The 2014 Green Line Forum

The MBTA gave a great presentation on the Green Line this evening (May 28) at the Boston Public Library. Dr. Beverly Scott, the General Manager, and her top management team reported considerable progress since the previous forum held in January 2013 and since the previous letter report in July 2013.

As to short and medium term measures that will improve speed and transparency, the T reported the following:

  • Systems development on a first-ever Green Line car tracking system is progressing well and will likely be complete by December 2014. With GPS devices installed and operational, the T will be able to display expected train arrival times at the already-installed signs along the main Green Line trunk and also on the Riverside line. Additionally, the T will be able to offer a feed to support smart phone apps. Finally, the T will be able to better manage trains — currently, the T has no fix on the locaction of a Green Line once it moves beyond Copley.
  • With tracking in place, the T can begin to implement transit signal priority (TSP). That requires collaboration with the municipalities that operate the traffic lights. The Town of Brookline has recently committed funds to support a study of TSP on the C line. Boston has the capacity to control all lights centrally. The T is hopeful that it will be able to move to TSP fairly quickly after tracking comes on line.
  • On the controversial subject of all-door boarding, which would make boarding quicker and easier, the T committed to hold a public “charette” or brainstorming meeting on how to make all-door boarding work while responding to fare collection concerns.
  • Regarding stop elimination, the T indicated that discussions have been continuing in the BU area and they expect to make announcements imminently on possible streamlining through this area. Of course, the T will be coordinating plans with Brookline and Boston on any stop elimination.
  • Track changes — the “Park Street Eastbound Crossover” — may also contribute to improved speed over the next five years.

On the longer term question of how to improve capacity on the Green Line, the picture was mixed. The goal that we discussed last year is to move toward mostly three car trains during rush hour. That would be a capacity improvement of 40 to 50%.

  • A necessary first step is to strengthen the electric power systems that support the green line — the current aging power systems cannot support much three car traffic. A consulting study is now underway and a report is expected within Fiscal 2015 (i.e., within roughly a year). That study should define what improvements are necessary to support three-car traffic and give a sense of cost.
  • Over the next few years, there will be a modest expansion of available fleet size as the current fleet undergoes rehabilitation that will improve reliability. Additionally, there will a further fleet expansion to support the Green Line extension to the North. If power improvements can be implemented, we may see some increase in three car train use. Expansion sufficient to support consistent peak-hour three-car operations will wait for the next decade and is not under active discussion at this time.
  • A further constraint that needs to be addressed is storage and maintenance space. With space that will be added with the Green Line extension, the system will have capacity for roughly 230 cars. Within that constraint, a fleet sufficient to run considerably more three car trains could be operated. A fleet large enough to run rush hour three car trains would probably be larger. We put language in the transportation bond bill authorizing study of expansion options, and hopefully we can get that study moving soon. However, T management emphasized that siting of a new transit storage yard in one of our dense communities will be difficult.

In summary, the good news is that we can expect some real improvements in speed and transparency over the next couple of years. In the medium term, we can hope for some increase in a capacity. However, we will need to advocate diligently for continued investment if we are to see a meaningful long-term expansion of capacity.

The forum also addressed accessibility issues — we can look forward to accessibility improvement throughout the system as a result of the Plan for Accessible Transit Infrastructure. But barriers will remain at many less heavily used stations.

View the MBTA’s PowerPoint presentation

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

5 replies on “The 2014 Green Line Forum”

  1. Big thanks to Sen. Brownsberger and the MBTA for a very informative and useful forum. It was really great to have the top T staff all present to answer questions and take suggestions, and it’s encouraging to hear that a lot of things riders would like to see are already in the works!

  2. photo (84)

    We heard from constituents at the forum that Symphony Station was in poor shape. I took a little walk down there after work on June 4th, 2014 to see the condition of the station for myself. From what I could tell the station, while old, seemed clean and well kept. Have any frequent users noticed an improvement in the condition since the forum? Is this level of cleanliness typical?

    The station is not accessible Рthe MBTA has conceptual designs to upgrade the station to be in compliance with ADA standards but there is no time frame for completion. I will get an update from the T on the future of these improvements.

    Andrew Bettinelli
    Legislative Aide
    Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

  3. Will,

    Thanks for your efforts to address the transportation problems that are overwhelming the quality of life for us residents living on the Green Line. But as we all know, what is being proposed is too little, too late. New residents and businesses are flocking to the city without looking at how these additional developments are impacting an already overwhelmed transportation system. What if any coordination is being done with the BRA on studying the impact of new developments on transportation systems?

    Already private businesses are developing services to provide reliable, demand driven transportation – things that the MBTA seems unable to provide. Uber, Zip Car and now Bridj (a pop up bus service) are all stepping in. These services are great. They utilize just in time technology to respond live time to peak service demands. But they carry new dangers as well. They will also going to reduce revenue for the MBTA as more of us who can afford to do so will turn our collective backs on public transportation. It will also create a two class transportation system. One for the haves, and the MBTA for the have nots. It is also going to drive more traffic on our roads and less underground.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  4. I view Uber, ZipCar or Bridj as being complementary to the MBTA. None of those three could really be very successful or useful without the T. And they don’t detract from the T, they actually provide more business.

    In the very short view, it is possible that an MBTA trip might be replaced by an Uber, ZipCar or Bridj trip. But you need to take a longer perspective. Someone who takes Uber, ZipCar or Bridj is not using their own car. It is quite likely that those services are helping someone decide to sell their own car, or not buy one in the first place. And in that case, the MBTA provides the “backbone” transportation service for that person. I think that it is quite frequent for Uber or taxicab riders to wind up using the T for part of their trip. For example, you might go to the store on the T but carry a heavy item back in a cab.

    The MBTA provides something that no other transportation service provides and that is a permanent connectivity between neighborhoods. You might ride Bridj because there is a trip at 8:30am that works for you, but that doesn’t help when you need to travel at 9:30am. Or 1:30pm. Or 7:30pm. Bridj is a tiny drop in the large ocean of travel, which is adding a tiny bit of extra capacity at peak hours — when it is most difficult and most expensive for the MBTA to add capacity.

    You might use Uber or taxicabs occasionally when you need it, and most people can afford that, but few people can afford to use them exclusively. And if you could afford to do that, you could afford to buy your own car and store it, etc.

    So I don’t think it is productive to try and drum up some kind of populist rage against privately-run transportation services. It’s pointless, really, and counterproductive.

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