Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Silver Line

Bumped Post

Update 12.11.08: The Boston Globe is reporting that the Silver Line is getting down-rated to a Medium Low in the next New Starts report coming in February. This means that it would not be able to get funding because a medium rating is required. It's primarily due to the debt load of over $8 billion that the MBTA is carrying. Bill also mentions the atrocious ridership of the existing Waterfront Silver Line segment, half of which is going to be cut. It costs $9.16 per boarding in subsidy versus the Washington Street Section which is 48 cents. Amazing.

Bill reports that the folks at Boston Common don't like the Silver Lie BRT tunnel. Why would you tear up an existing usable tunnel that held rail vehicles for a poorly thought out bus tunnel? It just doesn't make any sense. But alas I'm sure it will continue to go through its approvals...


New to Boston said...

Can you fill me in on what the existing tunnels are? I've only been in Boston since August and I've used the Silver Line for the airport connection and found it useful, and it is nice to have bus stations inside (underground) to keep them from being very cold, but I'm also skeptical about a bus system when ridership rises.

Justin said...

New to Boston:

This is from the Sierra Club of Mass:

It's pretty detailed, and you should find the info you need.

I had a huge interest with the Silver Line, and actually followed it implementation. Needless to say, the MBTA wasted a lot of money on it.

DSK said...

My $0.02:
Re. existing tunnels, there's a an old branch off the green line at Boylston station. Where the main line takes the sharp right, there's an old tunnel which goes straight and used to come out on Tremont street for a surface line. The portal has been sealed for ages. They used to store an antique car on the tracks at Boylston - don't know if they still do.

For a little further opinion, shamelessly re-copying something I wrote a while ago as a comment on another blog:

Here's my understanding of the Silver Line tunnel question. Originally the MBTA did want to use the old Tremont Street portal for the Silver Line. The community somewhat-violently opposed this, because they want that tunnel reused for rail some day (its original use was on the Green Line precursor).
So, rather than take the correct hint from the community, the MBTA just said "ok, we'll reserve the tunnel... but build *another* one!"

My impression of why the MBTA is pushing for this: What this all comes down to is that the MBTA desperately wants to connect the "good" Silver Line under the waterfront to the Washington Street "Silver Lie" segment. Back when the Orange Line was rerouted, the MBTA promised Roxbury residents that they'd get an adequate replacement for Washington Street. The current stuck-in-traffic Silver Line segment there is a joke, and Roxbury once again gets the shaft from the T. The only way the MBTA can head off a nasty lawsuit is for them to at least connect that Washington Street segment to the somewhat-better waterfront segment. Therefore, they will pull anything they can to connect those two segments and "claim victory" on Washington Street. Otherwise they would have to admit that the Washington Street Silver Line is a failure and build a good light rail solution for Washington Street.

Nick said...

The old tunnel under Boylston/Charles St makes me so sad everytime I pass it on the green line. I always think of what it could be, a functional extension of the gl, rather than an abandoned tunnel. Its a shame Mayor Menino has such a hard on for BRT.

arcady said...

The current Green Line makes a sharp turn just south of Boylston Station, from Tremont St to Boylston Street. At Boylston Station, there are four tracks, but only the inner two are currently used. The outer tracks continue south on Tremont, with the outbound track diving under the Boyston St line. Somewhere south of there, there's a grade separate junction and formerly, two tunnel portals, both at the park that's at Tremont/Shawmut/Oak, where originally there were two trolley lines, on Shawmut and Tremont.

The Silver Line proposal would have the Silver Line on Essex Street crossing under the Green Line (which requires demolishing the existing unused tunnel), then swinging out into a wide jughandle through the Common to make the turn onto Charles Street. It would presumably have a portal at the aforementioned park.

The most likely Green Line extension would either re-use the old alignment completely, or else cut away through a new tunnel running diagonally across the New England Medical Center station (which was allegedly built with provisions for this), before surfacing on Washington Street, and running on the street to Dudley Square (and maybe beyond, there's some pretty busy bus lines there).

Another not completely implausible extension would involve building a ramp down between the exsting Green Line tracks east of Arlington, to a level below the existing Tremont St tunnel, and then continuing along Essex St, or possibly some other streets in Chinatown, to the existing bus tunnel at South Station, and you'd have a shared streetcar/trolleybus tunnel. Maybe it would even make sense to kick the airport bus up to the surface: it certainly seems like it would be faster than the current arrangment where the bus from the airport passes behind the WTC station, then exits the highway, stops in front of the station, goes to Silver Line way, the driver gets out, walks round the back to untie the trolley poles, gets back in, raises the poles, waits at a very long light to cross the street, stops again at the barrier at the tunnel portal, before finally going through the tunnel at a top speed of 20 mph.

Matt Fisher said...

I don't know why the MBTA still thinks destroying a century old rail tunnel, that can be used again for light rail on Washington St., for a bus tunnel is a good idea. They certainly should replace the Silver Line "Phase 1" with LRT.

The MBTA must apparently have a fixation with buses at the moment. It is not a good idea to destroy a rail tunnel for a bus tunnel, and the idea is substantially less "cost effective" than just using a perfectly good tunnel, part of "America's First Subway".

Nor is it a good idea for the proposed Urban Ring to be a busway. Seeing as a rail Urban Ring could potentially draw 300,000 riders a day, it would be logical for heavy rail. However, that's another issue.

And to Justin, and I know you're in Toronto (I'm happy to be originally from Newfoundland): It's interesting you followed the implementation of the Silver Line!