Green Line Progress

The recent derailment at Packard’s Corner and the accelerated repairs in response seemed to suggest that the MBTA was reacting to Green Line safety events in an ad hoc way. On the contrary, the very segment near Packard’s Corner where the recent derailment occurred was already scheduled for replacement in August. It’s worth reviewing the T’s long-term term program for Green Line improvement.

Eleven years ago when I became Senator representing Fenway, Allston, and Brighton, constituents made clear to me that improving service on the Green Line was a central priority. I’m grateful to the successive MBTA boards and successive MBTA general managers who have recognized the need to improve the Green Line. I’m also grateful to the engineering and construction teams who have put their shoulders to the challenge.

By 2018, the T’s leadership had crystallized a clear long-term vision for a transformed Green Line, a detailed set of projects necessary to achieve that vision, and a management structure to maintain forward motion on those projects. (For the original vision, see this video of the May 7, 2018 meeting of the MBTA board at 1:51:30 or view the accompanying slide deck. To review a collection of progress updates, see the MBTA’s Green Line Transformation page. You can also sign up for regular email updates about the Green Line.)

At the heart of the vision is a new higher-capacity vehicle fleet for the Green Line. Each of the new vehicles will carry twice as many people as current Green Line vehicles carry. When and if the T gets to the point when they can run two-car pairs of the new vehicles on all branches of the Green Line, the carrying capacity of the Green Line would be effectively doubled.

To accommodate the higher capacity vehicles, the system needs to be renovated in identified places to eliminate some restrictions on vehicle length — curves, stations, maintenance facilities. Power and signal systems dating back to World War I need to be upgraded. Most importantly, the tracks need to be brought up to a state of good repair. Much of that work needs to be done anyway, but T engineers developed an approach to the needed maintenance that will simultaneously make the adjustments to support a longer standard vehicle.

We are five years into the Green Line Transformation and the progress is significant.

Most importantly, over half of the track in the above-ground Green Line systems has been replaced — 117,090 out of 202,066 track feet — with work in progress on the balance. According to the T, the underground tracks and the recently added Somerville/Medford tracks are in “adequate condition for now.”

Much of the existing above-ground track had exceeded its expected life of 30 years. The current round of replacement will pay off over decades to come, improving speed, reducing noise, and most importantly, reducing the risk of derailments — track wear creates the gaps that allow train derailments.

From a safety perspective, above and beyond track maintenance, a critical priority is the installation of advanced train control systems. These systems will help prevent train-on-train collisions on the above-ground segment of the MBTA. Work on this project began in 2020 and is targeted for completion in 2025. Additionally, signal replacement on the D line was completed in 2021.

Basic design work has been completed for the new high-capacity Green Line car and in August 2022, the MBTA board unanimously approved the $810 million contract for procurement of the new “Type 10” vehicles. Pilot vehicles are anticipated in Spring of 2026 with production vehicles entering service in 2027 and all vehicles delivered by 2031.

The new vehicles will expand capacity and improve accessibility — there will be no stairs within the vehicle. Additionally, the new vehicles will have a closed cab for operator safety. The new vehicles will replace the approximately 200 “Type 7” and “Type 8” vehicles on the Green Line. The Type 7’s will be up to 40 years old at their retirement. The 24 “Type 9” vehicles, recently acquired to serve the Green Line extension to Somerville, will remain in service.

For more on the new vehicles, see this slide deck and view the meeting of the MBTA board on August 31, 2022 at 4:49:30.

Station accessibility has been another central focus. See a list of the accessibility status of all Green Line stations here. Most of the 11 underground Green Line stations are now fully accessible. Symphony station reconstruction is now late in the design phase with reconstruction targeted for completion in 2026. Two underground stations still lack certain dates for accessibility: Plans for Hynes station are tied up with evolving plans for redevelopment above it; clear plans for Boylston Street, a lower use station, have not been defined.

