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South Station now bears Mike Dukakis's name, but for the love of God, build the north/south link instead of expanding the station, he says

Dukakis

At a Boston City Council hearing this afternoon on connecting commuter-rail lines that now end at North and South stations, former Gov. Mike Dukakis had a simple message: "Please kill any further work on South Station expansion; it's totally unnecessary."

Dukakis was one of several speakers pushing to connect and electrify the rail lines that now dead end at the city's two main commuter rail stations at a hearing called for by at-large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George. A link between the north and south sides of the commuter-rail system would let trains continue onto other destinations, rather than being forced to sit at the stations - or nearby rail holding areas, for example, in Widett Circle in South Boston and Readville in Hyde Park

All said that while the North/South Rail Link would cost billions, it would save the billions that would otherwise go to adding more tracks to the two stations - even without taking into account the increased economic opportunities from connecting residents on one side of Boston with jobs on the other and the savings from easing the region's worst-in-the-nation highway congestion, by getting more people on trains.

And, Dukakis and other speakers said, it would offer far more opportunities for expansion of the regional rail system while adding more tracks at two dead-end stations would have no more room for future expansion. Former state Rep. Businger of Brookine doubted South Station expansion could ever even happen, because it relies on the Postal Service moving its large Fort Point facility somewhere else, and the Postal Service has shown great reluctance in doing that.

Clay Schofield, who worked on north/south engineering studies under Dukakis, added it would make it far easier to maintain commuter-rail locomotives - 62% of which are on South Station lines, forcing them to take an arduous journey across the Charles River and through Cambridge streets to get to the T's locomotive repair facilities in Somerville.

Dukakis and Businger said the issues involved in actually getting the link built are far more political than technical. Schofield said the bulk of the work would fall on tunnel-boring machines deep underground - unlike with the Big Dig. He said London built 26 miles of new subway tunnels with almost no above-ground disruption.

Dukakis said the Baker administration, for some reason, is having "a particularly difficult time getting projects up and moving that are essential." They can't even spend the money they have appropriated, he said, adding "they've got to commit themselves to more than maintenance."

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) , who has long advocated for the rail link, acknowledged some people are fearful of a second Big Dig, but said it's time for "bold vision for what's possible."

Dukakis and other speakers derided a report by a state-hired consultant last year that cited a potential $12.8-billion cost, saying the study foisted expenses onto the proposal that the state has to pay for anyway, such as new train cars and signals. They acknowledged that more work is needed to determine an exact cost. Businger said that any further studies should include the costs of doing nothing - in terms of congestion on both the rail systems and regional roads.

State Rep. Tami Gouveia (D-Concord) says we need to stop thinking that roads can just be built and paid for by the state while expecting public-transit projects to play second fiddle.

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Comments

This speaks volumes about the vision and priorities of the Boston city council.

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Voting closed 37

When you don’t have to pay for it. I’ve got a ton of great transportation ideas that could be done for under $50 billion.

Speaking of which, still waiting for Michelle Wu to explain how the fareless T will be financed.

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Voting closed 25

Making the T free would be nothing compared to all the handouts drivers get.

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Voting closed 50

So again, how is the shortfall going to be made up? Thoughts and prayers or whatever you atheists do instead?

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Voting closed 22

Raise the gas tax. It should have been indexed to inflation a long time ago.

Oh and also congestion pricing + increased fines and policing for moving and parking violations.

Really just raise the cost of everything associated with person vehicles. Owning, storing, and driving a personal vehicle is heavily subsidized, and really shouldn't be considering we know for a fact that exhaust is a huge contributor to climate change, the urban heat island effect, decreased air quality, and oh yea the death of countless pedestrians and cyclists.

It's time to take some drastic measures to #1 protect pedestrians and bikers #2 protect the environment #3 make drivers pay their fare share while also disincentivizing driving relative to public transit in general. Not everyone needs to drive as much as they do, and they especially wouldn't need to if our public transit system wasn't completely falling apart.

Dukakis has vision. Baker does not.

