Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby Ron Newman » Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:03 am

Years ago, the MBTA had a summer promotion in which any holder of any bus or subway pass could ride any commuter train for free on weekends.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby Arlington » Wed Nov 10, 2010 12:19 pm

livesteamer wrote: should the politicians starting working on ideas to encourage more and more ridership not just on the Greenbush line but all lines serving the South Shore?

Actually, the only article I could find (from 1998), said that that Middleborough was immediately running ahead of projections (summary here:http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/boston/access/25853415.html?FMT=ABS&date=Feb%201,%201998 ). The Globe Said:
in Feb 1998 the Boston Globe wrote:The Kingston line is carrying about 6,100 passengers each weekday, while the Middleborough line's weekday average is 5,200. Before the railroad reopened last fall, state transportation officials had projected ridership to climb gradually to 5,000 on each line over two years.
So you can see that its a double shame Greenbush's 2133 riders (instead of 4200) soaked up South Station time slots and rolling stock and (structured) parking that could have served that line...with a lot of $$$ left over.
livesteamer wrote:Maybe the boats need to stop running or receiving subsidies. Maybe free parking at all CR stations. Maybe employers sponsored discount monthly passes.

BostonUrbEx wrote:1. Put a toll somewhere, 2. watch the numbers spike and stay up, 3. then watch pollution data decline as icing for the cake.

Marley wrote:I think tolls are needed on the expressway and every other freeway inside of 128. Every penny should be spent on expanding subways inside 128. The thought of waiting in tolls will bump those numbers up. It may even push up off peak ridership.

Why is the default position here that Greenbush has to be "saved" by crippling the competing roads (with tolls) and Ferry (by "stop running")?

You don't have to be a "car nut" to take the other side. I'd call myself a "train nut" and still I'm asking:
- How about enhacing Kingston and Middleborough by stopping Greenbush and diverting its frequencies?
- Saving the ferry by adding parking and frequencies?
- Saving a whole bunch of other lines by taking what would be saved by closing Greenbush and putting into addressing deferred maintenance elsewhere in the system?
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby Arlington » Wed Nov 10, 2010 1:47 pm

Quick "back of envelope" calc:

M'boro/Kingston Lines
11,000 riders per day at launch. $500m cost for both lines. $45,000 per rider (very few "stolen" from other T services),
call it $50,000 per new-to-transit rider. That's good.

Greenbush LIne
2,133 riders per day at launch. $534m cost for the line. $250,000 per rider (half stolen from other T services)
call it $500,000 per new-to-transit rider. That's 10x its sister lines.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby CRail » Wed Nov 10, 2010 7:51 pm

Arlington wrote:Why is the default position here that Greenbush has to be "saved" by crippling the competing roads (with tolls) and Ferry (by "stop running")?

I agree. Although I feel the Southeast Expressway should be tolled because its motorists are the ones using the product of the big dig, and because that highway actually has significant operating expenses (the zipper lane), I don't feel it should be tolled just to justify another service. In order to get people off the roads and onto trains, make the train better, not the road worse. As far as the ferry goes, same deal. Don't punish people who enjoy the ferry for not taking the train. Again, if you want ferry passengers to prefer the train, make the train better than the ferry.

Arlington wrote:You don't have to be a "car nut" to take the other side. I'd call myself a "train nut" and still I'm asking:
- How about enhacing Kingston and Middleborough by stopping Greenbush and diverting its frequencies?

Because, as you've been moaning about over and over, we just spent half a billion dollars on it! What should be done now, in my opinion, is work to make it more efficient. That can be done by increasing utilization (somehow), decreasing costs, or both.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby livesteamer » Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:40 pm

Because, as you've been moaning about over and over, we just spent half a billion dollars on it! What should be done now, in my opinion, is work to make it more efficient. That can be done by increasing utilization (somehow), decreasing costs, or both.



