The historic South Station headhouse facing Atlantic Avenue
|Location||700 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02110
|Owned by||Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority|
|Connections|| Bus Terminal
South Station Under
|Parking||privately owned garage|
|Bicycle facilities||bike lockers|
|Station code||BOS (Amtrak)|
|Fare zone||1A (MBTA Commuter Rail)|
|Opened||1899 (Mainline station)|
|Passengers (2012)||21,772 daily boardings (MBTA Commuter Rail)|
|Passengers (2013)||1.434 million annual boardings and alightings (Amtrak)|
South Station Headhouse
|Area||0.5 acres (0.2 ha)|
|Architect||Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge; Norcross Bros.|
|Architectural style||Classical Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||75000299|
|Added to NRHP||February 13, 1975|
South Station — officially, The Governor Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center at South Station — is the largest railroad station and intercity bus terminal in Greater Boston and New England's second-largest transportation center (after Logan International Airport). Located at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Summer Street in Dewey Square, Boston, Massachusetts, the historic station building was constructed in 1899 to replace the downtown terminals of several railroads. Today, it serves as a major intermodal domestic transportation hub, with service to the Greater Boston region and the Midwestern and Northeastern United States. It is used by thousands of commuter rail and intercity rail passengers daily. Connections to the rapid transit Red Line and Silver Line are made through the adjacent subway station.
Need for a combined station
When the railroads serving Boston were first laid out and built, each one stopped at its own terminal. The four terminals serving the south-side railroads were as follows:
- The New York and New England Railroad crossed the Fort Point Channel from South Boston, just south of the present Summer Street Bridge, and terminated just east of Dewey Square (right at the north end of today's South Station).
- The Old Colony Railroad had a long passenger terminal on the east side of South Street, stretching from Kneeland Street south to Harvard Street. This site is now part of the South Bay Interchange, near the South Station bus terminal.
- The Boston and Albany Railroad's passenger terminal was in the block bounded by Kneeland Street, Beach Street, Albany Street (now Surface Artery) and Lincoln Street. This later became a freight house, and is now a block in Chinatown; the passenger terminal was moved to the west side of Utica Street, from Kneeland Street south to a bit past Harvard Street, now part of the South Bay Interchange.
- The Boston and Providence Railroad continued straight where it now merges with the Boston and Albany, terminating at Park Square, with the passenger terminal on the south side of Providence Street from Columbus Avenue west about two-thirds of the way to Berkeley Street.
The Boston Terminal Company, established in 1897, was charged with the task of combining the four terminals into one consolidated terminal. South Station combined the four terminals in one spot (a union station).
South Station opened as South Central Station on January 1, 1899 at a cost of $3.6 million (1899 dollars). The architects were Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge of Boston, with the actual construction undertaken by the engineering firm of Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Co. It became the busiest station in the country by 1910. A stop on the Atlantic Avenue Elevated served South Station from 1901 to 1938; what is now the Red Line subway was extended from Park Street to South Station in 1913. The train shed, originally one of the largest in the world, was eliminated in a 1930 renovation due to corrosion caused by the nearby ocean's salt air.
While the station handled 125,000 passengers each day during World War II, post-war passenger rail traffic declined in the US. In 1959, the Old Colony Railroad, which had served the South Shore and Cape Cod, stopped passenger service. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad went bankrupt in 1961. South Station was sold to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in 1965. Portions of the station were demolished and the land was used to build the Boston South Postal Annex and the Stone and Webster building.
In the original configuration, two tracks came off each approach to join into a four-track line and then run under the main platforms in a two-track loop. These tracks were never put into service, and later became a parking lot and bowling alley for employees.
In 1978, the BRA sold what was left of the station, now on the National Register of Historic Places, to the MBTA, though the BRA retained air rights over the station. Funding was obtained for a major renovation of the station that was completed in 1989. A total of 13 tracks became available, all with high level platforms and some capable of handling 12-car trains. Piers were installed for the eventual construction of an office building and bus station above the tracks. This renovation also added direct access to the Red Line subway station from inside the surface station lobby; previously, the only access was via street stairwells.
