Free Silver Line service from Logan to South Station could start in June

WBZ reports Massport is expected to make a final decision on April 26 on a three-month pilot project.



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Is this different then what is available with standard fare?

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I thought the Silver Line to the airport was a great idea until I tried it. Easily 10-15 minutes longer then the shuttles from the Blue Line. YMMV depending on your starting point.

Are they seeing a ridership problem? Maybe people don't use it because it is slow. The shuttles are broken up to different terminals. The Silver Line has to stop at all of them.

I've found the opposite

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I prefer taking the silver line to the airport. It feels faster than the blue line + shuttle, but yeah, YMMV.

If you are going from South

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If you are going from South Station to Terminal A, the Silver Line is faster. If you are going from Terminal E to South Station it is faster. But the inverse (South Station to E or A to South Station) can be very slow because of the time moving around and stopping at B1, B2, and C.

The Silver Line to the airport always seems pretty well utilized when I take it.

From the Red Line, definitely

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I mean, it might be a different story if the Red and Blue Lines connected, but then again, it would be a different story if we all had helicopters, too.

From Green or Orange, it kind of seems like a wash.

It all depends on traffic.

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I've taken both and the last time I was on the Silver Line it got stuck in traffic in the tunnel. Almost missed my flight.

Why would a great new way to get to the airport get handicapped by not having a dedicated lane in the Ted Williams tunnel?

But they did build an extra

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But they did build an extra set of I-90 tunnels under the Fort Point Channel for HOV use. They're the most useless and wasteful part of the Big Dig.

An easy way to speed up service:

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Separate trips to Arrival and Departure levels. Drop off the people who are in a rush upstairs, then make a separate trip to pick up the dozens of tourists who don't understand how to pay (moot?) and who always come to a dead stop 5 feet past the driver with their luggage blocking everyone's path to the back of the bus.

Doing this might require a few more buses on the route, but I think it would make customers happy.

more speed

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They need to have someone at Silver Line Way to do the changeover, so that the driver doesn't have to leave the bus. On the way to the airport, the bus should be able to use the dedicated ramp at the State Police barracks instead of driving all around the Seaport are to get to the ramp that everyone else is using. And as someone else suggested, break up the routes into two that go to different terminals.
From downtown, I find the old route much faster, but I live south of the city, so mainly take the Silver Line since it is a 2 seat ride instead of a 4 seater.

Did they give up on the

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Did they give up on the automatic pole-wiring mechanism at Silver Line Way so the driver has to get out and do it?

They use the automatic pole

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They use the automatic pole device on the SL2 buses to the marine industrial park, but Massport doesn't want the poles coming up on their own in the Ted Williams tunnel or at Massport terminal buildings if the locks on the automatic device fail, so the drivers have the put the rope to the trolley poles under a hook going there and unhook it coming back. I think the chance of a failure of the auto pole retriever device is low, but Massport doesn't want to take a chance on damage to ceilings if it did fail.

Wow. Yet another example of

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Wow. Yet another example of failed planning on the Silver Line.

All good points

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Is there a reason they don't use the State Police ramp?

The other thing I would add is that the speeds in the tunnel feel ridiculously slow. Also, when coming inbound, they wait for the stupid non-priority light at D St., then they wait for the gate arm to lift, then they have to come to a full stop before entering WTC Station. I know it probably only adds like 15 seconds, but it feels stupidly slow for a BRT system. The buses should basically be running at 30 mph nonstop, except when they come to a station stop.

There's a reason, but it's

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There's a reason, but it's not a good reason. The original design had buses using that ramp, but after it was all built, the police said no.

This is silly - and there's more to this than meets the eye.

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This is silly. Why should people get a free ride from the Airport to downtown Boston? I have never been to another city where transport between the airport and the downtown area is free, and while there might be a place or two, it is certainly not the norm.

Let's not have any more mission creep with respect to Massport. It has been more successful in fulfilling its mission than any other public authority in Massachusetts, and it should be allowed to concentrate on its original mission of operating airport and port facilities without being drawn into the morass of other problems the state and other public authorities have. It makes no sense to ruin your one good and functioning authority in an attempt to save one (the T) that cannot be saved without a full-on revamp of its financing mechanism. To the Legislature: stop kicking the can down the road and do some hard work for a change, you spineless weasels.

Now that I've finished what I was originally going to say, what is really going on here just occurred to me. This is a way for the state and T to get Massport to underwrite the entire cost of running the Silver Line and thereby relieve the T of that obligation. It has to be couched like this to avoid a complaint from the FAA that this is diversion of aviation revenue (which is illegal under federal law). It is unlikely to work, will only get Massport in trouble with the FAA, which will thereby imperil federal grant money for the airports. All because we have a bunch of political wimps on Beacon Hill.

