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Boston Subway

Green (B · C · D · E)


The "E" Branch or Arborway Branch is a streetcar line in the Boston, Massachusetts area, operating as a branch of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Green Line. Since 1985, service beyond Heath Street has been "temporarily" suspended, with the 39 bus providing service beyond. The part leading from Brigham Circle to Heath Street is the only remaining section of street-running tracks in regular use by the MBTA; all other lines are on private right-of-way or in medians. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has entered into various binding agreements over the years to restore the part of the line between Heath Street and Arborway, but as of June 2006, still has not done so. Many residents are actively pursuing this segment's return.

North of the street-running section, the tracks run in the median of Huntington Avenue before running into the Huntington Avenue Subway via the Northeastern Incline. Just west of Copley, an at-grade junction connects the line into the other Green Line branches in the Boylston Street Subway, where they all run together to downtown. Regular "E" service turns around at Lechmere as of November 2005.

In 2000, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation and Construction (EOTC) entered into an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) agreeing to additional legal commitments as environmental mitigation for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T) and clarifiying deadlines for the existing ones. It was at this time that restoration of streetcar service beyond Heath Street to Arborway was agreed to. Restoration was also included in the State Implementation Plan for the Clean Air Act (SIP). [1] [2]

The 39 Forest Hills Sta. - Back Bay Sta. via Huntington Ave. bus provides all service beyond Heath Street, with free transfers to all branches of the Green Line at Copley and the Orange Line at Back Bay. MBTA bus fares are charged ($1.25 as of 2007, with an extra 25 cents for CharlieTicket users) as opposed to subway fares ($1.70 for boarding with CharlieCard and $2.00 with CharlieTicket).


The first street railway line to serve the area of the "E" Branch was built by the West Roxbury Railroad and immediately leased by the Metropolitan Railroad in 1857. The horse car line ran along Tremont Street from downtown, then continued south on Columbus Avenue, Centre Street and South Street to end at the Jamaica Plain Carhouse at Jamaica Street in Jamaica Plain. Paralleling this to the east was a Metropolitan Railroad line along Washington Street from Dudley out to Forest Hills.

Those tracks were electrified in 1891, and in 1902 they were extended the last bit to the Arborway Carhouse, connecting the line to the tracks along Washington Street and establishing Arborway as a transfer point. In 1903 Arborway trains began running into the subway.

Tracks that later became part of the "E" Branch were built in 1859 along Huntington Avenue from Brigham Circle west into Brookline, as part of a branch from the original Jamaica Plain route, later used by the 66 route. A new cutoff was built from this route via Huntington Avenue ca. 1883, allowing cars to run to Park Square via existing tracks on Boylston Street. In 1906 the connection along South Huntington Avenue was built to connect this newer route on Huntington to the older route on Centre. Additionally, between 1888 and 1897, the "Dudley Street Crossover" was built along Centre Street (moved to Roxbury Street by 1925) to connect the line to an existing loop west from Dudley to Eliot Square. This allowed Jamaica Plain cars to run to Dudley and towards downtown from there.

The Huntington Avenue line was electrified in 1894. The Boylston Street Incline to the Tremont Street Subway opened on September 1, 1897 as part of the first section of subway, and Huntington Avenue cars were rerouted into it (though those cars didn't use the Jamaica Plain line until 1903 - see above). Tremont Street cars were likely moved to the subway on October 1, 1897, when the next section of subway to the Pleasant Street Incline opened, though from June 10, 1901 to November 29, 1908 that portal was closed to all but Washington Street Elevated trains.

The Washington Street Elevated opened June 10, 1901 to Dudley, and many streetcar routes that had operated via Dudley were truncated there with a transfer to the El. This included the Jamaica Plain route via Dudley. The extension of the Elevated to Forest Hills (adjacent to Arborway) on November 22, 1909 provided a faster route downtown from Arborway (above the Washington Street streetcar lines), but the Jamaica Plain cars used a completely different route to get there.

The tracks on Huntington Avenue from Brookline to South Huntington Avenue were last used on September 9, 1938 by cars from Brookline Village into the subway, as well as what became the 66 Allston - Dudley bus (this was also the last use of the tracks on Tremont Street west of Columbus Avenue). The cars from Brookline Village had been truncated from earlier lines running further into Brookline (later the 58 and 60 buses), and on September 10 they started running as short-turn trips on Huntington Avenue to Brigham Circle.

The Huntington Avenue Subway opened on February 16, 1941, taking Huntington Avenue cars (the last to use the Boylston Street Portal) underground for a larger part of their route.

The final pattern of streetcars serving the line was:

  • 39 from Arborway into the subway via Huntington Avenue, with short-turn cars to Northeastern University and Brigham Circle
  • 41 from the Jamaica Plain Carhouse to Dudley via Columbus Avenue
  • 57 from a short-turn loop at Heath Street into the subway via Huntington Avenue

Service straight through to downtown on Columbus Avenue and Tremont Street was only provided by 43 cars, which began at Egleston and continued into the subway at the Pleasant Street Incline, using the same tracks as the 41 for a section.

The 41 last ran streetcars on June 7, 1949, and the 43 cars last ran to Egleston June 14, 1956, leaving only the 39 and 57. In 1967 these lines were redesignated as the "E" Branch of the Green Line, with short-turn Heath Street service on rollsigns with a slash through the E.

Over the years, due to shortages in cars (especially caused by the opening and popularity of the "D" Branch), sections of the line were replaced by bus service; the bus was always referred to as the 39 and ran to Copley with free transfers. The final day of streetcars to Arborway was December 27, 1985. In December 1989 the 39 was extended to Back Bay (with free transfers to the Orange Line), the southern end was renamed Forest Hills, and the fare structure was changed from Green Line fares to normal bus fares.

The following changes have been made to the eastern terminal and short-turn western terminals since 1961:

  • Before September 11, 1961: Arborway cars and short-turn Northeastern University cars ran to Park Street, short-turn Heath Street cars ran to North Station
  • September 11, 1961: Heath Street short-turn cars discontinued, with all cars looping at Park Street
  • December 26, 1964: Heath Street short-turn cars readded weekdays and Saturdays from 06:30 to 09:00 and 13:30 to 17:30, turning at Government Center
  • January 1965: Heath Street short-turn cars cut back to Park Street
  • March 25, 1967: Heath Street short-turn cars extended to Government Center
  • June 24, 1967: Heath Street short-turn Saturday cars discontinued
  • March 19, 1977: Heath Street short-turn cars extended to North Station
  • June 18, 1977: Heath Street short-turn cars cut back to Government Center
  • June 26, 1982: after closures for rebuilding, full service reopens, with Arborway and Heath Street (rush hours only) cars running to Park Street, and no more Northeastern University short-turn cars
  • January 2, 1983: Heath Street short-turn service extended to middays and extended to Lechmere
  • February 11, 1983: Heath Street short-turn cars cut back to Park Street
  • December 28, 1985: Arborway cars "temporarily" replaced by 39 bus, and short-turn cars also replaced for track reconstruction. As of early 2007, streetcar service has yet to be restored.
  • July 26, 1986: service restored to Brigham Circle, running to Lechmere weekdays and Government Center nights and weekends
  • June 20, 1987: extended to Lechmere all times
  • November 4, 1989: service restored to Heath Street with completion of reconstruction
  • June 28, 2004: cut back to new North Station station during construction of new tunnel towards Lechmere; went only to Haymarket on June 26 and June 27
  • November 12, 2005: extended to Lechmere all times
  • September 2, 2006: cut back to Brigham Circle due to a track improvement project for portion of the line beyond Brigham Circle towards Heath Street
  • December 30, 2006: service restored to Heath Street with completion of reconstruction
  • 2008: Tracks from Heath Street to Arborway now fully paved over
  • July 1, 2012: Weekend service cut back from Heath Street to Brigham Circle
  • October 2012: Weekend service restored to Heath Street
  • May 24, 2020: cut back to North Station due to Green Line Extension, and the Lechmere Viaduct renovation

Station listing[]

Station Location Time to Park Street Opened Transfers and notes
Handicapped/disabled access Prudential Huntington Avenue, Back Bay, Boston, serving the Prudential Center 6 minutes February 16, 1941 formerly Mechanics until December 2, 1964
underground station
Symphony Massachusetts and Huntington Avenues, Boston, serving Symphony Hall 8 minutes February 16, 1941 underground station
Handicapped/disabled access Northeastern University Huntington Avenue and Opera Place, Boston, serving Northeastern University 10 minutes originally Opera Place
Handicapped/disabled access Museum of Fine Arts Huntington Avenue and Ruggles Street, Boston, serving the Museum of Fine Arts and Wentworth Institute
Handicapped/disabled access Longwood Medical Area Huntington and Longwood Avenues, Boston
Handicapped/disabled access Brigham Circle Huntington Avenue and Francis Street, Boston 16 minutes private right-of-way ends and street running begins south of here
Fenwood Street Huntington Avenue and Fenwood Street, Boston
Mission Park Huntington Avenue and Mission Park, Boston
Riverway South Huntington and Huntington Avenues, Boston
Back of the Hill South Huntington Avenue, Boston
Handicapped/disabled access Heath Street Heath Street, Boston 22 minutes sometimes called Heath Street/VA Medical Center
VA Medical Center closed, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station (VA Hospital)
Evergreen Street north of Evergreen Street closed, #39 bus stops here
Bynner Street at Evergreen Street closed, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station
Perkins Street closed, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station
Moraine Street closed, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station (Moraine Street/Boylston Street)
Kingsboro Park never a streetcar stop, #39 bus stops here (northbound only)
Robinwood Avenue closed, #39 bus stops here
Beaufort Road never a streetcar stop, planned for a new station
Lakeville Road closed, #39 bus stops here
Pond Street closed, #39 bus stops here (southbound only)
Jamaica Plain Center at Myrtle Street/Green Street never a streetcar stop, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station (outbound)
Seaverns Avenue closed, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station (inbound, to be called Jamaica Plain Center)
Monument closed, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station
Carolina Avenue closed, #39 bus stops here
Child Street closed, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station
St. Rose Street closed, #39 bus stops here
St. Mark Street never a streetcar stop, #39 bus stops here
Forest Hills closed, formerly Arborway, #39 bus stops here, planned for a new station
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (official site)
Red Line AlewifeAshmont / Braintree ––– Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line: AshmontMattapan
Green Line LechmereBoston College ("B") / Cleveland Circle ("C") / Riverside ("D") / Heath Street ("E") ––– Arborway ("A")
Orange Line Oak GroveForest Hills ––– Charlestown ElevatedAtlantic Avenue ElevatedWashington Street Elevated
Blue Line WonderlandBowdoin
Silver Line Dudley SquareDowntown Crossing; South Station – various points
Buses List - Crosstown Buses - Former Streetcars - Trackless Trolleys - Key Routes - East Boston Area - South Boston - Urban Ring
Commuter Rail GreenbushPlymouth/KingstonMiddleborough/LakevilleNew Bedford/Fall RiverFairmountProvidence/StoughtonFranklinNeedhamFramingham/WorcesterFitchburgLowellHaverhill/ReadingNewburyport/Rockport - North-South Rail Link
Miscellaneous AccessibilityBoat serviceCharlieCardNomenclature
Predecessors Boston Elevated RailwayEastern Massachusetts Street RailwayMiddlesex and Boston Street Railway

External links[]