The Seaport gondola idea isn’t dead yet

Two buildings in Boston’s Seaport district.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Two buildings in Boston’s Seaport district.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency announced this week it would review the vexing topic of Seaport transportation problems. Again.

The agency is planning to spend $400,000 studying transit options in a neck of Boston that has become so difficult to access that some are suggesting sailing over clogged streets.

The study will likely take more than a year, and consider whether additional bus, rail, ferries, bike-share, and ride-hailing services can help. And it will also look at the polarizing proposal to run cable cars far above Summer Street as part of an aerial gondola system.


At a meeting Thursday, BPDA board member Carol Downs asked why the city would take this up just now, long after it permitted the breakneck development that has led to gummed up streets. Matthew Moran, a BPDA transportation planner, said the study will essentially expand prior work on the problem, including one done just three years ago in conjunction with the state.

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And — surprise, surprise — this study won’t be the last. The Boston Transportation Department is planning a $1 million job to consider a future design for Summer Street; that work will be influenced by the BPDA study just approved Thursday.

Critics of the gondola have said the MBTA and city should consider a “bus rapid transit” line with a dedicated lane and frequent service along Summer Street instead. The gondola was proposed by the private company Cargo Ventures as a link between its development site deep in the neighborhood to South Station.

The Silver Line is the primary mode of public transit through the Seaport, and is less affected by vehicle traffic because it travels through a bus-only tunnel through much of the neighborhood. But passengers have complained Silver Line buses are often over-crowded in the morning, forcing them to wait for multiple buses, and that service suffers when the line converges on public streets.

The study is being funded by money from the developer of the Seaport Square project.

More trains out west


All aboard to . . . Greenfield?

With a new passenger rail route launching this weekend between Springfield and New Haven, Conn., Governor Charlie Baker announced trains will soon go deeper into Western Massachusetts.

Connecticut is operating the Springfield-New Haven line. But Massachusetts will pay Amtrak $1 million a year to extend two daily round trips further north, to Greenfield, as a two-year pilot starting next spring. The train will make additional stops in Northampton and Holyoke, as the two-year pilot that starts next spring.

The state is expecting modest ridership at 24,000 passengers a year. But Baker, who has resisted expansion of Boston-area transit, had previously said he was in favor of more rail service north of Springfield.

Baker also announced Tuesday the state had begun the process for hiring a company to study more frequent rail service between Boston and Springfield, currently serviced just once a day by an Amtrak line to Chicago. The governor had rejected this idea in 2016, but his administration changed its tune earlier this year, saying it would study the proposal.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.