Back Bay (MBTA/Amtrak)

Oh lordy, I don’t even know where to start with this. For one, it’s my first non-RI post (proper, not the half-assed River Works post that I did without visiting!). Actually, the next five or so posts I do will all be from my trip to Boston (5/26/22), so strap in!

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The exterior, from Wikipedia

Now, I can’t say much about the exterior as I wasn’t outside, however it’s definitely on the more “upscale” side, to fit with the rest of Back Bay. The station lobby matched. The train platforms, however….. Oh boy. So, getting off the train from T.F. Green Airport, it immediately hit me as to why this station has a bad reputation. The diesel fumes could be smelled all over the platform, and it was bad enough to where one would need a military-grade gas mask if they had breathing issues. I genuinely wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. So, booking it up the stairs so as to not inhale too many diesel fumes (which I completely disregarded later). I’ll also add as a tidbit, my friend could even smell the fumes in the mid-section of an Acela car at rush hour.

The train my friend and I got off of

Fortunately, the lobby is much different. After going up a dingy staircase, the air was considerably cleaner. At least one could buy MBTA tickets here, along with Amtrak tickets due to a Quik-Trak machine being present. However, because of the aforementioned air quality issue, Amtrak doesn’t staff the station. As such, it also happens it’s the most used Amtrak station that’s unstaffed, to my awareness. (EDIT: I was wrong. Amtrak staffs the station now.) It’s also up here that the bathrooms can be found. Just remember to flush the toilet, or you might be stabbed numerous times. The building itself feels a lot more “open” than down below, to say the least. There’s also a Dunkin’ (two!) and a CharlieCard vending machine here, as well as fare control for the Orange Line. Further back, by the Dunkin’ is where the stairs to tracks 5 and 7 are. This is where the Worcester-bound trains, being the Framingham/Worcester lines and the Lake Shore Limited all board.

The main lobby
The doors to tracks 1 and 3
The other area of the main lobby, by the CharlieCard machines
The underpass to Copley Place! Kinda easy to miss if you’re not actively looking for it.
Oh no.
Oh dear god no.
Onwards to BOS!

And now, to address the elephant in the room: the island platform for tracks 5 and 7. Oh boy. Let’s just say this is easily the worst part of the station (as if the platforms for tracks 1-3 are bad enough!). So, one end we have a pair of tracks that don’t even run with the rest of the Southwest Corridor but rather run with the Mass Pike. On the other…..just take a look.


Yup. There’s a long tunnel, I don’t know how long but it’s long enough to reach all the way past Hynes Convention Center at least. Is Lansdowne like this? I hope not, but I’ll find out when I review that station. It’s also very dark to where it feels like the lighting doesn’t do much, despite being bright. Like, could they have chosen any color other than black? Overall, while the smell of diesel fumes permeated through everything, the worst was yet to come. I notice the countdown clock, and oh god. There was a train scheduled to come in any minute now from Worcester.


What did my friend and I decide to do, knowing there was an inbound train coming in?
A: Get the hell out, not wanting black lung
B: Film the train, knowing one/both of us could pass out from the diesel fumes being too much
C: Nothing.

If you chose option B, you win ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

The countdown clock after the fact
Dear god
It’s so dirty!
This….doesn’t feel right.

So, we sat there and filmed the train (of course, it was an HSP engine), and I started feeling dizzy and we were like “yeah, let’s get outta here.” From there, we got up, exited via the stairs we came down on, and got our day passed on our CharlieCards. From here, we went to the Orange Line platform. Now, there was a train ready to depart so I couldn’t get a good look at it, but it was hella better than the Commuter Rail platforms!

Not the best photography job.

The good: It serves a major link between Boston and points south, as well as serving to the closest thing to the southern end of a North/South link, due to the Orange Line serving both here and BON (North Station). It’s also nice that Back Bay is relatively very walkable in nature.

The bad: However…..the fact that they tell people with breathing issues not to use this station, is problem enough. It was bad enough that I, someone WITHOUT known breathing issues, almost fainted from a lone HSP46 locomotive pulling in from Worcester. This enough is a major strike against an otherwise perfect station. If the MBTA electrified their Commuter Rail lines (or at least, used dual-mode locomotives that switch to diesel outside here), then the pollution wouldn’t be as big an issue. But, until then, don’t come here if you have respiratory issues.

Nearby points of interest: Back Bay, the neighborhood! You have Hynes, which hosts conventions like Anime Boston. Copley Place and the Prudential Center are also nearby, if you’re rich enough to afford anything from either. There’s also the Orange Line to points north and south from here, too.

Transit connections: MBTA (bus routes 39 & 10, Orange Line, Commuter Rail), Acela, N.E. Regional, Lake Shore Limited

Overall, if you forget the Commuter Rail platforms exist, Back Bay would quite truthfully be a 9 or 10. However, the fact that the air quality is bad enough to where Amtrak removed staff from here for health reasons is a big yikes. Yes, it’s improved, but the train platforms are in serious need of ventilation. And until either that happens or the Lake Shore Limited and the Commuter Rail get dual-mode locomotives, I can’t put this station too high up. The Orange Line platforms are leagues better, though. And yet, despite the major health risk, it still has over 15600 Orange Line passengers as of 2019, 8100 Commuter Rail passengers (being #3!), and just under 2000 Amtrak passengers a day in 2019.

Rating: 5/10

Westerly (Amtrak)

Well shoot, looks like I beat Miles (of Miles in Transit) to the punch with doing the least-used Amtrak station in Rhode Island. That’s right, I’m talking about Westerly. Let’s take a look.

There’s no escaping this one!

So, the station building itself is an art museum and, to my awareness, doesn’t house any facilities that would be valuable to the station. Need to use the bathroom? Good luck. Need to print out your ticket at a Quik-Trak machine? Not happening here. Is it raining? Tough luck. I’m sure you get the idea. Whatever amenities Kingston has, Westerly does not.

The Amtrak sign

Even getting down here to do this review was a bit of a chore. Of course, I was able to take the 95X RIPTA trip that departs Kennedy Plaza at quarter past 2. That was easy enough. The annoying part was having to plan ahead and buying an Amtrak ticket. Yes, it was also easy enough, but it’s still annoying to do given there’s not much of any way out of here. I’ll touch upon the 95X more in that route’s post.

Oh boy.

Now, bearing the fact that the station building is an art gallery, which is not open 7 days a week mind you, let’s look at the platform itself. There’s a handful of benches, mostly out in the open. There is, however, a small sheltered area on the far side of the platform, but from what I’m aware it only exists on the northbound side. Now, you might be asking “Well, how do I get over to the other side?! I can’t simply walk across the tracks!”, and that’s a good question. Access to the other side is provided by either stairs, or an elevator that’s out of service. Oh dear. The tunnel was nice and cool, and it happened to be the only area with cameras.

Down to the underground!
The tunnel!
And back up!
The building with the stairs on the southbound side

The good: It’s centrally (mostly) located in Westerly! There’s also some of everything nearby!

The bad: It’s not ADA compliant. Yeah, that’s a major one. I assume it’s temporary, but it’s still a major problem. There isn’t even a mini-high, and I wouldn’t trust the wheelchair lift with anything on it. There’s also pretty much no transit connections out here, making it even worse than Wickford Junction in this regard. At least THAT had regular service 7 days a week!

Nearby points of interest: Downtown Westerly! There’s also the local beaches if you take a 10-15 minute drive south. If you’re going by Amtrak or RIPTA, there’s Providence and Boston to the north, and Connecticut a stone throw away!

Transit connections: Amtrak (N.E. Regional), RIPTA (95X, 204 Flex)

Overall, Westerly could be a nice station. It’s got everything to be your typical historical old station, but yet it fails in some critical ways. For one, it’s not even ADA compliant. There’s not even a single mini-high to be seen here, AND the elevators don’t work! Yikes! That’s all in spite of the renovations that happened since Miles did his review! But, downtown Westerly is nearby if you’re visiting, so there’s that. And the fact people use this station shows there is demand for some kind of transit in Westerly, with ridership clocking 45379 people in 2019 (or, around 124 a day), making this the least-used train station (Amtrak or MBTA) in all of Rhode Island. The lack of transit connections (and transit in Westerly in general) is also a major blow to this otherwise quaint little station.

