Allston commuter-rail station put on a siding to nowheresville

Ari Ofsevit reports that at a meeting yesterday, MassDOT planners said the proposed West Station on the Worcester Line has been put off to 2040, which is to say, put off to never.

The station, announced with great fanfare in 2014, was to be built in the old Allston Yards train yard that Harvard bought so it could one day build a new neighborhood. At the time, officials estimated the cost at $60 million and talked of the possibility of running a train up to Kendall Square over the Grand Junction train bridge over the Charles - which the state had bought from CSX to run some Worcester Line trains to North Station, something that is also never happening.

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Don't say Urban Ring

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Anything resembling the Urban Ring will never be allowed to happen.

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SLG

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SLG is a partial arc of the Urban Ring... they even reference it in the original RFP.

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WTF is SLG?

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I read your post as Slugging Percentage is a partial arc of the Urban Ring. Please correct my interpretation.

Unless this has to do with baseball after all.

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Hold On

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Is the Mass Pike realignment that was tied into this [so much so I don't see the point unless both can be done at once] still going ahead?

In any case the timing of such seems almost like cause and effect with BU's dickheaded demand that only BU can use the side streets off Comm Ave. Apparently not content enough with having ruined and killed Kenmore...

And what does BU's eviler twin, Harvard, have to say about this?
They're sitting on some truly useless land unless this station gets built because it's in a transit dead zone. And no, the 66 doesn't count since it runs seemingly only once every three hours and only moves at a speed below that of an old lady with a walker.

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"transit dead zone"

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It's not a "transit dead zone" because Harvard has its own shuttle system that already has a route through the Business School and will obviously be extended to the SEAS campus. Harvard is not concerned about new transit stops never being realized.

And I think you mean the 64 bus that runs ever 3 hours, not the 66.

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66 bus?

I commute on the 66, and while it's a jam-packed PITA, it does generally run pretty frequently. Even the sparse Sunday service (when I was in my teens & 20s it was every 40 minutes) has improved to something like every 15-20 minutes.

Are you sure you're not thinking of the 64, which genuinely does only run hourly at off-peak times and weekends?

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Hyperbole

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The 66, like other notorious bus lines such as the 1 or 39, due to high ridership and poor traffic systems, bunches up so often 2 or 3 come back to back followed by large gaps in service. Thus the even more exaggerated description of the service.

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When MassDOT indicates a bid letting date

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(known as advertising in MassDOT speak) of 2040 or 2050, it normally means that funding hasn't yet been allocated for that particular project and the date is used as a "marker". However, it's usually a safe bet that work is likely underway on at least the preliminary studies, if not the conceptual design work.

Plus, as others have noted, there's still the option of incorporating West Station into the Allston interchange re-do. AFAIK, no firm decision has been made either way, which would also explain the date.

Either way, IMO it was a questionable move to announce a date of 2040 at a public hearing.

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That's a misuse of numbers.

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That's a misuse of numbers.

Don't say 2040 unless you mean 2040. If you want to say the project is on hold or the date is unknown, just say so.

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Or just cancelled

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Or just cancelled completely to free up funds for the Green Line Extension.

Lets do the math.

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Drivers get:
-$1,000,000,000.00 to straighten a tiny section of highway

Responsible people who use public transportation get:
-Nothing

Drivers are bankrupting this city, state, country and planet.

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Meanwhile

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Over in the reality-based community, GM announced a ride-hailing service with fleet of autonomous Chevy Bolts coming in 2019, and Waymo is riding around Arizona in Chrysler Pacificas right now. It's happening.

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So let's allow the bridge just east of the

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Allston Brighton interchange, which is in poor condition, to continue to decay and eventually collapse.

As the bridge needs to be replaced anyway, common sense dictates you also eliminate the curves in the roadway, which were built only because of the rail yard and to accommodate the toll plaza, both of which are now gone.

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Another epic failure by Brownsberger

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Or should I say, the Brown-noser. He thought he could just kiss Stephanie's Pollack behind and things would be dandy for him. Big mistake. West Station has been cut, oh I mean "postponed", to free up money for the GLX

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Brownsberger blew it, yes

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Brownsberger blogged about West Station in a section called "A Transit Disappointment" and blamed everyone except himself. His Pollack butt-kissing didn't work. We need new leadership in Allston

InnerBelt

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Y'all are missing the bigger picture here.
This is the transit equivalent of the 1950s-1960s Inner Belt Highway scheme.
No matter how you slice it,the only ffolkes who benefit from this are the obviously politically connected contractors and The World Greatest University.
If you need cash for this scheme,beggar the endowment rich education industry,not the handful of taxpayers left in the state...

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'Handful of taxpayers'

Please spare me. MA has a pretty robust middle class that pays plenty of taxes along with the rich folks of the 128 suburbs.

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That university already

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That university already agreed to put up 1/3 of the cost of the station. As did the other university next to the station. So, 2/3 of the cost are already covered by those universities...

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You mean they agreed to pay 2

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You mean they agreed to pay 2/3 of the cost of the station that is'nt being built so now they are conveniently off the hook ?

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I'm probably in the minority

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I'm probably in the minority here, but to this I say good! It was a silly idea anyway. Less than a mile from Boston Landing, only accessible via inevitably congested overpasses over the Turnpike. Not a good idea. The MassPike corridor needs better transit service, but that shouldn't be coming in the form of adding stops to already crowded commuter trains coming from Worcester.

Also, Adam, the point of the state buying the Grand Junction wasn't to run Worcester trains to North Station, it was because the Grand Junction is the only link between the two halves of the commuter rail system, and is used pretty much daily by Keolis and Amtrak to shuffle equipment around. Running Worcester trains to North Station was one poorly conceived idea that quickly died under a mountain of reasons why it was impractical.

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Let's take a macro view

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Without getting into the nitty-gritty (the devil lives there you know), with all the transportation infrastructure that runs through that corridor, it's short-sighted to not include something that services this new neighborhood and the surrounding area. If they are going to blow up everything and then put things back together, now is the time to make things the way we want them to be.

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running trains to North Station was absolutely the point

"The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has big plans for the Commonwealth over the next five years, including shortening commutes, bolstering the community, and adding specialized trains to the “Indigo Line,” which ideally, one day, would make stops in Allston, Cambridge, and stretch all the way to the North Shore."

https://imgur.com/sve8iLJ
http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2014/01/09/massdot-capital-plan-propo...

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Grand Junction

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You're right - the bridge is a critical link between north and south - when it went out, they had to reroute trains that they needed to get from one side of the system to the other via tracks out near 495.

But the Patrick administration (specifically, the then lieutenant governor, who was from Worcester) made a really big deal about how the purchase would let the state ease some of the pressure on South Station by diverting some Worcester Line trains to North Station. Then Cambridge got all harrumphy about having commuter-rail trains going through the grade crossings on the Cambridge stretch (imagine Mass. Ave. being shut several times a day, especially at rush hour), and that was the end of that.

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Less Cambridge more Tim Toomey

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Here's the requisite Fuck Tim Toomey

Now that that's done with, the Kendall connection is absolutely the point. Some data I can't publicly disclose except in extreme aggregate:

People who work in Kendall Square will take transit if it is more convenient than driving. Attleboro-Mansfield-Canton-Stoughton: 75% take transit. Salem and Beverly: 60%. Acton and Littleton: 60%. Those all have in common pretty decent rail connectivity and pretty lousy driving routes.

From the Metrowest: 20% take transit. 80% drive. Not because driving is a breeze, but because taking the train in to South Station and then squeezing on to the Red Line is such a pain. A shuttle service across the Grand Junction would save Worcester corridor commuters approximately 40 minutes per day. There's little reason not to expect that taking 20 minutes off travel time for Worcester Corridor commuters wouldn't result in similar mode split.

