City to ask MBTA to re-extend E Line to at least Hyde Square; MBTA says: Yeah, right

Banker & Tradesman reports.



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It's still good news

Even though you are probably right that it won't happen soon, this is the first time that I can recall in 25 years of living in Boston, that the city has decided to push the MBTA on expanding rail service. That's how it begins.

Mumbles is the big reason the

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Mumbles is the big reason the E line was never brought back - he didn't want it and wouldn't cooperate to make it happen. I wouldn't be surprised to see the BRA back out of this idea pretty quickly.

The resumption of service the rest of the way down South Huntington should be pretty cheap to do. But the T is the same agency that hasn't been able to get its act together to put in the new bus shelters and sidewalk platforms for the 39 bus that have been promised for years...

We need a major rail investment

Maybe it should be like this:

Hey MBTA, we (as in cities and towns) will give you all the support you need in overcoming your budget issues and more, if you provide the service the region needs to thrive. Furthermore, the strings attached include a Blue Line extension, E Train service extension, and expanded commuter rail service hours.

I'm willing to pay for it with my share of taxes if we actually receive the services we want in return. I'd like it guaranteed. Otherwise, no money!

Where's "elinetoarborway" when you need him?

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or her?

I could see running the line down to South Huntington (it's wide enough), then loop on Centre Street to Perkins Street. It's not that far, but it would open up that area for more development. I couldn't see the operational side being anything more than one trolley set (2 cars tops) and drivers to match.

And then where does it go?

Perkins Street barely fits a car in each direction as it is. Do you ditch the parking on the south side or make it one-way? And Hyde Square Circle would have to be redesigned with lights in every direction.

Perkins Street shortcoming helps the cause

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Since Perkins is so narrow, there is no parking to take. It's so short that you don't need a stop on it to have good service. The big issue to me would be the turn back to South Huntington.

Hyde Square could handle the trolleys as well as it handles cars, trucks, and buses. I'm assuming that the BRA is looking to work on the area, so they could work that out. The turn from South Huntington to Centre- that's the problem with the plan.

Still, that would fill a gap in JP transit.

You make a good point

The parking is on the eastbound side only. If the trolley is on the westbound side, it could use the whole lane and that would actually make Perkins a good place for a stop. The tough part then would be the corner at the end.

I think the best solution

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I think the best solution would be to ditch the parking on the entire length of the the E line between Brigham Cir. and wherever it goes (ideally Arborway) so that a proper reservation could be built, like the B line has on Comm. Av. Better still, put the tracks alongside the sidewalks, rather than in the middle of the road, so that the sidewalks can double as platforms.

The lost parking can be made up for partly by the existence of the trolley (less need to park) and by putting in a well-signed municipal lot on each block, as part of whatever new development is done. I.e. an underground lot or parking structure, not a surface lot with no other development on it.

But yeah, Hyde Square is a dumb place to try to turn them around.

They JUST finished

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...tearing up the tracks running down South Huntington and Centre/South Street from where the E line used to run. Why on earth would they turn around and put it back, at ruinous cost, making those streets once more borderline-unusable (by cars and trolleys alike, at rush hour), when the Orange Line is 1/4 mile east and there are three separate major bus lines covering that stretch of road?

Don't get me wrong, I like the precedent being set by the BRA, but this is literally the dumbest place in the city where they could have unveiled their new strategy.

Well there's a zillion better

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Well there's a zillion better things they could do, like a subway and passenger train version of the north south rail link or a subway urban ring, green line extensions south of Boylston, running underground at least as far as Dudley square, or even just opening the damn rear doors at surface stops instead of fucking up their headways and pissing off their riders.

But what the hell, it's something.

I agree

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When it comes to public transportation JP is one of the best served residential neighborhoods in Boston. Throw a bone to the Silver Line extension and screw this trolley crap. It's a 5-10 minute walk from Hyde Sq. to the Orange Line, not to mention the 39 would be great if they didn't schedule the buses like morons.

