• Needham Line Questions

  • 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 Red Wing
Feeding the loop would be any endpoint but Boston Collage. So that would be off the table but you make a point of passenger load studies.
  by The EGE
Once a Type 10 order (which will be longer cars and/or able to operate as triples) arrives, you can drop frequencies slightly (and thus make eliminating bunching easier) while still improving capacity. So you could have something like 11 B, 8 C, 6 D-Riverside, 6 D-Needham, and 9 E trains per hour, while still keeping only 40 TPH through the Central Subway.
  by CRail
What I would do is run single cars from Needham at the same headway as the Riverside line and make them 3 car trains from Newton Higlands in. That increases capacity without increasing traffic or creating irregular headways.
  by jwhite07
Good idea, and I know MUNI does (or did) something like this at West Portal in San Francisco, but such a practice would require some pretty fine timing to avoid prolonged waiting for another train to arrive and couple on (which is/was a problem in SF). Any delay on either branch is going to cause the irregular headway you wish to avoid. Better to have a practice where you make the meet when the timing's right, and schedule it to be all but bulletproof if you can, but matching headways between the two branches may not work with the travel times and speed differential involved between the two routes, so it won't always work no matter how you try. Assume that the Riverside train should be favored against taking a prolonged delay in all cases, so if the connection is way off they just proceed separately without coupling up. The Needham single can short turn at Kenmore as suggested elsewhere, simply to avoid clogging up the central subway further.
  by Diverging Route
IIRC, the combining/splitting at West Portal went from the PCC era through the Boeing era. But when the Breadas and ATO came on-line in the mid-90s, the practice was stopped. It was always fun to stand at West Portal and watch the show!

But I agree that three-car trains through the Boston central subway with somewhat less frequency will improve overall system throughput, with less bunching, shorter dwell times, and faster loading/unloading.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
Might be selling this branch a little short on projected ridership. See this 2016 City of Newton presentation. URL lands on the few pages of Green Line + shuttle bus content, since it's a 100+ page "state of the city"-type presentation covering redevelopment visions for each major Newton village. But scroll back and forth from those transit pages to get an overall view of the massive redevelopment going in on Needham St. between Upper Falls and New England Business Center @ Route 128 crossing the Needham city line. NEBC alone is worth about 2.5 million sq. ft. in new mixed-use space if redeveloped fully. That's why the Route 128 widening project now staggers the Needham St. & Kendrick St. exits that used to be combined; the traffic spike on Needham St. is going to be a doozy.

This Newton-centric presentation only proposed a starter spur to NEBC and Needham Heights to bait some eyeballs with public-private red meat and visions of tax riches from all that TOD. Obviously City of Needham has had its own longstanding advocacy for completing the circuit to Needham Junction, and has its own TOD tricks up sleeve for the TV Place side of 128. Depending on what stop selection you choose out of the Needham St. / Upper Falls / NEBC trio proposed by Newton you'd likely see a little bit of shifting away from Eliot (neighborhood walk-up) and Woodland (park-and-ride) to the Needham St. and NEBC stops. And then if NEBC or a second flanking stop on the other side @ TV Place has a parking garage for swallowing cars you'd have some load-shifting of Riverside P&R traffic from the south (though Riverside would immediately re-fill from the north).

I dunno...traditional D and the new branch might actually come pretty close to load-balancing themselves in the end, making the ops considerations for alternating headways a little more cut-and-dried. All depends on how high a ceiling you peg on the cumulative 128 TOD potential. The corridor from Needham St. to Needham Ctr. has pretty robust all-day walkup density compared to the leafier Eliot-Woodland stretch of D. Branch service may start out lower on the growth curve, but the ultimate future looks bright for all-day demand on that stretch.
  by Disney Guy
With the Needham branch it would be desirable to be able to couple up further inbound (between Newton Center and Longwood). It is not unusual for trains, even today, to bunch up. With single cars going to Needham, a couple up could occur whenever and wherever a deuce and a single got too close together. Unfortunately, today, 4 cars don't work together in a train but significantly greater subway efficiently could be achieved by coupling two deuces every now and then.
  by CRail
jwhite07 wrote:Better to have a practice where you make the meet when the timing's right, and schedule it to be all but bulletproof if you can, but matching headways between the two branches may not work with the travel times and speed differential involved between the two routes, so it won't always work no matter how you try.
NOTHING in this industry works according to plan 100% of the time, you’re spot on. There’s an inspecotr’s office in the old station building at Newton Highlands. It’s currently only staffed for a couple hours during the rush, I’d mean it full time and the official would determine whether to skip the connection or realign/miss-match or short turn trips, etc. The Kenmore loop is already used quite a bit to minimize as damage control when the central subway gets backed up, this would probably add to that.

