Oh yeah. I’m doing it. You guys have been requesting this for months and months and months, and now it’s finally here. We’re checking a big one off the list today – it’s time to look at what is quite possibly the most iconic station on the MBTA, Park Street!

Here’s that Red Line platform you all know and love!

Everyone’s heard that classic announcement coming into Park Street on the Red Line: “The doors will open on both sides of the train. For elevator service, please exit the left side of the train onto the center platform.” That about sums up the unique setup of the Red Line platforms: there are two side ones, one for each direction, and a center platform with more waiting space and elevators.

Basically an identical view, except on the other side.

The platforms themselves are decent. There’s good spacing of benches along the whole station, and plenty of seating is offered on both the side and center platforms. Wastebaskets are a little sparse, though, showing up mostly near the entrances to the Green Line. Thanks to the fact that most of the station consists of two big arches, random pipes are less prominent than at other stations, although the paint from the popcorn ceilings has seen better days.

High five! Or…Jardell! For anyone who may get that…

Other amenities at Park Street include the new television screens the T has been putting at stations that show mostly ads. There are also the two hands up where the arches of the station end that are kinda hard to notice if you’re not looking out for them. Finally, at the end of the center platform, there’s an emergency exit staircase that looks like it hasn’t been used in decades.

The end of the platform.

Near the Green Line staircases is where the station starts to get busy. Park Street has a nice easy transfer between lines: just walk up the stairs, and you’re at the Green Line. These concourses where the stairs are feature lots of wastebaskets (the highest concentration anywhere on the platform), a few fans (it gets hot down here), and a payphone (I can’t remember if it worked or not).

Oho, a secret exit!

Of course, I can’t fail to mention the “secret” exit from the Red Line station! It’s not actually that exciting, but on the ends of each platform, there’s an escalator (or in one case, stairs) that leads up to the street, exit-only. I can’t speak for the other ones, but the one I used from the southbound platform had a funny little sign saying “overhead door”…over the door. Uh…okay!

Not the iconic entrance, but still nice.

As long as we’re up here, we might as well talk about Park Street’s various entrances. The one on the east side of Tremont Street, otherwise known as “the one closest to Downtown Crossing,” has some pretty good architecture and signage. I like the glass columns, and there’s a T sign to let everyone know where the entrance goes. There’s an elevator on this side, too, but it’s currently under construction.

Our first mezzanine!

This entrance has a pretty small mezzanine, but it gives you everything you need: two fare machines and two fare gates. This one leads into the concourse area above the platforms, meaning it’s a bit of a pain to use if you’re going westbound on the Green Line, but it’s easy to get to the other parts of the station from here.

Oh…hi, Nathan. Uhh…thanks for holding open the door…

There’s also the other entrance south on the common, otherwise known as “the one closest to Boylston.” It’s a pretty standard-looking building, but the staircase down is made out of nice-looking marble (or some material that looks like marble). The mezzanine for this one has no fare machines, though – just two fare gates. It leads to the westbound Green Line platforms, so if you’re going in the other direction, it’s sort of a pain to get there.

Such a big bus hub!

Park Street is also, of course, the home of the 43 and 55 bus routes. As you can see above, their bus stop is barebones: it’s just a sign. No shelter. No bench. Nothing. Just a sign. Also, the traffic here is so bad that the 43 schedule essentially says, “Yeah, the bus is just gonna get here whenever it wants and leave right away, so, uh, be prepared for that.”

The elevator entrance.

Now, the only accessible entrance open at the moment is the elevator along the common. The exterior is really nice: the modern glass shaft comes out with a simple but effective entrance. I particularly like the T logo at the top. However, the elevator itself is a very very very smelly affair, and despite being fully glass, it’s a miserable ride. We will encounter many more smelly elevators throughout this review.

Ahhhh, the classics!

Of course everybody knows these entrances! These are so iconic, and they never get old! Well, technically they are old, but you know what I mean. They both have a few wastebaskets outside their doors, and the western one also has a few newspaper boxes. My one gripe with these lovely buildings is that I wish they said the primary Green Line direction for each one instead of just “All Trains” – I always have to figure out which way is which when I’m trying to quickly get onto the Green Line.

Down the stairs.

Going down the stairs, there’s an awesome plaque above commemorating the opening of the Park Street Subway on September 1st, 1897 – the first subway in America. Unfortunately, the age of the station does show on this staircase, with some really horrible paint chipping issues on the white walls.

It’s busy down here!
The main mezzanine is a bustling place with confused tourists walking every which way and many people conjugating around Transit Ambassadors to figure out where the heck they’re going. It’s a mess! As for amenities, though, the area is well-stocked with fare machines and fare gates, and if you do actually know where you’re going, it’s straightforward and easy to get into the station.

The Green Line platform.

