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Blue Line (MBTA)

An inbound Blue Line train at Orient Heights in 2013
Type Rapid transit
Locale Boston, Massachusetts
Termini Bowdoin
  • 12 in operation
  • 1 temporarily closed for renovation
  • 2 proposed
Daily ridership 63,225 (2013)[1]
Opened 1904 (streetcar)[2]
1924 (rapid transit)
1952–1954 (Revere extension)
Owner MBTA
Operator(s) MBTA
Rolling stock Type 4 East Boston cars
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

The Blue Line is a rapid transit line in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, one of four subway lines operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). It runs from Bowdoin station in downtown Boston under Boston Harbor to East Boston and Revere on the inner North Shore, where it terminates at Wonderland. The stop at Airport Station, with a free shuttle bus to Logan International Airport, is one of two rapid transit connections to the airport. The line was assigned the blue color in 1967 during a systemwide rebranding because it passes under Boston Harbor.[3]

The East Boston Tunnel was built as a streetcar tunnel in 1904; after an extension to Bowdoin in 1916, it was converted to heavy rail metro rolling stock in 1924. In 1952 and 1954 the line was extended along the former route of the Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad, in a project intended to reach Lynn but ultimately cut short to Wonderland. Further extensions to Lynn and Charles/MGH downtown are long-planned but not yet funded.


  • History 1
    • Station renovations 1.1
  • Planned expansions 2
    • Extension to Lynn 2.1
    • Red Line-Blue Line Connector 2.2
  • Station listing 3
  • Accessibility 4
  • Equipment 5
  • Art and architecture 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


A streetcar at Atlantic (now Aquarium) Station in 1906
Joy Street Portal in 1915, looking eastwards

The East Boston Tunnel, opened in 1904, was the first subway in the world to run underneath a section of the ocean.[2] It was initially designed to carry streetcars, and ran from Maverick to Court Street via State.[2] In 1906, Atlantic Station (now Aquarium) was opened, with a connection to the Atlantic Avenue Elevated. In 1916, the terminus at Court Street was moved to Bowdoin and the Scollay Square station (now Government Center) was opened near the closed Court Street station.[2]

In 1925, the subway portion of the line was retrofitted for high platform service and rapid transit cars began shuttling between Bowdoin and Maverick. From 1952 to 1954, a surface extension was created along the disused Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad, from Maverick to the current terminus at Wonderland. The old railroad was narrow gauge, but was converted to standard gauge for this Revere Extension of the subway.

The line, officially known as the East Boston Tunnel & Revere Extension by the MTA since 1952, was redesignated Blue on August 26, 1965[4] as part of the new MBTA's color-based re-branding. The color blue represented water, as the line passes under Boston Harbor and travels near the coast for much of its length.[3]

In the early part of the 20th century, the Blue Line was actually connected to the Red Line by a direct rail connection (though the color designations of the subway lines had yet to be assigned at that time). Railcars from the Blue Line could emerge from a ramp portal surfacing between Joy Street and Russell Street, just beyond Bowdoin station. The railcars would run on former streetcar track down Cambridge Street and then most of the distance to the western end of the Longfellow Bridge, connecting to the Red Line just east of its Cambridge Subway portal, near what is now Kendall/MIT station. Because the tracks were unpowered, individual cars had to be towed along the street at night. This connection was never used in passenger service, but was used to transport Blue Line cars to the Eliot Street Yard maintenance shops then located near Harvard Square station.[5]:32 When the Blue Line eventually got its own maintenance shops, the connection was removed and the ramp portal was permanently covered in 1952.[2][5]:52[6]

In 2012, there were plans to rebuild this historic Red/Blue Line connection, but in a more permanent manner. The new connection would be entirely underground, with no direct track connection—passengers would transfer at Charles/MGH inside a fare paid area.[7][8] However, planning for the project was suspended because of financial difficulties.

