New MBTA coach

A.P. Blake got a close-up look at one of the four new commuter-rail coaches that went into service yesterday. The MBTA is hoping a few dozen more of the delayed two-level cars will arrive later this year and be put into service by year's end, helping it increase commuter-rail capacity.



Free tagging: 


Its Great But...

I love the new cars and all, and I see first hand quite frequently how badly these are needed.

But is anyone thinking about how we're funneling more people into our terminals without the urban capacity increase to back it up? Red-Blue Connector, increased Red and Orange headways (including reliable and higher-capacity rolling stock), and a whole list of improvements.

When the North Station side of the systems eventually has a majority of double deckers making up its equipment, we'll have a 50% increase in commuter rail capacity. North Station can't handle that. Orange Line trains are already coming in packed (sometimes after just Malden, only two stops into the route!) to the gills. Not to mention, pretty soon we'll have crammed Green Line trains coming in from Somerville. This commuter rail increase, coupled with the GLX, spells disaster for downtown transfers without a Red-Blue connector.

The Red-Blue's importance is constantly underplayed. I'd also recommend extending the B Line to North Station. North Station can handle both B and C turns at once.

So... uhm, yeah...

They are

The GLX implies ~50% more capacity through North Station: "C", "D" and "E" will stop there. Plus new vehicles. I don't think they're planning to order enough to extend the "B" line and anyway, I don't believe that North Station can handle turning back two branches at rush hour. It's better that they don't: it'll make schedule adjustments easier if they all have separate termini.

Orange can handle better headways, it just needs new cars. See Gov's transportation plan.

Red needs more work than that, but, the big advantage South Station has is that a large portion of the riders simply walk to their destination.


The only new "capacity" would be provided by the D extension. However, capacity is lost with the extension of E even further. And capacity is lost with the D extension because it's picking up a majority of the new ridership.


I once asked a conductor which train I was about to board at Ruggles (during the 6 p.m. rush when a Franklin, Providence and Needham come in). He turned to me and yelled, "I CAN ONLY YELL SO MUCH."

MAYBE A SIGN ON THE TRAIN SOMEWHERE COULD SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. If the new cars give us nothing else, we'll at least have less-hoarse conductors. Now if we can just fix the Needham gentleman who precedes all his routine station stop announcements with, "may I have your attention please?"

Does the departure board at

Does the departure board at North Station still have the bug on Sunday nights where it shows nonexistent after-midnight trains which only run on weekdays, because the software doesn't realize that 12:10 AM on Monday is part of Sunday as far as the T is concerned?


It's too bad that we're

It's too bad that we're locking ourselves into several more decades of the existing inefficient operating model.

Big loco-hauled trains are slow, use a lot of fuel, and take a lot of employees. So they can only be operated infrequently off-peak, which makes the commuter rail rather useless for most purposes.

not completely

Rich Davey is all hot for Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) which would allow for more T like service on commuter rail lines (no wise-ass comments, youze). The "Indigo Line" (Fairmont Line) would be the trial for this and it's seen as the way to extend the Blue Line to Lynn without actually extending the Blue Line to Lynn. There'll just be a couple of DMUs running back and forth to Lynn to provide something closer to (but not quite) actual Blue Line service extending out there at a fraction of the cost.

If it works well I would imagine they'd be trying this out for more and more locales along the commuter lines (semi-regular service up to Wakefield?).

But aside from a limited trial on Fairmont I wouldn't see this happening before they finally find the capital for new Red Line cars in a couple or five years...

That's great! But how close

That's great! But how close to reality is this proposal?

And how about EMUs on the Providence line? In most first-world countries, the only obstacle to running electric trains on busy passenger routes is the cost to put up the wires.

No DMU for you

Unfortunately, there are no DMU manufacturers left in the USA. The last, Colorado RailCar, did poorly, was purchased, and the new owner ceased operations. Only 2 trainsets that they ever built are in operation in Florida someplace.

DMUs would be great but the power units have to be serviced on a locomotive and coach schedule combined.

As of now the MBTA has no place to shop and service such units. They are running the push-pull diesels because they have a fleet committed to that and can interchange parts.

The only nearby company that manufactures DMUs now is Bombardier (Canada) and they would have to open a plant here to do final assembly to meet the "Buy America" act requirements.

I note that no DMU manufacturers are beating down the doors to get here. And that is sad. DMU's make up a lot of Europe's fleets and it runs very well.

In fact, see what France is doing. This is a video from 2007 showing the Bombardier AGC series.


Don't need the overstaffing

That's just antiquated American-style commuter fail operations.

On a line with all high-level platforms the doors can be operated automatically. Could easily cut the staff down to one engineer, one conductor (or no conductor) and roving inspectors.

High level platforms

You're aware that most commuter rail stations are ground level platforms, right? I guess if what you are saying is that they could reduce the staff if they built all high level platforms, and bought coaches that have automatic doors I'd agree with that. Of course, you can really do anything with an infinite amount of imaginary money....


But over time, as money comes around, that will change. Already, all the Old Colony lines are fully high platform. The new Fairmount stations got high level platforms. Amtrak has an interest in seeing the Providence line get high level stations to cut dwell times on the commuter trains it has to mingle with. The same may eventually happen to the Worcester line, particularly on the inner half which desperately needs rebuilding anyway, and could do with more frequent service.