That is a great point. The 1/2 billion dollars are spent; the MBTA is not going to stop running the Greenbush line. So, how can it be made better? The politicians need to stop saying "we should not of spent the money" but now work to find solutions to make it better. IMHO, the low numbers on the Greenbush line will, in all probability, make the extension to the South Coast, unaffordable for the foreseeable future-15 years or more.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby Arlington » Thu Nov 11, 2010 7:56 am

livesteamer wrote:
Because, as you've been moaning about over and over, we just spent half a billion dollars on it! What should be done now, in my opinion, is work to make it more efficient. That can be done by increasing utilization (somehow), decreasing costs, or both.

That is a great point. The 1/2 billion dollars are spent; the MBTA is not going to stop running the Greenbush line. So, how can it be made better? The politicians need to stop saying "we should not of spent the money" but now work to find solutions to make it better. IMHO, the low numbers on the Greenbush line will, in all probability, make the extension to the South Coast, unaffordable for the foreseeable future-15 years or more.

Often called "Throwing good money after bad," thinking this way is a mistake in business planning called "honoring sunk costs" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_costs#Loss_aversion_and_the_sunk_cost_fallacy). Having wasted a half billion dollars, nobody is better off spending $X million per year to keep it running. Or we'd say that only 2133 people are notably better off running this line, while the 11,000 people on the rest of the Old Colony and the rest of the system are worse than they could be. The rational thing to do is to help the 11,000 (or for all I know 15,000 by now) on the other lines.

The classic example of the Sunk Cost Fallacy is if you spent $15 on advance movie tickets, but then learn something that tells you'd now be happier staying home, how would forcing yourself to go to the movies make you better off?

It doesn't, except that you fear/hate to admit that you were wrong.

But the reality is, if you can get over admitting you were wrong, the right thing to do is to stop that activity (not honor the sunk costs) and move on.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby Arlington » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:50 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:1. Put a toll somewhere, 2. watch the numbers spike and stay up, 3. then watch pollution data decline as icing for the cake.

CRail wrote:...I feel the Southeast Expressway should be tolled because its motorists are the ones using the product of the big dig, and because that highway actually has significant operating expenses (the zipper lane), I don't feel it should be tolled just to justify another service...

I'm all in favor, but note what would really happen: this would triple demand for M'Boro/Kingston while only doubling demand for Greenbush. THe logical thing then would be to close Greenbush and give its service to M'Boro/Kingston. Why? Because 10 times as many car (expressway) users prefer the M'Boro/Kingston for every 1 who prefers Greenbush.

Here's the math: M'Boro/Kingston drew 10,000 people off the expressway when they opened. Greenbush attracted only 950 former car users. That's the 10-to-1 part. THis is so both because more people live near the M'Boro/Kingston branches and because they were nearly 100% Expressway addicted.

So let's say the goal of the toll were to drive 2100 new riders to the Greenbush line (to get it up to its goal of 4,200). If we toll everybody (not just Scituate people) and everybody hates them evenly (the tolls, not Scituate people ;-), we'd guess that M'Boro/Kingstcon would see an additional 21,000 daily expressway drivers who'd want to switch to the M'Boro or Kingston branches. Daily riderships for the M/K branches after tolling = 11,000(today) + 21,000(new) = 32,000.

Meanwhile, assuming the Ferry were still operating, you'd also expect it to boom with Scituate customers. In fact, it might outperform Greenbush.

Given tolls on the SE Expwy, a maxed out South Station, and the need to accommodate 32,000 people on M'Boro/Kingston versus 4,200 on Greenbush, it's pretty clear--you'd want to take every last train away from Greenbush's 4,200 so you could serve the other branches' 32,000.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby BostonUrbEx » Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:13 pm

How about this instead; is it possible to funnel the Greenbush into a [free] ferry transfer somewhere so that it doesn't restrict increased trains to Middleborough and Plymouth?

You could have 2 through trains per rush that arrive at South Station somewhere before/around 9AM and have a couple leave shortly after 5PM. Other than that, they basically shuttle people from Greenbush to an awaiting ferry at Weymouth Landing, or perhaps even use the tracks that go to the Fore River ferry terminal to utilize an already existing terminal/service. Perhaps worth mulling over?
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby livesteamer » Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:35 pm

I really think most folks are interested in a one seat ride. A transfer from train to ferry defeats that purpose. And, wouldn't there be more flexibility for a commuter to just drive to ferry? And since we are kind of brainstorming --why not just drop the ferry service? Won't that put more folks on the train?
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby Arlington » Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:09 pm

livesteamer wrote:I really think most folks are interested in a one seat ride. A transfer from train to ferry defeats that purpose. And, wouldn't there be more flexibility for a commuter to just drive to ferry? And since we are kind of brainstorming --why not just drop the ferry service? Won't that put more folks on the train?

