At Logan Airport in Boston, there has long a free shuttle bus around the
airport that will take you to the subway. A few years ago, they built the
Silver Line - not a new subway line, but a bus that also travels (for a price)
between airport terminals - then goes under the river and to the South Station
bus terminal in dedicated bus lanes. Yet it is not well known - now, it may
become so. Because its South Station stop is past the fare gates: that means
you can transfer to the regular subway for free.
MBTA to give free rides from airport - no Silver Line fare in test to cut
By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe, June 05, 2012
Passengers taking Silver Line buses from Logan Airport will ride for free
starting Wednesday, a move that also means free transfers to the subway system
at South Station. It appears to make Logan the first major airport to provide
free public transportation for travelers heading downtown.
Massport will underwrite the roughly $100,000 a month needed to subsidize the
90-day pilot project, part of an effort to promote public transportation that
includes the recent installation of countdown clocks to demystify Silver Line
Earlier this year, Massport raised rates for airport garages while cutting fees
for parking at suburban lots and Logan Express bus rides. This summer, it will
improve signs and hire students to promote public transportation and help
travelers navigate the options.
iCurb congestion [and garage capacity] are problems that are very acute for
Logan because we operate on such a tiny footprint, relative to other airports
that have our level of activity,ii said David S. Mackey, Massportis interim
chief executive. He is scheduled to announce the pilot program Tuesday. iWe
really need to find creative ways to cut down vehicle traffic at the airport.ii
Neither the American Public Transportation Association nor Airports Council
International knew of another US airport that provides free transit for air
travelers heading to a downtown, spokeswomen for the organizations, which
represent transit agencies and airport operators, said Monday.
In 2011, Logan handled nearly 29 million passengers and is on pace to eclipse
that in 2012, setting another record. But parking is constrained by Loganis
limited footprint and by federal and state environmental laws that cap the
number of airport parking spaces in East Boston. Massportis plan to attract as
many as 37.5 million travelers annually hinges on its ability to promote public
transportation and other alternatives to driving.
A 2010 survey found that 70 percent of travelers to Logan arrived in their own
cars, drove rental cars, or were dropped off by car or taxi, with the rest
coming by bus, van, subway, ferry, charter, or courtesy shuttle, according to
Massport, which wants to shave the percentage to 65.
Logan remains one of the top five daily destinations in Massachusetts for
single-occupancy cars, Secretary of Transportation Richard A. Davey said. The
others are shopping malls. For environmental and economic reasons, the state
wants more travelers to take public transportation to Logan, Davey said.
Logan already promotes its proximity to downtown Boston as a selling point,
with a considerably faster trip to the city center than from airports in New
York, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities.
Making the Silver Line free should make it even more attractive while reducing
curbside congestion and greenhouse-gas emissions, Davey said, describing it as
ia lever we need to continue to push.ii
Travelers awaiting the Silver Line on Monday welcomed word of the free rides,
not just as a money-saver but for their potential to speed boarding. Silver
Line buses are often held up while travelers try to figure out payment or even
which door to enter.
iIim a fan of anything that makes it faster,ii said Gabe Erion, a Harvard
University sophomore from South Dakota. He said classmates call the bus the
iSilver Lieii because of delays at the airport and what feels like a plodding
trip through South Bostonis Seaport District between Logan and South Station.
Riding the Silver Line while on the way to catching a flight can be harrowing,
with travelers checking and rechecking watches as first-timers hold up the bus
at the front-door fare gate or by trying to enter at the middle or rear doors,
which are supposed to be used only for disembarking. In the pilot program, all
doors will be open for boarding.
The Silver Line debuted between South Station, the Seaport, and Logan seven
years ago. It takes 15 minutes or less, depending on the time of day, to go
from South Station to Terminal A and from Terminal E again to South Station -
and nearly as long in between terminals.
In its first months, it attracted roughly 1,000 departing travelers a day at
Logan, a figure that has tripled, though Silver Line ridership is equal only to
about half of Blue Line subway ridership from Airport Station, which requires a
free connecting bus to reach the terminals. Familiarity with that free shuttle
is one more reason some are surprised by the request to pay when boarding the
Massport currently keeps about three-quarters of airport Silver Line fares
under an agreement in which it paid for the buses, while the T paid to
construct the tunnels. Forgoing those fares and making up the difference to the
MBTA for 90 days will cost Massport roughly $300,000, depending on ridership.
(The figure is less than the number of travelers multiplied by the fare,
because some carry unlimited monthly MBTA passes.)
In considering whether to extend the pilot beyond August, officials will
evaluate its effect on the Silver Lineis popularity and speed between the
Erik Beck, a financial adviser from Atlanta, was among the travelers on Monday
forgoing taxis and rental car shuttles for the Silver Line. An occasional
visitor, he needed a refresher at the T vending machine.
iI was going to take a cab, but a cabis $30,ii said Beck, pleased at the idea
of paying nothing next time. iNow, they just have to tell you how long until it
Then he saw the display, installed in January, that told him just that. iPretty
neat,ii Beck said, joining a cluster of travelers who would line up for one
more halting boarding.