• Commuter Rail Electrification

  • Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.
Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

Moderators: CRail, sery2831

  by mbrproductions
 
The idea that transit is only added when the demand is already there is asinine, as a lot of demand can't grow until the transit is there, so the chicken-and-egg needs to be broken.
What is so asinine about the simple concept of supply and demand? Why should it be transit's job to build demand for itself? And in this case the transit already is there, and it does its job of bringing people to and from work adequately enough to serve the current demands of the businesses and communities around it, and that is what it should be doing, not having billions of dollars spent on it out of hope that it will bring about more demand for it. Transit should be built to serve what already exists, not to make its own demand to serve it, that is just building transit for the sake of building transit.
You said two different things.
Did I? If I did then why not specify what I said and how it differs from what I said later on instead of just making a statement that you previously made.
Then they need to exert pressure on Amtrak to stop ripping them off. They also own some of the trackage, so they must have some sort of leverage.
They don't have any leverage, Amtrak has a right to use any trackage that is necessary for their services, and given that the MBTA doesn't even want to electrify, even if they had any leverage to use against Amtrak, they wouldn't make any use of it.
HAH! Because the government controls the price of diesel fuel LOL. Also, that post didn't age well in the past couple of weeks, it's back up again.
The government doesn't control the price of fuel, but it certainly can have an influence on whether it rises or goes down. And the price of diesel going up again doesn't really mean much, fuel prices fluctuate up and down, especially as of recent.
There's plenty of multi-family, relatively dense single family
Yes, and that is mediocre density, especially when compared to the European suburbs that urbanists love to glorify. This level of density is certainly not enough to justify or sustain all day 15 minute headways.
as well as many opportunities to upzone and redevelop at much higher density.
The question is, do any of the people living in these areas actually want higher density?
  by ElectricTraction
 
mbrproductions wrote: Sun Nov 13, 2022 1:13 pmWhat is so asinine about the simple concept of supply and demand? Why should it be transit's job to build demand for itself? And in this case the transit already is there, and it does its job of bringing people to and from work adequately enough to serve the current demands of the businesses and communities around it, and that is what it should be doing, not having billions of dollars spent on it out of hope that it will bring about more demand for it. Transit should be built to serve what already exists, not to make its own demand to serve it, that is just building transit for the sake of building transit.
It's not building demand for the transit's own good, it's how you build a city, grow an economy, and create mobility in a region. The idea that transit can only serve existing demand is ass-backwards.
They don't have any leverage, Amtrak has a right to use any trackage that is necessary for their services, and given that the MBTA doesn't even want to electrify, even if they had any leverage to use against Amtrak, they wouldn't make any use of it.
So there's the real problem, the MBTA is stuck in the last century and doesn't want to move to modern, clean, fast, efficient electric trains.
The government doesn't control the price of fuel, but it certainly can have an influence on whether it rises or goes down. And the price of diesel going up again doesn't really mean much, fuel prices fluctuate up and down, especially as of recent.
The government has little control over fuel prices, it's based on a global oil market.
Yes, and that is mediocre density, especially when compared to the European suburbs that urbanists love to glorify. This level of density is certainly not enough to justify or sustain all day 15 minute headways.
Upzone. Run 2 or 4-car EMUs with OPTO to reduce costs, which drives additional ridership growth.
The question is, do any of the people living in these areas actually want higher density?
There's clearly a demand for housing and transit if you look at real estate prices or highways around Boston. See if new apartments are getting filled up, especially those with good transit access. I'd bet the answer is yes, and at a high price.
  by mbrproductions
 
