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MCCA offers to shuttle Seaport employees

Getting around the Seaport District by car can be a royal pain, especially during the evening commute. According to the Boston Herald, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) thinks it has the solution. It wants to get into the shuttle bus business.

Many of the area's businesses already offer shuttle bus services for their employees. Fidelity (through Boston Coach) and Vertex, for example, offer their employees transportation to the T and to their other office locations. There are currently 20 different companies offering service, many with multiple buses per line (the Herald article says there are 74 buses on a typical day), which adds to the congestion even as it decreases the number of cars on the road.

The MCCA figures a way to improve the situation is to reduce the number of shuttle buses. It is proposing to take over control of shuttles going in and out of the Seaport and replacing them with a fleet of its own buses. The MCCA would replace the 74 buses with as few as 19, and reduce the number of routes from 20 to just 3.

They'd have to get area companies on board with this, which might require some strong-arming on their part. Businesses may want to remain in control, and it's highly likely that many employees would protest, given the inconvenience of having to wait longer for (shared) buses and have to walk to get to the buses (instead of them being right out their buildings' front doors).

The transportation problem in the Seaport will only get worse if nothing is done. The Seaport is booming: according to the South Boston Waterfront Sustainable Transportation Plan that was released in January, ten million square feet of development was built between 2000 and 2013, bringing in more than 4,100 new residents and 7,700 jobs, and over the next two decades, another 17 million square feet of development is underway or planned - including 5,300 new residences, 6 million square feet of new office and research space, nearly one million square feet of port and maritime-related uses and (possibly) more than a doubling of convention and hospitality space.

So, something's got to be done.

A longer version of this post can be found on my other website.

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Comments

The "level" of service can be increased, and this could include improved visibility. This is a step in the right direction.

I hope you can make this work. Good luck! :)

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If the MCCA wants it, I am against it. They're an unholy combination of a private sector entity which gets free money from every person who rents a car here, year round, even though they only hold 1-2 major events a month.

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Maybe we should implement a congestion charge for vehicles that plug up our roads, rather than plug them up even further with private shuttles. And we wouldn't be shoveling even more money to the MCCA.

The congestion charge could be some fair, market rate figure for driving a vehicle between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday.

And we can have easy payments via FastLane/EZ Passes setup at major entries to the city.

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When an area was designed as a seaport, train yard, and warehouses, the road system was adequate. With the current and planned numbers of people, planners have clearly done an abysmal job on designing appropriate transportation.

Put a halt to development until more road and bridge capacity is added. Put a congestion charge on existing businesses for the employees/customers they drive to the area.

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To finish the sliver line that connects both parts with a new tunnel and turn it all into light rail. Integrate it with the rest of the MBTA instead of the half-assed situation they have now.

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The outcome you propose will induce demand, adding anything that improves car use will ADD car use. Also, where is the money or land for additional roadway going to come from?

I do agree that the entire district comes across as a significant planning disaster, but I doubt the planners are at fault. You can be certain that whoever was in charge certainly held held a car centric perspective. Or lacked planning experience! :P

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That doesn't add car use! This isn't about car use or not, its about increasing transportation. Rail can provide higher transportation density but there are some big problems to work out for that. A more coordinated bus system is an effort to increase transportation, given the inadequate roadway supply.

The other part is how commuters get from homes to the public transit system, and there is often not enough affordable parking there, resulting in them more wanting to drive to work.

Speaking of parking, the seaport district used to have lots of parking, now being lost to office space. This is much like Kendall Square, which has lost parking and Vehicle Lane Miles.

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There is almost no chance additional roadway capacity will be developed for cars. No room, no money, zero political will. The development halt you propose will prevent any new development, and thus, any new traffic. However, this is not a solution seeing as the place is sprouting already, perhaps it is too late.

