trolley line

Silver Line (MBTA)

The Silver Line is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA's) sole Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, running in two, unconnected sections, from Dudley Square in Roxbury to downtown Boston, Massachusetts and from South Station to several points in South Boston and to Logan Airport in East Boston.

The Silver Line is planned to be built in three phases; only Phase I (Washington Street) and part of Phase II (Waterfront) have been completed. Phase III, a connection between the two operational sections, is still in the planning phases.

Silver Line buses are wheelchair ramp equipped using a kneeling bus and a flip-out ramp. Two of the three models used are pictured to the immediate right. See MBTA accessibility.

Service routes

Washington Street - Phase I

Phase I of the Silver Line runs between Dudley Square in Roxbury and downtown Boston along Washington Street. As of January 1, 2007, patrons pay the bus fare of $1.25 on a CharlieCard or $1.50 on a CharlieTicket or with cash. At select stations, passengers can transfer from the Silver Line to the subway (Red, Green, and Orange Lines) for an additional 45 cents (CharlieCard) or 50 cents (CharlieTicket or cash). At these same stations, passengers may transfer from the subway to the Silver Line for free.

The full line started running July 20, 2002, replacing the Washington Street Elevated, which closed in 1987. In the interim, the route was served by the 49 bus (which had existed as a feeder route before 1987).

Station listing

Station Transit Time to Dudley station Opened Transfers and notes
Dudley Square 0 minutes July 20, 2002
Melnea Cass Boulevard July 20, 2002
Lenox Street July 20, 2002
Massachusetts Avenue July 20, 2002 Not the same as Massachusetts Avenue station on Orange Line, 1/2 mile northwest
Worcester Square Late 2002
Newton Street July 20, 2002
Union Park Street July 20, 2002
East Berkeley Street 10 to 12 minutes July 20, 2002
Herald Street July 20, 2002
New England Medical Center July 20, 2002 Orange Line
Chinatown July 20, 2002 Orange Line
northbound buses only
Boylston July 20, 2002 Green Line
southbound buses only
Downtown Crossing at Temple Place 16 to 21 minutes July 20, 2002 Orange Line and Red Line at Downtown Crossing; Green Line at Park Street

Waterfront - Phase II

Phase II of the Silver Line utilizes overhead electric power in a new tunnel from South Station to Boston's World Trade Center and on surface reserved right of way 1/2 mile further east to Silver Line Way. Dual-mode buses continue beyond Silver Line Way on diesel power over three routes, all in mixed traffic:

A Silver Line Waterfront service from South Station to Silver Line Way operates using trackless trolleys. One more service is under consideration:

The SL1 operates in a loop at Logan Airport and only serves the terminals, at the arrivals level. The Silver Line stops at the curb at the "downstream" end of each terminal (in terms of traffic flow). There are also free shuttle buses connecting the terminals and other airport destinations, including the Airport station on the Blue Line, hotels, rental cars, and the water taxi. A system of moving walkways connects terminals A and E, the Hilton Hotel and central parking. See the Logan Airport article for lists of which airlines serve each terminal.


Unlike Silver Line Washington St., the Waterfront lines charge the MBTA rapid transit (subway) fare: $1.70 for CharlieCard holders, $2.00 for riders holding CharlieTickets or paying cash. Ticket vending machines that accept cash and credit cards are installed in the Logan Airport terminals and World Trade Center, Courthouse and South Station. There is faregate and cost-free transfer to and from the Red Line at South Station for all riders, but only CharlieCard users get free transfers to other bus and subway lines if they leave the paid fare area.


The Phase II tunnel was constructed in conjunction with Boston's "Big Dig" and was originally referred to as the South Boston Piers Transitway. Tunnel sections were fabricated in a nearby, World War II-era dry dock and floated into place. Phase II opened on Friday, December 17, 2004, with the first route (Silver Line Waterfront, officially 746) running only to Silver Line Way, using electric trolley buses.

When dual-mode buses were placed in service on December 31, 2004, the SL2 and SL3 extensions opened. SL1, to Logan Airport, opened June 1, 2005.

As not enough dual-mode buses were available initially, some rush-hour service was provided by CNG buses, with transfers at Silver Line Way. Through service was suspended after January 5, 2005, and was not brought back until March 5, with all buses dual-mode starting on March 14. Beginning on March 26, late night and weekend trips ran combined, running both around the BMIP loop and to City Point.

On January 2, 2005, CNG buses started running on a Sunday-only (4 pm - 10 pm only) shuttle route (746-5) between Silver Line Way and the airport terminals. The agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection called for airport service by January, but the MBTA did not have enough buses for full service.