Public Transportation Uptake

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I think the idea is to get more people to use public transportation in order to reduce car traffic congestion and taxi wait times. If you can get some people to try a free service in the summer, they might be willing to use it the rest of the year too. Plus making it free speeds up the delays from tourists who don't know how to pay on the bus.

Most cities

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also don't have $30 cab fairs to get you only <3 miles into the city core.

Step in a cab at Logan and it's already $15 without even moving an inch.

Well ...

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Most cities don't have airports less than three miles from their downtowns ...


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& their cab rides into the city are cheaper, regardless that their airports are further away.

Most cities have standard (and reasonable) flat rates to places of frequent destination. And I'm not talking just NYC, which just has low rates regardless.

Here in Boston it's a combination of insane cab prices, the city soaking visitors with airport taxes, and the tunnel fees. Then you factor in that the airport is only 3-4 miles away from most visitor hotels downtown or in the Back Bay / SE.

$5-6/mile is pretty much the going rate for cabs around here without the Logan add ons. Factor in how poor the service is, and it's getting into ridiculous territory.

I'll never forget the night a cab driver expected me to pay a $55 overcharge from China Town to Brighton, because he didn't know some of the tunnels were shut down and then got us lost in Charlestown and Somerville cause he couldn't get back on the highway. He got the normal rate I always paid before, which itself is ridiculous for a 6 mile, 15 min cab ride.

Threatened to call the cops, and I told him to do just that so i could tell them about our little joyride.

exaggerate a little?

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It's closer to $11. While still expensive, not as bad as you state.

Let's compare apples to apples

JFK to anywhere in Manhattan: $45 flat fare. I picked the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a destination, just for kicks and giggles, and that is a distance of 19.5 miles. Obviously it would be less mileage if you lived on the river in midtown, but it could also be higher if you're going to Harlem.

Through the magic of the interwebs, tells me that a Boston cab from Logan to Weston center, 19.8 miles away, is $78.75.

The cost of cabs in Boston is unreasonable. Plain and simple.

In this context

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meter rate vs. meter rate is the fairest comparison. Each example is 19.8 miles on the meter rate, right?

Besides that, as someone who used to have to cab it to Northern NJ every so often when a flight went to JFK instead of Newark, I've found the NYC medallion cabs much more reasonable and competitive for long-haul fares than their Boston counterparts.

No, still not a bushel

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In NYC, you get in the cab and it's a flat $45 fee into Manhattan - no metered rate.

In miami

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It's a flat $35 (or variable under) for some specific locations 10-12 miles into the city.

Same with other major cities.

Boston is pretty damn expensive for taxis outright, and even more expensive to use them from Logan.

That's sort of the point, plus a bonus apple win!

There's no flat fee service to Boston center. So tourists end up getting soaked because they don't know the plethora of easy, drastically cheaper options.

But to be more precise, even doing a metered fare from JFK to Merrick, NY (18 miles away, so we're even giving 1.5 miles away for free here! Limited time only!) is $48.55.

Let's take it another step: Logan to the Four Seasons on Boylston St. That's 4.9 miles, or $27.50 in cab fare. From JFK to Laurelton NY (5.2 miles) it's $18.50. So it's about a third more expensive to go a third of a mile less distance.

While I've clearly had some fun with this (true story!), I don't think I need to spend any more time putting hard(ish) data to the claim that Boston's cabs, especially from the airport, are overpriced.

Too slow, too unreliable

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I've given up on the Silver line. It's just too darn slow for the distance covered. From my downtown office, it's a five minute walk to South Station, figure a five minute wait, and then 20+ minutes to your terminal. Full half hour to cover just a few miles, under optimal conditions.

And if there's too much traffic in Terminal B (where the bus can't use the outside lanes, great design there) you might be completely screwed.

Shouldn't be free

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Much as I enjoy getting a free ride to the airport, when I compare the cost in other cities to Boston, we are losing an opportunity to help solve the T's budget problems.

Just about everywhere else, airport transit is a premium service. In New York it's about $8 one way, and over $12 to Newark. In Montreal it's $8. In San Francisco it's $8.10. Most of these trips are longer and more dedicated-express service than the T provides, but there's no reason why the T couldn't charge a $5 premium for airport trips. Don't give up the service to Massport, instead have the T take over the shuttle bus from the Blue Line and collect the premium fare.

It would cost me $45 to take a taxi from Roslindale to the airport and $18 to $27/day to park at Logan. Help fix the T by collecting a reasonable airport fare.


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I think they are collecting a reasonable fair for the distance / use. The unreasonable charges are what others are charging.

I agree they shouldn't get rid of charges though. Especially not with the budget issues they're facing.