You did mention parking though... If the concern involves traffic going to/from this district, perhaps the problem is there is too much parking, and that it is too affordable. A more realistic expectation would be to adjust that dynamic, influence traffic flow and let the development build accordingly. If there was no parking, there would be limited commuting traffic to this destination.

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They all contribute to congestion, seems like charging a premium on plugin up roads would force more drivers off the roads and to alternatives, thus reducing road traffic!

If we build more roads, we get more traffic. Simple enough.

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Add more rail lines and traffic doesn't build.

The difference is that people rather drive, so adding roads builds more traffic. Offer people more of what they don't want, and they still don't want it. Simple economics.

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It sounds like you have zero interest in public transit, and that is ok! It is a realistic economic choice. However, not everyone has a car nor do they always want to commute with them. The simple economics is that improved quality of commute will increase the chance people will use that choice (car, walking, biking, public transportation, ect.).

The generalization that people do not want public transit and prefer the car is an opinion, not economics. =/

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Commute there every day and then tell us how a city should be built. Hint - too many cars IS THE PROBLEM, not the answer.

You clearly know absolutely nothing about the area.

Many people would not rather drive - they only started driving when the artificially suppressed price of driving rivalled using the Commuter Rail, and the lack of transit into the area made a 30 minute transfer time from rail to office unrealistically stupid.

Better yet, this mythic car paradise you seek exists in Texas. Please move there.

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You're not looking far enough (5 years), into the future of transportation. Google 's self-drive car team estimates that existing roads could handle 300% - 400% more traffic if the roads were efficiently used.
Just this Quarter a few insurance companies, in their SEC filings, alerted their shareholders that coming auto technology could severely lower premium revenue.
Tesla's self-drive car is nearly ready... in fact in their latest software release the car will drive itself, if you want it to, and are on private property. Uber is investing in self-drive car research.
And you can watch several YouTube vehicles featuring cars driverless cars; their is a great one of a self-drive car going from Carnegie Mellon to the Pittsburgh airport and pulling up to a terminal to pick someone up.
Unless someone spends matching billions and billions on upgrading the technology for public transportation cars are the future way of getting around cities.
And self-drive cars are a great way to increase parking capacity in cities... the cars can jam themselves in garages (no need for room to open doors) and as a result that parking capacity increases by 50%.

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... with the self-driving cars. Nope. Still won't help where there is no place for cars.

Factor this in, too: very few cars will be self-driving even if they work. Why? People keep their cars for 12+ years now. Market penetration is very slow.

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Insurance rates for self driving cars will be 10% of the conventional rate... A huge savings that will create the market. Think of insuring a car in Boston for around $200. This summer audi will have a car drive itself coast to coast. Don't be so much of a luddite.

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Last year or so, there was a flurry of stories about a new rail line that was linking back bay to the convention center.

Not a peep since.

(The Olympics plans are smack dab on top of where they were going to run it)

The original story can be seen here.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/09/05/state-begin-innovative-ra...

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Half-assed inasmuch as it really doesn't build the network much, it just serves as a shuttle between Back Bay and the Seaport, and as you point out above, better Silver Line capacity could do the same thing, but that's another half-assed piece of infrastructure. Letting the SL run at 30 mph and giving it full signal priority would help a lot; you could get a lot more service out of the same number of buses and drivers.

Major issues inasmuch as it would totally clog a chokepoint of the Northeast Corridor. Right now there are ~15 trains per hour on the Northeast Corridor between South Station and Back Bay. The only place to have these shuttle trains turn is over on tracks 5 and 7 (the Framingham Worcester tracks) and then proceed, at low speed, across the whole of the NEC, through a series of switches. This would foul the corridor for minutes at a time, perhaps delaying multiple trains in to and out of South Station. Then it would also have to cross the Fairmount Line (which should have more frequent service) and the Old Colony Lines, both at grade, before continuing to the Seaport. 3 miles to go what, as the crow flies, is barely more than a mile, with a half a dozen or more track crossings, switches, and a bunch of tight curves. You'd be lucky if this trip takes 10 minutes. Barely faster than a brisk walk.