After some delays, an inter-city bus terminal opened in October 1995, replacing one on top of the I-93 Dewey Square Tunnel diagonally across from the station between Summer Street and Congress Street. The new bus terminal has direct ramp connections to I-93 and the Massachusetts Turnpike (though there are two traffic lights in the outbound direction). The renovations, including the bus terminal, cost $195 million in 2001 dollars.
The Red Line subway platforms were extended in 1985 to allow six-car trains, and renovated again in 2005 as part of the Silver Line Phase II project, which serves the waterfront and Logan Airport. The Phase II tunnel was constructed in conjunction with Boston's "Big Dig" project, and was originally referred to as the "South Boston Piers Transitway". Phase II opened on Friday, December 17, 2004, with the first route running only to Silver Line Way. A new Phase I Silver Line route, the SL4 was added on October 13, 2009, with a stop across the street from South Station.
Design and description
The South Station head house and wings incorporate Neoclassical architecture. The building’s symmetry and stone façade are common to the style. The granite came from nearby quarries in New England. The main doorways are located in a section that protrudes from the curving shape of the building. The doors are housed under tall arches that give the impression of grandeur while also making the building appear smaller from far away. This visual trick is common in classical buildings and is further amplified by the over-sized windows and large balustrade on the third floor and roof.
Above the doorways are classical Ionic order columns that ostensibly hold up the frieze and pediment. Uncommon for Ionic order columns is the lack of fluting, which is usually used to draw the eye upward, increasing the grandeur of the facade. The numerous projections and recessions on the façade attribute to the planar quality of the building, while also creating interesting shading and lighting patterns on the stone and within the building.
Constructed over one hundred years ago, the clock on top of the main head house is the largest operating hand-wound clock mechanism in New England. The clock is styled after London’s Big Ben, and has a 12-foot wide face. The mechanism weighs over 400 pounds. In 2008, the clock underwent a six-week restoration and repair. The clock mechanism was completely disassembled and transported to a nearby workshop, where replacement pieces had to be fabricated by hand. The clock, once one of many in the city, is a hallmark of a bygone era — something that commuters rely on to make their trains, and which visitors admire for its historical presence. The stone eagle that sits atop the clock is eight feet wide and weighs over eight tons. The eagle imitates the figurines commonly placed atop classically styled buildings.
The curved shape of the building facade pushes its presence into the surrounding area, making it much more prominent. This also gives the building a more distinctive and accessible main entrance from Atlantic Avenue, Summer Street, and Dewey Square. A similar concept is also seen in the Santa Maria della Pace in Rome, Italy. This church didn’t directly influence South Station, but the designs clearly share the same effects on the immediate area.
In the 1980s, with South Station in disrepair, a great effort began to revitalize the station using Federal funding. The revitalization included addition of two wings that extend from each side of the head house, constructed with granite from the same quarries to provide a consistent appearance. Renovation and expansion was completed in 1989, reinvigorating the area with a vital transportation link and a strong focal point. Office buildings began rising nearby, expanding the downtown area. With the completion of the Big Dig and the Rose Kennedy Greenway, South Station has become an even more important feature in the area. The Greenway provides a pedestrian-friendly connection between South Station and North Station.
South Station's facilities and offerings include:
- The northern terminus of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor train service, including Acela Express high-speed trains and Northeast Regional local trains. There is also a daily Amtrak train to Albany, New York and Chicago—the Lake Shore Limited.
- The city terminus of the southern and western routes of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail system
- A station stop on the Boston subway's Red Line to downtown Boston and its northwestern and southern suburbs.
- The western terminus of Phase 2 of the Silver Line, with direct service to all Logan International Airport terminals, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Boston Design center and the Black Falcon Cruise Ship Terminal.