Regarding the ridership levels mentioned by F-Line, remember too that this idea is usually paired with Orange Line to Needham. Needham cars would not need to bear the brunt of the region’s ridership.
  by Arborwayfan
It would be much better to have the OL and GL meet (at Needham Jct or elsewhere) than to have the OL end in W. Rox. and the GL end in Needham someplace. There are probably already a few Needham Ctr-Rozzie/Westie/Forest Hills riders, and actual frequent service should mean more. How far out is the ROW double track width? Only to W. Rox? The Charles River bridge is just single, isn't it? If there isn't room for double track, could they run single-track OL W. Rox. to Needham Jct? Or Hersey to Needham Jct? With a siding? Or is that far enough to just screw up the line royally every so often?

At Needham Jct. I hope they would build a very easy transfer station: Really just bring the two lines right up to each other at the same platforms, maybe: not cross-platform transfer, but walk-down-the-platform transfer. Or put the GL on the outside and the OL on the inside and do cross-platform transfer.

Here in Olso, a light rail line and a heavy-rail line share track (separate platforms on same tracks at one shared station, one same platform with three different tracks at the other shared station). I don't see much to gain from doing that in Needham, but overlap from Jct to Hersey could give a few more people 1-seat rides in the direction they want. Prob not worth it, though, even if legal.
  by BandA
remember that the Orange Line once shared the Central Subway for a few years, with different platforms in the same station, just like Arborwayfan's euro solution. Since we are talking about FTA regulated subway cars and trolleys, not FRA regulated locomotives, I assume mixing and matching would be allowed and the trolleys would fit past the Orange platforms.

An Orange Needham Line would need catenary, like the Blue Line used to have to handle the grade crossings.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
OL & GL meeting at Junction has never been a studied proposal at all. For one, because the alignments studied from 1945 to the 1970's had Orange diverting at W. Rox down the old branch to Dedham Mall/Dedham Ctr. instead of continuing onward towards Needham. It was only after Dedham emphatically rejected the last of that talk that it started appearing on long-term transpo plan reports affixed to 128, and even then it was a pick 'em of Needham-via-W. Rox vs. Westwood-via-Readville options (the latter now moot because NEC track berths 3 & 4 are officially spoken for in Amtrak plans). With the fallout from the I-95/SW Expressway cancellation and forced re-design of the SW Corridor then significantly muddying up the picture on whither past-Forest Hills. The Needham option picked Greendale Ave. instead of Hersey for the station because of more acreage for a terminal un-constrained by the golf course, easier highway access from multiple exits (135, Great Plain, and now Kendrick) on Greendale, and still nearly as good walkup access from the same residential neighborhood around Hersey.

But that selection was more an administrative placeholder for future studies TBD than a fleshed-out plan in its own right that made any attempt to affix any ballpark numbers to the Needham terminus. Those regional vision plans couldn't make assumptions that both the Green and Orange extension projects would ever be studied together rather than studied individually. If you're studying individually then the Orange 128 stop isn't going to have its modeling reflect the catchment of the Green 128 stop 1-1/2 exits up, or how the 59 bus might be reshaped in the presence of Green. Inverse true for any individual studies of the Green branch. In fact, most of the detailed studying ever done for the Green branch dating back to '45 had nothing whatsoever to say about Orange because it assumed the Dedham routing was still an extant Preferred Alternative for Orange, or that Readville/Westwood was in competition with W.Rox/Needham for the non-Dedham Plan B's.

