Appendix: Project Electric Sheep

This appendix reviews the extensions depicted in my Project Electric Sheep diagram, and provides a full list of depicted services.

As mentioned in my blog post, this diagram is, in some ways, meant to be “fun” (in a way that crayon maps are supposed to be). There isn’t a specific date tied to this map, and it neither represents a “preferred build” nor a “full build” nor a “must build”. Rather, it’s a vision of one possible future.

All distance measurements are approximate.

Extensions and Improvements

Parentheses indicate specific branches & services, and match the identifiers on the map; this system is complex enough that every branch & service gets a unique letter or number; systems in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles take a similar approach.

Gold Line (D, E, N, R)

A modern version of today’s Green Line. The core pieces (including an extension to Needham) are discussed in full detail discussed in full detail here. Additional pieces include:

Extension to Hyde Square (0.6 miles): extending the E Line to Hyde Square has repeatedly been proposed by multiple groups, including the City of Boston itself

Extension to Porter (1.4 miles): extending the Union Square branch to Porter Square would improve connectivity for the highly-used bus routes that fan out to the northwest, and relocate some Red Line and Commuter Rail transfers out of downtown, relieving crowding on the busiest sections of the Red Line; while this extension would require the relocation of the power station next to Union Square, in general this would be a lower cost extension, since the ROW is already grade-separated, and is largely wide enough to accommodate additional tracks. An extension to Porter would also set up the next generation of extensions, to places such as Watertown, Waltham, Weston, Arlington, Lexington, and beyond

Extension to Mystic Valley (0.7 miles): this has been officially proposed as Phase 2 of the Green Line Extension project

Green Line (B, C, G, F)

Surface Line to Nubian Square via Washington St (1.8 miles): the long-called-for extension of the Green Line to replace today’s SL4 and SL5, and finally attempt to make good on the promise of “equal or better service” after the demolition of the Washington St Elevated

Extension to MLK Boulevard (0.8 miles): a short extension of the Nubian Square F Line down Warren St would expand the reach of the Green Line’s one-seat ride into downtown; Warren St is wide enough for dedicated transit lanes as far as MLK Blvd, enabling reliable and speedy service

Extension to Nubian Square via the I-93 Corridor (2.3 miles): a surface line via Washington Street is an insufficient replacement for the Washington St El; the El provided fast express service to downtown, while a surface line would be much slower. The I-93 corridor provides a path from downtown to Nubian Square, with the added benefit of direct service to BU Medical Center (a major job center). By taking advantage of existing space under and around the I-93 viaduct, an extension can be built at lower cost and lower disruption to the community, while still providing significant time-savings and speedy service

Commonwealth Avenue Subway (0.8 miles): originally planned over 100 years ago, a Comm Ave subway would significantly improve the reliability of the B Line (the Green Line’s longest and historically slowest branch) and improve access to the high ridership stops at Boston University; Comm Ave’s width, and the B Line’s existing reservation, would vastly simplify construction, making this an inexpensive “low-hanging fruit” expansion. (The reservation’s old age means that it’s much less likely that the construction crews will make surprise discoveries [such as unmapped utility lines, pipes, or historical artifacts], which is a major driver of high construction costs.)

+1 Extension to Boston College (0.3 miles): Boston College’s eponymous T stop is actually at the edge of campus — a relic, believe it or not, of the historical demarcation line between long-defunct private streetcar companies; Comm Ave’s wide width would make a short extension to College Road easy and inexpensive, while providing front-door service to Boston College directly

Orange Line (1)

New infill stations in Medford and Malden: stations at River’s Edge and Edgeworth has been variously proposed over the years, and would improve access to burgeoning transit-oriented development. (Alas, these stops are an error on the map; they should actually be between Wellington and Malden Center. Mea culpa.)

Extension to Millennium Park via Roslindale and West Roxbury (3.7 miles): as a complement to the Gold Line extension to Needham, extending the Orange Line would complete the removal of the Needham Line from the commuter rail system, increasing capacity for service to more distant cities such as Providence, Taunton, Attleboro, Fall River, and New Bedford. The current right-of-way is already grade-separated, largely wide enough for two tracks, and real estate for stations is already accounted for, making this a lower-cost but high-impact extension.

