South Station

For the MBTA subway and bus rapid transit station immediately next to the station, see South Station (MBTA station). For other stations by this name, see South Station (disambiguation).

The historic South Station headhouse facing Atlantic Avenue
Location 700 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02110
Owned by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Platforms 7
Tracks 13

Bus Terminal
South Station Under

Parking privately owned garage
Bicycle facilities bike lockers
Disabled access Yes
Other information
Station code BOS (Amtrak)
Fare zone 1A (MBTA Commuter Rail)
Opened 1899 (Mainline station)
Rebuilt 1985
Passengers (2012) 21,772 daily boardings[1] (MBTA Commuter Rail)
Passengers (2015) 1,544,169 annual boardings and alightings[2]Increase 3.4% (Amtrak)
Preceding station   Amtrak   Following station
Acela ExpressTerminus
toward Chicago
Lake Shore Limited
Northeast Regional
MBTA Commuter Rail
toward Worcester
Framingham/Worcester LineTerminus
Needham Line
Franklin Line
(limited service)
(special events)
Providence/Stoughton Line
toward Readville
Fairmount Line
TerminusGreenbush Line
toward Greenbush
Kingston/Plymouth Line
toward Kingston or Plymouth
Lakeville Line
toward Hyannis
  Former services  
MBTA Commuter Rail
toward Dedham
Dedham Branch
Closed 1967
toward Millis
Millis Branch
Closed 1967
New York Central Railroad
toward Albany
Boston and Albany Railroad
Main Line
toward Worcester
Worcester Line
South Station Headhouse
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°21′07″N 71°03′19″W / 42.35194°N 71.05528°W / 42.35194; -71.05528Coordinates: 42°21′07″N 71°03′19″W / 42.35194°N 71.05528°W / 42.35194; -71.05528
Area 0.5 acres (0.2 ha)
Built 1899
Architect Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge; Norcross Bros.
Architectural style Classical Revival
NRHP Reference # 75000299[3]
Added to NRHP February 13, 1975

South Station officially The Governor Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center at South Station is the largest railroad station and intercity bus terminal in Greater Boston and New England's second-largest transportation center after Logan International Airport.[4] Located at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Summer Street in Dewey Square, Boston, Massachusetts, the historic station building was constructed in 1899 to replace the downtown terminals of several railroads. Today, it serves as a major intermodal domestic transportation hub, with service to the Greater Boston region and the Midwestern and Northeastern United States. It is used by thousands of commuter rail and intercity rail passengers daily. Connections to the rapid transit Red Line and Silver Line are made through the adjacent subway station.

The station was renamed for former Massachusetts governor Michael S. Dukakis in November 2014, though maps and station signs continue to use the shorter "South Station".[5]


Map showing Boston railroad terminals in 1880, before the construction of South Station
An early 1900s view of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated in front of South Station; the elevated station was at far right.
Looking north at the merge of the two approaches, with the two pairs of tracks approaching the lower-level loop at right; the terminal is in the background. (c. 1904)

Need for a combined station

When the railroads serving Boston were first laid out and built, each one stopped at its own terminal. The four terminals serving the south-side railroads were as follows:

The Boston Terminal Company, established in 1897, was charged with the task of combining the four terminals into one consolidated terminal. South Station combined the four terminals in one spot (a union station).

Early years

South Station opened as South Central Station on January 1, 1899 at a cost of $3.6 million (1899 dollars). The architects were Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge of Boston, with the actual construction undertaken by the engineering firm of Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Co. It became the busiest station in the world by 1913.[6] A stop on the Atlantic Avenue Elevated served South Station from 1901 to 1938; what is now the Red Line subway was extended from Park Street to South Station in 1913. The train shed, originally one of the largest in the world, was eliminated in a 1930 renovation due to corrosion caused by the nearby ocean's salt air.[7]

In the original configuration, two tracks came off each approach to join into a four-track line and then run under the main platforms in a two-track loop. These tracks were never put into service, and later became a parking lot and bowling alley for employees.[8]

While the station handled 125,000 passengers each day during World War II, post-war passenger rail traffic declined in the US. In 1959, the Old Colony Railroad, which had served the South Shore and Cape Cod, stopped passenger service. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad went bankrupt in 1961. South Station was sold to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in 1965.[9] Portions of the station were demolished and the land was used to build the Boston South Postal Annex and the Stone and Webster building.