Above ground, there are a total of 59 stations, of which 32 are accessible. Much remains to be done above ground. I’m particularly eager to see an accessible reconstruction of Chiswick Road on the B line, which serves a large elderly population. This is currently slated for 2025 and will be coordinated with a reconstruction of Commonwealth Avenue and a possible consolidation of stops in that neighborhood. Stop consolidation is an important strategy for service improvement. According to the T, the accessible reconstruction and consolidation of the stops near Boston University saves a minute of travel time in each direction.

Ultimately, when the basic infrastructure work is complete and the new vehicles are arriving, attention can shift to station expansion to support running two car sets of the new vehicles. This will happen first on the D and E lines. It will take longer on the B and C lines where 27 stations would need to be lengthened. However, in the mean time, even a single one of the new vehicles will carry as many people as a two-car train set of today’s vehicles

An urgent customer demand when I first started working on Green Line improvement is now something we take for granted: Geographical tracking of trains throughout the system to feed transit apps for smart phones. Arrival time signage is still rolling out to more stations.

The Fenway Portal project, completed in 2020, added huge flood doors to the opening where D line trains come up above ground. These doors will protect against a recurrence of the very expensive flooding which occurred at Kenmore in 1996. The likelihood of flooding has also been drastically reduced by the Muddy River Restoration Project led by the Army Corps of Engineers.

One area where progress has stalled is transit signal priority — controlling traffic signals at intersections to allow trains to avoid delay. Four intersections got transit signal priority in 2016 — St. Mary’s Street and Silber Way on the B Branch and Evans Way and Longwood Avenue on the E Branch — but no additional intersections have been added since then. Transit signal priority requires coordination between the MBTA and municipal traffic departments — both in design and implementation. It’s not always clear that transit should get priority when the crossing roadway is very busy. I hope we can revisit this service acceleration issue after core safety and capacity issues are addressed.

Another area where progress has been slow system-wide is the implementation of the new fare system. The new fare system is important for the Green Line because it will allow all-door boarding on the above ground stations. This will reduce “dwell time” time as people board and de-board at each station.

The FTA safety review emphasized that adequate staffing, staff training, and internal procedural discipline are essential to safety improvement at the T, and admonished the T not to think that it can build its way out of its problems. But the huge and ongoing progress on Green Line infrastructure can only improve both service and safety.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

43 replies on “Green Line Progress”

  1. Thank you for this excellent report. I ride the Green Line several times a month. Huge crowds ride the line as I experienced yesterday.

  2. Thank you for the update, Senator B.

    The Green Line — especially the B Line — has always been a source of wonder to me. I’ve wondered why they kept buying trains with the pinched entry point. Why they had stairs leading in, then leading down. Why they made it so hard to collect fares (most drivers during rush hour would wave you on just to get going).

    I appreciate your keeping on this and on the MBTA. The new trolley cars on order with all-entry fare collection and low well seems like a step in the right direction.

  3. Glad to hear that there are plans for the Green Line. Now that you represent parts of West Cambridge, it would be great to hear what the plans are to maintain the Red Line, as its clear from incidents over the last couple of years that the Red Line is deteriorating fast and becoming hazardous, particularly the stations.

    1. Yes!

      I also follow the Red Line closely. That’s the line I use most heavily myself.

      There is also a good long term vision for the Red Line, although the time line for it has receded.

      There are three priorities for the Red Line: (1) getting the new vehicle contract straightened out; (2) clearing the slow zones; (3) resolving concerns about the stations. Especially the first two are front and center for the MBTA and really even for the Governor. No predictions are available; the situation remains uncertain. But I personally continue to ride the Red Line regularly and have not lost faith in the efforts of the T to eventually achieve a better-than-ever service level on the Red Line.

    1. The Boylston stop is the choice for the Theater district, AMC movies, Chinatown, Emerson College and more. Catch 22 – it’s less used because, at least for me, I’d rather go to Park Street where there is an escalator and walk down. Maybe it would be well used if it was accessible.

    2. Boylston is the closest stop to a movie megaplex and several theaters, and is more convenient to all major theaters for people coming from the western suburbs compared to Chinatown. Keeping it open seems likely to encourage people to take the T instead of driving into Boston; has MBTA management surveyed this?

  4. While I look forward to the next generation of trains, our experience with the quality and rollout of the new orange and red line trains does not give me a good feeling.

