Boylston (MBTA station)

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Boylston outbound.JPG
Boylston's outbound Green Line platform, 2011
Location Boylston and Tremont Streets, Downtown Boston
Coordinates 42°21′09″N 71°03′53″W / 42.35250°N 71.06472°W / 42.35250; -71.06472 (Boylston MBTA Station)Coordinates: 42°21′09″N 71°03′53″W / 42.35250°N 71.06472°W / 42.35250; -71.06472 (Boylston MBTA Station)
Owned by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
  Green Line all branches
Platforms 2 island platforms (used as side platforms)
Tracks 4 (2 used)
Opened September 3, 1897 (Green Line)
July 30, 2002 (Silver Line)
Passengers (2013) 6,826(weekday average boardings)[1]
Preceding station   MBTA.svg MBTA   Following station
Green Line
toward Riverside
Green Line
Green Line
toward Heath Street
Green Line
toward Lechmere
Silver Line
One-way operation
For the Orange Line station formerly called Boylston, see Chinatown (MBTA station).

Boylston is one of the two oldest stations on the Green Line light rail service of the MBTA rapid transport network, and is located on the southeast corner of Boston Common at the intersection of Boylston and Tremont Streets. After more than a century of continuous operation (since 1897), Boylston station retains an appearance more like its original look than any other station in the MBTA system.


Boylston headhouses in Arthur C. Goodwin's Tremont and Boylston Streets, Boston (1915)
Until 2006, the lighting in the station was extremely poor (inbound platform, facing north)
Restored BERy PCC streetcar on display

Boylston station is located at the intersection of Boylston Street and Tremont Street in southern Downtown Boston, slightly to the east of the Back Bay neighborhood.[2] Boylston's central location places it near many important Boston landmarks and points-of-interest. The southeastern corner of Boston Common and the northeastern corner of Emerson College are located at the intersection of Boylston Street and Tremont Street.[2] Boylston is the closest Green Line station to the Washington Street Theatre District and Boston's Chinatown.

Boston's Chinatown is directly east of the station, and the Chinatown station on the Orange Line, only a block east at Washington Street, took its name from the neighborhood in 1987; one platform had earlier been named "Boylston" as well.

Boylston station serves as a stop on the Silver Line, with a single one-way Bus Rapid Transit stop at street level. Construction of a proposed underground Silver Line station at this location has been postponed indefinitely.


Boylston and Park Street were the first two stations built in the Tremont Street Subway. The subway was built between 1895 and 1897, and first broke ground on the site of the current Boylston station. When the station opened in 1897, it became the first underground rapid transit station in the United States.[3] Of the two original stations, Boylston retains more of its original appearance, having undergone only minimal changes in over a century of continuous operation. In 1964, the Tremont Street Subway, including Boylston station, was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Historic Boston trolleys (PCC and Type 5 Car) are sometimes kept on display in the station. Both are operable and had been used for rail fan trips until 1990 and 1998 [1]. The trolleys are parked on a set of outer tracks leading to a tunnel continuing southward under Tremont Street and heading to the old Pleasant Street Incline. Boylston station once connected via this tunnel to the Incline and a portal located in what is now Eliot Norton Park, immediately east of the Bay Village neighborhood of Boston. From the portal, several trolley lines diverged, including service through to South Boston via Broadway station. The trolley service was discontinued in 1962, the route was converted to buses, and the portal was later covered by construction of the park.[4]

During the summer of 2006, the MBTA installed brighter lighting at Boylston station, changing the old dim appearance of the underground space. Modern electronic turnstiles and fare vending machines have also been installed.

Some of the proposals for completing Phase III of the Silver Line involved reopening portions of the tunnel for direct connections to the Boylston Green Line station. As of 2010, all proposals for Phase III tunnel construction have been postponed indefinitely, due to lack of funding, and heavy community opposition.

