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A Silver Line bus bent its way around a truck double-parked on Washington Street at Kneeland Street. Globe Staff Photo / John Tlumacki

Silver Line not the shiniest commute

Other T branches go downtown faster

By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff, 2/23/2004

Getting downtown in the morning on the Silver Line takes approximately 25 percent longer than on the Red, Orange, and Green MBTA lines, according to a weeklong test conducted by the Globe this month.

During evening rush hour, the ride on the Silver Line takes about twice as long as on the Red and Orange lines, the survey found, though about the same amount of time as on the Green Line.

T officials downplay the results, saying they never promised the Silver Line would match subway cars in speed.

Still, the results echo the complaints of people of the Roxbury neighborhood -- among Boston's poorest, where many residents don't have cars and rely on public transportation -- that they don't get the service other parts of the city enjoy.

"The service has been pretty good, but I think it should have been light rail," said Robert Pritchett, 64, of Dorchester, riding the Silver Line bus on a recent evening. The elevated Orange Line down Washington Street, which was discontinued in 1987 and replaced by the Silver Line, "was old and it was an eyesore, but it got you to and from downtown extremely fast."

During the week of Feb. 9 through 13, the Globe sent correspondents to travel each morning and evening on the Red, Green, Orange, and Silver lines, and record their travel times. A central destination was chosen -- 30 Winter St. at Downtown Crossing -- for the riders to report to in the morning and leave from in the evening. Each of the MBTA lines has a stop within a block of that address.

The trips on each line covered about 2.2 miles. The morning trips began at 8 a.m. and the evening trips began at 5:30 p.m.

The results showed that, on the Silver Line, the inbound trip from Dudley Square took an average of 19 minutes. The same trip in reverse, beginning at 5:30 p.m., took a little over 22 minutes.

Riders on the other lines arrived more quickly. An Orange Line ride from Ruggles station took an average of 15 minutes; the evening trip back took nearly 12 minutes.

The Red Line trip from Central Square to the downtown destination lasted an average of 15 minutes in the morning and just 13 minutes in the evening.

The trip downtown on the Green Line from the Museum of Fine Arts took an average of 15 minutes in the morning, but 22 1/2 minutes in the evening -- about the same time as the evening Silver Line journey.

"It's better than a bus, but not as convenient as a train," said Theo Young, a South End resident riding the Silver Line on a recent evening, adding that the vehicles sometimes get bunched up. "I think the underground would have been better," he said.

Robert Terrell, head of the Washington Street Corridor Coalition, said the Silver Line is a poor substitute for rail service. He accused the T of shortchanging the neighborhoods of Roxbury and the South End.

"The reason is, different standards for different communities," Terrell said. "We get the buses, and rail projects get put in other communities. Brookline has three light rail systems and stops all over the place."

Most riders on the Silver Line say that the service is an improvement over the No. 49 bus that used to travel the route, after the elevated Orange Line was torn down. They say the 60-foot buses are clean and come frequently, and generally don't get stuck in traffic except in the area around the New England Medical Center.

But despite that, they complain that the buses do not easily connect with the rest of the MBTA system, disadvantaging riders from Roxbury and the South End.

Trolleys on rails would connect better with the rest of the T system, they say, allowing easy transfers and access to a range of destinations downtown, at the FleetCenter, and in Cambridge.

With the old Orange Line, "we had five stops downtown," Terrell said. "We feel the replacement service should get us into the system downtown, at a minimum to Park Street, but ideally to Government Center, the FleetCenter, and Lechmere for the Galleria mall. That would be an extremely profitable line for the T."

The Silver Line debuted in 2002, after years of intense debate over what should be built to replace the old elevated line. A half-dozen options were considered, but the choice ultimately came down to a light rail line down the median of Washington Street or improved, rapid bus service.

T officials say neighborhood opposition, first from Chinatown and then from the gentrifying South End, killed the light rail idea. Community activists say the choice came down to money.

The Silver Line cost $40 million, less than half of what it would cost to build light rail, according to T estimates. The T touts the new service as "bus rapid transit" and chose the color silver because "from race cars to rockets, silver symbolizes speed and high performance," according to the T website.

However, unlike many "bus rapid transit" systems, the vehicles do not travel in their own separate, barricaded lanes that no other traffic can use, except for during a short outbound stretch crossing the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Silver Line lane is marked with painted white lines on Washington Street from Dudley Square through the South End.

