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The new normal on the Blue Line

Crowd at Maverick on the Blue Line

Shortly before 9 a.m., Teresa Polhemus snapped this photo of her fellow riders waiting for a train at Maverick, and asked:

MBTA, what’s going on with the blue line this morning? Longer than normal head times and big crowds because trains are too full.

Shortly after 9, the T replied to another rider with a similar question:

There are no delays currently on the Blue Line and there is a train approaching Maverick now. Rush hour headway is five minutes.

As a thought exercise, imagine the day when Suffolk Downs is fully built out with its 10,000 new residential units and all that new office space.

Last month:
Full to bursting on the Blue Line: People at Maverick watch helplessly as four straight trains show up full, leave without them.

Free tagging: 


If the Blue Line is this full, perhaps it should be supplemented by a ferry between Maverick and Long Wharf? That could remove the really short trip riders from the subway.


To the Seaport - increase options rather than redundancy.



Because we’re a major city. With the worst rush hour traffic in the country. And the MBTA has proven time and again that reliable rail and bus service is an uphill battle that we’ll all be fighting for years to come.


It looked exactly the same at 8am - in fact, I had to wait because the first train that came in was completely full. Even at a 4-5 minute headway, the blue line cannot handle the influx of people on it during rush hour.

A few weeks ago, I (a resident of one of those "EVIL new complexes" by maverick that all the old-timey residents like to blame every single problem in their lives on) received notice that there was going to be a community meeting regarding looking into implementing some kind of ferry service. unfortunately, i wasn't able to attend the meeting and the notice was incredibly vague and didn't really contain any useful info that I could follow up on. So it sounds like interest is there. I'd absolutely ditch the T for a ferry shuttle since i only take it to get across the harbor, and judging by the fact that I observe half of my fellow riders doing the same - getting on at maverick and exit at either aquarium or state, i'm sure this would be a very widely used idea.


Too bad that there's really no short-turn turnback capacity on the very inner Blue Line. I don't ride the Blue much, but I believe the first decent crossovers are out past Airport, but they're just that, no pocket track for a "East Boston Shuttle" trains at rush hour to change ends out of the way. A couple shuttle trains just running Airport-Bowdoin (or Maverick-Bowdoin, if the old loop were still there) would make a bit of a dent, and would probably be more effective overall than a redundant ferry service.


Or they could run some trains direct from the OH yard to Bowdoin.

There is a set of switches just east (north) of Maverick's platform in the tunnel. When there was work taking place between State and Bowdoin some months back, they ran a single shuttle train between State and Maverick on the outbound track. Passengers changed trains at Maverick. The trains east (north) of Maverick departed outbound from the inbound platform and switched in the tunnel to the outbound track to continue to Airport station.

Short turns have happened at Airport station but the trains are also forced to switch to the pantograph (overhead power) for just a couple of hundred feet to accomplish the switching.

The problem with short-turning a train at Maverick is that you'd be adding the outbound riders headed outbound to an already crowded platform and force them to wait for a through train. Short-turning at Airport might be a consideration but that might play some games with the 5 minute headways.

There are other switches along the Blue line but most are locked down and only used for emergency switching.

Back in the day, it was commonplace to turn trains at Orient Heights. In fact there is a set of yard tracks that were built just for that purpose. Since that practice was abandoned many years back those tracks remain unused.

This is the kind of deep transit content I am here for.

Yes, knew there was always good infrastructure to support short-turns at OH. That might be the best solution in the interim, though of course it's all futile if the T can't even get the current scheduled 4 minute service to operate. My thinking was that if ridership has swelled this much on the inner end, even trains which start at OH might be full by Maverick, and also the further those inner shuttle trains have to run to turn back, the more trainsets and operators they consume.

those new complexes have both driven out longtime residents by raising rents astronomically and are contributing to exactly this transport problem.



I was a longtime resident of Brookline who moved to East Boston when my landlord cashed in and sold the building I lived in and I was forced out. I'm sympathetic to their concerns, but it's not like East Boston is the only place this kind of thing is happening.


but just because it is happening in so many places doesn't somehow make it right, nor does it mean that the opposition of the "old-timey" residents, as you so charmingly and disparagingly refer to them (us? I'm not all that old, but have probably been living in East Boston longer than you) is somehow wrong or selfish.

you living in your new development also forced out other people, just as you claim you were in Brookline. only thing is, most people forced out of East Boston can't afford to pick up and move to a brand-new building in the up-and coming part of town.

