Man, this station used to be a dump. It had a low-level platform, a massive parking lot, and was just really ugly. Now, it has a high level platform, a massive parking garage, and some nice greenery to make the station look better. Throughout this post, I’ll be doing before-after pictures to compare the dumpiness of the old station to the betterness of the new one. Note that the “before” pictures will be exceptionally low in quality due to the fact that they were taken on a Nintendo 3DS. And unfortunately, I can’t put them side by side. But never mind that, let’s take a look at the drastically improved Salem Station.

Looking at the old station (I don’t have any overview pictures of the new one since the garage is in the way).

The entrance used to be pretty haphazard. You could tell it was an MBTA station thanks to the sign, but then there was a long set of rickety stairs that led down to the platform area. Now the entrance leads directly into the parking lot, and you can either take an indoor flight of stairs down, or use the glass elevator. I, of course, opted for the latter.

The old entrance.
And the new one, sadly lacking a “T” symbol.

The previous parking lot had just been, well, a parking lot. It had 340 spaces, which is actually pretty good. But as they say, bigger is better, so the new garage more than doubles that amount with over 700 spaces. There are apparently even spaces for electric cars here! The design of the parking lot also helps it stick out and lets people know, “Hey, there’s an MBTA station here!” I wish it had a logo on it, though.

The old parking lot.
Okay, so the fifth floor was the only one I looked at. But the view was amazing!

On top of that, the new station also has a waiting area. It was still being worked on when I was there – they’re going to put windows in and enclose it. But it’s already sheltered, and they’ve got benches. The new station boasts a bike area, too. It seems pretty expansive right now, but I guess they might add a cage. The MBTA website says a cage is there now, but I’m not sure if that’s an error or not. Either way, there’s a lot of parking for bikes.

The waiting area, admittedly kind of drab.

The busway of the old station was really primitive. It was basically just a sidewalk, though it did have an awkward bench in a wooden shelter. Now, there are pseudo benches, I suppose. I think passengers are expected to wait in the waiting room, which I guess makes sense. Annoyingly, they’ve kept the temporary busway from when the garage was being constructed, and to someone who hasn’t been there before, it looks like buses still stop there. They even have a “buses” sign pointing to it, which confused some tourists. Also, it’s annoying how they use outdated signs for the routes and just put white tape over the out-of-date stuff. Really, how expensive is it to get new signs?

The old busway.
And the new one.
Look, they’ve even kept the shelter from the temporary busway!

And finally, the platform. Although it’s single track (probably because of the lengthy tunnel that heads through downtown Salem to the south of the station), it becomes double quickly on either end. The old platform was mostly low-level, but I believe there was a ramp on the north side for handicapped people. Now, it’s fully high level, and it’s already looking pretty good despite the fact that they’re still building the northern part.

The old platform – blech.
And the new one. It’s a big dark, thanks to the shadow of the parking garage.

So overall, Salem Station has improved quite a lot over its predecessor. For one thing, there are elevators now instead of the crazy staircase from the old station. There’s also a waiting room, and a nicer busway. And finally, that parking garage is such an improvement over the lot they had before. Good job, MBTA.

An old locomotive at the old station.
And a new locomotive at the new station!
Also, a new passenger car leaving the new station.

Station: Salem

Ridership: Outside of Providence, Salem is the busiest station on the entire Commuter Rail system, not including the three hubs. In 2013, Salem averaged about 1200 inbound boardings per day. That certainly justifies the 700 space parking garage, doesn’t it?

Pros: Aside from the three hubs (North and South Stations, and Back Bay), this is the best and most modern Commuter Rail station I’ve ever been to. It has a whole bunch of amenities that don’t exist on the rest of the system. Fully high level platforms, in particular, are a pretty rare sight on the Commuter Rail. And the garage? It’s massive! It makes this a great park-and-ride station. There’s a nice busway, a convenient waiting area, and elevators to serve the garage. They’re even working on bike paths around the station! What doesn’t this place have?

Cons: These are mostly just pet peeves: I wish the entrance had an MBTA sign, I wish they got rid of the temporary busway, I wish the bus signs weren’t outdated, and I wish some parts were better lit.

Nearby and Noteworthy: There’s so much to do in Salem. Check the Nearby and Noteworthies on the 451 and 459 for some of them.

Final Verdict: 9/10
This is the Commuter Rail station that all other Commuter Rail stations look up to. It may have a few flaws, but in terms of Commuter Rail standards, this is one of the best. I’m excited to see what they do with it as construction draws to a close. I don’t know when I’ll be able to come back up here, but there’s still one Salem bus I haven’t ridden yet, the 465. Hmm…

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates