By Stella Lorence
Boston University News Service
BOSTON — Construction to merge four B branch Green Line stops and create two new stations on Commonwealth Ave. is underway and expected to last until February 2022.
The project calls for merging the Babcock St. stop with the already decommissioned station at Pleasant St., while the current BU West and St. Paul St. stops will be consolidated into a new station called Amory St.
The new stops will feature longer platforms to accommodate three-car trains and will be widened to eight feet from the rails to the road.
Although these stations are being consolidated, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s data indicates these stops are not the least popular stops on the Green Line.
“Back of the Hill,” an E branch stop near Olmsted Park, yielded the lowest total number of passengers boarding and exiting throughout the fall seasons of 2017 through 2019. Park Street was by far the busiest, followed by Government Center.
For the stops undergoing merges, Babcock St. and Pleasant St. had a combined onboarding passenger total of over 320,000 during the same period. MBTA data shows peaks of between 30,000 and 40,000 passengers during those times.
In a January 28 public comment meeting, Project Manager Leo Murphy said the consolidation should not affect the number of passengers who board or exit the train in the area.
“Instead of stopping at every block, the train will stop at every other block but will still pick up the same number of passengers,” Murphy said. “This will not only improve travel time but, more importantly, these four stations will be replaced with two modern, accessible surface stations.”
Like many municipal transportation systems, the MBTA has seen a dramatic drop in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2019, the peak average for overall weekly ridership was 1.37 million rides. The same month in 2020 saw a 72% drop.
The project is part of the broader “Green Line Transformation” (GLT) effort, which consists of 13 other projects, including new vehicles, accessibility improvements and route extensions.
GLT is looking for ways to accelerate the B branch construction, which may involve weekday closures of the three remaining stops, according to Murphy. In the case of closures, shuttle buses will replace train service, as it currently does on weekends and starting at 9 p.m. on weeknights.
Public support for the consolidation project is high. State Representative Tommy Vitolo, who represents Brookline, endorsed the project, praising the work at the comment meeting.
“This is not my grandparents’ station consolidation, where stations just disappear off the map, and you just have to hoof it,” Vitolo said. “I think it’s really a home run for everyone in the neighborhood, including my constituents on the Brookline side.”
Also attending the meeting was Benjamin Frison, senior director of GLT, who emphasized how the project was one of several steps towards a long-term improvement of the T.
“Last year, despite the impacts of the pandemic, we worked closely with our municipal partners and colleagues across the MBTA to deliver important safety and reliability upgrades on all Green Line branches,” Frison said. “[We did this] while taking measures to support local businesses and essential workers who rely on public transit.”