North-South Rail Link Discussion

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

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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby rethcir » Thu Oct 19, 2017 4:17 pm

I suppose from South Station, one could get out and quickly get a Commuter Rail shuttle up to North Station, and this would take some pressure off the green/orange lines.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby BostonUrbEx » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:40 pm

Rockingham Racer wrote:Could you tell us what the Amtrak specs require?


Basically just 1,000ft platforms instead of 800ft.

Bramdeisroberts wrote:especially since there would be no direct connection between the Green Line and Amtrak services.


I'm guessing Back Bay would basically be blown up or have a second level. I'd hope they'd finally link up Back Bay and Copley into one super-station, as it should be.


I still don't understand why a station between Aquarium and Haymarket isn't being weighed more seriously. It is a superior location over North Station, and eliminates the Central Station mess.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:50 pm

I'm assuming by "Amtrak"-spec, they mean 1000 ft./12-car platforms capable of holding a max-size NE Regional set instead of 800 ft./9-car platforms for holding a max-sized T set? That is a head-scratcher. No Amtrak NEC train is going to be entering the tunnel in the first place if it's going to go no further than an SS Under on-platform reverse. Nevermind how wasteful the reverse is of slots that could be put to better use running more thru trains. How exactly do they figure Amtrak Corporate is going to find enough profit motive to entertain making that largely cosmetic shift within the same terminal? Amtrak controls dispatching on the surface terminal and is fortified with generations worth of contractual agreements keeping that upper-hand @ SS Upper nicely cost-controlled for them. The tunnel is the T's baby, and AMTK would have to pay pretty hefty fees as a fully subservient tenant to use the tunnel. A little bit more upstairs vs. downstairs variety on terminating Regionals and Acelas makes nowhere near enough difference in value-added perks to pique the profitable NEC corporate business unit's interest in trading down to a cost-inferior and less advantageous ops agreement. Certainly not when they'll have all the surface platforms they ever dreamed of in-play to reassign for 2040 NEC FUTURE traffic levels after commuter traffic radically redistributes itself upstairs/downstairs and lowers the priority on what share of surface slots the T does retain.

I would've thought this to be a no-brainer: if AMTK threads anything whatsoever from the NEC side through the tunnel it's with the expectation that every one of those tunnel slots is going to run thru at least to North Station Under before reversing, if not all the way to Anderson RTC (whose track layout was conspicuously pre-built to allow +100 ft. platform extensions to be tacked onto each end of the existing island to round up the length to 1000 ft.). I'd expect Downeasters to be extended thru to SS, and maybe some New York-Portland runs to go all the way through...but those don't need >800 ft. platforms because the consists don't run longer than max-size commuter trains like the bread-and-butter BOS-WSH Regionals do on their highest-demand schedules. Either both sets of underground platforms get matching platform lengths to invite thru-running Regional usage, or the 1000 footers @ SS Under serve no purpose except lighting money on-fire. Splitting the difference simply makes no sense, especially since the initial scoping study didn't cite any potential engineering constraints to platform lengths at NS like it ID'd with Central Station.

Since this advocacy is a thoroughly political animal, that contradiction is probably a nod to blowhards like Seth Moulton who keep bloviating the lie that SSX and NSRL (despite being eras apart in need or purpose) are somehow in mortal-combat direct competition with each other because reasons and "OMG! TEH STUB-END ITZ SO 19th CENTURY UNSHINY!". Some of the noisier advocates behind this group have a real jones about getting rid of SS Surface altogether like it's Reading Terminal or something. The logic doesn't make any sense, because that great big air rights skyscraper is already approved to get erected skyward above track level meaning there's no conceivable net-gain in real estate that could ever be produced from thin air by trading in the covered-over terminal tracks to private business. There's basically nothing you can "retire" the track level under the tower for except for maybe the most garishly inappropriate parking garage ever opened in the city. And besides, with those slow tunnel grades you need the double-barreled capacity of upstairs/downstairs mix-and-match to serve 75-year frequency growth of the likes that would make the Germans envious. But blowhards gonna blow...hard...to advance their careers. So inconvenient realities like SS Upper physically can't go away once it's capped by that tower, and Amtrak having no financial incentive to make a cosmetic change in where it stubs out, get ignored for the barn-burning stump speech.

I bet those NS Under platforms get rounded up to 1000 ft. real quick once there's a real sales pitch they have to bottom-line for Amtrak. Figure that the Southampton Yard space crunch alone in the face of NEC FUTURE traffic levels is enough incentive for them to seriously consider staggering where their Boston-terminating routes end as an ops necessity. Say that Acelas, all manner of Inlands (LSL, officially proposed, and far-out fantasy), and any future LD considerations on the NEC continue to live at Southampton, the Downeaster comes down through the tunnel on a dual-mode and takes up formal residence in Southampton, and some work/heavy-repair jobs get weighted there. But the all-electric NE Regionals get universally extended to Anderson with an adjacent shop + yard built on the Woburn town dump to break out the single-largest Southampton user to a new facility in order to sustain >2040 growth levels on all Amtrak schedules. Those are the kinds of things AMTK would be truly interested in conceptually talking about re: its role in NSRL. Not "spend more to cede more control to go the same exact place...but subterranean because it looks prettier for our optics". Er, no...that's not how Amtrak-the-Corporation EVER rolls.

