State to build 'bus rapid transit' from Mattapan to downtown; Common tunnel dead for now

UPDATE: The 28X project is dead.

The state will use $114 million in federal stimulus funds to build enhanced bus corridors along Washington Street and Blue Hill Avenue over the next three years, officials announced at a Dudley Station ceremony today.

Most immediately, Dudley will get a direct Silver Line connection to South Station this fall - which brought exclamations of joy from state Rep. Bryon Rushing, because the plan does not involve a billion-dollar tunnel under the Common.

"The tunnel is dead! The tunnel is dead!" he yelled.

Over the next three years, officials said, the 28 line between Mattapan and Ruggles will be replaced with a series of dedicated bus lanes, traffic signals controlled by approaching buses and other steps to create next-generation bus service.

"They days of highway expansion in the urban core, as epitomized by the Big Dig, are over," state Transportation Secretary James Aloisi said.

Mayor Tom Menino said he hoped the new bus lanes could be shared with bicylists.

Rushing and state Rep. Gloria Fox (Roxbury), both said they appreciated the new investment, but that it really isn't the true rapid transit people along the Washington Street corridor have been asking for since the old el came down.

"I'm all for rapid transit," Rushing said. "I want to have an announcement with you, Mr. Governor, with you, Mr. Mayor, with you, Mr. Secretary, when you can honestly say we have rapid transit on Washington Street."

Fox added the improvements will not do much good if the MBTA follows through on its planning to cut weekend service.

Project overview from the state.

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Comments

No kidding

Hey, MBTA, you want to be unique in this day and age? Try using that stimulus money to pay off your credit card debt. THEN, when you're working from a near-zero debt standing, you can figure out what you might have the money to actually accomplish...LIKE ALL OF THE PROJECTS THAT ARE CURRENTLY UNFINISHED (coughKENMOREcoughCOPLEYcoughARLINGTONcoughcough)!

That's the exact opposite of

That's the exact opposite of what the stimulus is about. The federal government borrows money now and spends it on useful projects to boost employment now to prevent the recession from getting too deep to handle. If the MBTA were to pay off the debt with the money they'd just be shifting their debt from themselves to the Federal government. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea as a long term policy for the Federal Government to bail out the MBTA, but it sure as hell ain't stimulus.

So we've learned nothing, I see

So, in 3 years, the T could be debt free without raising its fares or cutting service (or raising them very little) and any profit it makes could be folded back into new projects that are sorely needed...

OR

It could wildly spend "stimulus" money on crazy ideas that it has to come up with on the spot because they're "shovel ready" and it hasn't had time to carefully study its options and needs or brain-storm new options. Meanwhile, in 3 years, its debt obligations are compounding accrued interest meaning that after the stimulus is gone and it not only doesn't have enough money to pay for today's service level but it's also saddled with NEW service areas and routes that were created with the stimulus money AND its ever-growing debt obligations and fares will have to be raised 300% and some of the VERY service the stimulus bought will have to be curtailed!

Oh. You're right. The second option is the best one.

If by "we," you mean "I"

Then you are correct.

I'm pretty sure the phenomenon of money being given to an agency with explicit instructions for its use has already been explained to you here.

It's not free money. It's not entirely up to the T how to spend the stimulus money. They can't use it to rent a party barge with a bunch of shirtless floozies actresses. They can't use it to install a giant litter-box changer for Revere Beach. They can't use it to pay down debt. They can only use it for the purpose to which it was allocated. They have to spend it, and they have to spend it on construction projects. If they don't spend it, or put it in a rainy day fund, or pay down debt with it, then they have to give it back.

So, trying again... of the actual options for use of this money, do you think this is a good one?

Swing and a miss

I already stated that they could use it on "construction projects" like rebuilding Copley/Arlington/Kenmore or installing the curb cut-outs that are planned in some areas. Basically, anything that already had budget assigned for it could have this money applied to it instead. Then the original budget for that project gets reassigned to debt management. Take an ACTUAL "shovel ready" project that you were about to accomplish before the stimulus money showed up and take the money you had planned for that from your original budget and put it towards your debt instead.