Station renovations

Blue Line level at State station undergoing major renovation in 2007

The Blue Line Modernization Project, which began in the 1990s and is still under way, includes renovating stations to increase the length of trains from four to six cars, to make all stations wheelchair accessible, and to improve appearance. On June 25, 1994, the line was cut back to Orient Heights at all times to permit reconstruction of the outer stations. Beachmont and Wood Island were completely rebuilt, while Suffolk Downs, Revere Beach and Wonderland were renovated.[9] A simultaneous $8 million noise reduction program added sound walls at Beachmont and Orient Heights, rubber mats under tracks, and soundproofing of nearby homes.[10] The stations reopened on June 26, 1995.[11][12]

Aquarium was closed from October 14, 2000 until October 29, 2001 for renovations, which were completed in 2004. A new Airport Station opened on June 3, 2004, replacing the previous station which was closed as part of Big Dig construction. An extension renovation of State, during which the station remained open, lasted from 2005 to 2011.

The first Blue Line six-car trains began service on September 15, 2008.[13][14] Passengers can disembark from all six cars at the outbound platform of Bowdoin Station, but due to the shape of the platform (which is inside a balloon loop), passengers can only board four cars at the inbound side. The MBTA uses "POP buttons" on the outside of six-car trains to allow passengers to open only the doors they need to board. The station may eventually be closed or reconfigured as part of the Red Line Blue Line Connector project, as discussed below.

Renovations at Maverick were completed in 2009. Orient Heights station was closed for eight months in 2013 for a complete rebuild; its reopening in November 2013 left all Blue Line stations outside of downtown fully handicapped accessible and modernized.

On February 14, 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation website announced that the Government Center station would close on March 22, 2014, as part of a two-year rehabilitation project that would make the station ADA compliant, improve passenger flow and add aesthetic improvements.[15]

Planned expansions

Extension to Lynn

The Lynn station, rebuilt in 1992, was designed to accommodate an extension of the Blue Line. The line would terminate between the commuter rail viaduct and the parking garage.

There is a proposal to extend the Blue Line northward to Lynn, Massachusetts. The land to extend the line was purchased for the initial construction of the Revere Extension, but due to budgetary constraints Wonderland station was designated the northern terminus. Two potential extension routes have been identified. One proposed path would run through marshland alongside the existing Newburyport/Rockport commuter rail line, on rail lines formerly operated by the Boston and Maine Railroad. An alternative route would extend the line alongside Revere Beach Boulevard through Point of Pines and the Lynnway, along the remainder of the BRB&L right of way.[16] Other alternatives include increased commuter rail or bus service, or connecting the Blue Line to a commuter rail stop near Wonderland via a short connector.[17]

The Blue Line extension has been proposed in various forms for over 80 years. The 1926 Report on Improved Transportation Facilities and 1945–47 Coolidge Commission Report recommended that the East Boston Tunnel line, which had been converted to rapid transit from streetcars in 1924, be extended to Lynn via the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn right-of-way.[18] Ever since the 1954 Revere extension was cut short to Wonderland, a further extension to Lynn has been planned. Following on the 1926 and 1945-47 studies, the 1966 Program for Mass Transportation recommended that the Blue Line be extended to Lynn, while the 1969 Recommended Highway and Transit Plan proposed that the extension run as far as Salem. An extension was not present in the 1972 Final Report of the Boston Transportation Planning Review, but the 1974 Transportation Plan revived the project with possible termini of Lynn, Salem, or even Route 128 in Peabody.[18] The 1978 Program for Mass Transportation report and 1983 Transportation Plan both continued support for an extension to Lynn.[18] Despite the continued recommendations, however, other projects like extensions of the Red and Orange lines were given funding instead of the Blue Line.

