• Plan to use Track 61 as a Red Line test track

  • 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 F-line to Dudley via Park
Why would they need to do so much testing on the Red Line cars to begin with? The Orange and Red cars are near 100% component-identical, and the Orange pilot cars are being delivered 13 months ahead of the Red pilot cars. What could there possibly be that's above-and-beyond about the Red pilot that requires spending $32M on a one-time-only test track...that they aren't going find out from the earlier Orange pilot having a full year's worth of testing on the Wellington track???

Think about it. If the only thing that's different between CRRC's RL & OL makes is carbody size and weight then clearance testing and ride quality (braking/acceleration distance and etc.) should be the only testing differences more than splitting-hairs unique to the RL pilot. And those differences would not be the sort of things that a stub-ended, single-tracked tangent new test track are going to tell you much about. You'd need a representative sample of curves and switches to go through on the test track to tell how the identical guts fare matched with the larger carbody, and that's something you'll only get rounding the Cabot loop and going through the 3 sets of crossovers on the Cabot lead all day prior to being greenlit for overnight testing on the mainline.

With a whole year's lead time for the Orange pilot, the Red pilot shouldn't need to be tasked with so much common-component testing that it needs such a large sunk-cost investment in test track duplicating Wellington's functions. Wellington should be able to complete a full pilot testing cycle, return pilot mods to CRRC, and still have enough time to test a second post-mods pilot from the factory in the lead time they have over the Red pilot. That's how it worked when the Blue 0700 pilots were puttering back at forth at Wellington for months on end...then joined there by a couple more post-mods Siemens pairs before anything was flatbedded to Orient Heights for next phase of testing. A whole year later they should be past the point where outright design changes from the first Wellington pilot are still required to common components like propulsion & signaling that hold up final configuration of CRRC's assembly line. By the time the Red pilot is ready they should be at a point where they've got 2-3 more post-pilot Orange pairs in testing and any subsequent mods can be done in-situ rather than needing to send cars completely back to CRRC for partial remanufacture like very first pilot pair #01400-01.

This would be a very, very unorthodox testing schedule compared to previous T car orders (LRT, HRT, commuter rail, or bus) if they're dividing the component testing up between the two lines a year apart with such significant up-front test infrastructure costs. And would call into question exactly how well they're making use of their year's worth of lead time @ Wellington to be deferring enough core testing to the Red pilot to require such expensive one-off construction. If this is a case of trying too hard to sync Red's revenue acceptance to closely trail Orange's, then they're really got to examine the risks incurred by pushing the envelope and duplicating so many efforts.

Yeah, we all want to see new Red cars sooner than later. But Red doesn't have an acute car shortage like Orange does. It's OK to front-load more of the CRRC delivery in Orange's favor if that'll save $32M+ in empty-calorie test infrastructure for the same end result. It's OK to concentrate more on the Orange half, because Orange is the bigger year-to-year terror threat for service paralysis if an already lean fleet gets subject to another mass blowout of traction motors from inhaled snow during a winter storm. Cabot has caught up on its Red repair backlog such that there's only 4 OOS cars waiting for parts...the shortest the dead line has been in >5 years. The 01700's are freshly rebuilt and are operating with their highest MTBF in years. The 015's/16's are having their evening & weekend running times more sharply limited in favor of all-17's consists, giving the weakest-reliability units more shop time in less backed-up shops. While it's still a precarious situation to thread through for another 4 years, the fact remains that Red is fully-stocked with reserves, has keep-away tactics on off-peaks to rest its oldest bones, and has fewer overall stressors putting the shops behind the eight-ball at keeping up with pace of maintenance. Red has enough advantages over Orange in month-to-month coping strategies that the CRRC testing & deliveries shouldn't need to be distorted with so much extra cost and complexity as if all things were equal(ly bad). Not only are they not spot-on equal in who needs new cars soonest, but they're unequal enough that it's not worth the extra risks to the CRRC cars' reliability to intentionally overcomplicate the testing phase. Something's being done very inefficiently if a year at Wellington isn't enough to tell if CRRC's basic common design works.
  by Finch
I agree, the mostly-common design should be mostly proven out by the time the Orange Line pilot cars are qualified. But the thing that is no different from previous procurements is that every single car will be qualified before it enters revenue service, including the Red Line cars. This is as much about workmanship and quality than design validation. Such simple factors as the larger car could introduce hiccups in the production process. Combine that need to shake down every car (multiple cars per month) with the need to do at least some basic due diligence design qualification on the Red Line cars, and maybe you have your answer.
  by Adams_Umass_Boston
This is why I asked if they were planning to use all the development costs into this track for something later. Maybe some advance planning?
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
Adams_Umass_Boston wrote:This is why I asked if they were planning to use all the development costs into this track for something later. Maybe some advance planning?
For what, though? None of what they're building on this test track is reusable by anything that may come later.

