Green Line "B" Branch

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Green Line "B" Branch
MBTA Green Line B.jpg
AnsaldoBreda Type 8 #3840 waits at a red light on Commonwealth Avenue at Carlton Street.
TypeLight rail
SystemGreen Line
TerminiPark Street
Boston College
Daily ridership26,310 (weekday average boardings from surface stops only in 2010–2011)[1]
Opened1894 (Kenmore–Cottage Farm Bridge)
1895 (Cottage Farm Bridge–Packards Corner)
1896 (Lake StreetChestnut Hill Avenue)
1900 (Packards Corner–Chestnut Hill Avenue)[2]
CharacterUnderground (Kenmore and eastward)
Center median running (west of Kenmore)
Rolling stockKinki Sharyo Type 7
Ansaldobreda Type 8
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

"C", "D", and "E" branches
Park Street
Red Line (MBTA)Orange Line (MBTA)Silver Line (MBTA)
Silver Line (MBTA)
Copley Junction
Hynes Convention Center
Blandford Street Portal
Blandford Street
Boston University East
Boston University Central
Boston University West
St. Paul Street
Pleasant Street
Babcock Street
Packards Corner
Fordham Road
Harvard Avenue
Griggs Street/Long Avenue
Allston Street
Warren Street
Summit Avenue
Washington Street
Mount Hood Road
Sutherland Road
Chiswick Road
Chestnut Hill Avenue
South Street
Greycliff Road
Boston College
Commonwealth Ave.
† = closed in 2004

The "B" Branch, also called the Commonwealth Avenue Branch or Boston College Branch, is a branch of the MBTA Green Line light rail system which operates on Commonwealth Avenue west of downtown Boston, Massachusetts. One of four branches of the Green Line, the "B" Branch runs from Boston College station down the median of Commonwealth Avenue to Blandford Street. There, it enters Blandford Street Portal into Kenmore station, where it merges with the "C" and "D" branches. The combined services run into the Boylston Street Subway and Tremont Street Subway to downtown Boston. As of 2016, "B" Branch service terminates at Park Street. Unlike the other branches, the "B" branch runs solely through the city limits of Boston.

The Green Line Rivalry between Boston College and Boston University is named in reference to the "B" Branch, which runs to both universities.


Initial construction[edit]

Passengers waiting near Chestnut Hill Avenue around 1910

The first sections of what is now the "B" Branch to open were built for what became the Watertown Line and Beacon Street Line. In 1889, the West End Street Railway opened the Beacon Street Line, including a branch that ran from Coolidge Corner to Oak Square along Harvard Avenue, Brighton Avenue, Cambridge Street, and Washington Street.[3]:58 While this route provided service to the fast-growing suburbs of Allston and Brighton, a more direct route was desirable. When Commonwealth Avenue was improved between Governors Square and the junction with Brighton Avenue in the mid-1890s, a 33-foot (10 m)-wide median was included for use by a streetcar line to support real estate development.[4] Service began from Governors Square to Cottage Farm in 1894, to Brighton Avenue in 1895, and along Brighton Avenue to connect with the older trackage on May 18, 1896.[2][3]:48 (That line was extended to near Nonantum Square on June 13, 1896.)[3]:48

Further west, between Chestnut Hill Avenue and the Boston–Newton boundary at Lake Street, a 25-foot (7.6 m)-wide streetcar median was built.[4] Service between Lake Street and downtown Boston began on August 15, 1896. Streetcars ran on Chestnut Hill Avenue, the existing Beacon Street line, Washington Street, and Huntington Avenue.[3]:58 At Lake Street, the line connected with the Commonwealth Avenue Street Railway, which opened the popular Norumbega Park on June 17, 1897.[3]:38

East of Governors Square, the Beacon Street line originally ran on Beacon Street, Massachusetts Avenue, and Boylston Street to Park Square.[3]:54 By the time the Commonwealth Avenue segments opened, streetcars continued along heavily congested tracks on Tremont Street (electrified in 1891) to reach the northern railroad terminals.[3]:61 Both the Nonantum Square and Lake Street lines were rerouted into the Tremont Street Subway to terminate at Park Street station soon after the tunnel's September 1, 1897 opening.[3]:21

The Boston Elevated Railway (BERy) leased the West End Street Railway on October 1, 1897, and continued its system expansion.[3]:35 The BERy opened new tracks on Commonwealth Avenue from Chestnut Hill Avenue to Brighton Avenue on May 26, 1900, allowing direct service from Lake Street to downtown via Commonwealth Avenue. Even though much of the land surrounding Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton was not yet developed, the new line was heavily patronized.[3]:58 For most of its length, the 1900-built trackage was not in a center median, but in a reservation between the southbound travel lane and southbound carriage lane. Between Warren Street and Wallingford Road, the reservation was significantly wider than the tracks.[5]

Growing service[edit]

A passenger waiting at Leamington Road, circa 1915–1930

Through service between Norumbega Park and Park Street station via Lake Street begun on January 17, 1903. West of Lake Street, streetcars were operated by the Commonwealth Avenue Street Railway, which merged into the Newton and Boston Street Railway (N&B) in 1904 and the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway (M&B) in 1909.[3]:39 The Newton Street Railway (also merged into the N&B in 1904) began through service between Park Street and Waltham via the Watertown Line on February 23, 1903. When the Cambridge Tunnel opened in April 1912, the Waltham service was rerouted to Central Square station in Cambridge instead.[3]:39 On May 1, 1912, the M&B began a second through service over the Commonwealth Avenue route - this one running to Newton Highlands.[3]:39

The Boylston Street Subway opened on October 3, 1914, acting as an extension of the Tremont Street Subway to just east of Governors Square, with intermediate stops at Copley Square and Massachusetts Avenue.[3]:40 (A third station, Arlington, was not built until 1921.) The Newton Highlands through service was cut back to Lake Street, where it connected with BERy streetcar service.[3]:39 Norumbega Park through service was similar cut back on November 1, 1914, as the older M&B streetcars could not match the speed of the newer BERy streetcars in the subway.[3]:58

Streetcars at Braves Field on the first game there in 1915

The Commonwealth Avenue line served two major baseball stadiums: Fenway Park (opened 1912) near Governors Square, and Braves Field (opened 1915) in Allston. The BERy opened a prepayment surface station (where riders paid their fares at the stop, rather than on board the streetcar) at Kenmore Street in Governors Square in 1915.[3]:58 The new Braves Field opened on August 18, 1915; it included a loop track between Gaffney Street and Babcock Street with a prepayment station to allow streetcars to directly serve the ballpark.[6] The loop was also used to turn trains for Red Sox games at Fenway Park, and for rush-hour short turns; after November 1945, these short turns also operated during midday and on Saturdays.[7]:108 The loop was heavily used during games; for the 1948 World Series, streetcars ran between Park Street and Braves Field on 45-second headways.[7]:109

Further changes[edit]

Around 1916, the BERy built a storage yard for streetcars north of Commonwealth Avenue at Lake Street.[8][9][10] Remaining M&B service to Lake Street was replaced by buses in 1930; the BERy replaced the old transfer station in the median with a new platform and waiting room in the yard on September 12, 1930.[3]:59 An expansion of Reservoir Yard (south of Beacon Street near Chestnut Hill Avenue), completed in May 1940, supplemented Lake Street Yard and eliminated the need to base some Commonwealth Avenue streetcars at Bennett Street Carhouse in Cambridge.[7]:102

Map of the 1926 proposal

In 1922, the BERy proposed to operate the inner part of the Commonwealth Avenue line as a rapid transit service. Three-car trains of recently acquired center-entrance cars, which had higher capacity and shorter dwell times than older streetcars, would run on headways as low as two minutes at rush hour and four minutes at other times.[11][3]:59 Terminal stations would be built at Lechmere Square in East Cambridge and at Linden Street (near Harvard Avenue) in Allston, where passengers would transfer between the subway trains and surface streetcar lines.[11] The Lechmere terminal was built, but local opposition to the forced transfer caused the Linden Street terminal plan to be scrapped.[3]:59

The congestion at busy Governors Square caused numerous delays to the streetcar lines. In May 1924, the state legislature directed the Metropolitan District Commission to plan an expanded rapid transit system in Boston, including an extension of the Boylston Street Subway under Governors Square.[12] The report, released in December 1926, called for the existing streetcar tunnels in Boston to be reorganized into two rapid transit lines with high-floor rolling stock.[13] One line was to run from East Boston to Brighton, with the East Boston Tunnel (which had been converted from streetcars to rapid transit in 1924) realigned to connect with the Tremont Street Subway near Park Street station. The Boylston Street Subway would have been extended to Commonwealth Avenue, with a new station under Governors Square. A transfer station between the rapid transit line and the truncated Watertown and Lake Street surface lines was to be located at Warren Street between Commonwealth Avenue and Cambridge Street, near Brighton Center.[13]:5 Intermediate surface stops were to be located at St. Marys Street, Gaffney Street, Packards Corner, Harvard Avenue, and Allston Street.[13]:VI Several busy grade crossings also were to be eliminated, and the report noted that the then-rapid growth along Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton might later justify extension of rapid transit to Lake Street.[13]:32

The newly opened subway between Kenmore station and Blandford Street in 1932

The subway under Governors Square was projected to cost $5 million (equivalent to $71 million in 2018). The BERy and the city objected to this cost and proposed a $1.4 million plan where flyover ramps would separate Beacon Street auto and streetcar traffic from other traffic in the square.[14] The tunnel was eventually chosen but construction did not begin until 1930, after the legislature lowered the cost that the BERy would pay to rent the subway from the city.[15] Kenmore station and the new subway, which split to separate portals at St. Marys Street on Beacon Street and Blandford Street on Commonwealth Avenue, opened on October 23, 1932.[16][3]:59 The extension was built to support future rapid transit conversion of the Commonwealth Avenue line, including extension of the underground section further west.

Interest in converting the Commonwealth Avenue line to rapid transit declined as focus shifted to expanding the subway to further suburbs. The 1945 and 1947 Coolidge Commission reports (the next major planning effort after the 1926 report) instead recommended a parallel rapid transit line along the Boston and Albany Railroad corridor, with local streetcar service retained on Commonwealth Avenue.[17][7]:16 However, several smaller improvements were made to the line. A siding was opened at Washington Street on October 27, 1926, allowing trains to be short turned when necessary.[3]:59 On February 7, 1931, the Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue lines were extended to Lechmere, replacing shuttle services between Lechmere and various points in the subway.[18] On June 30, 1931, the existing crossover west of Blandford Street was replaced by a pocket track, allowing temporary storage of streetcars there. Short-turn subway service using the pocket track began on September 24, 1934.[3]:59 Around 1940, the Lake Street line was assigned route number 62 as part of a systemwide renumbering.[7]:27

Postwar years[edit]

A streetcar bound for Braves Field exiting the Blandford Street portal in 1943

In the early 1940s, the BERy began replacing its older streetcars with the PCC streetcar. PCCs were first used on the Lake Street line in May 1944, and they fully replaced center-entrance cars on the line in regular service on December 10, 1945.[7]:100 The short length of trackage on Chestnut Hill Avenue - which had not been used in revenue service since Lake Street service via Brookline Village was replaced by the route 65 bus in the late 1920s - was modified as part of trackwork related to the introduction of the PCCs. A connecting track from Commonwealth Avenue westbound to Chestnut Hill Avenue southbound was opened on May 31, 1947, completing the wye between the two avenues.[7]:102 On May 21, 1947, in recognition of the expansion of Boston College, the BERy changed the "Lake Street" designation to "Boston College".[7]:99 On August 29, 1947, the privately owned BERy was succeeded by the publicly owned Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).[7]:17

The little-used siding at Washington Street was removed in January 1953, leaving only a crossover.[19]:202 In April 1959, all Boston and Albany Railroad Worcester Line stops between Back Bay and Newtonville were closed for the construction of the Turnpike Extension, leaving the Watertown and Boston College lines as the only rail transit serving Allston and Brighton.[20] Boston University purchased Braves Field in 1953 when the Braves moved to Milwaukee, and soon wished to use the loop area for other purposes. After several years of requests, the MTA abandoned the loop on January 15, 1962.[19]:214

Around 1960, the wide streetcar reservation between Warren Street and Wallingford Road was narrowed to add additional travel lines to Commonwealth Avenue, leaving the streetcar tracks in a relocated median between the travel lanes.[21]:45 On November 25, 1961, the Boston College was cut back to Park Street station, while the 1959-opened Riverside Line was extended to Lechmere in its stead.[19]:203 In 1963-65, the Commonwealth Avenue bridge over the Boston and Albany Railroad was rebuilt to accommodate the Turnpike Extension. Streetcar service was maintained using a temporary parallel bridge.[22][19]:203

MBTA era[edit]

In August 1964, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) replaced the MTA. As part of systemwide rebranding efforts, the remaining streetcar routes feeding the Tremont Street Subway became the Green Line on August 26, 1965.[23] In 1967, the five branches were given letters to distinguish them; the Boston College line became the "B" Branch. (The Watertown line became the "A" Branch, while the Beacon Street line became the "C" Branch.)[23] The MBTA experimented with changing the downtown terminals of the Green Line branches (unlike its predecessors, which had changed the downtown terminal of the Boston College line just twice.) The "B" Branch was extended to the new loop at Government Center opened on November 18, 1964 - the first service to regularly use the loop.[23] Over the next two decades, the downtown termini were frequently changed; the "B" Branch variously terminated at Park Street, Government Center, Haymarket, North Station, and Lechmere. On July 30, 1983, the terminus was finally changed to Government Center station, where it would stay until 2004.[23]

On June 21, 1969, the "A" Branch was replaced with Watertown–Kenmore buses, halving streetcar service on Commonwealth Avenue east of Packard's Corner.[23][3]:48 Around 1970, the median was moved slightly south between Chestnut Hill Avenue and Lake Street. The westbound roadway was lowered several feet below the median between South Street and Greycliff Road, with the Foster Street stop moved 500 feet (150 m) west to the Greycliff Road grade crossing.[21] Around 1975, the stop at University Road was discontinued, while the stop at Alcorn Street was moved 500 feet east to Babcock Street.[21]

Stop consolidation[edit]

Mount Hood Road stop (outbound platform pictured) was closed in 2004

The "B" Branch is frequently criticized by riders for its slow service, which is largely a result of a high number of stops and level crossings. The line has 27 level crossings and 18 stops on the surface section.

In late 2003, the MBTA proposed eliminating five surface stops (Greycliff Road, Chiswick Road, Mount Hood Road, Summit Avenue, and Fordham Road) as part of a project to improve the line. The five stops were chosen because they had low ridership and were located very close to other stations.[24] No stops east of Packards Corner were chosen, although they would affect the largest number of riders; despite their close spacing, they have higher ridership, and their proximity to traffic lights lowers the travel time savings from elimination. After a public comment period, Chiswick Road was removed from the proposal, as it serves a nearby elderly housing community.[24] On April 20, 2004, the other four stops were closed as a 6-to-8-month pilot program.[25] On March 15, 2005, after a survey showed that 73% of 1,142 riders surveyed approved of the closures, the MBTA board voted to make the closures permanent.[24]

In October 2014, the MBTA began holding meetings for a proposal to consolidate four stops – Boston University West, St. Paul Street, Pleasant Street, and Babcock Street – located near Boston University's West Campus. The four stops, which are not handicapped-accessible, would be turned into two fully accessible stops as part of a planned redesign of Commonwealth Avenue between the BU Bridge and Packard's Corner.[26][27] As of 2018, the MBTA portion of construction is expected to run from 2019 to 2021.[28]

Station listing[edit]

Trains on the "B" Branch only travel from Park Street to Boston College. The segment from Park Street to Kenmore is shared with the three other branches. There is no MBTA parking at any "B" Branch stations.

Boston University Central, one of the five handicapped-accessible surface stations on the line
Chestnut Hill Avenue, a typical non-accessible station on the line
Station Location Transfers and notes
Blandford Street Commonwealth Avenue at Silber Way, Boston MBTA Bus: 57
Handicapped/disabled accessBoston University East Commonwealth Avenue at Granby Street, Boston MBTA Bus: 57
Handicapped/disabled access Boston University Central Commonwealth Avenue at Marsh Chapel, Boston MBTA Bus: CT2, 47, 57
Boston University West Commonwealth Avenue at Amory Street, Boston MBTA Bus: 57
St. Paul Street Commonwealth Avenue at Buick Street, Boston MBTA Bus: 57
Pleasant Street Commonwealth Avenue at Pleasant Street, Boston MBTA Bus: 57
Babcock Street Commonwealth Avenue at Babcock Street, Boston MBTA Bus: 57
Packards Corner Commonwealth Avenue at Brighton Avenue, Allston MBTA Bus: 57
Fordham Road Commonwealth Avenue at Fordham Road, Allston Closed in 2004
Handicapped/disabled access Harvard Avenue Commonwealth Avenue at Harvard Avenue, Allston MBTA Bus: 66
Griggs Street Commonwealth Avenue at Griggs Street, Allston
Allston Street Commonwealth Avenue at Allston Street, Allston
Warren Street Commonwealth Avenue at Warren Street, Brighton
Summit Avenue Commonwealth Avenue at Summit Avenue, Brighton Closed in 2004
Handicapped/disabled access Washington Street Commonwealth Avenue at Washington Street, Brighton MBTA Bus: 65
Mount Hood Road Commonwealth Avenue at Mount Hood Road, Brighton Closed in 2004
Sutherland Road Commonwealth Avenue at Sutherland Road, Brighton
Chiswick Road Commonwealth Avenue at Chiswick Road, Brighton
Chestnut Hill Avenue Commonwealth Avenue at Chestnut Hill Avenue, Brighton MBTA Bus: 86
South Street Commonwealth Avenue at South Street, Brighton
Greycliff Road Commonwealth Avenue at Greycliff Road, Brighton Closed in 2004
Handicapped/disabled access Boston College Commonwealth Avenue at Lake Street, Chestnut Hill, Boston


  1. ^ "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
  2. ^ a b Engineering and Maintenance Department (1981). History of subways, tunnels and elevated lines. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Clarke, Bradley H.; Cummings, O.R. (1997). Tremont Street Subway: A Century of Public Service. Boston Street Railway Association. ISBN 0938315048.
  4. ^ a b Annual Report of City Engineer (28 ed.). 1895. pp. 131–137.
  5. ^ "Atlas of the City of Boston: Ward 25, Brighton". G.W. Bromley and Co. 1909 – via Ward Maps.
  6. ^ "Handling Traffic at Largest Baseball Park". Electric Railway Journal. Vol. 46 no. 13. September 25, 1915. p. 621 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Clarke, Bradley H. (2003). Streetcar Lines of the Hub - The 1940s. Boston Street Railway Association. ISBN 0938315056.
  8. ^ "Sheet 10". Track Lengths of Surface Lines and Subway. Boston Elevated Railway. 1921 – via Ward Maps.
  9. ^ "Part of Ward 6, City of Newton". Atlas of the City of Newton, Massachusetts. G.W. Bromley and Company. 1917 – via Ward Maps.
  10. ^ "Part of Brighton, Ward 25, City of Boston". Atlas of the City of Boston, Wards 25 & 26, Brighton. G.W. Bromley and Company. 1916 – via Ward Maps.
  11. ^ a b "New Prepayment Station in Boston". Electric Railway Journal. Vol. 59 no. 23. June 10, 1922. p. 951.
  12. ^ "Chapter 45: Resolve providing for an investigation by the Division of Metropolitan Planning relative to the extension and development of rapid transit service in Boston, Somerville and surrounding cities and towns". Acts and resolves passed by the General Court of Massachusetts in the year 1924. May 24, 1924. pp. 602–603 – via Internet Archive.
  13. ^ a b c d Report on Improved Transportation Facilities in Boston. Division of Metropolitan Planning. December 1926 – via HathiTrust.
  14. ^ "Planning Board Agrees with Boston Elevated". Electric Railway Journal. Vol. 68 no. 20. November 13, 1926. p. 899.
  15. ^ Annual Report of the Transit Department of the City of Boston. Boston Transit Department. 1930. pp. 1–4 – via Internet Archive.
  16. ^ Annual report of the public trustees of the Boston Elevated Railway (14 ed.). Boston Elevated Railway. p. 14 – via Internet Archive.
  17. ^ Boston Elevated Railway; Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (April 1945), Air View: Present Rapid Transit System - Boston Elevated Railway and Proposed Extensions of Rapid Transit into Suburban Boston – via Wikimedia Commons
  18. ^ Lufkin, Richard F. (1936), Boston Elevated Railway System Map, Boston Elevated Railway – via Wikimedia Commons
  19. ^ a b c d Clarke, Bradley H. (2015). Streetcar Lines of the Hub: Boston's MTA Through Riverside and Beyond. Boston Street Railway Association. ISBN 9780938315070.
  20. ^ Humphrey, Thomas J.; Clark, Norton D. (1985). Boston's Commuter Rail: The First 150 Years. Boston Street Railway Association. p. 24. ISBN 9780685412947.
  21. ^ a b c Sindel, David A. (June 2017). Strategies for meeting future capacity needs on the light rail MBTA Green Line. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  22. ^ "Commonwealth Avenue Bridge Replacement". Rollsign. Vol. 54 no. 7/8. Boston Street Railway Association. July–August 2017. p. 11.
  23. ^ a b c d e Belcher, Jonathan. "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit.
  24. ^ a b c Daniel, Mac (16 March 2005). "T drops 4 Green Line stops after results of rider survey". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 18 March 2005. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  25. ^ "Green Line B Branch Service Enhancements" (PDF). TRANSreport. Boston Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization. May 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 November 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  26. ^ "Comm. Ave. Green Line Improvements Public Meeting". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2014-10-30.
  27. ^ O'Rourke, John (23 October 2014). "T May Eliminate Two Green Line B Stops". BU Today. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  28. ^ "Green Line B Branch Consolidation". March 14, 2018.

External links[edit]

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