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Boston, Massachusetts/South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase II

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South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase II

Boston, Massachusetts

(November 1999)

(Access the South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase II Map)


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is building Phase I of an underground Transitway connecting the MBTA’s existing transit system with the South Boston Piers area, located adjacent to Boston’s central business district. Dual mode trackless trolleys will operate in the Transitway tunnel and on limited surface routes in the eastern end of the Piers area and to Logan International Airport. Phase I will connect South Station – which is the terminus of the MBTA’s south side commuter rail operations, the terminus of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service, a major bus station, and a station on the MBTA’s Red Line – to the World Trade Center in the Piers area. Phase II would extend the Transitway underground from South Station to Chinatown Station on the Orange Line and Boylston Station on the Green Line, a distance of approximately one-half mile. Phase II is estimated to cost $363.70 million (in 1996 dollars).

South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase II Summary Description

Proposed Project Underground Transitway 0.5 miles in length; 2 stations
Total Capital Cost ($1996) $363.70 million
Section 5309 Share ($1996) $291.00 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1996) $0.60 million
Ridership Forecast (2010) 37,000 average daily boardings;
(6,500 daily new riders)
FY 2001 Finance Rating: Low
FY 2001 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The overall project rating of Not Recommended is based on the project's lack of an updated financial plan and lack of committed local funding. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


In February 1993, the MBTA completed alternatives analysis and selected a 1.5- mile underground transit tunnel from Boylston Station to the World Trade Center combined with surface bus operations as the locally preferred alternative. This alternative is referred to as the Full Build Transitway, which was proposed to be constructed in two phases. The Final Environmental Impact Statement was completed in December 1993. FTA issued a Record of Decision in May 1994 applicable to the Full Build Transitway.

In 1994, FTA signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement for $330.73 million, including a contingent commitment for $53.00 million, with the MBTA for Phase I of the Transitway. Phase I is now estimted to open in 2003.

Section 3030(a)(86) of the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorizes the "South Boston – Piers Transitway" for final design and construction, with no distinction between Phase I and Phase II. No funds have been appropriated for Phase II.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Phase II of the Transitway project was never analyzed as a stand alone segment; hence, the basis of comparison for calculating the new starts criteria for Phase II is against the Phase I of the Transitway. Therefore, Phase II is considered the New Start and Phase I the "no build" alternative. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design, and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.


The Medium project justification rating reflects the very strong transit supportive land use along the Transitway corridor, which off-sets the project’s poor cost-effectiveness.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low-Medium

The 0.5-mile extension is expected to serve 37,000 average weekday boardings and 6,500 daily new riders by 2010. MBTA estimates the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.5 million hours N/A

Based on 1990 Census data, the area has an estimated 1,043 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed transitway tunnel extension, equivalent to 27 percent of total households.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Metropolitan Boston is a serious non-attainment area for ozone. MBTA estimates the following emission reductions in 2010.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) reduction of 68 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) reduction of 14 annual tons N/A
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) reduction of 8 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) No Change N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reduction of 4,784 annual tons N/A

MBTA estimates that in 2010 the project would result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (million) reduction of 47,367 million BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MBTA estimates the following systemwide operating costs per passenger mile in 2010 for Phase II of the South Boston Piers Transitway and the No-Build alternative.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2010) $0.58 N/A $0.58

Note: Values reflect 2010 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Low-Medium

MBTA estimates the following cost effectiveness index.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $15.60 N/A

Note: Values reflect 2010 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: High

The High land use rating reflects strong existing land use and transit-supportive policies in the corridor. Construction and development proposals are consistent with existing high density and land uses. The city and MBTA continue to demonstrate progress in planning and implementing development projects that provide a transit supportive mix of residential, office, and civic space.

Existing Conditions: The South Boston Piers Transitway study area includes downtown Boston and the South Boston Piers/Fort Point Channel area. Dense concentrations of population are found in downtown Boston--residential densities near 28 person per acre. The Urban Core (which includes the Boston peninsula east of Massachusetts Avenue) contains 17 to 19 percent of total regional employment, the largest concentration within the entire metropolitan area. Boston's Urban Core has increased its employment by 22 percent between 1970 and 1990. The Transitway corridor is zoned for mixed-use, high-density development. The Piers area is less intensely developed than the CBD but contains some renovated office development, a recently completed Federal Courthouse, the World Trade Center, a new hotel, and medium-and high-end residential development. Several projects are currently under construction in the area.

Plans and Policies: The Boston Downtown Transportation Plan and various local economic and land use policies promote transit-supportive development in the CBD and South Boston Piers area. The Boston Redevelopment Authority has completed the Seaport Public Realm Plan to guide the development of the Seaport District, specifying development of a mix of residential, office, and civic space while maintaining the industrial character of the area. Land use policies and market demands in the CBD and Piers area have fostered several development projects. Lafayette Corporate Center is now complete with full occupancy. The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport District and Millennium Place near Chinatown are under construction. A 268- room hotel and a 43,000 square foot YMCA facility are also planned near the Chinatown station; other planned development includes housing, manufacturing, research and development, tourism, recreation, retail, food services, visual arts, and maritime industries. Specific growth management policies are indirect and rely upon concentrations of development in the downtown core rather than limitations of development throughout the region. Parking has been drastically reduced for commuters due to a freeze on the number of allowable parking spaces for commercial development within the CBD and the South Boston Piers area, further fostering transit-oriented development. Designated Economic Development Areas, located around the proposed Courthouse Station, allow the greatest development density in the project area and contain the Transitway alignment.

Other Factors

FTA BRT Demonstration Program: In August 1999, the Silver Line was designated as one of FTA's ten BRT Demonstration Projects. FTA’s BRT Demonstration Program is intended to foster the development of BRT systems in the United States; address BRT planning, implementation, and operational issues; and evaluate system performance in a wide range of operating environments.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 20%

The financial plan includes $291.00 million (80 percent) in Section 5309 New Starts funds and $72.70 million (20 percent) in unspecified State and Local funds. Both amounts are estimated in 1996 dollars.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low

The Low capital finance plan rating reflects the lack of a submitted financial plan and other financial information for the project or the MBTA system.

Agency Financial Condition: The materials submitted by the MBTA are dated and do not provide a clear indication of the agency's current financial condition. The 1993 FEIS report outlines steps to be undertaken by MBTA to reduce expenses by $40 million annually through structural changes and privatization initiatives. MBTA is currently developing a recovery plan for the Phase I segment of the South Boston Piers Transitway.

Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The project's capital cost estimates cannot be accurately determined given the information provided by MBTA. The capital plan submitted in prior years provides no indication of the presence of contingency factors or other protection against cost overruns.

Existing and Committed Funding: Based on submitted financial information, no local funding is yet committed to Phase II of the Transitway. MBTA has the authority to issue bonds to address capital needs but there is no evidence of how existing revenue sources would service the debt incurred for the project.

New and Proposed Sources: No new funding sources were identified for the construction of Phase II Transitway project.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium rating reflects only marginally higher O&M costs for Phase II over Phase I. The existing financial plan does not provide sufficient detail to analyze these costs or their supporting assumptions.

Agency Financial Condition: The MBTA is in adequate operating condition. In recent years, MBTA has undertaken significant measures to contain operating costs. As a result, the MBTA has experienced positive operating balances and increasing farebox recovery ratios (from 21 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 1995).

Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operating costs for Phase II are estimated at $1.5 million. The MBTA did not provide documentation of cost assumptions, escalation factors, or contingencies.

Existing and Committed Funding: MBTA operations are funded through a combination of fare revenues, state assistance, local assessments and Federal aid. Submitted financial materials do not indicate the ability of these sources to cover additional operating expenses related to the Phase II project.

New and Proposed Sources: No new sources of operating funding are proposed for the project.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $1996)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $291.00 $295.49 million appropriated to Phase I through FY 2000
$0.00 appropriated to Phase II through FY 2000
State/Local: Unspecified $72.70 N/A
Total: $363.70

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase II Map. The project would extend the Transitway underground from South Station to Chinatown Station on the Orange Line and Boylston Station on the Green Line, a distance of approximately one-half mile.

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact