Sullivan Square (MBTA station)

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Sullivan Square MBTA tilt shift 2.jpg
Sullivan Square, facing inbound; supports for elevated highway are visible at top center
Location One Broadway at One Cambridge Street, Charlestown, Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°23′03″N 71°04′37″W / 42.384031°N 71.07697°W / 42.384031; -71.07697Coordinates: 42°23′03″N 71°04′37″W / 42.384031°N 71.07697°W / 42.384031; -71.07697
Owned by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Platforms 2 island platforms
Tracks 3 (1 unused)
Parking 222 spaces ($6.00 fee)
7 accessible spaces
Bicycle facilities 16 spaces
Disabled access Yes
Opened June 10, 1901 (elevated station)
Rebuilt April 7, 1975 (modern station)[1]
Passengers (2009) 10,125 (weekday average boardings)[2]
Preceding station   MBTA.svg MBTA   Following station
toward Forest Hills
Orange Line
toward Oak Grove
Sullivan Square (MBTA station) is located in Boston
Sullivan Square (MBTA station)

Sullivan Square is an MBTA subway station serving the Orange Line, located just west of the Sullivan Square traffic circle in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. Located adjacent to the East Somerville area of Somerville, it is also a major bus transfer point. It is named after nearby Sullivan Square, itself named for James Sullivan, an early 19th century Governor of Massachusetts.[3]

Opened April 7, 1975 as part of the Haymarket North Extension, the station has three tracks and two platforms, and is located under a double-decked elevated section of Interstate 93.[4] The current station replaced an older structure built in 1901, which had been a major transfer point on the Charlestown Elevated, a predecessor of the Orange Line.[5]

Like all Orange Line stations, both the subway platforms and all bus connections are fully wheelchair accessible.[6]

Station layout[edit]

Southbound Orange Line toward Forest Hills (Community College)
Island platform, doors will open on the left
Center track (Northbound) Orange Line toward Oak Grove (Assembly)
Island platform, doors will open on the right
Northbound No regular service
Lobby Fare barriers
G Street level Exit


Old elevated station in 1905
Boston Elevated Railway Sullivan Square Station in 1913

Sullivan Square stands on what was once a narrow neck of land referred to as the Charlestown Neck, an area that was originally a thin strip of land connecting the Charlestown Peninsula with present-day East Somerville.[7] Being in a narrow place between larger land masses made Sullivan Square a place where transportation routes naturally converged, and various transportation facilities developed here over the years.

Of particular note was the construction of the Middlesex Canal which spanned 27 miles from Lowell to terminate at the Mill Pond in Charlestown, passing directly through where the Sullivan Square traffic circle stands today. Completed in 1803, the canal was considered a major engineering feat at its time. However, the Boston and Lowell Railroad, completed in 1835, captured much of the freight business, and the canal ceased operation by 1853.

The Boston and Lowell and the Fitchburg, the earliest railroads to pass through Somerville, did not come through this area of the city, but in 1842 the Boston and Maine Corporation opened a station near Sullivan Square. This led to the construction of a residential enclave for commuters to Boston. New streets were laid out, such as Mt. Vernon Street and Mt. Pleasant Street, and small lots were plotted out along them.[8]

The next transportation revolution to make its way through Sullivan Square was the streetcar. Horsecars connecting Somerville to Charlestown and Boston started running in 1858, just two years after the first horsecar in Massachusetts connected Cambridge and Boston. Horsecar travel continued to grow until the early 1890s, when electrically powered street railways became popular. Sullivan Square came to be the location of a large carhouse, and in 1901 a grand new station was built to serve both streetcars and the Boston Elevated Railway, the new rapid transit line connecting Sullivan Square and Dudley Square by way of downtown Boston.

The original elevated station was considered a crown jewel of the "El", along with a similar station complex at Dudley Square in Roxbury. Surface streetcars ran up to the level of the elevated stations, allowing cross-platform transfer underneath an expansive trainshed. The station was designed as a major transfer point, with many streetcar lines that had gone downtown truncated to Sullivan. However, the station quickly reached capacity, and an extension to Everett opened in 1919. However, beginning in 1963 the Everett terminus was closed nights and Sundays, and the truncated routes (now all buses) were extended back to Sullivan Square at those times.[9]

Over time, deferred maintenance on the Charlestown Elevated and Sullivan Square station took its toll. The Haymarket North Extension was constructed in the early 1970s along the Haverhill Line right-of-way, with a relocated new Sullivan Square station under the elevated I-93 expressway. The Charlestown Elevated closed on April 4, 1975; the Haymarket North Extension opened as far as Sullivan Square on April 7. The new Sullivan station was the terminus of the extension for five months until Wellington opened on September 6, 1975.[1]

There were proposals to renovate the cavernous old trainshed for use as retail or gallery spaces, but no such conversion took place. Within months of the closure, a mysterious fire broke out in the old station, which was subsequently razed and repurposed as an MBTA service vehicle parking lot.[10] Only supports for a footbridge crossing the traffic circle remain of the elevated station.

Bus connections[edit]

A bus leaves the Sullivan Square busway on the CT2 route

Sullivan Square has long been a major transfer point for surface transit. The original elevated station had surface and elevated streetcar loops to serve a number of BERy and Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway lines. The modern station has a two-level busway that serves 12 MBTA bus routes to Medford, Everett, Malden and other surrounding cities:


Sullivan Square Station is a proposed stop on the MBTA's planned Urban Ring Project.[11] The Urban Ring would be a circumferential Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line designed to connect the current MBTA Lines to reduce strain on the downtown transfer stations. Plans from 2008 also called for the addition of platforms to serve the adjacent Haverhill and Newburyport/Rockport commuter rail lines.[12]


  1. ^ a b Belcher, Jonathan (22 March 2014). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14 ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "James Sullivan (1744-1808)". James Sullivan (1744-1808). 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  4. ^ City of Boston Department of Transportation. "Rutherford Avenue / Sullivan Square Design Project". City of Boston. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Sullivan Square". Boston Streetcars. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Tran Systems and Planners Collaborative (24 August 2007). "Evaluation of MBTA Paratransit and Accessible Fixed Route Transit Services: Final Report" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  7. ^ cf. Haskell, Albert L., "Haskell's Historical Guide Book of Somerville, Massachusetts", section on "Somerville: Why So Named".
  8. ^ "Sullivan Square: Part 1 of 3". Somerville Development Forum. Somerville Development Forum. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Boston Elevated Railway Company, Main Line Elevated Structure (HAER)". NYC Subway. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Sullivan Square: Part 3 of 3". Somerville Development Forum. Somerville Development Forum. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Urban Ring Phase 2. Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation.
  12. ^ Urban Ring Phase 2 Plan Profile Drawings. Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation.

External links[edit]