JP has what it needs, and is frankly spoiled in comparison to other areas. So there.


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They never removed the tracks, they just paved over them. The city has tried to remove them along with the trolley poles, but because the Arborway Line is still on "Temporary Hold" status, they haven't legally been able to. SEPTA in Philly has PCC trolleys running on streets just as narrow and busy as Centre/South Streets are with absolutely no issues, and the only thing that ran from Heath St. to Arborway Station(Forest Hills), were the smaller antique PCC trolleys that continue to run on the Mattapan Line, so the excuse that Centre/South St. is too small is debunked.

Here's what happened, Menino's big donors from Wellesley and Newton, (The same slumlords who paid him to do away with rent control to force the families who lived there for generations out) didn't want service to return to Centre/South Streets so Menino fought tooth and nail against the trolleys coming back into service and turned his back on those that truly depended on it in favor of the yups who were moving into the area.

An urban tragedy

It is a tragedy the line was shortened in the first place, without any public comment, if I remember correctly. Seeing the rails paved over was so sad.

Restoring to Centre Street / Hyde Square would be awesome.

Oh, but we'll have new rail to Somerville and Medford. Yippee f-ing yay.

Bit of info on the recent past of the E Line:

Tell me more ...

I thought they cut the service, then the lawsuits came, no?

Better to ask forgiveness than permission.

I think the Orange Line is far enough away to warrant the Green Line extension. Times I've been on the 39, it's always packed. If there's a way to ad more buses (really, and not just empty promises), then fine. But the goal of a trolley is different from a bus. Like, you wouldn't take a bus all the way from BC, right? The trolley is for longer distances than a bus, I think.

There's a right of way to BC

There's a right of way to BC - which is the whole point. They're not running streetcars unless they're on a separate right of way, and not sharing the street with motor vehicles. Buses are more flexible on streets, and can be swapped off to other routes any time. A streetcar cannot be pulled off the E Line and be sent to run from Mattapan square to Forest Hills.

The only advantage to streetcars on the Arborway line was the single seat trip downtown. That was a real advantage, but people in Roslindale and Hyde Park and West Roxbury and Mattapan don't have single seat rides to downtown either.

A streetcar cannot be pulled

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A streetcar cannot be pulled off the E Line and be sent to run from Mattapan square to Forest Hills.

They used to. I'd love to see an underground trolley tunnel from Boylston to Dudley Sq., aboveground onto Warren St., then down the length of Blue Hill Av., reconnecting the high speed line with the rest of the trolley network. Plus it would seriously improve service.

New idea

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I think they should get rid of the E line altogether; it's redundant given the realignment of the Orange. Instead, they should turn the trolley right-of-way into a dedicated bus lane, in which there would be (much) more frequent 39 bus service. This would eliminate the problem of trolleys holding up traffic along the sections of Huntington on which the train drives on the roadway, and free up additional trains for the other branches of the green line.

Drawbacks: Prudential and Symphony Hall no longer have dedicated T stops; people on Huntington no longer have a one seat ride downtown (although they could just walk over to the orange for that). Would have to decide whether to preserve current surface route of 39 bus between Copley and Northeastern, or run into the Symphony tunnel using electrified buses (like SL1) and loop somehow between Prudential & Copley.

Just pretend LMA doesn't exist

Then I'll agree with you.

It is quite a hike to the Longwood Ave. and Brigham Circle stops from the Orange line. I'm happy to walk a mile - others cannot physically do so.

"E" goes the way of "A"?

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This would eliminate the problem of trolleys holding up traffic along the sections of Huntington on which the train drives on the roadway

The cars hold up the trolley. Let's get rid of the cars.

Honestly, I thought I was right back in the 1960s when I read your paragraph.

It's what happened to the "A" line. It used to have its own reservation, but to "help" traffic on Brighton Ave the reservation was paved and opened up to cars. And within 20 years, the trolley was entirely bustituted in order to "ease traffic."