If we can't increase the housing supply near transit lines because you think it would raise rents, what exactly do you propose to deal with the housing shortage? The alternatives are:
- Do nothing, and rents go even higher
- Build more housing out in highway land, and encourage more people to drive everywhere


"housing supply" argument.

building luxury and luxury-wannabe condos does not meaningfully increase housing supply to lower rents or keep them accessible.

If that were true, rents would not have skyrocketed like they have over the last 10 years in Boston.

Massport has always done its best to ensure that the only reasonable way to get to the airport is via car or taxi. Witness the ridiculous $9.25 one-way fare for the Hull ferry from Long Wharf to the Airport. Or the 35-minute trip to take the Silver Line 1.5 miles from South Station to Terminal E. Or the lack of direct access from the subway station to any of the terminals.


It's $9.75. However, back in July, the one-way fare from Hingham/Hull to the airport *decreased* to $9.75, from $18.50.

But why would you take the ferry from Long Wharf to the airport instead of the Blue Line? Aquarium Station is right there, and it runs much more often and is faster.

What bugs me is how the Massport shuttle buses from the Blue Line waste 10+ minutes going to the Rental Car Center. It used to be a quick hop over to Terminal A on the shuttle, all highway, and was a reasonable alternative to the nightmare known as the Silver Line. Now there's traffic lights, TWO layovers where the bus driver chats with a supervisor, and slow loading of rental car customers.

They need to make the Blue Line shuttle a separate route. That's the best thing they can do to support transit.

I literally walk to the airport when I fly because of this. A good chunk of Jeffries Point residents benefit from it.

That offers free bus rides from Logan?

Or the Massport that offers free T rides?


1) a bus that travels two miles WEST on the Mass Pike (i.e. in the opposite direction of the airport) before making a U-turn to head back east, thereby not only making the route impossibly long in the best of times, but ensuring that it will get stuck in gridlock in one direction or the other (or both)


2) The Silver Line, which takes 35 minutes to travel 1.5 miles between South Station and Terminal E, i.e. slower than a walking pace

That Massport, yes!

I (and I suspect most people who ditch a few $hundreds in an airplane ticket) would much rather pay $5 to get to the airport from South Station in 10 minutes than have to deal with the free but crazy meandering Silver Sine that takes sometimes over 40 minutes when accounting for waiting time.

But my point was that claiming Massport is adverse to mass transit is not shown by the evidence at hand. They are actively encouraging it.

The ferry idea comes and goes and never works. Mass needs to understand where East Bostonians are going. Dozens of new Encore employees live in East Boston. There's no commuter shuttle. Their best option is Blue - Orange - Wellington Employee Shuttle. The SL3 is pure trash only a few months in and takes a long wide swing around the Harbor. Mass needs to start looking at Beacham St in Chelsea & Everett as a complete street: local bus, sidewalks, bike lanes, and overhead cameras to catch Logan toll dodgers. Maverick riders will see instant relief.


How do you "catch" a toll dodger, when going that way is 100% legal?

When people who ARE going downtown or to the Seaport use the ferry, it eases ridership tension-and maybe even some traffic via Seaport commuters-for those who need to make the OL connection.

Encore runs a shuttle to the Chelsea Silver Line station, maybe Encore should just extend that to East Boston if people don't want to transfer to the Silver Line?

There is a plan to rebuild this street to include sidewalks and bike lanes, but I haven't so far heard of any plans to add bus routes. It's a good idea, though, and could still happen if enough people lobby for it.

Meanwhile, as a cyclist, I'm just glad that Everett finally repaved its section. (Chelsea did so a couple of years ago.) The road had more potholes than it did pavement, as it was constantly beat up by trucks going to and from the produce market.

that the Beacham route was never properly maintained on purpose, as a way to discourage people from using it instead of the Tobin.

I see at least one other cyclist going my way or the other way. Even late at night. The recent repaving will encourage more cycling, but what the road really needs now is adequate lighting.

(Also, it would be nice to get Chelsea to join Blue Bikes, now that both East Boston and Everett are part of that system.)

that route is criminally dark given how essential it is particularly for cyclists.

