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If Green Line Extension is ever actually built, it could be less ambitious than current plans

Boston Magazine reports on a meeting today of the MassDOT and MBTA fiscal control boards at which consultants urged officials to toss the current bid, which has ballooned in cost and seek new bids for a system with smaller stations, a more modest trolley-repair facility and a different track alignment.

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Downsizing the rail cars.

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“Let’s build this thing,” Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said, exhorting the board not to kill the 4.5-mile light-rail project in his city and Medford. “Because if we can’t build this, what can we build?”

“We are not in a position to take cancellation off the table,” transportation secretary Stephanie Pollack said. Cancelling the project, she said, could free up hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on the T’s existing, badly outdated system.''

Whats your choice? Can't always have egg in your beer .

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Are they including the budget for millions in lawyers fees they'll have to spend defending the lawsuits they'll face if they cancel the project?

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And the fact a good chunk of the GLX is federal funds the state would have to return if the project isn't happening? You can't just take earmarked fed money and shrug your shoulders and decide to use it for something else, that's not how it works.

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'' Massachusetts is legally obligated to build the Green Line Extension under a Clean Air Act agreement. But Englander told the board that’s not set in stone. The state could replace the Green Line Extension with another project that offers even more clean-air benefits, he said. Projects have been dropped from the Clean Air Act list before, he added, including the re-extension of the Green-E Line through Jamaica Plain and a connector for the Red and Blue lines. ''

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2015/12/09/green-line-extension-...

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Interesting. I think it would be difficult for the state to turn around and cancel GLX after all the sunk costs already poured in and manage to sell a new project that would meet the requirements for Clean Air Act, though.

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It would be completely impossible for the state to come up with a project with clean air benefits even close to the benefits from the GLX. Well, maybe a *much* more expensive project. The clean air benefits have to be in Somerville and Medford specifically, due to a number of previous lawsuits by those cities....

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Or, at least, put a toll on the central artery to pay for this, as it was SUPPOSED TO BE PART OF THE PROJECT.

Or, maybe JUST GET IT DONE and stop pissing money out.

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They didn't cancel the highway when it went way way way over budget.....

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Or the parking garages that were part of "Environmental Remediation."

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I feel like it would be hard to be less ambitious than the existing plan.

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Well, at least this explains in part the subpar turnout for the public hearing on the draft EIS for NECFuture in the back bay this evening.

Related note -there was a lot of talk about N/S connector at that mtg even though it is not within the scope of that study (commenters made the point that this was a problem in itself).

Everyone should realize that the importance of the glx goes well beyond the 4.5 miles in Somerville and Medford. N/S connector and other projects are going nowhere if the state and T can't get it together to save glx and get it done in a responsible manner. People beyond our Little Outpost on the North Atlantic are watching, and the shadow of the big dig is not yet far enough in the past.

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The person I'm about to quote posts here, too, I believe. But this was just gold:

I mean this is as low-hanging a fruit as it gets for transit expansion - if it was any lower it'd be fucking potato.

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They build the world’s largest rail project for $10 billion on time and budget http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/10/15/switzerland.rail.tunnel.gotth...

Are foreign firms allowed in the bidding process, or is that locked up by political connections / unions?

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Look at Keolis. Bringing in foreign companies/management only does so much when organized labor/regulations dictate what can be done.

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And unions in France are a whole different thing from unions here.

In any case, I think what you meant to say was:

"Look at Keolis. Bringing in foreign companies/management only does so much when ancient equipment and defective new locomotives dictate what can be done."

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Anon makes a fair point. You're right that Keolis walked into a political and organization situation it was woefully under-prepared for - that failing is on them.

But poor relationships with labor have been a hallmark of both commuter rail and rapid transit agencies in this state since the early 20th century. Read one of the post-1918 (when it was taken over by the State) BERy annual reports and you'll find language describing an all-too-familiar situation, to paraphrase "the costs of labor are outpacing the ability of the system to add ridership to cover expenses". MTA reports from the 1950s offer the same tone. As do MBTA reports from the 60s up through today. That may not be a failing of the labor unions, but it is absolutely an input into our inability to connive a functional and constantly-improving transit system in one of the few North American cities where the historical pattern of urban development is most geared towards transit. Wage levels do impact service. That's not a controversial point, that's fact.