It does change the calculation to study both GL & OL extensions in tandem rather than individually and apart. Especially if you're operating under the long-term assumption borne out in the NEC FUTURE study docs that the Amtrak-induced traffic squeeze on the SW Corridor is eventually going to force mode conversion of the Needham Line from lack of alternatives to maintaining current service levels, and almost no hope ever of somehow enhancing service levels on the branch so long as it's attached to the Purple Line. When these are finally studied, it'll now have to be with the full foreknowledge that the coming Purple Line/SW Corridor congestion crunch is a real thing coming and that transit loss and/or stagnation to the Needham Line corridor can only be treated by considering the Green and Orange extensions as related siblings. Related even if the build sequences rank out at different priority levels.

Consider: the 128 stop on Green will happen if Green happens at all. It's either a Phase I terminus on the starter build before you get as far as Needham Heights, or the midpoint of a branch displacing commuter rail to Needham Jct. So in a cost-constrained world where you have to weigh considerations like minimum builds and phasing in chunks to arrive at a Recommended Alternative, a tandem study will duly note that Green is the first achievable touch to 128 that you can guarantee for the money. Next level up from there: if the minimum-most build that displaces all CR with no major transit loss to anyone is Green to 128 + Junction, Orange to W. Rox, and a 59 re-route from Needham Center down Great Plain Ave. to capture Hersey...then that's the next threshold you have to hit for the available money. Last level up: Orange from W. Rox-128. It's the one and only truly optional leg that doesn't have to go on the table in a CR-displacement scenario to avoid transit loss, and it's 2 route miles of construction for only 1 stop vs. less than 3 miles for the 4 stops between FH-W. Rox. OL-128 most likely goes in or out of the build in an independent determination, like how GLX Route 16 ended up broken out into a staggered tack-on with separate funding from the core Union + College Ave. build. It could happen concurrent with the rest if funding/scheduling break favorable, it could be a committed later phase...or it could be a TBD or taken off the table entirely if cost vs. projected OL-128 ridership vs. projected GL-128 ridership break unfavorably for the OL-128 leg's practical chances.

We don't know how it'll fare because it's never been studied...but that's why we go ahead and study things! I do think you are going to have to answer all pertinent OL-128 questions very far into the affirmative before it's even possible to breach the subject of both lines somehow meeting at a Needham Jct. superstation an additional 1.7 miles west. That's two full leaps beyond anything that's ever been given serious look before, and 3¾ route miles beyond the minimum effective build for CR-displacement service to ponder in extra construction cost.
  by BandA
Big problem. With all this proposed multi-million sq ft development, these transit solutions bring employees from the east out to the suburbs to work. But most of the workers will be coming from the north or south on 128 or from the west on the Ma$$ Pike!! Are we going to extend the Green Line past Needham to Millis? Re-connect the Riverside "D" Highland Branch to the Framingham/Worcester Line? Build an EL over 128? Rebuild the Central Mass CR? How do we accommodate a new exit/giant parking garage for a 128 station(s)? Oh the pain, the pain...
  by ceo
Where are you thinking of putting these 128 stations (and presumed giant parking garages) on Green and Orange? The crossing on the potential Green ROW is pretty built-up, and Orange is smack in the middle of a wetland and some distance (through a residential area) from the nearest interchange.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
ceo wrote:Where are you thinking of putting these 128 stations (and presumed giant parking garages) on Green and Orange? The crossing on the potential Green ROW is pretty built-up, and Orange is smack in the middle of a wetland and some distance (through a residential area) from the nearest interchange.
See the linky up the page from the City of Newton presentation; URL lands on p.50 of the document at start of the GL content. Scroll up to Page 60, and you get a map that pegs the exact location of New England Business Center stop: east side of 128, abutting the Charles River bridge, street access from Fremont St. on the NEBC/Highland Ave. side and Reservoir St. from the north/Central Ave. side. Note that they are planning a circulator bus to board from there and loop around the whole of the NEBC development...a 2.5 mile circuit spanning the GL stop, Highland, and Kendrick. That stop, as the slides on the prior 10 pages details, is primarily TOD-serving. They don't want a parking sink right there. Garage access is less of a cluster on the Highland-Kendrick block between the two exits, which would put said garage on the circulator bus and NOT in front of the GL station.

