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January 18, 2008



Can we get one at Washington Street too, which is 5 min walk from Union Square?

Solh Zendeh

That is definitely an interesting idea. My only comment is that I wouldn't want the building of the stop to significantly interfere with the construction of the green line extention. Does anyone have any more specific details about exactly which line would stop, where it would stop, etc?

Rail Fan

The lines are already there. I believe that the commuter rail used to stop at Ball Square but have no idea when or why it was discontinued. I would think that it could be resurrected without much difficulty. There are many suburban stops with nothing more than a small canopy and a few benches. This is a great idea!

Will McQueen

This is a horrible idea. The diesel engines on the commuter trains generate a significant amount of pollution when they start and stop. Just wait until the fully electric Green line is completed.

Ron Newman

I'd like to see a station here, The Porter Square commuter rail station is a great convenience to a different section of Somerville.


Terrific idea Sean. I'm sure the people of Ball Square would love the added traffic and parking issues, (where would the Norton's park for heaven's sake?) not to mention the diesel dust spewing into the air with the hundreds of stops and starts of the train engines. Nothing like waking up at 5:30AM to the sound of the old train whistle announcing its arrival for the 8 people waiting.

Maybe the diesel dust would be a nice topping on my bacon and aggs at Kelly's.


I think this appears to be a good idea on the surface, but once you start considering pollution issues, and potential ridership (for three years of what would essentially be a Ball Square-North Station shuttle), I'm not sure it's worth the trade off.

Ron - does the MBTA have numbers available for commuter rail passengers at Porter Square? (Which will be much higher than a Ball Square stop due to the Red Line tie-in at Porter)

Also for you conspiracy theorists: guess who owns most of the land to the north of Broadway and to the west of the tracks?

Conflict of Interest

Corrupt, brainless drunks should stop proposing silly ideas. Besides, people, with all the disgustingly obese guys walking around, why cannot you walk a mile to go to the damn T stop? Greens, you are all for reducing pollution, but then you want another stop in the city, with the extra Diesel pollution that will cause! Bunch of hypocrites! Ron Newman, specifically.

Ron Newman

I don't think anyone is proposing a special Ball Square-North Station shuttle, just adding Ball Square as a stop on the existing Lowell Line trains. The stop existed until about the 1950s, was called 'North Somerville', and was just on the Medford side of the city line.

You should see Porter Square station at rush hour. It has lots of people transferring in both directions.


It's not that simple, Conflict. There are trade-offs involved (i.e. fewer automobile trips taken) but I'm fairly sure *in the short run* two dozen trains stopping every day in Ball Square will outweigh any pollution savings from fewer car-trips.


As long as you don't throw any parking lots in and make it a "ya gotta live close to use it" stop then it's a great idea. I think we all know there will be aholes that will DRIVE to the T stop there instead of the one in West Medford. We sucker those imbeciles in. If people decide to drive into ball square then we have the city send the hordes of "traffic enforcement" officers that they currently have bending us residents over onto to those morons who drive in. Hit them with $200 fines for parking in Ball square (they're getting us for $50 on street cleaning) -- and use that revenue to lower our property taxes.

The more we think this through... the more I think it's a great idea. More stops the better. Toss another in Union square and do the same thing. Make a couple of big traffic enforcement "honeypots" to generate more revenue. I'm luvin' it! Of course, we all know that the moonbats will want to use the extra revenue to fund some more alternative lifestyle programs. I can envision Ron and his minions demanding that people be allowed to marry their dogs/cats/gerbils and we should then have to pay for the pet's healthcare. But.... whatever...

Pollution? Dude? Pollution? Please. According to Bill there's already enough "fine particles" in the air now to kill us all a "millll-yuuuun" times over. What's a little more between neighbors.

Ron Newman

I see it as useful for Ball and Magoun-area folks who would not walk to Davis Square (20+ minutes) or take the slow #80 bus to Lechmere where they would then have to transfer to a Green Line train.

Remember, one of the rationales for the Green Line extension has always been that Somerville has lots of transit service running through it, that doesn't stop anywhere in the city (and therefore doesn't benefit local residents). A commuter rail stop at Ball Square (or Somerville Junction, or Union Square) would address that while we're waiting for the Green Line to arrive.

