCC's doing 45-50 MPH. Today, my GPS never tops 40 MPH. Today, the MBTA schedules 42 minutes, but even that is optimistic. I find that 45-48 minutes is more likely.
(3) When I was a child, there was a sign at Harvard that said, "M T A rapid transit; 8 minutes to Park Street" (that sign I did find on the internet). I haven't seen anything better than 10 minutes in years. It's typically between 10 1/2 and 12 minutes.

Each of these runs are 15% to 18% slower than 1955. Now, some of you are going to say, "It's only a few minutes". How would you feel if, instead of 65 MPH, speed limits were reduced 15% to 55 MPH, like back in 1974?

So why the slow down in the 21st century. Were the rails and cars better maintained in 1955?
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Re: Travel times: 2015 v. 1955

Postby The EGE » Fri Nov 20, 2015 5:31 pm

As far as rapid transit:
*Charles/MGH didn't exist when 8 minutes to Park Street was first said. That's a minute or two right here.
*Badly designed curve at Harvard station
* Dwell times, dwell times, dwell times
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Re: Travel times: 2015 v. 1955

Postby jbvb » Sat Nov 21, 2015 8:24 am

On the rapid transit lines, one thing that didn't help transit times was the replacement of the original signal systems in the 1970s/80s. Looking out the end windows of Red Line cars, I used to regularly see 55 MPH between Kendall and Central. Maximum speeds got reduced. Signal blocks got longer. Quite a few counter-intuitive stopping points were introduced - why does a train have to come to a stop half-way onto a platform, ever? Speed restrictions were added: the braking point for Central outbound used to be about the end of the curve. No doubt the T says this is all for safety, but I suspect budget, the T's tendency to faddish and overly-customized procurement and lack of engineering vision may have also contributed.

On the Green Line above ground, there are probably a bunch of track/equipment/maintenance budget issues interacting. The cars got a lot heavier. So did the rail/ballast, but perhaps not in proportion. And it definitely costs less to maintain track for lower speed limits. Finally, Charlie Card payments take longer than tokens or coins used to. Below ground, two trains used to be allowed on all the platforms, and there were a lot fewer timed speed-enforcing signals. Those that date that far back were well-enough understood by operators that the trains rarely had to come to a full stop.

Where many 1955 schedules were timed for RDCs, current locomotive-hauled trains do not accelerate (or probably brake) as well. Everything on the Eastern route goes much slower for more than a mile through Chelsea. The re-purposed industrial switching track used by the Old Colony trains will never allow the speeds the New Haven had built for. Restoring inner-suburban stops the RRs got rid of in the 1930s and 1940s costs extra minutes, particularly where the Western and Old Colony routes' are in the middle of congested single track segments. Also, North Station (and probably South Station too) are not scheduled as tightly, apparently because unreliable equipment and late arrivals prevent the T from committing a set of equipment to a fixed sequence of trips each day. And on the North Side at least, cost-shaving on train crews produces fewer doors open and longer dwell times.

Finally, today's Americans are larger and less agile than their granparents. And they aren't as deft at handling Charlie Cards etc. as their grandparents were with coins or tokens.
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Re: Travel times: 2015 v. 1955

Postby TomNelligan » Sat Nov 21, 2015 9:37 am

Signals are definitely an issue on the subway portion of the Green Line. Once upon a time, motorpeople could generally be trusted not to crash into the car ahead, but unfortunately that no longer seems to be the case, so now trains have to stop at what sometimes seems like hundred-foot intervals to clear timed signals. On the Riverside line, I don't know if the official speed limit has been lowered since the PCC days but like Mr. Yellowspoon I remember some rocking and rolling rides late in the evening when the PCCs really cruised. Management probably looked the other way in those days. And dwell times at stops when a bunch of people have to load money onto their Charlie Cards doesn't help either.
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Re: Travel times: 2015 v. 1955

Postby jaymac » Sat Nov 21, 2015 4:08 pm

Co-Operation was the name of the magazine that BERy used to send out to those now called associates. Cooperation was also the paradigm that used to be in effect between governors -- even Republican governors -- and the BCU. Cooperation has since morphed into confrontation, and what had been forward funding has become crisis repair. As I'm keyboarding this, it's getting darker outside and that may be contributing to my gloominess on most things T, but I'm amazed that the system -- new commuter power aside -- runs as generally well as it does, especially given the seemingly minimal investments in renovation and repair.
To meander even further OT and betray both my age and politics, we need a new Fred Salvucci.
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Re: Travel times: 2015 v. 1955

Postby BigUglyCat » Sat Nov 21, 2015 4:15 pm

jaymac wrote:To meander even further OT and betray both my age and politics, we need a new Fred Salvucci.

Second the motion! :-)
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