Throughout the route, Silver Line buses must contend with occasional traffic in the lane, swerve around double-parked cars and trucks, and wait at stoplights. Traffic is not an issue for fixed-rail systems like the Red, Orange, or Green lines, making them generally faster, though Green Line trolleys do stop at lights when traveling above ground. Boarding times are also generally faster with trolleys and subways.

Michael Mulhern, general manager for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, was not made available for an interview. His spokesman, Joe Pesaturo, said that critics of the Silver Line "are incapable of thinking outside the box" and accepting that "safe and reliable transit service does not have to be on a rail to be successful."

Pesaturo cited growth in ridership and survey results that showed satisfaction with the service. Only about 30 percent of the riders surveyed by the T take the Silver Line because they have no other means of transportation, he added, suggesting that people were not "stuck" with the service, but choosing to use it.

Silver Line riders seem most pleased with the frequency with which Silver Line buses arrive. Damian Thomas of Roxbury said that "you're never out in the cold waiting for too long," because a bus comes along quickly.

T officials view the Washington Street Silver Line service as the first phase of a route that will ultimately go from Roxbury to Logan Airport via South Station and the South Boston waterfront. But Terrell and others say the neighborhood mostly yearns for fast service downtown, and they urge the T to abandon the most expensive part of the envisioned line -- a tunnel under Essex Street -- and instead put the money toward a conversion to light rail for the Washington Street segment.

Khalida Smalls, coordinator of the T Riders Union, said that the trip downtown on the Silver Line is reasonable, and that the service "isn't so bad. But we weren't looking for `isn't so bad.' . . . It's an equity issue, and you have to understand the lack of response to our community for years to understand why this issue has so much fire."

From The Boston Globe

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Silver Line adds bus stops for manor residents

By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff, 2/29/2004

By the end of next month, the MBTA's Silver Line will have two new bus stops in front of Washington Manor (1701 Washington St. in the South End) -- bus stops that were not part of the original public hearing process or Silver Line plans; bus stops that cost a little more than $800,000 to put up; and bus stops that -- in some ways -- conflict with the concept of bus rapid transit, which is meant to have the same trip times as light rail, at lower costs. The stations are being built largely to meet the demands of the elderly and disabled residents of Washington Manor, who never had anyone speak for them and apparently never spoke up for themselves in 77 public hearings and several more informal meetings held before the Silver Line's construction, according to T officials. Apparently residents had assumed that their old local bus stop would remain.

MBTA planners had never planned to keep the stop, believing that a bus stop there would never generate enough riders. There's a stop a block away.

But after a few phone calls to local state representatives, city councilors, and the mayor's office, the residents of Washington Manor got a station stop.

The new stations are expected to average 366 boardings a day and 495 drop-offs. That's low.

The average distance between Silver Line stations is 320 yards. The distance between the new Washington Manor and Massachusetts Avenue is 155 yards. Between Worcester Square and Newton Street, in the opposite direction, is 280 yards. In other words, the station is a tad misplaced on a bus line that's geared to be efficient.

MBTA General Manager Michael H. Mulhern said the new stops would have a marginal impact on trip times and that the stops will not set a bad precedent for the bus rapid transit line, which will succeed or fail based on how efficiently it gets riders to and from downtown.

Mulhern also said he had not been politically pressured to put up the stops.

"Several elected officials and the mayor's office said they wished they had paid closer attention to the process," Mulhern said. "At that point I was forced to revisit the issue."

In the end, he said, "I quickly concluded that they had some legitimate issues." Residents of the building are largely dependent on transit, he said, and have difficulties with the short walk to the nearby Mass. Ave. stop.

"Although a straight review of the numbers did not justify a station at Worcester Square, I was convinced that it was the right thing to do," he said.

"Certainly we have folks that question the investment," he added. "But the results are clear, and we have doubled ridership on the corridor. It's a great service and people are letting us know that with their feet."

Mark Potter, the Washington Manor Tenants Association treasurer, said the communication problem wasn't with the tenants; it was with the T.

"We woke up one morning, and the bus stop was gone," Potter said, referring to the Route 49 stop that had sat in front of Washington Manor.

Despite the public meetings and other notices, Potter said no one in the building had been contacted about the Silver Line's impact on their transit needs.

Potter, who said he is 100 percent disabled with emphysema, a stroke, and two heart attacks, said construction of the Silver Line "hit us like a ton of bricks."

Residents made calls to T officials and said they had been ignored. But after contacting several local politicians, Potter said the group was given a meeting before the MBTA Advisory Board.

After a lot of hemming and hawing, "they agreed to go ahead and do it," Potter said, "but it was a long fight."

