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Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

Boston Subway

Green (B · C · D · E)


The Red Line is an MBTA rapid transit line in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Its northwestern terminal is at Alewife near Fresh Pond Parkway and Route 2 in West Cambridge, from which it passes through downtown, with transfers to the Green Line at Park Street and the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing. South of downtown it splits into two branches; one branch runs to Braintree and the other to Ashmont, with the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line continuing to Mattapan.


The oldest right-of-way on the Red Line is south of South Boston, where the Ashmont Branch was built on the path of the former Shawmut Branch Railroad. That railroad was incorporated in 1870, taken over by the Old Colony Railroad, and opened in 1872 as an alternate route between the Old Colony's main line at Harrison Square and the Dorchester and Milton Branch Railroad, which branched from the Old Colony at Neponset and ran west to Mattapan.

The Red Line was the last of the four original subway lines to begin construction, with the Cambridge Tunnel opening from Eliot Yard and Harvard to Park Street on the Tremont Street Subway on March 23, 1912. At Harvard, a prepayment station was provided for easy transfer to streetcar routes operating in a separate tunnel (now the Harvard Bus Tunnel). The tunnel ran from Harvard under Massachusetts Avenue and Main Street to the Longfellow Bridge, where it ran along the middle of the bridge (opened in 1906). On the Boston side of the bridge, the line became elevated, rising to go over Charles Circle and into a tunnel through Beacon Hill to Park Street. Extensions (built as the Dorchester Tunnel) to Washington Street and South Station opened on April 4, 1915 and December 3, 1916, with transfers to the Washington Street Tunnel and Atlantic Avenue Elevated respectively. Further extensions opened to Broadway on December 15, 1917 and Andrew on June 29, 1918, both prepayment stations for streetcar transfer. The Broadway station included an upper level with its own tunnel for streetcars, which was abandoned in 1919 due to most lines being truncated to Andrew. The upper level has since been incorporated into the mezzanine.

Old Colony and later New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad passenger service operated on the Shawmut Branch until September 4, 1926. [1] The MTA bought the branch and opened the first phase of the Dorchester Extension to Fields Corner on November 5, 1927. This extension ran south from Andrew and turned southeast to surface and run along the west side of the Old Colony Railroad mainline in a depressed right-of-way. Surface stations were built at Columbia and Savin Hill, at the site of Old Colony stations. No station was built at the former junction of the Old Colony main line with the Shawmut Branch, where the Old Colony's Harrison Square station had been operated, because it was very close to Fields Corner.

The rest of the extension opened to Ashmont and Codman Yard on September 1, 1928, and included a station - Shawmut - where there had been no Old Colony station. The first phase of the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line opened on August 26, 1929, using the rest of the Shawmut Branch right-of-way, including the Cedar Grove station, and part of the old Dorchester and Milton Branch.

The color red was assigned on August 26, 1965 to what had been called the Cambridge-Dorchester Tunnel and marked on maps as route 1. The color was chosen because the line ended at Harvard University, whose school color is crimson, a shade of red.

The first section of the South Shore Line opened on September 1, 1971. This line branched from the original line at a flying junction north of Columbia and ran along the west side of the Old Colony right-of-way (since reduced to one track), crossing to the east side north of Savin Hill. Its northernmost station was North Quincy, with two others at Wollaston and Quincy Center. The rest of the line, the Braintree Extension (first planned by the BTPR) to Braintree, opened March 22, 1980, and the intermediate station at Quincy Adams opened on September 10, 1983.

The first part of the Northwest Extension, the relocation of Harvard station, was finished on September 6, 1983. During construction, several temporary stations were built at Harvard Square. The old Eliot Yard was demolished; Harvard's Kennedy School of Government now sits inside the retaining walls built for the railyard. Subsequent extensions to Davis on December 8, 1984 and Alewife on March 30, 1985 brought the Red Line to its current extent. There were possible plans to extend the Northwest Extension from Alewife to Lexington via an abandoned rail right-of-way, but these plans never materialized. A platform on the South Shore Line opened at JFK/UMass (formerly Columbia) on December 14, 1988.

Platforms on older stations were lengthened in the late 1980s to allow six-car trains, which first ran January 21, 1988. During the expansion, the MBTA invested in an Arts on the line public art program.

In 1968, letters were assigned to the south branches - "A" for Quincy (planned to extend to South Braintree) and "C" for Ashmont. "B" was probably reserved for a planned branch from Braintree to Brockton. As new rollsigns were made, this lettering was phased out. In 1994, new electronic signs included a different labeling - "A" for Ashmont, "B" for Braintree and "C" for Alewife. [1]


Most, but not all, Red Line stations are wheelchair accessible. See also MBTA accessibility.


The Red Line is standard gauge heavy rail. Trains consist of mated pairs of Electrical Multiple Unit cars powered from a 600 VDC third rail. Trains run either in 4-car or 6-car sets.

