South Station Headhouse

South Station, New England's second-largest transportation center (after Logan International Airport), located at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Summer Street in Dewey Square, Boston, Massachusetts, is the largest train station and intercity bus terminal in Greater Boston, a prominent train station in the northeastern United States and serves as a major intermodal domestic transportation hub, with service to the Greater Boston region and the Midwestern and Northeastern United States.


South Station's facilities and offerings include:

  • The northern terminus of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor train service, including Acela Express high-speed trains and Northeast Regional local trains. There is also a daily Amtrak train to Albany, New York and Chicago—the Lake Shore Limited.
  • The city terminus of the southern and western routes of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail system
  • A station stop on the Boston subway's Red Line to downtown Boston and its northwestern and southern suburbs.
  • The western terminus of Phase 2 of the Silver Line, with direct service to all Logan International Airport terminals, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Boston Design center and the Black Falcon Cruise Ship Terminal.
  • The eastern terminus of the Silver Line Phase I SL4 line to Dudley Station
  • Local bus service on lines 7, 11, 448, 449, 459
  • Parking garage
  • Staffed ticket windows
  • 24-hour baggage assistance
  • A 24-hour information booth
  • A ClubAcela lounge with several complimentary services, similar to a typical airline lounge at Logan Airport.
  • A food court, small shopping variety and waiting area, with typical train station concessions, such as Au Bon Pain, McDonald's and Rosetta Stone.
  • Public art, including a sculpture built of railroad car couplers and a model of the planet Jupiter, part of the Museum of Science's scale model of the solar system

The station is accessible by the general public 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Bus terminal

Boston's main inter-city bus terminal, the South Station Bus Terminal is housed in a separate building built over the train platforms along Atlantic Avenue. The bus terminal hosts service by several bus companies to all of New England, New York City, the Mid-Atlantic and Montreal, Canada. It has its own concession area and can be accessed from the Track 1 platform or Atlantic Avenue.

North Station connections

Several MBTA commuter rail lines, plus Amtrak's Downeaster service to Maine, originate from North Station, about 1¼ miles (2 km) around the Boston peninsula from South Station. Transfers from North Station to all other Amtrak trains and the MBTA Commuter Rail's Providence/Stoughton, Needham, Franklin and Framingham/Worcester lines may be made at Back Bay (a one-seat ride on the Orange Line); all other passengers have to change subway trains at either Park Street or Downtown Crossing stations. A North-South Rail Link is proposed to unify the two halves of the rail system, but as of May 2006 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has withdrawn its sponsorship of the proposal due to its high cost. The North-South Rail Link is not mentioned in the MBTA's FY2010–FY2014 Capital Investment Program. Currently passenger equipment is transferred between the two halves of the system via the Grand Junction Railroad, which is not used for passenger service.

Nearby attractions
  • Boston South Postal Annex, with a post office that is almost never closed. (There is a passageway to it at the foot of Track 13.)
  • Boston's financial district including the Federal Reserve Bank Building
  • Boston Children's Museum
  • Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum (undergoing renovation, due to reopen in Summer 2011)
  • Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, about a 15 minute walk east, or one can take the Silver Line to the World Trade Center stop.
  • Boston's Chinatown
  • Boston's Theatre District
  • Massachusetts Turnpike
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
  • Rose Kennedy Greenway
  • Rowes Wharf ferry terminal, several blocks north of the station
  • Tufts University medical campus and Tufts Medical Center hospital
  • South Station is wheelchair accessible, but finding the elevator to the subway can be a bit tricky (it's in the corridor behind the information booth). There is another elevator directly outside the Dewey Square exit, but that elevator is often locked.
  • Other Amtrak stations on the Northeast Corridor are generally accessible.
  • Some MBTA commuter rail stations have no wheelchair access and many of those that do have short elevated platforms that only serve one or two cars, on the outbound end of the train. See MBTA accessibility.

In the early 1900s, after the station first opened, heavy commuter ridership made it the busiest station in the world. However, massive cutbacks made by the bankrupt New Haven Railroad, and an increase in the popularity of automobile travel later left the station with far fewer riders than at that time.

More recently, ridership has grown considerably, in part due to the reopening of Old Colony commuter rail service and the electrification of the Amtrak Northeast Corridor from New Haven to Boston, which allowed high speed Acela service. Of the eleven Amtrak stations in Massachusetts, South Station was again the busiest in FY2010, boarding or detraining an average of nearly 3,600 passengers daily.

