North-South Rail Link Discussion

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

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BandA
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by BandA » Sun May 12, 2019 8:59 am

It's amazing, we won't need storage yards for trains, or we can just store them in Worcester where there is plenty of space near the station. And all the trains in the middle of the day will be filled with riders going from suburb to suburb. We can just sell off South Station and North Station, and we'll only need two track underground stations because they aint terminals no more, won't need station tracks or express tracks neither.

Nasadowsk
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by Nasadowsk » Sun May 12, 2019 11:27 am

BandA wrote:It's amazing, we won't need storage yards for trains, or we can just store them in Worcester where there is plenty of space near the station. And all the trains in the middle of the day will be filled with riders going from suburb to suburb. We can just sell off South Station and North Station, and we'll only need two track underground stations because they aint terminals no more, won't need station tracks or express tracks neither.
Works in Tokyo and Paris, among other places.

Arborwayfan
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by Arborwayfan » Sun May 12, 2019 12:17 pm

Oslo, which is a lot smaller than Boston although it has much higher transit ridership, suggests that reducing the number of trains that terminate downtown, and the number of station tracks needed to serve them, is possible, but also that it is unlikely that a multibranched CR network is unlikely to be set up so that all trains run through a single 2- or 4- track tunnel, at least if headways on the branches are increased to make the investment in eletrification worth it. Oslo looked a lot like Boston: eastside and westside networks connected only by a street-running line along the docks; Oslo had four routes out of the city, each of which had from two to four branches out in the suburbs. They did a massive tunnel project back in the 70s or 80s: subway on top and train underneath, with the train tunnel reaching off to the southwest from the point where the subway tunnel intersected an existing tunnel to the west (Nationaltheatret station on the T-bane and the NSB -- just now 2019 renamed Vy, but still the national pax rail carrier). They closed their West Station completely and replaced it with a four-track station (an eastbound cavern with two tracks and an island platform and a westbound cavern with two tracks and an island platform) next to and lower than a subway station at Nationaltheatret. Their East Station became their Central Station (Oslo Sentralstasjon). Heading east from Nationaltheatret, the four tunnel tracks split up into I think 10 underground, and become tracks 1-10 of an 18 track station at Oslo Sentralstasjon. Many trains run through, but many also terminate at Oslo S (all the long-distance trains (from Stockholm, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, Halden/Gothenberg, and Gjøvik) and many of the suburban trains. If I had to guess I would say a bit more than half the trains that stop at Oslo S run through right now. That amounts to a train stopping at Nationaltheatret every minute or so in each direction at rush hour, every five minutes the rest of the day. The network is totally electrified. A few suburban branches have been closed to regular pax traffic or even removed, but new tracks and two multi-kilometer suburban express tunnels have been added. New business centers have grown up around stations in former small towns along three of the four routes out of Oslo, and Oslo itself has stayed vital.

In short, Oslo has a network of suburban trains that makes the T Commuter Rail look like a volunteer-run museum serving a skeleton network at inconvenient times. It is the kind of network that would justify the NS rail link, and it serves a smaller population than Greater Boston, with no city of the same size closer than Stockholm (6-7 hours on good lines, some up to 200 km/h). And even so, the tunnel project only eliminated one of the two terminals, and left Oslo S quite a bit bigger than South Station. So yes, the right rail system can lead to efficient, compact, urban growth with substantial ridership all day long, but no, it is not that likely that both N and S Stations could be converted into small underground stations.

What else does Oslo have? A single zone fare structure reaching twenty or thirty miles out, so that a ticket from a suburban station is automatically also good on the subway, bus, trolley, or boats within downtown Oslo, and vice versa: within the zones, NSB-Vy sells zone tickets the same as Ruter, the Oslo transit system, does, and you take whatever combination of modes you want. An Oslo zone 1 pass takes you all over the subway and trolley, on the boats and buses with Oslo, and on the trains within Oslo. There's no notion that a train should cost more because it's faster than the subway. It makes planning simple, and it lets the national rail system and the Oslo transit system serve different areas with different modes without making people worry about the fares (kind of like the wildest fantasies about an Indigo Line in Boston.

Nasadowsk
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by Nasadowsk » Sun May 12, 2019 12:30 pm

Arborwayfan wrote: What else does Oslo have? A single zone fare structure reaching twenty or thirty miles out, so that a ticket from a suburban station is automatically also good on the subway, bus, trolley, or boats within downtown Oslo, and vice versa: within the zones, NSB-Vy sells zone tickets the same as Ruter, the Oslo transit system, does, and you take whatever combination of modes you want. An Oslo zone 1 pass takes you all over the subway and trolley, on the boats and buses with Oslo, and on the trains within Oslo. There's no notion that a train should cost more because it's faster than the subway. It makes planning simple, and it lets the national rail system and the Oslo transit system serve different areas with different modes without making people worry about the fares (kind of like the wildest fantasies about an Indigo Line in Boston.
Zurich and a lot of German cities are this way, too. It's a lot nicer than the crap we get in the US, where every mode is a different fare structure. Or, put to the extreme by SEPTA, every mode is a different fare structure and payment method (Pay as you enter, pay as you leave, pay before boarding, pay when boarding, swipe at the turnstile, dip as you enter/leave, get punched...) Of course, SEPTA's trying to unify that to the howels of transit 'advocates', most who wouldn't know a modern transit system if it bit them on the ass...