    1. The Rolling Stock cars are chintzy and the fact that our leaders bought CCP makes me feel they’re fundamentally out of touch.

        1. Thank you for that, Fred, but honestly, I am not special. There a lot of good people with brains in their heads and their hearts in the right place trying to fight through these problems.

    2. Definitely true that the Red/Orange procurement has run into problems. But to some extent those are really international relations problems. The contract was originally a loss-leader for the Chinese manufacturer trying to enter the US market. Then the federal government cutoff further procurements from China so the contract became a pure loser for the manufacturer. Clearly a huge challenge to get back on track.

      I do encourage you to listen to the 2022 meeting about the Type 10 Green Line procurement decision which is linked to in the post above — management seems to have given careful consideration to trying to acquire generic vehicles for which there could be multiple vendors.

  5. Thanks for this important update on current and future plans for Green Line. Very helpful information!

  6. I don’t know how much $$$ area firms contribute directly to the T to have much of their workforce and customers delivered to them daily, but I like to think that regular riders’ strikes would loosen their tight fists.

    1. Of course, with any real movement of a riders’ strike they’ll lord capital flight over us, but if our only virtue is our docility, then good riddance, because that’s not our only virtue.

  7. Procurement on schedule has been a long standing problem with the T. So how sure are we that the new Green Line cars will come in anywhere near on time and on budget?

  8. There’s is only one serious improvement can be done to the Green Line: placing lines underground like it is done in Europe and New York. This solution will be the best for everyone.
    Underground lines require less maintenance, make less noise in the neighborhood, faster and more reliable.

  9. Thank you for the information! Still hard to believe that a world-class city like Boston cannot manage to install a metro system similar to the comfortable, fast, safe, and efficient systems found in European and Chinese cities. Most of those are old cities, too, with similar issues.

  10. Climate change news is beyond terrifying. I hope improvements will take more cars off the roads, though worry it’s too late.

    1. Indeed climate news is bad. But it’s important to keep the role of the T in perspective — the T is about relieving congestion, improving urban air quality and providing mobility for people who cannot drive or cannot afford to drive.

      All public transportation in the state accounts for a tiny share of the passenger miles of travel in the state — like 3% (2 billion passenger miles out of 60 billion annually). From a climate perspective it is a tiny slice of the solution (and will remain so even if we can grow it radically). We need to electrify cars and trucks to reduce emissions from transportation.

      1. Hi Will,
        Thank you for this analysis and sharing your thoughts on the issue. I disagree with your perspective that the T is only for congestion relief and lower income folks. From your analysis, I think you discount the effects of mode shift on emissions when switching from a single occupancy vehicle to transit, because the SOV emissions are additive, while the transit emissions are not. When someone chooses to drive an SOV, they are contributing an additional 784 lbs of CO2/per passenger mile in emissions because they are most likely adding a new vehicle to the road, since SOVs on average have 1.5 persons per car. By contrast, someone shifting from an SOV to transit not only removes 784 lbs of CO2/passenger mile because they are removing a vehicle from the road, but they decrease the amount of CO2/per passenger emitted by the transit vehicle by (as you mentioned) spreading out the CO2 emitted by the vehicle over more passengers, and this net gain becomes more pronounced for longer passenger trips. This effect may be mitigated somewhat when more transit vehicles are added to increase service, but given that the T’s bus garages are at capacity for the next 10 years or so while they rebuild them, that isn’t an issue, and the Bus Redesign should also help by enabling more consistent bus utilization.

        I think the analysis also misses that vehicle trends aren’t static. Here in Watertown, vehicle registrations are down 20% (according to the comprehensive plan baseline assessment) over the past 20 years, while the population increased 10%, and that’s without any concrete incentives for mode shift (just this month, MAPC’s parking report indicated that Watertown’s zoning code requires 50% more parking than what is demanded), Imagine what could happen if the legislature actually encouraged mode shifting to transit/biking/walking.

        1. I agree that there are emissions benefits every time someone chooses to ride the T. That’s part of why I do it. My point is simply that we need to keep those potential gains in perspective.

