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.