Remedying that doesn't have to mean to cutting union benefits (though it'd be fucking amazing if there was public healthcare - that'd cut out a major benefit-expense) or gutting the unions themselves - but it does mean that we need to find other options to arrest costs: which are more often than not going to be service cuts. Anon is right that certain labor regulations at both State and Federal levels drastically reduce the flexibility of a company like Keolis to improve cost-effectiveness: it's only options being fare increases (which hurt ridership) or service decrease (which hurts the regional economy). The CR has newer stock than any rapid transit line, the bilevels' issues are more or less resolved, the latest batch of HSPs is mostly online, Worcester and Fitchburg are done with their track capacity and signal improvement work; we can't lay all the blame for the inability to provide appropriate service on outdated equipment alone.

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Are you high? How does moving public sector employees to a publicly funded health insurance system save the state any money? You're just moving the money around, not changing the amount you spend.

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Administrative costs.

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Messages off with insults if you don't know what you're talking about. Will it still be a government expenditure to provide health care to the people who work for the T? Yes. But it would not be an MBTA expenditure, which is a huge difference.

Accounting on this stuff matters.

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Right, if they brought in foreign bidders, they'd still probably end up using local contractors/employees - members of the same unions. You might have things run more efficiently and less corruptly at the top, but you'd be dealing with the same construction workers, so it'd only solve a portion of the problem.

Keolis is foreign but all the CR employees are the same, unionized people who worked for MBCR. Keolis didn't bring in their own workers with their own work ethic.

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.

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Hundreds (thousands?) of Local 587 employees.

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Most Green Line stops don't have stations, they have platforms. Why build anything more than that? I hope to god they're not budgeting for overbuilt monstrosities like the new Govt Center station. People need trains, not grand pavilions in which to wait for them.

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absolutely.
let's start with a minimum plan: concrete slab platforms and 4.5 miles of track.
i don't even live there, but build this thing already!

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No need to put in elevators, right?

You guys must live in NYC or something like that. I think that you just made it clear why you think this would be okay - you don't live anywhere near here! Let alone in Boston.

People have to get to the platforms from the street, and the railway right of way is in a gulch.

I say we unpave the central artery - no need to get all fancy smancy with a project with those kinds of overruns that isn't even collecting tolls!

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And give them the benefit of the doubt that they thought these platforms were something of street level as they are on the west running b, c, d, and e lines.

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''I say we unpave the central artery - no need to get all fancy smancy with a project with those kinds of overruns that isn't even collecting tolls! ''

Maybe stop the extravagances of the Greenway would be a start.

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Maybe stop the extravagances of the Greenway would be a start.

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And this is yet another reason "we can't have nice things." It costs so much to build things nowadays to all the government regulatory standards that it's simply better to not build them. Want a new train station? Expect to pay untold millions extra to comply with crap like the ADA. So, no new train stations for you.

We're going to have shittle buses from Union Sq. to the Green Line it sounds like.

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Before they can expand , the heart of the matter is South Station. The T has to buy out the Post Office on Dot Ave / South Station and reconfigure .Throw in a side order of Widett for maintenance consolidation , and that doesn't leave any berries for even rolling stock , or a few Taj Mahal stations on the dreaded Southcoast Rail. This is not the trains set you saw at Jordan Marsh, or the one in your cellar , if you had one.

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The new designs will, among other things, allow people to pay before getting on the train (which vastly speeds up boarding), and provide covered bike storage. Also, they house escalators and elevators, which are needed because the train will not be running at street level. Once you've got those requirements, you pretty much need a proper station headhouse.

The proposed designs are not unusually extravagant compared to transit systems around the world. Some of them also include potential revenue-generating rental property that would certainly defray some of the construction costs.