Then add to that the fact that the whole line is single tracked, so you're really never going to have more than one train bouncing back and forth. If you can somehow pare it down to an 8 minute run time, and change ends very quickly, you might be able to squeeze 20 minute headways out of this. So that means that many passengers would get to Back Bay, have a 10-20 minute wait and then a 10 minute ride: on average a 20 minute trip from Back Bay to the Seaport. Or you could ride five minutes further to South Station and walk 15 minutes to the Convention Center, or take the 7 bus, or the Silver Line. Why not put the millions towards rail projects with some merit (say, West Station, which could have great last-mile connections to Harvard by bus and Kendall by rail and save Worcester Line commuters an hour of time each day), and use some of the leftovers to buy enough buses that the Silver Line and 7 bus would be less crowded?

Oh, because DMUs. You can't spell dumb with D, M and U.

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Not sure what you mean that employees will protest "given the inconvenience of having to wait longer for (shared) buses."

Most likely, buses will be more frequent. Say, for instance, that five companies each run one shuttle between a transit node (say, in this case, North Station) and their front door. Right now, that's a half hour round-trip (with enough schedule padding). So to provide any reasonable level of service, they have to run two vehicles, yet there is only one pickup every 15 minutes.

Now, let's say you replace those 10 vehicles with 5 larger buses. The trip time becomes slightly longer, because the bus has to run from North Station to each of the companies, or at least nearby (perhaps making three our four stops). So perhaps it takes 36 minutes to make a round trip. But since there are five buses, you get half the number of vehicles, but also half the wait: 7 minutes instead of 15. Even if some people wind up with a slightly longer walk, their wait time is cut in half. It also reduces the number of vehicles on the road, and provides better service overall, because the headways are shorter, the vehicles are more spacious, and there's more redundancy: if one vehicle is stuck in traffic or otherwise disabled, you haven't lost half of your capacity.

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So the answer is more buses?

Sorry I don't think Vertex and Fidelity and others would give up their private coaches. Those coaches not only serve the "to and from the T" to seaport offices, but interconnect to other campuses around the city.

Plus to ask Fidelity to give up their own "Boston Coach" is just unlikely. (at last check Fidelity started Boston Coach and still has a stake in it, but BC allows other companies to contract with them for services)

How about we give the T the money instead to add or bolster existing bus routes and silver line service?

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Given the current finances of the T, who is going to give this money to the T? Right now the T has a debt of $5B; and as of now unfunded maintenance backlog of $6.7B ( total $11.7B) and expansion projects budgeted at least $2.3B (total $14B). Plus the T will get $200M from the State this year to fund daily operations. Next year, unless the rules change the T will need $275M from the State and in 2017, 2018 etc even more.
So lets say the State takes back the current $5B debt. The T will still need to finance $9B for maintenance and expansion which will require indebtedness and interest payments even larger than now.

The T is bankrupt; and most likely headed to receivership where it will be restructured. Or somehow (Olympics) someone finds a way to direct $14B their way.

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Plenty of private money is being spent on these buses, which tells me that there is a market for this kind of transportation. Perhaps some of *that* desire should be tapped (in the form of taxes) to pay for expanded service to Fort Point.

Boston is expanding, so the T *must* expand with it. The budget problems need to be solved without freezing the growth of the system.

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FYI
The only reason I knew that was because a friend of mine worked there

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Like I said "at last check" which was longer than that.

besides, I doubt they would anyways. It would be a very hard sell since BC has the monopoly for them.

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From their Marlboro campus, anyway, even after the added exit on I-495? Other financial corporations also seemed to escape financial district costs and hassle for places like Quincy, mostly for their back office operations. BTW, Fidelity customer service is awesome. Call and an intelligent person answers within seconds.