Blue Line (2)

Restoration of service to Lynn (3.9 miles): this has been officially proposed many, many times. Indeed, the “original Blue Line” (the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn Railroad) ran all the way to Lynn; the current truncation at Wonderland is a fluke of 1950s politics. Nowadays, this proposal is often compared against improvements to the Commuter Rail, but a Blue Line extension would provide more frequent service, and would directly serve Logan Airport and Revere, which are significant job destinations for North Shore residents. The ROW is easily wide enough, and Lynn Central Square station was in fact built with space for future Blue Line platforms

Extension to Charles/MGH (“Blue-Red Connector”) (0.4 miles): this will probably be the next extension the T builds; in addition to providing better access to MGH, this extension will relieve crowding on the core sections of the Orange and Green Lines, as passengers will no longer need to use them to transfer between Red and Blue.

Extension to Kenmore (1.7 miles): using a shallow subway built as part of a renovation of Storrow Drive, an extension to Kenmore would significantly improve access to Longwood Medical Area (via any of the myriad shuttles and bus routes that run between Kenmore and LMA), and would relieve crowding on the Green Line, freeing up capacity for extensions on the Green Line

Extension to West Station (1.5 miles): running alongside the Green Line in a new Comm Ave subway before traveling along the Mass Pike, this extension would significantly improve service to Boston University (addressing crowding on the B Line as it is relieved of the burden of being BU’s sole rapid transit service). A new transfer station at West Station would improve transit access to the new developments in Allston, provide a better transfer location for local buses from Brighton and Watertown, and set up the next generation of extensions, to places such as Watertown, Newton, and Waltham

Red Line (3, 4)

Extension/conversion from Ashmont to Mattapan (2.5 miles): this would reduce commute time and simplify journeys from Milton, Mattapan, and adjoining neighborhoods. This idea has encountered some resistance from local residents, particularly in Milton, whose concerns would need to be addressed, meaning that this route might remain in its current form (running trolleys, with a transfer at Ashmont) for some time

New infill station in Neponset neighborhood: the Braintree Line currently speeds through a large stretch of Dorchester without stopping. An infill station in Neponset (probably near Morrisey Blvd) would give residents the benefits of transit, instead of merely receiving the disruption of living near an elevated subway line

+1 Extension to Arlington (1.4 miles, or 2.9 miles): the original plan was to extend the Red Line all the way to Arlington Heights, instead of its current terminus at Alewife; the route was truncated after facing local opposition. Times have changed and it seems like Arlington is more amenable to rapid transit (particularly in the midst of severe crowding on routes like the 77). An extension would relive (if not eliminate) crowding on local bus routes, and support non-car-centric development in Arlington. In this map, I’ve featured a simple extension to Arlington Center, but a further extension to Arlington Heights would likely be equally feasible and provide additional benefit. The popular Minuteman Bikeway would remain intact even with a Red Line extension.

Indigo Line (5)

Conversion of Fairmount Line: long-proposed, the conversion of the Fairmount Line to rapid transit-like service would be transformative for the communities it travels through. The T is already making incremental improvements in this direction, including providing better fare integration on the Fairmount Line (making it easier to pay with the same farecard as buses and the subway) and slowly increasing frequencies (every 45 min all day as of this writing), which means this project could be completed on a “rolling basis” over time. With stations at all major cross streets, the Fairmount Line provides transfers for all major bus routes in Dorchester, potentially cutting commute times in half. This service would run with electric multiple units (EMUs), enabling fast frequent service, using the same equipment as electrified Commuter Rail lines such as the Providence Line; using a common fleet would reduce costs and simplify operations.

New infill station at Ceylon Park: a new station at Ceylon Park would close the largest gap between stations north of Blue Hill Ave, and provide a transfer to frequent bus service on Columbia Road, diverting some riders away from the Red Line to reduce crowding.

Bronze Line (J, K)

Conversion of the Grand Junction Line to a light rail line between Allston, Kendall, and Sullivan (4.0 miles or 4.6 miles): long proposed as part of the Urban Ring project, this would convert an existing rail line into frequent light rail service centered on the major employment center of Kendall Square (one of Greater Boston’s multiple “downtowns”). By providing transfers to nearly all other subway lines, this conversion would allow Kendall commuters to transfer outside of downtown, significantly reducing crowding in the core of the system and on the Red Line, decentralizing the T’s downtown-focused network. A transfer station at West Station would significantly shorten commutes from the Framingham/Worcester line, as Kendall riders could transfer there instead of going all the way to South Station and doubling back. Similar transfers at new commuter rail stations at Sullivan and East Somerville would provide the same benefits for Lowell, Haverhill, Newburyport, and Rockport line riders. Because this is an existing rail line, conversion would be low cost, and have minimal impact on the surrounding community. This conversion could be done in stages, including through integration with the Green Line Extension (extreme detail here), with eventual conversion into a standalone service (more detail here). Dual western branches to Boston Landing and Boston University could be built simultaneously, or in incremental phases.