It's not building demand for the transit's own good, it's how you build a city, grow an economy, and create mobility in a region. The idea that transit can only serve existing demand is ass-backwards.
If that's the case, then how come many cities across the country, such as Houston, which are known for having abysmal transit, are still economically prosperous? You don't need transit to build an economically prosperous city, yes it definitely helps a lot, but it is not a must, and again, the transit in this case is already here.
So there's the real problem, the MBTA is stuck in the last century and doesn't want to move to modern, clean, fast, efficient electric trains.
The MBTA isn't "stuck in the last century" or being stubborn about change, they are one of the most bankrupt entities in the entire northeast, are headed towards a fiscal disaster worse than where they are already at, and are dangerously near becoming an economic liability for the state to maintain, and yet despite all of this, people still expect them to go through with a multi-billion dollar transformation to a network that doesn't even make them the most revenue, it is completely jarring that some expect them to go on with such a massive project with all their money problems. I also find it ironic to refer to running diesel as "being stuck in the last century", despite the fact that diesel locomotives are a more recent invention than electrics (1914 compared to 1879).
Upzone. Run 2 or 4-car EMUs with OPTO to reduce costs, which drives additional ridership growth.
Upzoning, electrification, purchase of new EMUs, and fare gates at all stations to allow for OPTO would all cost so much money for the commonwealth that it is almost certain that it would never be viable to invest in.
There's clearly a demand for housing and transit if you look at real estate prices or highways around Boston. See if new apartments are getting filled up, especially those with good transit access. I'd bet the answer is yes, and at a high price.
That's not what I meant, I am aware there is a demand for housing and transit around Boston, what I meant was would the people living in those neighborhoods want their neighborhoods to be torn down to make way for upzoning by building apartments or townhouses? The answer to that is almost certainly no. I also don't think housing being sold for a high price near transit should be seen as a good thing, as that means that the housing is not affordable, and thus poor people cannot afford it, and they are allegedly the people that need transit the most.
  by CRail
 
ElectricTraction wrote:The idea that transit is only added when the demand is already there is asinine, as a lot of demand can't grow until the transit is there, so the chicken-and-egg needs to be broken.
The whole business model behind Brightline is exactly this. Build a transportation network to raise land value, develop valuable land.
ElectricTraction wrote: Fri Nov 11, 2022 6:21 pmMore reverse commutation, suburb to suburb travel, off-peak usage, and now hybrid work that has people riding 1-3 days a week and/or commuting from farther distances. There's still a peak, but it's nowhere near as peaky as it was decades ago.
Burb to burb travel, which is a great point, will not be served by the existing spoke only network regardless of what makes the trains go. Hybrid work schedules reduce traffic, but don't typically alter it much. While there are certainly examples of running into the office for a meeting and a couple quick things, most will get the most out of their commutes by spending the day making sure they don't have to come back tomorrow. Business hours have not ceased to exist as our economy is still based on the 9-5 (roughly) schedule and traffic peaks on both rails and roads are unchanged. Even demand is more of a political talking point made by "regional rail" advocates and is not well based in reality.
If you look at the base price of the fuels at the consumer level and account for the drastic difference in efficiency, it's pretty clear that electric is a fraction the cost of diesel. The decision to get rid of the trolley buses was both terrible, and not based on the fuel costs, which surely are multiple times higher on diesel, but the overall cost of maintaining a bespoke and captive fleet.
If you look at the price of fuels at the consumer level you're generating flawed data from the start. The T doesn't pay the green number at your local service station, and your electric bill covers the cost of transmission lines which is shared by everyone else who has electric service (so everyone give or take 0). The overall cost, which is the one that matters, is higher, which you seem to finally admit. That said, I agree that the elimination of trackless was a terrible idea not based in fuel costs. No one is arguing the cost of the commodity, it's the cost of delivery that makes complete conversion impractical.
Electrics are unquestionably cheaper over their lifecycle when comparing apples to apples. The problem is that electrics in the US are basically all bespoke designs used by one or two agencies in small numbers, versus semi-standardized designs like the P40/P42 and now the SC-44/ALC-42, so it's an apples to oranges comparison.
The MBTA is not going to skew the market on a continental level and NEVER buys off the shelf (to the dismay of all of us), so ...once again... we see how this would NOT be cheaper in the long run.
  by type 7 3704
 