- The eastern terminus of the Silver Line Phase I SL4 line to Dudley Station
- Local bus service on lines 7, 11, 448, 449, 459
- Parking garage
- Staffed ticket windows
- 24-hour baggage assistance
- A 24-hour information booth
- A ClubAcela lounge with several complimentary services
- A food court, small shopping variety and waiting area, with typical train station concessions
- Public art, including a sculpture built of railroad car couplers and a model of the planet Jupiter, part of the Museum of Science's scale model of the solar system
- Free Wi-Fi
The station is accessible by the general public 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Boston's main inter-city bus terminal, the South Station Bus Terminal, is housed in a separate building built over the train platforms along Atlantic Avenue. The bus terminal hosts service by Greyhound, Peter Pan, and other bus companies; to all of New England, New York City, upstate New York, Atlantic City (New Jersey), Philadelphia, Washington DC, the mid-Atlantic states, and Montreal, Canada. The bus terminal has its own concession area, and can be entered from the railway platform area or directly from Atlantic Avenue.
North Station connections
Several MBTA commuter rail lines, plus Amtrak's Downeaster service to Maine, originate from North Station, located about 1¼ miles (2 km) around the Boston peninsula from South Station; there has not been a direct connection between the two since the closure of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated in 1938. Transfers from North Station to all other Amtrak trains and the MBTA Commuter Rail's Providence/Stoughton, Needham, Franklin and Framingham/Worcester lines may be made at Back Bay (via a one-seat ride on the Orange Line); transfers from the Fitchburg Line to South Station lines can be made via Porter on the Red Line (a one-seat ride to South Station). All other transferring passengers have to change subway trains at either Park Street or Downtown Crossing stations, requiring two different rapid transit lines for the relatively short traverse between South and North Stations.
A North-South Rail Link is proposed to unify the two halves of the rail system, to make passenger transfers much easier and faster. In addition, the ability to route through service would greatly improve speed and frequency, while avoiding the need to layover many trains at station platforms. Eliminating the need to reverse many trains would increase the effective capacity of the entire system.
However, as of May 2006 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has withdrawn its sponsorship of the proposal due to its high cost. The North-South Rail Link is not mentioned in the MBTA's FY2010–FY2014 Capital Investment Program. Currently, passenger equipment is transferred between the two halves of the system via the Grand Junction Railroad, which is not used in revenue passenger service.
- Boston South Postal Annex, with a post office that is almost never closed. (There is a passageway to it at the foot of Track 13.)
- Boston's financial district including the Federal Reserve Bank Building
- Boston Children's Museum
- Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
- Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, about a 15-minute walk east, or one can take the Silver Line to the World Trade Center stop.
- Boston's Chinatown
- Boston Harborwalk
- Boston Theater District
- Massachusetts Turnpike
- Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
- Rose Kennedy Greenway
- Rowes Wharf ferry terminal, several blocks north of the station
- Tufts University medical campus and Tufts Medical Center hospital
The commuter rail and Amtrak platforms are fully accessible, with level access from the main station entrance and the waiting area onto the high-level platforms. Most southside commuter rail stations are also handicapped accessible, but some stations (mostly on the Framingham/Worcester Line and Franklin Line) are not. Most Amtrak stations on the Lake Shore Limited and the Northeast Corridor routes are also accessible.
In the early 1900s, after South Station first opened, heavy commuter ridership made it the busiest station in the world. But ridership declined after the bankrupt New Haven Railroad reduced service and automobile travel rose in popularity.
In recent decades, ridership has grown considerably, in part due to the reopening of Old Colony commuter rail service and the electrification of the Amtrak Northeast Corridor from New Haven to Boston, which allowed high-speed Acela service.
South Station daily weekday ridership (2014)
|MBTA Commuter Rail||41,720|
|Total daily passengers||91,608|
South Station Ridership (passengers/year)
As a major transfer station offering connections to multiple modes, South Station is expected to see additional passenger throughput as a result of system improvements and a general increase in ridership. The existing underground Red Line and Silver Line stations are adequate for the near future, but the surface-level commuter rail and Amtrak platforms are at capacity.