          I also agree that we can reduce driving over all. Perhaps the biggest strategy is trip avoidance — working from home has a material impact.

  11. Can America’s most segregated metropolitan area desegregate without redrawing the MBTA map?

    And, are cars the “penny wise,” solution to global warming, while distractive consumerism is out pound foolishness?

  12. It is hard to be positive about any promised improvements to the MBTA. In 1977, when I graduated from college and started living in Somerville, I was determined not to own a car. After a year of waiting and waiting for buses that sometimes never came, nor ever came on a schedule, and dealing with lovely Lechmere station (waiting 4 hours for a bus, then walking when it broke down during the blizzard of ’78), I bought a car.
    In the winter of 2015, when we had all that snow, the T virtually shut down. Living in Watertown and working near Chinatown, I had been taking the 504 bus everyday. I think that’s when I decided to start driving to work. The 504 express bus was pretty good, but it didn’t run if I had to work late, so was not always convenient.
    I am retired now and dutifully got my senior pass, but I just avoid Boston. After 45 years of not being able to count on the MBTA, my experience tells me that the real will to fix it just isn’t there. And the fixes are always so piecemeal. I’m not sure it can be fixed, maybe “recreate” is the better word. But no one wants to go there. Everytime I hear of new “latest and greatest” cars being bought, I laugh and wait for the news that (1) the cars aren’t coming on time, (2) the cars aren’t working the way they were supposed to, or (3) somebody didn’t think of something that dooms them.
    With all the building that has gone up in Boston, and all the developers who have become rich, we missed the opportunity to require them to significantly contribute to getting the workers in those buildings to and from work. I can’t say I’m sorry to see them struggle post-pandemic. Public-private partnership seems to be dead in this country. But I am happy for all the people who can work from home and not have to deal with the MBTA.
    That still leaves a lot of people (essential low-income, of course) who are out of luck.

    1. Maybe I’m incurably positive, but I’ve been riding the T my whole life and I still ride the T and I still appreciate leaving the driving to others. For every bad trip, numerous as they are, there have been many, many more good ones.

  13. Charlotte, the Boylston stop is the one I generally use. I am 86 yo and need to climb that very long flight of stairs to get to any of the entertainment venues above as well as nearby restaurants. I was dismayed that it is very low on the priority schedule.

  14. Low hanging fruit: improve the signage at Park Street and only use the accurate Green Line System Map the one that shows each line/branch bundled together.

    Ok, so the sprinklers weren’t working for the CharlesMGH fire!!!?? There’s a lot of rusted out pipes at Forest Hills do those sprinklers work. Will there be an FTA inspection?

    Most of the concrete MBTA tunnels and bridges over tracks are at the end of their life too. When’s that shoe gonna drop?

    I’m not convinced the Sumner’s not going to be condemned.

  15. Thank you for your on-going attention to all aspects of the T’s domain. While it’s always good to hear that some progress is being made, riders will continue to be skeptical given the way has been managed in the past. I have some faith in the new T leadership, but trust will take time to rebuild. I note that I was in Montreal this Spring and the Metro ran frequently and swiftly in a system with clean stations and rolling stock. I was envious.

  16. I was speaking to someone yesterday who was one of the multiple people hospitalized on the 2019 Pride Day Green Line crash who says they’ve yet to be compensated for their hospital bills. I wish the press would follow up more instead of spending all their time on newsvertising.

    Occasionally, the Boston press will investigate the odd low-ranking malfeasance, but the local press are the establishment’s creature, lock, stock and barrel. The exception : The Globe Spotlight made evasion impossible for the AG et al, but that story is not done and I heard on a local NPR affiliate that justice was limited and parishes have yet to enjoy justice. Guess they thought that boil was lanced bought some time, so didn’t drive justice home for all. Choices were made and we’ll see jow this plays out.

  17. Thank you Senator Brownsberger for this update and all your hard work!

  18. Thanks for the update, Senator.
    The one thing NOT in the MBTA Green Line plans is a restoration of service to Watertown! Watertown has NO rail service at all. We have to depend on long bus rides to Central Square (in the Main Street – Arsenal Street corridor) or a long bus ride to Harvard Square (along the Mt. Auburn corridor) or a 504 bus that gets stuck in traffic on the Mass Pike and doesn’t run at all at certain times.