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Voting closed 99

Raise the gas tax?! Great idea. We who drive to work because there is no public transportation of any kind have to pay for your convenience? Not a chance. And as far as Dukakis having 'vision'? If only he could have been governor, maybe then the North/South rail link could have been started.

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Voting closed 14

Don't raise the gas tax to pay for better public transportation, because the lack of public transportation is what makes us have to drive so much!

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Also....

The Link was actually part of my original plan for the Big Dig. As you may know, the Big Dig itself was strongly opposed by the Reagan administration and required a Congressional override, and in the face of that opposition we had to swallow hard and accept the fact that rail would not be part of the Big Dig.

https://commonwealthmagazine.org/transportation/dukakis-funds-are-there-...

Oh and add in some congestion pricing to pay for it too because why not fund better public transit.

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Voting closed 29

In his defense, he was only governor for 12 years (most of any Mass governor ever).

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Voting closed 14

Currently non drivers subsidize drivers. All the taxes specific to drivers - vehicle excise, gas tax, tolls, etc, do not cover the costs of drivers. General taxes (like the income tax and property tax paid by non drivers) covers half of what it costs to provide you with roads.
Raising the gas tax would be start towards having drivers pay their fair share.

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Voting closed 28

Your argument is faulty. What portion of people who pay "General taxes (like the income tax and property tax...)" also drive? I would be the majority. If there were no excise, sales or tolls your point would hold water - but it doesn't.

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Voting closed 5

Dukakis needs to realize his term ended in '91. He needs to move on

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Voting closed 23

Have you been downtown to the Rose Kennedy Greenway or the waterfront? How about on the Zakim bridge? Or ever use the Ted Williams tunnel. His vision pretty drastically transformed the urban experience of the city for the better.

The city was completely disconnected from the waterfront by a huge elevated highway, and they actually wanted to add more via the Inner Belt project that Dukakis helped kill thank god.

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This project is an easy no-go decision.

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Get off at Back Bay. Take the Orange Line to North. Save the Commonwealth $10-15 Billion. For Old Colony / Fairmount to Fitchburg Riders. Get Off at South. Take the Red Line to Porter. Save the Commonwealth $10-15 Billion. The Remainder. Take Red-Orange. Save the Commonwealth $10-15 Billion

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Voting closed 15

would relieve pressure from the central subway system by allowing people to remain on the commuter rail and not transfer to the subway, which is busiest between Back Bay and North Station on the Orange Line. The Red, Green and Orange would benefit by freeing some more available capacity.

If nothing is done, overcrowding will only get worse on the subway, which is stressed handling the current demand.

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The T is struggling with declining ridership. One big chunk of revenue they rely on. Commuter rail to subway transfers. The NSRL kills off the need for the existing subways. The subways shutdown and you now have $13 billion in extra debt. Not a good plan.

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Voting closed 12

have a monthly pass, which includes subway rides, so that is a non-issue.

"The NSRL kills off the need for the existing subways."

Um, no. Perhaps the Orange Line from Back Bay to North Station would be redundant if you are already on the Northeast Corridor or Worcester Line, but the four subway lines serve hundreds of thousands people daily.

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Voting closed 10

It would be much cheaper, and benefit far more people, to improve frequencies on the Orange Line.

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buddy, the TRAINS ARE FULL. downtown transfer points are FULL. somebody's going to get killed from the shoving and crowding. building red-blue is an important next step for this reason, but building the commuter rail connection is vital also!

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Voting closed 9

I have yet to hear a politician advocate any kind of gas tax hike, but there’s Wu and her crew, saying the T can get by with a revenue cut.

Do you guys know how the Big Dig was financed? If you don’t, ask someone from Metro West how it was.

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Voting closed 7

Fares don't even make up a majority of the operational budget, let alone capital budget. Wu isn't an idiot and painting her as such with money out of thing air is ridiculous. She obviously wants to get people thinking of the idea, which has merit as pointed out the last time this came up, and funding would have to be worked out. Or, like the Big Dig, maybe Baker could do some creative funding like back in the old days.