From The Boston Globe

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Critics pan T's plan for tunnel entrance in Elliot Norton Park

By Robin Washington/Roads Scholar

Monday, January 26, 2004

As the dean of America's drama critics, the late Elliot Norton had something to say about everything from ``Bus Stop'' to ``A Streetcar Named Desire.''

So it's likely the longtime Herald scribe, who died at 100 last year, would have weighed in on the T's plan to build an entrance to a $700 million-plus tunnel through the Theater District park named for him.

``I've always loved live theater, but this . . . was ridiculous,'' he once said of the park's drug-and-prostitution reputation before a 1994 cleanup.

In the latest plan to desecrate the park, the T would use it to send the Silver Line underground, connecting to the Green Line at Boylston Street, where it would make a sharp right for South Station. There it would hit the new South Boston transitway, ending up at Logan International Airport.

But the T hasn't fully thought out how to get the bus into the tunnel. It's offering three plans - two that would take the park and one digging next to the Boston Common's Central Burial Ground.

State Rep. Byron Rushing (D-S. End), who is also a historian, called the third plan a bad idea.

``If you dig up anything in the Common, you're going to find something, if not someone,'' he said of loosely defined 18th century burial plots.

That leads back to the Elliot Norton Park, which at first sounds sensible because it's the site of a portal for a now-defunct subway branch leading to the Boylston Street station.

But that was designed for streetcars, which the T pooh-poohed on the Silver Line in favor of buses, which are actually bigger than trolleys and won't fit in the old tunnel opening.

So it was back to the drawing board with two new plans to build a new portal in the park, which T officials tried to sell to the Friends of Elliot Norton Park. They weren't impressed.

``We're not convinced it's really needed,'' member Doug Fiebelkorn said.

The same might be said of the rest of the $700 million tunnel, Jeremy Marin of the Sierra Club said.

``They're going to spend close to a billion dollars to create a duplicative system when they don't have money to maintain the current system,'' he said, suggesting it would not be the end of the world if the Silver Line's two branches, which connect to the Red and Green lines, remained unlinked.

T spokesman Joe Pesaturo disagreed, pointing to doubled ridership on the Silver Line and a promised one-seat ride from Dudley to Logan.

He was less knowledgeable about who'd they trample over to get there, however.

``Who's Elliot Norton?'' he said of the Tony and Peabody Award-winning critic.

Might be time to give those plans a review.

From The Boston Herald

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The park in question is still pretty shady because its on land where buildings were torn down to build the Pike Extension. If they have to take it they should replace it with something better, not a vacant lot dressed up as a park. Personally I've wanted them to build on the land for years because of the giant fissure it magnifies between Bay Village and the Castle Square area with the Pike in between.

I think Byron Rushing is right that we shouldn't 'even go there' digging near the Common. He was intricately involved with the archeological excavation nessesary for the extension of the Red Line to Alewife in the early 80's and speaks from great expierience.

btw- I do like the idea of being able to access Logan directly from the Common and all the new units of housing they are building in the area. Though I think the Silver Line should be rail and is not a replacement for the elevated on Washington Street.

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The real connection that is needed, is not Roxbury to the airport. It is the Convention Centre and the Airport to Back Bay hotels and entertainment. The Silver Line doesn't accomplish this. It would force people to switch from Silver to Green at Boylston to make those connections.

Roxbury residents want to go downtown, with Washington Street trolleys they could get to Government Centre and North Station with a one-seat ride (similar service to what these residents enjoyed with the old El).

There are plenty of proposals to bring trolleys to Washington Street, and to extend trolleys to the Convention Centre that do not include digging new portals in Chinatown or messing with the Common. The T and the state simply refuse to hear it.

Unfortunately, without yet another harbour tunnel, trolleys cannot run to Logan. But buses can use the TWT and share the transitway with buses from the Seaport to Boylston. Seattle has such a shared transitway.

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Leaks are found and fixed on Silver Line

By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff | November 19, 2004

Boston's other big tunnel project, the long-awaited underground busway through the South Boston Waterfront, has also been leaking, MBTA officials disclosed yesterday.

The problem, uncovered in late 2000, was traced to seven sections of the Silver Line's tunnel walls just west of the station that will serve the new federal courthouse. The wall sections, built using the same slurry-wall construction method employed in the Big Dig, had holes in the concrete and exposed steel where water seeped through.

But Michael H. Mulhern, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said in a letter to federal officials that the T quickly made permanent repairs before the tunnel was finished.