--------------------

Ugh...I was hoping they wouldn't double-down on the Central Station turkey. There's simply no way to rig that up with useful transfer throughput by how mind-bogglingly long, slow, and overcrowded the escalator/elevator rides are going to be from maximum depth. Vertical transportation constraints end up imposing a far lower demand ceiling than the criscrossing horizontal transportation lines end up stimulating. And the original study questioned whether they'd even be able to fit regulation 800-footers in that station cavern because of the very short level-running distance at the bottom between ascending grades. Shorter 600-footers would preclude some of the biggest Providence and Worcester rush-hour consists from using the station or force dwell problems limiting tunnel throughput if they couldn't platform all cars. If a re-check on the engineering assessment calls into question whether those platforms can even be fully T-spec, then what's the point? It's already somewhat traffic-crippled by the escalator trip to Hades it takes to get upstairs; why induce any penalty to tunnel throughput if the constraints just keep adding up from there at the platform level?

This is probably a nod to politics and private money behind the current NSRL consortium. Given the number of big biz honchos filling out the board of this politically-loaded advocacy group, I wouldn't be surprised if CS was an inclusion agitated by the alpha-dog real estate donors on the board as a market-bubble hedge for that stretch of the waterfront more than it was any sort of dearly-held cause pushed hard by the transpo interests. Which means it's still likely to get dropped in a heartbeat when engineering reality sets in. Or when the real estate reality sets in that there's finite limits to how much ritzier-than-ritzy you can conceivably make the wharves when the Greenway + Greenway politics, hard FAA building height limits from Logan flight paths, and labyrinthine City/BDPA approval processes each bleed their share of air from maximum hypothetical size of this imagined building boom justifying the station's inclusion for the high-roller developers on the board.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:39 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:
Rockingham Racer wrote:Could you tell us what the Amtrak specs require?


I still don't understand why a station between Aquarium and Haymarket isn't being weighed more seriously. It is a superior location over North Station, and eliminates the Central Station mess.


Probably because the location of NS Under being offset from NS Upper already puts the southerly extent of the platforms in spitting distance of Haymarket. Main egresses to the surface end up much closer to the Green/Orange superstation on the Causeway-Valenti block than the block the Garden and current NS waiting room sits on. It's easier to picture with some of the panoramic and depth renders circulated of where the station would actually reside relative to the street grid rather than trying to guesstimate on Google Maps from existing headhouses. How easily you could bore a set of escalators to the Haymarket side through all the vertical obstructions is nitty-gritty detail they won't know for sure until it's time to do some engineering deep-diving on a Final EIS, but the location of the NS Under platform tips is already pretty well-established and already gets you physically closer to Haymarket than you might think. The reality is that the Central and NS Under/Green/Orange headhouses are already going to be an insignificant 9 blocks from each other, and possibly as little as 6 blocks if an escalator bore to Haymarket from the other end of the platforms proves unimpeded.


Ari Osevit somewhat uncharacteristically bungles these placement differences to total confusion in his well-circulated blog post from Aug. where he harps on how North Station itself shouldn't be on the NSRL because of what surrounds the surface station in a half-mile radius (namely, water and highway ramps). He argues for a radical re-centering of the NSRL's second station around City Hall Plaza/GC/Haymarket instead. Well...NS Under *IS* almost closer to Haymarket as it is NS Upper, so his whole thesis about this being a Really Big Change™ that must be pursued falls prey to the "Google Maps" fallacy of not looking at the station locations in 3 dimensions and failing to recognize that the #2 headhouses at any of these stations will be on very different city blocks than the lobbies that direct-connect them to the surface terminals. Depending on how the vertical obstruction inspection shakes out for headhouse placements, it may very well end up being a physically shorter walk to reach the Haymarket lobby from the NS Under platforms vs. reaching the Gaahden waiting room to transfer to a surface train. How that managed to escape Ari's analysis was the kind of brainfart he very rarely, if ever, makes. I know when that blog post was linked to on Universal Hub and a few other boards it didn't take more than a couple comments in for somebody to immediately point that out (and UHub is the unwashed masses compared to an actual transpo-nerd board!), but somehow that distinction completely escaped the author and some of the other self-proclaimed transpo blogger superstars who picked up on Ari's post.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby Bramdeisroberts » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:09 pm

Rockingham Racer wrote:Could you tell us what the Amtrak specs require? Since Amtrak equipment already frequents North Station, what additional elements would be required by Amtrak?


