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Transit Department records

Identifier: 8300.001

Scope and Content

The Transit Department collection consists of records created by the Rapid Transit Commission, Boston Transit Commission and the Boston Transit Department. The collection dates from 1891-1949 and includes minutes, journals, photographs, publications and annual reports.


  • Creation: 1891-1949


Historical Note

A commission to promote rapid transit for the City of Boston and its suburbs was created by Chapter 365 of the Acts of 1891. The Commission consisted of the Mayor and City Engineer, ex officiis; three persons appointed by the Mayor under an order of the City Council for a Rapid Transit Commission, passed 28 Feb 1891; and three persons, not residents of the City of Boston, appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the Executive Council. The expenses of the Commission were paid one-half by the Commonwealth and one-half by the City of Boston. The Commission made a report to the Legislature, 5 Apr 1892, and a supplementary and final report, 16 May 1892.

Based on the findings of the Rapid Transit Commission, the Massachusetts Legislature authorized the creation of the Boston Transit Commission in July of 1894. The five commissioners of the Boston Transit Commission were originally appointed for the term of five years from the first of July, 1894. The term of the Commission was extended several times over the next 24 years.

Initially, the Commission had charge of the construction of the Tremont Street subway, the Charlestown Bridge, the tunnel to East Boston and the Washington Street tunnel. Under the provisions of Chapter 520 of the Acts of 1906, the Commission began construction in 1909 of a tunnel under Beacon Hill from the new Cambridge Bridge to the Park Street station of the Tremont Street subway, as a connection with the Cambridge Main Street subway built by the Boston Elevated Railway. Under the provisions of Chapter 741 of the Acts of 1911, the Commission was further charged with the construction of the East Boston Tunnel Extension, Boylston Street subway and the Dorchester tunnel for train service. The official existence of the Boston Transit Commission terminated on 1 Jul 1918.

The ordinance of 1918, chapter 3, approved by the Mayor on 2 Jul 1918, established the Transit Department under the charge of a board of three commissioners appointed by the Mayor, for the term on one year each. The board exercised the power and performed the duties formerly of the Boston Transit Commission as defined by chapter 185 of the Special Acts of 1918. The Acts of 1947, chapter 544 created the Metropolitan Transit Authority. In July of 1949, the Massachusetts General Court and the Governor approved chapter 572 of the Acts of 1949, entitled "An Act Amending and Revising the Act Creating the Metroplitan Transit Authority". Section 3 of this law inserted in St. 1947, c. 544, a new section 8A providing for the abolition of the Board of Commissioners of the Boston Transit Department, and the transfer of that department and of Boston's subways, tunnels and rapid transit lines to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Section 8A became effective when it was accepted by the City Council and approved by the Mayor on 25 Jul 1949.


10.0 Cubic feet (56 volumes and 6 photographs)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Transit Department photographs (8300.002)

Guide to the Transit Department records
Kristen Swett
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the City of Boston Archives Repository

201 Rivermoor St.
West Roxbury MA 02132 United States
617-635-1194 (Fax)