Incidents and accidents[edit]

Before the station opened, there was a gas explosion on the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets on 4 March 1897. Gas had been escaping from an underground main for two months in the gap between the station's roof and the street above, before a horse-drawn trolley caused a spark which set off the gas. Witnesses reported a fireball engulfed the trolley, and killed several people and horses instantly in an explosion. Six persons were killed, and at least sixty were seriously injured. The station was spared any serious damage, as much of the force of the blast radiated upward.[5]

On 6 June 1906, there was an explosion at Boylston station.[6] The origin of the explosion was deemed to be the short-circuiting of the overhead lines in the station which began to burn and catch fire.[6] Because of the electrical nature of the fire, spraying water to stop the flames failed and fire-fighters who attempted to do so were met with electric shocks. Only three people were injured and the fire extinguished itself.[6]

On 15 November 2008, two Green Line trains collided at the northbound platform of Boylston station.[7] Although the cars themselves were not visibly damaged, a few passengers complained about neck and back pains and were sent to the hospital.[7] A few hours later, the Green Line re-opened between Arlington and Government Center stations and temporary buses stopped running.[7]

On 29 November 2012, two trolleys collided at low speed at Boylston, injuring several dozen passengers.[8] The collision was blamed on a fatigued trolley driver who had not had enough rest following his second job.[9]

Station layout[edit]

Ground Street Level Exit/Entrance
Outbound Silver Line toward Dudley Square (Tufts Medical Center)
Green Line
Unused track No regular service
Side platform, doors will open on the right
Outbound Green Line toward Boston College, Cleveland Circle, Riverside, or Heath (Arlington)
Inbound Green Line toward Lechmere, North Station, or Government Center (Park Street)
Side platform, doors will open on the right
Unused track No regular service
1898 plan of Boylston, showing the outer tracks and former crossover (inbound direction is at right). The sharp right-angle turn depicted at the upper left is still traversed by all Green Line routes
Boards now conceal a former sub-passage that allowed free platform crossovers (inbound platform, looking northwards towards Park Street station)

Boylston was originally configured for four tracks with two island platforms (see diagram), and the original track layout has remained essentially unchanged since then. The two outer tracks formerly led to the Pleasant Street Portal, but are no longer in revenue service, have been fenced off, and are now used for storage and other miscellaneous purposes.[10] Two former streetcars – one of the Boston Elevated Railway and one of the old M.T.A. (predecessor of the MBTA) – are usually displayed on the outer track of the inbound platform, along with explanatory signage. An old work train car is usually stored on the other outer track.

There is no free crossover between the platforms; thus passengers must pay attention to signs at street level denoting the separate entrances to the inbound and outbound platforms. A former crossover passage was sealed decades ago for security reasons. However, free crossovers are possible at the next station in either direction.

Rail squeal[edit]

The Green Line takes a sharp right-angle turn just south of Boylston station, as it turns from Tremont Street onto Boylston Street. The tight radius of curvature of the track can cause loud squealing noises from the train wheels, which are audible at street level near the station entrance at the corner. When the MBTA buys new streetcars, they must be designed to make this extremely tight curve, without derailing.


The inbound and outbound platforms are no longer connected, and neither one is wheelchair accessible. The historic station is approximately 1,200 feet (370 m) from Arlington station to the west, and a similar distance from Park Street station to the northeast, both Green Line stations which are wheelchair accessible. The Chinatown station on the Orange Line is some 500 feet (150 m) due east, and is fully wheelchair accessible.


  1. ^ "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14 ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Boylston station MBTA Retrieved 2008-11-29
  3. ^ Boston's subway finished The New York Times (August 15, 1897) Retrieved 2008-11-28
  4. ^ Bierman, Noah, "Transit archeology: Tour of abandoned subway network offers a glimpse of how the T was built", The Boston Globe, Saturday, December 26, 2009.
  5. ^ "Tremont Street Gas Explosion, 1897". Celebrate Boston. Retrieved 2014-06-28. 
  6. ^ a b c Boston subway explosion The New York Times Retrieved 2008-11-28
  7. ^ a b c Trolley crash snarls Green Line rush hour The Boston Globe Retrieved 2008-11-28
  8. ^ Moskowitz, Erik; et al. (29 November 2012). "35 taken to hospital after two trolleys collide at Boylston MBTA station". Boston Globe. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Moskowitz, Eric and Finucane, Martin (5 December 2012). "MBTA fires trolley operator in Green Line crash at Boylston Station for being fatigued and ‘inattentive’". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  10. ^ MBTA Green Line subway NYCSubway Retrieved 2008-11-28

Further reading[edit]

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