The contractor for the 450-foot section of the Silver Line tunnel -- Framingham-based J.F. White, also a major contractor for the Big Dig -- was ordered to make repairs beginning in early 2001, Mulhern said. But when the sections were inspected again, ''the volume of water leaking through the slurry wall was unacceptable," Mulhern wrote in the letter Wednesday to the regional head of the Federal Transit Administration.

So J.F. White was told to patch the leaks by injecting grouting, a process that continued well into 2003. When J.F. White submitted a bill for the extra work for about $1.1 million, the T refused to pay it, Mulhern said.

Stephen J. Barlow, chief operating officer for J.F. White, said yesterday that the tunnel is in perfect working order.

''The deficiencies were noted, the repairs have been made, and to tell you the truth, I don't know where we stand on compensation," he said. ''I'm not going to say it's a closed issue or an open issue. It was a challenging project. I don't know how it happened; I just know it happened. It didn't meet [specifications]. We made the repairs."

The T hired two consulting firms -- STV Inc. and Parsons Brinckerhoff, both based in New York -- to help manage the $601 million Silver Line project, which links South Station with the waterfront. The consultants also advised the T how to deal with the leaks. Parsons Brinckerhoff is part of the joint venture, along with Bechtel, that managed the Big Dig.

Paul Griffo, spokesman for the Federal Transit Administration, said the agency asked Mulhern whether there were leaks in the Silver Line tunnels after the recent disclosures of leaks in the Big Dig.

''Since we have a tunnel in Boston, we just wanted to make sure everything was sound," Griffo said.

Agency officials have read Mulhern's letter and said they concluded that ''the MBTA was aggressive in making the repairs, and we're very happy with the work." More than half the money for the Silver Line project -- which features electric buses that run in a dedicated tunnel from South Station, under the Fort Point Channel, and into the South Boston Waterfront -- comes from the federal government.

In his letter to the federal agency, Mulhern states that the section of the tunnel with the leaks was the only part of the project where the slurry wall is also the finished wall.

Other parts of the project, built using different construction methods, are sealed by outer linings. No leaks have occurred in any part of the tunnel, Mulhern said, including in the Fort Point Channel crossing.

''I am confident the waterproofing integrity of the [silver Line Phase II] project is acceptable, and only minor seeping is occurring," Mulhern wrote. He also points out that the T is monitoring how much water is pumped out of the project, which ''will be another indicator of the water integrity of the Silver Line tunnels."

The project, which is scheduled to open in less than a month, is designed to ensure transit access to the emerging waterfront district and includes two major stations, one serving the new federal courthouse and the other between the World Trade Center and the new convention center. Eventually some buses also will go to the residential area of South Boston and to Logan Airport. The T eventually wants to link the project with Silver Line bus service on Washington Street, via a new tunnel under downtown Boston.

Silver Line Phase II, as it is known, has run behind schedule and grown in cost by nearly $200 million. Workers ran into myriad problems, including threading the tunnel under the historic Russia Wharf buildings and running into an Ice Age boulder on the floor of the Fort Point Channel.

But the T is training operators and running buses through the tunnel and getting ready to open the first new transit line in two decades.

From The Boston Globe

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The Silver Line will extend from South Station through the South Boston waterfront. Globe Staff Photo / Jonathan Wiggs

Bus tunnel to open, but waterfront boom lags

Projections down for ridership

By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff | November 22, 2004

The MBTA's biggest expansion in decades -- a $601 million tunnel for electric buses from South Station through the South Boston waterfront -- is set to open in about three weeks. And for all the delays and cost overruns and engineering problems the project encountered, planners have a bigger worry: that the city's newest transit route might feel at first a bit like a bus to nowhere.

The second phase of the Silver Line, complementing the first-phase bus service along Washington Street from Roxbury to downtown, is designed to make the trip easier to the federal courthouse, the new convention center, and, eventually, Logan Airport.

It was also supposed to coincide with a furious building boom on the waterfront. But dozens of acres of development sites are still parking lots. The T has cut its ridership projections from 45,000 per weekday to 14,000 by 2006.

''We've gone from people being worried about the Silver Line being here to the Silver Line being here and the development buildout yet to occur," said Michael H. Mulhern, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. ''The development is inevitable, but it will be a few years downstream."

For now, however, passengers boarding buses at South Station will be whisked under the Fort Point Channel to the new Courthouse Station, which is the length of two football fields, has a projection system for ''paperless" advertising, and is adorned with stainless steel wall panels. But when they walk upstairs to the street, they will emerge to a sea of parking lots.

That's because the 25-acre waterfront property owned by Frank McCourt has yet to be sold to a developer, while the owners of the 16-acre Fan Pier site, next to the federal courthouse, also have not completed a sale.

