A disconnected rail system is an inefficient rail system. Our stub-end terminals require every train to back out of our downtown stations before another can enter. This process requires extra platform space and wastes a lot of valuable real estate, but it also and wastes the time of crews, equipment and passengers alike, driving up operating costs and suppressing ridership.

The MBTA's Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility is located just north of Boston, in Somerville but two-thirds of the fleet is south of Boston. As a result, trains have to be shuttled through Cambridge in the middle of the night to reach the maintenance facility.   [© Google Earth]

By contrast, a unified system in which trains run continuously through the city (just as our subway lines do) lets the crews and equipment work more efficiently, earning more revenue with lower operating costs.

Maintenance is also simplified because all lines can easily reach the heavy maintenance facility located to the north of Boston.

[North South Rail Link Project, Operations Study 1998]

Shuttling trains around our terminals and related layover yards is unproductive. Every train and crew engaged in these wasted movements requires another train and crew to be providing revenue service. A detailed study in 1998 concluded that $62 Million per year could be saved simply by replacing stub end service with run-through service.  This amount is sufficient to bond more than $1 Billion in new investment at current interest rates.

Likewise, better service encourages more ridership and more revenue. When the North South Rail Link was evaluated in 2003 for the PMT (Program for Mass Transportation, the official multi-year planning tool for ranking transportation investments), it was found to provide a greater diversion of riders from highway to rail and greater time savings than any other rail project evaluated for the PMT. 

Cities around the world, confronted with the very same challenges we face, of limited terminal capacity and inefficient operations, are recognizing that the only practical and long-term solution is rail unification, and are opting to link rather than expand their terminals.