The problems with GLX have nothing to do with its scope or its design, which are both totally reasonable. It would be a terrible shame if we were forced to build something sub-standard because we couldn't figure out how to effectively negotiate a construction contract.

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There's not even a trolley stop here anymore, never mind fancy schmancy staitions on the line, just hot top and a little space ( ie Arborway , Heath Street triangle , Peter Bent Brigham switcheroo) .
IMAGE(https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xtp1/v/t1.0-9/11429088_1065333126827481_1383712185654857756_n.jpg?oh=09b2c427953d0689c2069b8551c77647&oe=572091A2)

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What's interesting is in so many articles about the cost issues, everyone acknowledges the contractor is taking advantage of every loophole and poorly designed rule and essentially milking the state for all it's worth -- but still blaming the MBTA. As though the contractor is a force of nature that can't be expected to do the ethical thing. "Oh of course the contractor is going to take every dollar possible and inflate costs and steal taxpayer's money, OF COURSE, OBVIOUSLY," and it's the MBTA's responsibility to stop it.

Like, yes, the MBTA needed to have written better contracts, because their apparent inability to have competent legal documentation is a little scary on several levels.

But is there really absolutely no expectation that businesses act ethically anymore? Is this really where the country is now, private enterprise is just a wild animal and if you don't chain it up perfectly with contracts it's going to eat everything in the room regardless? And we're just resigned to it. What happened to pride in yourself and your company? What about working together towards a better America?

It's just kind of sad.

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Think back to the trust busting of the 19th century. Andrew Carnegie's use of Pinkerton security guards to kill striking miners. Consider the many disasters that have to occur before the Federal and state governments are willing to require businesses to meet basic safety and health standards. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company, or the slumlords in Boston that are still allowed to not maintain their properties in Boston are two goods examples.

This isn't to suggest that there are not businesses where the owners have values that are more important that profit. But a lot of business owners and managers see profit as the most important goal, instead of just a necessary goal, and base their choices and decisions on that one goal.

To extend that argument I believe that this is the fundamental goal of the far right: to eliminate as much regulation as possible so that the businesses can conduct their activites without any regard or concern for either consequences or in fear of any laws or regulations that might hinder their activities, regardless of how much harm and destruction they cause. That is the point Tea Partiers, the extreme right Republicans and their funders such as the Koch brothers or egomaniancs such as Trump.

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Just put a commuter rail platform at Ball Square. This would address a transit gap in that area and it won't take seven years. If the Green Line extension is actually built, people will complain about gentrification, etc.

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Plus easy access to the bake shop too!

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Actually, I was wondering why cant they just add a few stops between West Medford and Lechmere and buy some of those locomotives (DMVs?) that are economical to use more frequently and put them on the commuter rail tracks. This could provide subway-like service all along the line and I don’t think it would cost billions.

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A few obstacles to adding commuter rail stops instead (this was discussed at numerous public meetings a number of years ago):

1. Commuter rail platforms have to be about 3 times as long as Green Line platforms, and supposedly won't fit in some of these locations.

2. Even for trains that don't stop at those new platforms, they will have to slow down and speed up at the new platform locations, which will vastly increase the diesel pollution which is tied to changes in speed rather than to average speed. (This is supposed to be a clean air project.)

3. The trains that do stop at those new platforms will be in the way of the commuter rail and Amtrak trains that also want to use these lines.

4. If you just add in-fill commuter rail stops to existing trains, aside from slowing down the ride for the existing trains (and therefore reducing their usefulness and appeal), the frequency at Ball Square (for example) would drop to every hour or two off-peak rather than every 6 to 10 minutes for the planned Green Line Extension. That reduces expected ridership to a tiny fraction of what it could be.

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It’s just mind-boggling that anyone could spend $3 billion to build a line 4.5 miles long along existing track without any tunneling. I wonder how much the spur to Union Square is costing. But, even with that it sounds crazy.

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