Let's not do that again.

Not a war on mass transit

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I'm just saying the E line needs to decide whether its a streetcar, or light rail. Having a trolley that stops in the left lane requiring all traffic on the road to stop & let people cross is not the most efficient configuration. I'm simply proposing replacing a train on rails with a trolleybus on wheels that can avoid obstacles, pull over, change lanes, be pulled in and out of service without delaying the entire subway, etc. It wouldn't reflect a degradation of service to passengers, except those who stigmatize buses as inferior to trains. I concede that there are (several) problems with this idea, and I agree that improving mass transit should be a priority with respect to enhancing "convenience" for drivers. However, I think this particular change would improve the transit system with the added side benefit of making things a bit smoother for drivers as well.

False choice

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I'm just saying the E line needs to decide whether its a streetcar, or light rail.

Why? Light rail is just a branding strategy cooked up in the 1970s anyway. If you want you can call them all streetcars and sometimes they run in a subway or in dedicated lanes.

Anyway, trolley stopping in the left lane is done successfully all over the world. I will delegate the explanation of various methods to this article.

I don't have anything against buses. They are another mode with their own trade-offs. They have less capacity than trolleys, and higher operating costs for that capacity. Trolley-buses are nicer than diesel buses because of lowered immediate pollution and noise, and they can climb hills better than anything, but they don't have any capacity improvement. And a whole new garage would have to be established to run them out of JP.

Buses cannot fit in the Boylston Street subway so Huntington Ave would lose that link. I don't think that's particularly fair to the riders. The Heath Street area is fairly densely populated and getting more so. I just can't find a way to see how eliminating the "E" line will help. It's far from perfect now, but it can be improved. Get rid of the "E" and the traffic and parking issues will only get worse as people bring even more cars into the area.

Peter Furth (prof. at Northeastern) had an interesting design which addressed many of these issues on Huntington Ave. Unfortunately I cannot find it online.

Capacity Ceiling

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A 60' articulated bus holds about 100 passengers.

Each Green Line car holds about 200 people.

You can run 3 car trains to move about 600 passengers at a time with 10 minute headways.

The same passenger load can be accommodated by 6 buses. Each will need a minimum headway - let's be generous and say 6 minutes, for a total of 36 minutes to move 600 passengers. This doesn't account for additional passengers arriving over the course of the 36 minute window.

In the 36 minutes it's taken to move 600 passengers by bus, you could have transported 1,800 passengers by rail.

Now imagine you've shut down the E line and are funneling its passenger load into a Turbo Silver Line Phase 300.

You need to take the total ridership of the E line and add it to the #39 as I assume you're not planning to run two parallel bus lines. That's a lot of people on a lot of buses.

Even with just the E line traffic, you're going to end up with a conga line of buses bunched up together and riding each other's bumpers at 5 mph from Centre St all the way to Northeastern. Waiting for the next Green Line train sucks, but waiting for the 7th Silver Line bus would be much worse. Hope you're planning on removing all cross streets and traffic lights. Even signal priority isn't going to make that work.

Oh, and the entire bus fleet would have an expected lifespan of approximately 12-14 years as opposed to 30 for the rail. urban tragedy?

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The West End and Scollay Sq. being demolished was an urban tragedy. JP getting heavy rail with superior service to downtown, while at the same time replacing an outmoded, rickety streetcar (that did have charm, granted) with a high capacity bus was pretty much a godsend.

How anyone in JP can feel shafted in terms of public transportation is beyond me.

My Orange Line druther

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I would rather see the Orange Line get new cars - hair nets and duct tape go only so far in keepting the current eldertrains running.

But save some money and don't install an automated PA system.

Automates announcements are

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Automates announcements are an ADA requirement. A lot of accessibility issues like that drive up the price of new rail vehicles.

