» Boston’s Green Line extension, bloated after years of planning, gets slimmed down. A lesson for other cities.
Given how reliant the people of New York City are on their Subway, an outsider just looking at ridership data might conclude that the system must be paved with gold, or at least its stations must be decent to look at. After all, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that the comfort of a transit system plays an essential role in encouraging people to abandon their cars and get on the train or bus. That’s why, some would argue, it’s so important to put amenities like USB charging and wifi into transit vehicles.
Yet anyone who has ever ridden the Subway knows first hand that its success has nothing to do with aesthetics or access to luxury amenities. Stations are hardly in good shape, trains are packed, and cell service is spotty
Continue reading Frequent service, not escalator access, is what attracts transit users »
» A new station on Boston’s Orange Line prepares for opening, but infill stations of its type are all too rare.
Want to know a secret? One of the best ways to increase transit ridership at a reasonable price requires little additional service. It requires no new line extensions. And it can be done to maximize the value of existing urban neighborhoods.
This magic solution comes in the form of the infill station–a new stop constructed along an existing line, between two existing stations. Next week, Boston’s MBTA transit agency plans to open a new stop, Assembly Station, along the Orange Line in Somerville, a dense inner-ring suburb just to the northwest of downtown Boston.
Assembly is the latest in a series of recent infill stations in the U.S. located along older heavy rail lines whose other stations were generally constructed decades ago. Washington, D.C.’s NoMa Metro Station opened in 2004; the San Francisco region’s West Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station followed
Continue reading With infill stations, older transit agencies extend their reach »
» A new report attempts to quantify the relative merits of development near transit. What value can this tool bring for planners?
Transportation and land use are inextricably linked. Building a new rail line may expand development; new development may expand use of a rail line. The direct connection between the two makes differentiating between cause and effect difficult to measure. Transportation planners frequently make the argument that a new investment will produce new riders, for example, but whether those riders would have come anyway is not a simple question to answer. There is no counter-factual.
Nevertheless, planners have invested decades of considerable work in the pursuit of transit-oriented development (TOD), under the presumption that clustering new housing, offices, and retail will result in rising transit use and, in turn, reduce pollution, cut down on congestion, and improve quality of life. There remains some controversy about the effectiveness of TOD investments
Continue reading Defining Clear Standards for Transit-Oriented Development »
» Opportunities for rerouting commuter rail via the Grand Junction in Cambridge are criticized by community members who fear increases in pollution. Meanwhile, the long-planned Green Line extension in Somerville is threatened by budget limitations.
Just northwest of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville are some of the nation’s exemplar cities when it comes to promoting transportation alternatives. In Somerville, 48% of the population rides transit, walks, or bikes to work; in Cambridge, 57% do. The explanation likely comes down to a strong commitment to livable streets in both cities, a large student population, high residential densities, community activism against limited-access highways, and big concentrations of jobs both in the traditional office center of Downtown Boston but also in the walkable Kendall Square-MIT and Harvard Square areas, both along the Red Line rapid transit corridor.
Yet, with the exception of the Red Line — extended north of Harvard Square in
Continue reading Facing Funding Shortfalls and Protest, Better Rail for Boston Region is Delayed »
» Capital investments will do part of the work in expanding use of the regional rail network, but operations is where the real benefits will come.
Boston has one of the nation’s most extensive and well-used commuter rail systems, with twelve lines splayed out from its terminal stations located downtown. But use of those services within the dense core communities of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville is limited. Despite the fact that the commuter lines pass through those cities as they head out into the suburbs, few residents there choose commuter rail over the subway and bus network, likely because of few stops, limited frequencies of service, and inadequate connections with te rest of the transit network, both in terms of operations and fares.
As in other American cities, this represents a significant under-use of an asset that could play a significant role in upgrading Boston’s transportation network.
With the Fairmount Corridor
Continue reading Fairmount Corridor Construction Promotes Better Use of Commuter Lines in Boston »