Two basic types of cars are in use today:

  • Three series of older aluminum-bodied cars built by Pullman-Standard and UTDC. The older two series of this batch, the 01500 and 01600 series, were built by Pullman in 1969-1970. The 1700 series was built by UTDC in 1988. These cars seat 62 to 64 customers and approximately 132 cars are in active service. All cars in these series are painted white with red trim and use manually-operated exterior signs.
All three groups of these older cars (units 1500 through 1757) use traditional DC traction motors with electromechanical controls manufactured by Westinghouse and can inter-operate among the three series. The 1500 and 1700 series cars could operate as singletons, but in practice, are always operated as mated pairs. The 1600 series could only operate as mated pairs. Similar cars are also in use on Metro-North in New York and Connecticut.
  • One series of newer stainless steel-bodied cars built by Bombardier from components manufactured in Canada and assembled in Barre, Vermont. These cars seat 50 passengers and 86 cars are in active service. An automatic voice synthesis system provides station announcements; the announcements are also displayed on LED signs in each car. Train operation is automated. These cars are stainless steel with red trim and use yellow LCD exterior signs.
Known as the 1800 series, they were built in 1993-1994. These newer cars (units 1800 through 1885) use modern AC traction motors with solid state controls manufactured by General Electric], can only operate as mated pairs, and can not interoperate with the older three series of cars.

Rolling stock is stored and maintained at the Cabot Yard, near the Broadway station in South Boston. The connection to this yard is at the junction where the two branches split, near JFK/UMass station.

Replacement cars Edit

A 2015 render of the new rolling stock, with the livery chosen by a public poll

In October 2013, MassDOT announced plans for a $1.3 billion subway car order for the Orange and Red Lines, which would provide 74 new cars to replace the 1500/1600-series cars, with an option to increase the number to 132 to replace the 1700-series cars and for more frequent rush hour service.

On October 22, 2014, the MassDOT Board awarded a $567 million contract to build 132 replacement railcars for the Red Line, as well as additional cars for the Orange Line to a China based manufacturer CNR (which became part of CRRC the following year). CRRC will build the Type A cars at a new manufacturing plant in Springfield, Massachusetts at the site of the former New England Westinghouse Company, with initial deliveries of Red Line cars expected in 2019 (Orange Line deliveries will begin a year earlier) and all cars in service by 2023. In conjunction with the new rolling stock, the remainder of the $1.3 billion allocated for the project will pay for testing, signal improvements and expanded maintenance facilities, as well as other related expenses. The new cars will hold 15 additional passengers, will have four wheelchair parking areas per car, and will be equipped with on-board video surveillance. The cars will have wider doors to allow faster boarding at busy stations, and can allow wheelchair access even if one of a pair of door panels fails to open.

In December 2016, the MBTA opted to purchase additional identical cars from CRRC, allowing replacement rather than costly refurbishment of the 01800 series cars. The order is for 120 cars costing $277 million, with an option for 14 additional cars. Combined, the 2014 and 2016 orders will provide a single common fleet for the entire Red Line by 2023, with enough cars to eventually run 3-minute headways at peak.

Culture and triviaEdit

  • In 1944, Tom Lehrer wrote a song called Boston, (a parody of the song Mother) whose lyrics list stops on the Red Line and an appropriate Boston Accent when necessary:

H is for my alma mater, Hahvahd.
C is Central, next stop on the line.
K is for the cozy Kendall station, and
C is Charles, which overlooks the brine.
P is "Pahk" Street, busy Boston center, and
W is Washington, you see.
Put them all together, they spell…HCKC-PW…which is just about what Boston means to me!

  • The tunnels of the Red Line have a cameo in the 1936 H. P. Lovecraft novella "At the Mountains of Madness," in which a character rattles off the stops from South Station to Harvard to calm himself as a nameless horror chases him through a cave in Antarctica. "South Station Under - Washington Under - Park Street Under-Kendall - Central - Harvard - " Park Street also shows up in his 1927 story "Pickman's Model."
  • At the Harvard station (and nowhere else on the main branch of the Red Line), the electronic announcer on the newer (Bombardier-built) trains makes a special announcement: "No smoking, please!" This announcement can be heard on other stations south of JFK/UMass. This announcement can also be heard at some stations on the Green Line, immediately following the announcement of a station.
  • Newer aboveground stations (particularly Alewife, Braintree, and Quincy Adams) are excellent examples of brutalist architecture.
  • The Kendall station features an interactive public art installation by Paul Matisse called the Kendall Band, which allows the public to activate three sound-producing machines utilizing cranks on the wall of the station.
  • In between South Station and Broadway, there is an advertisement in the form of a zoetrope. The speed of the train along with strategically timed strobe lights make the individual frames look animated. A similar advertisement for Carnival was placed for inbound trains between Harvard and Central square in Summer 2004, but has since been removed. Previously, it was an advertisement for Target. There are similar adverts in parts of the New York City Subway and Washington Metro.
  • In the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, there are several scenes filmed on the Red Line, including across Longfellow Bridge.