I can't fathom how anyone

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I can't fathom how anyone would want to extend the E line. From Brigham Circle, you can walk 5min to Roxbury Crossing and get on the Orange line, or you can just get on the 39. Also, it takes maybe 10min at most to walk from Hyde Square to the Jackson Square, or just about anywhere along Centre to Stony Brook or Green. During rush hour it takes about what seems like hours to get from Brigham Circle to the corner of Huntington & S. Huntington on the 39 or in car.. largely because they are held up by these useless trains clogging up the already tight road and people running to get on them. Lastly, look into an E line car past Brigham Circle, you'll see maybe 5 passengers.

As slow as a bus

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Don't forget that it doesn't get you much improvement in service. As a frequent B-line rider, I can tell you that a streetcar doesn't go any faster than a bus. I don't understand why an E-line extension is worth spending any taxpayer money at all on, unless they're going to spend the big bucks to put it underground.

Well, the trolleys hold a

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Well, the trolleys hold a hell of a lot more people than a bus, so they're more efficient in that respect. (Plus the environmental issues, etc.)

But the main problem with the B line (and the C and E, actually) is that the trolley operators cannot control the traffic lights so that they can press a button to stop cross and turning traffic, and go. The secondary problems are that the B ought to be triple tracked, with expresses inbound in the morning, and outbound in the afternoon and evening, stopping only at Blandford St., BU Central, Packard's Cnr., Harvard Av., Washington St., Chestnut Hill Av., and BC. That and the recent front door policy needs to be revoked; all it does is slow things down and piss people off.

I agree, but

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They'd have to poach lanes of Commonwealth Avenue to do that, and I'm not sure how workable that is.

Also, expressing trains and skipping stops tends to lead to dangerously packed platforms out in Allston. Packard's Corner inbound, Harvard Ave inbound, Griggs St., Allston St., and Chestnut Hill Avenue are no more than 2 feet wide and can't handle big rush-hour crowds without people walking on the tracks or into traffic. It's dangerous.

They'd have to poach lanes of

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They'd have to poach lanes of Commonwealth Avenue to do that, and I'm not sure how workable that is.

Just one lane. It's easy between Blandford St and Packards Corner. In fact there's a section of triple track between Blandford and BU East now. It's trickier after that, due to the desire not to tear out the medians that separate the carraigeway from the main street, but it should not be too difficult.

Also, expressing trains and skipping stops tends to lead to dangerously packed platforms out in Allston. Packard's Corner inbound, Harvard Ave inbound, Griggs St., Allston St., and Chestnut Hill Avenue are no more than 2 feet wide and can't handle big rush-hour crowds without people walking on the tracks or into traffic. It's dangerous.

The reason they do it now is due to them drifting off schedule. Express trains on their own track would help avoid this. Plus, since the express stops would have to use the existing tracks and platforms, there'll be more switches allowing the bypassing of disabled trains, and bigger platforms at those major stations. Not much help for Griggs St. and Allston St., but every little bit helps. Also those platforms do have Jersey barriers, so at least the street traffic is not a worry.

The 39 is what happened to

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The 39 is what happened to the E line. Put the trolleys back and get rid of the then-superfluous 39 and you'll see lots of riders. As for the street, by removing the parking (new underground lots could handle it) installing a trolley reservation, and slaving the traffic lights to the trolley operators, it can work quite well.

True, sort of

but there needs to be room for a crossover track and a place for the trolley to linger while the crew change positions. I don't think you'll get any kind of satisfactory directional reverse in the middle of South Huntington. It's hard enough doing it at Brigham Circle, where there is more space and platforms and such.

Beating a dead horse

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The T should say, nope, it's not going to happen. What a silly idea, Stony Brook is not a far walk and the 39 and 41 bus would still be closeby and probably faster too. The MBTA should keep their focus on the Medford Extension and may be one day a Red/Blue Line Connector. Forget about extending the "E" any further. If the T had their way, they would probably cut back the E line to Brigham Circle!