Fixing the Green Line

If the Governor's proposed Transportation plan is approved, major maintenance planned investments in the Green Line will greatly improve service.

The Governor's proposed Transportation plan offers roughly $800 million in major maintenance for the Green Line and that is in addition to the $700 million projected for the expansion of the Green Line North to Somerville.  The plan also includes huge maintenance investments for the Red and Orange Line.

Over the coming 6 months, getting that plan approved and keeping the T maintenance investments in it will be top priorities for me.   To support the plan and to highlight the Green Line needs, a group of legislators held a forum on the Green Line at the Boston Public Library earlier this month.  Roughly 100 people attended.  Great thanks to the MBTA staff who assembled an excellent opening presentation (click here for the PowerPoint) and brought a great depth of expertise to the table.

At the meeting, rider concerns fall about the Green Line into the following broad categories:

  • Speed -- cut travel time, especially on the long above-ground B line segment.
  • Frequency -- more frequent service.
  • Capacity -- if tunnel congestion makes more frequent trains impossible, then longer trains in the rush hour.
  • Transparency -- publicly availability of train arrival time information.
  • Accessibility -- many stops and the cars generally could be more accessible.

The following set of specific aspirations for the Green Line emerged from an airing of those concerns.  They all depend on adequate funding, and no specific commitments have been made, but if the Governor's plan is approved, it seemed from the conversation that the various aspirations might be realized in roughly the time frames below.

Short term -- 1 to 5 years, focus on speed, transparency and accessibility:

  • Coordinate traffic signals with Boston and Brookline traffic officials to reduce above-ground travel times.
  • Add tracking technology to support arrival time information for consumers.
  • Discuss removal of closely-spaced above-ground stops, particularly along Commonwealth Avenue near BU.
  • Complete Government Center station rehab for accessibility and respond to above-ground accessibility issues identified in the forum and on ongoing basis.
  • Given the single directional tracks running along much of Commonwealth Ave and Beacon Street, express trains are not feasible -- they only make sense when there has been a backup and the lead train can run express to regain schedule.  Complex express plans involving station skipping (odd trains and even trains) raise manageability concerns.
  • Accelerate boarding procedures through all-door boarding -- perhaps install rear-door fare collection boxes with audible signals that allow all passengers to police fare evasion by peers.  This would require all passengers to be using card technology.  A side benefit of this would be more complete ridership statistics.  (The T reported that customers protested fare evasion by others when all-door boarding was permitted without new fare collection devices.)  This strategy may be dependent on new cars and so belong in the medium term category.

Medium term -- 5 to 10 years, focus on capacity and accessibility:

  • Expand and upgrade fleet to allow three car trains, improve accessibility and streamline boarding procedures (fare collection at all doors, see above). Currently, only about 8 out of 60 to 70 rush hour trains on the B and D lines are three car trains, so the potential capacity improvement from going to all three-car trains in rush hour is almost 50%.
  • Upgrade power systems to support three car trains.
  • Note:  No station upgrades are necessary on the B or D lines to support three car trains.  Need to understand 3 car issues on C and E lines.
  • Fund accessibility upgrades for the remaining inaccessible Green Line subway stations -- identify high-priority improvements in above-ground stations.
  • Consider new track segments (side tracks to allow express trains to pass; connections between E and D lines) and new uses of existing track segments (inner loop at Park Street) that might speed travel.
  • Consider possible frequency increases in off-hour service, depending on evolving demand and user satisfaction with train time transparency.
  • Address safety concerns with train control technology -- note that this technology may actually tend to force increased train spacing in the tunnel core and reduce capacity.

Long term -- 10 years plus, build major new connections.   Keep planning now to:

  • Move the Urban Ring project forward -- direct connections around the rim from Dorchester to Longwood to Cambridge  to Everett would reduce core traffic along the Green and Red Line spokes and save time for many riders.   Also possibly on the radar screen, the Blue to Red/Charles connector and a possible additional tunnel extending beyond Charles paralleling the existing core Green Line.

Over the months to come, I'll be working the team of legislators who cosponsored the forum to sharpen official  commitment to this agenda.

As always, I appreciate hearing from constituents.  I can be reached at 617-771-8274 or william.brownsberger@masenate.gov and also welcome feedback at willbrownsberger.com.


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