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The Orange Line is one of the four subway lines of the MBTA. 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 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. (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 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.
At some point, 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 only the subway routing through downtown - the core of what is now the Orange Line.
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.
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. The first actual realignment was in 1975, when the Charlestown Elevated was demolished. The Haymarket North Extension rerouted the Orange Line through an underwater crossing of the Charles River], with a terminus in Malden, Massachusetts instead of Everett.
Construction of Interstate 95 into downtown Boston was cancelled in 1972 after local protest over the necessary demolition. However, the Southwest Corridor through Roxbury had already been cleared. Instead of a highway, the Orange Line subway would be re-routed into the corridor. In April 1987, the Washington Street Elevated south of the Essex (Chinatown) station was closed. Coming out of the southern end of the Washington Street Tunnel, 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. This would not come until 2002, when Phase 1 of the Silver Line bus rapid transit was added to connect Washington Street to the downtown subways. This was controversial, as many residents had been hoping for the return of rail transportation.
The old Orange Line El was the train seen in the opening sequence of the television program St. Elsewhere. During the last season, however, the Washington Street El no longer existed, and its showing was thus anachronistic.
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||Time to Downtown Crossing (min)||Opened||Transfers and notes|
|Oak Grove||15||March 20, 1977|
|Malden Center||13||December 27, 1975||Commuter Rail Haverhill/Reading Line|
|Wellington||10||September 6, 1975|
|Sullivan Square||7||April 7, 1975|
|Community College||5||April 7, 1975|
|North Station||3||April 7, 1975||Green Line and Commuter Rail north side lines|
|Haymarket||2||November 30, 1908||Green Line|
originally Friend-Union until January 25, 1967
|State||1||November 30, 1908||Blue Line|
originally Milk-State until January 24, 1967
|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
|Chinatown||2||November 30, 1908||Silver Line|
originally Boylston-Essex until February 10, 1967, then Essex until May 3, 1987
|New England Medical Center||3||May 4, 1987||Silver Line|
|Back Bay||6||May 4, 1987||Commuter Rail Providence/Stoughton Line, Framingham/Worcester Line, Franklin Line and Needham Line|
also called Back Bay/South End
|Massachusetts Avenue||8||May 4, 1987|
|Ruggles||9||May 4, 1987||Commuter Rail Providence/Stoughton Line, Franklin Line and Needham Line|
|Roxbury Crossing||10||May 4, 1987|
|Jackson Square||12||May 4, 1987|
|Stony Brook||14||May 4, 1987|
|Green Street||16||May 4, 1987|
|Forest Hills||18||May 4, 1987||Commuter Rail Providence/Stoughton Line, Franklin Line and Needham Line|
The Orange Line is standard gauge heavy rail. The current fleet is the 01200 series, built 1980-1981 by Hawker Siddeley Canada Car and Foundry (now Bombardier Transportation) of Fort William, Ontario, Canada. They are 65 feet (20 meters) long and 111 inches (2.8 meters) 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. These units are expected to remain in service until 2015.
All in-service trains run in six-car configurations. A train's conductor generally rides in the booth at the head-end of the 5th car, although occasionally he or she rides in the booth at the head-end of the 4th car. At either terminus, if a train is remaining in-service, the operator generally does not turn it around at the nearby yard--the train will arrive, unload and then begin loading for the next run, meanwhile the operator control of the train simply reverses to the opposite end and the conductor is repositioned in the appropriate booth. Thus, throughout most of the day, if not the entire day, the direction of the configuration does not change. Here are a few examples of six-car configurations:
- 01245-01244-01315-01314-01227-01226 (more recent)
As with most heavy rail rapid transit systems, configurations generally only change when a car or cars need to be singled out for maintenance purposes. Otherwise, ideally, all cars would be serviced at the same time.
New trains Edit
In late 2008, the MBTA began the planning process for new Orange and Red Line vehicles. The agency planned for a simultaneous order for 146 Orange Line cars (to replace the whole fleet) and 74 Red Line cars (to replace the older 1500 and 1600 series cars). A similar order was used in the late 1970s for the current Orange Line cars and the old Blue Line cars, ordered at the same time and largely identical except for size. In October 2013, MassDOT announced plans for a $1.3 billion subway car order for the Orange and Red Lines, which would provide 152 new cars to replace the current 120-car fleet and add more frequent service.
On October 22, 2014, the MassDOT Board awarded a $566.6 million contract to a China based manufacturer CNR (which became part of CRRC the following year) to build 152 replacement railcars for the Orange Line, as well as additional cars for the Red Line. CNR will build the new cars at a new manufacturing plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, with initial deliveries expected in 2018 and all cars in service by 2023. In conjunction with the new rolling stock, the remainder of the $1.3 billion allocated for the project will pay for testing, signal improvements and expanded maintenance facilities, as well as other related expenses.
While waiting for new cars, service has deteriorated due to maintenance problems with the old cars. The number of trains at rush hour was reduced from 17 (102 cars) to 16 (96 cars) in 2011; in the same year, daily ridership surpassed 200,000. Increased running times - largely due to longer dwell times from increased ridership - resulted in headways being lengthened from 5 minutes before 2011 to 6 minutes in 2016. The increased fleet size with the new trains will allow headways to be reduced to 4 to 5 minutes at peak. In the interim, a 2016 test of platform markings at North Station which show boarding passengers where to stand to avoid blocking alighting passengers, resulted in a one-third decrease in dwell times.
The Orange Line has two tracks (one in each direction) and a third track between Wellington and the Charles River portal. This track is used to bypass construction on the other two, and for testing newly delivered cars for the Orange and Blue lines. The primary maintenance and storage facility is at Wellington Station. Had the Orange Line been extended to Reading, the third track would have been the northbound local track and the present-day northbound track would have become a bi-directional express track.