After years — actually, decades — of waiting, Somerville's first Green Line trolley left Union Square on Monday, as the MBTA officially opened the first branch of the Green Line Extension. T officials are also aiming to open the longer leg of the project through central Somerville to Tufts University in Medford by the end of the summer.
So ... what's next?
Yes, the T is already facing a lot of challenges when it comes to long-term funding (especially after the COVID-19 pandemic put a dent in its revenue stream). And for now, they're focused on projects to make service better, such as rolling out new cars and ways to pay fares.
But some residents and elected officials aren't satisfied with merely fulfilling the 1990s pledge of extending the Green Line into Somerville and (just barely) Medford. And while the expansion of transit can bring new challenges like rising rents, the Union Square station opening this week illustrated the enthusiasm many local residents have for public transit arriving in their neighborhoods — and the connectivity it brings.
So, we asked WBUR readers where the next MBTA extension should be.
The responses were as wide-ranging as those fictitious future T maps.
Here are the highlights:
Keep the Green Line Extension going
This was actually part of the original Green Line Extension plan (before the project was scaled back after projected cost overruns): extend the Medford branch past Tufts along the Lowell commuter rail line to Route 16/the Mystic Valley Parkway.
MBTA officials are still eyeing this extension — which would connect West Medford to the rapid transit system — as part of their long-term vision. And several readers called on the MBTA to follow through.
"We in Medford were promised a green line at Route 16 and we are still waiting," Jaye Raye wrote. "It was part of a deal. I lived in Porter Square when they added a T stop there. It transformed that neighborhood."
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne, as well as her predecessor, Joe Curtatone, lent their support to the idea — even garnering enthusiastic applause from Gov. Charlie Baker.
"It has to happen," Curtatone said.
Several readers also suggested extending the Green Line from Union Square to link up with the Red Line and commuter rail at Porter Square. MBTA documents suggest a Porter Square extension is possible, though officials have been mum on the subject. The idea was also mentioned Monday by Ballantyne and Curtatone, though it got a more muted response from Baker.
Next up: The Blue Line
Readers also want to see the Blue Line go a little further — on both ends.
Connecting the Blue Line to the Red Line at the Charles/MGH station is on the MBTA's list of things to do by 2030. Rob Astyk writes that it's "long overdue."
"Whatever it takes, that connection needs to be made to a much modernized and genuinely [handicap] accessible Charles Station," Astyk wrote.
Several readers called for the Blue Line to be extended from Revere to Lynn, an idea state officials and lawmakers have bandied about for decades, as the North Shore's population has continued to grow. MBTA documents say a Blue Line extension to Lynn could induce more transit-oriented development, "give the region’s workforce another option to live within reach of Boston’s jobs and dramatically improve access for Lynn’s existing transit-dependent population."
"Maybe even out to Salem," one Instagram follower wrote.
Red Line to Arlington and beyond
Why stop at Alewife? Several readers suggested extending the Red Line to Arlington.
Kevin Carter took it one step further and suggested extending it up Route 2 from Alewife all the way to the I-95 rest area in Lexington. Meanwhile, an Instagram follower suggested another alternative terminus: "Burlington Mall."
In fact, MBTA officials had planned to extend the Red Line to Route 128 via Arlington Heights when they were working on the subway line's last extension in the 1970s and 1980s (at the time, the Red Line ended at Harvard Square). However, the plan was squashed amid a backlash from Arlington residents, who feared it would bring increased traffic to the area. Ultimately, officials decided to add just three more stops to the Red Line: Porter, Davis and Alewife.
Even some proponents of taking the Red Line deeper into the suburbs north of Boston are doubtful on the prospects of reviving the effort. "Too many 'NIMBYers' to make this happen, but one can dream," WBUR reader David Kuznick wrote.
On the other side of the river, reader Lara Saavedra suggested extending the Orange Line from Forest Hills to Hyde Park and Roslindale. Multiple people also suggested converting the Silver Line bus into a subway line.
"Give Roxbury ACTUAL rapid transit," one Instagram follower wrote.
And it's worth noting: several readers implored the MBTA to focus on improving service on its current network, such as more frequent and reliable service. To a certain degree, the governor — who often vents that his administration doesn't get credit for upgrading old track signals and switches — agrees with that perspective.
"You open up a new Green Line station somewhere and everybody shows up with the media and it's all brass bands and bugles," Baker said during a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event Tuesday, adding that the GLX is a "great project."
"But there's two big pieces to public transportation," he added. "One is 'where it goes' and the second is 'how it gets there.' And everybody likes to talk about the 'where it goes' part. What people really don't like to talk very much about — because it's boring and it's complicated and it's difficult — is the 'how it gets there' part."
We hear you, governor. That said ...
Big, bold and outside the box
Readers also came through with a number of ambitious expansion proposals, like Astyk's idea to wrap the Red Line around to connect with the Orange Line at Forest Hills.
David Cole also suggested lengthening the the Orange Line further north along the Haverhill commuter rail line to Melrose and Wakefield.
"For the next big MBTA project, let’s get the North-South Rail Link done!" Miriam Lezak wrote, urging officials to get to work on the proposed downtown tunnel allowing commuter rail trains to actually run through Boston.
"Circle line!" exclaimed an Instagram user, referring to the more lofty idea of constructing an underground rail loop around Boston's inner suburbs. (For now, the closest thing the MBTA is considering is extending the Silver Line through Everett, Somerville and Cambridge, and maybe — maybe — eventually exploring passenger service on the Grand Junction rail line.)
And as the MBTA works on electrifying the commuter rail, Janice Cagan-Teuber envisions a more futuristic version of regional rail running on magnetic levitation.
"I would love to see Mag-Lev rail traveling the Turnpike, I-93, I-95, Route 3 south to Cape Cod and north to Nashua," Cagan-Teuber wrote. "All with stations along the way."
Far off? Maybe. But then again, some didn't believe the Green Line Extension would ever arrive either.
In the meantime, let's keep up the work on those signals and switches.