As this is a City of Newton study, they were primarily interested in the Newton-serving angle...which is NEBC a mere 250 ft. over on the Needham side of the city line. They weren't concerned with anything on the other side of 128. Now...City of Needham, with its own parallel GL advocacy, is also redevving the TV Place area on the other side of 128, up Gould St. bookending both sides of the ROW. They have alternately toyed around with stop concepts at Gould. That is the far better place to plunk a garage, out in front of Channel 5 studios where the Muzi Ford/Chevy dealership currently chews up a big slab of asphalt. Traffic patterns from the Gould/Hunting Rd. intersection are much more amenable to that since Hunting goes straight to Kendrick at the other exit and would disperse some traffic in/out of a garage without turning from Highland.

Both TOD sites are big, but no one stop can cover them both because they're almost 1/3 mile apart with a giant highway in the middle. And some segmentation is necessary because one is more amenable to P&R's but the other has enormously bigger redev square footage. Therefore, it's a fair bet that two stops 2000 ft. apart get studied in the plan, and the chips fall where they may on Recommended Alternative final selections. Gould St. is a grade crossing, so it would make an ideal stop just because a trolley signal is going to sit there barring an expensive and probably not necessary overpass build (Note: crossing is well north of the Muzi/Channel 5 driveway, so the garage wouldn't be dumping its load in that direction). 2000 ft. stop spacing between NEBC and TV Place is longer than the spacing between Fenway-Longwood and Beaconsfield-Reservoir, and only a few feet shorter than Woodland-Riverside...so it isn't as close as it seems. You actually have a bit of a problem with over-long gaps if skipping right from NEBC to Needham Heights, because that's a full 1-1/4 miles. It ends up evening out the spacing pretty effectively to segment it Upper Falls<-->NEBC<---|128|--->TV Place<-->Heights<-->Center<-->Junction.

Orange, as previously mentioned, has had zero official study west of W. Rox. The map placement of a stop at 128 is strictly a placeholder to pick up for further study later, and they haven't hashed out anything else. Yes, the wetlands and single-family residential surroundings not conducive to TOD are a problem. I'm not sure how you can do much more than build a parking sink here, there are zero buses crossing Great Plain or 135 from either direction, and the crater in off-peak utilization would be very problematic for the extra +2 route miles across the swamp from W. Rox as well as very divergent from the neighborhood characteristics of every other OL stop all the way to Oak Grove.

Personally, I'm not sure going past W. Roxbury is needed if you're building the Green branch, and even less so if both NEBC and TV Place merit flanking stops by 128. But that opinion is informed more by there being reams of data about likely demand at the GL-128 candidate sites and literal bupkis collected about any OL-128 sites. You can hazard a guess...but it'll be an incomplete at best guess until they collect some first-time data about rapid transit headways vs. demand down there. Most definitely a formal study of either/both extensions needs to fill in that data gap down by Hersey to help inform major decisions on either build. Even if Orange throws up a caution for going past W. Rox in any initial build, you do need to crunch demand around Great Plain/Hersey to complete the picture around Green because the 59 bus will probably be re-routed down Great Plain from Needham Ctr. to eliminate the total 1:1 route duplication with Green between Heights-Junction. The Yellow Line is a key supporting player in all things Green-Needham; it isn't so much for Orange once you decide to cross VFW Parkway and head west.
  by ceo
OK, that makes sense. Looks like there's a lot of encroachment on the ROW, and a double-tracked Green Line plus bike path is going to need all of it. A lot of abutters are going to be upset to find out their back parking lots are getting torn up. (I've no idea if those are legit easements or not.)