Long fabled Urban Ring bus route to remain a myth

$2.8-billion project cut from state wish list, Wicked Local Cambridge reports.

Also gone forever: The long-fabled Blue Line extension to Lynn, our own Arborway reports.

On the plus side: The Silver Line is still going to become an even longer bus route.

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    Smart transit planning

    By on

    Smart transit planning BAD

    Bus boondoggles that destroy perfectly good existing infrastructure that was designed light rail and could be reactivated for less than a quarter of running more crummy buses GOOD

    Anyone else think someone needs to be fired? Preferably out of a cannon into the harbor?

    Route 28X

    By on

    Everything else got cut.

    Sadly it's just going to be standard 60' diesel buses which means the fleet won't be out when the roads are slippery, and will go to the scrap heap every 10 - 12 years. Spending money on electric trolley buses that would solve those problems and some others, but the T hates them.

    There are only five U.S

    By on

    There are only five U.S transit operators that even have trackless trolleys (also called electric trolley buses): the MBTA, Philadelphia, Dayton OH, San Francisco, and Seattle.
    There are none in New York, Chicago, Washington, L.A, Portland, etc,etc. To say the MBTA "hates them" when they are one of only a handfull of transit agencies in the U.S. that even have them period seems pretty harsh. The MBTA did like trackless trolleys well enogh to build a tunnel for them from South Station to the South Boston Waterfront.

    Diesel and CNG buses are considered depreciated after 12 years, but usually last 15 years. Trackless trolleys can last up to 30 years, twice as long, but since they cost over three times as much each as a diesel bus, its not a savings. And that doesn't even consider the cost of installing the overhead and the electrical substations etc. And those overhead wires have to be kept clear of ice and snow in the winter. Plus you would need to build a new maintenance facility along the route, since trackless trolleys just can't take short cuts to a large garage nowhere near a route like diesel or CNG buses can.

    ETBs

    By on

    There are only five U.S transit operators that even have trackless trolleys (also called electric trolley buses): the MBTA, Philadelphia, Dayton OH, San Francisco, and Seattle.
    There are none in New York, Chicago, Washington, L.A, Portland, etc,etc. To say the MBTA "hates them" when they are one of only a handfull of transit agencies in the U.S. that even have them period seems pretty harsh.

    Word is the T has been trying to get rid of the trackless lines for years, but Cambridge is not having any of it. Trackless trolleys were proposed for the Washington St. branch of the Silver Line, but community activists asked for light rail instead. The T responded by saying the corridor would get neither.

    The MBTA did like trackless trolleys well enogh to build a tunnel for them from South Station to the South Boston Waterfront.

    That's because tunnel ventilation became a hell of a lot easier.

    Diesel and CNG buses are considered depreciated after 12 years, but usually last 15 years. Trackless trolleys can last up to 30 years, twice as long, but since they cost over three times as much each as a diesel bus, its not a savings.

    A new 60' diesel or CNG bus will run you around $950,000. You're telling me New Flyer is going to ask the MBTA for about $3,0000,000 for a single 60' ETB? Really? I know the special dual-mode electric / diesel units the T ordered from Neoplan were neither cheap, nor easy to engineer and may have been the final nail in the company's coffin, but even they didn't cost nearly that much.

    And that doesn't even consider the cost of installing the overhead and the electrical substations etc. And those overhead wires have to be kept clear of ice and snow in the winter.

    True, but the operational costs of ETBs are lower than that of diesel buses. And then throw in the nearly tripled lifespan and reduced need for a 40' bus backup fleet sitting on standby in case winter happens.

    The icing issue is dealt with by having one bus drive the line at night after hours when it's sleeting or something. Similar de-icing procedures are practiced on the T's electrified rapid transit rail lines.

    Plus you would need to build a new maintenance facility along the route, since trackless trolleys just can't take short cuts to a large garage nowhere near a route like diesel or CNG buses can.

    Well you would need to build a new maintenance facility anyway because last I heard Southampton didn't have much in the way of room for additional 60' buses period.

    "Word is the T has been

    By on

    "Word is the T has been trying to get rid of the trackless lines for years, but Cambridge is not having any of it."

    They talked about getting rid of them in the 1960s. They bought a new fleet in the 1976, and when those needed to be replaced they bought a new fleet in 2003. I never heard any talk about replacing the 1976 fleet with diesel buses.