For some reason my reply didn't go through, but F-Line beat me to it: Platform lengths for NEC regional consists. The Downeaster is a nonissue for now because it only runs 5-6 car consists at most, but Amtrak service to North Station will be a must for, as F-Line said, the only the NSRL makes sense for Amtrak if they can through-run to Anderson and a new maintenance yard there

I, for one, can see the need for an Aquarium under, if only to sell the NSRL to waterfront developers (not to mention to East Boston and whoever ends up redeveloping Suffolk Downs), though I would limit it to a single island, keeping two tracks through-running, and aim to only route certain lines with large numbers of inside-128 traffic that don't have rapid transit lines paralleling them, (Say, the Worcester, Fairmount, Fitchburg, and Eastern Routes) treating service on those lines as more of an S-Bahn/RER sort of affair and only routing say 1/3rd of NSRL traffic through Aquarium. Now, it SHOULD be big enough to handle a Worcester superset, but with the fact that these Aquarium-routed Worcester trains will now be running through to points north rather than having their schedules and frequencies gummed up by South Station surface congestion, there's no reason why you couldn't limit Aquarium to 6-car consists and push instead the higher frequencies that the induced demand of S-Bahn/RER-style service to Fairmount, Framingham, Waltham, and Salem would all but certainly generate.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby nomis » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:25 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Some of the noisier advocates behind this group have a real jones about getting rid of SS Surface altogether like it's Reading Terminal or something.


Yet if they were really going to get rid of NS Surface, it would become much easier of a pill to swallow. Provided they don't skimp out and make it a 4 track tunnel.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby MBTA3247 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 9:14 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:[Borg cube of text about where Amtrak should terminate]

I don't have time to listen to the actual presentation, but did anyone actually SAY they wanted to terminate Amtrak trains at SS Under? Just because that's the only NSRL station they want to build to Amtrak specs in no way implies that they expect trains to terminate there and chew up capacity changing ends. I would assume they would stop there and then continue north, with the next stop at Anderson.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby BostonUrbEx » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:39 am

MBTA3247 wrote:I don't have time to listen to the actual presentation, but did anyone actually SAY they wanted to terminate Amtrak trains at SS Under?


I didn't have the time either, but if it was part of the discussion about Ari & company and TransitMatters, then they do believe Amtrak should continue to Anderson.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby Bramdeisroberts » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:29 am

MBTA3247 wrote:
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:[Borg cube of text about where Amtrak should terminate]


[snickering intensifies]

Now here's another idea: If you're considering the Amtrak-at-SS-under-only option with either North/Central or just North Station under sized only for the Time consists, would it make sense to size up the South Station under to 6 or 8 tracks to facilitate longer dwell times for Amtrak without gumming up the T's schedules?
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby MBTA3247 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:13 pm

The dwell times for Amtrak and MBTA trains would probably be fairly similar. In either case, you're not going to be completely emptying or filling the train, and while a greater proportion of the riders on the Amtrak train may be getting off/on, the MBTA trains hold more people, so it probably balances out.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby StefanW » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:44 pm

Just a crazy idea... If the NSRL gets built without the "central station" to connect to the Blue Line, wouldn't it work instead to connect to the Blue Line around Wonderland?

Assuming that the NSRL north portal to serve the Eastern Route and Western Route allows for mainline speeds instead of the current 10/15/30MPH over the first 2 miles of track, trains could get from Boston to Revere probably in 15 minutes. (The grade crossings in Chelsea would need better protection so the speeds there could also be raised.)

Instead of a 3-station NSRL just do two at first, save the billion dollars and do a new station with enclosed peoplemover at Wonderland. You'd have Commuter Rail connecting to Blue Line for a huge cost reduction... and people probably wouldn't mind the extra 15 minutes to reach the Blue Line for that kind of savings.
(I have heard some conversations that the 3rd NSRL "central" station could indeed be $1B just for that one station.)
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby Bramdeisroberts » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:53 pm

Problem is, Central station is one of the stations most worth building because it make every CR station now a 2-seat ride to the Airport. That's huge in this day and age.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby BostonUrbEx » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:14 pm

South Station would more accurately provide the two-seat ride to airport (Silver Line connection). Via Blue Line, realistically, requires most people take a shuttle bus.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby Bramdeisroberts » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:32 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:South Station would more accurately provide the two-seat ride to airport (Silver Line connection). Via Blue Line, realistically, requires most people take a shuttle bus.


As I and anyone else who travels for business with any frequency will tell you, the Silver Line is an absolute joke if you have any hope of making it to your terminal in a timely fashion. There's a reason why the $10 Massport Back Bay bus always sells out.

If you were to have a race, during rush hour, between people taking the Blue Line to the Massport Shuttle from Aquarium vs people taking the Silver Line from South Station via the Ted, I would bet hard money that 9 times out of 10, the Blue Line rider will get to their terminal 1st.

The Silver Line isn't a bad way to get to the city FROM Logan, but it's a disgracefully bad way to get from the city TO the airport, and a NSRL<->Blue Line connection is a 'must' unless the state could somehow convince Massport to build a 2nd harbor rail crossing and help foot the bill to convert the Silver Line to a light rail system running from South Station to the terminals ONLY.
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Postby StefanW » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:50 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:South Station would more accurately provide the two-seat ride to airport (Silver Line connection). Via Blue Line, realistically, requires most people take a shuttle bus.


Chelsea will also provide the same, once the Silver Line opens there this spring. It might even be faster from the south of Boston to the airport via NSRL and Chelsea in the distant future because traffic in the Ted Williams will probably only get worse. Transferring from rail to Silver Line at Chelsea would then have you on the dedicated busway to the airport.
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