Update: see also "The need for station consolidation on the MBTA "B" branch, in one chart."
A common complaint among regular "B" branch riders is the excessive number of stations on the line: particularly in the Boston University corridor between Kenmore and Brighton Avenue stations. Four pairs of stations are less than 250 meters apart, each, as can be seen on the above diagram. The train typically takes 12-15 minutes to cover the 2.5 km on that stretch, which comes out to an average speed between 6 and 8 mph. The 57 bus shares this portion of the route and usually averages to a slightly higher speed than the train.
The topic was mentioned a few times at the recent public meeting and a member of the service planning department indicated that some internal study had been done but nothing had come of it. The main concerns had focused around balancing the increased walking distance for some patrons vs the improved speed of service for others. These are valid points to consider but I believe they may be putting an inappropriate amount of importance on reducing walking distance.
So what is the right inter-station spacing? One quick rule of thumb might suggest 400 meters (a quarter-mile) for local-stop service. But it's also more complicated than that. For one thing, there may be obstacles which prevent an ideal spacing, particularly for the Green Line which crosses many streets. And there is room to bend the rule for certain spots, depending upon the local context. And we still have to decide what the Green Line really should be: should it be a local bus? Or something nearer to rapid transit quality?
I don't expect agreement on all these points. But I don't think there is anyone who disagrees that 250 meters is too short, and that 6-8 mph is too slow. The questions are: which stations should be eliminated and/or consolidated? Should we split the platforms so that they are always on the far-side of traffic lights, in anticipation of signal priority? If we do consolidate stations, will the new one be able to handle the passenger load?
I'll start with one possible idea, and see if anyone else wants to suggest something.
Alternate 1:Keep Blandford St; eliminate BU East; split BU Central; keep BU West; eliminate St Paul St; split Pleasant St; eliminate Babcock St; keep Brighton Ave.
This one is pretty heavy on the eliminations, approximately doubling the inter-station spacing. Although the BU platforms receive heavy usage, I believe that usage is more uniformly distributed throughout the day rather than at evening peaks. Also the reservation is wide enough at that point for bigger stations, although the current stations are narrow due to excessive landscaping.
Several of the stations are split into far-side platforms. But this technique cannot currently be applied to Brighton Ave or Blandford St because of switches that are in the way.