As for your second point - funding came from the Fed and State government. The Big Dig has more than payed for itself, and benefited the entire state's economy (and tax base). What does WestMass and all the mavericks out there have to do with it?

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Voting closed 12

But if you think it's doable, ask your boss to cut your salary by 30% and see how you make due. I suppose we can also say that when the local libertarians got a referendum on the ballot to abolish the income tax they were looking to spark a conversation on government waste and ways the government could be more efficient, but in the end it was a horrible idea.

So the Big Dig's funding came from "the Fed and State government." Any thoughts about how those levels of government raise the funds? I'll give you a few hints. The federal government has a dedicated trust fund that goes to their share of such projects. The state also has a trust fund that are dedicated to highway upkeep, and both come from the same overall sources. For the Big Dig, the state had a different means of raising funds, and it's kind of, sort of, like the fares the MBTA charges.

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But if you think it's doable, ask your boss to cut your salary by 30% and see how you make due. I suppose we can also say that when the local libertarians got a referendum on the ballot to abolish the income tax they were looking to spark a conversation on government waste and ways the government could be more efficient, but in the end it was a horrible idea.

Again, you are better than to compare budgets at the macro government level to an individual's. It is disingenuous and, quite frankly, moronic. Literally no one is saying cut fares and not replace it. Also, for the record, I would be just fine with a 30% salary cut - I make quite a bit and my income also consists of various income properties and investments.

So the Big Dig's funding came from "the Fed and State government." Any thoughts about how those levels of government raise the funds? I'll give you a few hints. The federal government has a dedicated trust fund that goes to their share of such projects. The state also has a trust fund that are dedicated to highway upkeep, and both come from the same overall sources. For the Big Dig, the state had a different means of raising funds, and it's kind of, sort of, like the fares the MBTA charges.

Ah another attempt at being condescending, and yet, you end up being the only one who sounds like an idiot that doesn't have a clue as to what they are talking about. Thanks, Captain Obvious, though, for explaining something that has little to do with what I commented.

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Voting closed 9

And they are not proposing any funding source to replace the fares, hence my annoyance at the proposal. If the proposal was to cut fares and make up the shortfall from some other funding source, at least it would be worth discussing. But since state government can magically cut revenue sources without concern for the consequences, I assume you voted for the Libertarian Party ballot question to abolish the state income tax, right? Same difference to me.

I weep for this country that across the ideological spectrum there has been an embrace of perpetual budget deficits, but since state and local government cannot do so, I might just be griping for the sake of my sanity.

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Try again

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Voting closed 10

Take the hit and stop all the bickering and fantasy that there is a golden goose. Make a Mass state tax surcharge for a defined period of time , with the revenue explicitly dedicated to MBTA fixes and be done with it.

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if you’re over 40, chances are you won’t be paying for it either.

note: it’s also really easy to just shoot ideas down just because wE cAN’t PaY fOR tHaT.

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For some strange reason they are fine with deficit spending if it's for tax cuts or military purposes but if it's for any social improvement, well, that would fiscally irresponsible.

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I thought that was the mantra of the No Olympics movement.

I guess I’m old fashioned thinking that you need a funding source to do something. Maybe I’ll go buy a Tesla. I mean, I can’t afford it, but you guys say that’s okay.

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Voting closed 12

The issue is that what we can and can't afford seems to be quite subjective. Setting aside discussions about whether the federal government can "afford" our past, present, and future military spending, the Massachusetts government is probably much more able to afford large capital projects like the NSRL than people who scream "HOW WILL WE PAY FOR THIS" would suggest.

Such people tend to assume that new taxes are not a possibility, probably due to their own personal opposition to any new taxes. They also tend to assume that borrowing money to do it is irresponsible, and then make a specious comparison to household finances, even though borrowing against future economic growth is one of the main ways governments finance big projects worldwide.

The opposition to the Olympics wasn't based on "we can't afford it!", it was "the economic benefits they're trying to sell us on aren't real, so we should not borrow money against them, and without that the whole project is ridiculous."

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Subpar comment. Equating personal/household finances to that of large scale government (or even business) is as lazy and disingenuous as one can get. BTW, unlike you Tesla, which is not an investment at all and depreciates, investment in infrastructure tends to payoff in the end with increased commerce/business/tax revenue.

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Voting closed 14

lol okay dr. economics.

please, please, for the love of god, can we get some people in here who understand that government and personal household finances do - AND MUST - operate under different principles??

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The essence of the comparison is the same. If you don't have the means on hand to purchase something (be it an automobile or the work on a construction firm) you have to borrow to complete the transaction. If you don't have the ability to create money, you need to prove to the lenders that their loan will be paid back. If you borrow beyond your means, your credit gets tainted to the extent that you will have to borrow at higher interest rates. Debt at high interest rates constrains one's abilities and eventually impacts one's ability to provide the essentials. Also, though sometimes it is necessary, it is not good to go into debt to handle your day-to-day financial needs. That describes personal and governmental debt. I mean, if you think the comparison isn't apt, feel free to point out my failings.

In the end, the City of Boston, as a government, is not going to be contributing a penny to this project, so it is easy for the City Council to say that it should be done. If this project involved the City of Boston issuing the bonds to pay for this, they'd be singing a different tune.

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Lets spend 13 billion dollars so a few people can get to Maine quicker. Brilliant! Both Thrillist and Dukakis don't have a clue. When they bring up London as a NSRL model; they don't realize the differences between Liverpool and Portland, Maine, nor the pre-Brexit politics behind the British rail plan. They need to leave transportation to the experts

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If you believe this is the impetus for the NSRL, you are dead wrong.

Nobody is championing the NSRL for quicker Maine to DC trips. The NSRL is about relieving capacity on the central subway, while allowing for shorter headways on the regular commuter rail lines.

Keep your uninformed comments to yourself.

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Voting closed 9

The Orange Line is a modern standard gauge tunnel. Boston's commuter rail is a standard gauge system. There are vehicles worldwide that can RUN ON BOTH. You can link the Orange and CR tracks east of Back Bay Station and north of Community College. Stop the insanity Boston CC. Look at what's out there, not at what's forced on you by local advocates.

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Because they frown on subways and commuter rail trains sharing tracks. Whether they have a valid reason or not is another matter, but it's not like the T could just do that.

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Florida is trying it as well. Commuter cars that resemble the Orange and Red vehicles are running side by side with traditional freight. Meanwhile. Boston is one of the few major metros without a hybrid system between traditional subways and commuter rail. (BART, PATH, DC Metro, etc.) You will likely see a one seat ride between say Rozzie and Chelsea via Orange before you see another tunnel running under Boston

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The Braintree branch is a subway/commuter rail hybrid. So is the Green Line D.

But agreed that we should do more of it.

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Are you saying that it's built for hybrid, even though they have their own dedicated tracks? I've never seen CR trains run on any stretch of red line tracks between Braintree and JFK, including the Neponset River Bridge (that's double tracked on the CR line, too), so that'd be interesting to hear.

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Despite the ranting from a few on this page, these systems do indeed interface. Typically in yards under and near stations. Sometimes you'll even see the occasional CR or FR vehicle rolling by Red and Mattapan vehicles. Speed is minimal. The FRA has a clamp on interface, but under both Obama and Trump that clamp has loosened. More FRA compliant vehicles are coming out that fall between typical subway and commuter cars. They're built for mixed traffic at higher speeds.

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Voting closed 10

Unless it was back in the day delivering Orange rolling stock by rail, it doesn't happen. There is also absolutely nothing rolling past a Mattapan PCC on the Mattapan Line in terms of freight or commuter rail. There is no freight or CR rolling stock rolling past any of the other lines either unless they are on completely separated/not connected tracks that.

There has been no lighting of mixing light or subway traffic with FRA compliant rail. The FRA has approved waivers for DMUs/EMUs, which are not either light rail or subway rolling stock and are designed to operate on railways. They aren't new either - the old budd liners are examples of them. Basically rail cars that meet FRA specs that are self propelled vs push/pull. Rapid transit and railroad traffic doesn't mix.

