Lechmere T service is back on track
Green line service returned to the Lechmere T stop Saturday, to the relief of many and the pleased surprise of a few.
Northeastern University student Alison Yong and a friend got on the T in Boston expecting another arduous street-level trip on the way to shopping at the CambridgeSide Galleria. They actually got off at North Station to collect shuttle bus tickets, as visitors to the Lechmere and Science Park areas have had to since June 2004, when the trips across the river stopped for $310 million in repairs.
Last summer’s reopening was delayed because of problems repairing the century-old aqueduct across which the trolleys run.
“They had bags over the ticket machines. It just seemed like they were broken,” Yong said, recalling North Station. “I thought [the Lechmere T] was opening again next week. Then some kind bum told us.
“The bum said they should put up more signs,” she added.
The two shoppers, like everyone interviewed emerging from the trolley, had horror stories of long waits for shuttles buses or getting stuck in brutal traffic on their way to hit the stores, go to work or head home.
“It was awful,” said Jocelyn, who chose not to give her last name, an East Cambridge resident who takes the green line to Boston’s Prudential stop for her work commute. “Just because of the traffic it could be a half-hour or 45 minutes door to door. It should only take 20.”
Her personal worst: about an hour.
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority officials say track replacement and new signal systems should make the trip across the river faster than before service was shut down — about 20 mph instead of sometimes dropping into the single digits. On Saturday it was five minutes from North Station to Lechmere, but eight minutes back and 13 to Park Street — still an improvement over the traffic jams of the recent past.
The number of riders was about the same as before the shuttle buses started, said spokeswoman Lydia M. Rivera, neither crowded with excited travelers nor low because people were uninformed of the relaunch. And, aside from some signal troubles early in the day, the trip was as smooth and speedy as expected.
Eventually the Lechmere stop is to move farther east into a giant development called NorthPoint. This sets it up for a green line extension — estimated to cost between $340 million and $438 million — to Somerville and West Medford, the biggest subway expansion since the red line pushed from Harvard Square to Alewife.
“There’s no substitute for rail. I’ve been to CambridgeSide once or twice since they stopped running here,” said traveler K.M. Peterson, of Brookline. “In traffic once it took about 40 minutes between Lechmere and Government Center — and of course it feels more like two hours.”
Peterson wasn’t the only rail fan riding on Saturday. He wasn’t even the only one riding simply because it was the first day of returned service to Lechmere.
Alex Macnow, 19, a Boston University music major, is seriously contemplating adding an independent concentration in “T studies.” And he stayed up all night, he said, to make sure he was on the first T to Lechmere. At 4:50 a.m.
“I was so excited,” he said. “I took pictures.”
It was just Macnow, a friend and the T driver, he said, when the voice of the dispatcher came over the driver’s radio to say, “Good morning, No. 1.”
“He said it to the guy driving,” Macnow said, “although I felt he was speaking to me.”