There approximately 2000 commuters from the western corridor to Kendall Square: with continuing development at Kendall, North Point and elsewhere, this will probably swell to closer to 2500 or 3000. Let's say that in 2025 there are 2500 commuters coming in to Cambridge, with a peak of 800 per hour. Right now, 160 of those people take transit, 640 drive. If we could even go to 50-50, we could take 240 cars off of the exit ramps, River Street Bridge, Memorial Drive and the streets of Cambridge at rush hour. And this is a conservative estimate; it doesn't even include people from Allston on the 64 bus or the Green Line making this commute who would use a new transit service. Remember, nearly everyone underestimates how many people use Commuter Rail (one train = a traffic jam three miles long). Let's not try to add more cars to the mix without any strategies to mitigate congestion.

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About Ari's Data that can't be publicly disclosed

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I hope to hell that this is because it is coming out as part of his (et al.) white paper on a regional rail system, which I am anticipating, appropriately enough, with the fervor of a kid awaiting Christmas.

I am hoping that Ari et al. will absolutely pulverize the spurious claims being put forward by MassDOT and its ultimate master about West Station, NSRL, SSX, etc. We need an entirely new transport paradigm around here.

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It would have been nice

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If that argument was made but at that time, none of those arguments were made. It was more like this is what the vice governor wanted s for Worcester so there

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Er, Ari

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More commuters take the Framingham/Worcester Line than take either the Fitchburg or Franklin Lines. It's not like it's an unused service. My guess is that the 80% is for the region, meaning that a lot more people in Metro West probably work in Metro West and drive to work. Of course, if your data is purely for Kendall, I still stand by my note that more the Framingham Line is well used.

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The problem with that is that

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The problem with that is that they already did a study on sending additional Worcester Line frequencies over the Grand Junction to Kendall and North Station a decade ago, and it only showed substantial demand spikes during rush-hour specific to the times of days Red and Orange were most FUBAR'ed under load and the subway averaged considerable additional average travel time to those destinations. Off-peak there was very little unique demand for that routing distinct from a no-build alternative where regularly routed Worcester headways were growth-scaled more stiffly to Back Bay and South Station and worked the Red/Orange transfers during faster non-FUBAR times. The Grand Junction's tippy-top best travel times in an upgrade scenario were too inherently slow through the sharp MIT curves + grade crossing clusters and North Station terminal district to bum more than a few minutes' advantage vs. Back Bay/SS transfers during times of day when the subway was well-functioning. Far, far less than that 20-40 min. figure. Dilution of headways inbound of West Station by splitting service to Kendall-NS apart from Yawkey-BBY-SS ended up nullifying the ridership gains of the North Station one-seat by depriving the South Station flank of add'l frequencies it had equal-or-better demand for.

Now, the projected undercount on 'true' CR demand should blunt that effect to considerable degree...but you have to have gotten very far along with many other frequency-increasing initiatives on the main Worcester Line spine to hit a convergence point where the tables flip in favor of a one-seat service fork @ West Station being a next-highest leverage move. We've got a long, long way to go at buttering MetroWest's bread before that goes anywhere near the top of the priority pile.

The screamingly obvious conclusion from that prior study is FIX THE @#$% SUBWAY so it bloody fricking functions under load and strengthen the main Worcester-SS spine with urban rail frequencies + better service layering, and the demand question to Kendall/NS gets answered sooner and more robustly on a two-seat trip along stronger spines than by chasing one-seats on the headway-diluting fork. A 40-minute daily difference only projects as an end result if one's projections permanently consign Red and Orange to the seventh circle of non-functioning hell under load forever and ever. Our region's long-term mobility problems are waaaaaaaaay more dire and fatal to sustained growth/health than just troubleshooting MetroWest's commute options if +40 mins. a day is going to be downtown's assumed end fate.