    "Trackless trolleys were proposed for the Washington St. branch of the Silver Line, but community activists asked for light rail instead. The T responded by saying the corridor would get neither. "

    Residents in Chinatown came to public meetings in the late 1980s and complained about the potential for overhead wires being installed in their community. That's not urban legend, that's what went down. When the feds said they would not pay for light rail, Dukakis and Salvucci proposed trackless. When Chinatown squaked about even that, CNG became the replacement.

    "The MBTA did like trackless trolleys well enogh to build a tunnel for them from South Station to the South Boston Waterfront.

    That's because tunnel ventilation became a hell of a lot easier."

    It was never proposed as a diesel or CNG bus tunnel, it was designed as an ETB operation fromn the start. Go find the alternative analysis studies from 1989/90 that first proposed the tunnel.

    "A new 60' diesel or CNG bus will run you around $950,000. You're telling me New Flyer is going to ask the MBTA for about $3,0000,000 for a single 60' ETB? Really? I know the special dual-mode electric / diesel units the T ordered from Neoplan were neither cheap, nor easy to engineer and may have been the final nail in the company's coffin, but even they didn't cost nearly that much. "

    The nail in Neoplan's coffin was that nobody wanted to buy conventional 40'ft diesel buses from them. The dual-mode order kept them alive for another year. Besides the MBTA, only Baltimore and Pittsburgh bought 40'ft diesels from Neoplan, and both agencies had problems with cracked frames on their Neoplans. They opted not to pick up options on their initial orders.Neoplan was counting on those options being picked up.

    A 40-ft diesel goes for about $350,000. The 40-ft Neoplan trackless cost over $1 million in 2003. SEPTA had about the same price differential for the 40-ft trackless they bought from New Flyer.

    "And that doesn't even consider the cost of installing the overhead and the electrical substations etc. And those overhead wires have to be kept clear of ice and snow in the winter.

    True, but the operational costs of ETBs are lower than that of diesel buses."

    Per the 2007 NTD report for the MBTA
    http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/pubs/profiles...

    Trackless cost $186.92 per vehicle revenue hour, diesel and CNG bus cost $122.27 per revenue hour

    "And then throw in the nearly tripled lifespan and reduced need for a 40' bus backup fleet sitting on standby in case winter happens."

    There are 15 year old 1994 RTS buses in service right now, most of the 1986-1986 RTS fleet made it to 18 years, the 1982 Flyer diesel fleet made it to 14 years. Some of the 1966 GMC diesel buses were in service for 29 years. Most of the 1976 Flyer trackless fleet were retired after 27 years in 2003, a small number of reserve units made it to 32 years of service. The 1951 Pullman trackless fleet were retired in 1976 after 25 years of service. Where does this "nearly tripled lifespan" number come from? FTA considers diesel buses depreciated after 12 years and trackless after 24 years.

    And what do you think happens when there is a wire problem? Right here on UH there have been postings about Route 71 and 73 disruptions do to wire problems.

    "The icing issue is dealt with by having one bus drive the line at night after hours when it's sleeting or something. Similar de-icing procedures are practiced on the T's electrified rapid transit rail lines. "

    It used to be dealt with by having trackless run after service hours, however the motor mounts on the Neoplans started cracking from the herky-jerky operation that happens when power cuts in and out under icy wire. So now they have three special diesel buses with dummy trolley poles that must be used to clear the wires

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bradlee119/3414998835/

    "Plus you would need to build a new maintenance facility along the route, since trackless trolleys just can't take short cuts to a large garage nowhere near a route like diesel or CNG buses can.

    Well you would need to build a new maintenance facility anyway because last I heard Southampton didn't have much in the way of room for additional 60' buses period."

    Incorrect, the 25 new artic buses are going to Southampton. They did spend some small bucks to pave some more parking spaces to accomodate them. And it wouldn't take much to make Cabot garage suitable for artics if they wanted to. If you built a trackless line, you would need a new North Cambridge style facility somewhere between Ruggles and Mattapan. Maybe they could build one at Bartlett St.

    Nice work refuting his

    Nice work refuting his rhetoric with facts. But keep in mind, he has a pathological hatred of the MBTA, and refuses to see anything but willful incompetence. You are arguing with the kitchen table.

    Ironically, the 'T could in fact be incompetent, but if trolleys ran on Centre/South street, he probably wouldn't care.

