Take A Ride On The MBTA’s ‘New Indigo Line’ In 2024

MassDOT released a comprehensive five-year spending plan to fix the state’s transportation infrastructure. The report includes a long-term vision with another line.

Photo By Samantha Carey

Photo By Samantha Carey

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has big plans for the Commonwealth over the next five years, including shortening commutes, bolstering the community, and adding specialized trains to the “Indigo Line,” which ideally, one day, would make stops in Allston, Cambridge, and stretch all the way to the North Shore.

On Thursday afternoon, MassDOT released its Capital Investment Plan for 2014 through 2018, which is an outline of how state officials plan to spend money, trying to fix the problems that plague pedestrians, cyclists, commuters, and drivers.

In a 65-page document, MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey outlined the goals of the agency, which includes projects on the state’s highways and bridges, as well as critical infrastructure changes along the tracks of the MBTA and Commuter Rail system. According to the report, over the next five fiscal years, MassDOT plans on spending roughly $12.4 billion on transit projects across the state.

Roughly $835 million of that money will be going toward new Red and Orange line cars, which are scheduled to hit the tracks sometime in 2019. Davey said the state is also determined to use that money to fix signals on the MBTA, which are often the cause of serious transportation delays for commuters. An additional $1.3 billion is headed toward the Green Line extension, which will bring the train cars to new parts of Somerville and Medford.

While those projects are nothing new, one interesting highlight of the report is the suggested addition of Diesel Multiple Unit vehicle services, known as DMUs, to the “new Indigo Line.” In his report, Davey notes that the DMU funding will establish the Indigo Line, using the Fairmount corridor to start.

Right now, the Commuter Rail only makes five stops between Readville and South Station along that particular line, cutting through Downtown Boston, South Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park.

As the Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative notes, the T has been working on adding new stations along that route to better serve residents in those neighborhoods. Once they are all opened, MassDOT hopes to add the DMUs, which would run along the current Fairmount tracks, with more stops being made at the new stations to provide “faster, more reliable service.”

If all goes according to plan, in the next 10 years MassDOT would like to roll out their “vision for the MBTA in 2024,” where additional DMU lines would run alongside existing Commuter Rail tracks and make connections to existing stations a lot easier.

According to a map produced by MassDOT as part of the report, the Indigo Line would expand in the next decade and make loops into Fort Point, near the Convention Center, as well as provide trips to Back Bay, and introduce a connector that could swing into Cambridge before making its way to North Station from Allston. There’s also a proposal to have DMUs travel alongside the Lowell and Rockport Lines, connecting to Boston.

Here’s the map (click to enlarge):


Click to enlarge

A closer look at the map, specifically highlighting major points in the city, shows you how hopping on a proposed DMU train on the Indigo Line would help skip multiple station transfers. The darker purple line indicates where the DMUs would run. (Click to enlarge):


Click to enlarge


According to a Globe report that detailed the “Track 61” project, where an independent DMU line would run service from the Seaport District to Copley, a DMU train car costs around $4 million. In Davey’s capital plan, MassDOT would like to put $252 million toward DMUs—as well as toward expanding Silver Line services—to provide “reliable public transit to underserved communities in the Fairmount Corridor of Boston, Chelsea, and the North Shore.”

No DMUs currently operate in Massachusetts, according to T officials. But the Indigo Line will come into play once the DMUs are active, and the T increases the frequency of service on the Fairmount line first.

The overall proposed five-year Capital Investment Program, including the vision to bring the Indigo Line to life, is the first comprehensive plan published that looks at all infrastructure-related spending, instead of specific projects, said Davey, and builds from a prior 2009 report. It outlines how money is allocated for certain investments, and where they would like to see additional funds siphoned to.

“In other words, this represents the allocation of estimated state and federal revenues for the reconstruction, maintenance, and development of our statewide highways, bicycle and pedestrian paths, bridges, local roads, bus and rail networks, and airports for the next five fiscal years,” Davey said in the introduction to the report. “The [plan] is more than just numbers on a page. It reflects a commitment by this administration to leave a better Commonwealth for current and future generations.”

The projects outlined in the report are currently under Patrick’s administration, and Davey said it is critical that the incoming administration, when he leaves office, try and carry some of these recommendations forward.

  • spmull06

    How frequent would Indigo service hypothetically be?

    • BUE

      Hypothetically? Rapid transit or near-rapid transit. I believe the current stated goal for the Fairmount Line is every 10 minutes? Which would be near-rapid transit as far as peak-service is concerned.

      • spmull06

        I didn’t know if the T had committed to that; I knew that is what people pushing Indigo wanted. I also perused the entire document – it only discusses Fairmount. There is nothing about the additional “Indigo” service featured in the map.

        • David Behuniak

          DMU Service & Silver Line to Chelsea ($252 million) – implementation of diesel multiple unit vehicles

          (independently powered subway vehicles running on commuter rail lines) and expansion of the Silver Line service

          will provide reliable public transit to underserved communities in the Fairmont Corridor of Boston, Chelsea and the

          North Shore. The DMU funding will establish the new Indigo Line, using the Fairmont commuter rail corridor, to

          provide faster, more reliable service to that region of Boston.

          • spmull06

            I read the document. The Facebook post for this article emphasized the “Indigo” service that appears on the map, which was not discussed in the article (e.g., to Lynn and Riverside). I said this above.

          • David Behuniak

            I think it might be somewhere in-between; you’re absolutely right about nothing being formally mentioned about Riverside, but Lynn is part of the North Shore, and the proposal specifically mentions the North Shore.

          • spmull06

            The North Shore bit has to do with the Silver Line expansion to Chelsea, not the DMUs.

  • BUE

    Major flaws in this “vision”. I realize it’s merely a 2024 timeline, but they’re still thinking small and irrationally. First of all, the BCEC shuttle is outrageous, and I can’t believe they’re still “visualizing” it.

    The DMU ‘Indigo’ lines are pretty solid, and I have some adjustments, but hey, I’d certainly take what they’re giving.

    It’s incredibly disappointing that the outrageously bloated South Coast Rail Project is depicted. That thing needs a garlic-soaked stake to the heart, pronto! Interesting that they still don’t expect a stop in Plaistow, NH by then, however.

    The lack of a Red-Blue connector is also disappointing. At least TRY to pursue it. It’s critical to system-wide capacity and to regional mobility. Give me a break, MassDOT!

  • Dorian

    how about extending the orange line one stop into Roslindale Square?

    • BUE

      There’s been no official study on this at all. While a worthy project, this is too much for 2024 at MBTA’s glacial pace.

      • Dorian

        The only way this would happen is if the Walsh admin pushes hard for it. Walsh? Are you listening? You want to win over the part of the city that didn’t vote for you? Orange line stop in Roslindale – at the very least force the T and the traffic dept to do a REAL study.

        • Dave

          Walsh can push for it, but ultimately the MBTA is run by the state and he has no authority over it

    • joebowl

      The Roslindale community rejected the idea of having the Orange line being extended into their neighborhood back when the Orange line was rerouted into the Southwest corridor in 1980s. So blame the people back in the past from not wanting subway line into the city.

  • namerequired2

    Why can’t it be yellow?

    • BUE

      Yellow is actually what they want to use for the Urban Ring.

    • Jurvis LaSalle

      Since they’ll be using commuter rail tracks, they’re using Indigo to tie in with the color purple which is already associated with the MBCR.

  • namerequired2

    PNG or PDF would be much more helpful than blurry JPGs as I can’t see where any of the northern stops are going (the text is not legible)

  • redsongia

    Still no North/South Station connection, no connection between the red and blue line and no service to the East Side of South Boston/Castle Island.

    • brazildj

      Sadly there may never be a North Station/South Station connection (other than by taking the Red Line and changing to the Orange or Green Line). A plan was considered during the Big Dig to excavate an additional tunnel under or alongside the highway that would have allowed trains to not only link the two stations, but to provide continuous service through Boston to New Hampshire and Maine to the north, so that you could have, for example, taken a trip from Washington D.C. to Portland Maine on one train. As I recall It was rejected — even a lower-cost contingency option that wouldn’t have built the tunnel but would have left that possibility open by engineering the project with that in mind. Another plan was rejected in 2006: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North%E2%80%93South_Rail_Link

      • gggreggg

        I am not sure, but I thought there was a proto-tunnel built so that in the future it could be bored out to accommodate a track. (if anyone knows of which I speak, please let us know if that the case.)

        • brazildj

          I believe the idea was floated but ultimately abandoned as too costly. There’s actually a Wikipedia page about all of this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North%E2%80%93South_Rail_Link Since the existence of a proto-tunnel isn’t even hinted at, that would suggest it isn’t there. But I do remember those discussions…

          • gggreggg

            thanks for the reply. I checked out the Wikipedia site you suggested and there is a vague mention of preserving a right of way—doesn’t sound very concrete.

            The April 2007 document “JOURNEY TO 2030: Transportation Plan of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization” said “the MPO feels that a study of the right-of-way requirements should be conducted for preservation of that right-of-way so as to not preclude this project’s going forward in the future.”[8]

  • christineboston

    The orange line should go to West Roxbury and Roslindale; there’s still a big gap in train options along the Blue Hill Ave corridor that should be a priority.

    • joebowl

      There were plans to extend the Orange Line with two branches with one to West Roxbury and the other to Hyde Park back when the southern part of the Orange line was rebuilt in 1970s or 80s. However, the residents in West Roxbury/Roslindale and Hyde Park all rejected the idea of a subway line going through their neighborhood so it’s not like the MBTA didn’t think of the idea before.

    • commentsforall

      I think the whole Needham line can be serviced by these planned DMUs during non peak travel times.

  • James Whiting

    Ban pro Israel. Fail. Boston has a proud Jewish history and current presence. U wanna ban something? Throw this idea in the trash. There’s your ban. Have a nice day BOOZE TOWN. :p

    • BUE

      Is this supposed to be witty or something?

      • James Whiting

        No. I’m just not a fan of anti Semitism. Pick and choose liberal politics. And our freedoms being taken away. Mind u, I’m a Democrat myself. Not a liberal. Big difference. Have a nice day

  • Juan Carlos Facusé

    Still no Blue Line/Red Line connection?! This should be a major priority and would help help thousands of daily commuters. Not to mention open Red Line communities (jobs!) for Blue Liners.

    Also, a subway line to the Innovation District and South Boston needs to be thought of beyond Silver Line. Not sure if the DMU meets the needs of this growing area.

  • agingcynic

    I think we all know how this is going to end. Post Big Dig, big projects will collapse under their own weight. This state is THAT corrupt.

    • Tug Thumper

      So what’s your solution? Not building needed big projects?

  • bells201

    What confuses me is that the riverside (Green line) does not have a connection to the commuter rail ? They run right next to each other yet there is no commuter rail stop. I am sure there are other places along the system that could benefit from such adjustments as well.

    • Adam

      There is an abandoned spur between Riverside and the Worcester line, once used for “Circuit” service on the Highland branch. It was last used for temporary service in 1996 when the central subway was flooded.

  • Andrew

    How much will it cost to ride the indigo line and can transfer to the subway for free?

  • gggreggg

    1—and still relying on the “hub and spoke” idea. why no cross connectors so one does not have to come all the way in in order to connect to another one of the spokes,
    2–Bowdoin Station is still like an appendix a useless dead end—-why no connection to Charles/MGH?

  • Dennis Grimes

    The Best Hub Spoke solution for the MBTA would be a hub line down the middle of Route 128, so a commuter could come in on any MBTA spoke line and then take the hub line out to any of the other commuter or subway lines.

  • James Whiting

    I’ve been out to Worcester. We should have an MBTA connected line to Hartford. U might argue Amtrak. Amtrak is bit on the expensive side. Lol. Once u get into west Hartford, if I’m not mistaken, the commuter train to NYC begins. It could b New Haven (Nutmeggar territory. Lol)
    Don’t quote me.

    • quinyus

      Intercity buses run directly from Worcester to Hartford, CT and frequently too.