I’ll start with the westbound Green Line platform, since it’s at least a little less crazy than the eastbound side. Honestly, though, the Green Line platforms are both insane, with people darting around and waiting around in various places. There are two tracks per platform, with the inner track dedicated to B and D Line service, while the C and E Lines board on the outer track.

An example of  typical Park Street insanity.

The platforms feature a bunch of benches, wastebaskets, and maps among the throngs of darting crowds. It can get really hot down here, due to a mixture of low ventilation and lots of body heat, and that heat is certainly exemplified when you’re down here for twenty minutes to review it oh my God make it stop!!!!!!!!! Ahem…

Oh, also, here’s a random payphone.

Other points of note down here include countdown clocks, showing the number of stops away westbound trains are (not very useful) and the number of minutes away eastbound trains are (much more useful). There are also full racks with every bus schedule on the system right on the platform, which is great. I also appreciate the Charlie on the MTA poster and the sign displaying various destinations and which lines to take to get to them.

Going downstairs!

To get between the two Green Line platforms, there’s a crossover tunnel. It’s accessible either by a set of stairs or by an elevator of standard, stinky quality. One weird thing about the elevator is that it has completely different button panels for each door! One of them is pretty basic, while the other one has all these complicated buttons about opening individual doors and holding them open. Why does this discrepancy exist? I have no idea.

Crossing over.

The underpass itself is pretty underwhelming. It has low ceilings, it’s aesthetically boring, and there are random holes in random places on occasion. Still, it’s just an underpass, so looks don’t matter all that much, and the mosaic work does at least have try to look nice.

The eastbound side.

And here’s the eastbound side of the Green Line platform! Can you see the possible safety hazard? The entire outer track is a crossing. People can walk over it at any time! Imagine how terrifying it would be to drive a train through here! It’s no wonder operators ring their bells like madmen as they come into the station!

Kitschy souvenirs, anyone?

This platform houses the T Underground souvenir shop, offering a lot of weird, semi-sketchy stuff with lots of flashy lights and grammatically-dubious signs. I guess it’s nice to have a store right on the platform, though. Moving on, there’s an ATM, a few more benches, and an outdated system map.

Our final mezzanine area!

Finally, we come through a passageway on the outer platform and enter a mezzanine that feels like it’s been under construction forever! There’s not much in here aside from some wastebaskets, entryways to the Red Line platforms, and one of the station entrances we looked at a while ago. There’s also a countdown clock displaying Green Line arrivals, but it really should display Orange Line arrivals since it’s at the entrance to the Winter Street Concourse…but we won’t be going down that concourse just yet!

Two blurry trains.

Station: Park Street

Ridership: This is the fourth-busiest station on the MBTA in terms of fare entries, with 19,653 riders per weekday! That doesn’t even account for the insane number of transfer passengers here: almost 30,000 people go between the Red and Green Lines in each direction per day (60,000 total), making this the busiest transfer station on the entire system. Also, on a weird side note, I find it interesting that 755 people who enter this station actually use the Winter Street Concourse to get to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing!

Pros: This is one of the easiest transfers on the system, featuring quick and easy staircases between the Red and Green Lines (and a hallway to the Orange Line, if you want to count the Winter Street Concourse). Indeed, Park Street as a whole works very well functionally, with many entrances and mezzanines, allowing people to come in from a few different places around the area. However, it’s still easy to navigate, and it doesn’t have the labyrinthian qualities of other downtown transfers. The station features many amenities, particularly on the Green Line platforms, for as much passenger convenience as possible. Finally, although it doesn’t necessarily work in practice, Park Street makes a decent effort to look nice, which can’t be said for some of the other downtown stations on the T.

Cons: Park Street, especially the Green Line portion, is just a gigantic melting pot of pure insanity. Getting through the crowds here can be tough, especially at rush hour, and it doesn’t help that all that body heat comes together to make temperatures borderline unbearable. Every elevator at this station is guaranteed to smell – indeed, I once saw literal, actual human feces in one of them. Although Park Street tries to look good, and I appreciate that, it often falls flat. This may be one of the most (if not the most) iconic stations on the T in terms of appearance, but that appearance is often old and antiquated, more so in some areas than others.

Nearby and Noteworthy: This station is, of course, best known for its prime location right next to the Boston Common. Aside from that, you’ve also got the Massachusetts State House, Beacon Hill (some parts of it are easier to access from here than Charles), and various other historical sights.

Final Verdict: 6/10
On one hand, trying to brave the crowds between the Red and Green Lines at rush hour can be a total nightmare. On the other hand, this station is set up pretty darn efficiently (especially given its age!), and it’s just so darn iconic – those main entrances! They’re so beautiful! However, the hub is still plagued with a host of problems, including the lack of a proper bus area, questionable appearances in some areas, and human feces in an elevator. Did I mention that?? The station ends up being fairly middle-of-the-road for me, although it’s certainly better than its neighbor along the Red Line. Believe me, I’ll have a lot to say for that review…

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