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Voting closed 6

Track gauge is nothing. The loading gauge of the orange and CR is completely off - unless you think redoing every single platform and tunnel to somehow fit double decker commuter rail trains is viable. Then, of course, we would have to buy an entirely new Orange Line fleet (right after we just did that) to fit the new loading gauge, and, retrofit all of the tunnels with a shit ton of air movement for the commuter rail diesels. Oh, and an entirely new signaling system that can support both the subway and commuter rail at the same time.

And, after all that, it still won't work as the FRA sure as shit isn't going to allow locomotives and third rail subway on the same track. Furthermore, it takes the connection at South Station out of the equation is which one of the biggest job centers/connections into the Seaport, Downtown, Leather District, etc.

So, speaking of stupidity....

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Voting closed 17

It sounds like you have a limited understand of gauge. I don't see anyone who is proposing ramming commuter rail trains into subway tunnels. That's absurd. However, the opposite motion: light(er) rail vehicles on commuter rail tracks: is a thing in Boston - Riverside Green Line, Mattapan Line, and on. Shared tracks is still foreign to Mass. There are systems in the US that bridge the gap between subways and commuter rail along shared tracks. Take for example P-A-T-H in NY-NJ. The system resembles a subway in Manhattan and commuter rail in Jersey. It runs into shared track moments and is expanding into the Northeast Corridor

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However under the current administration, FRA regs are diminishing.

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Just put all the Casino revenue into it. The Commonwealth loves throwing money down holes. Unlike the others this one would be useful.

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Voting closed 57

That's just insiders self-dealing and a total waste of revenue.

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Can we fix the MBTA first before we start the little dig.

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This would be part of fixing it. The stations should have been connected decades ago. This is fixing an old mistake.

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Voting closed 69

Really it should be mandatory considering it was already promised as part of the Big Dig.

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Promised?

Suggested, yes.
Wanted, yes.
But - promised? Was it ever really promised or included, even to the degree that, oh... restore Green Line to Arborway was "promised"?

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It was included in the plans and was provisioned for in the current build. It, however, like a dedicated Silver Line tunnel to the airport, was first on the chopping block. AFIAK, though, unlike the E to Forest Hills, it wasn't legally mandated.

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Voting closed 10

Admitting the Big Dig and its forced mitigation was a massive failure is the first step in a long journey towards fixing Boston transportation.

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Voting closed 17

The Big Dig by any measure has been a huge success, as has most of the MBTA mitigation (6 car blue line trains, GLX, Old Colony restoration, etc). What wasn't that successful was how the funding of said mitigation was handled.

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Voting closed 13

This is code for I never want this done. The current commuter rail system has been band-aided with cheap fixes for far too long. We're clearly at a point where we can't duct tape and chewing gum our way to a more reliable system

  • Diesel trains are cheaper initially but require a lot more maintenance, fail 5x as often, accelerate more slowly and have lower top speeds.
  • We waste capacity at North/South station because of the need to turn around the trains at the end of the line, instead of expanding south station we could make better use of existing resources
  • Stations like DTX are completely overwhelmed by commuters looking to

When I read comments like this I see an excuse to never fix anything, at least be honest.

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The MBTA's diesels fail 160x as often as the LIRR's electric trains.

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Waiting for Baker? That’s a laugh. Baker does NOTHING until he is sure that if the shit hits the fan none of it will land on him. He’s not a leader, he’s a follower.

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Awesome reporting that I hope I never take for granted, thank you Adam

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I was in Brookline just outside Putterham Circle a couple months ago and the car in front of me at the red light had a "North South Rail Link" bumper sticker. I thought, that's odd, I wonder if that's Dukakis? I pulled up and sure enough it was him.

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However, one of the biggest and short sighted mistakes was made when they were redoing South Station and the decision was to remove train tracks.

We still have a problem with delayed trains at South Station because of the lack of available tracks.

