Alewife station

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Alewife Platforms Viewed West Mezzanine 02.jpg
The red neon artwork The End of the Red Line can be seen suspended above the train (November 2019).
Location11 Cambridgepark West
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°23′47″N 71°08′31″W / 42.3964°N 71.142°W / 42.3964; -71.142Coordinates: 42°23′47″N 71°08′31″W / 42.3964°N 71.142°W / 42.3964; -71.142
Owned byMassachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Line(s)Red Line Northwest Extension
Platforms1 island platform
ConnectionsBus transport MBTA Bus: 62, 67, 76, 79, 83, 84, 350, 351
Parking2,733 spaces in garage
Bicycle facilities~500 spaces in three secured cages
Disabled accessYes
OpenedMarch 30, 1985[1]
Passengers (2013)11,221 (weekday average boardings)[2]
Preceding station MBTA.svg MBTA Following station
Terminus Red Line Davis
toward Ashmont or Braintree

Alewife is an intermodal transit station in Cambridge, Massachusetts that is the northern terminus of the MBTA's Red Line subway system. It is also a hub for several MBTA Bus lines. Alewife station is located in the North Cambridge neighborhood, adjacent to the highway interchange between Alewife Brook Parkway and the Massachusetts Route 2 freeway, with ramps providing direct access to and from the expressway portion of Route 2. Its facilities include a multi-level parking garage with 2,733 spaces, three secured bicycle cages, a busway with an enclosed waiting room for bus passengers, and connections to the Minuteman Bikeway, Cambridge Linear Park, and the Fitchburg Cutoff Path.

Alewife opened on March 30, 1985. Originally only to be a temporary terminus during construction of the Arlington section of the Red Line, Alewife became the permanent terminus when further extension was canceled.[1] The station is named after Alewife Brook (a nearby tributary of the Mystic River) which in turn is named after the alewife fish which inhabits the Mystic River system. The station features six pieces of public art which were built as part of the first stage of the Arts on the Line program.


The parking garage and glass entrance of Alewife station
Hatches to the Red Line tunnel underneath the beginning of the Minuteman Bikeway. Placed when the Red Line was to be extended from Alewife to Lexington, these tracks are now used for train storage

Boston transportation planners expected to build an Inner Belt Expressway within the Route 128 corridor in the 1960s.[3] Massachusetts Route 2 was expanded to eight lanes to carry large volumes of radial traffic, east from Alewife Brook Parkway, through Cambridge and Somerville to the Inner Belt at the border of eastern Somerville and eastern Cambridge. When the Inner Belt was canceled, Route 2 became a high-capacity highway which terminated at what was little more than major city streets.[4] When the westward extension of the Red Line was being designed, building a transit station near the end of Route 2 with a large parking garage seemed like a way to capitalize on the original highway investment.

The station was designed by Ellenzweig Associates.[5] After Davis and Porter, Alewife was among the first MBTA stations made accessible during initial construction, rather than by renovation.[6][7]

Until the late 1960s, there was little near the site of the Alewife station besides a largely abandoned industrial park, a chemical factory, and protected wetlands. Following principles that later came to be known as transit-oriented development, the City of Cambridge zoned the area immediately near the station for high-rise buildings, leading to the construction of the three massive Rindge Towers rental apartments in 1971. Over the next several decades, a mini-city developed with office and research and development buildings in addition to the high-rise housing.

A state law required planning the Red Line Extension so it could later be brought out to Route 128 to Lexington, via Arlington, along the route of the former Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad. The Red Line tracks extend past the station, under Route 2, and terminate in a small underground storage yard. Alewife Station was designed with a future extension of the Red Line to points northwest in mind, possibly using the MBTA's Lexington Branch right-of-way.

When the adjacent chemical plant eventually closed and was replaced by an office and hotel development, the rail spur to the plant (along a short remaining portion of the Fitchburg Cutoff) was no longer needed, and its underpass was converted to a vehicular access ramp from the station to Route 2.[citation needed] This design was criticized by local residents, since it forced many pedestrians to cross the fast-moving roadways on foot.[8]

The parking garage was used heavily and filled to capacity well before the peak of morning rush hour, causing requests that it be expanded. In April 2008, the MBTA said that they did not have funds to add two levels to the parking garage, which would cost $30-35 million and add about 1300 spaces. The structure was originally designed to support two more levels, but whether the condition of the supports and building codes would still allow this expansion was not clear.[9] In August 2018, the MBTA awarded a $5.7 million contract for garage repairs, which were needed even in the absence of funding for expansion. Work began in September 2018, and the main garage entrances were temporarily closed on October 19, 2019. Work was accelerated in March 2020 when ridership dropped during the coronavirus pandemic.[10] Phased replacement of the garage elevators and the west platform elevator began in mid-2018, with completion planned for mid-2020.[11]