Additionally, when Gov. Patrick proposed putting the Grand Junction on his 2024 "Indigo Lines" map (a.k.a. naked blowjob to the Olympic Committee never seriously intended for action) there wasn't so much as an attempt at reconciling whether meaningful urban rail baseline frequencies were even possible on that branch, regardless of use of more nimble DMU/EMU vehicles or hopes that draconian FRA regs would be relaxed to first-world standards. The physical speed restrictions and the steeply negative disruptions to shared road traffic at the Mass Ave. and Broadway crossings ID'd in the Worcester-North Station study were just that problematic. It wasn't clear that bi-directional frequencies could've met the "Indigo"-brand standard of all the rest of the urban rail lines on Patrick's map without disclosing what ops reform would've closed the gap around the line's throughput constraints (easily possible, but they didn't attempt any explanation whatsoever so it remains an open question). But the impacts to car, Yellow Line bus, campus shuttle, bike, and pedestrian users at the crossings would've been very severe projected up to higher-than-conventional-Purple Line frequencies. The #1 and CT1 buses together in isolation carry >50% of the daily ridership of all of northside commuter rail, so it's a not-at-all trivial balance to square road delay impacts of train service at the crossings sharply increased from that Worcester-NS study's baseline and somehow neutralize all above-and-beyond downsides.

The reason that right of way works so much better on the Urban Ring proposal rather than as "Indigo"/urban-rail RR is that by expunging it from the common carrier RR network and running trolleys or buses on it you can direct-share road traffic signal phases at the crossings on equal footing with all road users and run service levels much closer to the outer physical limits of that very constrained ROW's true geometric margins. That ends up being an especially non-invasive move at Broadway & Main where there are already existing intersection signals to rework at the crossings for innocuously inserting a transit phase. With mainline rail, the RR always has some degree of brute-force dominant priority that can only have so much "Jetsons S***" signal tech thrown at it to reactively recover enough disruption to road queues. And there are maximum allowable RR grades that prevent raising/lowering of the railbed with enough running room to eliminate the Mass Ave./Main/Broadway crossings, whereas buses and trolleys can climb much steeper grades to potentially bridge right over Mass Ave. That's because as a common carrier mode RR has to be able to intermix movements of nimble EMU's, slightly less-nimble DMU's, very much not-nimble locomotive-haul passenger trains, and extremely cumbersome freight trains agnostic to what vehicle is going to be taking up the next schedule slot.

That's not a dunderheaded U.S./FRA thing (though our pants-on-head regs make it exponentially worse than it should be) so much as the devil you know by engaging a common carrier mode. There's only so much leeway to fine-tune for specific users when the mode by its very nature has to accommodate a broad common denominator of traffic types. The UR proposal's outright mode conversion to bus or trolley ends up working way better on the same unmodified ROW and crossings by taking an entirely different and far narrower-purpose common denominator.

The Grand Junction, unfortunately, is always going to be a gimp on the RR mode because of that common carrier lowest-common-denominator and the upper limits that ROW's layout places on coping strategies for the crossings and speeds while on the RR mode. And that's where other transit like the 1/CT1 and the bicyclist/ped users take an inevitable schedule and mobility hit that needs extra-delicate balance. Hardly an impossible quest, but it's a very much not-trivial planning tightrope to walk for executing robust urban rail service through there. And the extra effort required for solving all those complications ends up kicking this GJ urban rail scheme much further down the priority pile than other more straightforwardly plug-and-play initiatives that would help MetroWest, help Kendall & NS employment access, help downtown circulation all the same.

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The really isn’t fair

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When the vice governor proposed this it was basically dropped out of nowhere and seemingly a done deal
And while I think there’s often too much process. In this case there was none.
I wouldn’t call that harrumphy

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Oh. Stopped at the same time

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Oh. Stopped at the same time as the traffic lights are red. For 2 minutes. Sigh.
ROBO-Drivers don't sweat it.

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We should have express,

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We should have express, regional, and local trains running on the Worcester Line.

Until that happens, trains from Worcester to Boston should not be stopping every mile.

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Simple geography

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And they don't stop every mile.

