Light Rail to Arborway Officially Dead

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Light Rail to Arborway Officially Dead

Postby RailBus63 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 11:35 am

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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby MarkB » Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:12 pm

Officially dead, but the streetcar luvvies still want to reserve part of the Arborway car yard for possible future streetcar use. When does optimism become psychosis?
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby jwhite07 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:19 pm

When does optimism become psychosis?

Probably not as often as legal commitments are reneged upon as a matter of convenience to the Commonwealth. ;-D
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby MarkB » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:10 pm

If a legal commitment had been reneged, the court would have ruled against them. That's how courts work.

The courts have rules, the tracks have been torn up, and the streetcars are not coming back. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with the decision, but when you want to act as if none of it ever happened, then you're not in touch with reality - and that's the definition of psychosis.
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:54 pm

Since 1985, the key word has been "suspended". I guess it can be dropped and Heath Street made a "permanent" terminal.
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby jwhite07 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:55 pm

You can read up on the history of the legal changes made after the fact. There is an enormous amount of data available on the topic online, and I won't do that homework for you. There WAS once a legal commitment to restore Arborway service. FACT. There WAS then a reneging of that commitment, which eventually resulted in rewriting the original "commitment" to omit restoration of the Arborway service. Again, FACT.

There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with the decision, but when you want to act as if none of it ever happened, then you're not in touch with reality - and that's the definition of psychosis.


I know what happened, and what did not happen. I've watched the process and attended my share of meetings over the twenty-plus year history of this back and forth tennis match (and for a significant portion of that time as a direct stakeholder attending school and then living in the affected corridor). I take extreme offense to your statement, sir. We can disagree; indeed, I encourage respectful discussion as much as anyone. We all learn that way. But when you use words like those I quote directly from you above, then you make it a personal affront against me. Nothing I posted is or can be construed as any personal reflection against you. I am very much in touch with reality and I assure you, sir, far from any kind of psychosis which should concern you. I will thank you, sir, to take very great care in the choice of your words in a public forum such as this in the future. Be respectful if you choose to disagree.
Last edited by jwhite07 on Mon Sep 05, 2011 5:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby dieciduej » Mon Sep 05, 2011 4:15 pm

R36 Combine Coach wrote:Since 1985, the key word has been "suspended". I guess it can be dropped and Heath Street made a "permanent" terminal.

But they would really like Brigham Circle to be the final destination.

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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby jaymac » Mon Sep 05, 2011 4:30 pm

The real problem with street-running light rail is maintaining it. When rail needs replacement, that means pavement comes up, and vehicular traffic runs on only one side of the street, and not for just a little while, even for just one rail. That was bad enough more than a semi-century ago when I witnessed new rail going in on Center and South Huntington. Island running like Beacon and Comm. Ave. faces less of that problem, but once the line formerly known as Arborway gets beyond Brigham Circle and the space between the curbs gets less and the cars get more, as on Center and South, trolleys do seem to be even more things of times past than that name would suggest. After the first string of substitutions, next came the Watertown suspension of service and then Arborway. What did they all have in common? Extended street running and its accompanying complications.
Like JoeD, I wouldn't be overly surprised if Brigham becomes the de facto E flip point, with Heath St. having a "temporary" suspension suspension of rail service.
Haven't seen a transcript, so I've got no idea if ROW maintenance issues played into the decision.
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby djimpact1 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:55 pm

jaymac wrote:The real problem with street-running light rail is maintaining it. When rail needs replacement, that means pavement comes up, and vehicular traffic runs on only one side of the street, and not for just a little while, even for just one rail. That was bad enough more than a semi-century ago when I witnessed new rail going in on Center and South Huntington. Island running like Beacon and Comm. Ave. faces less of that problem, but once the line formerly known as Arborway gets beyond Brigham Circle and the space between the curbs gets less and the cars get more, as on Center and South, trolleys do seem to be even more things of times past than that name would suggest. After the first string of substitutions, next came the Watertown suspension of service and then Arborway. What did they all have in common? Extended street running and its accompanying complications.
Like JoeD, I wouldn't be overly surprised if Brigham becomes the de facto E flip point, with Heath St. having a "temporary" suspension suspension of rail service.
Haven't seen a transcript, so I've got no idea if ROW maintenance issues played into the decision.