I didn't know if or how much money I might get back from the Feds this year. When i did my taxes, I learned I had overpaid by about $500. I didn't take that $500 and go do a personal "shovel ready" project by buying a new sub-woofer for my living room (even though the old one is dead). I put it into my rent check and moved $500 from my rent check into paying off my credit card. I'll get the subwoofer in the next month or two from money that I didn't have to use to pay my minimum payment on my credit card AND I'll have saved finance charge on the $500 that would have been added over that time period if I had done it all in reverse instead (buy subwoofer, pay rent, pay credit card).

Like I said, I'm hardly the epitome of managing finances but they have guys who can float millions in debt without crashing and burning and you're telling me they're somehow handcuffed when it comes to manipulating this for us to pay down our debt? Gimme a break. Paying the debt off isn't glamorous or headline-making. It's simpler to understand that they'd rather take this money and make a big hoopla around spending it on a brand new "everyone love me!" project that's going to continue to overextend the entire system than fix what they've already broken by any means necessary.

Calvinball

It's not really possible to win an argument against somebody who changes his argument each time he loses a point.

You've been arguing that they should use this money to pay down debt. That is not legal. They cannot do it. The law under which these funds are disbursed (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA) states that these funds may be used only for capital expenses. So you lost that point. Deal and learn.

If you want to imagine that they could use this money to fund something that they would otherwise use other money for, and thereby cause a chain reaction that ends in reallocation of some other money to paying debt, that is a different argument. It's plausible, but it may not really be possible. Public transit financing is a lot more complicated than Kaz's playstation versus bar bill equation.

Perhaps they can find money that would currently be allocated to capital projects that is not legally obligated to be used on capital projects. I'm not privy to the details, and neither are you. But the law also states that the ARRA program funds cannot be used to replace funds already obligated in an existing FTA (Federal Transit Administration) grant, even if those funds have not been expended. It also states that the funds from different grants must be segregated. It's a lot easier to shift money around in your house than it is in the state budget.

Why does it say these things? Because the people who write legislation already thought about 'what if they try to pull a fast one on us?' Glory be, they might even be as clever as Kaz.

Oh, well, my bad then

I hadn't realized that I had to structure all of my thoughts on the topic into a multiple paragraph thesis immediately upon writing my first post. That my initial complaint might have some flaw which could be reasoned through discussion should never have occurred. You're totally right to be incensed at my broad and undetailed precept which I further refined when someone questioned its legitimacy. How could I ever expect reasonable discussion on the topic when I make a complaint and offer a valid justification for its basis by refining the exact method by which the original complaint could still plausibly conform with reality.

</sarcasm>

Look, it's not like I said "Burn down the MBTA offices!" and someone pointed out that other buildings might be affected so I followed up with "well, use magical fire..." or "what I meant was collect just the MBTA *people* and burn them on the Commons in the open..." or "build a giant fire-proof bubble around the offices first..." or "well what I meant by 'burn' was let's prank call them alot...". I didn't move the goal post, I simply defined the playcall necessary to reach it as it was previously set. You may think my idea is intractable and that's up for debate, but I'm hardly playing Calvinball. My goal in this discussion is and has always been reduction of the MBTA debt by way of any new funds that they get their hands on using whatever legal financial maneuvering necessary to accomplish that goal first and foremost...NOT new Silver Line stops.

Dudley Square Orange Line Station

You know, if there really were a Dudley Square Orange Line Station, they wouldn't need the Silver Lie. Has the Herald outsourced its news to Bangalore?

So this is nothing more than Tommy -n- Deval running around town bragging at each individual site that got a piece of the stimulus we already know about? There's no actual change to any project involved? Not so much as a ribbon to cut?

How far away is the election, again?

Today's Orange Line is better placed

If we still had the old Orange Line route, there wouldn't be any station at Back Bay or Ruggles, two crossings that make a lot of transit sense. Instead, the trains would be stopping in far less useful places like Dover and Northampton. And honestly, don't you think Washington St. through JP is a better place without the el rumbling through it 20 hours a day?

I don't disagree

I'm just saying that describing a meeting as happening at the "Dudley Square Orange Line Station," as the Herald did, reveals a pretty stunning lack of local knowledge. The entire reason there is a Silver Lie is because the Orange Line doesn't go there anymore.

Wrong - we would still have

Wrong - we would still have service on both, but the T didn't want to redesign the junction at Chinatown(it's easy enough to do it in hack fix, little harder to do it right(under running the EL outbound rail under the SW Corridor rails)). But it still would have been a million times better than what is there now - Who knows, maybe dudley would be brining in enough fare monies to kill the debt!(yea right)

What a waste.