Care to add more platforms at South Station? Then and only then can additional trains be scheduled.

If they have no place to go, they aren't going to block the rails by adding trains.

I cannot think of one stop that is a mile apart from the others except the final Boston Landing (MP 4.7), Yawkey (MP 2.5), Back Bay (MP 1.2), and South Station (MP 0.0.)
So 2.2 miles, 1.3 miles, and 1.2 miles.

I'll grant the last two stops with the most passengers boarding and alighting at those stations are a mile apart. Because, like... workplaces and fecal matter like that.

Big effing whoop.
Leave the truthful hyperbole to the POTUS.

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Yes, and West Station would

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Yes, and West Station would fall in the middle of that 2.2 mile gap.

How many trains per hour can a stub-end terminal handle, if it is managed properly? Look to Europe or Japan. And emulate subway technology and practices, as much as possible within federal railroad regulations.

Other than Yawkey, Back Bay,

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Other than Yawkey, Back Bay, and South Station which are over (just) a mile apart from each other,, the Newton stops are about a mile apart.

But these are often bypassed or flag stops.

If the Weston stop goes in because 128 and parking would add ridership, it might be under 1 mile to Auburndale.

Hell, the Mass Puke (Pike?) Made the B&A narrow their RoW to two tracks instead four. The extra tracks helped expresses to run more often.

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OK.

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OK.
The Wellesley stops are close together, but they don't have much other public transportation as do the Villages of Newton. Hence, fewer
expresses. Which stops do.you propose to eliminate?

Wellesley Hills and West Newton?
Both are in residential areas near commercial/business centers.
If you want point-to-point speed, ride a motorcycle.

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None of the stops need

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None of the stops need eliminating. What the Worcester Line most needs is service layering so there are distinct inside-128, to-Framingham, and to-Worcester schedules with differentiated stop spacing to keep service frequent and travel times tolerable for each distinct audience. If the line had its woeful state-of-repair rolled back it would indeed have the capacity to juggle a broad spectrum of blended services running in-tandem.

Primary constraints:

  • PROBLEM: Antiquated signal system inbound of Framingham with artificially slow speed limit, extremely limited train-tracking ability, and extremely limited ability to stage train meets and overtakes. This is the worst single bottleneck, and biggest reason for the line's perennially system-worst On-Time Performance.
    FIX: Install modern signaling like the outer Framingham-Worcester half of the line, and install track crossovers for passes/meets once every 2 stops to juggle service layering (the outer half has exactly that overtake layout, but can't take any advantage of it because the inner half is so f***ed).
  • PROBLEM: The trio of single-platform Newton stops forcing service-limiting "wrong-rail" running in one direction.
    FIX: Full-high platforms facing both tracks. Auburndale: probably 2 side platforms; Newtonville + West Newton: probably center islands.
  • PROBLEM: Woeful station accessibility with 6 consecutive non-ADA stops and no level-boarding platforms between Boston Landing and Worcester harming dwell times at station stops.
    FIX: Raise all platforms from Newtonville to Framingham to full-high, T-regulation 800 ft. (i.e. 9-car max) level-boarding platforms. Raise Back Bay's Worcester platform to full-high. Add the proposed Track 2 platform @ Worcester and extend the short 375 ft. Worcester full-high to a full 800 ft. NOTE: Because of many daily Worcester-Framingham freight trains that can't clear a full-high, Ashland to Grafton platforms all have to stay as-is (lows + ADA mini-highs) until you find money to triple-track those stops with center passing tracks...but that's an extremely LOW priority for traffic management that doesn't need to be on anyone's radar soon because those stops are nowhere near the real problem spots on the line.

