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End of the line for the old Lechmere station

Lechemere station after its opening in 1922

Lechmere station sometime after 1922. Source.

Tonight marks the last time the T will use the current Lechmere station for anything trolley related. It shuts tonight and in 11 months or so, there'll be a brand-new station nearby as the current tracks are extended towards Somerville.

Of course, what comes down must have gone up. The current station opened on July 10, 1922, one of the first parts of what the Boston Elevated Railway thought would be a bold expansion plan that would include a new rapid-transit line extending all the way into Somerville. Ahem, and here we are almost 98 years later.

The ultimate reason for the station, though, was not to become a portal to the Green Line Extension of the future, but to deal with a more immediate, more pressing El problem: Too many trolleys funneling into Boston on the viaduct that went up across the Charles in 1912 (the same viaduct that is now being extended north).

Back then, the El ran something like two dozen trolley lines, including ones from Somerville and Harvard Square that stopped at the previous Lechmere station and just kept going into Boston - where the central tunnel that formed the heart of the area trolley system just couldn't handle all the trolleys. In 1921, the El began construction of a new station at Lechmere that would serve as a sort of dual terminal: People coming from Harvard Square and Somerville would have to get off their trolley at Lechmere and transfer to another trolley from there into Boston.

The City of Boston Archives, which inherited Boston Elevated Railway files, has a number of photos of the station's construction:

March 18, 1922 (source):

Lechmere station under construction

More construction (source):

Lechmere station under construction

After the station opened - note the streetcars coming in from the north at the top left (source):

Lechmere station in use

Cambridge did not much appreciate the new station: In 1921, the City Council authorized the city lawyer to sue to try to stop construction. That failed. In March, 1923, a Cambridge city councilor declared the station's basically open layout meant riders froze in the winter and got soaked in the rain and said he wouldn't be surprised if people would die from the conditions there.

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Comments

In fact, more buses than before, as the 69/80/87/88 will continue to run into the O'Brien Highway side, while Green Line replacement buses arrive and depart on the Cambridge Street side.

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Trolley related, that is.

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But basically: why not just extend the 69/80/87/88 buses to North Station with a run-as-directed stationed at Lechmere to fill any gaps should the buses now show up? Especially right now with low ridership and minimal traffic, especially since there are extra buses since the T is running a Saturday schedule?

The T's response has been something along the lines of "because reasons."

I guess reasons like "we like making people get on and off of more vehicles" or "our passengers should have more interactions at the doors of buses" or "everyone should have as long a trip as necessary, with as many transfers as necessary."

I know that it takes time to plan schedules. But this has been planned for years (if not decades). Maybe the bus lane made it harder? Maybe they'll be using coach buses for the shuttle leg because yay more interaction with the driver! Who knows.

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A private carrier (Academy) will be running the shuttle with low-floor transit buses.

Through-routed buses would be a problem outbound if you need to get on the every 30 minute Route 69, but can't squeeze on at North Staion because it is already full with people going just to Lechmere who can take whatever bus comes first (and now that 20 people= full bus, that could be more of a problem )

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So instead you have to budget extra time for the transfer, and the shuttle bus you aimed for could still be full and you have to wait for the next one. And then you have to sit in traffic on the shuttle. And all of that could cause you to miss the 69 which only runs every 30 minutes.

A Lechmere bus transfer is one of those awful commutes I don't know how people handle every day. Waiting forever for the E as multiple trolleys get short-turned unexpectedly, then staring at your watch hoping the infrequent bus waits an extra minute for your train. A shuttle bus will make it way worse.

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The shuttle bus will be running more frequently than the Green Line

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But more slowly. And you have an extra transfer at North Station.

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The new station which is already under construction will be literally across the street in the former rail yard. In fact it is in part of what was once a pay-for parking lot.

The closure is only for about 1-year so making changes to the bus schedules would be a lot of work and in the end confusing. The buses in Cambridge will continue to use the existing Lechmere station until the new one is ready down the road. Once that opens the adjustment in the schedules will be negligible.

The existing station was traded to (I believe) PanAm Railways which owned the yard where the new station will be located. Once the trolleys move to the new station and buses also switch there the old station will be demolished and PanAm will be open to develop the land.

The new steel structure that will connect is already in place in the area of the new station. The plan appears to be to demolish all of the old steel elevated structure that is in place and install a whole new elevated structure that matches the new construction. This will connect to the cement viaduct (which traveled over river and marsh land way back in history) in the vicinity of the Gilmore Bridge. The cement viaduct is in bad shape and will be rehabilitated to make improvements.

Shuttle buses will move people from old Lechmere to North Station with a dedicated busway in place along Charles River Dam Rd. Needless to say, Science park Station will be closed during the construction. I do not know where people will pick up the shuttle buses but I expect signs in place by now.

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it is NOT a "cement" viaduct. It is a CONCRETE viaduct.
"Cement" is the binder of sand and aggregate that constitute concrete. Saying a viaduct is a "cement" viaduct is like saying it's a viaduct made of glue. Words have specific meanings and you should say what you mean.

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We can split the difference. That hard stuff that feels like rock. :-)

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it is NOT just a "concrete" viaduct. It is a Portland cement concrete viaduct. "Concrete" can refer to any material made up of aggregate and a cement binder, such as the "blacktop" (bituminous concrete) used to pave roads or the lime putty used in old mortar. Words have specific meanings and you should say what you mean.

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”Cement” is not an interchangeable term for concrete, the American Society of Concrete Constructors points out. Millions of advertising dollars have been spent to make this distinction clear to the public; yet, the greater part of the time concrete is still referred to as “cement.”
— The Chicago Tribune, 29 Jul. 1967

Citation:
Within the construction trade there is a distinct difference between cement and concrete (which is made of cement plus other materials and water). However, concrete is a relatively newer phrase and before its use cement was used to refer to both forms of building material. Either is appropriate for everyday use. -- -- -- You may, if you wish, continue to distinguish between cement and concrete, and we understand that there are many circumstances in which it is useful to do so. But this distinction is, in the relative scheme of things, a recent one, and those people who use cement to refer to “a hard strong building material” are not violating one of the basic principles of our language.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/cement-vs-concrete-same-thing

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How can I get to the Museum of Science from Boston while this is going on?

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Have you ever tried to cross that rotary/intersection at street level? It's frickin' dangerous. I hope they don't close those pedestrian overpasses that came out of Science Park.

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The El only ran three trolley lines through Lechmere from the north: Harvard via Cambridge St., Clarendon Hill via Somerville Ave, and Clarendon Hill via Highland. The streetcar from Medford Hillside went to Sullivan Station, but its replacement bus went to Lechmere.

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When I mentioned "two dozen," I was thinking of all the trolley lines everywhere, all using the central tunnel. At the same time the El was building a new Lechmere station, it was also talking about a similar type of "transfer" station on or near Harvard Avenue in Allston.

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Great archival photos! Does anyone know if the Mansion House Ice Cream Co building in the second pic still survive?

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Not that many will miss it (I won't).

So, what's the new one supposed to look like?

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When I saw the headlines I thought of all the non-pandemic-era times I took the green line to Lechmere to go to the Cambridge Galleria mall, which has the best outdoor seating with wifi, with a cool breeze off the water. (The canal.) One of my favorite places to sit and work with lunch or a cup of coffee in the summertime. (Oh yes, the station is just a minor part of the experience, but now I feel like I miss it.)

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I miss the station. It has a real historic feel, which has been lost in most MBTA stations that got renovated.

The mall is also changing. The third floor closed to become offices, and it's supposed to get even more offices and housing, while keeping some amount of retail.

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Because right now so many are in use.

I really hope we start to see the decline of 'high class office space'..

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I'll miss the historic nature of the station, though it's always been among the slap-dashiest stations in the whole system so I won't miss the experience of actually using it.

I will definitely miss "Trolley Snacks & More", though. I hope it gets moved to the new station, or at least that the sign is preserved.

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I love that description and it is apt. Many, many times while waiting for a bus I've directed people to the tunnel to get to the other side to access the inbound trains. And the Trolley Snacks sign is my favorite. I will miss that old place.

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When did that last operate? I recall there being one such concession on each side, but it's been years since either one was open.

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There may be similar plans for the Best Buy and Macy's buildings, though I haven't heard that either of those stores will be closing.

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Statwide are on the verge of financial collapse couldn't the T utilize them and set up bus shuttles and shut down the subway system for repairs for the summer months?

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They are.. I rode a Yankee bus Friday taking the blue line which was shut down from Airport to GC for 3 weeks to speed up construction due to low ridership.

And I thought the same thing about the bus companies, I feel bad for the driver being exposed but then again, I am sure he is happy to work as I am pretty sure drivers are only paid if they have contracts to work. (since drivers are typically hourly)

I expect to see more of this.. I think we're going to be like this for a while so might as well speed up projects.

And this isn't new... until a few years ago, there was a ban on doing so. Carmen's Union fought to prevent this. I mean I get it, lost wages for your members, but now the system isn't strained every time we need a shuttle bus. And grandma who rides the 99 that runs every hour, won't get left stranded because the bus was taken off route for a shuttle.

And the best part, we (the tax payers) are paying less for these drivers. Many T drivers are close or over their 40 hours so a shuttle is all OT. (esp on a Sunday where its even more per hour). We're probably paying for a set of buses + drivers for X hours for a flat amount. Easier to budget and account for. And probably cheaper.

Edit: And in Covidland this is a good thing. MassDOT and the T have access to 1000s of buses and drivers right now. Lots of buses to practice social distancing on. Vs taking buses off route such as the 111 which would cause dangerous crowding, even more so today with C19.

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How well does that work? A single front-door-only boarding bus seems inefficient, and these days hazardous, as a replacement for a subway line. It would work better as a commuter rail replacement (such as the Lowell Line).

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Certainly makes sense when the buses are running at normal capacity.

But right now with Saturday schedules, buses are running at 50% capacity. The T is paying a lot of operators not to drive (not to come in, I assume?). I don't really get how this works.

Maybe 589 is happy with the no-show job arrangement.

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At the May 11 FMCB meeting it was stated that 25% of bus operators were not available on a typical day primarily because of COVID-19 related leave: (page 8 of PDF):
https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/2020-05/2020-05-11-fmcb-14-repo...
They are also operating a lot of "Run As Directed" buses providing additional service beyond a regular Saturday schedule to reduce crowding on key bus routes.
The Blue Lne shuttle requires 74 buses weekdays (page 4 of same PDF). Although the MBTA probably has enough spare buses to cover that, they probably don't have enough drivers to cover that, at least on a consistent basis. The Blue Line shuttle is also actually being operated as three seperate routes (Airport-Government .Center, Maverick-Government Center, and Airport-Maverick). If the MBTA was to operate it in-house, they would probably only operate as one slower route (Airport-Government Center via Maverick) as they would be drawing in drivers from seven different garages, with different days off/on and fluctuating availability, and have to simplify the training and instructions because of the greater daily variance. The contractor is bringing in drivers who have no other work going on for the most part and can quickly train the same people, to do the same assignments, for two weeks straight.

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All 589 members who are not out on an approved COVID leave are still reporting to work 5 days per week. Extra operators run on RADs. That's how routes that don't run on weekends are still running, it's also how routes like the 111 are running on better headways than they normally would. 589's membership has stepped up above and beyond in this crisis.

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Boston City Archives has and posts photos of Cambridge locations. I'll keep that in mind if they ever try to post a trick mystery photo.

Unrelated, I miss the old elevated green line, particularly the section around the federal building. It felt like you were going to hit the building every time. But I won't miss Lechmear much. It had some charm but ultimately it sucked in it's own special way.

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I haven't been there myself, but according to the MBTA website, it's about a 2-block walk from the subway at North Station to the shuttle bus stop on Nashua Street. They don't actually say "2-block walk", but that's how I interpret the info they have about the bus stop location and how to get there from the Green Line.

https://www.mbta.com/diversions/green-line-e
https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/2020-05/glx-north-station-shutt...

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