Red-Blue pedestrian link stirs debate

Red-Blue pedestrian link stirs debate

Connection listed in T planning document for 2040 and beyond

MBTA OFFICIALS SAY they are exploring a pedestrian link between the Red and Blue Lines because it could be done much sooner and at far less cost than a rail link.

The T released a draft of a to-do list for 2040 earlier this week that highlighted the Red-Blue pedestrian connection along with a host of other projects. The list offered few details on what kind of pedestrian link the T was considering and didn’t specifically mention what route it would follow.

In its initial reporting on the proposal, CommonWealth mistakenly reported the link would run between Bowdoin Station on the Blue Line and Charles/MGH on the Red, the route most often talked about for a rail connection between the two subway lines. In fact, T officials confirmed, the proposed link would run between State on the Blue Line and Downtown Crossing, which serves the Red and Orange Lines. The officials said the pedestrian link would also be a step toward creating a downtown superstation linking State, Park, and Downtown Crossing.

News of the pedestrian link prompted some discussion on social media, with many expressing puzzlement at the approach. Jim Aloisi, a former state transportation secretary and member of the TransitMatters board, dismissed the idea. “If we brought the same mindset to connecting Red and Blue as we did to making GLX happen, we’d be talking about an affordable transit connection rather than a functionally useless pedestrian link. This one is just unfathomable,” he said in a Twitter post.

At Monday’s meeting of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, Joseph Aiellok, the chairman of the board, seemed surprised that he had never heard anything about the pedestrian link idea before.

T officials noted there is an ongoing study reviewing the assumptions underlying a 2010 environmental report on a rail link connecting the Blue to Red at Charles/MGH, and recommended the technical feasibility of a pedestrian link should be examined as well.

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Bruce Mohl

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About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The distance between State and Downtown Crossing is about 600 feet, and it’s unclear whether the pedestrian link would be just a walkway or a moving walkway, as often seen in airports. There have been several attempts around the world to launch higher-speed passenger walkways going as fast as 7 miles an hour. One high-speed design for a transit station in Paris was prone to breakdowns and user accidents, and was eventually shut down. Another at the Toronto Pearson International Airport appears to be working better.

Beyond 2040, the T said it is thinking about building a rail link between the Blue and Red Lines that could extend to Back Bay and Longwood and north to Lynn.