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     MBTA Orange Line

Inbound train at North Station
Type Rapid transit
Locale Boston, Massachusetts
Termini Oak Grove
Forest Hills
Stations 19 (plus 1 planned)
Daily ridership 133,448[1]
Opened 1901
Owner MBTA
Operator(s) MBTA
Rolling stock #12 Main Line cars (120 in service)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Route map
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Oak Grove
Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Malden Center
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Wellington
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Sullivan Square
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Community College
Stadot.png Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access North Station
Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Haymarket
Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access State
Stadot.png Stadot.png Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Downtown Crossing
Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Chinatown
Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access NE Medical Center
Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Back Bay
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Mass Ave
Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Ruggles
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Roxbury Crossing
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Jackson Square
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Stony Brook
Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Green Street
Stadot.png Stadot.png Handicapped/disabled access Forest Hills

Old Main Line Elevated stations
Everett - Sullivan Square
Thompson Square
City Square - North Station
Tunnel (Haymarket to Chinatown)
Dover - Northampton - Dudley
Egleston - Green - Forest Hills

The Orange Line is one of the four subway lines of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. It extends from Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain, Boston in the south to Oak Grove in Malden, Massachusetts in the north. It meets the Red Line at Downtown Crossing, the Blue Line at State, and the Green Line at Haymarket and North Station. It connects with Amtrak and Commuter Rail service at Back Bay and North Station, and just the commuter rail at Ruggles station in Roxbury.




The current name, assigned in the 1960s, is derived from Orange Street, an old name for the section of Washington Street immediately south of downtown under which the Washington Street Tunnel, forming the center of the line, still runs.[2] (Cars throughout the Boston rapid transit network were formerly painted orange or with orange stripes by MBTA predecessors, and restored streetcars on the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line wear their historical orange livery, but this is largely coincidental.)


The Main Line of the electric Boston Elevated Railway opened in segments in 1901. It proceeded from Everett along the Charlestown Elevated to the Canal Street Incline near North Station. It was carried underground by the Tremont Street Subway (now the Green Line) returning above ground at the Pleasant Street Incline (now closed, located just outbound of Boylston Station). A temporary link connected it to the Washington Street Elevated, which in 1901 ran from this point via Washington Street to Dudley Square (which is most of what is now Phase 1 of the Silver Line).

Also in 1901, the Atlantic Avenue Elevated opened, branching at Causeway Street to provide an alternate route through downtown Boston (along the shoreline, where in 2007 there is no rail transit) to the Washington Street Elevated.

In 1908, the Washington Street Tunnel opened, allowing Main Line service to travel from the Charlestown Elevated, underground via new portals at the Canal Street Incline, under downtown, and back up again to meet the Washington Street Elevated and Atlantic Avenue Elevated near Chinatown. Use of the Tremont Street Subway was returned to streetcars exclusively.

By 1909, the Washington Street Elevated had been extended to Forest Hills. Trains from Washington Street were routed through the new subway, either all the way to Everett, or back around in a loop via both the subway and the Atlantic Avenue Elevated.

Closure of Atlantic Elevated and ownership changes

Following a 1928 accident at a tight curve on Beach Street, the southern connection between South Station and Washington Street was closed, breaking the loop. By 1938, the entire Atlantic Avenue Elevated had been closed, leaving the subway as the only route through downtown - what is now the Orange Line between Haymarket and Chinatown stations.

Ownership of the railway was transferred from the private Boston Elevated Railway to the public Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in 1947, reconstituted as the modern Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in 1964.

Rerouting of Charlestown and Everett service

The old Main Line Elevated and related lines

The Boston Transportation Planning Review looked at the line in the 1970s, considering extensions to the beltway Route 128 with termini at Reading in the north and Dedham in the south. As a result of this review, the Charlestown Elevated - which served the Charlestown neighborhood north of downtown Boston and the suburb Everett - was demolished in 1975. The Haymarket North Extension rerouted the Orange Line through an underwater crossing of the Charles River. Service in Charlestown was replaced with service along Boston and Albany tracks under Interstate 93, ultimately to Wellington and Oak Grove in Malden, Massachusetts instead of Everett. The service to Everett was not replaced.

Closure of Washington Street elevated

Construction of Interstate 95 into downtown Boston was cancelled in 1972 after local protest over the necessary demolition. However, land for the Southwest Corridor through Roxbury had already been cleared of buildings. Instead of a highway, the Orange Line subway would be re-routed into the corridor. In 1987, the Washington Street Elevated was torn down as part of this re-routing, the last of the original elevated portions to be demolished.

Between April 30 and May 3, 1987, the Washington Street Elevated south of the Essex station was closed to allow the Orange Line to be tied into the new Southwest Corridor. On May 4, 1987, the Orange Line was rerouted out of the southern end of the Washington Street Tunnel and onto the new Southwest Corridor. Instead of rising into elevated tracks, it instead veered west at the Massachusetts Turnpike and followed the Pike and the old Boston and Albany Railroad right-of-way to the existing MBTA Commuter Rail stop at Back Bay. It then continued along new tracks, partially covered and partially open but depressed, to Forest Hills. This right-of-way is also shared by Amtrak as part of the national Northeast Corridor.

While ending up more or less in the same place, the new routing bypassed Washington Street significantly to the west; local residents were promised replacement service. In 2002, Phase 1 of the Silver Line bus rapid transit was added to connect Washington Street to the downtown subways, attempting to address this. This was controversial, as many residents would prefer the return of rail transportation.