I can't quite find current ridership for the ferry. Closest I have is a quote saying 600,000 trips per year. Assuming all are 2-way, and all are on 260 weekdays, call it 1200 riders per day on the ferry (if wrong, this number is likely high). Apparently they get about a $4 per trip subsidy.

If you killed the Ferry, you'd be not honoring its about $10m to $20m in sunk costs in piers, parking and other amenities...good emotional discipline ;-). And indeed, folks in Hingham know its on the chopping block (one reason some opposed the train).

If Greenbush happened to win *all* current Ferry customers, Greenbush ridership would rise from 2133 to 3333. Better, but still not 4200 (and basically no new drivers taken off the road).
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:46 am

Easiest way to encourage ridership is to NOT, under any circumstances, go forward with the proposed plan to widen Route 3 to eight lanes from the Braintree split to Route 18 in Weymouth and six lanes from Route 18 to Routes 53/3A in Kingston. Plus upgrading every ramp, the shoulders, and straightening sightlines and turn radii to full interstate standards. Lowballed cost estimates several years ago were a howlingly optimistic $120 mil, with speculated actuals being closer to a half-billion or more because of the wetlands, land-taking, and NIMBY-mitigation issues involved. There's even speculation that the state would shoot for interstate designation upon completion of the work to pull itself out of the likely debt the project would put dig them into, meaning the road would be rechristened as an extension of I-93 potentially down to the US 44 interchange.

It's a bad road, but that's utterly bats**t cost and land waste. The Kingston/Plymouth line parallels it within 5 miles or less (much, much less about half the time) the whole length of the widening and potential interstate upgrade, as do half of the stations on the Greenbush line (Weymouth Landing, East Weymouth, West Hingham, and Greenbush stations being dead-on straight shots). The very reason these two lines exist is to yank snarled traffic off of 3 and the state highways that feed it. Losing that CR service decades ago is one of the big reasons 3 turned into the traffic monstrosity it is today. Don't drop another half-billion down the drain psyching oneself out into creating yet more induced-demand highway traffic. People will just keep reflexively eating up all the expanded highway capacity in an instant while leaving other existing modes sorely underutilized. Promote the train aggressively as a way out of that driving hell, because they can't afford the lane widening, it would screw up too much of the area dramatically widening the highway's footprint, and any way they dress up 3 it still has to slam headfirst into the Braintree split and SE Expressway which have very limited room for meaningful improvement. It'll never get better enough. The train will get better the more people use it...service levels will increase, and they'll eventually bite the bullet on double-tracking the main through Quincy and Dorchester if the demand merits it. It'll be expensive, but what else can they possibly do with the roads on that corridor that are cheaper? Widen 93? Impossible. At least the train ROW has reconfiguration potential for a second track that isn't life-altering to everyone living within miles or on each connecting road in the region like borderline 5 figures more cars tying up an extra lane every day.

Bottom line is the induced demand phenomenon has to get deprogrammed out of traffic planners in this country...states are cutting off their own noses to spite their faces continuing to feed the asphalt beast beyond their means and shaving more and more abutting land to do it. Transit's the only practical solution left to tap this century...maximizing efficiency of traffic density, flow, and bang-for-buck on ROW footprints they already own and operate. i.e. let the build-up of organic demand be the carrot on the stick for expanding a travel corridor instead of pre-sunk resources leading. The South Shore NIMBY's who ignore the train will eventually stop ignoring it if it's made clear to them that there's no way it'll ever be feasible to get an on-time commute on the highway. Draw the line in the sand on ad infinitum add-a-lane projects that they just can't subsidize, and stop caving to faulty assumptions that every single congested road has to be widened "just because" like there's no choice in the matter. There is choice in the matter...it's called prioritizing very finite resources to the infrastructure projects existing demand dictates is holding back the health/growth/functioning of a region without, and trimming those "just because" luxuries that imbalance mode usage and worsen already wasteful habits. Make it clear that they're committed to maximizing all avenues of current capacity because it's the only way taxes won't increase and local services won't be gutted. These bedroom communities will kick and scream about it for awhile, but if it's a choice between taking the existing train or having the money that should be funding their schools funding concrete, asphalt, and exhaust...they'll get over themselves and start taking the train. And maybe bitch less about inessential aesthetics when they actually have to rely on the functionality of the service as lifeblood.

