Bowdoin (MBTA station)

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Terminating train at Bowdoin station.JPG
Wedge-shaped island platform at Bowdoin station
Location Cambridge Street at New Chardon and Bowdoin Streets
Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°21′41″N 71°03′44″W / 42.3614°N 71.0622°W / 42.3614; -71.0622Coordinates: 42°21′41″N 71°03′44″W / 42.3614°N 71.0622°W / 42.3614; -71.0622
Owned by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Platforms 1 wedge-shaped island platform
Tracks 2
Connections Bus transport MVRTA: Boston Commuter
Opened March 18, 1916[1]
Closed January 3, 1981 - January 11, 1982
March 3, 1982 - April 20, 1982[1]
Passengers (2013) 1,526 (weekday average boardings)[2]
Preceding station   MBTA.svg MBTA   Following station
Terminus Blue Line
toward Wonderland

Bowdoin (/ˈbdn/) is a rapid transit station on the MBTA Blue Line, located in Bowdoin Square in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. It is the downtown terminus of the line (though Government Center served this role during nights and weekends from 1982 to 2014).

Bowdoin station is not handicapped accessible due to the tight dimensions of the 1916-built station. Bowdoin and Wollaston are the only heavy rail MBTA stations that are not accessible.[2]


Bowdoin station in January 1916, shortly before opening

The East Boston Tunnel was opened to streetcar service as far as Court Street on December 30, 1904.[1] Court Street proved to be a problematic terminus; its single-track design limited frequent service, and also resulted in crashes. The Boston Elevated Railway (BERy) began an extension towards Beacon Hill in 1912.[3]:39 The extension opened to Bowdoin with an intermediate stop at Scollay Under on March 18, 1916.[1]

Bowdoin was built with an unusual wedge-shaped island platform inside a balloon loop, which eliminated the awkward end-changing required at Court Street[4]:30 and allowed use of unpowered trailer cars in the tunnel to increase capacity.[5] A pair of tracks continued past the loop, out the Joy Street Portal, and down Cambridge Street, allowing for one route to provide through streetcar service from East Boston to Cambridge rather than looping at Bowdoin.[5]

Bowdoin station headhouse in November 2015

Over the weekend of April 18 to 21, 1924, the East Boston Tunnel was converted from streetcar use to high-floor rapid transit operation.[1][4]:30 Rather than modify the tunnel, the BERy elected to build smaller-than-usual rapid transit cars which could operate in a tunnel designed for streetcars—particularly around the tight loop at Bowdoin.[4]:32 Blue Line cars are thus 48.5 feet (14.8 m) long, substantially shorter than the 65-foot (20 m) Orange Line cars and the 69.5-foot (21.2 m) Red Line cars.[6] Bowdoin is the only remaining loop in regular service on the MBTA's heavy rail lines, though Red Line trains can loop around Codman Yard past Ashmont station if necessary.

Because the line did not have a dedicated maintenance facility, trains used the Joy Street Portal to reach surface tracks on the Longfellow Bridge, which connected to the Cambridge Tunnel and the Eliot Shops near Harvard Square.[4]:32 When the first phase of the Revere Extension opened to Orient Heights with a new facility in 1952, the connection was no longer necessary and the portal was filled.[4]:52 The tail tracks past the Bowdoin loop are still used for train storage during the winter, however.

The station was modernized in 1968 as part of a $9 million systemwide station improvement program.[7] The original headhouse was replaced with a glassy entrance under a tilted concrete slab, set into a shallow depression to reduce the costs of installing the escalator. The new headhouse was designed by Josep Lluís Sert as part of a project for a never-built Catholic chapel nearby.[8]

Eastbound platform at Bowdoin in November 2015

In the early 1980s, the MBTA suffered from a serious budget crisis, which resulted in service cuts. MBTA Commuter Rail service to Providence and Concord and on the Woburn Branch were cut entirely, five underused commuter rail stations were closed, Boylston and Essex were closed for short periods, and the outer ends of the Orange and Blue lines were bustituted on Sundays.[1] Bowdoin, with low ridership and in close proximity to Government Center, was closed on January 3, 1981.[1] It reopened on January 11, 1982, but only on weekdays until 6:30 pm - intended to serve workers in nearby office and government buildings. Bowdoin was briefly closed again from March 3 to April 20, 1982, and reopened again with limited hours, with Government Center serving as the terminus on nights and weekends (though trains continued to loop at Bowdoin).[1]

In 2008, the MBTA started running a mixture of 4-car and 6-car trains on the Blue Line, adding more long trains as new cars arrived from the manufacturer. Incoming 6-car trains can fit on the westbound platform where trains go out of service, but only 4-car trains can fit on the eastbound side where trains come into service after turning around. At Bowdoin only, passengers must press a "door open" button mounted on the train exterior to board a 6-car train.

Bowdoin station is currently open for all hours of service, including on weekends, from December 28, 2013 onwards during the closure of the Callahan Tunnel and Government Center Station.[9][10] In February 2016, the MBTA announced that Bowdoin would remain open at all times even after Government Center reopened on March 21.[11]

Station layout[edit]

G Street Level Exit/Entrance
M Mezzanine Fare control and lobby
Platform level
Southbound Blue Line termination platform (fits 6 cars)
Wedged island platform, doors will open on the left
Northbound Blue Line toward Wonderland (Government Center, fits 4 cars)

Bus connections[edit]

Bowdoin has no regular MBTA Bus connections. Both MVRTA Boston Commuter routes (Methuen-Lawrence-Andover-Boston and North Andover-Boston) stop on Cambridge Street across from the station.[12][13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Belcher, Jonathan (26 December 2015). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district 1964-2015" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014. 
  3. ^ Clarke, Bradley H.; Cummings, O.R. (1997). Tremont Street Subway: A Century of Public Service. Boston Street Railway Association. ISBN 0938315048. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Cudahy, Brian J. (1972). Change at Park Street Under; the story of Boston's subways. Brattleboro, Vt.: S. Greene Press. ISBN 978-0-8289-0173-4. 
  5. ^ a b "Boston Profits By Elevated Railway Station Improvements". Electric Railway Journal. McGraw-Hill. 48 (7): 258–263. 12 August 1916 – via Internet Archive. 
  6. ^ "The MBTA Vehicle Inventory Page". NETransit. 12 February 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  7. ^ Fourth Annual Report (Covering the period October 1, 1967 - October 31, 1968) of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 1968. p. 23 – via Internet Archive. 
  8. ^ Yudis, Anthony (December 4, 1966). "'Sunken' Subway Kiosk Proposed". Boston Globe. p. 40 – via Proquest Historical Newspapers. (subscription required (help)). 
  9. ^ "Callahan Tunnel closes Friday night at 11pm". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 23 December 2013. Archived from the original on 29 December 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  10. ^ MBTA > Riding the T
  11. ^ Vaccaro, Adam (10 February 2016). "Bowdoin T station will remain open nights, weekends when Government Center reopens". Boston Globe. Retrieved 25 February 2016. 
  12. ^ "Boston Commuter Service". Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  13. ^ "Bowdoin Station Neighborhood" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. June 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 

External links[edit]