ExCon90
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by ExCon90 » Sun May 12, 2019 2:08 pm

And in a number of German cities there are several different operators--urban transit, CR, etc.--and they still manage to have a unified fare structure, with the passenger paying a specified fare for the zones involved, regardless of the mode(s) used. They just do periodic surveys to determine which operator is handling what percentage of ridership and apportion the overall revenue accordingly.

Arborwayfan
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by Arborwayfan » Sun May 12, 2019 4:24 pm

Salt Lake City (actually the UTA reaches from north of Ogden to south of Provo) does a good job with the fares, too. Same method of payment on all modes (with the bonus that you can use coins on a bus); bus and trolley same fare in the same areas; express bus and train treated as premium services with different fare structures, but those premium fares all include bus and trolley fares in areas you have a train or express bus ticket for (I think). It makes the whole thing much simpler for the traveler.

Chicago and NYC have better excuses than the MBTA: at least there the separate fare structures and methods of payment result from separate agencies owning the services (with the added irritant in Chicago that the L doesn't stop next to the Metra terminals because competition a century or so ago). The T owns it all but has not been able to treat it all as one system.

ExCon90
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by ExCon90 » Mon May 13, 2019 2:57 pm

Isn't San Francisco making progress in that direction? They have BART, Muni, Caltrain, SamTrans, Golden Gate (ferries and buses) and AC Transit--and maybe more?--and as far as I know are aiming to provide a similar all-inclusive fare structure. For SEPTA and the T it ought to be a piece of cake in comparison.

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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by jonnhrr » Tue May 14, 2019 1:10 pm

Actually, it wasn't. After the tunnel opened, SEPTA dropped all diesel service and started running the system more as an S Bahn than a US style commuter line. Admittingly, and a lot of Phily railbuffs don't like hearing it, but most of the diesel lines had no ridership. SEPTA in general didn't have much - they ran a lot of one/two car trains at the time. It's not like today where three car trains seem to be the minimum most of the time. Also, some electric service was cut back - they were short on equipment, made worse because the grades in/out of the CCT were killing the 30's vintage Blueliners.
By the time the tunnel was ready to open, most of the Diesel service had already disappeared as a result of Conrail getting out of the passenger business and turning the services over to local authorities, or unfortunately in the case of the ex RDG service to Reading/Pottsville and Bethlehem, just dropping the service as no local government wanted to take it over and it was outside of the SEPTA area. The only one that held on briefly was the Newtown RDC service which ran as a shuttle to Fox Chase. The trains to Reading and Bethlehem were actually well patronized.
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electricron
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by electricron » Fri May 17, 2019 8:58 am

Arborwayfan wrote:Oslo, which is a lot smaller than Boston although it has much higher transit ridership, suggests that reducing the number of trains that terminate downtown, and the number of station tracks needed to serve them, is possible, but also that it is unlikely that a multibranched CR network is unlikely to be set up so that all trains run through a single 2- or 4- track tunnel, at least if headways on the branches are increased to make the investment in eletrification worth it.
There are plenty of 4K you tube videos of Norway's passenger train operations, some including Oslo. Yes, Oslo connected its east and west rail services with tunnels - note the plural. They also eliminated one downtown train station in the modernization process.

But the key thing I think that should be pointed out; the electrification of every line. Nobody likes breathing in diesel exhaust fumes in a below grade train station. So ontop of the expense of boring the tunnel were the expenses of all brand new rolling stock (EMUs) and electrification of all the rail lines.

Look at how much Caltrain is spending to electrify their single rail line and buy all brand new EMUs. Well, to be fair, that single rail line is as long as two MBTA rail lines. But MBTA has far more than just two commuter rail lines. Imagine the total costs of electrifying every line. Then, ontop of all those expenses, comes the expense of boring new tunnels - note the plural - under downtown Boston.

Back to Norway, it took Norway - yes over the entire country - decades to electrify all the rail lines and almost another decade to build the new tunnels under Oslo. The entire country paid a share of the entire costs. But in Boston - who besides metropolitan Boston citizens will pay?

