Tracking MBTA routes over the decades



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    Ah, Memories...

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    ...taking the "A" Line to Watertown Center as a kid.

    Takin' the A car

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    What, you don't think that the 57 bus and the "landscaped" median down Brighton Ave is an improvement?!


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    Just so cool

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    But I've come to expect it from this artist.


    ...sad to see the disappearance of some lines that just might be useful.

    Not the Full Picture

    Boston and environs were once served by a fairly dense network of both commuter rail lines and street car lines.

    These are neither shown to be appearing or disappearing in this simulation.

    Don't get me wrong - this is totally cool! It doesn't represent the loss of the peripheral transportation networks after WWII and that gives the mistaken impression of expansion.

    Rapid Transit and Bustitution

    I believe the intent of this was to show what has been considered over the years to be rapid transit, along with only the street car lines that tie into the central subway. It does exactly that, no more, no less.

    Regarding the other street car lines, they have generally been replaced by buses, and although we can differ on this, in many cases, the bus is better than a street running LRT car. At any rate, it would be difficult on the scale presented to show all the street car lines that once were, and it's even difficult to completely document well enough to work in to the animation.

    Regarding commuter rail, maybe we should add inter-city, too? There's always got to be some geographic limit to a map. If this went to Rhode Island and New Hampshire (where commuter rail at one time extended), then the core BERY/MTA/MBTA rapid transit area would be pretty small.

    It is confusing in that at

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    It is confusing in that at some point you have to show the remaining streetcar lines that operate into the subway (the B, C, and E) as rapid transit because that's what we know them as today. But when? The C line began running into the subway when the subway opened in 1897,the B line in 1900, and the E line in 1903. But they don't show up on his map as part of the rapid transit system until 1932 (B and C) and 1941 (E) when the trolley subway tunnels were extended to their present western portals. Conversely, a route from North Station to City Point ran until 1952 (the South Boston part is today's Route 9 bus) while a North Station-Tremont St line ran until 1961 (part of today's Route 43 bus). Those are never shown on his maps as part of the rapid transit system although they operated through the trolley subway for many decades.

    Street running is not rapid transit.

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    This is a little off point, but my only comment is on your bus v. street running LRT car point. I agree. It doesn't matter whether it runs on steel wheels on a steel track or rubber wheels on asphalt/concrete, or some combination thereof, if the public transit vehicle does not have its own right of way that is entirely independent of other traffic (i.e., it doesn't have to wait for anything other than another public transit vehicle that might be in front of it), it is not "rapid" transit and should not be called that (yeah, I'm talking about you, Silver Lie and surface B, C, and E, branches of the Green Line).

    B and C vs. E

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    The B and C differ from the E because they do have their own median strip, but it is periodically subject to crossings by motor vehicle traffic. If we strictly define something as "rapid transit" by virtue of the tracks never being crossed, then the Mattapan-Ashmont high speed line is also disqualified. It has grade crossings at both Central Avenue and Capen Street.


    Exactly, Suldog.

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    I'm prepared to disqualify them for that very reason (unless there are gates to block crossing traffic on the MHSL). Accordingly, I would not disqualify commuter rail from "rapid" transit, since there are gates to block vehicular traffic at the at-grade crossings.

    Further, other than safety issues surrounding getting to/from the trolley (for which the median strips provide some enhancement), I see little functional difference (from a "rapid" transit standpoint) between the E and the B/C branches of the Green Line.

    There is a difference

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    Having an exclusive lane, even with crossings, is an upgrade over street running. Heck, that's what 'BRT' is supposed to have, if the term hadn't been so watered down by now.

    If the "B" and "C" ever get signal priority, that will be almost as good as crossing gates, and will probably go a long way to resolving their schedule problems.

    The other main issue is too many stops.

    I agree that there is a

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    I agree that there is a difference - if signal priority was in the mix.

    I am not holding out for that, however. Too much $$$.

    Signal priority

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    I heard Brookline was ready willing and able to fund it. And it's not that expensive to install trolley detectors. I've noticed that the intersection plans for Comm Ave include provisions for them already. It just never happened. Somebody needs to push.

    I've heard that several European cities use street running and signal priority together successfully as well.

    Mattapan Has No Gates

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    The grade crossings on Mattapan-Ashmont have no gates. Drivers, both trolley and car, stop and make a visual check of traffic before continuing.

    Speaking of grade crossings, the Chicago Transit Authority runs third rail lines with grade crossings! I was amazed to find this out when visiting that city a couple of years ago.

    I believe it is their Pink Line (54th/Cermak) that has grade crossings on lines powered by an electrified third rail. Gates are lowered and lights flash when a train is crossing the street. The third rail does not exist at the point of the crossing, of course - trains 'float' through, being engaged with the third rail prior and after the crossings - but there is nothing to prevent kids or animals from just entering the track area at these places, from the street, at any time when the gates are up, and perhaps getting fried by walking a few yards down the line.

    Apparently it works, as there don't seem to be weekly stories out of Chicago about kids and animals being fried or run over or whatever. Still, I was stunned when I rode that line.


    Your Chicago reports

    I enjoyed these -- but saw them when it was too late to comment on them (for all practical purposes). ;~}

    None of the trolleys in

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    None of the trolleys in Boston have gates, signal priority just means that the traffic lights change on trolley approach to expedite travel.

    I noticed that some newer LRTs use gates, such as found in San Jose and New Jersey. I think they go a bit overboard.

    I seem to recall that the outer reaches of the Brown (Ravenswood) line have third rail grade crossings. There are also plenty on legacy commuter railroads like LIRR.