Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Clean Urban Ring?

Planners are still stuck in the brown air past, planning the Boston Urban Ring project with regular diesel buses in part because of complains about visual pollution. Bill complains, as he should, that they get BRT tunnels shoved down their throats but aren't willing to fight for cleaner air and trolleybuses? That's bullshit. Transit agencies need to get with the program and the future and stop being wimps about pushing back on aesthetic issues that people will get over once in place. As I have said before. I'll take visual pollution over air pollution ANY day. Future lungs will thank us, you can always look away.

12 comments:

Randy Simes said...

Visual pollution is in the eyes of the beholder...air pollution is not.

arcady said...

An interesting related question: what is the maximum feasible speed for a trolleybus contact system? On plain wire, I'm sure at least 50 mph is feasible given adequate construction, possibly more. Special work is trickier, but there exist high speed trolleybus switches suitable for something like 30 mph. So maybe it's not that infeasible to extend the trolley overhead all the way to the airport after all.

jon said...

i believe there are rules against trackless trolleys on interstates primarily because of the concern over dewiring. of course the way around that is to decommission I-90 thru the ted williams tunnel to become just an ordinary high capacity road.

the urban ring should really be subway, too bad boston spent all their money on the big dig back when subways were still being built.

this is what gets me, a transit oriented city like boston (nyc, chicago, philly too) has for the most part the same subway system that it had 50-80 years ago. for any new expansion they have to settle for buses when grade separated rail is whats needed. they need to be ambitious now and plan some subway and fight for the federal transit money to pay for it.

Morgan Wick said...

I hope people are sending this post to the planners in question.

Matt Fisher said...

Responding to jon: I second that motion. They should not be using buses on the Urban Ring. They should be using rail transit on the Urban Ring. It makes no sense to use buses on a corridor like this. And it makes good sense to place electrification in a north-south rail link and on existing commuter rail lines. Such a link would have been much better than a CAR TUNNEL and actually cost less than the "Big Dig". It would be like an existing link in Brussels, built in the 1950s.

To Morgan Wick: Me too.

jon said...

i could settle for scaling back from the planned full cresent shaped 'urban ring' route to just a short rail line between cambridge and back bay. but the mbta just need to start somewhere with urban rail expansion.

yeah the distance of the big dig tunnel is exactly between north and south stations. why couldnt they have at least built a rail tunnel as part of the big dig?!?!?!? i know there is a rumor that they designed the big dig to allow for a rail tunnel to be easily added under it later but i dont buy it... kind of like that rumored 4th bart track in downtown oakland.

arcady said...

The MBTA's official policy regarding commuter rail electrification is that they will not consider it now or ever in the indefinite future. Never mind the fact that the Providence line is already mostly electrified. Never mind the eventual North-South Rail Link, they'll buy the first dual-mode diesel/AC electric locomotives in the world to be able to run diesel trains. Never mind the cost of diesel either, or the fact that that electrics would be able to greatly improve travel time. It's just pathetic that Amtrak takes literally half the time as the commuter rail from Boston to Providence.

Kyle said...

It's good to hear that everyone on here agrees on how clueless the MBTA is. People don't want more bus routes...a bus, is a bus, is a bus; no matter what you call it. Why is the Silver Line called Bus Rapid Transit, when it has a top speed in tunnels of 15mph, has to drive through traffic, stop at traffic lights and stop and shut down the engine for switching from electric to diesel; this is the exact opposite of rapid.

I know they want to save costs, but if you aren't going to build the project the right way, why even build it at all. People don't like taking a bus, for the reasons I mentioned above. The ridership figures would be much higher if it was a true hard rail subway line. It obviously costs a lot more, but necessary and properly built transportation infrastructure projects do cost a lot and there isn't any way around that.

If this is actually built according to current plans, it will be a complete waste of money. The MBTA will be scratching their heads, trying to figure out why ridership numbers aren't high enough, even when the answer is staring them right in the face.

Alon Levy said...

It's just pathetic that Amtrak takes literally half the time as the commuter rail from Boston to Providence.

It's more Amtrak than the commuter rail. Amtrak is unusually fast near Boston, because the electrification system is new and able to support higher speeds.

Anonymous said...

Streetcar wires are pretty.

Trolleybus wires can be a bit of a mess at junctions, but otherwise are fairly good looking too.

As for the MBTA, they don't know which side their bread is buttered on any more than the government of Massachusetts does. How about just converting the Big Dig to a rail tunnel, and running the damn Interstate route along the ring road?

arcady said...

Yes, the Amtrak trains can indeed go nice and fast on the relatively straight line with shiny new wires and powerful electric locomotives. On that very same line, MBTA uses crufty old diesels that are barely powerful enough to pull 6 and 8 car trains old double deckers, and manages an average speed of just 36 mph versus Amtrak's 64 (and Acela's 74). The number of stops alone isn't high enough to justify this, and anyway station dwell time could be cut significantly if MBTA invested in high platforms, which they also haven't done.

Also, another MBTA policy: to try to get more people to take their bus system, it is now official policy on the subway for conductors to announce bus connections at every stop where they are present. So, at just about every stop, the conductor says something like "This is Davis. Bus connections." Which, as you can probably tell, doesn't really tell anyone anything they don't already know. Is it any wonder that the local transit blog makes reference to "stunning absurdity"?

Matt Fisher said...

Arcady: WHAT THE F**K??? (This is what I'd say to the MBTA about commuter rail electrification. Didn't mean to offend ya.) In that last comment, I've never heard of the word "crufty". The MBTA is just getting so f**king shortsighted. It claims buses are superior to trains, in a city with extensive streetcar experience.