A proposed relocation of the Boston General Mail Facility, which is located on Dorchester Avenue next to the station tracks, would allow for increased capacity at South Station. Seven more tracks are planned to be added to the existing thirteen tracks, allowing increased use by both MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak trains. A skyscraper, tentatively called the South Station Tower, has been proposed to be built over the new platforms, but the proposal is on hold pending suitable market conditions. However, any expansion of South Station may include spaces for pillars for future air rights development.
In October 2010, the state of Massachusetts was awarded a $32.5 million grant from the federal government to begin planning for this expansion. After deliberations, a $43 million contract (including $10.5 million in state funds) was awarded in August 2012. The planning project will advance the new station area, including a possible passenger mezzanine over the platforms, to the 30% design level. Other elements include a redesign of the South Station interlocking, a new commuter rail layover facility, and the restoration of public access to the adjacent section of Dorchester Avenue and the Fort Point Channel. The station expansion is intended to allow for increases in commuter rail service on the Fairmount Line and Framingham/Worcester Line, addition of South Coast Rail service, and increased Amtrak frequencies.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously voted to rename South Station as the "Gov. Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center" as part of a larger transportation spending bill, though Dukakis himself stated he was not in favor of the renaming. The bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor.
As of October 2014, purchasing of the postal facility is in limbo, as the Postal Service is not willing to accept the amount offered by the state. Part of this deal would include moving the facility to South Boston, with MassPort taking some of the Post Office's parking lot located across Fort Point Channel.
- Atlantic Avenue Elevated
- Fort Point Channel
- North Station
- North-South Rail Link
- South Station Bus Terminal
- South Station (MBTA subway station)
- National Register of Historic Places listings in northern Boston, Massachusetts
- Humphrey, Thomas J. (21 December 2012). "MBTA Commuter Rail Passenger Count Results" (PDF). Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
- "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2013, Commonwealth of Massachusetts" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- "South Station – Great Public Spaces | Project for Public Spaces". PPS.
- Levenson, Eric (10 November 2014). "South Station Renamed ‘Dukakis Transportation Center’ Over The Duke’s Objections". Boston Globe. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
- "Razing Rail Depot Tests Skill of Engineers" ''Popular Mechanics'', December 1930. Google Books.
- Great American Stations: South Station
- "South Station in Boston". Southstation.org. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
- Alexander French and William Fowler (2003-05-13). "The Renovation of Boston’s South Station / 1.011 Project Evaluation" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-09. (MIT class project)
- "New Silver line service". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. October 13, 2009.
- Bierman, Noah (October 14, 2008). "Station Clock Takes Timeout". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
- French & Fowler, The Renovation of Boston’s South Station, 2003
- "South Station Gets Free WiFi". WBUR. May 2, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "MBTA Capital Investment Program" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
- South Station Tower web site
- Ross, Casey; Bierman, Noah (January 8, 2010). "Mass. Will Try to Buy Postal Annex to Save Rail Expansion". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
- Associated Press (October 25, 2010). "Mass. Receives Funds to Upgrade South Station". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
- Finucane, Martin (October 25, 2010). "State Wins $32.5M Grant to Plan South Station Expansion". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
- Rocheleau, Matt (August 20, 2012). "State to Soon Launch $43m Planning Effort for Project to Expand South Station". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
- Sweet, Laurel (January 31, 2014). "Michael Dukakis decries terminal honor?". Boston Herald.
- Leung, Shirley (3 October 2014). "On Fort Point property, a classic standoff between bureaucracies". Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to South Station (Boston).|
- Official website
- South Station - MBTA information
- Boston, MA - South Station - Amtrak information
- Google Maps Street Views:
- South Station Expansion Project Information - MassDOT
- Happy Birthday to Boston's South Station! - New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association
- South Station History: Chapel a 1st in U.S. - MassDOT
- Boston-South Station, MA (BOS) (Amtrak's Great American Stations)
- Boston Athenæum: Boston and Albany Railroad Company and South Station. Digital Collection. Photographs.