MBTA

Media Statement - Red-Blue Connector To Be Included in Focus40

BOSTON, February 4, 2019 — We are pleased that the Secretary and the FMCB have decided to revise the Focus40 planning and investment plan to include the Red and Blue Line connector. When completed, this short and affordable tunnel connecting Bowdoin and Charles MGH stations will finally complete Greater Boston’s legacy subway system and link some of the region’s most important destinations and job creators. It also will provide the MBTA with critical system redundancy during a period of renewal and repair when other elements of the subway network may be out of service.

TransitMatters sends its gratitude to the over 1,200 T riders and supporters who signed our petition, as well as the many state and local elected officials from across the region, including House Speaker DeLeo. Their strong support helped make this important decision happen.  They know that connecting the Red and Blue Lines is essential to the functionality of the entire subway system.  And we wholeheartedly agree with FMCB member Brian Lang, who today expressed his support for this project and urged his fellow members to approve funding to enable engineering to begin this calendar year.

The next step is making sure that this project is placed on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) when it’s revised in April.  Funding ought to be available to begin engineering and keep this initiative on track. Our work will not be done until we achieve a specific commitment to include this on the CIP and begin engineering before the end of this calendar year.

More info about the FMCB decision can be found here here: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/transportation/pollack-prioritizes-red-blue-rail-connector/

Media Statement - Blue Line Extension to Charles/MGH

We are shocked and dismayed by MassDOT’s treatment of the Blue Line’s future in the draft 2040 "Focus40" visioning plan.  We urge your reconsideration of a vision that utterly fails to respond to the mobility needs of our constituents, and fails also to provide the kind of access to jobs and opportunity that remains lacking on the one subway line that dies not connect to all the others.

The communities of East Boston, Winthrop and Revere are environmental justice communities and have been on record for many years advocating for an extension of the Blue Line to Charles/MGH. The mitigation plan for the CA/T project contained an obligation to build such a connector. We have been dismayed at the dropping of that commitment by the Patrick Administration, and have been urging the Baker Administration to reinstate the commitment and commit to fast track implementation. We were encouraged that a small amount of money was allocated to refresh some of the analysis for the project.

Our communities are among those most impacted by the operations of Logan Airport, whose annual passenger count exceeded 38 million in 2016. With recent compounded growth we can envision an airport that soon (within 5-7 years) will serve 50 million travelers.  That is good for the city and regional economy, but it has terrible impacts on traffic and pollution in our communities.  Today the traffic from that airport poisons our neighborhoods and makes our streets less safe. State transportation decision makers must plan for expanded and improved ways to get people to and from Logan Airport by public transportation.

Let us remind you that we are separated from the Boston economy by Boston Harbor. This natural barrier, compounded by the artificial barrier of heavy chronic traffic congestion, reduces access to jobs and opportunity for our people, and it critically reduces access to health care services at Mass General and Mass Eye and Ear hospitals. One important solution is better public transportation connectivity.

The Focus 40 document takes what little hope we have had for an enlightened public transportation outcome and offers a pedestrian connection that will be of little use or convenience to the residents, employers and employees of these communities. It is an idea without merit as a substitute for connecting the Red and Blue lines at Charles/MGH.

We find the Focus 40 document wanting in many respects when it comes to how to plan for and manage the Blue Line’s future.  It offers no tangible and viable solution to today’s real connectivity problem, and it fails to capture the essence of what will make the Blue Line serve the people of our neighborhoods. We call on you to get to work on extending the Blue Line to Charles/MGH now, as the one clear and unambiguous solution to connecting Blue Line subway riders to the rest of the system, and to the critical health care destinations at MGH and Mass Eye and Ear.

Media Statement - NSRL Feasibility Reassessment

The MBTA’s cost estimate for the North South Rail Link (NSRL), released yesterday, is the most recent in a series of estimates for this project.  Those estimates, from under $4 billion to over $20 billion, run the gamut of construction methods, infrastructure choices, and cost assumptions. These huge disparities underscore that cost estimates for major infrastructure projects have to be assessed based on their underlying assumptions.  TransitMatters believes that there are many reasons yesterday’s cost estimates are as large as they are, not least the assumptions and selective comparisons employed by the MBTA’s consultant. 

In our report on Regional Rail (excluding the NSRL) we estimated the cost range of systemwide electrification, high platforms to enable level boarding, and strategic capacity improvements at bottlenecks to be about $2 to 3 billion. We stand by that estimate and do not believe the electrification and rolling stock costs estimated in yesterday’s MBTA presentation are consistent with the most relevant and appropriate comparative examples of which we are aware.  

