to save time is to lengthen life

That was the slogan of this 1912 advertisement for the first segment of subway rapid transit to open in the Boston area, the Cambridge segment of the Red Line.  Thanks to the TRB History Committee.  

Red line ad

Yes, I know that slow, fun transit is supposed to make us enjoy the ride more, and the ride is part of life.  But if you're not riding for fun, wouldn't you rather get where you're going?

19 Responses to to save time is to lengthen life

  1. Greg Bodnar February 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Interestingly, there appears to be a stable point for commuter distance, but stable in time. Travel speeds up, distance gets longer.

  2. david vartanoff February 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    A century later scheduled time the same. At least it hasn’t gotten slower like CTA.

  3. Richard Campbell February 2, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    It is until the point that faster travel is causing collisions, injuries and death. In general, unseparated surface travel is really not safe and in the end, likely not a saver of time at speeds above 30km/h. Death due to automobile collisions take several months off the average life span. Then there is all the time dealing with the consequences of injuries and collisions and the time spent earning money paying for injuries and collisions.
    Even the AAA knows this. They have estimated the societal cost of collisions is around $1,500 per person per year while the cost of congestion is only $500 a year. And around 20% of congestion is caused by collisions. While there isn’t much data on surface rail, while it maybe safer than automobile traffic, it is certainly not very safe. There seem to be fewer collisions but collisions are more likely to cause fatalities or serious injuries.
    Giving surface space in cities over to high speed traffic whether it be automobiles or transit has been a real disaster with I suspect really no economic or time benefits.
    Likely, they knew this back then which is probably one of the reasons why it took so long for tram. I’d be surprised if it travelled over 20km/h. I’d also suspect that the subway was sold as a safety improvement as well. We have so much to learn from the past.

  4. Matthew February 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Actually the travel time between Park Street and Harvard has gotten slower — the extension that now goes to Alewife required the rebuilding of Harvard Station on the other side of a curve which adds 2 minutes to the trip.

  5. Rob February 2, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    I love the Red Line – it’s my favorite subway. The only thing I like better is having the time to walk Mass Ave. above it. I look back on life in Boston as having had freedom as a teenager, and being able to get around for all trips without needing to plan ahead. It’s those non-work trips for which the subway made all the difference, just because it’s always there and always fast. This is a great old ad – thanks for sharing it.

  6. A Facebook User February 3, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    The response to that image caption, “To Save Time is to Lengthn Life”, should be: “Either way, it beats being behind the wheel of a car going no where!”

  7. david vartanoff February 3, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    @Matthew. I checked the T site. The scheduled time is still 8 minutes.

  8. Grahm February 3, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    A nice advertisement, but what alluded us then, still alludes us today. What about the frequency!?!?

  9. EJ February 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    So, fast transit increases labor mobility. Which is generally thought to be a good thing.

  10. Mike February 3, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    It is funny how we have gone backwards. Starting with the modern LRT networks, cities got the weird idea that not spending money on downtown tunnels was a good thing. Today cities from Calgary to Ottawa are putting up with very slow transit through the their downtown cores because of that.
    @ Greg. As one of my friends says. It is not that distance gets farther. If transit does not speed up, one gets in their car. 🙂
    He is pretty right about that. People will move wherever they want to move in this day and age. And if the alternatives don’t get where they want to go, then they just drive.
    I think employment location is the biggest factor in how far people travel. If more jobs where still in our downtown’s and central cities, you would probably see less far off
    suburbs. But with so much suburban job centres, it allows people to move that extra 30 minutes away, because they really are not any farther.

  11. Jack Hope February 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    I can’t speak for Ottawa but in Calgary the decision to not underground at the outset is widely regarded as the correct move, especially in comparison with Edmonton which did go underground. Right now Calgary’s LRT extends a lot further from downtown and rates as one of the most successful new LRT implementations in North America. The choice to use the money to reach further into the city built support for the system, allowing the city to make even deeper financial commitments to the system. Especially when the goal of the system wasn’t rapid downtown service but to rapidly bring suburbanites to downtown.
    Would building a downtown tunnel at the outset have been a good idea? Absolutely. Given that the financial resources weren’t there though, in that case it was a sensible decision, especially given the land use policies that built up downtown Calgary to the point where now it makes sense to commit the financial resources.
    I think there is the beginning of a major pushback by a lot of people frustrated (mostly in the US) by the lack of mobility improvements offered by a lot of new transit projects. Certainly, I’m unsurprised that light rail mania has largely coincided with a long term period of government on the cheap.
    But I’ve noticed that in these debates there’s a strong tendency to dismiss the local contexts too. And to brush off the tradeoffs that come with the decisions made.
    I’ve never been to Boston but from the advert, I can assume that the goal of the line was to connect Park Street and Harvard Square as quickly as possible. But what local destinations between these two spots were skipped? What was the cost difference between the two modes? What was the construction time for the project? What was the cost in disruption during construction?
    A lot of tradeoffs had to be made to save that 17 minutes and its important to remember that in our current transit debates.