Yuppie Scum

Ron, by "Shuttle to north station" they mean that Ball would probably be the next stop north from North Station, meaning it would essentially function that way.

While I'm sensitive to transit issues and am a full supporter of the Green Line extension, I do think that the capital and resources that would go into making this commuter rail stop a reality would be better applied to the full Green Line extension.


Ron, Tricky, et al:

Ball Square was, indeed, North Somerville. The station building stood until a few years ago. This is on the MBCR's Lowell Line (formerly New Hampshire Division Main line) but also sees trains which go to Haverhill and beyond via the Wildcat branch at Wilmington. Among these are the 5-times daily each way "Downeaster" to Portland which makes its first outbound stop at Anderson RTC.

Porter Square has an interesting uniquity among commuter rail stops on the (former) B&M. It is the only stop at which you can not board an inbound train to Boston. I believe this is still the case even under MBCR/MBTA operation.

A few weeks back I had a discussion with an MBCR dispatcher friend and the topic of the Green Line extension was brought up. This led to a lengthy and rather enjoyable bull session about alternatives to light rail service. Basically, his opinion--and he's an Operations guy--is that they should consider a third track as far as Winchester on the existing commuter rail R-O-W and electrify the three lines, then run high service-frequency MU cars similar to what Conn DOT runs on the NEC from New Haven to New Rochelle. These would operate out of Boston via Lechmere Sq. (basically on the old Southern Division R-O-W) in lieu of the present New Hampshire Division alignment, which could be eliminated totally (freeing up contiguous real estate in Inner Belt which is currently bisected by the commuter rail Lowell Line--a vestige of the 1927 Terminal consolidation project).

The longer distance trains (Lowell, Haverhill, etc.) would, under this scenario, continue to operate with their existing diesel push-pull configurations.

I was incredulous as to the density that could be safely operated. His reply to that was that if there were double-track reverse-signal CTC installed on both tracks with suitable crossovers at strategic locations, the density could literally approach that of what is operated over the "D" line to Riverside beyond Kenmore Sq. He pointed to the former CB&Q (now Metra) "Race Track" between Chicago and Aurora as an example of one such high-density high-speed line. All of this would likely be do-able for about half the projected $600 million cost of the pro-forma Green Line extension proposal.

FWIW, I have a 1920 B&M Southern Division Employee Timetable which shows no fewer than 40 trains a day--all steam powered--stopping at Somerville Jct.

As far as parking and other logistics go... That will be an issue whether it is light rail, commuter rail or any other type of service.

A more significant goal, as we discussed, would be to push the park and ride out to Rte. 128 where it really belongs.


Ron Paul in 2008


Not a good idea:

- will add pollution and noise
- will add to traffic/parking issues
- will add to Boston commute of those coming from outside, so this line may drop in ridership

I'd also hate to see the green line plans change because Ball Square already has a train stop. Some may argue later, "why put another?"

I know it's different money, but I'd rather use the money to extend bike path towards Boston.

Ron Newman

JAR - Plenty of people get on inbound commuter trains at Porter Square, or get off outbound ones there. I'm one of them. That's why I buy a Zone 1A commuter rail pass intead of a LinkPass each month. Same price - $59/month.



Thank you for the correction/update. Since I've never tried doing this, I was not aware that it had been changed, but am glad to hear it can be done now. Many years ago we had an article in the B&M Bulletin called "The Upstairs Downstairs Station" that spoke of all this. I think this came about as a result of an arbitrary or work rule among the brotherhoods.

Also, I erred in saying "third-track as far as Winchester." The triple-track, we hypothesized, would only need to extend as far as West Medford (where there used to be a middle).



If the Green Line extension was not coming, I'd definitely favor the commuter rail stop in Ball Square.

Also, keep in mind that unless you're on a monthly pass, you're going to pay to transfer to the Green or Orange Line at North Station. (Once the Green Line is extended, this won't be the case...)

Ron Newman

Supposedly that "pay to transfer" will go away once the commuter rail is converted to CharlieCard. But I have no idea when that will happen -- it was supposed to be last year!

S Lyons

Wow, this is just an excellent common sense idea. I know it would make my life easier. I think alot of my neighbors would say the same thing. My only hope is that it's not more expensive than a regular T ride.


Anyone interested in what the Ball Square (North Somerville) station used to look like, check out eBay item number 370014764306.




Woof, woof. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, woof!

Green Line

The Somerville Journal is reporting that the state has decided to extend the Green Line only if they are allowed to also build a repair facility in Somerville. Any truth to this? It seems to me yet another indication of how ineffective how administration and our legislators are. They are not taken seriously and are not able to accomplish anything for the city!


Unless the MBTA is thinking about that litle patch along the tracks at the bend in Inner Belt Road, there's really no other place in Somerville where it could go.

JAR - wasn't the T considering some way to locate Green Line maintenance within their existing maintenance building down thataways?


Conflict of Interest - you should climb back under the bridge and join the troll that spawned you.


The big news coming out of the advisory board meeting last week is that the proposed Light Maintenance facility has grown into a Heavy Maintenance facility over 500,000 square feet in size!

There are 4 sites for this 11.5 acre maintenance facility. Three of them are in Somerville – the property known as Yard 8 near the Brickbottom area; the Boston Engine Terminal (the big blue commuter rail maintenance facility); and the Somerville DPW yard, south of Trum Field. The other site is the Yard 7 area in Cambridge near the Fitchburg commuter rail line.

Ron Newman

Can the T just take our DPW Yard? Where would it move to?



I have not heard anything concrete about the maintenance facility. The present Commuter Rail facility is--or was, when it was built--the largest of its type in the Northeast I believe.

I personally think it is unfair, at the very least, that the land-poor, industrial tax base-lacking City of Somerville should be asked to bear the additional burden of another facility for the MBTA that will benefit riders from so many other communities. After the City of Boston, the municipality best served by the Green Line is Brookline. Perhaps they can find a location over there to place the maintenance facility (as if!)... or maybe Newton with its $100 million-plus new North High School(and now that you've all had your laugh for the day...).


Ron Paul in 2008!

The laughingstocks

Why is it that everyone wants to dump their unwanted facilities in Somerville? A new jail, a T maintenance facility, etc., etc.,.....
Good work, Jehlen, Provost, Sciortino, and oh, yes, Governor Patrick!!

Bill Shelton

The three people whom you mention, Jehlen, Provost, and Sciorintino, all have opposed locating a jail facility here in Somerville. I don't know what, if any, position they have on a T maintenance facility.

It's true!

I don't doubt that the 3 Musketeers would vote against these proposals - it's political suicide not to. However, I think the point above is valid. If they had the respect of other legislators, and even the governor, we wouldn't constantly get hit with these types of proposals. Don't forget the sludge plant that they want to locate in 'Boston', but right on the Somerville border. And this was about to happen when the city found out about it more or less by accident. Let's face it, our legislative members are ineffective at best, and a laughingstock at worst.


JAR - where is Yard 7 along the Fitchburg line? Is that immediately to the south of the existing Big Blue maintenance building?

If it can't go in that neighborhood for whatever reason, looks to me that a reasonable spot might be south of the Fitchburg line, between Prospect and Medford (i.e. behind the Somerville Ave. Target, across the tracks). That seems kind of like a no-man's land of takeable properties back there, no?

Let's get real

"That seems kind of like a no-man's land of takeable properties back there, no?"
Is this a serious question? I don't think the state (or the city for that matter) should be taking any more land in Somerville for anything! Didn't Route 93 take enough of our land? And there is plenty of land being taken for Assembly Square already. The state already owns some parcels in Somerville that are woefully maintained - Foss Park, Draw 7, Fellsway West, areas under the highway along 93 near Sullivan Square, etc. Noone should be seriously discussing allowing this facility to be built in Somerville. We need industries which will produce a tax base, and maybe even some good jobs. Aren't we through being the doormat of the city of Boston??



Yard 7 is/was located over near what is today the North Point Park east of the Gilmore Bridge. The yard formerly located to the south of the Boston Engine Terminal (commuter rail maintenance facility) was Yard 14. This was built as a piggyback loading/unloading facility during the McGinnis Administration. It sits astride the Somerville-Cambridge line where the remains of the Miller River were filled in in the mid-50s.


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