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.
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||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|
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.
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.
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||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|
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.
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.