Mike has been touting his north-south train link for quite some time now. I understand that expansion is attractive. However, as someone who is probably going to use South Station till I retire, I do not know how focusing on the north-south link is going to help (it has not been made clear to me) the congestion at South Station with the lack of train tracks. One could assume that more trains could be diverted (?) to North Station. But that, in itself is weird. If I want to arrive at South Station, I do not want to have to go to North Station.

Perhaps I am missing something.

As this 2014 Globe article says:

"But Dukakis doesn’t support a plan being pushed by Patrick to expand the station that now bears the former governor’s name. Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials say that adding more tracks to the busy hub — and expanding the station into the post office’s Fort Point Channel property — would improve rail service by relieving congestion.

Instead, he favors a decades-old proposal to create a North-South rail link to connect North and South stations."

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/11/10/south-station-renamed-honor...

And I understand that the Post Office may not want to move but to give up on moving the facility is something that should not be given up on.

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...was primarily due to the expansion of the South Postal Annex, as it used to be called (and might still be, for all I know). I also seem to recall that, at the time, there was talk of moving the facility to Fan Pier instead, but the PO was set on remaining where it was even when moving mail by rail was no longer the status quo.

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n/t

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Voting closed 5

Is the part where you need fewer tracks - and fewer trains - if all the trains don't have to stop and turn around at the same place.

As it is now, a train comes in - let's say, a Wickford Junction train. That train then stops, and parks, at South Station until it goes back out the same way - maybe to Wickford Station, maybe it gets reassigned, say to Worcester.

A source of the backup, and shortage of tracks, at South Station is that the tracks are being occupied by parked trains.

With a North/South link, the Wickford Junction train would be able to continue on after stopping at South Station, perhaps stop at a new Central Station, and at North Station, before it goes North to, say, Lowell or Haverhill.

The time the train spent sitting occupying a track without moving would be reduced, and each train that went into South Station would also be a train that went out of North Station, and vice versa, so the rails would have more effective capacity.

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I wonder though even with the idea that some of the trains will go forward as you suggest, there is still a heck of a lot of train traffic into South Station not just the commuter rail trains but Amtrak. Unless we are going to extend Amtrak service to the North, along with the new installation of electrical wires for the ACELA, I am not sure how much of a punch moving a few trains to North Station will help with the bottlenecks.

I guess I can leave that up to the folks that get paid to analyze this sort of thing.

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Most versions of the NSRL plans I've encountered include Amtrak, completing single-seat Northeast Corridor service from Portland to Washington.

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At least not without an engine change to diesel somewhere on the north side to continue to Portland - don't think Amtrak is in any hurry to electrify the Downeaster.

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The complexity of building the tunnel would be magnified dramatically by needing to install the blower/vent infrastructure for diesel fumes, so electrification of the system is required for the NSRL. The good news is that this has other unrelated benefits for the CR system, such as much more reliable and faster-accelerating engines, as well as less pollution in the communities around the tracks. Electrification of the existing system would be an improvement to the CR even without the NSRL, and the two improvements compound upon each other. Faster trains with shorter dwells mean you can run more frequent service, turning the CR into an intercity regional rail system akin to what's common in Europe or Asia.

This also does mean that Amtrak could in fact run through the city, instead of having some northern trains terminate at North Station and the NEC terminate at South Station. Single-ride from VA to ME!

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Voting closed 13

Well, it really sounds wonderful. But it is going to cost (did someone say "billions?") And, unfortunately, and although it is difficult to believe, public transportation betterment appears not a high priority up on the Hill. So unless someone can light some fires under some collective butts, I'm not gonna hold my breath.

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Amtrak runs Downeaster trains between North Station and Brunswick, Maine, five times a day,

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at North Station, and others at South Station, but many would be routed underground to serve both stations. Each will have underground platforms along with the current platforms.