Extension to Chelsea (3 miles): Chelsea is a “transit desert”; despite its close proximity to downtown, access is difficult and commutes are long. A light rail extension in parallel to the commuter rail line would significantly improve access, both by offering a speedier transfer to the Orange and Gold (Green) Lines, as well as by offering a one-seat ride to Kendall, Longwood (see below) and new development in Allston. It is worth noting that, while the Bus Network Redesign will partially ameliorate this, the current paths from Chelsea to Kendall are either roundabout or require multiple transfer and/or significant walks. A terminal at Fay Square, between Broadway and Washington St, would offer easy transfers from the T111 and the T116, providing an easy two-seat ride to Kendall from central Revere and northern Chelsea.

Extension to Brookline Village via Longwood (~0.5 miles of new construction): with the Riverside and Needham branches rerouted to Huntington Ave, the stretch between Brookline Village and Kenmore (which I will call the “Fenway Branch”) will be unused; Bronze Line service can be brought to Longwood by taking over this branch, providing direct service to Longwood from Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea. Most of this route would use existing tracks; a short subway connecting Fenway station (renamed to “The Fens”) to the Bronze Line station at BU would be the only new build needed. There are multiple potential alignments for this connection, including some that would provide an additional transfer at Kenmore and/or Lansdowne. While the exact alignment remains an open question, there are enough options (including Comm Ave, the Mass Pike, and the historical Highland Branch ROW along David Ortiz Way), and the distance is short enough, that this should be a tractable build, even if more expensive. Crossing from BU to Longwood is one of the thorniest parts of the Urban Ring concept, and reusing the Fenway Branch would drastically lower overall costs.

New infill station at Kent Square (near Aspinwall Ave): probably the most cost-effective proposal of all (and one that could be implemented extremely quickly even with today’s Green Line), a new station between Kent Square and Netherlands Road would drastically increase transit access to the southern half of Longwood Medical Area, including nearly halving the walking time to Brigham & Women’s (the largest employer) from the existing Fenway Branch station at Longwood Ave. It would also improve access to Dana Farber, and provide an arguably more pleasant walk to Beth Israel’s West Campus.

Extension to Boston Landing (1.4 miles): this idea was actually an accidental one between me and Teban54; an early draft of his Transportation Dreams map included an unintentional rendering of a short extension from West Station to Boston Landing, and I commented positively about the idea, thinking it was intentional. In any case, this extension along the existing ROW (easily wide enough to fit 2 light rail tracks) would provide reverse-commuting service to the emerging jobs hub at Boston Landing, and would also serve as a partial replacement for the long-gone Watertown Green Line “A” Branch (which lives on in the overcrowded 57 bus route). It would also improve Allston’s connectivity to Kendall.

Pink Line (H, M)

New light rail line from Harvard to Ruggles (3.9 miles or 4.3 miles): this route would use the extant abandoned Red Line platform and tunnel at Harvard, crossing the Charles before emerging amidst the new developments in Allston, through which it would snake on a dedicated ROW with brief elevated sections, before reaching the transfer hub at West Station. From there, it would briefly join tracks with the Bronze Line, sharing the new BU <> Longwood connection described above. After emerging at “The Fens,” it would travel along the northeastern boundary of the LMA on a converted transitway on Fenway (the road), cross Huntington, and travel along Ruggles St in a transitway to reach Ruggles station itself (renamed after Phyllis Wheatley in my diagram). This line would create a vital link between the transportation hub at Ruggles and employment centers at Longwood, Boston University, Allston, and Harvard

Extension to BU Medical Center (1 mile): using center-running transit lanes on Melnea Cass, plus the existing surface tracks on Huntington in use today, a branch of the Pink Line would ping back and forth between Longwood, Ruggles, and BU Medical Center. This would link two major employment centers with a key transit hub, with dedicated lanes to provide speedy service.