mbrproductions wrote: Sun Nov 13, 2022 8:34 pm Upzoning, electrification, purchase of new EMUs, and fare gates at all stations to allow for OPTO would all cost so much money for the commonwealth that it is almost certain that it would never be viable to invest in.
Upzoning is free from the MBTA's perspective. It's merely legalizing the construction of denser and/or taller forms of housing, and additional costs are merely borne by developers (and to a lesser extent, municipalities that have to provide additional services in terms of schools, etc., though that likely balances against the additional tax revenue from the denser buildings). The MBTA doesn't have to spend a dime, until there is so much additional ridership that they have to provide additional service to prevent overcrowding. With current MBTA ridership figures they aren't exactly closer to that.
That's not what I meant, I am aware there is a demand for housing and transit around Boston, what I meant was would the people living in those neighborhoods want their neighborhoods to be torn down to make way for upzoning by building apartments or townhouses? The answer to that is almost certainly no. I also don't think housing being sold for a high price near transit should be seen as a good thing, as that means that the housing is not affordable, and thus poor people cannot afford it, and they are allegedly the people that need transit the most.
The places most in need of upzoning are the places with $1 million+ single family homes next to train stations, which describes many, many commuter rail stations (as well as much of the MBTA D Line). Those areas are already completely unaffordable. Upzoning also does not mean that less-dense forms of housing cease to exist or that every single building gets torn down - single family homes can continue to exist if the property owner chooses to keep it that way. The notion that a few apartment buildings or townhouses destroys neighborhoods is NIMBY propaganda.

New affordable housing is also much more viable when denser construction is permitted, as denser construction is inherently cheaper per unit than lower-density constructions, and inclusionary zoning schemes to cross-subsidize new affordable apartments become feasible with higher number of units.
  by ElectricTraction
 
mbrproductions wrote: Sun Nov 13, 2022 8:34 pmIf that's the case, then how come many cities across the country, such as Houston, which are known for having abysmal transit, are still economically prosperous? You don't need transit to build an economically prosperous city, yes it definitely helps a lot, but it is not a must, and again, the transit in this case is already here.
Oh c'mon, Houston is a car dependent hellscape that is basically a ginormous suburb with three small downtowns. The Houston metro area is about the same size as the entire state of Connecticut. Boston is much more dense, and doesn't have comically ginormous freeways and stroads all over the place. In places like Boston and NYC, the road and/or parking systems are basically maxed out, so the only way to grow is to grow around transit, and the only way to do that is to have robust transit that people actually want to use.
The MBTA isn't "stuck in the last century" or being stubborn about change, they are one of the most bankrupt entities in the entire northeast, are headed towards a fiscal disaster worse than where they are already at, and are dangerously near becoming an economic liability for the state to maintain, and yet despite all of this, people still expect them to go through with a multi-billion dollar transformation to a network that doesn't even make them the most revenue, it is completely jarring that some expect them to go on with such a massive project with all their money problems. I also find it ironic to refer to running diesel as "being stuck in the last century", despite the fact that diesel locomotives are a more recent invention than electrics (1914 compared to 1879).
It is a funny juxtaposition, but the simple fact remains that diesel push-pull for commuter and regional rail is at best, suitable only for a tiny niche in the 21st century, and the primary technology that should be used is electric. Modern electrification with autotransformers came about in 1914, heavy rail diesels first started to appear in the 1930's, but yes, diesels are newer.
Upzoning, electrification, purchase of new EMUs, and fare gates at all stations to allow for OPTO would all cost so much money for the commonwealth that it is almost certain that it would never be viable to invest in.
They'd be far cheaper to operate, even at much higher service levels than diesel push-pull. What are you talking about fare gates? Most systems use proof of payment whether they use OPTO or not.
That's not what I meant, I am aware there is a demand for housing and transit around Boston, what I meant was would the people living in those neighborhoods want their neighborhoods to be torn down to make way for upzoning by building apartments or townhouses? The answer to that is almost certainly no. I also don't think housing being sold for a high price near transit should be seen as a good thing, as that means that the housing is not affordable, and thus poor people cannot afford it, and they are allegedly the people that need transit the most.
Neighborhoods and cities evolve. You don't bulldoze the whole neighborhood to build 1000 apartments at a time, you renovate, rebuild, fill in, densify within the fabric of the neighborhood. No, it's not a good thing, it means that there's some combination of not enough transit and/or not enough housing near the transit that exists.
  by ElectricTraction
 
