Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

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The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is a quasi-governmental organization formed in 1964 that controls most bus, subway, commuter rail and ferry systems in the Boston, Massachusetts, USA area. Originally the agency was called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or the MTA, as immortalized in the popular folk-protest lament "The MTA Song". It is known by the locals as simply The T because of the logo it adopted in the 1960s, that of the letter "T" in a circle.



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The subway system has three rapid transit lines - the Red, Orange and Blue Lines - and two streetcar/light rail lines - the Green Line and the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line (considered part of the Red Line). All four colored lines meet downtown at a square configuration, and the Orange and Green Lines (which run parallel) meet directly at several stations. The Red Line has two branches in the south - Ashmont and Braintree, named after their terminal stations - and the Green Line has four branches in the west - "B" (Boston College), "C" (Cleveland Circle), "D" (Riverside) and "E" (Heath Street). The "A" Branch formerly went to Watertown, filling in the pattern, which increases from north to south, and the "E" Branch formerly continued beyond Heath Street to Arborway. The colors were assigned on August 26, 1965, and now serve as the primary identifier for the lines.

The three rapid transit lines are incompatible in dimensions; trains of one line would have to be modified to run on another. Except between the Red Line and Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line, there are no track connections between lines, but all lines but the Blue Line have existing but unused connections to the national rail network, which have been used for deliveries.


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Park Street on the Green Line soon after opening
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A Boston College-bound (B line) Type 8 (Breda) Green Line car at Boston University. The red triangle reflected in the window of the car is the electric Citgo sign, a Boston landmark.
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A "low floor" Breda tram at the Boston College station on the B-Line
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Red Line train at Harvard

Boston's subway was the first in the United States, and is often called "America's First Subway" by the MBTA and others. The original sections of subway, forming the Tremont Street Subway, opened in 1897 and 1898, and were built by the Boston Elevated Railway to take streetcars from many points off downtown streets, and would not be classified as a rapid transit system like most systems called subways. In 1901, the Main Line Elevated opened, a rapid transit line running as an elevated railway through outlying areas and using the Tremont Street Subway downtown (with the outer tracks and platforms reconfigured for Elevated trains); the Atlantic Avenue Elevated opened soon after, providing a second route downtown. This was the first elevated railway and the first rapid transit line in Boston, still coming three years before the first underground line of the New York City Subway (but long after the first elevated railway in New York).

The Washington Street Tunnel opened in 1908, giving the Elevated a shorter route through downtown and returning the Tremont Street Subway to full streetcar service. Various extensions and branches were built to the Tremont Street Subway in both directions, bypassing more surface tracks. Im addition, when the Main Line El opened in 1901, many surface routes were cut back to its terminals (Dudley and Sullivan) to provide a transfer for a faster route downtown. Elevated extensions were soon built on each end, and more streetcar lines were cut back.

The next line to open was the East Boston Tunnel, a streetcar tunnel under Boston Harbor to East Boston, in 1904. This replaced a transfer between streetcars and ferries, and provided access to the other subways downtown. The tunnel was converted to rapid transit specifications in 1924, with an easy cross-platform transfer at the East Boston end.

The Cambridge Tunnel opened in 1912, connecting the downtown lines to Harvard Square in Cambridge, and was soon extended south from downtown to Dorchester as the Dorchester Tunnel. The Dorchester Extension, opening in stages from 1927, took the line further along a former New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad branch through Dorchester, with the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line continuing along the old right-of-way to Mattapan. This too resulted in cutbacks in streetcar service to its terminals.

Over the years, starting in 1922, streetcar lines have been bustituted, with trackless trolleys coming along in 1936. By the beginning of 1953, the only remaining streetcar lines fed two tunnels - the main Tremont Street Subway network downtown and the short tunnel (now the Harvard Bus Tunnel) in Harvard Square. The Harvard routes were replaced with trackless trolleys in 1958, and are the only surviving MBTA trackless trolley routes. A new branch to the downtown subway opened in 1959 - the Highland Branch - using a former Boston and Albany Railroad right-of-way, and requiring many more cars than expected due to heavy ridership. The last cars to the Pleasant Street Portal ran in 1962, and it has since been covered over. The Watertown Branch hung on until 1969, two years after it was labeled as the "A" Branch, before it too was replaced by buses. The last cars to Arborway on the "E" Branch ran in 1985, and many area residents are still trying to get service extended back past Heath Street.

