Allston: Then and now

Harvard and Brighton avenues, AllstonHarvard and Brighton avenues.

Matthew in Boston has put together a set of photos of Allston scenes back in the day and today.

Posted under this Creative Commons license and in the Universal Hub pool on Flickr.



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    Wow, it's incredibly

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    Wow, it's incredibly depressing to see all of the trolleys and tracks that were destroyed to make way for the cars that now crowd our streets.

    Brighton Ave

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    The Brighton Avenue ones are the worst- they had a separated median, which has now been traded for a bus perpetually stuck in traffic.

    The future! Maybe someday we can have the same on Commonwealth, Beacon, and Huntington.

    Didn't the reservation only

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    Didn't the reservation only to as far as Union Sq., though? With the trolleys on that line going as far as Watertown, more reservations would've been nice.


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    Yes, the reservation was on Brighton Ave, but the rest of the old A line on Cambridge St, Washington St, Tremont St etc. ran on the regular street, which was too narrow for a reservation (much like Huntington Ave past Brigham Circle on the E line). Trolleys would have been just as stuck as stuck in traffic as the buses are now, and wouldn't have been able to move around obstacles. And the tracks in the road, before they were removed in the 90's, were a hazard for cyclists.

    Better than nothing

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    Which is what we have today.

    Do cyclists have issues with the tracks on Huntington/S. Huntington past Brigham Circle? I certainly see a lot of them on the road. Or was it just the MBTA/the city allowing the tracks and roadway to decay unused that caused the hazard?

    Not sure what you mean by

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    Not sure what you mean by "Better than nothing, which is what we have today". We have a bus line that goes at least as fast as the trolley would have. The Brighton Ave section could be an exception, but then again, the B line that runs on a median isn't any faster than a bus.

    I've lived (and biked) in Brighton for years, and was there before they removed the old A line tracks. Trolley tracks are a hazard for bike riders particularly when they need to make a turn across them. The bike wheels can get caught in the track, and make you fall over. It was speculated that that might have been a factor in the death of a cyclist on Huntington Ave a couple of years ago, but I don't know whether the investigation confirmed that or not. I don't get to Huntington Ave that often, but there are tracks in the street in the Cleveland Circle area, and I've seen cyclists fall when moving laterally across the tracks.

    The tracks were a hazard

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    The tracks were a hazard to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. People would trip on them, especially women in heels. When I had a subcompact car, the wheels were the same length apart a the two rails, so I could glide along the tracks, but it wasn't safe. It was easy to slide off, they were slippery, especially when wet, so even if you were just moving within the lane or making a turn you could have a problem, with one wheel caught.

    The tracks created potholes as well. The steel conducted electricity, which combined with water did something to generate the holes.

    It took decades to get them removed. The T just did not want to do it, it was only through many years of political pressure that it occurred.

    Fine by me

    The less transit that is controlled by a state agency and the idiot state legislature that funds it, the better.

    Except that they weren't

    Except that they weren't destroyed to make way for cars. And if there were there today, the MBTA would tear up the lines again, just like they did to the Arborway line.

    They were destroyed because

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    They were destroyed because the T didn't own enough streetcars. So they cut the service in 1967.

    Then in the late 90s, they finally removed the decayed tracks. And the city replaced it with the useless median. That road width would be much more useful as a bike lane (in the normal place, not in the middle), or wider right lane, or wider sidewalk.

    You've got your causation

    You've got your causation arrow backwards. They didn't replace old cars because they were planning for years to drop the lines.

    That's a reasonable

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    That's a reasonable conclusion. The Watertown line was converted to bus in 1969, but there was a one-week conversion as early as 1962 to see if a conversion to bus was practical. The MBTA considered buying surplus used PCC cars from Pittsburgh around 1966-67, but did not follow through with an opportunity to increase the fleet size. The old MTA did buy 25 used PCC cars from Dallas in 1958-59, so it was not a new idea to buy used equipment.

    A couple of years after the Mass Turnpike extension opened in 1965, the MBTA began running rush-hour express buses from Watertown and Newton Corner to Boston. They were an immediate success and were joined by a route from Downtown to Brighton Center. The success of the express buses siphoned off many riders from the streetcar line. When the line was converted to the Route 57 bus in 1969, the MBTA did state that it would free up equipment for the other Green Line branches, but if you dig up old newspaper articles from the time, they also mention the very high accident rate the Watertown line streetcars had with autos as another reason why they wanted to go with buses. At the time of the conversion, the MBTA stated it would be a trial, and the line would be kept intact to restore streetcar service if the trial didn't work. Obviously, the MBTA considered the trial a success! The tracks were kept intact though, to 1992, to allow Green Line equipment to access the maintenance facility at Watertown. By 1992, it was clear the line was not coming back, and there was political pressure to remove the tracks and repave the streets. And that was the final end of the A line.

    Sure it was

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    The median on Brighton Ave was removed to make more lanes for traffic. The T and its predecessors never liked running trains in mixed traffic, so once the median was gone the days of the trolley were numbered.

    In any case the city's avoidance of street-running trains is just another way the highway/car mindset dominates, even among our transit leaders.


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    So much for progress.

    Wonderful work

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    Very accurate camera placement on many shots. A reminder of the many waning wainscotings, de-laid inlays, forgotten friezes, victimized voussoirs, transplanted transoms, and castrated cornices. Or, any other fancy architectural term you can pull from Google.

    Architecture preservationists shed another tear.


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    It can be tricky lining up shots when the features on the remaining buildings have corroded so much.

    P.S. the historical photographs come from the wonderful website of and I recommend checking it out and maybe even becoming a member ;)