CRail wrote: Mon Nov 14, 2022 9:14 amThe whole business model behind Brightline is exactly this. Build a transportation network to raise land value, develop valuable land.
That's true. That's an interesting one, as it's privatized, which I'm not a huge fan of, but that project likely wouldn't exist otherwise. The same principles should be able to be leveraged by public agencies.
Burb to burb travel, which is a great point, will not be served by the existing spoke only network regardless of what makes the trains go.
That's true if they just electrified and then stopped. If they electrify to support building the NSRL, then it adds quite a bit of additional cross-connectivity.
Hybrid work schedules reduce traffic, but don't typically alter it much. While there are certainly examples of running into the office for a meeting and a couple quick things, most will get the most out of their commutes by spending the day making sure they don't have to come back tomorrow. Business hours have not ceased to exist as our economy is still based on the 9-5 (roughly) schedule and traffic peaks on both rails and roads are unchanged. Even demand is more of a political talking point made by "regional rail" advocates and is not well based in reality.
There's some basic math here. If everyone only goes into the office 2 days a week, and they are evenly staggered as to which days they go in, then there's going to be a lot less traffic on any given day. Demand for regional rail was increasing before COVID, and isn't necessarily related to hybrid work arrangements.
If you look at the price of fuels at the consumer level you're generating flawed data from the start. The T doesn't pay the green number at your local service station, and your electric bill covers the cost of transmission lines which is shared by everyone else who has electric service (so everyone give or take 0). The overall cost, which is the one that matters, is higher, which you seem to finally admit. That said, I agree that the elimination of trackless was a terrible idea not based in fuel costs. No one is arguing the cost of the commodity, it's the cost of delivery that makes complete conversion impractical.
Yes, they buy diesel fuel cheaper than you or I would at the corner gas station, and yes, they buy electricity cheaper at wholesale than you or I do on our electric bill, but they're both cheaper. There is some cost in the electric infrastructure, but there is a lot of cost in the diesel fueling and maintenance of internal combustion engines as well that doesn't happen on the electric side. And at $5, $6, or more per gallon for diesel, electric is just WAY cheaper.
The MBTA is not going to skew the market on a continental level and NEVER buys off the shelf (to the dismay of all of us), so ...once again... we see how this would NOT be cheaper in the long run.
MBTA, NJT, MARC, CDOT, SEPTA, RTD, and any other cities doing electrified FRA heavy rail should get together and come up with a standardized EMU design. There really should be standardized designs for the following classes of passenger rail equipment:

1. AC EMUs with optional 25hz for PRR/Reading.
2. DC third rail EMUs for PRR and NYC.
3. DMUs that can run within LIRR clearance (most restrictive).
3. Single level passenger cars.
4. NJT ML cars for peak of peak trains only.
5. MBTA/MARC ML cars for peak of peak trains only.
6. Gallery cars.
7. Bilevel cars for everywhere south and west (Kawasaki Bi-levels pretty much already are).

Other things, like AC/DC EMUs will always have to be bespoke designs due to their limited applications.
  by ElectricTraction
 
type 7 3704 wrote: Tue Nov 15, 2022 12:14 amUpzoning is free from the MBTA's perspective. It's merely legalizing the construction of denser and/or taller forms of housing, and additional costs are merely borne by developers (and to a lesser extent, municipalities that have to provide additional services in terms of schools, etc., though that likely balances against the additional tax revenue from the denser buildings). The MBTA doesn't have to spend a dime, until there is so much additional ridership that they have to provide additional service to prevent overcrowding. With current MBTA ridership figures they aren't exactly closer to that.
That's a great point. I missed the slight of hand about upzoning being lumped in with things that would cost MBTA money. Done properly, upzoning increases tax revenues more than it requires additional services be provided by the city.
The places most in need of upzoning are the places with $1 million+ single family homes next to train stations, which describes many, many commuter rail stations (as well as much of the MBTA D Line). Those areas are already completely unaffordable. Upzoning also does not mean that less-dense forms of housing cease to exist or that every single building gets torn down - single family homes can continue to exist if the property owner chooses to keep it that way. The notion that a few apartment buildings or townhouses destroys neighborhoods is NIMBY propaganda.
Exactly. And the notion that multi-family housing destroys a neighborhood is racist and classist, although ironically the high-end mostly white neighborhoods generally tend to stay that way, even with more dense housing, but housing somewhere, even at the high end is still good, it frees up housing elsewhere for someone else.
New affordable housing is also much more viable when denser construction is permitted, as denser construction is inherently cheaper per unit than lower-density constructions, and inclusionary zoning schemes to cross-subsidize new affordable apartments become feasible with higher number of units.
Exactly. There isn't one-size-fits-all other than outlawing single family zoning in general, but multi-families, garden apartments, small apartment buildings, even ADUs behind or next to otherwise single-family houses are all great solutions.
  by Badandy
 