Jaymac, I totally understand your point, and it does make sense. I have a few follow-up questions regarding this topic:

1) I don't know what the "typical" lifespan of street rail is, such as the Brigham-to-Heath stretch of the E branch, nor could I guess the time it would take to replace a stetch of rail along that route...but would the time it takes to perform partial/full rail replacement from Brigham to Heath (potentially causing 1 lane to be closed-off each way & extending vehicle traffic) REALLY outweight the long-term benefits of continuing Green Line service to Heath St.?

2) I can easily understand Heath St. being the current terminus of the E branch, with the convenience of the loop. If Brigham were to eventually become the new terminus, how/where would the streetcars make a transition from one track to the other (i.e. an inbound-outbound transition)? Brigham isn't exactly a large area to "play" with, in terms of track altering.

3) I believe there's a convenience of having a SENSIBLE permanent terminus in each direction of a rail branch, as there's a little added convenience of trains sitting idle (if necessary, for any given reason) without necessarily interfering in street or rail operations, and may continue to its service once the "all clear" is given. Heath St. is a great location for the E branch terminus currently, as the loop does NOT seem to interfere at all with traffic, thanks to the street split prior to the loop. What kind of convenience would a Brigham terminus have, knowing that the trains are sitting idle right in the middle of the street? I can't imagine any train COULD sit idle for long if necessary (due to its on-street location). Thoughts?
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby jaymac » Tue Sep 06, 2011 4:30 am

djimpact-
1) Steel rail can have a long life, but also needs support. The approach for street rail in at least parts of the Arborway line was to use end-threaded metal cross ties bolted through the rail webs and buried in concrete with a layer of asphalt. Road-salt infiltration would compromise the concrete and frost-wedging would further complicate the reliability of the rail structure. Benefit is one of those qualities that, like other qualities, is difficult to quantify. The cost, both in cash and negative public relations from a rebuild, is easy to quantify. I'd like to see a seamless ride on steel all the way to the Arborway, but it's been judged it won't likely happen.
2) A crossover at Brigham means that moves can be reversed there. In terms of some operations, it's not as neat as the Heath loop, but saves some of the street-running difficulties present on outer Huntington and South Huntington.
3) Sense is in the mind of observer. Again, I'd like to see an all-rail ride to the Arborway, but sense for the T is to be in cost-cutting mode. By cutting back on street-running, it can also cut back on not just track but overhead maintenance. The run from Brigham to Heath isn't that long, but it is in a congested area. A wire truck and its crew aggravate that congestion and are at risk themselves. Island-running reduces that liability. As far as storage goes, there should be space at Northeastern adequate for a couple of train-sets.

Do I wish the T had been more forthcoming with its "suspension" plans for both Watertown and Arborway? Absolutely. Maybe the plans hadn't been finalized. More likely, the T's anticipation to the reaction from each community feeling it was being marginalized led to the exercise in frog-boiling.
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby Gerry6309 » Tue Sep 06, 2011 11:44 am

Three issues to remember:

First...

When Watertown was suspended, the MBTA had no interest in reviving it. Lack of cars was the recurring excuse. However, the MBTA still used Watertown Carhouse as a site for long term repairs for Green Line cars. They actually rebuilt track in several locations in the 1970s as part of street improvements in Brighton Center and Union Sq. The MBTA was forced to remove the tracks by a rider slipped into the 1994 state budget by a Brighton lawmaker, perhaps at the behest of Mayor Menino, since Brighton residents were still agitating for restoration up to that point. It is the only case where the Elevated, MTA or MBTA had to remove tracks on an abandoned line. In some cases they are still there from lines abandoned long ago. For example the tracks in front of the Carney Hospital were abandoned in 1931, but were exposed during a recent repaving job. The MBTA maintained a detailed map of this abandoned rail, and would regularly send crews out to mine for switches and other special work when they were needed on the remaining system. Major street rebuilds have removed rail over the years, but never the MBTA itself.

