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MBTA votes to start work toward electrification of commuter-rail system

WBUR reports the MBTA board voted today to set up an office to begin work towards converting the current diesel-powered commuter-rail system to electricity and towards more frequent service - like trains every 15 minutes - on certain key routes. Left undecided: How to pay for the billions of dollars in required upgrades.

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"Baker told reporters Monday that he believes "significant portions" of the commuter rail should be electrified "over the course of the next 15 or 20 years". "The grid, as it stands today, would be a close call," Baker said. "If we manage to get our hydro and our offshore wind and some of the other initiatives we're pursuing to improve the quality of our electricity and we have the electricity available to electrify the system, there are certainly parts of it that should be electrified, yeah."

So he will continue to destroy the T but promise to do something other cities have done long ago, far in the future when he is gone. But he will keep fast tracking the south coast rail because that area is his base. Coward.

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Adam, once again you manage to get me going in the morning when it's so hard to get out of bed to face another day of MBTA doom. Ugh. Too tired to yell. Another MBTA study. Another billion dollars. More rider abuse. More crappy service. No seats. Bad back. zzzzzzzz

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And an unfunded mandate = massive fail. After millions spent on reports and meetings, a nothing-burger. The point of the FMCB declarations was to get good press - with headlines reading "MBTA approves fully funded electrified system" without caveats. Instead, it backfired. Everyone across Boston is fatigued at this point, including the State House

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After this colossal failure, its time for this small group of transit activists to stop shoving every transit initiative into fantasyland. Instead of getting a tangible funded project from this year long venture, we can nothing, nada, just unfunded fantasy declarations. Even say restoring Governor Patrick's D-EMU train funding for the Fairmount would have been something, anything. Instead. Nothing across the board. Its time to boot out the transit fantasy activists.

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I think of the visionaries who started building the Pyramids, or the Great Wall, or the great cathedrals of Europe. You have a plan, you have a finished product in mind, and even though you know that neither you, anybody you know, or anybody your grandchildren will know will be alive to see it completed, you begin the work so generations down the line can perhaps one day see your idea complete. It's really awe-inspiring.

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Er um perfect analogy

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modern scholarship shows the pyramids were built by paid and hired labor, including a lot of farmers who did pyramid building in the off-season.

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Instead of spending billions on empty commuter rail trains for the wealthy suburbanites the T should stop punishing the poor and homeless by arresting them when they can't afford to pay their fare.

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It's not an either/or. And the Commuter Rail also runs to places like Lynn and Lowell, which are...not exactly wealthy suburbs.

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The MBTA is a transportation system. Not a homeless shelter. The state should be providing proper shelters for the homeless. Not turning a blind eye to them camping out on an already filthy crowded transit system. Not that the state isn't turning a blind eye to filthy crowded system with shit on fire and people falling through stairs on a daily basis either.

Poor people aren't jumping faregates either. Just because someone is poor doesn't make them steal things and break the law. The people breaking the law are doing so out of a failure of character and not financial distress.

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“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them“ - Henry Thoreau

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Where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there and I am prepared to expect wonders” - HDT

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... we asked the friendly giants who built the subway and the pike and 128 to come back and build us more stuff. It's not like people used to pay taxes and build stuff themselves in the old days, because that would be crazy.

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The subway was built by the BERy which no longer exists and the Turnpike Authority was funded by bonds and tolls in the era before environmental legislation and the explosion of red tape in the 1970s.

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Without funding, this will not happen.

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-as recently as two years ago. Gotta start somewhere. Baby steps, as Bill Murray said,

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And until the Baker admin hands over every requested RMV doc, don't expect State leaders to move on Baker's proposed GLX finances.

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Agreed. I said on twitter earlier when everyone was cheering about this, and I hate to piss on people's parade but

They voted on this. It doesn't mean squat. Rich Davey tried this about 15 years ago and it went nowhere.

I'm all for the idea but this isn't a 'win'. They acknowledged it, that is all.

Wake me up when funding is available for it
Wake me up when the track work is being done
Wake me up when the stock is rolling down the rails

Until that point, I'm not holding my breath. I've been a boston resident for 20 years now, and I know enough to know that the MBTA is alot of talk, with little action.

And the poster above who said "Green line extension", No Sir. Does not equate here. GLX was a mandate, and it also took 20 years to even get a shovel in the ground. I don't exactly call this a win or a comparison at all.

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Replace "affordable" housing requirements on new construction with a mandated contribution to a transit fund. Create paid priority lanes on major highways. Add congestion pricing fees. Raise the gas tax.

And get to work. EMU/DMUs can be ordered now and used on some CR lines without much renovation to other infrastructure.

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The sports teams and colleges should also have to kick in a yearly percentage. Their fans and students are on the T daily and they get plenty of breaks...time to help the community you are in.

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"PILOT" payment in lieu of tax program for colleges. They refuse to even pay the 25% of their estimated real tax bill, if fact we only collect about half. Which mean we let them off the hook for approx 87.5% of their estimated property tax bill.

Lets stop attacking drivers who pay taxes and let go after those who have been avoiding their share for decades.

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Otherwise all the profits go to the developer while the liabilities go to the public transit system.

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The answer to the funding problem is easy: don't spend billions.

Look to places like Germany, where they build low-cost yet effective rail systems all over the place.

If France can electrify for the TGV at a million euros per track mile, there's no reason for us to spend 5 times that. They have plenty of safety regulations and labor expenses over there.

And don't go overboard on the number of rail cars. There's no reason to run twice as many cars per hour as the LIRR, when we run a fraction of that today. Start by running 2 or 3x today's level (i.e. shorter trains every 15 minutes). Then increase train lengths if ridership demands it.

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like a genuine bona-fide electrified six-car commuter rail!

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Is that a Shelbyville sort of thing?

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At this point, I wonder what the effectiveness of just making these lines dedicated highways would be... even just pave right over the tracks. And run electric 'luxury' buses every few mins during rush hours. Emergency vehicles could use them as well to skip by traffic areas. It'd solve all the functional issues they face today. Trains only make sense in the modern era when they're super high speed. Otherwise, it's just a remnant technology from pre-auto days.

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Except for the small matter that a Commuter Rail train can carry roughly 10 to 30 as many people as a bus, with much less than 10 to 30 times as much crew needed.

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Trains are pretty big.

On the Providence line, for example, using 2018 ridership numbers from https://www.mass.gov/lists/2018-commuter-rail-counts, the hour and a half before 9am includes seven trains, carrying a total of 9785 people. As (mostly-single-occupancy) passenger cars, that would be about 6500 cars per hour, which is 4-5 lanes worth. As totally-filled-up large coach buses, that's 108 buses per hour - a bus arriving every 33 seconds, which is still a lot to manage.

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I imagined it would be a lot of buses, but not that many. Interesting numbers to know, thanks for sharing.

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Spoken like a person who truly has no idea what they are talking about. Good laugh, though.

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Thanks to the person above you who offered insight as to why it's not a good idea. That was a useful response. Not sure why the following person calling me stupid makes it past moderation. I've ridden both the silver line and commuter rail for years and wondered about that for a long time. Whether the tracks could be maintained while a paving operation went on. It's not a daunting engineering feat, but makes no sense due to the numbers presented, which I accept.

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... cam post without going through moderation (unless they are on double secret probation).

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Bi-level train cars hold a lot more people than buses (275ish per car). A fully loaded MBTA train (say 8 cars) could fill 44 coach buses (assume 50 person capacity). Figure in dwell time at each station for loading and offloading and multiple trains per hour and you get the idea why buses won't work.

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