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MBTA Urban Ring
Parent Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Founded construction beginning in 2015
Headquarters 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116
Locale Boston, Massachusetts
Service area Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Medford, Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline
Service type Bus rapid transit
Routes 1 with 2 major spurs
Stations 31 proposed
Daily ridership 282,000-293,000 passengers per day in 2025 (Estimated)
Fuel type diesel
Operator MBTA
Chief executive William Mitchell (acting)
Web site The Urban Ring Project Page

The Urban Ring is a project of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation, to develop new public transportation line that would provide improved circumferential connections among many existing transit lines that project radially from downtown Boston.[1] The Urban Ring Corridor is located roughly one to two miles from downtown Boston[1], and the project is expected to convert 41,500 car trips to transit trips daily.[2] The project is split into 3 phases, the first of which is already partially implemented. The second phase is currently in the planning stages and is projected to cost 2.4 billion dollars total.[2]

The Urban Ring Corridor goes through the Massachusetts cities of Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Medford, Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline.[1] These communities currently have inadequate existing transportation options, heavy traffic congestion, and a growing desire for more transit choices.[3]


The Project

The proposed project has three phases. The first phase has been partially implemented. Phase 1, as it is commonly called, involves expanding "crosstown" bus lines serving the entire corridor and "express commuter" lines connecting to suburban locations. Phase 2 will create six overlapping Bus Rapid Transit lines forming a complete ring around downtown Boston. Phase 3 includes the implementation of rail service on the most heavily traveled portion of the ring, from Assembly Square in south-eastern Somerville to Dudley Square in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, via East Cambridge.

Phase 1

Phase 1[4] as recommended in the Major Investment Study, would expand the "crosstown" (CT) bus system by extending and increasing frequency on the three existing lines, and by adding eight new lines. It also adds "express commuter" (EC) lines for connections to locations outside the corridor. Estimated ridership according to the Phase 2 DEIR would have been 40,000 for 2003, at a capital cost of $100 million, for low-floor, low-emissions buses.

The MBTA determined that Phase 1 of the Urban Ring project did not meet the threshold requirements for an extensive environmental review, and so can be implemented as a part of its normal service planning process. However, of the eleven CT routes and three EC routes proposed, only CT1, CT2, and CT3 are currently running.[5]

Phase 2


Draft EIR

The MBTA filed the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Phase 2 with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office on November 30, 2004.[6] In its FY2005-10 and draft FY2006-11 Capital Improvement Plans, the MBTA has not budgeted any money for the Urban Ring project, beyond supporting the EIR process.[7]

As of June 2008, the EOT is formulating a Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report, to be submitted by the end of November, 2008. It then intends to submit an application for Federal New Starts funding, which has a limit of $800 million, and requires at least a 50% local match. If funds are allocated as needed, the design process should begin in 2011, with construction beginning in 2015.[8]

Phase 2[9] would convert and expand five of the "crosstown" lines (CT2, CT3, CT4, CT5, and CT8) into bus rapid transit lines that overlap and form a complete ring around the urban core.

  • BRT 1: Airport Station to Kendall Square via Wellington, Assembly Square, Sullivan Square, and Lechmere
  • BRT 2: Logan Airport Terminals to Wellington with local service to Chelsea and Everett
  • BRT 3: Wellington to Kendall via Gilman Square, Union Square Somerville, and Lechmere
  • BRT 5: Lechmere to Ruggles via Kendall, Grand Junction/MIT, BU Bridge, Kenmore/Yawkey/Fenway, and Huntington Avenue
  • BRT 6: Commonwealth Ave at Boston University Central to UMass Boston via Ruggles, Melnea Cass Blvd, Uphams Corner
  • BRT 7: Longwood Medical Area to Mystic Mall via South Boston, World Trade Center, Ted Williams Tunnel, and Downtown Chelsea

BRT connections with the commuter rail lines would be improved by expanding the following existing stations:

The following new Commuter Rail stations would be created:

The new BRT lines would make additional connections at other commuter rail stops, rapid transit stops, and bus hubs.

Some parts of the BRT system would run in mixed traffic, including through the Ted Williams Tunnel and to the terminals at Logan International Airport. Dedicated lanes are provided for certain portions, including:

Ridership was estimated at 106,000 passengers per day in 2010; capital cost was estimated at $500 million.