The old elevated railways proved to be an eyesore and required several sharp curves in Boston's twisty streets. The Atlantic Avenue Elevated was closed in 1938. The Charlestown Elevated, part of the Orange Line, was replaced by the Haymarket North Extension in 1975, and the Washington Street Elevated lasted until 1987, when the Southwest Corridor was opened to replace it. Both of these were built next to existing rail corridors. With the 2004 closure of the Causeway Street Elevated, part of the Green Line, the only remaining elevated railway is a short portion of the Red Line at Charles/MGH.

The Revere Extension (now part of the Blue Line) to Wonderland opened from 1952 to 1954, mostly along the former narrow-gauge Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad right-of-way. The Braintree Extension, a branch of the Red Line to Braintree, opened in stages from 1971 to 1980, again next to an existing rail corridor. The Red Line Northwest Extension to Alewife opened in 1985, with an intermediate opening in 1984, partly along a railroad corridor and partly through a deep-bore tunnel.

These recent extensions provided not only additional subway system coverage, but also major parking structures at several of the terminal and intermediate stations, the best-known of which is Alewife, where the Route 2 freeway ends at the Red Line terminal.

On January 12, 2005, the cities of Medford and Somerville announced their intent to sue the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Central Artery/Tunnel Project rerouted a lot of traffic through the area, causing high levels of pollution and congestion. Though the MBTA had agreed to extend the Green Line through the two cities, there had been no progress on the extension since the deal was made in 1990. Soon after, the MBTA announced that it would build the extension.

Commuter rail

The MBTA Commuter Rail system is a suburban rail network that shares its tracks with freight trains, though unlike most systems the majority of track is owned by the MBTA. As of 2005, there are 11 lines, three of which have branches, and a 15th branch provides access to Gillette Stadium for events. Seven of the lines converge at South Station, with four also passing through Back Bay station, and the other four converge at North Station. Amtrak uses two of the south-side lines and one of the north-side lines for long-distance intercity service. There is no passenger connection between the two sides, those there have been plans to fix this with the North-South Rail Link. Currently, passengers must take the Orange Line between Back Bay and North Station, the Red and Orange Lines between South and North Stations, or take a bus or taxicab. An additional south side line, the Greenbush Line, is currently in the planning stages, as is a south-side branch to Fall River and New Bedford. The Commuter Rail system has been colored purple since October 8, 1974, and is occasionally called the "Purple Line".

The MBTA was formed partly to subsidize existing commuter rail operations, provided at the time by three private railroad companies - the Boston and Maine Railroad, the New York Central Railroad (via the Boston and Albany Railroad) and the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad - with the B&M running the north-side lines and the NYC and NYNH&H (both merged into Penn Central in 1968, and taken over by Conrail in 1976) on the south side. The MBTA soon began to subsidize the companies, and acquired the lines in stages from 1973 through 1976 amidst large cutbacks in service and coverage area. Since then, many of these lines have seen service return, most notably the Old Colony Railroad (NYNH&H) lines to the South Shore.

Buses and ferries

The MBTA bus system comprises over 150 routes across the Greater Boston area. The three Crosstown Buses, labeled CT1, CT2 and CT3 provide free transfers to the subway, as do a few services intended to replace removed rail lines. Many of the outlying routes run express along major highways to downtown. The buses are colored yellow, but are rarely called the "Yellow Line".

The Silver Line is the MBTA's first bus rapid transit service. The first segment, replacing the Template:Mb bus, which in turn replaced the Washington Street Elevated section of the Orange Line, began operations in 2002, with free transfers to the subways downtown. It runs along the street, partly in special bus lanes.

The next section opened at the end of 2004, and connects South Station to South Boston, partly via a tunnel and partly on the surface. These buses run dual-mode - trackless trolley in the tunnel and CNG outside - and are expected to serve Logan Airport in late 2005 or 2006. A third fully tunneled section in planned to connect the two, and is controversial due to its high cost and the fact that many do not consider Phase I to be adequate replacement service for the old Elevated.

