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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 22, 2024

T Time: The mystery of Riverside Station

T-time column graphic
Graphic by Emma Selesnick

If you have ever looked at a map of the MBTA on your phone, you may have noticed that the D branch of the Green Line extends far west of Boston like a long, green tentacle, ending at Riverside Station. This quirk of the T has always intrigued me. Why does the D branch extend so much farther than other branches of the Green Line? What mysteries lurk at Riverside Station? To answer these questions that rattle in the back of my mind, I dove into the world of investigative journalism and journeyed to Riverside Station.

The trip was long, far longer than any other trip I have made for this column. In total, it took me an hour and 15 minutes to get there and then another hour and 15 minutes to return, so nearly three hours round-trip. I would not recommend that others make this journey.

However, if you have a free afternoon and a deep desire to visit Riverside Station, you can take the Green Line E branch from Medford/Tufts, transfer to the D Line anywhere between Lechmere and Copley Stations and then take the D Line all the way to Riverside.

The ride itself was quite pleasant, and frankly more pleasant than the area around Riverside. After Fenway Station, the train emerges from underground and meanders through Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Waban and Newton. 

Sidenote: I love when public transit routes run above ground — it makes the ride so much more exciting and presents a unique perspective of the neighborhoods you pass through. As the train traveled away from Boston, densely packed townhouses transitioned to suburban streets, which then became marvelous mansions and estates. My favorite part of the ride was when the train ran alongside Crystal Lake, which was frozen over and lined with gorgeous homes.

I wish I could give a similarly glowing review to Riverside, but there is little to report about it. Despite its name, no river is visible from the station and instead, it holds a massive parking lot and a train yard. I took a quick walk around the nearby neighborhood of Auburndale, and while it was pretty, nothing justified the hour-long trip it took me to get there.

Unfortunately, I could not find a definitive answer on why the Green Line D branch is so much longer than its compatriots. However, upon conducting some internet research, I discovered that the tracks making up the D branch were formerly used for a Commuter Rail line known as the Newton Highlands Branch. The MBTA converted these tracks into light rail usage in 1959, and the T has used them ever since. 

Would I recommend that anyone travels out to Riverside Station? No. Is there much to do around Riverside Station? No. However, I can say with confidence that only homes and parking lots exist at the end of the D branch as opposed to monsters and other sinister affairs.