Blue Line Blues

Many in Boston are excited and hopeful about having Amazon’s HQ2 in East Boston, but others are worried that an infusion of 50,000 employees could exacerbate traffic problems. Transportation has long played a strong role in the shaping of East Boston. Ships, subways, and planes all contribute to the activity of the neighborhood. In this article, we analyze the current ridership on the Blue Line, speculate as to how 50,000 additional passengers will affect the system, and attempt to propose some solutions.

The current situation of the Blue Line

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) is the fourth busiest subway system in the United States, after New York, Washington, and Chicago. In 2016, the system averaged 1,277,200 passengers per weekday.

The Blue Line runs from Bowdoin station in downtown Boston to East Boston and Revere on the inner North Shore, where it terminates at Wonderland. In 1965, the line was designated blue to represent water, as it passes under Boston Harbor and travels near the coast for much of its length.

Blue line map

See what’s around Suffolk Downs, Amazon’s proposed site for HQ2.(Click “View Full Map” and search Suffolk Downs)

On a typical weekday in 2017, the Blue Line served 63,225 passengers from 5 a.m. through 1 a.m. the next morning. From 2007 to 2013 , it saw a  21%  increase. (Source: Ridership and service statistics):

Adding 50,000 commuters to the Blue Line

The light blue color indicates the average weekday Blue Line ridership. The orange color nearly doubles the total ridership by adding potential Amazon employees, an additional 50,000 commuters.

What will happen if Amazon hires thousands of interns for HQ2?

Taking the Blue Line is the only way to get to work.

Boston has an outstanding reputation for higher education, and has the highest percentage of 25-34 year olds with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the United States. Getting interns from their homes to Amazon HQ is not a new challenge. In Seattle, where Amazon HQ1 is located, there are more than 3,000 interns that commute daily from their residences to HQ. If Amazon’s HQ2 ends up in East Boston’s Suffolk Downs, we can predict that at least the same amount of interns would be hired. Interns highly rely on public transportation as daily commuters, and access to this transportation will be a key feature in attracting the best and brightest. The city's proposal to Amazon includes a number of transit improvements designed to ease congestion.

However, no matter where the interns are, if they want to get to work, they will take the Blue Line.

One way to work

Commuting from Universities to Suffolk Downs

From MIT to Suffolk Downs

From Northeastern to Suffolk Downs

Possible solution

Current Conditions

Future Conditions

Possible Solution:

Adding four more cars to each train could alleviate the congestion.