-- The test track's only accessible from a backup move out of the carhouse's garage bay tracks. It can't be reached direct from the Cabot leads or the loop & storage tracks, and they don't seem to be making it any easier during this build to add such a direct connection later on for making the access any less ham-fisted.

-- The rail profile for rapid transit cars is different from RR cars, meaning that any replacement CWR they lay on Track 61 out to Cypher St. crossing for the test track temporarily breaks compatibility with the FRA RR network until it is re-ground to RR profile...upon which it will break compatibility with the whole of the rapid transit network. And since it's just OOS on the FRA network, the incumbent paper rights currently leave only one path for reactivation: re-grind to RR profile (more on that later). It isn't a down payment on anything transit-useful for the future, as there isn't an NJT RiverLINE analogue here where all it takes is an FRA time separation waiver to a transit line that can use any form of T rapid transit stock. The RiverLINE's Stadler DLRV's use RR-ground wheels...fine for the isolated transit line NJT was building and any of the expansion branches they've studied. But you'd never be able to take the RiverLINE across the river from Camden to Philly and be able to interface with any SEPTA or PATCO rapid transit track. Wheel profile incompatibility is a showstopper here if you had any notions of doing future run-thrus from any T rapid transit line (be it a future direct connection to the Cabot Leads, or streetcar like Ari Osevit's proposal). "Cahn't get theya from heya."

-- There's no practical means of squaring the paper barriers that get it off the FRA network. CSX retains free freight local rights in the sale agreement for the line, and it is MassDOT--not the MBTA--that owns Track 61, with Massport retaining the street-running section past Pumphouse Rd. on its Black Falcoln Terminal property. Massport has firm plans for renewed freight rail to Marine Terminal with a new spur up Tide St., underscored as a priority by MassDOT's statewide multimodal Freight plan, so the state-level owners of the line are quite firmly disinclined to take it off the FRA network. Moreover, because the Marine T. studies have projected actual carload revenue for CSX's eyes, CSX (even in a "Chainsaw" Hunter Harrison era) is going to be particularly disinclined to entertain any thoughts of buyout of its free-of-charge rights because "a" revenue-generating plan is on the table, regardless of when it happens. Those rights can't legally be eminent domained from them; not only does that not stand a chance in front of the STB, but the purchase deal that lumped in 61 with the Worcester Line and South Coast lines has a whole lot of fresh indemnification strengthening those trackage rights. The cost of any "Go Away!" check to buy out their incumbent rights on 61 by brute force they'll agree to is going to be considerably higher than the limited/speculative transit value of that corridor, because they have "a" port revenue plan and a whole lot of fresh rights indemnification from the state to benchmark against. So whether you can plot any sequence of events where all freight interests internal and external could be bought off to take that track off the FRA network...none of them could practically ever happen at a price that wouldn't totally upend the cost/benefit of a Track 61 rapid transit build.

If it's entangled forever in the RR network (or so practically cost-infeasible to pry off its paper barriers), you're limited to transit services that can interface with commuter rail...not the 4 color RT lines, and not a time-separated RT shuttle on RR-profile wheels prohibited from going anywhere useful west of the Dot Ave. overpass. That means the same underwhelming FRA-compliant Convention Center dinky as before--which we haven't yet gotten answers from Amtrak re: whether it can operate at useful frequencies crossing Southampton non-revenue moves on a series of diamonds--is still the only operationally viable candidate proposal we have to work with.

-- The all-new 600V DC third rail on the test track is going to be completely and utterly useless for anything HRT (or LRT converted to overhead) because of ^^all of the above^^ physical incompatibilities (enforced to practical permanence by paper barriers) with our 600V DC rapid transit network. Cypher St. crossing is definitely a no-go for third rail Red/Orange/Blue vehicles because of the grade crossing on a designated truck route. HRT with crossings definitely isn't going to be allowed with today's safety regs like was proposed for the OL-Reading extension 40+ years ago.