It just seems odd that such companies would go back in to Boston, to the Seaport District. Perhaps it was arm twisting or tax breaks bringing them. In any case, I don't picture them staying in the district if problems and costs continue rising. They have proven to be not so loyal, and unlike the financial district, the Seaport District doesn't yet have a historical component to anchor businesses.

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MASCO runs an extensive shuttle service for LMA hospitals, both from satellite locations for commuters and within the LMA district: "We transport nearly 12,500 riders each day over ten different routes, using a fleet of 37 vehicles"

http://www.masco.org/directions/shuttle-information

Traffic in the area is a mess, but without the shuttle it would be so much worse. Until public transit provides the service people need, a good shuttle service like this makes a big difference.

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So many of the LMA shuttle routes would be obsolete if the CT2 and CT3 were brought to their conclusion of formalized rail lines. One shuttle just goes to Ruggles (the CT2/3 does also), one goes to BMC (the CT3 does as well), one goes to Landmark and one goes to Cambridge (as does the CT2). If the western chunk of the Urban Ring were built, that would make 4 of the 7 MASCO routes unnecessary.

And don't forget that Brigham and Children's run smaller shuttles, some of those to the same destinations as both the MBTA and MASCO, and there are VPNE shuttles buzzing around. So that makes at least 5 different agencies running buses through the area, often duplicating each others' routes.
http://www.partners.org/Shuttle_Schedules.aspx

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-The Ruggles LMA shuttle goes down the Fenway and drops off at the entrance to Ruggles in Northeastern, so on days when traffic is backed up Ruggles St from Tremont/Melnea Cass, the shuttle can get through faster than any of the MBTA routes

-It helps to have additional buses going towards Landmark/Ruggles when the MBTA buses are delayed/full of people

-The Partners Shuttles between hospitals are super convenient because there just isn't a good way to get between MGH and BWH by MBTA

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some MBTA/Boston failures of service.

For A), the alternate route is only faster when a Melnea Cass backup doesn't extend to Huntington, and then the Fenway. I've sat on that bus behind Simmons in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a long time. Additionally, this highlights an issue with the surface road routing - this area is clogged way too frequently and has generally predictable levels of traffic. Where are the choke points?

For B) and C), these are both identifiable issues in MBTA service. Especially B), because that's just a simple matter of headways. There are already the following buses that go from LMA to Ruggles: 8, 19, 47, CT2, CT3. If these can't service rush hour traffic (which I agree they can't), there's a problem with frequency. For C), the BWH/MGH shuttle duplicates the route of the 39 bus from Brigham Circle through Prudential. The 39 diverges from Boylston to Back Bay while the Partners bus heads to MGH. A Back Bay to West End route could patch that hole in service (not too much inter-neighborhood transit north of Boylston...), but I agree that may be one of the cases where an institutional bus is better.

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The CT2 goes to MIT and Kendall, while the M2 goes to MIT, Central, and Harvard. So they're not the same thing.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_Ring_Project_(MBTA)#Phase_2

"There would be two major spurs. Three different routings are being considered for the first spur, which leaves from Commonwealth Avenue and goes to:

Allston West Station (new Commuter Rail station on the Framingham/Worcester Line)
North Harvard Street
Western Avenue
Harvard, Red Line"

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It's too bad they don't make it easier for the public to ride the MASCO Longwood shuttles.

Most are only open to ID holders. The M2 allows the public to pay $3.25, but only if you buy a ticket at one of the obscure ticket offices in advance.

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Towards trying to be Silicon Valley east.

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Seaport was divvied up into big lots with a few big streets, not allowed to grow in an organic way so traffic could filter around the chokepoints. Suburban office park.

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That's when the parking prices jumped first. Then, lots are now filling in with buildings.

I would suggest that they also take a look at Hubway data - the most travelled Hubway routes are from North Station to Seaport area locations. In other words, where the T vacuum sucks the most.

Of course, it would have helped if the entire concept was better thought out to begin with, but, hey, this is Boston and BosVegas was their ideal, transit can just wait, etc.

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