Revised Draft EIR

As of June, 2008, the revised route of the ring has the following stops:

Station Existing Connections City / Neighborhood Notes
Logan International Airport Boston West Garage
Airport Station      Blue Line Boston
Griffin Way Chelsea
Chelsea Station      Newburyport/Rockport Line Chelsea
Mystic Mall
Everett / Massachusetts Route 16 / Gateway Center Everett
Wellington Station      Orange Line and bus hub Medford
Assembly Square Somerville      Orange Line (Future Stop)
Sullivan Square      Orange Line and bus hub Charlestown Future Commuter Rail Stop
Inner Belt Road Somerville
Lechmere Station      Green Line Cambridge Station relocation part of Green Line Extension Project
First Street / Cambridgeside Galleria Cambridge
Binney Street Cambridge
Fulkerson Street Cambridge served only by one of the BRT routes, the others will go direct to Kendall
Kendall Station / Massachusetts Institute of Technology      Red Line Cambridge
Massachusetts Avenue / Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge via Albany Street
Cambridgeport at George Washington Park Cambridgeport crossing into Grand Junction Railroad right-of-way
Commonwealth Avenue at Boston University Bridge      Green Line- "B" Branch Boston via widened Grand Junction Railroad bridge
Yawkey Station      Framingham/Worcester Line Boston
Kenmore Station      Green Line Boston minor spur served by only 1 BRT route
Longwood Medical Area at Avenue Louis Pasteur and Longwood Ave Boston underground station
Ruggles (MBTA station)      Orange Line Boston
Washington Street at Melnea Cass Boulevard Roxbury possibly at existing station
Dudley Square      Silver Line and bus hub Roxbury
Crosstown Center Dorchester
BU Medical Center Boston
Broadway Station      Red Line South Boston
A Street South Boston
World Trade Center Station      Silver Line South Boston

This routing skips Gilman and Union Squares in Somerville, but these locations would be connected to the new Lechmere Station via the Green Line extension, expected to be operational by the end of 2014. The Grand Junction Railroad crossing of the Charles River would be widened to include bus lanes and a multi-use path.

There would be two major spurs. Three different routings are being considered for the first spur, which leaves from Commonwealth Avenue and goes to:

The second major spur would leave from between Crosstown Center and the BU Medical Center, and go to:

An interim surface routing is proposed, with multiple stops in the Longwood Medical Area, while the tunnel is under construction.

The capital cost for this version of the plan is estimated at $2.2 billion, with a projected daily ridership of 170,000. 53% of the route is either in a bus-only lane, dedicated busway, or tunnel.[8] This was increased from the previous plan for Phase 2, to improve travel times. As a result of the implementation of Phase 2, ridership growth on the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green lines would be slowed, but Commuter Rail ridership boosted. The Urban Ring would have a higher collective ridership than the Orange Line, Blue Line, or the entire Commuter Rail system.[8]

Phase 3

Phase 3[10] would add a rail line on the most heavily traveled portion of the corridor, from Assembly Square in Somerville to Lechmere, Kendall Station, crossing Massachusetts Avenue near MIT, and connecting at Longwood Medical Area, Ruggles, and Dudley Square. The exact alignment will be determined through further environmental review, and includes possible stops in Union Square Somerville, Cambridgeport and/or Kenmore Square, and a possible new tunnel under the Charles River.

There are now three alternatives being considered for Phase 3, which differ from the alternatives described in the Major Investment Study (MIS) and Draft Environmental Impact Review (DEIR). Employment growth projections have also changed since those documents were written.[11] The three proposed options for what type of rail service to build are:

  • A light rail branch of the Green Line, mostly on the surface
  • A light rail branch of the Green Line, entirely subway
  • A heavy rail branch of the Orange Line, entirely subway

Estimated ridership is 282,000-293,000 passengers per day in 2025; about 47,000 would be diverted from cars, and most of the rest would be diverted from trips on congested radial lines, reducing the need to travel through downtown Boston.


  1. ^ a b c eot Urban Ring Notice
  2. ^ a b January 2009 Urban Ring Fact Sheet
  3. ^ The Urban Ring Facts
  4. ^ Sources for this section: The official project brochure and Phase 2 Draft EIR.
  5. ^ MBTA Bus Schedule
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c Sempra Energy
  9. ^ Sources for this section: The official project brochure and Phase 2 Draft EIR.
  10. ^ Source: Official project brochure.
  11. ^ Current materials on EOT website

External links


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