We read yesterday’s presentation to the Fiscal Management and Control Board as an affirmation of our view that South Station expansion (SSX) should not move forward – it is, by any measure, too little bang for way too much buck.  The MBTA’s consultant now estimates SSX will cost $4.7 billion, money that simply does not need to be spent in order to improve the functionality of existing tracks at South Station. There are other, much lower cost approaches to improving operations at South Station as we indicated in our Regional Rail report, and we will offer more a more detailed roadmap to doing that in a follow-up report we expect to release in the early fall.

With regard to NSRL itself, we stated in our report, and repeat here: “cost estimates for NSRL, undertaken by MassDOT consultants and independent third parties, significantly vary in range. These variances often are attributable to consultants not comparing like-to-like or using different methodologies. The reality is that actual costs can vary greatly depending on the quality and complexity of project designs, labor costs, and many other factors. Massachusetts has learned valuable lessons in cost containment through its recent Green Line Extension experience, and we would expect the same rigorous approach to providing maximum value for reasonable cost to apply here as well.”

TransitMatters continues to believe that the only route forward for the MBTA is to advance a transition to Regional Rail, an electrified intercity rail system with frequent service during the day. The Regional Rail model is critical. While not critical to implementing a Regional Rail system, the NSRL would be a highly useful enhancement providing the flexibility and connectivity to which many riders and potential riders would be drawn. We hope and expect that a candid and open-minded conversation on both of these initiatives will continue.

Without a commitment to a new Business Model for intercity rail, our region will continue to experience crippling traffic congestion and people will be deprived of the kind of access to jobs and opportunity that is necessary for a thriving economy and decent quality of life.  We look forward to collaborating with the MBTA and all stakeholders as we make Regional Rail a reality.

Podcast 29 - Transit Advocacy with Rafael Mares from the Conservation Law Foundation

We're joined in studio by prominent Boston transit advocate Rafael Mares, Vice President and Director of Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice for the Conservation Law Foundation. CLF has been instrumental in improving access and mobility for MBTA users, including holding the state to transit project commitments they've tried to wiggle out of.

We discuss the current state of transit operations and investment, the Control Board and politics, the fate of long-awaited projects such the Green Line Extension, the Big Dig legacy, and much more. This episode was recorded on May 16 in the studios of WMBR 88.1 FM in Cambridge, engineered by Scott Mullen.  Find Rafael Mares online at @RafaelMares2 or CLF.

TransitMatters advocates for fast, frequent, reliable and effective public transportation in and around Boston. As part of our vision to repair, upgrade and expand the MBTA transit network, we aim to elevate the conversation around transit issues by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates and promoting a level of critical analysis normally absent from other media.

Like what you hear? Share it around, tell your friends and colleagues, and subscribe to the blog and podcast (on iTunes) to be notified of new posts and episodes. Support our work by becoming a member, making a donation or signing up to volunteer because we can't do this alone. Let us know what you think: connect with TransitMatters on Facebook or Twitter. Follow Jeremy Mendelson @Critical Transit, Josh Fairchild @hatchback31, Jarred Johnson @jarjoh, Marc Ebuña @DigitalSciGuy, Scott Mullen @mixmastermully or email us here.

Late Night Mitigation: Designing a Real Overnight Bus Network

Check out the latest on NightBus here

Wondering what to make of the T's late night mitigation proposals?

We at TransitMatters often talk about critical issues such as service hours, frequency, on-time performance and overcrowding. So we’re pleased to see the MBTA recognizes these problems. The specific proposals they have put forth are all good ideas and easy to implement, but they are only small tweaks (which should have been done long ago) and do not make a dent in the growing backlog of service deficiencies (the service that's needed but not currently provided).

We believe there is a better option: a limited overnight bus network as we originally discussed here, which would be an extension of the T’s existing, limited and little-known early morning bus service. This network would operate hourly all night, every night, and be geared primarily toward getting people to their late-night and early morning jobs.

Read all about our useful and affordable plan on the Amateur Planner and CommonWealth Magazine.

Want to know more about what the T has proposed?

Let’s look at the service deficiencies that have been identified:

  1. Service ends too early and starts too late. The proposed changes would not change the hours of service. They would push service a tiny bit earlier in a few cases to increase capacity, but you still can’t get to a 5am shift (or home from a 2am shift) in most of the city.
  2. Bus frequency and on-time performance (reliability) are woefully inadequate. Adding trips (frequency) can relieve overcrowding *if buses are on time*, but does not improve reliability. A comprehensive "bus service improvement plan" is needed to address the persistent underlying causes of poor service, such as traffic congestion, bus bunching, missed trips, outdated fare collection policies and the lack of on-street supervisors and dispatchers.
  3. Still relying on the published schedule? On a typical weekday, Route 111 (serving the overwhelmingly low-income and minority city of Chelsea), sees 1 out of every 15 trips cancelled due to insufficient staffing levels. If 13 scheduled trips are missed every day on one of the city's most crowded bus routes, how will adding more trips to the schedule solve this problem?
  4. Low-income workers can’t access early or late shifts. Even while the recent Late Night Service only ran two nights per week and did not reach everyone, it filled a critical need of low-income workers in the restaurant and entertainment industries. The lack of daily service was a major deficiency, but the latest proposals don’t even attempt to solve that problem. Our proposal would end this injustice.