Rating: 3.5/10

A fun bonus: a Flex van coming up towards Railroad Ave.!

Kingston/URI (Amtrak)

Alright, second Amtrak station post! Now, as the title of this post will suggest, Kingston/URI is near, you guessed it, the University of Rhode Island, in Kingston (a village in South Kingstown). It’s not close enough to be walkable, though (as the crow flies, being about 1.7 miles, with it being 2 miles on foot/by car). So, if you have a bunch of luggage, just pony up the $2 for RIPTA or however much an Uber would be. Anyways, moving from there, let’s get into the facility itself.


Now, as for the station itself, we have a side and island platform, serving the north and southbound Northeast Corridor tracks, along with a side track. Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that since all the trains are either on track 1 (southbound) or track 2 (pictured above, northbound). Further up the platform, there’s a staircase and elevator leading up to a bridge for access to the island platform for tracks 1 and 3. And, it was quite clean for a somewhat relatively heavily used station.

Up to the bridge!

From the bridge, one can see the Northeast Corridor tracks largely obstruction-free. Heck, on days with less than desirable weather (like today), it could even serve as an okay vantage point for railfanning. However, as far as I can tell, I’m not sure if it has any cooling, so I wouldn’t suggest sticking around for too long on hot summer days.

The tracks facing southbound
Facing northbound

Now, the station building itself is historic in nature. Quite gorgeous, too, I might add. What does it have? Well, there’s an Amtrak agent to assist people. There’s also two (!!) waiting rooms, one with more comfy-looking seats than the other. There’s also two inclusive (or gender-neutral, whichever you prefer to call it) bathrooms, a bubbler (or water fountain, if you’re from literally anywhere other than RI/S.E. Massachusetts/Wisconsin), and some vending machines. There’s also a pull-in area for RIPTA buses. Plus there’s a lot of parking, and when I was here the lots were filled up quite a bit. The ridership data seems to back this up, with ridership clocking in at just under 175000 in 2019, or about 480 or so a day on average.

The Northeast Regional, the only line to stop here
The information signage and the Quik-Trak machine
The other waiting area

The good: It serves a major area. I mean, yes it’s rural, but there’s also freakin’ URI nearby! It’s also a nice, quaint station. For railfanning, it’s also a pretty popular spot as the Acela expresses through here at its max speed of 150 miles an hour. Brochures for the RIPTA buses in the region can also be found here (from what I found, the 14, 64, 66, and 69, even though the 14 doesn’t stop near here).

The bad: Why doesn’t the MBTA stop here? I know, it’s an Amtrak station, but that didn’t stop them with Providence. They even have track 3 accessible by platform for exactly the kind of stuff the MBTA would do here. While I’m at it, why does the Transit Master Plan call for URI, not here, to be a major transit hub? Furthermore, there IS demand for the T to stop here, given the fact people get off at Wickford going inbound. Hell, one could theoretically make a case for the Shore Line East to stop here too but it’s not as big a case as the MBTA.

Nearby points of interest: URI, and not much else. There’s also Providence via the 66 and Newport via the 64.

Transit connections: RIPTA (64, 66), Northeast Regional

Overall, it’s a nice station. Quaint, even. And, for the amount of people that regularly use the station, it fits the size perfectly. Hell, it’s a nice station even if you’re into railfanning. Aside from the lack of MBTA/SLE service, I got no complaints. Hell, the fact it’s accessible makes it better.
Rating: 8.5/10

Providence Station (MBTA/Amtrak)

The venerable Providence Station, the supplementary piece to Rhode Island’s transit core in downtown Providence. What do you hold for today’s post, Providence? Well, let’s dive into it.