(As an aside there was an law requiring privately operated street railways to remove their tracks when lines were abandoned. Since the Elevated came under public control in 1919, it was probably exempt.)

Second...

The MBTA used federal money to build new track from South Street to Forest Hills Station and a new loop at the latter location in 1986. That rail has never carried a single steel wheel.

Third...

As far as I know, the track from Heath St. to South St. was merely paved over (see item 1). All of this was rebuilt in the 1970s & 80s in advance of the LRVs' arrival. (Pole equipped LRVs ventured to Arborway and Watertown on fantrips, and to Watertown to bring dead PCCs, LRVs and even Type 7s there for repairs, storage or scrapping.
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby #5 - Dyre Ave » Thu Sep 08, 2011 1:08 pm

I'm sorry to read about it. But not surprised. It really seemed like there was this feeling of inevitablity that the E line was going to be cut back to Heath Street Loop. But it made me wonder if Green Line service could have been restored to Arborway on a route other than South Huntington Ave, Centre and South Streets, and why that wasn't considered. Would it be feasible to run Green Line cars on the parallel Riverway, Jamaicaway and then on Arborway itself? It wouldn't be as direct as the S. Huntington/Centre/South route is, but could running on those wider roads at higher speeds and with fewer cross-streets have made up for it?
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby jaymac » Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:34 pm

The A-way, J-way, and R-way have enough changes in curve and elevation to qualify as a Formula 1 training course, an approach that many two- and four-wheel drivers take. The A-way, J-way, and most of the R-way are also at the outside limits of population concentration. Strike three would be the uprising if any more of the Olmstead Emerald Necklace were impinged upon. Strike four would be the letter between R and T intersected by a vertical line ($): The cost of such a project is something that adds fiscal impossibility to the previous problems.
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby madcrow » Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:54 pm

#5 - Dyre Ave wrote:I'm sorry to read about it. But not surprised. It really seemed like there was this feeling of inevitablity that the E line was going to be cut back to Heath Street Loop. But it made me wonder if Green Line service could have been restored to Arborway on a route other than South Huntington Ave, Centre and South Streets, and why that wasn't considered. Would it be feasible to run Green Line cars on the parallel Riverway, Jamaicaway and then on Arborway itself? It wouldn't be as direct as the S. Huntington/Centre/South route is, but could running on those wider roads at higher speeds and with fewer cross-streets have made up for it?

I've always had a pet route to restore light rail service to Arborway/Forest Hills: light rail conversion of the Needham Line as a branch off of the D line. Granted, it wouldn't really restore trolley service to Centre Street, but it would bring them back to Forest Hills ;)
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Re: Light rail to Arborway officially dead

Postby 3rdrail » Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:03 pm

Gerry6309 wrote:(As an aside there was an law requiring privately operated street railways to remove their tracks when lines were abandoned. Since the Elevated came under public control in 1919, it was probably exempt.)

Actually, Gerry, that law is still very much in effect and fully in force. It is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 161, Section 86 (C161, S86), and among other things, requires that street railway companies in Massacusetts must remove street tracks on public ways belonging to the state or local municipalities if the tracks have been discontinued for six months and the state or local municipality wishes to resurface the way. We know that it applies to the MBTA as C161, S159 specifically states that Sections 143 through 158 of Chapter 161 inclusively, do not apply to the MBTA, which are obviously outside of Section 86. Could a city and the MBTA work out an agreement not to enforce the law ? Probably, but that doesn't lessen the strength of the law, nonetheless. (I'm curious- Who resurfaced Dot Ave. when they were switch hunting, Gerry ? Was it the City, State, or the T ?)

MGL Chapter 161 is an interesting Chapter. There's a lot of responsibility for the MBTA on roadways which are owned by municipalities and shared by their surface cars. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a prime reason for the gradual abandonment of street running over the years.
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