Got a buddy who's a Conductor. He told me the union is against electrification so " You'll never see it".
  by MaineCoonCat
 
I'm curious as to why.
Last edited by CRail on Sat Nov 26, 2022 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total. Reason: Unnecessary nesting quotes removed. Do not use the 'quote' button as the 'reply' button!
  by CRail
 
This thread has become a rabbit hole of both professed opinion passed as fact and blatant misinformation. The discussion has become repetitious and unproductive. It will be made available again once developments involving electrification of the Commuter Rail network materialize.
  by type 7 3704
 
We have some state legislative action going on, with State Senator Crighton (3rd Essex, representing Lynn/Lynnfield/Marblehead/Nahant/Saugus/Swampscott) filing bill SD.1190 and State Reps Owens (29th Middlesex, Cambridge/Watertown) and Armini (8th Essex, Lynn/Marblehead/Swampscott) filing bill HD. 2742.

Article: https://framinghamsource.com/index.php/ ... d-of-2026/

Crighton's Senate bill sets some unfunded mandates around electrification with the following deadlines:
  • The entirety of the Providence/Stoughton and Fairmount lines, and the Newburyport/Rockport line up to Beverly must be electrified by December 31, 2024
  • Construction on Fairmount and Newburyport/Rockport must begin by November 1, 2023
  • Framingham/Worcester shall be electrified by December 31, 2026
  • Middleborough/Lakeville shall be electrified by December 31, 2027
  • Remaining lines shall be electrified by December 31, 2035
IMO December 31, 2024 is probably unrealistic for anything but Providence (and even then there's no immediate obvious source of electric locos available on that short notice, other than perhaps borrowing Amtrak's ACS64s, or seeing if there's still some AEM-7s available). The other deadlines (aside from perhaps 2035 for overall electrification) are also unlikely to be meetable.

There's also some legal mandates about the MBTA being capable of the following frequencies by December 31, 2029:
  • Fairmount, Newburport/Rockport as north as Salem, and Providence/Stoughton shall be capable of 7.5 minute headways.
  • Newburyport/Rockport from Beverly northwards shall be capable of 15-30 minute headways.
  • Framingham/Worcester as west as Framingham shall be capable of 15 minute headways.
  • All remaining lines shall be capable of 30-60 minute headways.
Given NEC and South Station congestion 7.5 minutes on Providence/Stoughton is extremely unlikely. The others *might* be doable, but again you're almost certainly limited by capacity at South Station.

Overall the bill is unrealistic, but it does get a conversation going around these matters, and perhaps something will emerge with more realistic mandates (and preferably also funding).
  by TurningOfTheWheel
 
The deadlines and headway mandates are pretty clearly a starting point for negotiations or conversations with the new governor's administration about what the T should be striving for/what the government should aim to fund. You just hope that the inherent expectation that the T will complete a design and construction procurement in under six months doesn't cause the conversation to be laughed off Beacon Hill entirely.
  by apodino
 
I am no Electrical Engineer so pardon me if this question sounds dumb. One thing I was thinking about with Providence Line is the fact that on the current system there is a Substation located less than half a mile to the north of TF Green Airport station. Assuming the CR platform is electrified and this route goes full electric, that puts a dead section of catenary just north of the station platforms. Can an electric train heading northbound get enough speed prior to the dead section leaving the station to be able to coast through, or is this going to be a problem for those trains?
  by Red Wing
 
Don't have a problem with the mandate electrification especially since Commonwealth agencies are supposed to be carbon neutral by 2050. What I have a problem with is legislating how many trains should be running.
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