South Station Ridership (passengers/year)

Need for a combined station

When the railroads serving Boston were first laid out and built, each one stopped at its own terminal. The four terminals serving the south-side railroads were as follows:

  • The New York and New England Railroad crossed the Fort Point Channel from South Boston, just south of the present Summer Street Bridge, and terminated just east of Dewey Square (right at the north end of today's South Station).
  • The Old Colony Railroad had a long passenger terminal on the east side of South Street, stretching from Kneeland Street south to Harvard Street. This site is now part of the South Bay Interchange, near the South Station bus terminal.
  • The Boston and Albany Railroad's passenger terminal was in the block bounded by Kneeland Street, Beach Street, Albany Street (now Surface Artery) and Lincoln Street. This later became a freight house, and is now a block in Chinatown; the passenger terminal was moved to the west side of Utica Street, from Kneeland Street south to a bit past Harvard Street, now part of the South Bay Interchange.
  • The Boston and Providence Railroad continued straight where it now merges with the Boston and Albany, terminating at Park Square, with the passenger terminal on the south side of Providence Street from Columbus Avenue west about two-thirds of the way to Berkeley Street.

South Station combined the four terminals in one spot (a union station).


South Station opened as South Central Station on January 1, 1899 at a cost of $3.6 million (1899 dollars). The architects were Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge of Boston, with the actual construction undertaken by the engineering firm of Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Co. It became the busiest station in the country by 1910. A station on the Atlantic Avenue Elevated served the station from 1901 to 1938; what is now the Red Line subway was extended from Park Street to South Station in 1913. The train shed, one of the largest in the world, was eliminated in a 1930 renovation due to corrosion from the nearby ocean's salt air. While the station handled 125,000 passengers each day during World War II, after the war passenger rail declined in the U.S. In 1959, the Old Colony Railroad, which served the South Shore and Cape Cod, stopped passenger service. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad went bankrupt in 1961. South Station was sold to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in 1965. Portions of the station were demolished and the land was used to build the Boston South Postal Annex and the Stone and Webster building.

In the original configuration, two tracks came off each approach to join into a four-track line and then run under the main platforms in a two-track loop. These tracks were never put into service, and later became a parking lot and bowling alley for employees.


In 1978, the BRA sold what was left of the station, now on the National Register of Historic Places, to the MBTA, though the BRA retained air rights over the station. Funding was obtained for a major renovation of the station that was completed in 1989. A total of 13 tracks became available, all with high level platforms and some capable of handling 12-car trains. Piers were installed for the eventual construction of an office building and bus station above the tracks. After some delays, an inter-city bus terminal opened in October 1995, replacing one on top of the I-93 Dewey Square Tunnel diagonally across from the station between Summer Street and Congress Street. The new bus terminal has been called “the best bus facility in the country” and has direct ramp connections to I-93 and the Massachusetts Turnpike (though there are two traffic lights in the outbound direction). The renovations, including the bus terminal, cost $195 million (2001 dollars).

The Red Line subway platforms were extended in 1985 to allow six-car trains, and renovated again in 2005 as part of the Silver Line Phase II project, which serves the waterfront and Logan Airport. The Phase II tunnel was constructed in conjunction with Boston's "Big Dig" and was originally referred to as the South Boston Piers Transitway. Phase II opened on Friday, December 17, 2004, with the first route running only to Silver Line Way. An new Phase I Silver Line route, the SL4 was added on October 13, 2009, with a stop across the street from South Station.


Planned system improvements should result in additional passenger traffic. Silver Line Phase III would build a tunnel connecting South Station with the Silver Line Phase I BRT service to Dudley Square, Roxbury. Currently, those wishing to take the Silver Line to Dudley Square can walk to the Atlantic Avenue side of South Station (by Track 1) and cross Atlantic Avenue to the Silver Line bus stop. T. F. Green Airport Station in Rhode Island is complete with limited service. An extension to Fall River and New Bedford, Massachusetts is being planned.

A proposed relocation of the Boston General Mail Facility would provide room for the addition of seven new tracks and would allow more MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak trains to use the station. In October 2010, the state of Massachusetts was awarded a US$32.5 million grant from the federal government to begin planning for this expansion.


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