Silver Line (S1, S2, S3)

Relocate Silver Line routes out of the Piers Transitway: described in further detail here, moving the Silver Line BRT routes out of the Piers Transitway may provide speedier service to South Station, leaving full capacity available in the Seaport for the Gold Line

Extension to Boylston via surface streets (0.5 miles): also described at the above link, enhancing bus lanes on Essex St and making other modifications would allow for Silver Line service to connect to the Green Line at Boylston, providing a 2-seat-ride to the Seaport for commuters from Allston, Brighton, and Brookline

New infill station at Bennington: a new station at Bennington St would complement the existing nearby station at Wood Island while providing more direct service into the central part of the neighborhood

Congress Line (A)

New busway from North Station to World Trade Center (1.8 miles): this utilizes an official proposal first floated in 2019, this would create a BRT corridor, largely running down Congress St in Downtown and Summer St in the Seaport, that would provide transfers to all the core rapid transit lines, all commuter rail lines, and provide a new reliable link through and across downtown. In addition to the A service depicted on the diagram, this busway would also be used by local routes such as the proposed T7 (running between Charlestown and South Boston).

New busway along Tobin Bridge to Chelsea (3.2 miles): extending the new downtown BRT service north to Chelsea is something I first proposed in my “Navy Line” concept; while the Bronze Line described above would bring Kendall-based transit to Chelsea, there still remains a need for a strong Chelsea <> Downtown connection. Bringing the T111 corridor up to BRT standards — through dedicated lanes on the Tobin Bridge and reconfigured lanes in downtown Chelsea — would provide that connection. The T111 has historically been one of the T’s highest ridership routes, well-deserving of BRT. Integrating with the Congress St busway in downtown would extend the reach of a one-seat ride from Chelsea — currently terminating at Haymarket — all the way through downtown to the Seaport.

Franklin Park Line (L)

New light rail line along Columbus Ave and Blue Hill Ave: partially utilizing Pink Line tracks, and then using center-running transit lanes down Tremont, Columbus (already present, with more planned), Seaver, and Blue Hill, this line would connect Mattapan and Dorchester to Longwood Medical Area, with transfers to the Orange Line, Gold Line, Pink Line, and Commuter Rail (Regional Rail). Due to its layout and geography, Dorchester has a unique set of transit needs, and I actually don’t think a light rail line here is the best way to address those needs. However, there are many reasons a community might want a light rail line, beyond the utilitarian need for commuting. If Dorchester residents wished to have a light rail line for the sake of having a light rail line — as a way to stitch together their community, as a placemaking tool for their neighborhoods — then this route is what I would recommend, balancing feasibility, modest commuting utility, and cost-effectiveness.

Commuter Rail (Regional Rail)

As indicated in the legend, the Commuter Rail has been replaced by Regional Rail, as proposed by Transit Matters and others, providing frequent, fast, and often electrified service across the Commonwealth. I chose not to include Regional Rail on the map for the sake of simplicity.

As mentioned above, there are three new infill stations I include:

  • West Station
    • already officially proposed
    • provides connection to Kendall via Bronze Line and Harvard via Pink Line
  • East Somerville
    • provides connection to Kendall and Sullivan via Bronze Line
  • Sullivan
    • not sure it’s officially proposed, but I’m definitely not the first to suggest it
    • provides connection to Kendall via the Bronze Line

List of Routes and Services

  • 1 (orange): Oak Grove – Millennium Park
  • 2 (blue): Lynn – West Station
  • 3 & 4 (red): Arlington – Mattapan & Arlington – Braintree
  • 5 (indigo/purple): South Station – Readville
  • A (aqua): Cary Square – World Trade Center
  • B (green): Boston College – downtown
  • C (green): Cleveland Circle – downtown
  • D (gold): Riverside – Porter
  • E (gold): Hyde Sq – Mystic Valley
  • F (green): MLK – downtown via Washington
  • G (green): Nubian – North Station via BU Medical Center
  • H (pink): Harvard – Ruggles
  • J (bronze): Fay Sq – Boston Landing
  • K (bronze): Fay Sq – Brookline Village
  • L (light green): Brigham Circle – Mattapan
  • M (pink): Brigham Circle – BU Medical Center
  • N (gold): Needham Junction – Design Center
  • R (gold): South Station – Design Center
  • S1 (silver): South Station – Airport Terminals
  • S2 (silver): Boylston – Design Center
  • S3 (silver): South Station – Fay Square