Green Line "E" Branch

Huntington Avenue Line

"E" Branch trains at Northeastern University station in 2008
Type Streetcar
System Green Line
Locale Greater Boston
Termini Lechmere
Heath Street
Stations 20
Opened February 16, 1941[1]
Owner MBTA
Operator(s) MBTA
Character Underground (Symphony and eastward)
Median ROW (Northeastern to Brigham Circle)
Street-running (Brigham Circle to Heath Street)
Rolling stock Kinki Sharyo Type 7
Ansaldobreda Type 8
Number of tracks 2
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map
"D" Branch (2017)

Union Square (2017)
Green Line Extension
(under construction)

(new site opening 2017

Lechmere Viaduct
over Charles River
Science Park

Orange Line

North Station Amtrak  Orange Line 

Haymarket  Orange Line 
Orange Line

Government Center  Blue Line 
Tremont Street Subway

Park Street  Red  Orange  Silver 
Boylston  Silver Line 

"B", "C", and "D" branches
Huntington Avenue Incline
Northeastern University
Museum of Fine Arts
Longwood Medical Area
Brigham Circle
Fenwood Road
Mission Park
Back of the Hill
Heath Street
Closed 1985
Closed 1985 ↓
VA Medical Center
Evergreen Street
Bynner Street
Perkins Street
Moraine Street
Robinwood Avenue
Lakeville Road
Pond Street
Seaverns Avenue
Carolina Avenue
Child Street
Saint Rose Street
 Orange Line 


Forest Hills

The "E" Branch (also referred to as the Huntington Avenue Branch, or formerly as the Arborway Branch) is a streetcar line in the Boston, Massachusetts area, operating as a branch of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Green Line. From 1985 to 2011, service beyond Heath Street (from VA Medical Center to the original outbound terminus at Arborway) was "temporarily" suspended, with the 39 bus providing service beyond; service restoration was officially canceled in 2011 after the defeat of a lawsuit. The segment of the line between Brigham Circle and Heath Street is the only remaining section of street-running tracks in regular use by the MBTA; all other trackage is in tunnels and bridges, on private rights-of-way, or in reserved medians.

Northeast of the street-running section, the tracks run in the median of Huntington Avenue before descending via the Northeastern Incline into the Huntington Avenue Subway. Just west of Copley station, an underground flat junction connects the line into the other Green Line branches in the Boylston Street Subway, where they all run together to downtown. As of 2015, the "E" Branch is the only Green Line branch that regularly runs through to Lechmere Station.


Surface streetcar lines

The first street railway line to serve the area of the "E" Branch was built by the West Roxbury Railroad and immediately leased by the Metropolitan Railroad in 1857. The horse car line ran along Tremont Street from downtown, then continued south on Columbus Avenue, Centre Street and South Street to end at the Jamaica Plain Carhouse in Jamaica Plain. Paralleling this to the east was a Metropolitan Railroad line along Washington Street from Dudley out to Forest Hills.

Those tracks were electrified in 1891 and in 1902 they were extended the last bit to the Arborway Carhouse, connecting the line to the tracks along Washington Street and establishing Arborway as a transfer point. In 1903 Arborway trains began running into the subway.

Tracks that later became part of the "E" Branch were built in 1859 along Huntington Avenue from Brigham Circle west into Brookline, as part of a branch from the original Jamaica Plain route, later used by the 66 route. A new cutoff was built from this route via Huntington Avenue ca. 1883, allowing cars to run to Park Square via existing tracks on Boylston Street. In 1906 the connection along South Huntington Avenue was built to connect this newer route on Huntington to the older route on Centre. Additionally, between 1888 and 1897, the "Dudley Street Crossover" was built along Centre Street (moved to Roxbury Street by 1925) to connect the line to an existing loop west from Dudley to Eliot Square. This allowed Jamaica Plain cars to run to Dudley and towards downtown from there.

Streetcars on Huntington Avenue at Mechanics Hall (the modern location of Prudential station) in 1920

The Huntington Avenue line was electrified in 1894. The Boylston Street Incline to the Tremont Street Subway opened on September 1, 1897 as part of the first section of subway, and Huntington Avenue cars were rerouted into it (though those cars didn't use the Jamaica Plain line until 1903 – see above). Tremont Street cars were likely moved to the subway on October 1, 1897, when the next section of subway to the Pleasant Street Incline opened, though from June 10, 1901 to November 29, 1908 that portal was closed to all but Washington Street Elevated trains.

The Washington Street Elevated opened June 10, 1901 to Dudley and many streetcar routes that had operated via Dudley were truncated there with a transfer to the El. This included the Jamaica Plain route via Dudley. The extension of the Elevated to Forest Hills (adjacent to Arborway) on November 22, 1909 provided a faster route downtown from Arborway (above the Washington Street streetcar lines), but the Jamaica Plain cars used a completely different route to get there.

The tracks on Huntington Avenue from Brookline to South Huntington Avenue were last used on September 9, 1938 by cars from Brookline Village into the subway, as well as what became the 66 Allston – Dudley bus (this was also the last use of the tracks on Tremont Street west of Columbus Avenue). The cars from Brookline Village had been truncated from earlier lines running further into Brookline (later the 58 and 60 buses) and on September 10 they started running as short-turn trips on Huntington Avenue to Brigham Circle.

Huntington Avenue Subway

Symphony station shortly after its 1941 opening. The streetcar is a route 39 car bound for the Francis Street (Brigham Circle) cutback.

The Huntington Avenue Subway opened on February 16, 1941, taking Huntington Avenue cars (the last to use the Boylston Street Portal) underground for a larger part of their route.

The final pattern of streetcars serving the line was:

Service straight through to downtown on Columbus Avenue and Tremont Street was only provided by 43 cars, which began at Egleston Square (also the location of a Washington Street Elevated station) and continued into the subway at the Pleasant Street Incline, using the same tracks as the 41 for a section.

The 41 last ran streetcars on June 7, 1949, and the 43 cars last ran to Egleston June 14, 1956, leaving only the 39 and 57. In 1967 these lines were redesignated as the "E" Branch of the Green Line, with short-turn Heath Street service on rollsigns with a slash through the E.

Over the years, due to shortages in cars[2] (especially caused by the opening and popularity of the Green Line "D" Branch), sections of the line were replaced by bus service; the bus was always referred to as the 39 and ran to Copley with free transfers. The final day of streetcars to Arborway was December 27, 1985. In December 1989 the 39 route was extended to Back Bay (with free transfers to the Orange Line), the southern end was renamed Forest Hills and the fare structure was changed from Green Line fares to normal bus fares. (As of January 1, 2007, all Green Line fares are the same as for the other subway lines, as part of a system-wide streamlining and simplification of fare structure. System wide, bus-to-subway and subway-to-bus transfers are free with paid subway fare, for users of the plastic CharlieCard only.)

Service changes

Number 39 bus on Huntington Avenue following the tracks of the Green Line.
Interior of an E Line trolley car outbound to Heath Street (January 2013)

The following service changes have been made since 1961:

Arborway restoration controversy

A map at Hynes station showing the suspension of service beyond Heath Street.
Unused E Line tracks at the intersection of South Huntington Avenue and Moraine Street.
Reconstruction of the E branch along Huntington Avenue in November 2006.

To settle a lawsuit with the Conservation Law Foundation the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation and Construction (EOTC) agreed to environmental mitigation for increased automobile emissions due to the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T). In 2000, an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) affirmed specific project commitments, including restoration of streetcar service beyond Heath Street to Arborway. Restoration was also included in the State Implementation Plan for the Clean Air Act (SIP) which is required by the Environmental Protection Agency due to non-attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards.[4][5]

After some MBTA and community opposition, a revised settlement resulted in the substitution of other projects with similar regional air quality benefits, though no longer localized along the "E" branch corridor. EOTC promised to consider other transit enhancements in the Arborway corridor.[6] Community activists continued lobbying for streetcar restoration; however, trackage south of Heath Street was paved over in 2008. The Arborway Committee filed suit in 2007, but an appeals court ruled in January 2011 that the lawsuit was a decade too late to be considered – effectively ending any attempt for the restoration of streetcar service for the foreseeable future.[7]

The 39 Forest Hills Station – Back Bay Station via Huntington Avenue bus provides all service beyond Heath Street. The route overlaps with the remaining streetcar service and is used as a backup during service disruptions.

Station listing

Station Location Time to Park Street Opened Transfers and notes
Prudential Huntington Avenue, Back Bay, Boston 6 minutes February 16, 1941 formerly called "Mechanics" until December 2, 1964
underground station
serves the Prudential Center
Symphony Massachusetts Avenue at Huntington Avenue, Boston 8 minutes February 16, 1941 underground station
serves Boston Symphony Hall
Northeastern University Huntington Avenue at Opera Place, Boston 10 minutes originally called "Opera Place"
serves Northeastern University
Museum of Fine Arts Huntington Avenue and Ruggles Street, Boston 12 minutes serves the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Longwood Medical Area Huntington Avenue at Longwood Avenue, Boston 14 minutes serves the Longwood Medical Area
Brigham Circle Huntington Avenue at Francis Street, Roxbury, Boston 16 minutes reserved median ends, and street running begins south of here
Fenwood Road Huntington Avenue at Fenwood Road, Boston 17 minutes 39 Bus to Forest Hills
66 Bus to Harvard Square
Mission Park Huntington Avenue at Mission Park, Boston 18 minutes 39 Bus to Forest Hills
66 Bus to Harvard Square
Riverway South Huntington Avenue at Huntington Avenue, Boston 20 minutes 39 Bus to Forest Hills
66 Bus to Harvard Square
Back of the Hill South Huntington Avenue, Boston 21 minutes 39 Bus to Forest Hills
66 Bus to Harvard Square
Heath Street Heath Street, Jamaica Plain 22 minutes announced on board as "Heath Street/VA Medical Center"


  1. Belcher, Jonathan (23 March 2013). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  2. Scott Moore (2007-02-22). "Boston's Green Line Crisis". Archived from the original on 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  3. Rocheleau, Matt (28 December 2012). "MBTA reinstates weekend trolley service for entire E branch of the Green Line". Boston Globe. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  4. (PDF) Archived from the original (PDF) on April 12, 2005. Retrieved May 23, 2005. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. Archived from the original on June 5, 2005. Retrieved May 23, 2005. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Ruch, John (March 7, 2008). "State suggests Route 39 changes". Jamaica Plain Gazette. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  7. Ruch, John (26 August 2011). "Trolley comeback killed by court". Jamaica Plain Gazette. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
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