|The highways that are built to
sustain our sprawling suburbs add to our pollution and energy problems,
and increase our dependence on an auto-centric way of life which is
unhealthy, anti-social, and unsustainable. The Sierra Club encourages
public transit and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly neighborhoods.
The Silver Line is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's
(MBTA's) so-called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, running in
two, unconnected sections, from Dudley Square in Roxbury to downtown
Boston, Massachusetts and from South Station to several points in
South Boston and to Logan Airport in East Boston. The Silver Line is
planned to be built in three phases; only phase I and part of phase II
have been completed. Phase III, a connection between the two sections,
is planned for some time after 2014. Silver Line buses are wheelchair
ramp equipped using a kneeling bus and a flip-out ramp. (courtesy
Click on the map to enlarge it
no matter what color you paint a bus, it still gets stuck in traffic.
Over 15 years ago, the MBTA – after tearing down the elevated Orange
Line – promised equal or better service. For 15 years, that
service was a dirty diesel bus that contributed to residents'
suffering asthma rates six times higher than the state average.
Now the MBTA has unveiled its equal or better plans: building
an elaborate tunnel system underneath downtown Boston so buses can
turn around. Otherwise known as the "Silver Line Phase III," this plan
will cost millions more than using existing tunnels and restoring
light rail service on Washington Street. Even MBTA studies showed
using the existing tunnel for Green Line-type service is only a matter
of new lights and tracks, a substantial savings.
What's wrong with the Silver Line?
- A rail tunnel already exists that can serve Washington Street
and the Roxbury community, tying them directly into the Green Line
to Downtown and the rest of the MBTA’s subway system.
- Light rail will cost hundreds of millions of dollars less to
implement than a new bus system.
- A new bus tunnel will require tearing up the newly refurbished
YMCA, large swaths of Chinatown, the Theater District, and the
- A new bus tunnel will require tearing up large swaths of
Chinatown, the Theater District, Bay Village, and the Boston Common.
Construction of a portal will entail massive disruption to the
abutting neighborhood, whatever location is finally chosen for it.
Possible locations include in front of the fire house on Columbus
Avenue at Berkeley Street, beside the Tufts New England Medical
Center, and in front of the Mass Pike Towers apartment
complex—possibly requiring the demolition of several residential
buildings. Most of the tunnel will be constructed through filled
land, endangering groundwater levels and the stability of the many
nineteenth century buildings along its route. Whatever the portal
location is finally chosen, the buses will be emerging from the
tunnel into a congested urban environment, turning on their diesel
engines immediately adjacent to thousands of neighborhood residents
and hospital patients.
In times of fiscal crisis, the MBTA should look at ways to do more
for less. Since the MBTA already stated that rail service would
increase ridership by 2 to 2.5 times that of a bus and cost $800
million less, we should make the switch to light rail.
More more information about the Sierra Club's work on the Silver
Line, contact John Kyper. See