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  #21  
Old Posted Aug 14, 2019, 10:50 PM
SFBruin SFBruin is offline
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Apparently, the answer to this question is that all of the money went to the big dig, but I am going to ask it anyway:

Has there ever been a proposal to electrify all or parts of the MBTA commuter rail? It seems like a good idea given how comparatively small Boston is and how dense / clustered it's suburbs are.
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  #22  
Old Posted Aug 16, 2019, 2:22 AM
LineDrive LineDrive is offline
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Originally Posted by SFBruin View Post
Apparently, the answer to this question is that all of the money went to the big dig, but I am going to ask it anyway:

Has there ever been a proposal to electrify all or parts of the MBTA commuter rail? It seems like a good idea given how comparatively small Boston is and how dense / clustered it's suburbs are.
Electrifying entire 14 line network amongst ideas to better improve service

^Its been proposed, yes.

Also, search for MBTA DMU 2024 and you’ll see many plans and proposals.

There is no metro area in the United States that is more underserved as far as rail transit (except LA) than Boston.

Take the RedBlue connector for instance. The Red and Blue lines are the only two rapid transit lines that don’t connect in Boston - this creates a giant bottle neck at Park St, Government Center and State Street. Now the Red Line and Blue Line are just 0.4 miles from each other on a street that is straight as can be. It’s a project that would cost $500M or so - at worst. Could be done in a short period of time and would open up the network considerably. Also, the state promised the federal government they’d build this project if the federal government awarded funds for the Big Dig. Now they’ve put it off for years making excuse after excuse.

Boston has about 6 projects more critical than most cities #1 project.

• NSRL
• Blue Line extension to South Salem
• RedBlue connector
• Orange Line to Reading
• Red Line to Arlington Center
• LRT to Seaport District
• Ashmont-Mattapan conversion
• Logan Airport people mover
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  #23  
Old Posted Aug 16, 2019, 4:44 PM
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Got it. LA is very underserved by rail transit, but I digress...

I was making a transit map for Boston and noticed that it had a very good commuter rail system. I thought that it might benefit from being electrified.
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  #24  
Old Posted Aug 16, 2019, 6:05 PM
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Boston has about 6 projects more critical than most cities #1 project.
I'd throw in a visual identity overhaul. The classic T logo is about the only thing good about the MBTA, the rest of the signage, wayfinding and branding is absolute garbage. Kind of embarrassingly so.
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  #25  
Old Posted Aug 16, 2019, 8:48 PM
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What a waste of money. I can only imagine what Boston could have achieved with that kind of investment had it been directed toward rail expansion. Could probably have doubled the size of the subway system or electrified the entire commuter rail.
The redline extensions (Harvard-Alewife and Quincy-Braintree) were built with the money freed up from canceling the I-695 inner beltway.
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  #26  
Old Posted Aug 17, 2019, 4:28 AM
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I don't see the NSRL as a priority.

I could see its benefitting Amtrak, but I wonder about its usefulness to the MBTA. I imagine a small number of people's traveling from a destination on the north side of the system to a destination on the south side on a daily basis.

Is this accurate?
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  #27  
Old Posted Aug 17, 2019, 3:39 PM
Delthayre Delthayre is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SFBruin View Post
I don't see the NSRL as a priority.

I could see its benefitting Amtrak, but I wonder about its usefulness to the MBTA. I imagine a small number of people's traveling from a destination on the north side of the system to a destination on the south side on a daily basis.

Is this accurate?
I think that you might have partly misunderstood the utility of such a tunnel, which is that it allows 'commuter rail' to operate more like a rapid transit system. A through-running commuter rail tunnel, such as those used by the Berlin S-Bahn or Parisian RER network, facilitate higher service frequencies by making the central stations though-stations rather than stub-end terminals. Benefits also accrue from the conversion to electrical multiple unit operation that usually accompanies through-running as EMU trains have better acceleration than diesel or locomotive-hauled trains, which can allow acceptable performance even with relatively closely-spaced stops. (Installation of universal high-level platforms is usually also a part of adopting this kind of operation)

A crude exaggeration and simplification is to say that building the North-South Rail Link an attendant infrastructure would be almost like suddenly converting all of the commuter lines into subways.
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  #28  
Old Posted Aug 17, 2019, 5:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Delthayre View Post
I think that you might have partly misunderstood the utility of such a tunnel, which is that it allows 'commuter rail' to operate more like a rapid transit system. A through-running commuter rail tunnel, such as those used by the Berlin S-Bahn or Parisian RER network, facilitate higher service frequencies by making the central stations though-stations rather than stub-end terminals. Benefits also accrue from the conversion to electrical multiple unit operation that usually accompanies through-running as EMU trains have better acceleration than diesel or locomotive-hauled trains, which can allow acceptable performance even with relatively closely-spaced stops. (Installation of universal high-level platforms is usually also a part of adopting this kind of operation)

A crude exaggeration and simplification is to say that building the North-South Rail Link an attendant infrastructure would be almost like suddenly converting all of the commuter lines into subways.
It’s closer to a mile between North and South Stations in Boston. A rail tunnel between them full with commuter trains is going to require one of the following two things; (1)a large ventilation exhaust system so passengers will not choke to death on diesel fumes, or (2) electric powered locomotives running in that tunnel. Dual mode locomotives would be the cheaper choice over installing catenaries over every commuter rail line used bu MBTA. In either case, MBTA would need scores of new dual powered or electric power locomotives to purchase in addition to the costs required to build the new tunnel.

