Friday, March 22, 2013


Porter is a fun station. It's the deepest in the system, meaning a 143-foot escalator ride. The escalator ride is great, with a mural of trains going down and a mural of birds going up. It can admittedly be kind of a scary ride, but it's worth it. It's also worth noting that at the bottom of the escalator, there are some bronze gloves. Finding gloves in the snow inspired artist Mags Harries to create this artwork. If you don't want to take the escalator, you can also take the 199-step stairs next to the escalator. I've never tried it, since I'd imagine it's kind of tiring, but it's probably good exercise. In fact, it's the longest staircase in Massachusetts! There are also elevators, but one of them is out of service until the summer. The reason the station is so deep (especially when compared to its neighboring stations, Davis and Harvard) is that it was cheaper to build the station in rock than in soft clay.

Outside the station, the first thing you notice is the kinetic sculpture outside. Called Gift of the Wind, it is three large red "wings" that spin around in response to the wind. It was created by Susumu Shingu. The station is a nice glass building, with doors leading to a smaller escalator leading to the big escalator. The station doesn't have a busway, only a shelter on the 77 and 96 side of the station and nothing on the 83 side.

Gift of the Wind.
Inside the underground portion of the station, there's a shop. When I went in, there were huge electronic signs advertising it, yet the shop was closed. Strangely, there are also public bathrooms, which are uncommon for an MBTA station. The Red Line platforms are stacked, inbound over outbound. The two levels are in their own little shells. The station also has some red pipes, which I assume are vents, but don't quote me.

The long escalator.
Porter Square also has Commuter Rail connections. In fact, the Commuter Rail was there before the Red Line, when the station was called Cambridge. The name was changed to Porter when the Red Line extension happened, since the Red Line has multiple stops in Cambridge. The Commuter Rail platform is below grade, and there are two ways to get to it. One is from the underground area before the big escalator. The other, more interesting route, is across the street from the station. There's a little pedestrian walkway that feeds out from Mass Ave, goes over the tracks, and comes down onto the central Commuter Rail platform. It makes for an interesting walk. The platform itself starts out in the shade, but goes outside for most of it. The platform gets smaller and smaller, with few benches.

I figured my own picture was necessary, even if it isn't that good.
NOTE: I'm trying out an experimental format. Leave a comment to say what you think of it. I might revert back to the old one.

Station: Porter

Ridership: Locals and shoppers heading to the mall next to the station. It's also close to parts of Lesley university, though it doesn't have the throngs of students like Harvard station does.

Pros: It serves some important apartments and businesses along Mass Ave. Also, the station itself is really nice, with some top-notch artwork. Plus, the escalator ride alone is worth a look, as is the pedestrian walkway down to the Commuter Rail.

Cons: The Commuter Rail platform is a bit drab, without much shelter. The bus situation can also be annoying, with only a shelter (and that's with only the 77 and 96).

Nearby and Noteworthy: The most prominent location is the Porter Square Shopping Center. This mall has such stores as:

Also, Sugar and Spice has some of the best Thai food ever, and WardMaps, the MBTA's official store, is close by. There are many more places than the ones I listed, so don't be afraid to explore.

Final Verdict (1-10): 8
There are so many great locations nearby, and it's a nice station overall. A proper busway would be nice, though there's no room to put one. Also, the Commuter Rail platform could use some sprucing up. Despite these cons, it's a great station.

Latest MBTA News: On March 23-24, the Green Line B Branch will operate shuttle buses between Babcock Street and Boston College stations for rail work. Also, due to construction on the Cross Street Bridge, buses 80 and 90 will be omitting Cross Street (entirely for the 80, between McGrath Highway and Pearl Street for the 90).



    1.'s probably best to avoid Porter if you have acrophobia.

    2. OMG I hate that escalator too!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One time I forgot that it's escalator was super huge and I took the stairs....... BIG mistake. Its so scary though, I can't look down or otherwise I flip out.

    3. Wow, I seem to be the only person I know that likes the ride!

    4. Ya you do..... hahaha jk your not just not us with acrophobia

  2. Hey Miles, interesting facts about a local place I just take for granted. Love the blog. Great writing. I read every post!
    - Patrick J.

    1. Thanks! I actually never knew about the depth until recently.

  3. Have you ever been on the Washington DC metro? Whoa.

    1. I have, but my parents only wanted to take it PRACTICALLY. What's the fun in that? We didn't even go on an above ground portion.

  4. What commuter rail line comes here?

  5. I'd been there dozens of times w my gramdma as a little kid, took my sons there to show it off just last week. It had been at least 15 years since my last porter square visit. I almost wasn't brave enough. We took Alewife to park st, then to the MFA, on the way back to Alewife a spontaneous choice to get off at porter, out of the train platform 1st escalator up my oldest says; is this "the big escalator", im like no...,wait, we get up there, round the corner, Dun-dun-da... jaws drop. What a height, my sons did fine, plan was go up, then back down, and back onto the train... i couldn't look up or down, only at my feet and 2 steps above, my 12 year old teases me a bit, i wouldn't let my 5 yr old let go of my hand. My feet sweat so much i thought i was gonna slide right outta my flip flops. We made it up, boys wanted to go back down, i made the executive decision to chicken out and walk to the bus stop. Will face it again another day, with real shoes on. Nothing else like it!

  6. I use this station moderately often (living in Arlington), but hadn't known why it's so deep, so thank you.

    --Vicki (need to get this OpenID thing working).


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