In 2005, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy estimated construction would begin in 2017.[19] Authorization to bond for planning money for the project was included in an April 2008 state bond bill,[20] and $25 million in federal earmarks have been obtained.[21] A 2004 state bond bill authorized $246.5 million on the condition of finding 50% non-state matching funds (which presumably would come from the federal government).[17] The Draft Environmental Impact Report was expected to be complete by the end of 2008,[21] but has been delayed as planners focus on meeting the legal deadline for the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford.[22]

Red Line-Blue Line Connector

Charles/MGH station was rebuilt with provisions for an eventual underground Blue Line level

Until the closure of Government Center station for reconstruction in 2014, the Green Line has been the most convenient way to transfer between the Blue Line and the Red Line, thus causing the short Green Line segment between Government Center station and nearby Park Street station to be especially congested during peak travel times. This bottleneck, combined with tight platform clearances on the Green Line outbound side at Government Center, has been the cause of significant delays and crowding on the Green Line. In the past, an underground pedestrian passage had been proposed, paralleling the Green Line tracks and connecting the two stations, but this idea was dropped in favor of a direct transfer connection between the Blue and Red Lines.

It also is possible to transfer between the Red and Blue Lines by traveling one stop on the Orange Line between State and Downtown Crossing stations, but this path involves navigating a longer and more convoluted path through stairs and passages of those stations. The Red and Blue Lines are the only pair of rapid transit lines in the MBTA system that lack a direct transfer connection. The idea of connecting them was studied in the Boston Transportation Planning Review in 1972.

As part of a lawsuit settlement relating to air quality mitigation for the Big Dig highway tunnel project, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts agreed to build a direct transfer connection between the Blue and Red Lines. This would be done by extending the Blue Line beyond Bowdoin station, continuing to run a further 1500 feet (450 m) beneath Cambridge Street to Charles/MGH station on the Red Line. Unlike the historic Red/Blue Line connection described earlier, there would be no direct rail connection between lines at Charles/MGH station (the rail gauges are identical, but the Red and Blue Line railcars are otherwise dimensionally incompatible). However, passengers would be able to transfer between the Red and Blue Lines without needing to crowd onto the Green Line and many passengers from the North Shore of Boston would be able to reach the Massachusetts General Hospital area directly without further transfers. The addition of the connector is expected to add 12,000 daily boardings at Charles/MGH station, reducing vehicle miles traveled by 5,250 per day.[8]

After failing to take any action for over a decade, and under threat of further lawsuits, the state finally agreed to start detailed engineering design for such an extension, which was ongoing as of 2012. Construction was expected to take six years, but a start date and funding scheme have not been announced.[7][8][23] The MBTA ultimately decided not to complete the design work necessary to build the Red/Blue Connector, as funding for constructing it was seen as an impossibility. The possibility of a public-private partnership (P3) to advance the project was studied in 2013.[24]

Station listing

Station Time to Government Center[25] Opened Transfers and notes
Handicapped/disabled access Wonderland 21 minutes January 19, 1954 Site of former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad Bathhouse Station
Handicapped/disabled access Revere Beach 19 minutes January 19, 1954 Site of former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad Crescent Beach Station
Handicapped/disabled access Beachmont 17 minutes January 19, 1954 Elevated above the site of formerly at-grade Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad Beachmont station
Handicapped/disabled access Suffolk Downs 15 minutes April 21, 1952 Site of former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad Belle Isle Station and adjacent to former street car terminal
Handicapped/disabled access Orient Heights 13 minutes January 5, 1952 Site of former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad Orient Heights Station
Handicapped/disabled access Wood Island 11 minutes January 5, 1952 Formerly Day Square, renamed Wood Island Park October 21, 1954, renamed Wood Island 1967
Handicapped/disabled access Airport 9 minutes June 3, 2004 Replaced older station a few hundred feet south of current station. Old station opened January 5, 1952 and closed June 2, 2004. Connection to the Silver Line via the Massport Shuttle to the Airport Terminals.
Handicapped/disabled access Maverick 7 minutes April 18, 1924 Streetcar portal opened December 30, 1904
Handicapped/disabled access Aquarium 4 minutes April 5, 1906 Transfer to Ferry
Formerly Atlantic, renamed February 13, 1967
Transfer to Atlantic Avenue Elevated open from April 5, 1906 to October 1, 1938
Handicapped/disabled access
2 minutes December 30, 1904 Transfer to Orange Line
Formerly Devonshire, renamed January 25, 1967
(Court Street) 0 minutes December 30, 1904 Formerly Scollay Square Upper; closed March 17, 1916, replaced by Government Center, partially demolished[26]
Government Center 0 minutes March 18, 1916 Transfer to Green Line
Formerly Scollay Square Under, renamed October 28, 1963. Closed March 2014 - Spring 2016 for major construction including upgrade to Americans With Disabilities Act compliance[27]
Bowdoin 2 minutes March 18, 1916 Slated to be closed when expansion of Government Center is completed