    I don't know if he has a

    By on

    I don't know if he has a pathological hatred of the MBTA, but he does seems to be a real electrophile (or electromaniac?) who has no use for diesel or cng powered buses. I do find it odd how he is such a big advocate of the trackless trolley, yet really has a thing against the Silver Line Waterfront which is a trackless trolley subway! You would think that would be the ultimate trackless trolley installation. Maybe he would like it better if the trackless trolleys didn't have to lug those big diesel generators along for use beyond the wires.

    Old Joe Moakley wanted his courthouse and his waterfront served by a transit tunnel, and by god, he got his tunnel! I don't think he cared if horse-drawn carts ran through it, as long as it was a tunnel!

    "The nail in Neoplan's

    By on

    "The nail in Neoplan's coffin was that nobody wanted to buy conventional 40'ft diesel buses from them. The dual-mode order kept them alive for another year. Besides the MBTA, only Baltimore and Pittsburgh bought 40'ft diesels from Neoplan"

    I must correct that I should have written "low-floor diesels". Neoplan did sell a lot of high-floor diesels in the 80 and 90s, but their low-floor product only found customers in Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and a small number of small operators.Low-floor transit buses are now the industry standard, and the other major bus suppliers (New Flyer, NABI, Gillig, Orion, and Nova) did not have major problems with their low-floor designs like Neoplan did

    "Most of the 1976 Flyer

    By on

    "Most of the 1976 Flyer trackless fleet were retired after 27 years in 2003, a small number of reserve units made it to 32 years of service"

    Another self-correction, most were retired in 2004 and made it to 28 years. Doesn't change my overall point, but I don't want to be accused of shaving a year off of the service life.

    How's the community review going for the 28X?

    By on

    Somebody suggested that the community review for the 28X isn't going so well. Is that true?

    Could it be because the median of Blue Hill Ave from the Zoo down to Mattapan Square was recently rebuilt and because of the disruption caused by NStar's laying down a high voltage line?

    Could it be because the community wants to see if the Massachusetts Bay Third World Transit System is actually capable of running express bus service in the areas where black folk live? With off-the-shelf equipment or with the equipment that it already owns?

    Or, is the state so interested in sucking down capital dollars from the Feds that it has to screw up Blue Hill Avenue one more time by tearing it up, yet again?

    Community Review - not good

    By on

    Based on my conversations with people on that committee - no one wants it.

    They find that the center-road busway, which by the way is where the trolleys ran till 1950, would separate Blue Hill Ave and make it impossible for people to park like they do now and access business and residences.

    The construction would be done in an area that already has one of the highest rates of asthma and lung disease in the city.

    I personally find it interesting that before the announcement of federal stimulus funds for "shovel ready" projects that no one heard about this.

    Let's also understand that this is not being driven by the MBTA, but from the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT).

    The citizen committee has been told that the busses have already been "purchased" by the way - by the EOT. A better wording is "ordered" assuming they were in fact ordered. It would take a couple of years at least for any manufacturer to gear up, and even off the shelf units still take time to build.

    And this is from Mattapan to Ruggles. There is no information whether this might be an extension of the Silver line which DOES NOT go to Ruggles but to Dudley.

    Nope... no one out there wants this thing at all.

    I pointed out on another

    By on

    I pointed out on another forum how the new MBTA maps make it painfully obvious that route 66 is indeed an urban ring. Extend it past harvard to the gree extension and its even more so. Why not just spruce up that route?

    Not gone forever

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    Being cut from the current Regional Transportation Plan does not mean something is gone forever. Listings of projects slated for federal funding must be fiscally constrained (i.e. - the local entity must be reasonable able to think about coming up with there required part of the cost), it is a federal requirement. If you're close to flat broke, you can't pretend that the projects can be listed there anymore. But they can reappear in the future, assuming that transportation is ever funded at reasonable levels in this country and state ever again.

    The 28X is, relative to some of these other things, cheap.

    Ferrets fighting over trackless trolleys: electric vs. hybrid

    I don't want to get between the foaming-at-the-mouth ferrets who will defend to the death electric trackless trolleys vs. diesel buses vs. compressed natural gas vs. tracked trolleys.

    I will say these things. Electric trackless trolleys are very quiet when running, completely silent when dwelling. The CNG buses the T is currently using are very noisy—here comes one now! I can hear the damn thing from five blocks away. Diesel buses are very loud and they stink, even if the exhaust vents at the top of the bus. The ridiculous Silver Line equipment is the worst of both the current CNG buses and the diesels. It seems to me that they are even louder than the standard CNG buses.