The EGE wrote:I suspect that the reason for kicking the can this time was to buy time until a Type 10 purchase has been finalized. At that point, it would be clear whether the 20 1997-built Type 9s, or the 24 2018-built Type 9s, will be available to be relocated to the Mattapan Line.
...or finally convert it into a proper Milton-Mattapan Red Line extension.
Part of the pearl-clutching about trolleys is that Milton has always jealously guarded its boutique intermediate stops and shut down any talk of a stop-consolidating heavy rail conversion. That genie isn't going to stay in the bottle forever the way demographics and traffic demands in the outermost neighborhoods are changing. The ridership served, transfers served, and cars taken off the roads at Lower Mills and Mattapan with an Ashmont Branch one-seat at Ashmont Branch headways outslugs the trolley by orders of magnitude. And Blue Hill Ave. CR station + BRT-ification of the 28 isn't going to be enough to triage the Mattapan corridor's connectivity to downtown. It's enough of a burning issue below the surface that the not-too-bad cost and schedule of an HRT conversion (2 grade separations, 2 prepayment station rebuilds, power upgrades, outbound-facing Codman Yard turnouts, and not much else of significant steel-and-concrete proportions) aren't going to stifle the debate. Cedar Grove, Butler, Valley Rd., and Capen aren't going to make an 'intangibles' case for another round of status quo when 21st century trending has grown that outsized.
So this is probably going to be the last "kick-the-can" stopgap they can make after nearly a century of periodic punts on that issue. This is the last time going to the well on 'historic' cred with the rolling stock. The BRT-everywhere trojan horse got defeated so soundly last time that it's never popping back up. The 28X BRT proposal out of Dudley went down in flames, and while it's still badly needed for many other reasons it shouldn't have been overhyped as much as it was as all things to all people. Blue Hill Ave. CR will help, but station location doesn't tap all the bus transfers of Mattapan Sq. hub at frequencies quite high enough to move the needle on Yellow Line service levels. And the successful TOD redev of Lower Mills has exploded street traffic levels enough to affect OTP of the Ashmont Hub buses through there more hours of the day, heightening the need to move the two (instead of three) -seat transfer further out.
Whether the final decision in another 10 years defaults to modern LRV's or not, there's probably going to be a more thorough and out-in-the-open debate about the proper Red Line than we've ever seen hashed out before. Formal study at minimum...not being cut off at the pass by Milton covering its ears and shouting "No! No! No!" about its boutique stops. If the decision is made to stay with trolleys permanently, it'll be with a package of enhancements that allow the trolleys to specifically target the growth...not simply another stopgap punt. And that'll be a healthy exercise whichever way it leans, if for no other reason than quantifying modern numbers for each alternative and getting a full public airing of the options.
As for the future of PCC's in Massachusetts...how about Lowell
??? The Canal district, visions for growing it as an employment center, and tie-ins to the CR station have many similarities with the Kenosha, WI streetcar. Only here there's something pre-existing to build off of if they want to take their 38-year-old museum streetcar and run the football turning it into general-purpose transit. The city's long wanted to expand the streetcar further around the canal district, tie it into more UMass space being built around the canals, and bring its terminus down the street into the CR station busway. But they've always shied away from a full-on commitment, with the last city referendum a year-plus ago similarly taking a punt.
Eventually they're going to work up the courage to exploit that asset and extend the route mileage to loop and spur further around. Though whether they put enough oomph in it to make it real public transit or just a stretched-thinner museum piece is a 'vision thing' they've still got to work out as they learn how to be a growth city. Availability of 10 remanufactured air-conditioned PCC's available in 10 years to run in light duty around the canal as a main fleet sprinkled in with some of the other Seashore touristy cars sounds like a very compelling opportunity to jump-start themselves around. If they can make a decision to go big-time with their network, Kenosha-style.