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Public transit service in Boston is provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA).  The MBTA was founded in 1964, succeeding the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), established in 1947.  The MTA had bought out the privately owned Boston Elevated Railway, which traced its own history back to 1887.  Today, the MBTA operates a network of subways, streetcars, buses, trolleybuses, commuter rail trains, and ferries.  It also holds several notable distinctions.  The oldest subway line in the United States is operated by the MBTA, as the the tunnels used by the Green Line in downtown Boston were opened in 1897.  The MBTA is the largest consumer of electricity and alternative fuels in all of Massachusetts.  Finally, the MBTA is one of two transit systems to operate all five major types of terrestrial mass transit vehicles: regional (commuter) rail trains, “heavy” rapid transit (subway/elevated) trains, light rail vehicles (trolleys), electric trolleybuses, and motor buses. SEPTA in Philadelphia is the other.

MBTA Green Line

The MBTA Green Line is more streetcar than subway, but it does include an underground section in downtown Boston that was the first subway in North America, opening in 1897. Three of the four Green Line branches operate on the city streets as opposed to in a dedicated right of way.

MBTA Red Line

The MBTA Red Line is the "youngest" of the four subway lines, as its first section was opened in 1912. Today, the Red Line operates from Alewife to Braintree and Ashmont. At Ashmont, passengers can connect to the Ashmont-Mattapan Line. While the Ashmont-Mattapan Line is shown on maps as being part of the Red Line, operationally it is considered to be part of the Green Line and for all intents and purposes is really its own line as opposed to being a part of either the Red or Green lines.

MBTA Blue Line

The MBTA Blue Line is unique in that it uses both third rail and overhead catenary. Trains switch power sources at Airport. The Blue Line was also one of the first rapid transit lines in the world to utilize an underwater tunnel.

MBTA Orange Line

The Orange Line currently runs between Forest Hills and Oak Grove, offering connections to both Back Bay and North Station. The southern section of the line uses the Southwest Corridor that originally planned to be used as a right of way for I-95. On the northern section of the line, the newest MBTA station, Assembly, opened as an infill station on September 2, 2014.

Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line

The Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line opened in 1929. Today, it uses PCC trolley cars that originally operated on the Green Line dating back to the 1940s. In order to operate more modern equipment on this line, the entire line would have to be rebuilt to accommodate the heavier trains.

MBTA Commuter Rail

MBTA operates 11 commuter rail lines from terminals at Boston's North Station and South Station. Service runs as far north as Haverill, as far west as Worcester, and as far south as Providence, RI.

MBTA Buses

The MBTA operates 178 bus routes using a fleet of over 1,000 buses. The fleet includes diesel, compressed natural gas, and diesel-electric hybrid buses, as well as trackless trolleys.