Current plans include more bus rapid transit routes, including the Urban Ring, intended to replace the Crosstown Buses.

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Four routes to Harvard still run as trackless trolleys; there was once a much larger trackless trolley system.

The main part of the bus system came from the Boston Elevated Railway, originally providing streetcar service throughout the inner suburbs. The outer routes to the north and south were bought from the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway in 1968, and the west suburban routes in 1972 from the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway (note: both of these companies had long since ceased running any streetcar service). A few routes to the north were taken over from Service Bus Lines in 1975, and one in the south in 1980 from the Brush Hill Transportation Company. As with the Commuter Rail system, many of the outlying routes were dropped soon before or after the takeover due to low ridership and high operating costs.

The MBTA boat system operates several ferry routes around Boston Harbor, including service to Logan International Airport.

Fare collection

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New "Easy Way" MBTA fare gates, in testing at Aquarium Station

As of 2005, most subway fares are $1.25, collected on entry, and paid with tokens. Double fare is collected inbound at the end of the Red Line Braintree Branch, with an additional exit fare at two of those three stations. $1.50 and then $3.00 is charged for inbound rides on the outer part of the Green Line "D" Branch. The Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line is free, as are outbound trips originating on the surface part of the Green Line. To mitigate for the extra fares at outlying stations, coupons are provided for local travelers as they exit to reduce the return trip cost.

Basic bus fare is $.90; this includes the Silver Line on Washington Street but not to South Boston (which charges subway fares). Since December 1, 2000, [1] ( free transfers have been available between buses (with a maximum of one transfer per trip), as well as between the Silver Line and the subway lines downtown; transfers are not valid on some express buses. Some long-distance buses charge multiple fares for full trips; free transfers are only valid for one zone. Additionally, free transfers are available from subway to bus and with an extra $.35 from bus to subway at all crossings of the Crosstown Buses and the subway, as well as between the Template:Mb and the Orange Line at Massachusetts Avenue (Washington Street Elevated replacement service) as well as between the Template:Mb and the Green Line at Copley, as well as the Orange Line at Back Bay (Arborway replacement service).

In 2006, the T expects to switch from tokens to a farecard system that will be called "The Charlie Card" in honor of the unfortunate hero of "The MTA Song". One of the rejected names for the farecard system was "The Fare Cod", a pun on both the way locals might pronounce "Card" and the fish that was once integral to the Massachusetts economy. The system will be completely automated, with new ticket machines and new fare gates. Fare collectors will leave their bulletproof collection shelters and become roving Customer Service agents.

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New "Easy Way" MBTA ticket machines, in testing at Aquarium Station
As built, many of the key transfer stations were prepayment stations, in which free transfers could be made between surface streetcar lines and grade-separated subway or elevated lines. This was made possible by the operation of all services under one umbrella; suburban services that operated over the same tracks used different areas outside fare control. Some of the streetcar levels were later converted for bus or trackless trolley operation; others have been closed. Free transfers were outright eliminated in October 1961 except between subway routes, returning in a limited capacity in 2000. Prepayment stations included Andrew (still in place), Arborway, Ashmont (still in place), Broadway, Dudley, Egleston, Everett, Fields Corner, Forest Hills, Harvard (still in place), Hynes Convention Center/ICA, Kenmore (still in place), Lechmere (still in place), Maverick, Ruggles (built for buses, still in place), Savin Hill, Sullivan Square, Watertown (only served surface and surface-subway streetcars) and Wood Island (built for buses).

Organizational history

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The MBTA district, with Commuter Rail lines in purple

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) took over operations from the Boston Elevated Railway in 1947. On August 3, 1964, the MBTA succeeded the MTA, with an enlarged service area. The original MTA district consisted of 14 cities and towns - Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Milton, Newton, Revere, Somerville and Watertown. The MBTA covered an expanded area of 78 cities and towns, with a 79th (Maynard joining in or before 1972 and leaving in or after 1976). The district was expanded further to 175 cities and towns in 1999, adding most that were served by or adajcent to Commuter Rail lines (again including Maynard). The MBTA did not assume responsibility for local service in those communities, some of which run their own buses.

See also


External links



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