  12. Miles Bader February 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Stop spacing on the Boston Red Line is about 1–1½km. I used to ride it a lot, and it always struck me as a pretty good balance of speed / convenience. It’s a nice line.

  13. Alon Levy February 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Jack: the goal of the Cambridge Tunnel (now Red Line) was to connect Cambridge and Downtown Boston quickly. At the Cambridge end, Harvard Square was somewhat of an anchor, though Central Square was also important. At the Boston end, the point was to extend as deep into downtown as possible. Park Street connected to the Tremont Street Subway (now Green Line), but within a few years the tunnel was extended to Washington Street (now Downtown Crossing) and South Station, under a street that’s too narrow for fast surface operation.
    Calgary’s decision to keep everything on the surface was correct for a particular set of circumstances: wide streets, low population density, low population, a dominant downtown destination. Similarly, Karlsruhe’s decision to build tram-trains instead of an S-Bahn tunnel was correct for its set of circumstances, consisting of low population and a dominant downtown again, and also a main train station that’s too far from downtown.
    In contrast, Boston of the 1900s was a large, dense city, with fast growth in what are now inner suburbs like Brookline, a downtown that’s too big to be served by just one trunk line or one station, and near-universal transit use. This favors rapid transit.

  14. Anon256 February 3, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    @Jack Hope: Before the Red Line opened, and even for a while after, streetcars from the Tremont Street Subway (today’s Green Line) reached Harvard by running through Back Bay on the surface of Boylston St and then following Massachusetts Ave to Harvard. This is a much less direct route than the Red Line, but did provide local service to a different set of destinations along the way, which is probably why it persisted after the Red Line opened (though most of the route was also served by a lot of other local streetcars).
    @Grahm: Before the Red Line opened, there were about 26 streetcars an hour making the slow run from Park St to Harvard Square, nearly all continuing on to points beyond Harvard (Arlington, Waverly, Watertown etc). After the Red Line opened, it had midday service of about 15 trains per hour, while about 6 streetcars an hour continued to run the old route, all terminating at Harvard (since most customers from further afield would prefer to transfer to the Red Line anyway).
    See for maps showing the evolution of rapid transit in Boston (and other cities).

  15. Robert in Calgary February 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    In Calgary, I see the initial decision to go on the surface downtown being the correct one.
    Now of course, it’s the main choke point in the system and the sooner we can get at least one tunnel downtown the better.
    Calgary has made good and bad decisions with the LRT system.
    Folks at city hall were asleep at the switch in replacing the oldest cars, and that’s causing problems.

  16. Mike February 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    I think the ideas not to build tunnels downtown is costing our cities more now than if they just did it from the start.
    The fact of the matter is our governments have the money if they want. And if they wanted to, these tunnels could have been built from the start. So I say Edmonton is was the smart one.
    It seems to be honest that we have gone backwards in transit planning thing. Now all of sudden walking from a subway station it too much for people? It just seems weird the attack on rapid transit and things like the Boston subway thing above.

  17. d.p. February 10, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    Actually, the Red Line, which turns 100 this year, is the youngest of Boston’s four major subway lines.
    The Green Line (1897) was a streetcar subway, as was the Blue Line (1904) when it first opened, but the Orange Line’s Washington Street Tunnel (1908) was every bit a rapid transit line before the Red Line was.
    As advertised in Jarrett’s image, the Red Line functions as an almost-express; at 0.9-1.1 miles between each and every stop, it tests the limits of walkable access. It still works well, but only because all of Cambridge exists at pedestrian scale, so the access routes feel inviting.
    Cities with lousy pedestrian infrastructure that think it’s a good idea to put 1.3, 1.5, or 2 miles between rapid transit stations — perhaps requiring a total-trip-time-killing feeder bus even if you’re right on top of the line — have learned poorly from this example.

  18. Nathanael Nerode March 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    London has this concept called “safeguarding”, where when they decide not to build a giant piece of transportation infrastructure now — but maybe later — they still do enough engineering to figure out where it needs to go.
    Then they try to make sure that anything built in the intervening period doesn’t interfere with the big scheme, and if possible moves things out of the way for it. This is a relatively new development, not present in the 19th century.
    Oddly, there appears to be *no equivalent* in the US. I don’t know about Calgary, but the logical thing to do was to make sure the locations for tunnel portals and station entrances and digging were ready, and to opportunistically clear the route as time passed, so that when the time came to build the tunnel, it was *easier* than before rather than harder.

  19. Jarrett at March 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    N.  "Safeguarding" is called "futureproofing" in North America.