The commuter rail provides reliable transportation and mobility for the regions, leading toward more livable communities. In January 1842 Charles Dickens came to Boston and in the last few days he was invited by Lowell to visit Lowell's cotton mills. In Chapter 4 of his book "American Notes" he described the rail journey from Boston to Lowell. The historic city of Boston is the site of the first transit subway in the United States.
In 1947, the various private trolley and transit lines were consolidated and placed under government control. This led to the creation of the
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in the 1960's. This is Boston and area's public transportation system that's currently in charge of rapid transit, Boston commuter train, bus, commuter boat, and commuter rail in the greater Boston area.
The MBTA, locally known as the "T", operates four rapid transit lines and numerous commuter rail lines in and around Boston. North Station in Boston serves the following MBTA Commuter Rail lines: Fitchburg, Lowell, Haverhill, Rockport and Newburyport. North Station is physically isolated from the rest of the Northeast Corridor. The only connection is the "grand junction". It connects the south side via a track through the Charles River near Boston University, and then proceeds at grade level through Cambridge and Somerville to the new Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility formerly known as the Boston Engine Terminal. North Station has space for twelve tracks,
although only eight are active.
Two tracks are isolated from the four main line rails exiting the station, and are for future expansion. The waiting room for North Station passengers is small, and extremely crowded during rush hours. At times, it can be dangerously crowded, and commuters often miss trains because they could not get through the crowds. Visitor entrances for the Fleet Center are physically located in the North Station waiting room, which makes the overcrowded situation even worse.
A long-term goal is to join North and South Stations via the "North-South Rail Link". Two new commuter rail stations proposed by Rhode Island officials could connect Boston to communities south of Providence as early as 2008. The proposal calls for 14 daily roundtrips between Providence and Boston, with eight of the trips continuing to North Kingstown on weekdays.
This will be the first expansion of rail service since 1988. The project would give commuters a great alternative to the congested highways and boost the area's economic growth. The Warwick station would connect drivers and rail and air passengers. Plans include a 1,300-foot skywalk linking the station to the airport. DOT officials estimated the rail expansion would reduce traffic on by 4 percent and their studies predict 1,000 riders will take the trains daily from North Kingstown before 2020, and a few hundred more will travel from Warwick.
The state has ordered five double-decker rail cars that cost $2 million each from New York. Construction is expected to begin this spring on the Warwick station, and next spring for North Kingstown.