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BandA
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by BandA » Sat May 18, 2019 2:24 am

electricron wrote:Back to Norway, it took Norway - yes over the entire country - decades to electrify all the rail lines and almost another decade to build the new tunnels under Oslo. The entire country paid a share of the entire costs. But in Boston - who besides metropolitan Boston citizens will pay?
The MBTA district will get whacked with a huge chunk of debt. The entire state will pay. Amtrak and/or feds will pay, but since this is primarily for the benefit of CR who knows how much.

I think they should put his project on the back burner. Do the SSX (south station expansion), buy the Widett Circle property for a yard, construct some sort of south side repair facility that could be jointly used by MBTA CR / Amtrak / possibly subway or bus repair, activate the Grand Junction for rush-hour CR, and build one or more express tracks for the Orange Line between BBY & BON. This could all be done cheaper than N-S rail link. Add bicycle / luggage / wheelchair area to the Orange Line cars (is that already happening with the Red China subway car order?)

Run dedicated express subway trains between BON & BBY at rush hour.

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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by MBTA3247 » Sat May 18, 2019 11:41 am

Building express tracks for the Orange Line would pretty much require some deep-bore tunneling, same as the NSRL. You could use shorter approaches since the subway cars can take steeper grades, but I don't see any potential for significant cost savings.
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rr503
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by rr503 » Sat May 18, 2019 4:05 pm

We don't need South Station to run more trains. Turnaround times at the existing facility are ridiculously long, even by American commuter rail standards. Fix that, and you have more capacity without significant expense. If you're going to build, you might as well make the investment that has real long term benefit -- the NSRL.

The issue I keep coming back to in these conversations is that of cost. This thread is full of citations of ridiculously costly projects in the US (caltrain electrification being just one of them) but little discussion of causation. American rail construction (and operating) costs are ridiculously high by world standards, and that's not because we have more regulation. We're simply indifferent to best practices, whether that be replacing conductors with POP ticketing, spacing catenary stanchions correctly or scoping and bidding projects properly. These things all have impacts on cost, and shouldn't be treated as immutable as they are what define what can and cannot be built.

Arborwayfan
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by Arborwayfan » Sun May 19, 2019 5:30 pm

Electricon, I agree. The two big tunnels (4 tracks total) under Oslo's center, plus the long ones on the southwest and northeast, could only make sense with the entire network electrified (well, most of it; north of Trondheim, east of Hamar, and a couple other lines aren't, but everything that will ever run to Oslo is electric) and with trains operating at essentially transit frequencies on the main routes. It's the same with the NSRL: the whole network would have to be electrified, and the basic service model would have to change to make either the electrification or the tunnel make sense.

Electrification and decreases headways on the whole network would, however, make sense without the NSRL -- pretty clear to me which one should come first. And rr503, yes, why not fix the schedules to get each train out of South Sta as soon as possible after it comes in? Seems like the cheapest possible way, and you could let pax ride them as through trains, too.

Norway has 5 million people; Mass has 6. So in a way it makes sense. But...

soundguise
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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by soundguise » Mon May 20, 2019 9:05 am

It seems to me that the whole Rail Vision study should probably end with the recommendation that the system be electrified, platforms be upgraded to full-high level, and the North South Rail Link be built. The implementation of this plan would be more along the lines of:

- Systematic electrification and platform raising one line at a time (and/or as other projects happen)
- Replacement of rolling stock (needed and in the planning already) with electric multiple units as lines become electrified
- Upgrades to maintenance facilities as needed
- Planning the NSRL gets started while this is happening (this will be a long project)

If all the pieces are moving toward the final goal of full system transformation and we have a plan and understand what parts are dependent on others and what parts should be done as opportunity arises for other upgrades and maintenance projects then this big expensive project can be seen as eventual state of the system not just one mega project.

Basically, I think we need it on the books that a fully electric through running system is the end goal and any decisions about what part to do next fit into that plan. For example: If we need to upgrade the Newton stations, build them high platform and with the needed pieces to support electrification, at that time. Go ahead and electrify Fairmont and finish the work on Providence (platforms and some electrification).

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Re: North-South Rail Link Discussion

Post by Bramdeisroberts » Mon May 20, 2019 9:50 am

Building on that, there should probably be a prioritization of which lines to electrify 1st in anticipation of the link, with an interim goal being a open, functional link that isn't quite serviced by all existing surface lines. Something like electrifying Worcester+Providence+Fairmount to Dedham/Norwood on the south side and Lowell, Fairmount to Waltham, and Eastern Route to Beverly on the North Side. Outer Franklin/Fitchburg/Eastern Route, the Old Colony Lines, and Haverhill can all run diesel consists to the surface terminals or dual modes through the link for the time being. But doing that saves the T from having to electrify+full high nearly 2/3rds of its trackage while offering high-frequency link service to most of the dense ridership areas that the CR serves.

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