Part of the problem with the Logan service seems to be that they airport lines runs to infrequent, while the other lines run too much.

Every time I've used the airport line it's seemed pretty busy with only a few empty seats, which is sort of a turnoff when you're lugging around luggage and have a family to deal with. Getting stuck behind the other lines in the tunnel also increases the trip.

The other Silver Line buses

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The other Silver Line buses at South Station are very busy during the peak direction in the rush hour, probably more crowded or as crowded as the airport buses. In the off-peak and and the reverse peak direction, the airport SL1 buses almost always have more riders.

Problem is that the T is so

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Problem is that the T is so darn slow. If there was a fast train directly from Logan to South Station or downtown, it would worth a premium. No one wants to pay a premium to ride a slow bus.

Google calls Logan to South Station a 10 minute drive or 29 minutes by transit (which I don't think includes wait time for the bus). Who's going to pay extra for that?

But you're not paying a premium

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It's still the cheapest way to get the airport besides having a friend drive you. It was two bucks, and now it's free. Or if you take the commuter rail in from the burbs to South Station first, maybe seven or eight dollars total. That's a pretty sweet deal compared to taking a cab, parking at the airport, or taking a shuttle from the suburbs.

I would gladly leave 20 minutes early to save 20 bucks, but I'm poor and routinely inconvenience myself in order to save money.

I understand this. Please

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I understand this. Please read the post I was responding to that was suggesting that airport transportation, generally, should charge a premium.


This is the most absurd thing I've ever heard. A prime opportunity for the T to collect revenue and they abolish it? $2 is dirt cheap to get from an airport to a CBD. It's probably the cheapest in the world. Nor do I think that the SL is having ridership problems because the buses are always packed with people who are more-than-willing to pay the dirt-cheap fare. Is this supposed to increase ridership? The buses can only hold a certain number of people. They're not going to magically grow. This could increase ridership if they improved headways, but that will never happen.

Details, details

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So how would this work? Once you're on the bus for free, that also gives you free access to the rest of the T? And you'd have to pay the regular fare in the other direction (from downtown to the airport)?

I'd support any plan that eliminates the stupidity of the terrible on-board fare collection system, for what's supposed to be bus rapid transit.

It's ironic that MassPort can

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It's ironic that MassPort can afford to pay for all the fares for the Silver Line for 3 months while the MBTA can barely find cash to do anything at all.

Honestly, though, that money would be better spent actually upgrading the Silver Line service rather than just paying for free rides. How about:
- Much more prominent signage in and around the Airport terminals about the Silver Line (where it is, how to get there, how much it costs, etc).
- Requiring passengers at the airport to pre-pay before boarding (for example using the validation machines like on the D Line), which would then allow people to board using all doors. Officers could check for proof of payment at random on certain buses.
- Next bus countdown boards at all of the airport stops
- Eliminating the second surface-level stop at World Trade Center when going inbound.
- Allowing the buses to use the state police ramp going outbound (with some good signage and perhaps some striping adjustments this really should be possible).
- Fixing that darn signal at D Street when the buses come out of the bus tunnel. If there was ever a place where transit should get signal preemption capabilities it is here.

My pipe dream would be to add overhead wire all the way through to the airport so that the buses never had to switch over to diesel. I know there are some issues with the Ted Williams Tunnel being an interstate highway, but there must be a way to do it!

I'd also suggest that the

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I'd also suggest that the Silver Line and Blue Line shuttle stop near each other at each terminal, so you can take whichever comes first.

On that last note.

I think the problem with that is the speed - I've never seen a bus break 20-25 miles an hour while attached to the wires.

Good ideas all around - I know I've been confused as to where the Silver stops at the airport.

Repave the damn tunnel, too

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It's been in terrible shape for years, and gives a terrible first impression of the city.

L.A. screwed-up on the concrete paving for their new BRT line, so they had the contractor rip it up and do it again until it was you know... smooth.

We only spent a billion

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We only spent a billion dollars on that tunnel. Why should we expect a smooth ride?

$2 vs. free

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This is not going to get more people using the Silver Line vs. getting a ride or taking a cab.

Improve the service, the ideas in this thread ought to be tried.

I took a public transit bus from Toronto's Pearson Airport recently. For $3 Canadian I got a ride with only one other stop to the nearest subway station. This included a free transfer onto the subway which allowed me to get to our hotel in the city center. The trip took about an hour. The distance by car is about 18 miles. The return was the same, you paid to get on the subway then got a free transfer onto the bus.


The easiest way to improve

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The easiest way to improve the service is to eliminate the delays caused by fare collection.

Why doesn't the silver line

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Why doesn't the silver line go to the Blue Line? Why do I have to get off on terminal "A" and then wait for a Massport Bus?