One stop down, riders can alight at a gleaming, three-level World Trade Center Station. But that is also surrounded by construction sites and a parking lot. The convention center, which is only just beginning to book big shows, is a 700-foot walk away.

There are some buildings up and running that will be served by the Silver Line, including the Seaport Hotel, the World Trade Center exhibition hall and office buildings, and the Manulife headquarters at the corner of D and Congress streets, where the electric buses run directly underneath. About 1,800 employees will eventually work in the Manulife building; the company predicts that 78 percent of them will use transit.

By next summer, the Silver Line will become a new way to get from Logan Airport to South Station, connecting all terminals via the Ted Williams Tunnel. Some Silver Line buses will also serve the Marine Industrial Park and residential South Boston.

This is not the first time that a transit line has opened in advance of new development or expects relatively small ridership early on, said Jose Gomez-Ibanez, a transportation specialist at the Harvard Design School. Light rail projects in Miami and Los Angeles have been initially lightly used.

''There are a bunch of planners who believe transit is a stimulus to development," he said. ''I'm more of a fan of extending transit to denser communities that have lousy transit access now. Or you wait until [the development] is really there."

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo countered: ''If you build it, they will come."

Officials at the T, who are excited about their first major expansion since the extension of the Red Line to Alewife in 1984, argue that the Silver Line will swiftly become a critical part of Boston's landscape.

''We now have the infrastructure to support development, and that's the first question a developer asks," said Mulhern. ''The city wants 60 percent of the people getting to and from that area to use transit. And the waterfront is a prime piece of real estate from a social and cultural point of view. The physical barrier of the Central Artery is gone and now people will be able to get there."

He also predicted that the T's key hub will eventually shift from Park Street to South Station, where Silver Line passengers can transfer to the Red Line, commuter rail, or intercity rail.

Silver Line Phase II, originally known as the South Boston Piers Transitway, was pushed by the late US Representative J. Joseph Moakley, who helped secure federal funding. The original cost estimate was about $400 million, which increased to just over $600 million.

Engineers encountered several challenges in building the line, including a boulder that was in the way of the tube crossing the Fort Point Channel; concerns about building stability where the tunnel runs under historic Russia Wharf; delicate coordination with the Big Dig northbound tunnel, which is at one point only a few feet beneath the Silver Line busway; and now-plugged leaks in several sections of the tunnel walls that were disclosed last week. T officials also ran into some controversy about the location of the stations -- the Courthouse Station, about a 500-foot walk from the federal courthouse, and the World Trade Center Station, which is not at the new convention center's front door.

From The Boston Globe

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State brass in dash to ink deal bringing Silver Line to Logan

By Casey Ross | Thursday, December 16, 2004

With the $600 million Silver Line tunnels set to open tomorrow, top transportation officials are pushing Massport to finalize a connection to Logan International Airport within days - a move that would help avert a looming showdown with environmental regulators.

Despite six years of negotiations, Massport has yet to approve details to allow the rapid transit Silver Line to run to all airport terminals. Meanwhile, state environmental regulators have cited the delays as part of the reason for potential fines against transportation agencies.

"It's been a little bit difficult to get (Massport's) full attention on this," state Transportation Secretary Daniel Grabauskas said yesterday. "They have to execute their end of the (agreement)."

The connection to Logan is included in a 2000 legal agreement that required completion of several transportation projects designed to improve regional air quality. The deadline for extending service to the airport, which involves mapping a bus route, is Dec. 31.

As officials battled to meet that date, construction crews completed testing on electric buses that will carry passengers through tunnels between South Station and the World Trade Center in South Boston. The start of service tomorrow will mark the city's first subway line opening in 100 years. The sleek new stations at the federal courthouse and World Trade Center include brushed stainless steel walls, gleaming elevators and colorful fiber optic lighting.

The opening of the stations and tunnels will complete the second phase of Silver Line construction. The first phase opened bus service between Dudley Square and Downtown Crossing in 2002.

While the second phase has been mired in delays and millions in cost increases, transportation officials say it will dramatically improve travel to Logan and open traffic to an isolated part of Boston.

"This connects the center of the city to the South Boston waterfront," MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern said. "There is a lot of development that cannot reach its potential without a transit system."

From The Boston Herald

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S. Boston split on route shift for Silver Line

By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff | December 17, 2004

When the Silver Line opens today linking South Station and Boston's emerging waterfront district, officials plan to herald a new era for the T -- the first addition of a line in a century, serving new frontiers, the convention center, and a refurbished Logan Airport.