Not the prettiest station out there

Well, for one it isn’t the prettiest station. It’s essentially a brutalist slab of concrete with train platforms underneath. But hey, a good station doesn’t need to look pretty inherently. Anyways, I digress. This place has two entrances, a north and south entrance. The north entrance is facing the State House and is serviced by RIPTA bus routes 50, 55, 56, and 57, while the less exciting-looking south side is at the end of Exchange Street. This side is serviced by the R Line, 3, 4, 51, 54, 58, 66, and 72. Meanwhile, there’s platforms for tracks 1, 2, 3, and 5 down under with services from Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela as well as the MBTA Commuter Rail. However, that isn’t the only sight you can see from the platform as sometimes you might see a Providence & Worcester train passing through on track 7. As for parking, it’s there. I don’t know if it’s paid though or not, as I didn’t bother checking. (It probably isn’t)

The platforms from Park Row West
Whelp, it looks like a staircase to a dingy underworld, but it’s just how you access the parking on foot.

Alright, time for the station itself. It can get a bit crowded during peak hours in the morning and afternoon, and it can also get REALLY busy if there’s a convention either in Providence or Boston (e.g. Anime Boston, PAX, or ComiCon). There’s an in-house restaurant, Cafe La France, which is quite nice. I heard the food and drinks are nice too, albeit a little on the pricey side, but I’m still going to have to try it some time and edit as necessary. This is also where you would buy your MBTA Commuter Rail tickets. So, if you arrive without a ticket (or the mTicket app), buy it here so you don’t incur an avoidable $3 fee. There’s also an Amtrak QuikTrak machine to buy tickets or print out e-tickets. Furthermore, there’s also the Amtrak information kiosk that usually has at least one person staffed, if you need any further help. Lastly, baggage checks can be done here, and is found next to the vending machines. There’s also a small gift shop, Oakwells. Just don’t get any water or stuff like that here as it’s going to be overpriced. From here, accessing the platforms when the boarding call is made is easy enough, as there’s entrances on both sides as well as elevators in the event you need accessibility. Speaking of which, all of the platforms are also full highs (rather than the mini-highs that the MBTA loves retrofitting old stations with).

Baggage, vending, and some marketing materials pertaining to RI
Oakwells Gifts and Newsstand
At least it’s lit, unlike the parking garage staircase.

And with that, I’ve reviewed every MBTA station outside of Massachusetts……..for now. (stay tuned – Pawtucket/Central Falls post coming later this year!)

The good: It packs everything one would need in a small space while still being a major transit hub for Rhode Island.

The bad: It’s a little (1/4 mile) out of the way from Kennedy Plaza. If the Dorrance St. Transit Center becomes reality, then it’s more out of the way (over half a mile!) and the argument can be made for incorporating it into the Downcity Loop. Also, the fact the northbound bus routes only get a lousy stop that’s not even advertised well, is a definite “yikes”. Hell, it’s hardly even advertised! It can also get quite crowded during rush hour…

Nearby points of interest: Providence Place Mall, for sure. If you need any snacks/quick drinks, there’s a CVS here. There’s also Kennedy Plaza and bus connections to Oakland Beach, URI, Pawtucket, Roger Williams Park, and Twin River Casino. There’s also rail connections to Boston and other areas served by the Providence/Stoughton Line as well as to Connecticut and points south via the Acela and Northeast Regional.

Overall, it’s not a bad station. It’s got some shortcomings but those are inherent with pretty much any train station. Ridership here is pretty much as you expect: The most used station in RI, and the highest ridership stop on the Commuter Rail outside of the MA-128 ring. My only real complaint has to do with the fact it isn’t at Kennedy Plaza directly, although there’s not much one can do about that without interfering with the Northeast Corridor. Lastly, why isn’t this part of the Downcity Loop? It just feels weird that none of the express routes stop here whatsoever. Yeah it’s part of the Downtown Transit Corridor, which I guess is alright, but it just feels weird that the expresses don’t touch here.

Transit connections: RIPTA (R Line, 3, 4, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 66, 72), Amtrak (Acela, N.E. Regional), MBTA (Providence/Stoughton Line)
Rating: 7/10

Whelp, time to plan a trip for Westerly and Kingston/URI.