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Thread: Boston's glitzy new Silver Line

  1. #1
          ablarc's avatar
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    Boston's glitzy new Silver Line

    BOSTON’S GLITZY NEW SILVER LINE

    Boston has a glitzy new underground transit line.



    Slick Courthouse Station by Elkus-Manfredi, who also designed the infamous Mall at Time-Warner:



    Gleaming metal walls will have ads projected on them in place of billboards:



    Architects injected loads of high-style into transit showpiece of new Seaport District:



    Get your tickets here:



    And head on down to the platform:



    Wait a minute! Where are the tracks?



    That’s because the trains are really buses.



    Is this the future of urban transit in America?

    .

  2. #2
    maudit anglais
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    Holy crap - that's a huge station just for BRT.

  3. #3
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    I hate buses.

    In congested urban cities, buses are practically useless, because they have to fight all the other traffic and traffic signals. All mass tranist must have a dedicated right-of-way....then buses would be marginally better

    As for the stations, they are quite attractive, though my preference would be toward the use of stone, tile, etc....
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Off-topic:
    I hate buses.

    In congested urban cities, buses are practically useless, because they have to fight all the other traffic and traffic signals. All mass tranist must have a dedicated right-of-way....then buses would be marginally better

    As for the stations, they are quite attractive, though my preference would be toward the use of stone, tile, etc....
    I believe the Silver Line will be entirely underground but I'm not sure.

    These pictures look like a scene out of the movie Tron.

  5. #5
    jimi_d's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    I believe the Silver Line will be entirely underground but I'm not sure.
    Nope. It runs on the surface along narrow congested Washington St. Apparently it would have been too expensive to build a proper transit line on this corridor. Of course, you're not meant to point out that there *was* a transit line along Washington St until the MBTA demolished it in 1987.

  6. #6
    Buses?




    Maybe that explains why there's no one in the pictures.
    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
    Abraham Lincoln

  7. #7
    I rode the T in Boston a few years ago and they have a Dunkin Donuts in every underground station. Everyone rides the train and drinks coffee, no Starbucks but you never know they be there now. I started having coffee on the train also. In DC if I ride the train with coffee I get locked up in the Metro jail, its against the law to eat and ride the subway inDC. Nice station!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Future Planner's avatar
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    All this for a crappy bus? This is a joke right?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Sort of.

    Quote Originally posted by Future Planner
    All this for a crappy bus? This is a joke right?
    Well, the short answer is yes, but...

    There are three segments to the "Silver Line"- one is the Washington Street portion that replaced the old Orange Line elevated. That is a surface bus with its own lane (when cars and trucks don't park in it, which is never.) The only thing that makes that portion special is that it has its own operations center that tracks the busses to help keep them more or less to a schedule.

    The second segment is the one with the underground stations- that connects South Station (one of the main commuter rail/Amtrak hubs in Boston) to the South Boston waterfront through an underground bus tunnel. That is the closest thing to real BRT I have seen around these parts- although it doesn't seem to be fully done yet- only a few of the stations are open right now and the busses go to the surface after a bit and then go through the Ted Williams Tunnel to the airport.

    The third segment is a bus tunnel designed to connect these two parts into one "line"- that part would also connect it to the Orange and Green Lines, and would cost a lot of money. Its a New Start application that would run around $675 million. If that part is built the system might start to resemble a true BRT line as a whole- but it would also eliminate the possibility of ever converting it to light rail because the bus tunnel would eliminate an existing abandoned light rail tunnel that could be used if the Silver Line were light rail. Apparently the existing tunnel is too narrow for busses so it has to be removed so that a bus-friendly tunnel with a big turn-around loop can be built.

    I'm not a big fan of BRT that isn't on its own right-of-way but since this seems to be the direction transit is heading in I guess at least Boston can get a piece of the pie.

  10. #10
          ablarc's avatar
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    Hi ho silver
    Key facts about Silver Line Phase II


    Project: Electric/diesel 60-foot articulated buses in dedicated busway from South Station to Manulife building; branches to Logan Airport, Marine Industrial Park, residential South Boston (City Point and D Street to Andrew Station).

