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State to finally test Silver Line on Ted Williams ramp that could shorten airport, Chelsea rides

MassDOT said today it will experiment next week with letting Silver Line buses use a ramp from the South Boston Haul Road to I-90 that, if nothing bad happens, could lead to shorter rush-hour rides between downtown and Logan Airport and Chelsea on Silver Line bus routes.

Bus drivers will gingerly test out the ramp on Aug. 27, 28 and 29, MassDOT sasys.

Transit activists have been advocating for Silver Line use of the ramp for years, arguing that letting the buses bypass some South Boston traffic could lead to better rides.

Since the opening of the Ted Williams Tunnel and associated turnpike lanes, the ramp has been limited to State Police and other emergency vehicles.

State officials have long balked at letting the longer Silver Line buses onto the ramp for safety reasons - and safety is the main thing that will be at issue during the tests, the state says:

To safely merge onto I-90 eastbound, Silver Line bus operators will only use the ramp when speeds are at 30 mph or less. In addition, prior to entering the ramp, drivers will be notified that the ramp may be used for travel by a lane use signal and then by an MBTA Inspector on the roadway. A radar detector installed at the access ramp merge point near the I-90 eastbound tunnel portal will be collecting the speeds of motor vehicles on I-90 eastbound to help determine whether the Silver Line buses can safely merge. This radar detector will automatically communicate to a signal on the Massport Haul Road. The VMS board will be manually turned on and off at the beginning and end of the afternoon peak travel period.

MassDOT adds:

During the three-day test, transportation personnel will collect data and other information to help determine if safety considerations and operational complexities for Silver Line buses can be met. Traffic conditions such as vehicle speeds during this time will be representative of standard roadway conditions at this location.

Following this three-day test, officials will evaluate the ramp’s use and present findings at a fall meeting of the MassDOT Board and Fiscal and Management Control Board, along with identifying next steps.

Neighborhoods: 
Ad:

Comments

"by an MBTA Inspector on the roadway"

And there it is. The real holdup was that not enough people had put their hands in the cookie jar

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Voting closed 43

> The VMS board will be manually turned on and off at the beginning and end of the afternoon peak travel period.

Right there, is how any stats gathered will be fit to the desired outcome. Look for a whole set of "rules" to be implemented as a result of the "study".

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Voting closed 15

Yay but geez. They could just put a sign ahead of where the ramp enters that flashes "bus entering" to the other drivers when a bus is coming down the ramp. Seems like MassDOT is really overthinking this whole thing. And let the buses use it 24/7.

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Voting closed 61

A "bus entering" sign would just cause Hub drivers on I-90 to close up the gap between themselves and the car in front of them. Yielding to on-ramp traffic isn't a thing here.

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we need enforcement of traffic laws in Boston. If motorists want to tailgate or cause problems for a bus then they should be cited.

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Voting closed 15

.... activists!

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Voting closed 37

Meanwhile nearly every charter bus runs from South Station's Bus Terminal direct to Logan. Some for as low as $5. No Seaport street traffic. Its worth the extra $2.60.

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Voting closed 11

through the Seaport (called the Transitway), and the Silver Line Way ramp in question that was built for these buses to use (no, it wasn't built for the State Police) eliminates the need to mix with Seaport street traffic (except for the missing T under D tunnel).

I guess I should mention it is a free transfer from the Red Line, but if you are not arriving at South Station by motorcoach bus (in which case you would stay on if it continues to the airport), the Silver Line is the best bet besides the Blue Line.

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Voting closed 42

Before the Seaport GLX was cut down and reduced to BRT. The Seaport GLX tunnel was not designed to work with I-90. The two systems are incompatible. The I-90 on-off ramps were not designed for buses either.

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Voting closed 9

I-90 was not built for the Silver Line. The ramps were intentionally designed to keep traffic car-friendly. Anything beyond a shuttle bus has difficulties with each Seaport ramp, on purpose. If there is an accident at this ramp, will you take responsibility for it? Should transit advocates be held liable for pilot accidents?

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...anon who called me a Debbie Downer in another thread? LOL!

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HALLELUJAH!

But come on, they are way over-complicating this and putting in way too many restrictions.

If any old schmuck can be trusted to merge onto 128 from a stop sign, I'm sure professional bus drivers can manage a merge with a somewhat shorter than average length.

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Voting closed 61

This will be a Boston First - come see a bus merge on to a highway!
Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, buses been merging on to roadways and highways for decades. Chaos did NOT ensue.

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Voting closed 39

MBTA Bus 111 does it every trip when it gets on the Tobin. Shorter ramp than this section apparently and it was never brought up as a safety concern as far as I'm aware.

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it is crazy the hoops that the T must go through in order to use this ramp, which was intended to be used by the Silver Line in the first place.

Only to be used when the speed of traffic is 30 mph or under? An MBTA inspector "on the roadway?" Installing a radar detector?

I can tell you right now if the Silver Line buses can safely merge onto the Turnpike. Of course.

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Voting closed 44

There are plenty of scanned dicuments online about the construction of the tunnel and the Silver Line. I have never seen anything that says this ramp was built for buses, especially since the idea to operate the Silver Line to Logan was created after constructon of the "third-harbor tunnel" was already underway. The original plan was for the Silver Line to just be trackless trolleys operating only as far as the Marine Industrial Park under wire (with no off-wire dual-mode capacity).

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Voting closed 13

Could you cite even one of them? Thank you.

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Voting closed 5

MBTA buses can't merge onto I-90? Haven't we been doing this for 40+ years?

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Voting closed 34

My uncle was an inspector. Do they still have police powers of arrest as street railroad police same as the Transit Police?

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Voting closed 6

No

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No inspectors and chief inspectors have not had that badge for well over 20 years

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Will they still have to stop and change their power source? Sheesh. Talk about dumb planning.

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This is a good start.

But I'd like to point out two things:

- Buses using this ramp aren't merging into the general lanes of I-90. They're merging into the HOV lane coming from I-93 (labelled "Express to Airport") : https://goo.gl/maps/4UQBGDwA3NdqJh9B6 . The HOV lane has a generous sized merge into the two general lanes.

This HOV lane got almost no traffic -- it was a ghost town even at rush hour. So merging from the bus ramp was a non-issue. However, they recently opened the HOV lane to all traffic. Does anyone know if it's significantly busier now?

- Massport recently built the "South Boston Waterfront Transportation Center" on the vacant parcel between the Transitway and the Ted approach: https://goo.gl/maps/4UQBGDwA3NdqJh9B6

What waterfront transportation does this center provide? Expensive parking, and that's it. So Massport rakes in the dough, and the rest of us on the Silver Line have to deal with even more car traffic slowing down the buses.

It's too bad they couldn't have built a direct bus ramp to the Pike instead (or in addition), which would eliminate the stupidity of both the D Street ramp and the spaghetti looping halfway back to South Station to get into the Ted.

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Voting closed 4

Shhhh, that'd be too logical.

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Voting closed 2

When I took the Back Bay Logan Express bus to Logan, it used the now-open-to-general-traffic HOV lane from Herald St, and it was total gridlock. What a disaster. The buses could easily have merged because traffic was going about 10 mph. ::facepalm::

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Voting closed 5