But there's one place the newfangled bus line won't go: Through the heart of South Boston, a neighborhood that warily eyes change and wields the political clout to tailor the T's plans.

Initially, some buses traveling through the new tunnel from South Station to the World Trade Center station, site of today's ribbon-cutting, were slated to head down D Street and then Broadway, South Boston's main thoroughfare.

But some residents and business owners objected, fearing congestion that would curtail the local custom of double-parking, and that legal curbside parking spaces would disappear to make room for the 60-foot vehicles at bus stops.

The Broadway route was scrapped, in favor of two new branches: one going all the way down D Street and doubling back to the Red Line at Andrew Station, the other heading through industrial parcels on First Street and ending at an abandoned oil tank farm.

The switch left many local merchants bemoaning the loss of a lifeline to the economic engine of the waterfront, while downtown-bound South Boston residents must continue to transfer from the current Broadway bus to the subway, instead of catching a one-seat ride through the new Silver Line's sleek $601 million tunnel to South Station.

"Many of us felt the buses should come up Broadway. If there's any way to bring potential customers here, that's a good thing," said Don Wilson, interim president of the South Boston Chamber of Commerce and owner of a printing graphics store. "This came as a surprise."

The way the change happened is described differently by different people, though political clout -- at City Hall and at the MBTA -- is a common thread.

Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said the Broadway route was only a draft meant to start a discussion, and the new routes resulted from public input.

"Democracy is a wonderful principle," he said.

He would not say who wanted the route changed from Broadway to First Street and D Street, however. He would also not say how much more it will cost the T to run two routes through South Boston instead of one.

Thomas Tinlin, deputy commissioner at the Boston Transportation Department -- and a South Boston native -- said he was the one who suggested to the MBTA that the Silver Line buses should go from the waterfront to "untapped and underserved" areas in South Boston, rather than along Broadway, where there is already bus service. Double-parking, congestion and loss of parking spaces on Broadway didn't factor into that recommendation, he said.

But Michael P. Bare, president of the South Boston Citizens Association, and an employee in the materials division of the MBTA, said the route was changed because residents and some shopkeepers feared traffic tie-ups and an end to double-parking.

"With those big buses coming up and with cars double-parked in front of just a few stores -- it would be a nightmare," he said. The new routes would benefit those in public housing developments on D Street and others headed to the waterfront or downtown for jobs, he said. Most convention center attendees, he added, will probably head downtown to shop or eat.

Bare said he had no special influence as a T employee. But South Boston has a unique status at the authority, from the lowest-level jobs to top management. For many years one of the neighborhood's most prominent residents, former state Senate president William M. Bulger, helped residents find work at the T.

However it happened, some are chafing at the way the Broadway route was altered.

"We were told that was the new plan, end of story," said Michael Foley, who works out of the East Broadway office of Jack Conway Real Estate. "It doesn't serve the businesses on Broadway at all. We may lose some parking spaces but we felt that could be engineered around, maybe with fewer stops. We wanted potential business from the waterfront."

A direct Silver Line connection "makes a lot of sense," said Jason Owens, manager at the Boston Beer Garden, across from Foley's office. He said the owners were not aware of the original Broadway route, or that it had been scrapped.

"I have some reservations" about the route change, said City Council President Michael Flaherty, who is from South Boston. "I want to make sure the people from the community have the best access to that waterfront, and to the jobs."

Pesaturo said that the beauty of bus rapid transit, as the Silver Line is being called, is that the bus routes -- unlike rail -- can be easily changed. If there are few riders on the D Street/First Street branches, the route can be altered and possibly put back on Broadway, Pesaturo said.

The Silver Line promises vast new connections for a changing city. In about 10 years, if the T gets approvals and money, passengers will be able to take one bus from Roxbury to South Boston.

From The Boston Globe


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  • 1 month later...

Silver Line reality trip

By Brian McGrory, Globe Columnist | February 4, 2005

Who doesn't love a train?

(Note to the marble-minded moaners from a town that rhymes with gingham: That's a rhetorical question not requiring an actual answer).

I made this inquiry as I descended an escalator at South Station yesterday, somewhere far beyond excited about my first ride aboard the gleaming new Silver Line service offered by the MBTA.

All aboard. This was going to be great. The trains cruise through a $601 million tunnel beneath the Fort Point Channel that came in 50 percent over cost projections, causing Big Dig managers to wonder how the T runs such a ruthlessly tight ship. Once on the waterfront, the service stops at the Moakley Federal Courthouse and the World Trade Center-Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Eventually, the T plans to dig another tunnel beneath some of the busiest sections of Boston, to allow passengers to board the Silver Line in Roxbury and ride all the way to Logan Airport. There isn't a person in town who understands how this is going to work, including T officials, but that's a problem for another day.

For now, the project is to be celebrated, which is what I was feeling, celebratory, as I followed the signs through the turnstiles and into a clean, well-lighted station, where a train waited on the tracks.

But hold on just a minute. This train, it had tires and windshield wipers and a steering wheel. And those tracks looked more like a road. Could it be?

"A bus," a fellow passenger stated.

I see. All right, who doesn't love a bus?

The blinking red sign hanging from the platform ceiling said the buses ran every four minutes. Eight minutes later, we departed South Station for the waterfront, and exactly one minute later we pulled into Courthouse Station and two minutes after that into the World Trade Center Station. And that was it. By my estimation, the construction costs worked out to about $200 million per riding minute.

But there is good news to report. Disembarking at Courthouse Station, passengers are greeted by soaring walls of swirled silver tiles. Fashionably oversized canister lights hang overhead. The floor is so clean you could eat a picnic lunch off it, and even the circular silver trash containers fit seamlessly into the motif.

And this is just the platform. One level up, a soothing silver mezzanine with a ceiling bathed in soft purple light continues on for what must be at least a hundred yards, and probably twice that. The subtle hush was broken only by a worker in an orange vest pushing a vacuum cleaner across the floor.

There were actually mats at the bottom of the escalators, and riders were using them. This might well be the nicest indoor public space in Boston, and no one outside of a few hundred riders knows about it.

The World Trade Center Station is barely less impressive, with a ceiling that seems to rise to the stars, a funky modern art rendering of moving fish along its main wall, and design elements made to look like rolling waves.

The stations were so nice that they almost made you overlook their unfortunate locations. Courthouse Station is nowhere near the courthouse. You can see the building well enough from the station entrance, but the path from one to the other is blocked by a fence and a parking lot, meaning that passengers must walk far down the street and back again. It would be like placing Copley Square Station in Park Square.

And for reasons that don't make any obvious sense, the T situated its closest stop to the mammoth Boston Convention and Exhibition Center more than a couple of hundred yards from its front door, forcing conventioneers to walk several minutes through rain, snow, sleet, wind, heat, whatever, just to get to the hall.

So I boarded a bus bound for South Station with mixed emotions on the majesty and travesty of government. Maybe my expectations were too high. As one state official said at the grand opening in December, "It doesn't leak."

From The Boston Globe

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Silver Line's tarnished: Cars, snow blocks buses' lanes

By Casey Ross | Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The MBTA's Silver Line, heralded as a traffic-free ride for underserved Roxbury commuters, has become a dangerous obstacle course for mammoth buses constantly being forced into heavy traffic by illegally parked cars.

The 60-foot buses that run along the Washington Street route are being blocked from a dedicated travel lane meant to speed them past traffic. The problem became acute after a Jan. 23 blizzard, and has remained a stumbling block for the past several weeks, a Herald review found.

"This is not bus rapid transit," said Roxbury activist Bob Terrell, referring to the term T officials use to describe the Silver Line. "All they did was take a diesel bus, change the engine, paint it silver and run it down the street through traffic."

Terrell and other T critics said the troubles of the past three weeks are only slightly worse than the typical Silver Line ride from Dudley Square to Downtown Crossing. They said the route is poorly policed, constantly clogged and far slower than the train service they wanted.

"The MBTA has not done what it's supposed to do," said Jeremy Marin, a regional administrator for the Sierra Club and frequent Silver Line critic. "This is subpar service."

T officials who have been listening to similar criticism since the line debuted in 2002 said it is coming from a few individuals who do not represent a riding public that is using the linemore and more.

Rider Alan Foreman, 56, of the South End, who uses the line every day to commute to his job in Forest Hills, said he never knows what to expect when he goes to catch the bus.

"It's bad. Sometimes you have to wait 15 or 25 minutes, and then you'll see three buses go by at a time. And that's usually during the rush hours," Foreman said.

T officials said the line, which now serves more than 14,000 daily riders compared with 7,000 when it started, has experienced problems only because of snow.

"We had 2 feet of snow. It was the most significant snowstorm since the blizzard of '78," T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. "With each passing day, the situation gets better."

Even with the holiday and snowstorm yesterday, cars were still clogging parts of the dedicated bus lane on East Berkeley Street.

When the Silver Line was introduced, T officials promised to keep the dedicated lane clear with rigorous police patrols. But one bus driver on the route said he rarely sees officers issuing tickets.