    Opening: Dec. 16-18; surface service to Marine Industrial Park and City Point on Dec. 31; D Street/Andrew Station in spring; Logan Airport in summer

    Fare: $1.25

    Length of core project (South Station to Manulife building east of D Street): 1.1 miles

    Deepest point of tunnel: 70 feet, under Fort Point Channel

    Cost: $601 million (more than 50 percent federally funded); original estimate was about $400 million

    Projected ridership: Originally, 45,000 per weekday; revised, 14,000 by 2006

    New stations: Concourse at South Station, new Courthouse Station at Northern Avenue and Pittsburgh Street; World Trade Center Station, 700 feet from front door of new convention center; and Manulife building, corner of Congress and D streets

    Duration of project: Design began in 1990, construction in 1995; original promised completion date was 2003, now end of 2004

    Number of people working on the project: 550

    Contractors: Perini/Kiewit/Cashman; Modern Continental; J. F. White; Suffolk Construction Co.; McCourt Construction Co.

    Future plans: Connect Phase II via tunnel from South Station under Essex Street to Green Line Boylston Street Station, then through undetermined portal to existing Washington Street service to Dudley Square. Estimated cost of link, known as Phase III: $780 million.

    ANTHONY FLINT

    * * *

    This is the second of three phases of the Silver Line. The first to open featured articulated buses running in a dedicated bus lane from downtown on Washington Street to Roxbury, Boston’s ghetto, long (and really, still) without rapid transit service.

    The two discontinuous operating segments may someday be connected by the really big deal Phase III, a subway built under the Theatre District and Chinatown to South Station.

  11. #11

    Transportation Justice

    The MBTA has long resisted any greater level of service than a bus through the South End/Roxbury section of the Silver Line. It would costs too much to build a light rail spur - $55 million for only 35,000 passengers a day. On the other hand, it is cost effective to build a new commuter rail line to the south of Boston for $550 million to serve 5,000 people a day.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian dogandpony's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Future Planner
    All this for a crappy bus? This is a joke right?
    Huh?

    Isn't the goal of transit to get people from point to point? I'm not an expert in transit, but if they can provide a line of service, what does it matter the vehicle used? I assume that it's quite a bit cheaper to build and operate buses than to build out a dedicated heavy rail line.

    Buses are incredibly more flexible in that the routes can be adapted to meet differing needs, whereas heavy rail can go only where the tracks are. Picture buses which can be programmed to continue on to Fenway on game day, but otherwise serve a different route. Try doing that with dedicated rail. It's all about providing a convenient alternative to the car. Dedicated heavy rail works for some people, but the fact is that rail's inflexibility is what makes it not be an option for many. This will give MBTA some flexibility to change with demand.

    I imagine the busways are serving multiple routes, including some existing, taking the buses off otherwise crowded surface routes. I'm also speculating that by providing the dedicated below-ground busways, they're increasing the reliability of bus service by not subjecting it to the surface traffic and delays. I can suggest a few routes in Chicago that they could do this with the buses.

    I have to admit, I'm a big fan of the T, so I'd go out of my way AND spend extra time just to travel on the noisy old trains just to hear them screech through the turns.

    I love the existing service. But that doesn't mean everything new has to be trains.

    Any links to more detailed info on this project?

    All I found was this...All about silver line

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Sources for Info

    Quote Originally posted by dogandpony
    Huh?

    Isn't the goal of transit to get people from point to point? I'm not an expert in transit, but if they can provide a line of service, what does it matter the vehicle used? I assume that it's quite a bit cheaper to build and operate buses than to build out a dedicated heavy rail line.

    Buses are incredibly more flexible in that the routes can be adapted to meet differing needs, whereas heavy rail can go only where the tracks are. Picture buses which can be programmed to continue on to Fenway on game day, but otherwise serve a different route. Try doing that with dedicated rail. It's all about providing a convenient alternative to the car. Dedicated heavy rail works for some people, but the fact is that rail's inflexibility is what makes it not be an option for many. This will give MBTA some flexibility to change with demand.

    I imagine the busways are serving multiple routes, including some existing, taking the buses off otherwise crowded surface routes. I'm also speculating that by providing the dedicated below-ground busways, they're increasing the reliability of bus service by not subjecting it to the surface traffic and delays. I can suggest a few routes in Chicago that they could do this with the buses.

    I have to admit, I'm a big fan of the T, so I'd go out of my way AND spend extra time just to travel on the noisy old trains just to hear them screech through the turns.

    I love the existing service. But that doesn't mean everything new has to be trains.

    Any links to more detailed info on this project?

    All I found was this...All about silver line
    There are a lot of sources of information on the Silver Line- most of them quite biased. I think your points are well taken, and the Seattle model of a central bus tunnel with the buses dispersing as needed on either end has some appeal. But... remember that transit service is only as good as it is fast and reliable and on Boston's surface streets its very hard to be either.

    I don't really care if its a bus or train as long as it has its own right of way (at least most of the time) and is clean and reliable. But the Silver Line I have seen so far (on Washington Street) and the proposed BRT Urban Ring really won't be BRT, as far as I am concerned. The control center that tracks busses and keeps them more or less on time will help but not solve the basic problem that the streets are too congested for more busses. If you are going to wait around in traffic, most people will opt to do so in their own car.

  14. #14

    Riding the Silver Line on Washington Street

    I live and work along the Washington Street corridor but I usually walk to work and don’t have to take the Silver Line bus. Yesterday, because of a couple of appointments, I had to take it 4 times. The problem is that there is no dedicated right of way. In downtown and Chinatown, the bus uses regular traffic lanes. Once Washington Street widens out and traffic thins, there is a dedicated lane, but without barriers to cars. This lane is so poorly enforced that even the few stretches where cars and trucks are not parked in the bus way, the bus drivers don’t bother to use it, probably out of habit.

    The service was supposed to replace an old elevated line with equivalent service, but the quality is not equivalent. The section in the photos is beautiful and expensive and not used. The development of Boston’s Seaport district could be decades away. So again you have that equity issue: $600 million for a section that is not used. Very little for the section that is used, but services the poor, minorities and the ill traveling to Boston’s public (but privatized) hospital.

  15. #15
    jimi_d's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup
    I live and work along the Washington Street corridor but I usually walk to work and don’t have to take the Silver Line bus. Yesterday, because of a couple of appointments, I had to take it 4 times. The problem is that there is no dedicated right of way. In downtown and Chinatown, the bus uses regular traffic lanes. Once Washington Street widens out and traffic thins, there is a dedicated lane, but without barriers to cars. This lane is so poorly enforced that even the few stretches where cars and trucks are not parked in the bus way, the bus drivers don’t bother to use it, probably out of habit.

    The service was supposed to replace an old elevated line with equivalent service, but the quality is not equivalent. The section in the photos is beautiful and expensive and not used. The development of Boston’s Seaport district could be decades away. So again you have that equity issue: $600 million for a section that is not used. Very little for the section that is used, but services the poor, minorities and the ill traveling to Boston’s public (but privatized) hospital.
    Well, you can't expect the MBTA to be good at math.

    Incidentally, is any end in sight to the "temporary" suspension of Green Line service between Heath St and Arborway?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    These pictures look like a scene out of the movie Tron.
    LOL you got to it before me.

  17. #17
          ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jimi_d
    Incidentally, is any end in sight to the "temporary" suspension of Green Line service between Heath St and Arborway?
    jimi_d, everything you want to know (and more) here: http://ksgaccman.harvard.edu/hotc/Di...e.asp?id=11637

    .

  18. #18
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Silver Line Washington Street

    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    BOSTON’S GLITZY NEW SILVER LINE
    *DBL stands for dedicated bus lane.












    http://www.badtransit.com/TheT/SilverLine/tour_update_5.html]http://www.badtransit.com/TheT/SilverLine/tour_update_5.htm

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Future Planner's avatar
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    Thanks for the pictues above. They prove exactly why I made the comment earlier about "all that (beautiful new station) for crappy busses." Some one took offense to this and I apologize.

    But, IMO this illustrates the weakness of bus transit. True, there are obstacles with light rail too in sections without dedicated rights of way. What's the incentive to ride the bus when you're stuck in the same lanes as everyone else.

  20. #20
          ablarc's avatar
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    Silver Line reality trip
    Excerpts from an article by Brian McGrory, Boston Globe Columnist

    Who doesn't love a train?

    I made this inquiry as I descended an escalator at South Station yesterday, somewhere far beyond excited about my first ride aboard the gleaming new Silver Line service offered by the MBTA.