Hey, MBTA! Here's a tractor trailer full of economic stimulus funds! What would you like to do with it? Upgrade existing infrastructure? Do some much-needed maintenance work, like on those Red Line signals that mess rush hour up? Help the MBCR? Add that real-time tracking system like you've promised? Pay off the debts you say you need to pay off so that all those threatened service cuts won't happen?

...oh. You just want to build bus lanes. For the Silver Line.

Once again, the MBTA gets us vaguely excited about developments and once again they spring the yawn-inducing Silver Line bull on us. That's terrific. That's terrificer than terrific. That's tragic.

I know there are stipulations to the stimulus funds ("shovel-ready" and all that) but honestly. Adding another layer of disappointment to the entire Silver Line debacle? Is that the best use of these funds? Of course not. Not when the entire system is sinking in quality and reliability, and definitely not when the T has been whining about budget shortfalls and proposing cutting service left and right.

I want to know whose pet project the Silver Line was and I want to know how much they're getting from their contractor pals to send business over their way. It's the only reason I can see why the T is stubbornly clinging to this useless plan. Adding this connector isn't going to suddenly justify the Silver Line in its entirety. (And having bikes share the lane with buses? Brilliant! Nothing bad has ever happened when bicyclists go up against MBTA buses.)

The only good thing to come out of it is the South Station-airport link, but even that's a longer trip than it should be, what with the low speed limit in the tunnels and the break in between to convert from tunnel to road use.

I don't understand it. The T gets something which could totally help them out and they put it to this use. Might as well just have a hundred dollar bill bonfire out on City Hall Plaza, cause then at least there'd be heat generated from the blaze.

Transit Stimulus

I think Colin is probably right, because the Phase III Silver Line (connecting the Wash St. run to South Station) is probably the closest T project to "shovel-ready". However, it would not surprise me if this had something to do with that mythical creature - the Urban Ring.

The burying of the Green Line is something I have hoped for since, well, my entire adult life. However I am certain that it is not in the cards because it would have been easiest to do that on the C branch in connection with the Beacon St. reconstruction in Brookline. Then again, since the MWRA is now digging up portions of the newly reconstructed Beacon St. as part of the CSO elimination project, maybe construction coordination, or lack thereof, does not indicate anything.

One thing I do know: if we are going to build any more tunnels around here, we should bring in the Austrians. I have never seen so many (long!) tunnels over such a short space. Imagine the O'Neill Tunnel being 7x as long with red LED lighting marking the sides of the road, white LEDs for the lane divisions and clearly marked evacuation routes that tell you how far it is to the two portals of the tunnel! Seemingly simple, but I was impressed.

it would definitly set us apart...

..if the money is used to keep the silver bus a bus. It would set us apart because it is a radically stupid idea. A tunnel is already downtown (you can see it across from the green line tracks at Boylston) that is already wide enough for light rail if the silver bus were to be changed into a rail line.

If the state decides to link the 2 and keep them buses (painted silver, although that make them faster) the tunnel would have to be expanded. Why waste the money when making it light rail costs less, is cleaner, and can carry more people).

When people visit Boston, and take the silver bus from the airport, is that really the image Menino and the state want to give, that the T marks buses the same as rail?

More details

This was just posted on the EOT web page:

Fed Stimulus Transforms Boston Bus Rapid Transit

Governor Deval Patrick today announced federal stimulus funds will improve Boston bus service along New England’s busiest bus corridor and in neighborhoods currently unserved by rapid transit. Mayor Thomas Menino and Transportation Secretary James Aloisi joined the Governor for the announcement.

The bus rapid transit project will first provide a direct Silver Line connection from Dudley Station to South Station in Boston this fall, including dedicated bus lanes on Essex Street and a new, state-of-the-art street-level terminal at South Station.

Next, the project will replace by 2012 an existing heavily-used bus route from Mattapan to Ruggles Station with rapid transit bus service that will provide faster, more reliable service to Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester. The existing Route 28 bus line will be transformed into first-class bus rapid transit service with dedicated bus lanes and longer diesel-hybrid buses from Mattapan Station on the Red Line to Ruggles Station on the Orange Line with a direct connection to the Silver Line.

The bus rapid transit project total cost is approximately $114 million.