Station listing

Station Routes Opened Transfers and notes
South Station all December 17, 2004 Red Line, MBTA Commuter Rail, Amtrak, intercity buses
Courthouse all December 17, 2004 John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse
World Trade Center all December 17, 2004 Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, seasonal ferry to Provincetown, Institute of Contemporary Art, Lenticular art on the lobby level of the station
Silver Line Way all December 17, 2004 Changeover between diesel and overhead electric power takes place here
Logan Airport Terminal A SL1 June 1, 2005 Massport and rental car shuttle buses; walkway to central parking and Hilton Hotel
Logan Airport Terminal B south SL1 June 1, 2005
Logan Airport Terminal B north SL1 June 1, 2005
Logan Airport Terminal C SL1 June 1, 2005
Logan Airport Terminal E SL1 June 1, 2005 International arrivals, Hilton Hotel; next stop is Silver Line Way
Northern Avenue at Harbor Street SL2, SL3 December 31, 2004
Northern Avenue at Tide Street SL2, SL3 December 31, 2004
25 Dry Dock Avenue SL2 (outbound) December 31, 2004
88 Black Falcon Avenue SL2 (terminal) December 31, 2004 Cruise ship terminal
Black Falcon Avenue at Design Center Place SL2 (inbound) December 31, 2004
Dry Dock Avenue at Design Center Place SL2 (inbound), SL3 December 31, 2004
Summer Street at Power House Street SL3 December 31, 2004
East First Street at M Street SL3 December 31, 2004
City Point SL3 (terminal) December 31, 2004

Phase III

Phase III comprises the connection of the two halves of the Silver Line via an underground busway from Boylston station on the Green Line to South Station. Silver Line Phase III received a "not recommended" rating from the Federal Transit Agency, which expressed skepticism that the T's operating cost estimates were reliable. Capital cost was estimated at $780 million, but this price tag depended upon the route selected. Completion was estimated by 2013.

Four possible routings were being debated, but neighborhood opposition to the placement of portals, and to the use of BRT as a replacement for the Washington Street Elevated was problematic. In August, 2005, the MBTA put the Phase III project "on hold" in order to avoid a second such determination, and to build community consensus on a locally preferred routing.

In February 2006, Massachusetts State Transportation Secretary John Cogliano proposed a much less expensive plan that would eliminate most of the tunneling, running the Silver Line on the surface via Kneeland Street to a new tunnel portal on Essex Street, near South Station. The estimated cost of this proposal is $94 million and it includes expansion of Silver Line service to Copley Square, Grove Hall, Mattapan, and Ashmont, connecting at the Fairmount commuter rail line.

In March 2006, yet another plan was put forward, with support from most transportation leaders, including Cogliano. The plan was a fifth underground variation, calling for a mile long tunnel with a portal at Charles Street and Tremont Street. Environmental review and preliminary engineering are expected to be completed by the end of 2008. A federal funding decision is expected in 2010, with construction starting in 2011 and ending in 2016. The MBTA is managing project planning.

Future BRT options

In addition to the Silver Line, BRT is being considered as a means of implementing the Urban Ring Project and providing improved crosstown service.

Silver Line critiques

Detractors of Silver Line service insist that BRT is still a bus, not a high-speed transit line, and provides equivalent quality and speed to other buses. Community groups in the Roxbury and South End neighborhoods, along with the Sierra Club, have presented findings that support this argument, and maintain that a light-rail line would be both cheaper and more effective than BRT. These groups sometimes refer to the Silver Line Phase I as the "#49 bus" (this being the bus line with an identical routing that the Silver Line replaced) and the "Silver Lie" (used because of allegations from advocacy groups that the MBTA reneged on a promise of real rapid transit). Furthermore, the necessity to link Roxbury and Logan is not well explicated in any MBTA document.

However, in MBTA nomenclature, BRT lines, as with all rapid-transit lines, are named by colors, not by number, implying they consider the service adequately rapid. The Silver Line originated from community demands for restoration of local service after the Washington Street Elevated portion of the Orange Line was demolished in the 1980s. Proposals to build a new subway line under Washington Street or a new trolley line along Washington Street were deemed impractical, so the Orange Line was re-routed about 1/2 mile west onto the Southwest Corridor right-of-way, leaving many local residents without a rapid-transit option. Eventually, BRT was chosen to provide this service, and the MBTA feels it meets the needs of the communities affected by the Orange Line relocation.

Some have argued that BRT was the only way that the Silver Line could provide service to Logan Airport, because the Ted Williams Tunnel that runs to Logan is an Interstate Highway (I-90), and Interstate Highway standards do not allow rail tracks in the road surface. However, opponents of this viewpoint note that Interstate Highway standards make no mention of rail tracks (other than a prohibition of non-grade separated crossings), and insist that the Silver Line's separate right-of-way within the tunnel would preclude it from having to meet highway regulations. Furthermore, the Blue Line passes near the airport but requires a time-consuming and crowded shuttle to access the terminals. During an early-2000s Logan Airport modernization, when a complex of new highway ramps were built, the MBTA and MassPort originally planned a people mover from the new Blue Line Airport station to the terminal area, but this plan was dropped.

The Silver Line's SL1 route from the World Trade Center stop to the Ted Williams Tunnel is convoluted. Despite the fact that the Silver Line's portal is less than from the eventual entry ramp to the Williams Tunnel, the line crosses D Street at grade, proceeds to the Silver Line Way stop, and then makes a long loop back towards downtown before it can enter the tunnel, adding several minutes to the ride. For some time after the Big Dig ceiling collapse in 2006, the SL1 used a closer entrance ramp normally reserved for the Massachusetts State Police, however use of this shortcut was stopped for safety reasons after the affected sections of roadway were reopened for Silver Line use.


External links

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