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Voting closed 5

It would be interesting, and I'm not ruling it out. It's just that I've yet to hear or see any serious consideration of how that would work. These aren't insurmountable problems, but I'd like to hear if proponents have thought about the details...
- How deep would such a line need to be to be below (at assorted points) underground utilities, road tunnels, rapid-transit tunnels, and less-than-rapid-transit (hi, Silver Line, luv you - ) tunnels? 50 feet? 70 feet?
- to get trains to and from that depth at a manageable incline, how far back would tunnel portals need to be?
- how far back do you have to go where there's sufficient space to widen the existing rights-of-way and put tunnel portals without removing existing track?
- If the portal points are further back than the merge points of the different lines on the surface approaches to North & South Stations, do you build multiple portals/tunnels (merging lines underground) or provide the "important regionally-beneficial through-service" to only one or two lines?
- how big would the underground station(s) need to be?
- - I'd imagine (at a bare minimum) two platforms and four tracks to serve four trains at the same time (commuter quick pickup & dropoff in each direction, lengthier Amtrak discharge & boarding in each direction) plus one bypass track, plus they'd have to be large platforms since the waiting room space would have to be on them, plus they'd also have to be large to fit all the elevators/escalators & emergency stairs that would be required.
- - In fact, you'd need to have platform & track space for each commuter line you propose to run underground. You'd never be able to move people down to boarding platform in time if they're all waiting upstairs to hear if the westbound Needham train or the southbound Braintree train is going to be next arrival.
- All of those elevators, escalators, & emergency stairs - where are you going to take room to fit them in the footprint of the surface stations?
- to run in tunnels, it would be much better off electric. So, at a minimum, they'd need to add some catenary, plus electric locomotives and/or trainsets, plus new maintenance facilities - sufficient to handle however many of today's commuter lines they propose to run through tunnel.

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Originally as the alignment under the 93 (supposedly clean backfill with slurry walls all the way). The recent study proposed an alternative routing, too, and goes into details on pretty much everything you are asking. Also, yes, electrification is a must (ventilation and grades).

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It's just that I've yet to hear or see any serious consideration of how that would work

Rob, NSLR has been extensively studied for something like decades, inducing the answers to all your questions. The portal sites for TBM insertion, the depth and location and size of tunnels (at least two different tunnel routings with at least two different tunnel sizes for 4 vs 2 track options), options with new deeper platforms for North/South/Central (aka Aquarium) vs ones just for South and a Haymaker area station, etc etc. Google it. This isn't being spitballed, this has been laboriously examined and the answers to your questions are available in these plans.

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No, I'm talking about the comment-box commandos that say "it's easy", "do it", and such things and don't present anything (or even link to anything) to back it up. The type who are spitballing because they say "Hey! This sounds great!" and don't think at all about how it would have to be done in order to work.

2-track tunnel? Ridiculous. Not worth doing with anything less than four tracks.

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To be a little more generous, maybe some of those people have been discussing the details for years on here and elsewhere and are well-versed on all the stuff you mentioned not knowing anything about, and as a result are tired of discussing to death and just would like to move forward? For instance, the portal sites can't really change too much, but if additional land development happens to the North, it would make the whole thing a lot more complicated to stage - so time's a factor here. Construction costs go up too.

If you want some links to the basics to catch up on, here's a starting point:

Re: 2 vs 4 tracks, yeah, I think most everyone agrees with you there - but didn't you just bring cost in as a concern? I believe the reason that anyone is proposing that (i.e. the MBTA doing so here) is because it's cheaper, stated in this report to be half the price for tunneling.

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Voting closed 12

Thank you for the links.

Cost? I didn't mention cost directly in this chain of comments, but I was addressing to scope & methods, which certainly factor into cost, yes.

I'm definitely glad that they're looking at cost of all alternatives, even ones I don't like. That's part of Impact Statements and Cost-Benefit Analysis which goes into proposals like this.
It may well be that four track isn't economically viable/justified at the start and two-track is. The crucial thing then would be to make sure that building two-track is done in such a way that doesn't physically preclude expanding to four-track later and doesn't add unnecessary cost to later expansion.

Discussed for years and Well-versed? Well, I've been reading here for a few years now and it's mostly occasional outcries of "build the link!", and one post in the last year which generated more back-and-forth - most of the same comments as today, in fact.