Why I didn't post any photos

Weirdest damn thing: Almost every photo I took (except the one of Menino signing that woman's back) came out awful. For some reason, the camera almost always focused on Gloria Fox, who was standing just behind and to the right of whoever was at the podium, which would be great if I wanted lots of pictures of Fox reacting to whoever was speaking, but instead I wound up with lots of fuzzy photos of Patrick, Menino, Aloisi and Chang-Diaz (and then, as I mentioned, the batteries went, so no photos of Rushing or Rox at the microphones). Maybe her magnetic personality threw off the camera's auto-focus.

Plus, even if they had come out OK, they're basically photos of people you already know standing in front of a podium, so it didn't seem like it was worth the trouble trying to de-fuzz them.

All of which is way more than you probably want to know. ...

I never resist an excuse

Photojournalists spend years learning to get good photos in such situations. But sometimes it's just a person standing at a podium like they have 1000 times before, and you just take a few safety shots and either leave, look for more creative shots that you almost certainly can't use, or you wait for something unusual.

Regarding focus: autofocus is good, but pro bodies let the photog rapidly choose where to put the AF point in the frame. (Or some people map a button to do on-demand autofocus, separate from the shutter release button, and then touch up the focus manually.) If you don't have fast control so that you can change the AF point in a fraction of a second while framing subject, then I'd suggest configuring your camera to force the AF point to the center. None of this face detection or automatic AF point guessing. You can also increase the depth-of-field, so that if you hit the face of any person at the podium, you get all of them in focus, but that will make your exposure longer and restrict what you can do with DOF to highlight the subject.

imagine if Somerville was

imagine if Somerville was offered a bus (painted silver, admittedly) instead of the green line extension. Actually, you dont have to, because when the state dragged their heels and delayed and delayed the somerville extension, their mayor was vocal that it must be light rail, and even had the audacity to say it should be 2 spurs, one into union square. And he, and Somerville, are getting clean, efficient and fast public transit.

Contrast that with SUV loving Menino. He is there for the announcement that the silver bus is staying a bus, and he is quiet. WHY IS HE NOT FIGHTING TO MAKE THIS LIGHT RAIL? Menino pretends to care about clean air and being green, but he is waaaay too car centric for that.

Anyone who takes the T in Boston cannot vote to reelect Menino. Anyone but Menino is fine, but he cannot represent us anymore. Buses are not the future of urban public transportation, especially in cow path Boston.

"Dedicated Bus Lane" is worthless

As the Washington St. corridor has shown, painting "Bus Lane" on the road isn't going to keep cars out of it. It's merely a cheap tool to let politicians say "We painted the road, ergo we have rapid transit now!"

Other cities have managed to keep cars out of them, but I doubt we're going to see that with the Silver Line, Urban Ring or any of the other Barely Rapid Transit projects the T has in store.

Part of the problem with the Washington Street

"dedicated bus lane" is that traffic also uses the lane to make right turns. This isn't because of Boston drivers flaunting traffic rules. Rather, the lane was specifically designed to accommodate both buses and right turning traffic.

And the fact that Menino somehow convinced the T that allowing bikes to use the Silver Lin(e) bus lane is a good idea only clouds matters even more.

Looks to me that they just printed the

diagram wrong, as it appears there will be two bus lanes, one in each direction, at all times. I am concerned, however, about building massive obstacles to errant motorists (i.e. large bus platforms) in the middle of a very busy street.

In other words, most of the limitations of light rail with none of the benefits. And, given these design details, I seriously doubt that such a project is even close to being "shovel ready".

I don't think the

I don't think the contra-flow lane image on Blue Hill is a mistake. Note that the passenger platforms shelters are in the center of the median. Unless they order buses with doors on both sides (which New Flyer does now offer), the buses have to run contra-flow so that the doors could face the island platform.

Easier retrofit

True "Bus Rapid Transit" requires dedicated lanes and in new road layouts, you usually find the BRT lanes curb-separated from the main traffic (basically think "Green B Line with paved lanes instead of rails"). Most of the time the traffic lanes are pushed to one side of the road space and the BRT lanes are both offset to the other side of the road space.

(BRT South)(BRT North) (curb) (Traffic South)(Traffic North)

That takes a substantial amount of work to construct on a road that's already present and in use. Instead, you just repurpose the center lanes for counter-flow bus traffic. The biggest difference is a little bit of lane manipulation at the terminals of the counter-flow portion and the buses will be subject to all cross traffic flow (red lights, etc) whereas the offset bus lanes only have to deal with cross traffic from their same side of the road (i.e. don't have to stop for T-shaped intersections from the opposite side of the road).