The recently eliminated Late Night Service served 13,000 passengers per night or 26,000 per week (which greatly undercounts the beneficiaries because most people don’t use it every single day and almost every user also travels on regular daytime service). Even with all of the mitigation options combined, and if they operate as planned, only 5,000 passengers per week would see improvements.

All the options they're proposing still don't make a dent in on-time performance, capacity or the growing backlog of service deficiencies. It is clear that the need for early morning service far outweighs the level of service provided, and that service starts way too late. It would actually be simple and affordable to provide hourly bus service all night on a skeletal network with timed transfer points, and the T should pursue this option instead of working around the margins.

Read more on why all night service is needed, and listen to Podcast 26 where we discuss the overnight concept (as well as in earlier episodes). Head over to the Amateur Planner for all the details on our proposal.

Podcast 26 - Security, Maintenance and A Plan for Overnight Bus Service

Many things led to the end of the most recent attempt to extend MBTA service late into the night, and the latest MBTA mitigation proposals don't really solve the problem. But what if, instead of trying to cater to the college entertainment demographic, we designed a comprehensive overnight network focused on people working early or late?

Ari Ofsevit, transportation planner and the Amateur Planner (@ofsevit), joins us as we consider (40:22) what a useful and affordable overnight network would look like, and how to finally make it happen. Building on the T's existing but little-known early morning trips (full details), we could have a citywide bus network that runs all night, every night. And no, the private sector is not the answer.

First we talk transit security in light of the increasingly frequent bombings around the world, and consider what the recent WMATA and BART shutdowns might tell us about the MBTA infrastructure. Also, why being honest about our situation and advocacy for their needs would earn the MBTA a lot of respect.

TransitMatters advocates for fast, frequent, reliable and effective public transportation in and around Boston. As part of our vision to repair, upgrade and expand the MBTA transit network, we aim to elevate the conversation around transit issues by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates and promoting a level of critical analysis normally absent from other media.

Like what you hear? Share it around, tell your friends and colleagues, and subscribe to the blog and podcast (on iTunes) to be notified of new posts and episodes. Support our work by becoming a member, making a donation or signing up to volunteer because we can't do this alone. Let us know what you think: connect with TransitMatters on Facebook or Twitter. Follow Jeremy Mendelson @Critical Transit, Josh Fairchild @hatchback31, Jarred Johnson @jarjoh, Marc Ebuña @DigitalSciGuy, or email us here.

Podcast 25 - Fare Increases, Transfers, Late Night and how to advocate for better transit

"Trust your money to Charlie and save"

The MBTA Control Board voted Monday to raise fares by 10 percent or more despite disruptive protests by community advocates. The extra revenue will be dedicated to infrastructure upgrades, prompting many questions. We'll discuss the bright spots (student pass, transfers, Commuter Rail zone study) and see where we go from here.

Federal regulators object to the elimination of late night service without a proper civil rights analysis and mitigation. What does this mean, and what might mitigation look like?

Boston held a City Council hearing with the T General Manager on Commuter Rail fares, a small step toward realizing our vision for an integrated regional rail network that becomes the preferred travel option. Community feedback and the responses of the GM say a lot about the current state of the Commuter Rail. Look out for an upcoming City Council hearing on transit signal priority for buses and trolleys, and let your councilors know you want better transit.

TransitMatters advocates for fast, frequent, reliable and effective public transportation in and around Boston. As part of our vision to repair, upgrade and expand the MBTA transit network, we aim to elevate the conversation around transit issues by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates and promoting a level of critical analysis normally absent from other media.

Like what you hear? Share it around, tell your friends and colleagues, and subscribe to the blog and podcast (on iTunes) to be notified of new posts and episodes. Support our work by becoming a member, making a donation or signing up to volunteer because we can't do this alone. Let us know what you think: connect with TransitMatters on Facebook or Twitter. Follow Jeremy Mendelson @Critical Transit, Josh Fairchild @hatchback31, Jarred Johnson @jarjoh, Marc Ebuña @DigitalSciGuy, or email us here.