Bus connections[edit]

A route 350 bus boarding at Alewife in 2017

Seven MBTA Bus routes terminate at the busway inside the Alewife garage:

Route 83 terminates nearby at Russell Field because is not possible to turn left from Alewife Brook Parkway onto Rindge Avenue, preventing the bus from serving Alewife directly. The bus stop is connected to Alewife by a short spur of the Cambridge Linear Park.

Alewife station is also served by several private-carrier routes:

  • The Route 128 Business Council provides daily shuttle bus services from Alewife to many companies along the Route 2 and Route 128 corridor. Five routes are open to all riders: A (Alewife Station - Wyman Street), B (Alewife Station - Prospect Hill/City Point), C (Alewife Station - Winter Street), D (Alewife Station - Winter Street), and The REV (Hartwell Area Shuttle). Two private routes to Windsor Village and Vox on Two are also run.[12]
  • Go Bus (formerly World Wide Bus) provides intercity motorcoach bus service between Alewife, Riverside, and New York City. The service began in October 2010.[13]

Station layout[edit]

Red Line trains on the platform at Alewife

There is one island platform serving two tracks. The tracks extend past the station, to store trains temporarily taken out of service.

G Street Level Exits/entrances, buses, parking
M Mezzanine Fare control
Platform level
Southbound      Red Line toward Ashmont or Braintree (Davis)
     Red Line termination track
Island platform
Southbound      Red Line toward Ashmont or Braintree (Davis)
     Red Line termination track

Bicycle facilities[edit]

Secured bike cage at Alewife, opened in 2008

On September 18, 2008, two 150-bike parking cages opened at the Alewife station.[14] Previously, access to these cages required a free special Bike CharlieCard. Beginning in 2013, the MBTA allowed any CharlieCard to be registered for bike cage access. The cages are covered, enclosed with security fences, and watched by security cameras.[15] There is additional bike parking outside the cages.

Arts on the Line[edit]

Otherwise drab "kiss and ride" passenger pick-up area enhanced with William Keyser's sculpted benches.

As a part of the Red Line Northwest Extension, Alewife was included as one of the stations involved in the Arts on the Line program. This new program provided funding to bring art into the MBTA's subway stations in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was the first program of its kind in the United States, and became the model for similar movements to support public art across the country.[16]:5

Six of the original twenty artworks are located at Alewife station.[17] These works are:


  1. ^ a b Belcher, Jonathan. "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit.
  2. ^ "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
  3. ^ Joint Board for the Metropolitan Master Highway Plan (1 February 1948). The Master Highway Plan for the Boston Metropolitan Area.
  4. ^ Weingroff, Richard F. (July–August 2013). "Busting the Trust". Public Roads. Federal Highway Administration. 77 (1). Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  5. ^ Shand-Tucci, Douglass (1999). Built in Boston: City and Suburb, 1800-2000. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 319. ISBN 9781558492011 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Operations Directorate Planning Division (November 1990). "Ridership and Service Statistics" (3 ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. p. 1-4 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ Tran Systems and Planners Collaborative (August 24, 2007). "Evaluation of MBTA Paratransit and Accessible Fixed Route Transit Services: Final Report" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  8. ^ Flint, Anthony (February 23, 2003). "Giving density a bad name". Boston Globe – via open access
  9. ^ Long, Tom (April 13, 2008). "'T' says it hasn't the funds to expand Alewife garage". The Boston Globe.
  10. ^ "Alewife Garage Repairs". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  11. ^ Brelsford, Laura (November 26, 2019). "SWA Initiatives—November 2019" (PDF). p. 10-12.
  12. ^ "Shuttle Schedules". Route 128 Business Council. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  13. ^ Thomas, Sarah (2010-10-19). "NYC-bound buses will roll from Newton, Cambridge". Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  14. ^ "MBTA Unveils Bike Cages At Alewife Station" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. September 18, 2008.
  15. ^ "Bikes on the T". MBTA. 19 January 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  16. ^ Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (3 May 1985). Red Line Northwest Extension. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  17. ^ Arts on the Line:Alewife Station Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine. Cambridge Arts Council. 2002. Accessed May 30, 2010

External links[edit]