"We try to get people to move and they just give us the finger," he said.

Pesaturo disputed that statement, saying patrols have remained consistent but have resulted in fewer tickets recently because officers were directed to offer leeway after the storm.

From Boston Herald

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Silver Line critics say T dishonest

March 10, 2005

A coalition of environmental groups accused the T yesterday of misleading the public on the costs and benefits of the Silver Line, and they called for the bus line to be replaced by trolleys.

T officials responded by calling the groups' latest salvo ''a gross distortion of the facts and an intellectually dishonest argument."

In a report, the groups say the MBTA could save $600 million by following the advice of its own studies and building the Silver Line as light rail instead of digging costly new bus tunnels.

Continue reading at: Boston.com

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I have been reading about the Silver Line, and I find that the branch from Dudley Square to Downtown Crossing is the wrong way to provide public transportation service to that area.

The need for service is dire, especially when the MBTA promised to supplant the coverage after the removal of the elevated Orange Line on Washington St.

I believe another Orange line branch should be created underground, which would feed into the Orange line at the NE Medical Center. Passengers needing to get to South Station can then connect to the Red line.

The creation of Phase III of an underground turnaround and tunnel to South Station of these same buses from Dudley Sq. is absurd. I can agree with the use of buses from South Station to Logan, but otherwise, light rail underground (in the "downtown" areas) is better. It provides dependable service that is aethetically pleasing at the street level.

Any thoughts, comments, opinions, would be appreciated.

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Critics pan T's plan for tunnel entrance in Elliot Norton Park

By Robin Washington/Roads Scholar

Monday, January 26, 2004

    T spokesman Joe Pesaturo disagreed, pointing to doubled ridership on the Silver Line and a promised one-seat ride from Dudley to Logan.

From The Boston Herald


Nothing against the residents of Roxbury, but who needs a one-seat ride from Dudley to Logan?

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I'd want a one-seat ride directly downtown if I lived in Roxbuy - to places like Government Center, Downtown Crossing and State St. I'm sure that's what a majority of Roxbury residents want - but the T doesn't care about what they want.

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As I said in another post....

The T needs to spend more money by developing another underground branch of the Orange line to replace the El they took down back in the 80s. The bus turnaround idea underneath downtown is ridiculous.

The Silver line BRT in Southie is fine...

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Why would you want it to?  You go to the airport, or you don't.


Because it would be a very easy connection for the MBTA to make and would be helpful for commuters traveling from East Boston or Revere to the South Boston Waterfront, and vice versa. It is also worth noting that when Phase III of the Silver Line is completed, it will join the Red Line as another rapid transit line that does not connect to the Blue Line.

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Because it would be a very easy connection for the MBTA to make and would be helpful for commuters traveling from East Boston or Revere to the South Boston Waterfront, and vice versa.  It is also worth noting that when Phase III of the Silver Line is completed, it will join the Red Line as another rapid transit line that does not connect to the Blue Line.


All that is true, unfortunately the T doesn't care.

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I just rode SL1 to the airport and back. Somewhere I heard that this is all being built with the potential for conversion to light rail. Maybe that is rumor. The waterfront tunnel has some significant inclines that I worry would make conventional rail impossible. Maybe someone who knows something about this will chime in.

If it could be converted to rail, could the rails be the kind that are embedded in the road for trolleys that run in mixed traffic, so that BRT vehicles could still use the tunnel along the SL1 route? I've heard (here, I believe) that it is somehow against federal highway guidelines to have rail on a highway like the Ted Williams Tunnel.

Could SL1 stop at the Blue Line Airport station (as I've suggested) and replace the Massport shuttle? There would have to be a clever policy for collecting--or not collecting--fares for traveling the former shuttle route. There would have to be a simple solution to make sure people don't end up at South Station when they merely wanted to hop from one terminal to another. My suggestion would be to have SL1 alternate between a -terminals A-E route- and an -E-A route-.

The bus is slow through the busway, and a max speed of 15 or 20 MPH, which you can see posted on signs. And the fully lit tunnel makes for an interesting riding experience as you can see ahead through the windshield.

The turn arounds between Silver Line Way and the TW tunnel seem quite inefficient. The traffic light light as you leave Silver Line Way outbound should give priority to the buses.

Of course I am excited about all the construction I see in the area served by the Silver Line. And the Manulife/John Hancock building looks great. It would have been convenient to have had the Silver Line in my past trips to the convention center and the Harborlights/BankBoston/FleetBoston/Bank of America Pavillion.

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