Monday, August 8, 2016

MBTA Congestion Relief: The Recommendations from WWII Are Staggering

     Those of us who commute to Boston on the T know that the rush hour trains tend to experience heavy ridership. The T has been a popular way to travel to and from the city for decades, dating all the way back to the days before the MBTA, when the trains in Boston were operated by the Boston Elevated Railway Company, or the Boston El. During World War II, the Boston El recommended an innovative way to relieve rush hour congestion on its trains: staggered working hours.

Because of the wartime rationing of materials such as gasoline, tires, and metal, the Boston El, along with the Boston Traffic Commission, the Boston Chamber of Commerce, and the Retail Trade Board, recommended to the City of Boston War Transportation Conservation Committee that certain workers in Boston change their working hours in order to relieve congestion on the limited number of trains in operation. One of the items in the State Library’s collection is a Boston El brochure from this time period, which explains how the staggered working hours would be implemented, starting October 1, 1942.

According to the brochure, the groups cooperating in this method of congestion relief included state employees, City of Boston employees, and employees of Boston retail stores and insurance firms. Each of these groups would start and end work either 15 minutes to 1 hour earlier or 15 to 30 minutes later than before. Also noted in the brochure were students in the five high schools in Boston proper, who would continue their 10 a.m. opening hour that had been adopted on March 2, 1942.

To view this brochure and other materials relating to the Boston El, come visit us at the State Library M-F 9am-5pm. Can’t make it to the State House? Many of our holdings are freely available online in our repository of state publications, including a number of publications from the MBTA:

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian