I’m a few days late to the party, so by now most Bostonians are aware of the Government Center station renovation project. For the
next 2 years, the major downtown hub serving as transfer between the green and blue lines will be closed. In addition to complete redesign of the headhouse (a behemoth all-glass structure, which might stick out compared to the desolate City Hall Plaza it occupies), it will become ADA compliant (something it has needed for a very long time). While these renovations won’t fix the screeching noise that emanates from the rails, it’s bound to make the dreary Government Center Station a much more welcoming face to the City.
The closure is going to have some major implications for the City and its infrastructure, which I’d like to address in a somewhat logical order. I’d also like to provide some improvements to the entire system that can be made possible through this massive project.
The Story of the Blue Line
Ah, the blue line. One of the only ways for someone without a car to travel west from East Boston to Downtown, and vice versa, in less than an hour. It connects to the orange line at State, but will no longer be able to connect to the green line at Government Center. This means anyone desiring to go from Maverick Square to say, Allston, you’ll have to leave the system and reenter into a green line station once you’re downtown. Or, for anyone desiring to get from Orient Heights to Cambridge, you’re better off taking a cab, because you have to transfer from blue to orange to red if you don’t want to pay another fare. So take that into account when planning your trip.
Wait – that last scenario didn’t involve Government Center at all. Would its opening make the trip any easier? Let’s see: Blue line to Gov Center, green line to Park Street, transfer to red line toward Alewife. It seems like even if the station were open, it would still be a pain to transfer to the red line.
This is exactly the problem: the blue line doesn’t live up to its potential. It has the newest, most reliable stock, and serves as the only form of rapid transit into Boston from the north shore. Unlike the Orangeand Green lines, which have stations separated by only a few blocks (Symphony/Mass Ave. and Ruggles/MFA), there is no substitute for the blue line.
Not only does the blue line not live up to it’s potential, but it also hinders easy access Boston beyond the downtown area for those in East Boston, Revere, and Lynn. There are a slew of reasons for these populations to want to go to Cambridge, Brookline, and Dorchester, including jobs, entertainment, and schools. However, they are deterred from these trips because it takes two transfers and a lot of time. I’ll harp on it again: it’s unfair.
A connection from the blue line to the red line seems natural. Bowdoin Station is set to close after the Gov Center renovations, so why not add to a few more tunnels under Cambridge St to connect the Blue Line at Charles/MGH? In a perfect world this would happen and eliminate a lot of injustices for Eastie, a neighborhood already feeling the neglect and isolation created from a mile-wide harbor.
Getting to the Airport: a Silver Lining
As a student I’ve experienced taking the T to Logan Airport quite a few times. It’s pretty flawless: transferring at Government Center to the Blue Line isn’t that bad, especially now that there are countdown clocks. My only complaint has been the shuttle bus that goes to the airport terminals once you’ve arrived to the Airport Station.
Not only is it obnoxious to have another transfer, but it’s relatively annoying how the first bus only goes to A and B, while the
second bus goes C and E. Does it really get that crowded for one bus to serve all four terminals? If so, wouldn’t it be easier to use an articulated (“double”) bus? I learned this difference the hard way after arriving to A when I needed to get to C. I guess it’s more a lesson to read signs and follow directions.
Regardless, I still have a problem with this shuttle bus situation. The station is called Airport, but it’s still quite a ways away. Additionally, it’s going to be quite a hassle to get on the green line, transfer to the orange just to ride it one stop in order to get on the blue line for the next two years. Maybe I should just suck it up? Or pay the $50 cab fare (Darn you Williams Tunnel toll!).
Luckily, the MBTA has a solution, and it’s called the silver line. Okay so it’s not really rapid transit, but I’m a firm believer that Bus
Rapid Transit (BRT) has a lot of potential in this city. The Silver Line is great: it takes you directly from South Station to the front door of each individual airport terminal. And even greater, it’s free from the airport back to South Station!
As a green line user, all I have to do is walk the Winter Street Concourse at Park St. to the Red Line, get on at South Station, and get dropped off at the front door. It’s the same amount of time as before, but you get to take the elusive silver line.
My theory goes as follows: the T should really advertise this route. Getting more people on the Silver Line gets them acclimated to riding a BRT bus. Once you break down the barrier, they’ll open up to the idea, which could lead to a lot of support for Bus Rapid Transit in the city. BRT is great because you don’t have to build any additional track, and it can be as effective as rail systems if implemented. The biggest reason the Silver Line wasn’t implemented to its fullest potential was because of public support (or lack thereof…). But the closure of Government Center could possibly open up the future of the silver line and more mobility within the city.
With this sort of support buses as rapid transit could become a reality and reach areas in desperate need of transportation options. Perhaps the Chelsea Silver Line Gateway and Urban Ring could become realities.
At the end of the day, I don’t think the Government Center closing will be all that bad. If that’s the normal end of your trip, you’ll have a slightly longer walk to work or whatever your destination may be. It might include one more transfer, which is really only ten more minutes to your commute. Or, it might require taking a completely new line and experiencing a new form of travel. It’s a small cost that may eventually benefit Greater Boston communities – and who doesn’t like that?
As I paid my final respects to that old, grungy station on March 21, 2014 I noticed I wasn’t alone. There were others taking pictures. Others were exploring the station one last time. Someone even wrote a love poem on the walls. Government Center, you will surely be missed, but I think your newfound beauty and potential for the entire MBTA far outweigh your minor inconveniences. Until then, I guess I’ll settle for getting off at Park Street.