😢 Say goodbye to the free Blue Line

Plus: 🪧 Tufts RA strike

It’s Wednesday, Boston.

💌 Need plans Thursday? Love Letters is hosting an early virtual screening of Sitting in Bars with Cake, basically the love child of Bake Off and a romcom. You just gotta join the Love Letters Discord channel to register. Plus, you’ll get a free cake recipe from The Sleepy Baker with your sign up.

👀 What’s on tap today:

  • Bye bye, gender requirements

  • Tufts RA strike

  • Where T cars goes to die

Up first …


The end of a cruel Sumner

Image: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff. Illustration: Emily Schario.

After eight long weeks, the Sumner Tunnel will reopen at 5 a.m. Friday. But getting to drive to Logan again without obsessively checking your GPS isn’t the only thing that’s changing.

Here’s what to know:

👍 The tunnel got quite the facelift. The biggest difference you’ll notice is that 75% of the tunnel’s ceiling has been removed and there’s some new lighting, which should make drivers feel less claustrophobic. The less sexy renovations, though important, include new security cameras, computer system upgrades, the replacement of pumps that remove rainwater from the bottom of the tunnel, and the installation of fireproof wall panels, to name a few.

🚧 And she’s going under the knife again next summer. Yes, this was just the first round. Another two-month Sumner closure is slated for the same timeframe in 2024, and repaving the tunnel road is the biggest repair. Mass. Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver told WBUR we should expect to see around a dozen weekend closures between now and then, too.

🌟 The real hero of the closure? The state’s “Ditch the Drive” campaign. Just look at the numbers. According to an analysis of preliminary data from MassDOT’s Sumner Tunnel Daily Reports, average weekday ridership is up 22% on the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail line, up 109% on the ferries, up 126% in free MBTA parking lots, and up 30% in $2 lots, in comparison to June 2023 estimates.

🚗 Traffic data suggest people actually ditched the drive, too. Compared with June 2023, the number of cars on the area’s major arteries crossing the harbor was down 10%. And while there was still major congestion, and we can’t make any sweeping conclusions, Caitlin Allen-Connelly, senior advisor for transportation at A Better City, said “data suggest it’s either mode shifting or people opting out of traveling.”

🚇 But we’ll see how long that trend lasts come Friday. The days of free and discounted transit fares and parking fees come to a close Sept. 1. And riders can no longer flash their CharlieCard on the Commuter Rail or East Boston Ferry for a free or reduced ride. So, to ensure you’re not holding up ticket lines, the MBTA is encouraging folks to buy passes or refill their CharlieCards in advance.


Quick & dirty headlines

Image: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

💒 Boston marriage certificates are going gender neutral. Mayor Wu announced the city is no longer requiring residents to specify their gender or sexual identity on marriage licenses, the first big policy change under the city’s new gender-aware guidelines. These guidelines are meant to define gender identity terms city employees should know, help them know when it’s OK to ask residents about their identity, give them the language to do so, and more. If you want to update your marriage license under the new rule, contact the city registry.

🪧 Tufts resident assistants went on strike during move-in day. First-year Tufts students had an atypical first day of school Tuesday as undergraduate RAs began a 24-hour strike, demanding the school pay them a semesterly stipend on top of their free on-campus housing (Tufts staff are filling in for the RAs). The RAs unionized last year under OPEIU Local 153 and have been negotiating a new contract with the school for six months. Negotiations should pick up on Thursday, and as of now, Tufts has only offered to cover RA meal plans.

👋 Mass.’ Transportation Secretary is stepping down. And no one really knows why. Gina Fiandaca only held Gov. Healey’s top transit position for eight months, making it one of the shortest tenures for a Mass. cabinet secretary in recent memory, and a crack in Healey’s leadership team. Transpo Secretary is arguably one of the most thankless jobs in the state, with Fiandaca bagging some Ws and Ls: She oversaw the Sumner Tunnel closure, which went better than expected, but also a big uptick slow zones, crumbling station ceilings, and more.

🏒 Boston’s getting a new professional women’s hockey team. Kind of. The new Professional Women's Hockey League officially announced Boston will be one of six cities to host a team in the association, with the regular season starting in January. For context, this league bought out the Premier Hockey Federation, which was home to the serial winning Boston Pride, releasing players from their contracts and just leading to lots of confusion (the new team name is still TBD). Consider this league right up there with the WNBA and NWSL.


👀 What are your thoughts on the Tufts RAs striking?

Let us know below!

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.


Where T cars go to die

Image: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

On this episode of Wickedpedia, we’re venturing to Kennebunkport, Maine.

This quaint seaside town known for lobster rolls and The Bush Compound is where many old MBTA cars go to die. Or really, go to heaven.

The Seaside Trolley Museum is home to over 250 transit vehicles from around the world, including 80 or so trains and other miscellaneous transit heirlooms from Boston, and it’s best known for restoring old trains to their original glory.

But not all T cars go to heaven. Many modern trains, including some Orange Line trains the MBTA decommissioned last fall, are getting chopped up into little pieces and sold for scrap metal (once it’s asbestos-free).

And what those cars will reincarnate into remains a mystery.

🐀 Thanks for reading! I suspect either a Boston rat or a Storrowed truck.

💃 Keep up with us @BostonBSide on IG, TikTok, and Twitter. Send comments and suggestions to [email protected].