Original track layout

In the early 1970s, the BRA developed plans to demolish the rest of the station and replace it with a multi-use development including a new train station, a bus station, a parking garage, and commercial structures.[10] The plan was never realized, and South Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.[3][11]


In 1978, the BRA sold what was left of the station to the MBTA, though the BRA retained air rights over the station. Funding was obtained for a major renovation of the station that was completed in 1989. A total of 13 tracks became available, all with high level platforms and some capable of handling 12-car trains. Piers were installed for the eventual construction of an office building and bus station above the tracks. This renovation also added direct access to the Red Line subway station from inside the surface station lobby; previously, the only access was via street stairwells.[12]

Unused tracks in 1970, prior to the renovation
The main passenger concourse in 1970
The renovated terminal interior in 2010, with tracks accessible through the glass doors

After some delays, an inter-city bus terminal opened in October 1995, replacing one on top of the I-93 Dewey Square Tunnel diagonally across from the station between Summer Street and Congress Street. The new bus terminal has direct ramp connections to I-93 and the Massachusetts Turnpike. The renovations, including the bus terminal, cost $195 million in 2001 dollars.

The Red Line subway platforms were extended in 1985 to allow six-car trains, and renovated again in 2005 as part of the Silver Line Phase II project, which serves the waterfront and Logan Airport. The Phase II tunnel was constructed in conjunction with Boston's "Big Dig" project, and was originally referred to as the "South Boston Piers Transitway". Phase II opened on Friday, December 17, 2004, with the first route running only to Silver Line Way. A new Phase I Silver Line route, the SL4 was added on October 13, 2009, with a stop across the street from South Station.[13]

Design and description


The never-used lower-level loop platforms
The Boston Terminal Company 1897 commemorative plaque in South Station. The names on it are:
* Josiah Quincy, Mayor of Boston
* The Boston Terminal Company: Samuel Hoar, Royal Chapin Taft, Charles Peter Clark, Charles Loughead Lovering, Francis Lee Higginson; trustees
* George B. Francis; resident engineer
* Norcross Brothers; builders
* Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge; architects
* Fayette Samuel Curtis, Walter Shepard, Lawson Bennett Bidwell; consulting engineers

The South Station head house and wings incorporate Neoclassical architecture. The building’s symmetry and stone façade are common to the style. The granite came from nearby quarries in New England. The main doorways are located in a section that protrudes from the curving shape of the building. The doors are housed under tall arches that give the impression of grandeur while also making the building appear smaller from far away. This visual trick is common in classical buildings and is further amplified by the oversized windows and large balustrade on the third floor and roof.[14]

Above the doorways are classical Ionic order columns that ostensibly hold up the frieze and pediment. Uncommon for Ionic order columns is the lack of fluting, which is usually used to draw the eye upward, increasing the grandeur of the facade. The numerous projections and recessions on the façade attribute to the planar quality of the building, while also creating interesting shading and lighting patterns on the stone and within the building.[14]

Inside, a coffered ceiling adorns the terminal and protects travelers from the rain and snow.[14]

Constructed over one hundred years ago, the clock on top of the main head house is the largest operating hand-wound clock mechanism in New England. The clock is styled after London’s Big Ben, and has a 12-foot wide face. The mechanism weighs over 400 pounds. In 2008, the clock underwent a six-week restoration and repair. The clock mechanism was completely disassembled and transported to a nearby workshop, where replacement pieces had to be fabricated by hand. The clock, once one of many in the city, is a hallmark of a bygone era — something that commuters rely on to make their trains, and which visitors admire for its historical presence. The stone eagle that sits atop the clock is eight feet wide and weighs over eight tons. The eagle imitates the figurines commonly placed atop classically styled buildings.[15]

The curved shape of the building facade pushes its presence into the surrounding area, making it much more prominent. This also gives the building a more distinctive and accessible main entrance from Atlantic Avenue, Summer Street, and Dewey Square. A similar concept is also seen in the Santa Maria della Pace in Rome, Italy. This church didn’t directly influence South Station, but the designs clearly share the same effects on the immediate area.[14]

In the 1980s, with South Station in disrepair, a great effort began to revitalize the station using Federal funding. The revitalization included addition of two wings that extend from each side of the head house, constructed with granite from the same quarries to provide a consistent appearance. Renovation and expansion was completed in 1989, reinvigorating the area with a vital transportation link and a strong focal point. Office buildings began rising nearby, expanding the downtown area. With the completion of the Big Dig and the Rose Kennedy Greenway, South Station has become an even more important feature in the area. The Greenway provides a pedestrian-friendly connection between South Station and North Station.[16]


Amtrak AEM-7 #950 at the Boston South Station throat in September 2001

South Station's facilities and offerings include:

The station is accessible by the general public 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Bus terminal

Boston's main inter-city bus terminal, the South Station Bus Terminal, is housed in a separate building built over the train platforms along Atlantic Avenue. The bus terminal hosts service by Greyhound, Peter Pan, and other bus companies; to all of New England, New York City, upstate New York, Atlantic City (New Jersey), Philadelphia, Washington DC, the mid-Atlantic states, and Montreal, Canada. The bus terminal has its own concession area, and can be entered from the railway platform area or directly from Atlantic Avenue.

North Station connections

Several MBTA commuter rail lines, plus Amtrak's Downeaster service to Maine, originate from North Station, located about 1.2 miles (2 km) around the Boston peninsula from South Station; there has not been a direct connection between the two since the closure of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated in 1938. Transfers from North Station to all other Amtrak trains and the MBTA Commuter Rail's Providence/Stoughton, Needham, Franklin and Framingham/Worcester lines may be made at Back Bay (via a one-seat ride on the Orange Line); transfers from the Fitchburg Line to South Station lines can be made via Porter on the Red Line (a one-seat ride to South Station). All other transferring passengers have to change subway trains at either Park Street for the Green Line or Downtown Crossing for the Orange Line, both of which stop at North Station, thus requiring two different rapid transit lines for the relatively short traverse between South and North Stations.

A North–South Rail Link has been proposed to unify the two halves of the rail system, to make passenger transfers much easier and faster. However, as of May 2006, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has withdrawn its sponsorship of the proposal due to its high cost. The North–South Rail Link is not mentioned in the MBTA's FY2010–FY2014 Capital Investment Program.[18] Currently, passenger equipment is transferred between the two halves of the system via the Grand Junction Railroad, which is not used in revenue passenger service.


The commuter rail and Amtrak platforms are fully accessible, with level access from the main station entrance and the waiting area onto the high-level platforms. Most southside commuter rail stations are also handicapped accessible, but some stations (mostly on the Framingham/Worcester Line and Franklin Line) are not. Most Amtrak stations on the Lake Shore Limited and the Northeast Corridor routes are also accessible.

Elevators are provided for handicapped access to the subway station. The bus station can be reached via the track 1 platform. See MBTA accessibility.


Amtrak locomotive 919 model EMD AEM-7 in foreground, with Acela Express on adjacent track (March 2014)

In the early 1900s, after South Station first opened, heavy commuter ridership made it the busiest station in the world. But ridership declined after the bankrupt New Haven Railroad reduced service and automobile travel rose in popularity.

In recent decades, ridership has grown considerably, in part due to the reopening of Old Colony commuter rail service and the electrification of the Amtrak Northeast Corridor from New Haven to Boston, which allowed high-speed Acela service.[16]

South Station daily weekday ridership (2014)[19]

Service 2014 ridership
MBTA Commuter Rail 41,720
Red Line 22,632
Intercity Bus 16,000
Silver Line 7,290
Amtrak 3,966
Total daily passengers 91,608

South Station Ridership (passengers/year)

Service 1975 1990 2001 2015
Intercity rail 537,000 839,000 1,060,000 1,544,169[20]
Commuter rail 2,774,000 19,207,977 36,992,648 35,323,276 (2013)
Intercity Bus n/a n/a 3,000,000

South Station Expansion Project

South Station at evening rush hour, Monday, February 11, 2013 after the February 2013 nor'easter

As a major transfer station offering connections to multiple modes, South Station is expected to see additional passenger throughput as a result of system improvements and a general increase in ridership. The existing underground Red Line and Silver Line stations are adequate for the near future, but the surface-level commuter rail and Amtrak platforms are at capacity.