Ultimately these are the same circumstances arguing against the train to South Coast. That region has to maximize use existing services like the commuter bus, before the state blows a couple bil on the same type of induced demand fallacy. Be it the train or ripping Route 24 the hell up to go six lanes Raynham-Fall River and 8 lanes Brockton-Canton. The BS with the towns over "give me luxuries or I NIMBY you to death" ought to be enough of a giveaway that the corridor doesn't need it bad enough to take seriously yet. Maybe the state made the same mistake with Greenbush initially, leading with capacity before demand instead of making sure the route was pre-primed for it. But the way out of that mistake isn't repeating it all over again with Route 3, it's making damn sure you're getting every inch of upside out of existing service before making any further life-altering changes to the area.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby Arlington » Fri Nov 12, 2010 1:27 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Easiest way to encourage ridership is to NOT, under any circumstances, go forward with the proposed plan to widen Route 3 to eight lanes from the Braintree split to Route 18 in Weymouth and six lanes from Route 18 to Routes 53/3A in Kingston [snip]...
The Kingston/Plymouth line parallels it within 5 miles or less (much, much less about half the time) the whole length of the widening and potential interstate upgrade, as do half of the stations on the Greenbush line (Weymouth Landing, East Weymouth, West Hingham, and Greenbush stations being dead-on straight shots). The very reason these two lines exist is to yank snarled traffic off of 3 and the state highways that feed it. ...
The BS with the towns over "give me luxuries or I NIMBY you to death" ought to be enough of a giveaway that the corridor doesn't need it bad enough to take seriously yet. Maybe the state made the same mistake with Greenbush initially, leading with capacity before demand instead of making sure the route was pre-primed for it. But the way out of that mistake isn't repeating it all over again with Route 3, it's making damn sure you're getting every inch of upside out of existing service before making any further life-altering changes to the area.


Agreed. But one thing about induced demand...these roads never lack for customers (and therefore political support).

I'm glad you've adopted a "no more NIMBY payoffs" position. In general that's a good lesson to take from Greenbush, and should lead to the conclusion that the State would get a bigger bang for its buck by maximizing the facilities it has. This will generally favor currently-operating trains...adding tracks at South Station is a good example: no NIMBY problem, costs about $100m, and can really maximize service we have instead of extending the system. Same (usually) goes for structured parking at existing stations.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby Bill Reidy » Fri Nov 12, 2010 5:46 pm

I'm curious what the ridership impact has been by the fare and parking rate increases that have been put into place in recent years. I suspect the Greenbush ridership projections were made prior to the most recent increases.

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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby atlantis » Fri Nov 12, 2010 10:23 pm

I think the money could have been better spent reinstating rail service to the Cape, which was popular in the 1980's but was removed in the late eighties despite money already spent on the lines and stations, a victim of petty politics and funding cuts, not ridership.
Having said that, I don't think we should write off the Greenbush line just yet. I think improvements must be made such as better transit connections at stations.
In my opinion, it seems in this country, especially this state, commuter rail is often set up as an extension of driving. For example, at Greenbush station, I'm not aware of any connecting bus to Scituate. I don't think thaer'es even a local taxi service. (although someone can correct me on this)
Such transit connections could make the service more viable, IMHO.
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Re: Political Heat on the Greenbush Line

Postby livesteamer » Fri Nov 12, 2010 10:46 pm

There has never been any kind of local in-town bus service in Scituate nor is there now any local bus service or regularly posted taxi service at the Greenbush station.
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