Chelsea and Everett need better local buses, commuter rail, and future urban rail. Not more crappy BRT

all over the City as new building continues unchecked while no improvements in infrastructure are made.


This is exactly what happened in Southie. Double the occupancy with zero transit changes. The gentrification of Eastie is almost complete. We just need a couple people to die in crosswalks to see the city actually start responding to citizen complaints there- loud, white complaints- for the process to be totally finished.

via this

"Good" service except for:

7 minute headway at 8:16
6 minute headway at 8:42 followed by
10 minute headway at 8:52

So from 8:35 to 8:54, there should have been 4 trains but instead there were only 2. That will cause crowding!

Then there were trains at 8:55, 9:02, 9:05, 9:07.

Who knows if this was mechanical, dispatching, or what have you. But a small hiccough can make service look pretty bad.

There is a new ferry service proposed for the inner harbor, but as always ferries are limited by having to stay on water (and to a by the 10 knot speed limit in the harbor, which isn't a big deal between Eastie and Downtown but still is slower than the T runs in the tunnel). So for someone going from a house right by Lewis Street to a destination right by Long Wharf, it might be faster, but for anyone else, it would add a lot of walking time. Which isn't to say it's a bad idea, but not a long-term panacea for the Blue Line.


the problem though is that 'good' service is still often at capacity. even at properly timed 4-5 minute headways, the subway is completely packed when it departs maverick, which means even a 1-2 minute backup will throw the entire system off. it's going to get even worse with more people that are flocking to this line.

A thoroughbred race course.

Hey, a guy can dream.

I second that.

Or a dog track.

a beach out there too.

I lived on the blue line for 7 years at Beachmont, and everyone moving to East Boston should know there's a good chance they will not get on the train at rush hour on a good day. Forget about weather delays.

Your best bet of getting on the blue line at rush hour is getting on between Wonderland and Orient Heights, but no one wants to live in Revere even though the rents are cheaper.

Actually people are moving to Revere, this is why its already so packed before it gets to Orient Heights.

A 5-minute headway is embarrassing.

The NYC subway runs more than twice as often on two-track lines, using a signal system from the 1930s.

In fact, the T's "modern" signal system is the problem. The Blue Line used to run much more frequently until the current system was installed in the late 80s or early 90s.

A couple of years ago the Highway dept screwed up the approaches to the Sumner. Now people are forced off the ramps and into the East Boston neighborhoods (side note: the ramps were built to stop people from doing just that). Many people have given up and just take the BL instead. When they trains get to Maverick they are full.

Now, this sort of thing gets advocated for in this space every day, but sadly getting everyone to take the train does not make for Nirvana. Of course, there has to be some "other" to hang the blame on, so why not people who's behavior has been dictated by outside forces? I bet they're evil.

I can't wait til they tear down the McG/OB, and all the people who insist that traffic should come through at ground level start complaining about all the traffic coming through at ground level. Start writing your complaints now about how it must be Governor X's fault.

The Blue Line is also packed to capacity late at night. 11 PM, 12PM look like rush hour.

Blue line capacity is still based on Eastie’s old days, when it was a MS-13 infested dump with barely any people needing to go downtown.

That doesn't sound very old. Go back a few more years and you find a primarily Italian neighborhood.

literally, none of it.


Not related to this topic, but speaking of the Blue Line another problem I've noticed recently is bunching of trains in the Evening as it approaches Wonderland. Sure 4 or 5 minute headways is great if you miss a train or can't get on one train because it's too crowded, but sometimes it results in bunching. I grab the train at State and I swear sometimes it takes longer to get from Beachmont to Wonderland than it does from State to Beachmont.
Getting back to the subject at hand, It's not just the new development around the Maverick area that is the problem, but there as been a lot of new development at Revere Beach lately that is contributing to the over capacity.
There have been some residential units that have been built around Wonderland, a few more are going up down the street Near Revere Beach Station, There's a new one by Beachmont, and many more in the pipeline.
This doesn't even take into consideration the plans for Suffolk Downs.
Back in the 90s when the BL stations were starting to be rebuilt to accommodate six cars, that seemed sufficient enough for future growth at the time. However, in retrospect back then many probably didn't anticipate the population would have grown as fast as it has.