Station listingEdit

Main lineEdit

Station Location Time to Park Street Opened Transfers and notes
Alewife Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge 20 minutes March 30, 1985 bus terminal, park and ride garage, Minuteman Bikeway
Davis Davis Square, Somerville December 8, 1984 Somerville Community Path
Wheelchair Porter Porter Square, Cambridge December 8, 1984 MBTA Commuter Rail Fitchburg Line
Stadium Harvard Square, Cambridge October 26, 1912 Across Charles River from Harvard Stadium. Only used during Harvard football games, last known use November 18, 1967
Harvard/Brattle Harvard Square, Cambridge March 24, 1979 Closed September 1, 1983, supplemented Harvard during construction of the Alewife extension
Harvard Harvard Square, Cambridge 11 minutes
(sign said 8)
September 6, 1983 Original station opened March 23, 1912 and closed January 30, 1981, Harvard/Holyoke opened January 31, 1981 and closed September 1, 1983
Central Central Square, Cambridge (sign said 5) March 23, 1912
Kendall/MIT Kendall Square, Cambridge 4 minutes
(sign said 3)
March 23, 1912 originally Kendall until August 6, 1978, named Cambridge Center/MIT between December 2, 1982 and June 25, 1985
Charles/MGH Cambridge and Charles Streets, Boston February 27, 1932 originally Charles until December 1973
Park Street Park, Tremont, and Winter Streets, Boston 0 minutes March 23, 1912 Green Line
originally Park Street Under
Downtown Crossing Summer, Washington, and Winter Streets, Boston April 4, 1915 Orange Line and Silver Line Phase I
originally Washington until May 3, 1987
South Station Dewey Square, Boston 3 minutes December 3, 1916 Silver Line Phase II and MBTA Commuter Rail south side lines
Had a transfer to the Atlantic Avenue Elevated
Wheelchair Broadway Broadway and Dorchester Avenue, South Boston December 15, 1917
Wheelchair Andrew Andrew Square, South Boston June 29, 1918
North of JFK/UMass, the Red Line surfaces and separates into two branches which operate on separate platforms at JFK/UMass. Just south of the station, the two branches divide as described below.
JFK/UMass Columbia Road and Morrissey Boulevard, Dorchester 10 minutes November 5, 1927 MBTA Commuter Rail Plymouth/Kingston Line and Middleborough/Lakeville Line
originally Columbia until December 1, 1982, Braintree branch platform opened December 14, 1988
was called Crescent Avenue as an Old Colony Railroad station

Ashmont BranchEdit

Diverging from JFK/UMass:

Station Location Time to Park Street Opened Transfers and notes
Savin Hill Savin Hill Avenue and Sidney Street November 5, 1927 was an Old Colony Railroad station
Harrison Square former split and transfer station between the Old Colony Railroad mainline and the Shawmut Branch Railroad, never a rapid transit station
Fields Corner Charles Street and Dorchester Avenue 15 minutes November 5, 1927 was a Shawmut Branch Railroad station
Shawmut Dayton Street September 1, 1928
Wheelchair Ashmont Ashmont Street and Dorchester Avenue 19 minutes September 1, 1928 Continuing service to Mattapan via the 10-minute Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line (opened December 21, 1929)
was a Shawmut Branch Railroad station
Cedar Grove station on the Shawmut Branch Railroad is now a station on the Mattapan Line, after which the line merges with the former Dorchester and Milton Branch Railroad right-of-way

Braintree Branch (originally South Shore Line)Edit

Diverging from JFK/UMass:

Station Location Time to Park Street Opened Transfers and notes
North Quincy East Squantum and Hancock Streets, Quincy 19 minutes September 1, 1971
Wollaston Newport Avenue and Beale Street, Quincy September 1, 1971
Quincy Center Hancock and Washington Streets, Quincy 24 minutes September 1, 1971 MBTA Commuter Rail Plymouth/Kingston Line and Middleborough/Lakeville Line
Quincy Adams Burgin Parkway and Centre Street, Quincy September 10, 1983 Park and ride
Braintree Ivory and Union Streets, Braintree 30 minutes March 22, 1980 MBTA Commuter Rail Plymouth/Kingston Line and Middleborough/Lakeville Line Park and ride
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
 v  d  e 
Currently operating heavy rail rapid transit systems in the United States
Atlanta · Baltimore · Boston · Chicago · Cleveland · Honolulu · Los Angeles · Miami · New York City/Staten Island/PATH · Philadelphia/PATCO · San Francisco Bay · San Juan · Washington

External linksEdit


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