Probably just wishful thinking, but state officials are considering trolley service from Government Center to Dudley

State transportation officials are currently studying ways to improve public transit for people not living within a half-mile of a subway stop in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. For the most part, that means better, cleaner bus service (such as express buses along the 28 line) and the expansion of the Fairmount Line.

But ArchBoston points us to some documents that also talk about the possibility of replacing the Silver Line with "light rail" (i.e., a trolley) from Government Center to Dudley and then maybe even extending that to Mattapan. And trolleys running down streets! You know, like the sorts of trolley lines the T has spent all of its existence trying to eliminate. From the minutes of one meeting:

Renee Perry asked what the challenges were in providing light rail service on narrow portions of Warren Street and thru Grove Hall. Mr. Hamwey responded that the roadway width necks down to about 45 feet in these areas, so they would likely need to eliminate on-street parking to accommodate light rail.

The documents put the trolley idea under "long term," so given how long the Somerville extension at the other end of the Green Line is taking, and given the T's current financial problems, one could probably define that as "not in my lifetime." But at least they give transit geeks something to add to their maps.



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I wish

That'd really be amazing. Dudley is such a pretty neighborhood, and it's way too inaccessible. Those people got so screwed with the Silver Line.

Any money will go to Commuter Rail expansion instead

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The T will be ordered to spend a billion or two to extend the commuter rail out to some random town in order to secure suburban votes.

Daily ridership estimates will hover around 1,000 - about the same number of people a single rapid transit line could serve in an hour or two.

Rinse. Repeat.

It has all happened before, and it will all happen again.

Institutions matter

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Our political structures value land more than people. That's how suburbs and exurbs have disproportionate influence compared to cities. As a result, they constantly drain resources away from the primary economic engines of regions: cities.

It'll be the same old story until the institutions are modified to actually represent people, instead of being heavily weighted towards particular land areas. But that is unlikely to ever happen.

Not sure I follow what you're saying

Our political structures value land more than people.

Maybe I'm missing something. If I look at a map showing the MA state house and senate members, there are many more reps in the more densely populated regions. Looking at house members, it looks like there are less than 20 reps from west of Worcester. The rest (~140) are east of Worcester with the expected concentrations in the cities. To me, that is a political structure weighted towards people.

Can you explain what you meant?

They certainly do make some

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They certainly do make some effort to draw the lines in a population-proportionate manner; yet for some reason, the suburbs and exurbs still end up with disproportionate representation.

I don't have time to do a full analysis of this, but maybe later. Let's take a quick look at a suburban area vs an urban area. The Greenbush line gets a handful of riders (~2000 daily) and was built at a cost of $534 million. The Green Line extension has yet to be built, despite being on the planning boards for over 65 years, and serving the most densely populated city in the region. It has had estimates ranging between $500 million and $1 billion (why so expensive? well that's a topic for another post).

Greenbush primarily serves towns in Norfolk's 4th, Plymouth's 3rd, and Plymouth's 4th. Here is the number of voters in each:

NOR04 33702
PLYM03 29408
PLYM04 30206
avg 31105

Now compare that to Somerville and surroundings, which is divided between Middlesex's 26th, 27th and 34th.

MID26 34510
MID27 36035
MID34 36036
avg 35527

Curiously, the state reps on the South Shore represent fewer people each than in Somerville.

Now, to be fair, this is hardly the whole story at all. There is a whole range of perverse incentives all the way up to and especially including the Federal level -- incentives that push money towards parking lot-based commuter rail instead of urban rapid transit. But it definitely doesn't help for the people of Somerville to be underrepresented.

Not Just Dudley Square,

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but there should be trolley service from South Station all along Columbia Ave. through Dorchester, too, either skirting Franklin Park or following the roadway through it, and ending at Forest Hills. Blue Hill Ave. is also wide enough to accommodate light rail. This single investment would do more to help revitalize these neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for people who live there than just about anything else anyone has ever proposed.

More than a half mile?

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What, because it's impossible to walk any distance further than that?

It really bothers me when people complain about places being "inaccessible" because it might take 10 minutes to walk there from the subway. My place is a mile from the T but I make that walk twice every day, and I hardly feel like the T owes me a closer stop.

Buses could run a lot faster if they didn't have to stop every two blocks because otherwise some fat lazy mess might accidentally get some exercise walking to the stop.

Key bus route improvements

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Based on the documents posted on the MBTA's website, it seems that they are trying to space stations further apart in the upcoming improvements. They explicitly target a goal of between 4-7 stops per mile, which is still a bit much, but better than before. That translates to about 800-1300 ft interstop. Really should be 1200 ft at a minimum.

When it's more than a 10

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When it's more than a 10 minute walk, particularly in bad weather or for the elderly or infirm, driving appears to be a better option. You also aren't accounting for the cargo factor. No one wants to go shopping and carry a load of heavy bags for more than 10 minutes if they can avoid it.

Ever see those people in

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Ever see those people in those funny chairs with wheels? That may have something to do with things


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You're incorrect. Yes, YOU can walk that mile, however, ADA rules require stops to be closer together. Many people cannot walk that distance. And trust me, we'd ALL love to see less people use The Ride (which is a money pit for the T), closer stops will enable this.

I'd settle for building a real Green Line loop at

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North Station to replace the inadequate "turnback" crossovers they presently use.

Oh wait, that would deprive the T of their principal excuse to terminate most service at Government Center. And we can't have that now, can we?

I'm much rather they spend

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I'm much rather they spend less money to make the existing Commuter Rail lines not suck, by running single-car single-employee self-propelled trains every 15 minutes or less.

Why single car?

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It's really not worth it. The fuel savings aren't that big and then you have the difficulty of juggling sets for high vs low capacity service and whatnot. What you want is single employee, though. That would save a lot of money.

However it's not as simple as buying some DMUs and running them. At least, not on all lines. Some maybe. Others have too much single-tracking that needs to be fixed. Worcester line through Brighton and Newton, for example. All of the Old Colony lines go through a single tracked section parallel to the Red Line -- fixing that is probably going to cost upwards of half a billion, is my guess.

keep dreaming..

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Now that the big dig is done, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to do.

And that the NIMBY's in Cambridge along the Grand Junction line have pretty much squashed that line from becoming active corrodor, thats a done done.

You'd more likely see the Green Line re-extended to Arborway before the North/South Rail Link.

Not impossible

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They went through the trouble of leaving a potential way while constructing the CA/T. It would be very steep though and require electric traction. Between that and Arborway ... that's a tough one to call ;)

As for the Grand Junction, it'll come up again. Just another case of the T spooking the locals with a project that isn't really ready for prime time yet.

Grand Junction is a pipe dream

Unless you can conjure up some money to tunnel the right of way way from the Charles to Somerville it's just not going to happen. The line is very similar to what is now the Minuteman Bikeway - it's a great corridor in an area that could use more service. However, any train going that way has to pass a ton of grade crossings just go a few miles. Also if you ever walk around the area you'll see a ton of trespassers on the line. It's a hazardous route unless you keep the trains at 5mph like they do now. And at those speeds it doesn't make a ton of sense for commuting.

I suppose you might be able to do some kind of busway but you'd have all the same issues and you'd have to figure out how to interchange with the commuter rail.

Not saying it couldn't be done, but it would require a ton of money to make the route safe.

That doesn't make it impossible

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Check out the area south of the San Mateo, CA Caltrain Station. Count the grade crossings in a busy urban area. About a hundred trains a day pass through here. Actually, they do have one issue: it's going to eventually carry CA HSR and will likely require separation for that. The Grand Junction, however, is probably not going to get any traffic faster than 30mph. It does take money to upgrade crossings and fence the right-of-way, but it's certainly doable.

Nice Pipe Dream

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Nice Pipe dream, but as others have said, I'll believe it when they break ground.

What a waste of money the Silver Line has been. Its not even 10 years old and they are already thinking about replacing it with light rail. The T wasted millions on the Silver Line, only to now talk about replacing it with Light Rail.

I'm sure the NIMBY's along washington street in the South End will put a stop to noisy trolleys running up and down washington street. Remember, when the Orange Line was relocated in 1987, the SE was a far different place than it is today. In 1987 it was just coming out of being a ghetto, and now its all overpriced condos and phopho restaurants.

Of course even if they decide to do this.. lets see. It took 15 years to open the Silver Line after the Orange Line EL came down, after it was promised that the EL would be replaced with Rapid Transit. So it'll be at least 2024 before ground breaks on Light Rail.

I hope the T quickly sucks up the old "church of all nations" building that sits on top of the Pleasant Street Incline. Otherwise, this is dead in the water (since its very densely populated there now, as many Tufts Medical Center buildings didnt exisit in 1987)

Waste of money?

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Please see page 10 of the Impact Analysis for the fare increases and service reductions: the Sliver Line requires less subsidy than any bus route and actually generates net revenue (negative subsidy) per passenger between Dudley and DTX and between South Station and Logan Airport.


In 1987 it was just coming out of being a ghetto, and now its all overpriced condos and phopho restaurants.

Suggesting that the private sector really laid some serious money down after the MBTA built the service. The same is happening in Seaport.

So the MBTA makes money on each trip and it has stimulated new jobs and housing. How was it a waste of money, exactly?

...said the person with

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...said the person with access to trains and subways.

I have access to trains and

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I have access to trains and subways via the bus I take to get to them. I wish my local bus ran has frequently as the Silver Line, but I can't afford the South End.