Renovations during the Big Dig

Outbound Train at North Station

Haymarket and North Station received major renovations during the Big Dig in the 1990s and 2000s, as the Causeway Street elevated portion of the Green Line was buried, its physical connection to the Orange Line was improved to make transfers easier, the Canal Street Incline was finally closed, and the Green Line was re-rerouted through a new portal closer to the river, near the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.

Station listing

Station Time to Downtown Crossing (min)[3] Opened Transfers and notes
Handicapped/disabled access Oak Grove 15 March 20, 1977
Handicapped/disabled access Malden Center 13 December 27, 1975 Commuter Rail, Haverhill/Reading Line
Handicapped/disabled access Wellington 10 September 6, 1975
Handicapped/disabled access Assembly Square 9 Expected to open in 2013
Handicapped/disabled access Sullivan Square 7 April 7, 1975 originally on the Charlestown Elevated closed April 4, 1975
Handicapped/disabled access Community College 5 April 7, 1975 serves Bunker Hill Community College
Handicapped/disabled access North Station 3 April 7, 1975 Green Line and Commuter Rail north side lines
Handicapped/disabled access Haymarket 2 November 30, 1908 Green Line
originally Friend-Union until January 25, 1967
Handicapped/disabled access State 1 November 30, 1908 Blue Line
originally Milk-State until January 24, 1967
Handicapped/disabled access Downtown Crossing 0 November 30, 1908 Red Line, Green Line and Silver Line
originally Winter-Summer until January 22, 1967, then Washington until May 3, 1987
Handicapped/disabled access Chinatown 2 November 30, 1908 Silver Line
originally Boylston-Essex until February 10, 1967, then Essex until May 3, 1987
Handicapped/disabled access Tufts Medical Center 3 May 4, 1987 Silver Line
Handicapped/disabled access Back Bay 6 May 4, 1987 Amtrak station
Commuter Rail, Providence/Stoughton Line, Framingham/Worcester Line, Franklin Line and Needham Line
also called Back Bay/South End
Handicapped/disabled access Massachusetts Avenue 8 May 4, 1987
Handicapped/disabled access Ruggles 9 May 4, 1987 Commuter Rail, Providence/Stoughton Line, Franklin Line and Needham Line
Handicapped/disabled access Roxbury Crossing 10 May 4, 1987
Handicapped/disabled access Jackson Square 12 May 4, 1987
Handicapped/disabled access Stony Brook 14 May 4, 1987
Handicapped/disabled access Green Street 16 May 4, 1987 on the Washington Street Elevated closed April 30, 1987
Handicapped/disabled access Forest Hills 18 May 4, 1987 Commuter Rail Providence/Stoughton Line, Franklin Line and Needham Line
on the Washington Street Elevated closed April 30, 1987

Assembly Square

In August 2008, the federal Secretary of Transportation announced a federal and commercial commitment to provide funds for a new Orange Line station at Assembly Square in Somerville, presently expected to open in 2013. The new station, located on the bank of the Mystic River between Wellington and Sullivan Square stations, will serve a new development at Assembly Square.[4]


The Orange Line is standard gauge heavy rail, and uses third rail for power. The current fleet is the 01200 series, built 1980-1981 by Hawker Siddeley Canada Car and Foundry (now Bombardier Transportation) of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. They are 65 feet (20 m) long and 111 inches (2.8 m) wide, with three pairs of doors on each side. They are based on the PA3 model used by PATH in New Jersey. There are 120 cars, numbered 01200-01319. All in-service Orange Line trains run in six-car configurations.

New Trains

It has been announced as of Spring 2009 that the planning process for new Orange and Red Line vehicles has begun. The simultaneous order calls for 146 Orange Line cars (to replace the whole fleet) and 74 Red Line cars (presumably to replace the 1500s and 1600s, of which there were 74, 72 still in service). This order would be similar to the current Orange Line cars and the old Blue Line cars, ordered at the same time and largely identical. The new cars would enter service between 2013 and 2017. The announcement also suggests that new Green Line cars will be planned at about the same time, although these cars would not be similar to the Orange and Red Line cars due to the differing natures of the lines.[5]


The Orange Line has two tracks (one in each direction) except for a third track between Wellington and the Charles River portal.[6] This track can be used to bypass construction on the other two, or for testing newly delivered cars for the Orange and Blue lines. The primary maintenance and storage facility is at Wellington Station.[6]


All stations on the Orange Line are handicapped accessible, though State is not fully accessible on the Blue Line. At the present time, State is being remodeled to provide full Blue Line accessibility.[7]

St. Elsewhere TV series

The old Orange Line El was the train seen in the opening sequence of the television program St. Elsewhere.[8] During the last season, however, the Washington Street El no longer existed, and its showing was thus anachronistic.


  1. ^ Supplied by public information request. MBTA estimated typical weekday ridership by using Jan-Jun 2007 fare collection counts, plus estimated transfers from 1997 CTPS survey.
  2. ^ Orange Street on Map of Boston 1775
  3. ^ From Association for Public Transportation, Car-Free in Boston, A Guide for Locals and Visitors, 10th ed. (2003), p.117, and MBTA website, roughly interpolated by distance between stations.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links

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