Do all ^^that^^ and you can pretty much run unimpeded:

  • a full "Indigo"/urban rail schedule of dense local headways through Allston and Newton to the Riverside track turnout, terminating at a "superstation" across from the Green Line platform. With a brand new infill stop at Newton Corner serving the local bus routes.
  • Worcester locals that shed most/all inside-128 stops except select Boston Landing or Yawkey appearances on schedules that have higher-than-normal demand spikes to those stops...in order to keep uniformly better travel time out to Wellesley and beyond.
  • a much fuller Framingham-turning local schedule that hits a Yawkey/West/Boston Landing pick-'em, skip-stops the Newtons, and hits every local stop beyond Route 128. These would be backfill slots that give MetroWest even all-day frequencies at no worse than 30-45 minutes off-peak, in addition to more rush-hour crowd-swallowers.
  • Worcester expresses and/or super-expresses that run skip-stop everywhere inside of Framingham to keep travel time to Worcester under an hour (e.g. skips Newton, hits only the highest-demand of the Wellesleys and Naticks, then picks up local stops Framingham-and-out). Something much broader and more useful than that one-note "Heart-to-Hub" gimmick.
  • Amtrak Inland Route service running every 90 minutes to Springfield-Hartford-New Haven with in-district stops at Back Bay, Framingham, and Worcester.

All of that is possible if the lineside infrastructure is up-to-snuff and you have the ability to do nimble overtakes at crossovers...like, for example, an outbound Framingham/Worcester train switching rails to hop over a Riverside-turning "Indigo" stopped at Newtonville and hop back in time for the inbound stopped at Auburndale. Or the Worcester express overtaking the Framingham local. Or the Amtrak blowing by everyone. There's a LOT of slack capacity we're not tapping on a near-fully grade separated line that was stupendously overbuilt for its task, simply because the state-of-repair has lapsed more than a half-century behind the times.

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Makes sense

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And why we had to yell at the T to design the Newtons right.

Of course, if you're rebuilding the Wellesleys and Naticks, build them wide enough to put in a third track and leave room for a fourth (since, of course, the original line had four tracks, the ROW is there).

Natick's new funded funded

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Natick's new funded funded station rebuild has indeed been designed for triple-track. It'll have a center island 2-track platform down in the cut, and roadbed re-graded around the platform to allow for an outer passing track to get slapped down whenever necessary.

Inside-128 you're physically pinned to 2 tracks by the Pike everywhere except for the West-to-Boston Landing passing track through Beacon Park, but that layout is fully adequate for serving up the complete layer cake of services if all those state-of-repair items are addressed. And if inside-128 can handle the full layer cake, you really don't need to overthink tri-track elsewhere because the "Indigo"/Riverside trains will have dropped out of the mix before the Charles River. It's unlikely that future track capacity will ever be a concern that needs to be baked into the ADA redesigns of the 3 Wellesleys or West Natick, so space doesn't need to be provisioned in those station mods unless it prices out totally cost-neutral.

What you'd eventually be looking at for serving the full-blown layer cake is a likely 1+ mi. length of triple-track starting at Riverside Jct. where the "Indigo" trains turn out ending near the foot of Wellesley Farms station, used to traffic-sort around the entering/exiting "Indigo" trains and blow the Amtrak and Worcester express trains past the locals at 128. From there the Natick passer would span the midpoint to Framingham, and you can mod the Framingham outbound platform into a 2-track island to drop a third station track there because most every remaining schedule will end up making a station stop at Framingham.

That's pretty much it. Ashland to Grafton only need passing tracks as a prerequisite for constructing full-high platforms that the wide-turning freight trains can get around, not as a traffic management move because the Framingham short-turns will have dropped off the schedule by this point. Except for Southborough which needs some widening surgery on a street overpass, all 4 of those stops were designed 15+ years ago to have their platforms shifted back a few feet to allow for non-invasive installation of center passing tracks. Fund accordingly after everything Framingham-inbound and at Worcester Union Station has been fully settled up.

If I'm understanding the

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If I'm understanding the cover map, this new "neighborhood" will have to endure all traffic to and from the Pike on its local streets.

That's way worse than the (pretty bad) setup we have now with direct ramps to/from Cambridge Street in both directions, and a direct onramp from Soldiers Field Road eastbound.

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