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Home / Railroads & Locomotives / Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

By Matt Van Hattem | July 5, 2006

Boston's commuter railroad and transit agency

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MBTA reeds
MBTA reeds
MBTA GP40LH-2 1128 pulls into the Newburyport, Mass., layover yard with train 183 on July 30, 2002.
James B. Winters
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority serves the city of Boston and outlying areas with 11 different commuter lines and 119 stations covering 402 route miles.

MBTA trains operate two Boston stations: North Station and South Station. South Station also serves as the northern anchor of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Back Bay Station is served by MBTA and Amtrak trains from South Station. The MBTA also operates four subway lines, as well as buses and ferries.

Ridership on MBTA rail lines averages 140,000 trips on weekdays.

Created on August 3, 1964 as a planning and operations agency for Boston’s mass transit system (and successor to the Metropolitan Transit Authority), the MBTA a year later began subsidizing commuter rail services provided by the Boston & Maine, New Haven, and New York Central railroads. In 1965, MBTA also signed an agreement giving it the right to reserve and purchase the New Haven Railroad’s commuter lines. The MBTA followed through on those plans, acquiring commuter lines from the Penn Central (New Haven’s successor) in 1973, and Boston & Maine in 1975, as well as passenger equipment from B&M. The trains were operated under contract by B&M (North Station lines) and Penn Central (South Station lines). Conrail took over Penn Central’s operations in 1976. In 1977, the MBTA awarded Boston & Maine the contract to operate the South Station commuter trains, after Conrail asked for an increased operating subsidy. Amtrak assumed responsibility for operating and maintaining all MBTA commuter trains in 1987. In 2003, the operation and maintenance of MBTA commuter trains was shifted to local operator Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, a consortium comprised of Connex North America, Bombardier, and Alternate Concepts, Inc.

During the 1990s, the MBTA completed several large capital projects, restoring service on lines that hadn’t seen a passenger train in decades. The most ambitious added 61 miles to the MBTA system when service was inaugurated on the Old Colony commuter rail lines to Kingston, Plymouth, and Middleborough/Lakeville on September 29, 1997. (The New Haven Railroad had ended passenger service on those routes in 1959.) On September 26, 1994, MBTA service on the Framingham Line was extended 23 miles to Worcester. On October 26, 1998, an 8.7-mile extension of the Ipswich Line to Newburyport was opened.

Motive power for MBTA commuter trains is supplied by EMD F40PHs; F40PH-2Cs from EMD and Morrison-Knudsen (equipped with a separate Cummins head-end power engine), which were later overhauled by MotivePower Industries (and the Cummins HEP engines replaced with Caterpillar generators); and GP40MCs rebuilt from Canadian National GP40s by Alstom predecessor AMF Transport.

MBTA’s coach fleet includes overhauled single-level cars built by Pullman-Standard, MBB of Germany, and Bombardier, as well as bilevel coaches built by Kawasaki and Kinki Sharyo.

North Station lines

  • Newburyport/Rockport Line. Daily service to Gloucester and Rockport, 35.5 miles from Boston. At Beverly, the Ipswich Branch diverges, providing daily service to Newburyport, 27.7 miles from North Station. The two branches serve 18 stations on weekdays, 16 on weekends.
  • Haverhill Line. Daily service to Wakefield, Reading, Lawrence and Haverhill, 32.9 miles from Boston. Serves 13 stations.
  • Lowell Line. Daily service to Lowell, 25.5 miles from Boston. Serves 7 stations.
  • Fitchburg Line. Daily service to Waltham, Concord and Fitchburg, 49.5 miles from Boston. Serves 16 stations.

South Station lines

  • Fairmount Line. Weekday service to Readville, 9.1 miles from Boston. Serves 4 stations. No service on weekends or holidays.
  • Kingston/Plymouth Line. Daily service to Kingston, 35.6 miles from Boston, serving 9 stations, plus a branch with limited daily service to Plymouth.
  • Middleborough/Lakeville Line. Daily service to Middleborough/Lakeville, 35.6 miles from Boston. Serves 9 stations.
  • Providence/Stoughton Line. Trains operate daily on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor to Providence, R.I., 43.4 miles from Boston. Serves 10 stations. Weekday service is provided on a 4.6-mile branch from Canton to Stoughton, serving 2 stations. Special trains to Foxboro operate from Boston and Providence for passengers attending New England Patriots football games.
  • Franklin Line. Daily service to Readville, Walpole, Franklin and Forge Park, 30.8 miles from Boston. Serves 15 stations on weekdays, 13 on weekends.
  • Needham Line. Trains operate Monday-Saturday to Needham Heights, 13.7 miles from Boston. Serves 11 stations. No service on Sunday or major holidays.
  • Framingham/Worcester Line. Daily service on CSX’s Boston Line to Wellesley and Framingham, with limited daily service to Worcester, 44.3 miles from South Station. Serves 13 stations, 12 on weekends. Designated trains make an extra stop for passengers attending Red Sox baseball games.
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 222-5000
www.mbta.com
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