    All aboard. This was going to be great. The trains cruise through a $601 million tunnel beneath the Fort Point Channel that came in 50 percent over cost projections, causing Big Dig managers to wonder how the T runs such a ruthlessly tight ship. Once on the waterfront, the service stops at the Moakley Federal Courthouse and the World Trade Center-Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

    Eventually, the T plans to dig another tunnel beneath some of the busiest sections of Boston, to allow passengers to board the Silver Line in Roxbury (Boston’s ghetto) and ride all the way to Logan Airport. There isn't a person in town who understands how this is going to work, including T officials, but that's a problem for another day.

    For now, the project is to be celebrated, which is what I was feeling, celebratory, as I followed the signs through the turnstiles and into a clean, well-lighted station, where a train waited on the tracks.

    But hold on just a minute. This train, it had tires and windshield wipers and a steering wheel. And those tracks looked more like a road. Could it be?

    "A bus," a fellow passenger stated.

    I see. All right, who doesn't love a bus?

    The blinking red sign hanging from the platform ceiling said the buses ran every four minutes. Eight minutes later, we departed South Station for the waterfront, and exactly one minute later we pulled into Courthouse Station and two minutes after that into the World Trade Center Station. And that was it. By my estimation, the construction costs worked out to about $200 million per riding minute.

    But there is good news to report. Disembarking at Courthouse Station, passengers are greeted by soaring walls of swirled silver tiles. Fashionably oversized canister lights hang overhead. The floor is so clean you could eat a picnic lunch off it, and even the circular silver trash containers fit seamlessly into the motif.

    And this is just the platform. One level up, a soothing silver mezzanine with a ceiling bathed in soft purple light continues on for what must be at least a hundred yards, and probably twice that. The subtle hush was broken only by a worker in an orange vest pushing a vacuum cleaner across the floor.

    There were actually mats at the bottom of the escalators, and riders were using them. This might well be the nicest indoor public space in Boston, and no one outside of a few hundred riders knows about it.

    The World Trade Center Station is barely less impressive, with a ceiling that seems to rise to the stars, a funky modern art rendering of moving fish along its main wall, and design elements made to look like rolling waves.

    The stations were so nice that they almost made you overlook their unfortunate locations. Courthouse Station is nowhere near the courthouse. You can see the building well enough from the station entrance, but the path from one to the other is blocked by a fence and a parking lot, meaning that passengers must walk far down the street and back again. It would be like placing Copley Square Station in Park Square.

    And for reasons that don't make any obvious sense, the T situated its closest stop to the mammoth Boston Convention and Exhibition Center more than a couple of hundred yards from its front door, forcing conventioneers to walk several minutes through rain, snow, sleet, wind, heat, whatever, just to get to the hall.

    So I boarded a bus bound for South Station with mixed emotions on the majesty and travesty of government. Maybe my expectations were too high. As one state official said at the grand opening in December, "It doesn't leak."

    Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.


    * * *

    Bus rapid transit is being touted by the Feds and others as the economical answer to what surveys tell them people want in urban transit: Convenience and Comfort.

    As Freud pointed out a century back, you don’t find out what people really think by asking them. They’ll tell you instead what they believe you want to hear or what they think won't make them sound like irrational fools.

    Convenience yes, but Comfort: ha! When were you last on a comfortable transit system? Is the great-looking Washington Metro actually comfortable? Ridership up 20%.

    Is the New York subway comfortable? Highest ridership since 1953.

    Is BART really comfortable?

    Are you comfortable packed in like a sardine on the Paris metro? Face it: if a transit system is really successful, most people can’t find a seat. Comfort: try your car.

    They just had to bump fares to five bucks on the monstrously uncomfortable and overcrowded San Francisco cable cars to reduce ridership. (Hope they have the sense to issue discounted monthly passes for the locals who use those cable cars.)

    I love each and every one of these systems (passionately), but I don’t love a single one of them for its comfort.

    Convenience? Yes. Comfort? No.

    “Buses? Maybe that explains why there's no one in the pictures.”

    Right. That also explains this “puzzling” phenomenon: every time they replace a streetcar line with a bus, ridership falls off. As someone said on another forum, “A bus is just a bus.”

    That’s the Number One thing to learn from the comments on this thread; and getting others to recognize it is the number one contribution transport planners can make in their privileged role.

    But… “Isn't the goal of transit to get people from point to point? I'm not an expert in transit, but if they can provide a line of service, what does it matter the vehicle used? I assume that it's quite a bit cheaper to build and operate buses than to build out a dedicated heavy rail line.”