So the best part of the

So the best part of the proposed silver line, green line access to the waterfront....is dead?

The boylston street connection is gone, so once again, green line people have to transfer to red to transfer to silver.

And the blue line has to transfer to green to transfer to red to transfer to silver.

There is already a boylston

There is already a boylston st connection. There has been since 1895. It runs basically to the corner to Tremont and Oak St. They just can't fit their stupid buses in it. The green line, or even blue line cars would fit just fine, but that would make sense.

Oh yeah, there was a tunnel that connected park st to south station too (upper level of the red line), but they demolished the part from downtown crossing to south station to fit (you guessed it) the busses.

There is no single transfer

There is no single transfer between the Green or Orange Lines and the South Boston waterfront. Anybody making that trip has to go Green/Red/Silver or Orange/Red/Silver. Green/Silver and Orange/Silver transfers direct to the waterfront area,that's where the biggest ridership for the Phase-III Boylston-South Station tunnel is supposed to come from, not so much the much talked about Dudley-Logan "one-seat ride" market.

A Green Line branch along Washington St. going into the old tunnel to Park St. does nothing to meet that theoretical Green to Waterfront or Orange to Waterfront demand, and a surface bus from Dudley to South Station via Kneeland St. doesn't capture that either. Of course spending a billion+ bucks to elimiante a double-transfer, to improve service to an area (South Boston Waterfront) that will now probably take many years to fully build out might not be the best use of hard to find cash these days either.

park street to south station upper tunnel

The Park Street to Washington Street part is today's Winter Street pedestrian concourse.

The Washington Street to Chauncey Street part is also a pedestrian tunnel, connecting to Jordan Marsh Macy's and Filene's Basement.

The part from there to South Station was cut off by Central Artery construction in the 1950s.

The Tunnel is Dead (And my Constituents are Forever Damned)!

I will say it as plainly as possible:

A bus is a bus is a bus, and it does not matter which color you paint it. (I was going to say that if it has rubber wheels it is no good, but see certain subways in Montreal and Paris.)

Unless public transit operates on an exclusive right of way without interaction of any kind with other traffic, it is not an viable alternative to private automobile transport (this is why the B, C, and E branches of the Green Line are failures as well). There has to be a significant time or cost savings associated with public transit to deter people from driving. Right now, the thing that stops people from driving into downtown Boston is not traffic, but the difficulty and expense associated with parking. That is one reason why transit use in NYC is so much greater than here - because while parking rates are comparable, the time savings associated with transit trips in metro NY, particularly from the suburbs, is far greater than in metro Boston (that's my way of saying cheer up! We have far less traffic than metro NY).

The other big problem is the number of seats associated with a public transit ride (if you ever have the opporunity to talk with Mike Dukakis about this, you're in for a treat). Each transfer increases the time uncertainty associated with the overall trip, which is another thing that pushes people back to cars. In a car you may be in traffic, but you generally know how long it's going to take, and you can take a side road if you have to. This is where Lord Byron really fell down for his constituents. The multi-seat ride will continue indefinitely.

Fairmount Line

The real bummer is the route is a few hundred yards west of a perfectly upgradable commuter rail line that runs, with too few stops and too infrequently, from Readville to South Station.

A rapid transit line from the poorest parts of Boston directly to downtown—how is that a bad idea on any level?

-Cosmo
http://cosmocatalano.com
World's Toughest Writer

Yes!

I have often wondered why there are only 2 stops through Mattapan/Dorchester that are nearly 3 miles apart on this line, despite the population density of this area. Compare this line with the Needham line through West Roxbury and Roslindale that has 4 stops within 1.5 miles. Both are relatively short commuter rail lines that should have equal coverage in dense areas.

Blue Hill Ave needs return of rail transit

Bus Rapid Transit? What utter bilgewater! It is a shame the old MTA ran amok in the 1950's and ripped out so many light rail lines such as Fellsway, Hyde Park Avenue, Blue Hill Ave, etc.
What SANE bike rider wants to share a right of way with "rapid" buses?
Put light rail back on Blue Hill Ave and other places. End this bus idiocy!