They would have to buy both at the same time because either would be worthless without the other.
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  #29  
Old Posted Aug 17, 2019, 5:31 PM
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The tunnel would be worthless without trains that could operate in it, but electric capable trains would still be worthwhile before the tunnel is completed since the MBTA could still electrify the busiest sections of the central rail corridor track and take advantage of the reduced emissions, noise, and energy cost while improving performance in those sections without the massive cost of electrifying the whole network way out into the boonies. As it stands, the 15km southern route shared with the NEC is already electrified.
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  #30  
Old Posted Aug 17, 2019, 5:55 PM
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Just to clarify, the 15km section of the NEC is just the part shared with more than one MBTA route. But there's actually a whole 84km section all the way down to Providence shared by at least one MBTA line.
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  #31  
Old Posted Aug 18, 2019, 5:03 AM
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Right.

I'm not sure that Greater Boston has the population to support an S-Bahn type network, though.

I have never been, though, so I will stop typing now before I continue to make a fool out of myself.
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  #32  
Old Posted Aug 18, 2019, 10:09 PM
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^Bullpucky

The Rhine-Main S-Bahn system operates centered on Frankfurt and regional cities with a metro population of about 5 and a half million. Metro Boston is about 4 and a half + million. Boston metro has plenty of population to support such a system.
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  #33  
Old Posted Aug 18, 2019, 10:38 PM
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Good points.
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  #34  
Old Posted Aug 22, 2019, 2:03 AM
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So, I looked this up (sorta). MBTA commuter rail covers a land area of about 2,500 square miles.

The Munich S-Bahn covers a land area of about 1,200 square miles.

One could conceivably convert the MBTA commuter rail into an S-Bahn type system, but I think you would have to think through the ramifications of having a system where the coverage area is about twice as large.

I think that a better candidate for an S-Bahn type system in the US might be Philadelphia, but one can shoot me in the comments haha.
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  #35  
Old Posted Aug 22, 2019, 2:11 AM
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Personally, I think that Boston should modernize its rolling stock, electrify all of its lines, and add a subway connection between North and South station.

I feel like that would be the most efficient way to solve its transportation needs.
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  #36  
Old Posted Aug 22, 2019, 2:51 AM
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So, I looked this up (sorta). MBTA commuter rail covers a land area of about 2,500 square miles.

The Munich S-Bahn covers a land area of about 1,200 square miles.

One could conceivably convert the MBTA commuter rail into an S-Bahn type system, but I think you would have to think through the ramifications of having a system where the coverage area is about twice as large.

I think that a better candidate for an S-Bahn type system in the US might be Philadelphia, but one can shoot me in the comments haha.
I don't think the "coverage area" has any relevance. To compare the systems you'd look at the number of route km and the population reasonably able to access the respective services (for example, the number of people living within 2km of a station). Boston's system length is nearly 50% longer than Munich's, but the most far-reaching part of the network is already electrified under the Amtrak NEC, and there's no reason the entire current commuter system would need to be part of the new s-bahn. If there are a couple of routes that simply don't have the ridership potential, they could remain as conventional commuter rail that terminates at a station.
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  #37  
Old Posted Aug 22, 2019, 10:57 AM
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Personally, I think that Boston should modernize its rolling stock, electrify all of its lines, and add a subway connection between North and South station.

I feel like that would be the most efficient way to solve its transportation needs.
It would be much much much better to simply connect the Commuter Rail lines via the much talked about NSRL. It would create long trips and a regional rail system - For instance trips from day Beverly to Foxboro on game days. Or Brockton to Lawrence for... whatever it is they do in Lawrence. The NSRL would likely connect to the Blue Line in some way and the Green/Orange connect to North Station already and the Red connects to South Station.
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  #38  
Old Posted Aug 22, 2019, 5:12 PM
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I lived in Boston when the Big Dig was built. There was an option to build the connector tunnel at that time for a fraction of what it will end up costing.

They also could have simply shut down I-93 for 2-3 years and greatly reduced the cost of the Big Dig, perhaps by enough to have been able to build the connector tunnel.

I believe that at that time the connector tunnel would have been built beneath the central artery tunnels and there would have been no provision for a "central" station. That station looks like it's just a way to create a Logan Airport connection via the Blue Line, since the commuter rail network would otherwise connect with the red/silver at South Station and orange/green at North Station. I'm skeptical that the central station itself would see enough street use to justify its existence.
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  #39  
Old Posted Aug 22, 2019, 9:19 PM
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My take away from that is what I've always believed - that there is WAY too much deference [literally] payed to keeping modes open and operating while undergoing transformational renovation/rebuilding projects. The bending over backwards for the Chamber of Commerce, community groups, advocacy groups, etc etc to the tune of adding hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in logistic coordination of such accommodations is outrageous and nonsensical. Yes they should have just shut the whole thing down, people are adaptable, they would have adjusted and made do. More examples: pretty much any station renovation that takes 4 years and 25 million more dollars by not just asking people to make a sacrifice. Imagine how long your kitchen renovation would take if you insisted on not removing your fridge and sink and stove and just removing and replacing one cabinet at a time over a period of 18 months. Sounds ridiculous right?
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  #40  
Old Posted Aug 23, 2019, 3:00 AM
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There is also the issue that the connector tunnel + full electrification of the T commuter rail system would make a lot of commutes possible by rail that are technically possible but not practical because of the slower and infrequent trains + the need to transfer from South Station to North Station via the subway (and that trip requires a change from the red to the orange line).

What I really didn't understand about the Big Dig was that more than 50% of it was the I-90 extension to Logan Airport. That was a justifiable project -- it created a modern roadway connection to Logan where none existed before, plus it enabled the silver line to piggy back instead of requiring its own tunnel under the harbor.

The actual Central Artery I-93 section that is the face of the Big Dig was superfluous. They could have accomplished a lot by simply burying the Callahan and Sumner Tunnel approaches, giving them direct access to I-93N and Storrow Drive, but then rebuilding I-93 proper as an at-grade boulevard.
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