A proposed relocation of the Boston General Mail Facility, which is located on Dorchester Avenue next to the station tracks, would allow for increased capacity at South Station. Seven more tracks are planned to be added to the existing thirteen tracks, allowing increased use by both MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak trains.

A skyscraper, tentatively called the South Station Tower, has been proposed to be built on air rights over South Station tracks. The proposal had been on hold for several years, pending suitable market conditions,[21] but in March 2016 the developer's website was changed to state that the tower would begin construction early in 2017.[22]

In October 2010, the state of Massachusetts was awarded a $32.5 million grant from the federal government to begin planning for this expansion.[23][24][25] After deliberations, a $43 million contract (including $10.5 million in state funds) was awarded in August 2012.[26] The planning project will advance the new station area, including a possible passenger mezzanine over the platforms, to the 30% design level. Other elements include a redesign of the South Station interlocking, new commuter rail layover facilities, and the restoration of public access to the adjacent section of Dorchester Avenue and the Fort Point Channel, filling in a missing half-mile segment of the Boston Harborwalk. The station expansion is intended to allow for increases in commuter rail service on the Fairmount Line and Framingham/Worcester Line, addition of South Coast Rail service, and increased Amtrak frequencies.[26]

As of October 2014, purchasing of the postal facility is in limbo, as the Postal Service is not willing to accept the amount offered by the state. Part of this deal would include moving the facility to South Boston, with MassPort taking some of the Post Office's parking lot located across Fort Point Channel.[27]

The Final Environmental Impact Report for the South Station Expansion Project was released on June 30, 2016. The project would begin with the demolition of the postal facility and take 5 years to complete.[28] The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs approved the FEIR on August 12, 2016.[29]

See also


  1. Humphrey, Thomas J. (21 December 2012). "MBTA Commuter Rail Passenger Count Results" (PDF). Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  2. "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2015, Commonwealth of Massachusetts" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  3. 1 2 National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  4. "South Station – Great Public Spaces | Project for Public Spaces". PPS.
  5. Levenson, Eric (10 November 2014). "South Station Renamed 'Dukakis Transportation Center' Over The Duke's Objections". Boston Globe. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  6. "South Station Train Terminal: a building with history". South Station Boston. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  7. "Razing Rail Depot Tests Skill of Engineers" ''Popular Mechanics'', December 1930. Google Books.
  8. "South Station in Boston". Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  9. Great American Stations: South Station
  10. Brody, Daniel (23 January 1972). "Terminal Illness". Boston Globe Magazine. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  11. "South Station Head House". Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  12. Alexander French and William Fowler (2003-05-13). "The Renovation of Boston's South Station / 1.011 Project Evaluation" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-09. (MIT class project)
  13. "New Silver line service". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. October 13, 2009.
  14. 1 2 3 4
  15. Bierman, Noah (October 14, 2008). "Station Clock Takes Timeout". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  16. 1 2 French & Fowler, The Renovation of Boston’s South Station, 2003
  17. "South Station Gets Free WiFi". WBUR. May 2, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  18. "MBTA Capital Investment Program" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  19. MBTA 2014 Blue Book
  20. Amtrak National Fact Sheet - Fiscal Year 2015
  21. Acitelli, Tom (27 September 2013). "Might It Now Be Go-Time for South Station Tower?". Curbed Boston. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  22. "South Station". Hines. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  23. Ross, Casey; Bierman, Noah (January 8, 2010). "Mass. Will Try to Buy Postal Annex to Save Rail Expansion". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  24. Associated Press (October 25, 2010). "Mass. Receives Funds to Upgrade South Station". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  25. Finucane, Martin (October 25, 2010). "State Wins $32.5M Grant to Plan South Station Expansion". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  26. 1 2 Rocheleau, Matt (August 20, 2012). "State to Soon Launch $43m Planning Effort for Project to Expand South Station". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
  27. Leung, Shirley (3 October 2014). "On Fort Point property, a classic standoff between bureaucracies". Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  28. "South Station Expansion Project – EEA No. 15028: Final Environmental Impact Report". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. June 2016.
  29. Beaton, Matthew A. (August 12, 2016). "CERTIFICATE OF THE SECRETARY OF ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS ON THE FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT" (PDF). Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
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