The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, better known as simply the MBTA (or just “The T” by local residents), offers multiple modes of transportation for those living in and around Boston. These modes include commuter rail, bus, trolley, light rail, subway, and ferryboat just to name a few. For purposes of this site we’ll focus on the MBTA’s rail operations including the subway, light rail, and commuter rail operations. While the MBTA itself has only been in operation since the 1960s some form of commuter rail transport has been in place around Boston since the late 19th century and today remains just as important to folks heading to and from the workplace as it was during the days before the automobile.
Along with Amtrak, state passenger railroading operations are gaining support and receiving increased attention and funding, particularly as highways become increasingly congested. Perhaps the two most noted states that are giving passenger railroading serious attention include North Carolina and California. Both are doing a magnificent job developing passenger rail corridors in their respective states, particularly North Carolina. If you are interested in seeing how a passenger rail network should be properly implemented, planned, and carried out have a look at what the Tarheel State is doing.
However, North Carolina and California are not the only two states that have a well-developed network already in place. Other states including Washington, Florida, Virginia, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Mexico and others all have commuter rail networks either in place or planned for the future. Amtrak also runs trains in conjunction with certain states like Washington’s Sounder service and North Carolina’s Piedmont. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was formed in 1964 to manage and oversee all commuter operations in and around the greater Boston region, which for rail operations included the commuter rail, light rail, trolley, and subway systems. Combined these rail systems see over 760,000 travelers during the workweek making the MBTA one of the busiest commuter systems in the country.
The MBTA’s commuter rail system operates 12 different railroad lines, serving 123 different stations, radiating away from downtown Boston all of which connect to either North Station or South Station. In all the system stretches throughout most of eastern Massachusetts and also connects Providence, Rhode Island. Below is a brief overview of each line:
· Fairmount Line: Connects South Station with Readville to the southeast.
· Fitchburg Line: Connects North Station with Fitchburg to the northwest.
· Framingham/Worcester Line: Connects South Station with Worcester/Union Station to the west.
· Franklin Line: Connects South Station with Forge Park to the southwest.
· Greenbush Line: Connects South Station with Greenbush to the southeast, along the coast.
· Haverhill Line: Connects North Station with Haverhill to the north.
· Kingston/Plymouth Line: Connects South Station with Kingston and Plymouth to the southeast.
· Lowell Line: Connects North Station with Lowell to the north.
· Middleborough/Lakeville Line: Connects South Station with Middleborough/Lakeville to the south.
· Needham Line: Connects South Station with Needham Heights to the west.
· Newburyport/Rockport Line: Connects North Station Rockport to the northeast along the coast.
· Providence/Stoughton Line: Connects South Station with Providence, Rhode Island to the south.
The subway, light rail, and trolley services are lumped together as just the subway system by the MBTA. They are recognized, however, by their “line” color. For instance, the true subway systems are designated as the Red, Orange, and Blue Lines while the light rail and trolley lines are designated as Green Line, Silver Line, and the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line (which is part of the Red Line). For a complete system map of the subway network please click here. All in all, if you are commuting to or from work and live in the greater Boston region at some point you have probably used “The T” at some point and with over one million riders using the entire railroad system daily it is a crucial part of the area’s transportation network. If you would like to learn more about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority or are perhaps considering using the system please click here to visit their website.
Check out the website's digital book (E-book), An Atlas To Classic Short Lines, which features system maps and a brief background of 46 different historic railroads. To learn more please click on the image below.