    And… service attributes are largely independent of mode, and there's a large body of evidence that suggests that what riders want is…comfort and convenience.”

    Independent of mode? That’s only true of the two attributes listed. The following are also attributes, and I daresay every single one of them trumps comfort—regardless what people say to learned polltakers (could it be they didn’t even bother to ask about these attributes when soberly polltaking?):

    1. Thrills and Romance. This is what gets people jostling for a place on a cable car, the developed world’s most uncomfortable public transport. It's exciting to dangle recklessly from the running board; if you're young, it's thrilling to jump off a moving car.

    Would you propose on a city bus? Romance is almost exclusively a rail attribute; the only buses that have it are double-deckers (oh, and don't forget those old buses they used to have in Paris, with the open platform in back.).

    I ride the Paris metro when I can for its atmosphere, even its smell.

    2. Glamor and Glitz (The Star Trek factor). This is what BART partially eliminated with the sloping streamlined noses absent from the newer trains. This is the promise the Silver Line's stations deliver and the buses renege. Glamor, the gee-whiz factor; whatever you want to call it, you know the survey didn’t ask about it (we’re grown-ups, for goodness sake, and we’re not influenced by such kid stuff).

    And actually, even if they asked, how would they get accurate information? Who--except a weirdo like me--admits he looks forward to riding the subway for the same reasons as when he was ten?

    (I lived for years in cities with subways or streetcars, and I always looked forward to my commute with all its rigors and discomforts. Actually, transport doesn’t have to really be comfortable, just make the right sounds that connote comfort: lots of whooshing is called for here.)

    3. Respect. Buses just don’t get any respect: how many on this thread responded with something like:

    “All this for a crappy bus? This is a joke right?”

    “It’s only a bus.” How many would say, “it’s only a train?” It may be a cultural bias, but in many places buses are associated with hardship, buses are associated with poverty; there’s nothing glamorous about them.

    Can’t wait for those transit planners to check their common sense at the door; then maybe we’ll get some transit that people actually want to ride.

    .
    Last edited by ablarc; 06 Mar 2005 at 6:36 PM.

  21. #21
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    Agreed! But there are practical reasons to prefer trains...

    A bus is like a strange hybrid of a car and train without the good points of either of these forms of transport. It is crowded and uncomfortable like many trains and trolleys, but also gets stuck in traffic and bad weather and emits fumes as a car does. Besides that it tends to hog large sections of whatever road it's on.

    I don't have statistics offhand, but I've read that in the NY/NJ metro it's common for property values to go down wherever the bus is the primary means of commuting, and conversely go up (sometimes way up) when train service is introduced.

    Granted, some of these problems are solved with electric buses, but the natural habitat of a bus seems to be a semi-suburban area where a bus can cover large, complicated transit routes without impediment from rush hour traffic.

    A train on the other hand is the quintessential form of urban transit.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian LorenzoRoyal's avatar
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    Disappointed to see Boston using buses underground. Major improvement from seeing those snow-covered DBLs. I have some questions: (1) Are there any other underground routes planned, (2) Which are more expensive by themselves: buses or trains?

    P.S. Starbucks=uggggghhh!

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by LorenzoRoyal
    Disappointed to see Boston using buses underground. Major improvement from seeing those snow-covered DBLs. I have some questions: (1) Are there any other underground routes planned, (2) Which are more expensive by themselves: buses or trains?
    The tunnel did not replace the snow-covered DBLs, that is the other end of the Silver Li[n]e. There are three phases to this sham:

    Phase I. Washington Street (Downtown Crossing to Dudley Station): Replacement service for Orange Line elevated rail line removed in the 1980s; all surface CNG bus route; 1/4 mile long dedicated reverse bus lane; poorly marked snow covered "bus" lanes adjacent to parking lane for most of the route; no dedicated bus lane in the congested areas of Chinatown, Downtown Crossing or Dudley Square; non-functioning automated "real time" information kiosks; bunching buses; and poorly designed stations offering no protection from the elements.

    Phase II. Waterfront: New bus tunnel from South Station to South Boston Waterfront (no man's land); future service to South Boston residential, industrial areas and Logan Airport terminals when new dual-mode buses arrive.

    Phase III: Extremely controversial $1.0+ billion tunnel to connect the two segments from South Station to Boylston Station.

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