From approximately 1998-2011, the MBTA made most Blue Line stations fully accessible as part of a larger effort to accommodate 6-car trains on the line. As of 2014, the only station in service on the Blue Line which is not fully accessible is Bowdoin. A major rebuild of Government Center station is underway, in part to make it fully accessible; the Bowdoin station is expected to close once Government Center reopens.


Aboveground, Blue Line trains use pantographs to collect power from overhead wires
600 series cars at Airport
700 series cars at Airport

Like the MBTA Orange Line and Red Line, the Blue Line tracks are standard gauge heavy rail.[28] (The Green Line uses lighter weight rail which is more compatible with street running, though the rails are also set to standard track gauge distance between the rails.)

Blue Line cars are unique among rapid transit vehicles in Boston, in that they use both third rail power and pantograph current pickup from overhead catenary wires. Trains switch between the two modes at Airport station, near where the line transitions between running in a tunnel and running above ground. Previously, the switchover was made underground at Maverick station.[5]:51 The overhead pantograph was implemented to avoid third rail icing that frequently occurs in winter.[5]:51 Third rail power is used in the original Blue Line tunnels, which are smaller than most modern subway tunnels.[5]:32

The Blue Line cars are also narrower and shorter than otherwise similar ones running on the Orange Line, due to the stations and tunnels on the former line having been originally designed to accommodate streetcars.[5]:32[29]

The Blue Line fleet consists mainly of 94 700-series cars (47 pairs) with stainless steel bodies from Siemens, with each car 48 feet (14.9m) long and 9 feet 3 inches wide (2.8m), with two pairs of doors per side. The cars are of a similar design to those built for the Tren Urbano system in San Juan, Puerto Rico, also designed by Siemens. Originally scheduled to be delivered beginning in January, 2004, the development of the trains had been beset with problems,[30] and the delivery was pushed back numerous times. The cars were eventually delivered beginning in January, 2007. The contract price of the cars is $174 million, with a total cost to the MBTA (including engineering and other related services) of $200 million.

Previously, all of the fleet consisted of the 0600 series, built 1978-1980 by Hawker Siddeley Canada Car and Foundry (now Bombardier Transportation) of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. They were 48 feet 10 inches (14.9 m) long and 9 feet 3 inches (2.8 m) wide, with two pairs of doors on each side and a design maximum speed of 65 mph (105 km/h).[31] The design was based on the PA3 model used by PATH in New Jersey. There were originally 70 Hawker cars, numbered 0600-0669.

By 2011, most of the 600-series cars were retired because of severe corrosion, mainly caused by the salty air that results from much of the line being very close to the ocean. Twenty of the 600-series cars were still on MBTA property but no longer usable as of February 2012.[32] Parts of scrapped cars are used to maintain Orange Line 1200 series rolling stock, which were built at the same time by Hawker Siddeley and used many of the same components.[33]

Around 2009, the Seashore Trolley Museum received retired Hawker set 622-623 for their collection.[34]

Art and architecture

The MBTA maintains an online catalog of the over 90 artworks installed along its six major transit lines. Each downloadable guide is illustrated with full-color photographs, titles, artists, locations, and descriptions of individual artworks.[35]


  1. ^ "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14 ed.).  
  2. ^ a b c d e "MBTA Blue Line". Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  3. ^ a b Kleespies, Gavin W. and MacDonald, Katie. "Transportation History". Harvard Square Business Association. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Clarke, Bradley H. (1981). "The Boston Rapid Transit Album". Boston Street Railway Association Bulletin (17): 13. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Cudahy, Brian J. (1972). Change at Park Street Under; the story of Boston's subways. Brattleboro, Vt.: S. Greene Press.  
  6. ^ "Red Line Blue Line Connector (map)" (PDF). Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-07-28. 
  7. ^ a b "Red Line Blue Line Connector". Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 2014-05-10. 
  8. ^ a b c "Red Line Blue Line Connector" (PDF). Commonwealth of Massachusetts. May 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  9. ^ Blake, Andrew (20 March 1994). "MBTA to begin $467 million Blue Line project". Boston Globe. Retrieved 26 January 2014 – via Highbeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ "T seeks quiet on Blue Line". Boston Globe. 26 October 1994. Retrieved 26 January 2014 – via Highbeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ Blake, Andrew (18 June 1995). "Blue Line stations set to reopen after $467m upgrade". Boston Globe. Retrieved 26 January 2014 – via Highbeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  12. ^ Belcher, Jonathan (23 March 2013). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  13. ^ Associated Press (15 Sept. 2008). Six-car trains to debut today on Blue Line. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  14. ^ Six-Car Trains on the Blue Line. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  15. ^ "Road to Reform Newsletter 02/14/2014". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "Chapter 5C System Expansion" (PDF). MBTA Program for Mass Transportation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  17. ^ a b Laidler, John (December 13, 2007). "Plan for stretching Blue Line to Lynn gets state boost". The Boston Globe. 
  18. ^ a b c Central Transportation Planning Staff (15 November 1993). "The Transportation Plan for the Boston Region - Volume 2". National Transportation Library. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  19. ^ Blue Line Rolling into Lynn by Thor Jourgensen. Lynn Office of Economic and Community Development. 10 March 2005.
  20. ^ Chapter 86 of the Acts of 2008
  21. ^ a b Rosenberg, Steven (April 6, 2008). "Blue Line blues". The Boston Globe. 
  22. ^ Blue Line extension being slowed but not derailed
  23. ^ "State agrees to design link between Red and Blue lines". The Boston Globe. November 30, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Association for Public Transportation, Car-Free in Boston, A Guide for Locals & Visitors, 10th ed. (2003), p.117.
  26. ^ Old Court Street Station. Celebrate Boston. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  27. ^ "Government Center Project". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved February 12, 2014. 
  28. ^ "MBTA Blue Line". NYC Subway. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  29. ^ Clarke, Bradley (1981). The Boston Rapid Transit Album. Cambridge, Mass.: Boston Street Railway Association. p. 8. 
  30. ^ Daniel, Mac (2006, November 29). T slams delays in Blue Line upgrade. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from
  31. ^ Hawker Siddeley Canada Ltd. data sheet
  32. ^ The MBTA Vehicle Inventory Page. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  33. ^ Moskowitz, Eric (8 July 2012). "MBTA mechanics keep old subway cars rolling". Boston Globe. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  34. ^ We've saved a set of "bluebells" by acting quickly. Now we need your help to pay for the move. Seashore Trolley Museum.
  35. ^ "Public Art in Transit: Over the Years". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2014-06-23. 

External links

  • MBTA - Blue Line (official site)
  • East Boston Tunnel images Shows original streetcar tunnel from Maverick Square (East Boston) to State Street (Boston).
  • Blue Line at
  • History of Revere, including the narrow-gauge predecessor of the Blue Line
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