I guess you could theoretically run Ari's streetcar proposal in the above link on RR-ground wheels into the Transitway on daytime time separation provided the turn radius of RR track were tolerable enough for making the hard lefts into Silver Line Way and rounding SS Loop in the Transitway. Though I sort of doubt that Transitway geometry is going to be available for the turning radius of an RR-ground profile. However, 600V overhead fed from Red and spanning the distance to the Transitway's 600V could enable that. But that still doesn't solve the problem of where the hell it's going to usefully tie in west of Dot Ave. where the physical incompatibility buzzkill is.

And it doesn't answer whether our trolley (panto or pole) rolling stock leaves enough overhead wire clearance for a freight loco to clear underneath on the overnight even with the juice turned off. We don't have pantos or poles that can both squeeze down to the unusually tight confines of the oldest parts of the Central Subway and full-extend quite as far out as cleanroomed modern systems, let alone all the way out to 25 ft. like an Amtrak-spec RR panto. CSX no longer has a Massachusetts engine house or permanent local-based fleet, and now rotates its intermodal power from Selkirk for a stint on the Eastern MA locals before rotating them back out of region. A lot of varying hood heights that would have to be accounted for re: clearing the height of de-energized trolley wire on a Track 61 that uses RR-wheeled versions of the T's incumbent rapid transit stock. It may measure out...but there's also a good chance you can throw rapid transit wire clearance on the pile of physical incompatibilities and rule out even an isolated LRV or PCC dinky from consideration.

It's hard to see where there's an "advance" -anything provisioned by the work and $$$ of constructing this one-and-done test track. Other than Track 61 having far more pristine CWR than is truly required for 10 MPH freight after the rail grinder has re-ground it to RR profile upon completion of its use as a Red test track.
  by bostontrainguy
Just about 5 months ago the State was proposing routing some Fairmount trains down track 61 to the Seaport. What ever happened to that idea? At least that makes more sense . . . a lot more sense.
  by The EGE
Fairmount along Track 61 never made sense. It misses Fort Point, Fan Pier, WTC, and the Seaport Boulevard density - all of which are much better served by the Silver Line and surface buses. You could get to most destinations equally fast via South Station and Silver Line versus walking from a BCEC stop. Plus, every single Fairmount train that goes to Track 61 is a Fairmount train that is significantly less useful for every rider going to downtown, Back Bay, Kendall... Ari has more details about that here.

The way you fix Seaport transit is by increasing capacity on the Silver Line (likely by converting to light rail), extending it to get Green and Orange Line connections, and separating the Chelsea and Logan services (which need one stop at BCEC and a fast trip to South Station) from the local distributor services (likely by running them on Summer Street).

The Fairmount Line should be a local quasi-rapid-transit service, with Franklin Lines sharing the tracks and some stops as necessary. It's not a toy that can be extended arbitrarily to the Seaport, or given shiny equipment without increasing frequency, or whatever the shiny distraction of the day is. It needs all-door electronic fare payment with rapid transit fare integration (hopefully coming by 2020) and higher frequency (a broken promise for decades now).
  by bostontrainguy
The Fairmount Line is underutilized and wasteful as it is now. It's only running due to political pressure. There is no way it can be justified on statistical grounds.

People in the surrounding neighborhoods are served very well by frequent and extensive bus service. The 28 bus runs almost 24 hours a day! They like and depend heavily on their existing services and even protested when the MBTA planned to improve them with BRT. If they are going downtown they use the buses and the Red and Silver Lines.

The Fairmount Line is a service looking for a reason to exist. Providing service to the expanding (jobs) Seaport Marine Industrial Park (jobs) opens up a totally new opportunity for the community.

You can not say spending millions of dollars on a useless test track is a better idea.

Some options might be extending the line to Route 128 station or providing transfer ability at Readville to Attleboro and Franklin trains.
  by dbperry
Posting a follow-up to this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=53&t=50676&start=45" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The Red Line test track is discussed on this project page:
https://www.mbta.com/projects/red-line- ... nt-program" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

and it was recently discussed at an FMCB board meeting (see slide 15):
https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/file ... rogram.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;