'Discussed here for years and readers well-versed in it' - unfortunately isn't a very high bar. After all, stuff like obeying traffic signs & signalling turns has been discussed here for years (much more frequently than NSRL) and readers are QUITE well-versed in the topic - yet peoples' comments reveal they still drive like $****!

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For context, in my first job out of university, I worked on a series of projects in the "windswept wasteland" (which you all now know as the Seaport). It was the late 90s. We were idiots, hacks, fools, etc. for thinking that anyone would ever want to go down there ("and that's why we're not paying to put this expensive bus under D Street!"), but I digress.

I was slated to work on several more things that were contingent on the move of the Post Office. Same for my next job (through 2010).

Short and long of it: When Joe Moakley died in 2001, so did any real chance of the Post Office moving for the foreseeable future. "Stevie" Lynch has never been up to the task.

Can you imagine not being able to take the necessary measures to get the "cash-strapped" USPS (don't make me laugh with that BS pension requirement Congress imposed on it) to move off of some of the most valuable real estate in America, especially at this point in the real estate cycle?!?. Look at what the GE property just sold for on the other side of the Channel, and really, it's just un-fricken-believable and definitely inexcusable.

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It is really unfortunate that this move was not done when there was, well, will and more available land in Boston proper.

However, your point is well taken. I would like to think some creative minds could come up with a way to help the USPS reap some big bucks by moving their facility. I am just now sure where the heck they would go in the city since the powers that be decided to gentrify the Seaport. Although, probably not the best place for a mail facility. Rising tides and paper do not mix well.

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Voting closed 10

To be precise, as of the last redistricting, South Station and the post office is in Ayanna Pressley's (formerly Michael Capuano's) district, although it's right on the edge. Not that it actually matters whose district it's in.

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They missed the chance to move City Hall down there when land was cheap and nobody wanted anything to do with the area, except maybe go as far as Jimmy's . The new City Hall would have acted like a magnet plus the vacated concrete monstrosity would be a bonanza to be developed , such a deal. But O Well , that's life.

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Voting closed 6

I don't understand your confusion. Congestion would be relieved by freeing up the tracks currently used for turning trains around and sending them to the nearby holding yards. Existing track capacity would be better utilized. Trains would be able to leave the station on the track on which they entered, and could be turned around at any point from the hub onward, instead of needing to do it as soon as they arrive.

If you're taking the train to South Station from the south or west, you could avoid going to North Station by getting off the train at South Station. I assume this is what you currently do.

Even if we set aside the major benefits of linking the two halves of the commuter rail network, this would be a viable plan to reduce rail congestion at the hubs. It may be more expensive than adding tracks to both stations, but it also may be more feasible given the Postal Service situation... plus, the other benefits we set aside. Station expansion has no other benefits.

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Voting closed 4

We should all “link” hands in solidarity from North station to south station. Magoo.

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Voting closed 6

The commuter rail sucks for several reasons. Mostly due to the terrible schedules, poor reliability, and high fares. This can be fixed independently of the NSRL, way cheaper and faster.

I say lower the fares tomorrow. Next year, buy reliable off-the-shelf DMUs (and EMUs for Providence) and run them more frequently. In 2 years, electrify the busier lines. The NSRL can come after that.

How many trains per hour do other stub-end terminals support? I'm not convinced we need to expand South Station.

If we buy modern trains that can be turned quickly, a train from Providence to South Station can run back to Providence and solve the South Station/Widett parking problem almost as easily as it could run through the NSRL to Haverhill.

A far easier and better fix for the north-south problem would be improving the Orange Line to run every 3 minutes at rush hour, and every 5-6 minutes off-peak. This would help all of the 200,000 daily Orange Line riders, many of whom don't ride the Commuter Rail.

The new trains are coming. So is a new signal system, but it's unclear how much it will support improved frequencies, even though plenty of other cities do it. Some lines in Moscow run every 2 minutes. Passengers get angry if they have to wait 5 minutes for a train....at midnight.

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Voting closed 5