    I agree that street running vehicles would be highly impractical along the old “A” branch route (Brighton Avenue, Cambridge Street, Washington Street, Galen Street, etc.) But what about underground? As I have pointed out before the MBTA has been much too timid when it comes to rail expansion. Cities across the U.S., Canada, China, and Europe have been greatly expanding their systems. If an entire cross-city rail line (the Elizabeth Line) could be built across a more highly populated and denser city like London, why can we not get additional subway lines built here in the Boston area? I just don’t understand the lack of will to get the job done. And it’s not just Watertown. Great portions of Dorchester, Everett, the northwest area between Waltham and Burlington, Roslindale, West Roxbury…. For a city that’s supposed to rank among the top metro areas of the world, why do we have such a third-world transit system?
    It’s time for everyone to show up at planning meetings and withhold support for any and all new development until first-class transportation needs are met.

  19. I share your sense that there are big expansion projects that are worth doing. But right now I just want to the T to get the basics back on track before expanding. Management bandwidth is finite and they already have a huge task in front of them.

    One thing to keep in mind though is that London is just a vastly bigger and denser city than greater Boston. The density in London can much more readily generate high ridership to justify and support new subway lines. A subway branch to Watertown Square would initially have a tiny fraction of the ridership needed to justify it. And then real estate prices would go up astronomically around it and there would be even greater pressure to build high density apartments all along the new line. It might eventually achieve reasonable ridership but only after completely transforming Watertown.

  20. Beacon Hill has a long history of being deeply, deeply corrupted even into recent times such that the convolutions and distortions of that corruption is with us today in spite of the many good actors on the Hill. Maybe the most effective remedy for the MBTA is State Auditor DiZoglio’s audit of the Legislature.

  21. I’m not being negative for negativity’s sake. I like to think differently.
    I get that there are finite resources, a multitude of priorities and a model of growth, or two. With growth, what will change for the T to share in that growth instead of scraping by? Who is, or will be gaining power over the decades and will show sone love to the T?

    I’m not impressed by our and visiting students’ nostalgia for surviving a dysfunctional T and bragging like it’s a badge of honor.

    The dysfunction of the T is directly proportional to our contempt for our workers. Without economic justice there is no social justice, only platitudes.

    The CRRC deal almost felt like a gut punch and continues to demoralize me. I would gladly ride our solid if rusty cars for another decade while building a home grown, or sourcing Western rolling stock.

  22. >> At the heart of the vision is a new higher-capacity vehicle fleet for the Green Line. Each of the new vehicles >> will carry twice as many people as current Green Line vehicles carry.

    Huh. I have almost never run into a problem with Green Line capacity in the sense of not being able to enter the vehicle. Frequency is a problem. Average speed is a problem. But capacity? How is this being defined??

  23. Will,
    As you know, in 2016, the MBTA prepared “75%” plans for Phase 3 of the Fenway Multi-Use path linking the Emerald Necklace bike path under Park Drive to Phases 1 and 2 to Lansdowne Station and Beacon Street which are now completed. (A 3-minute video describing the Fenway Connector is at . I have repeatedly tried to contact the T to find out the status. Funding for construction has been committed by Samuels Associates. The Carlton Street Footbridge in Brookline, closed for 47 years, has been restored and will re-open in September. This will increase the bike and foot traffic in that section of Riverway Park. Maybe you can find out the schedule for Phase 3. When will there be a public presentation by the T? I hope you can find out.

    1. From the MBTA in response:

      Discussions between MassDOT and MBTA have identified acceptable, alternative funding that allowed MBTA earlier this summer to establish an engineering contract to design the siding track that will need to be relocated to allow for the pathway work to proceed. As part of the redesign, the MBTA must take into consideration the safety of our customers, operations, and future needs including climate vulnerabilities in addition to the proposed multi-use path in this critical area. MBTA has remained in regular contact with Samuels & Associates who has engaged a design team to move forward with the multi-use pathway design work once the MBTA and our consultant bring forward a workable siding track design solution.

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