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Behind the scenes with MBTA data.

On Monday, December 3, 2018, the walkway that links Independence Avenue in Quincy to the Red Line’s Quincy Adams Station reopened, allowing for the adjacent neighborhood to have an easier and more direct access point to the station.

An image of the newly reopened walkway linking Independence Avenue in Quincy to the Red Line's Quincy Adams Station.

An image of the newly reopened walkway linking Independence Avenue in Quincy to the Red Line's Quincy Adams Station.

This gated entry point near Independence Avenue allows for a better pedestrian connection direct to the station. As we highlighted way back in the early days of the Data Blog, the walkshed around this station was severely limited when this gate was closed, and really the only way to access the station was via car or bus. You can see that the entire neighborhood, which is just steps from the station as the crow flies, was not accessible along the pedestrian network:

A map of the surrounding neighborhood and walkshed affected by the closing and reopening of the walkway linking Independence Avenue and Quincy Adams Station.

With the reopening of the Independence Avenue gate, would there be an increase in the amount of riders boarding at the Quincy Adams station? To learn more about how the reopening of this entrance would impact our riders, we dug into the data. First we queried our Automated Fare Collection (AFC) database to get the tap count on fare gates at Quincy Adams station and on buses that stop on Independence Avenue.

We started by identifying the total number of taps on each of the fare gates at Quincy Adams station. The results are as shown below. The fare gates are numbered according to the ease of access from the station entrance; for example, fare gate 1 is numbered as such because it is closest to the station entrance. If more riders started commuting from Quincy Adams Station after the station entrance at Independence Avenue reopened, we expected the tap count to increase on each fare gate or on the one that is closest to the entrance. However, we observed that there was not much change in the tap count on the fare gates compared to the previous years. The tap count on fare gate 4 increased from December 2018 to January 2019 but this fare gate is the one in the middle and not very close to the station entrance. We concluded that this fare gate was probably used the most because the other fare gates were down (or perhaps this was just random noise) and the increase in tap count was not an impact of reopening the station entrance at Independence Avenue.

A chart tracking faregate 1 use over time. Little change is seen from before and after Quincy Adams Station became more accessible.

A chart tracking faregate 2 use over time. Little change is seen from before and after Quincy Adams Station became more accessible.

A chart tracking faregate 3 use over time. Little change is seen from before and after Quincy Adams Station became more accessible.

A chart tracking faregate 4 use over time. Little change is seen from before and after Quincy Adams Station became more accessible.

A chart tracking faregate 5 use over time. Little change is seen from before and after Quincy Adams Station became more accessible.

You can also see the entries visualized by day in the following chart. While we see a slight increase from normal in the daily entries on a few days soon after the new entrance opened, we also saw a high number of entries on November 29, 2018, the week before the new entrance opened. We also don’t see the trend continuing into December and January.

 

After looking into the fare gate data, we took a look at the bus ridership for the routes that travel through the newly-accessible neighborhood. We assumed that a few riders took the bus to Quincy Center and then transferred to the Red Line at the Quincy Center station before the Quincy Adams station entrance opened at Independence Avenue, so we looked at the weekday tap counts on bus route 230, which has various stops on Independence Avenue. Unfortunately, we didn't have good APC coverage on buses along this route over the whole time period, and the data we do have at the stop level from ODX is spotty. But here is what we found:

If passengers who previously took the bus to Quincy Center started walking to Quincy Adams once the station opened, there should have been a decrease in the weekday tap count at these stops after December 3rd 2018, but there is no significant decrease compared to the previous years in the data we have.

We then thought that passengers who lived near Quincy Adams, or perhaps in between the two stations, may have been walking, biking, or getting dropped off at Quincy Center before the Quincy Adams gate opened. If this hypothesis was correct, we thought we’d find a number of CharlieCards that typically tapped in at Quincy Center switching to tapping in at Quincy Adams instead. We decided to look at the number of CharlieCards/Tickets that were tapped at Quincy Center between September 1, 2018, and December 3, 2018, to check if these same cards were tapped at Quincy Adams between December 4, 2018, and May 31, 2019 when the station entry point on Independence Avenue was reopened. We found that about 9.22% of CharlieCards/Tickets that were tapped at Quincy Center station between September 1 and December 3, 2018, were also tapped at Quincy Adams station between December 4, 2018, and May 31, 2019. We wanted to see if this percentage of change was unique to that time period, or if a similar change has happened in previous years. Therefore, we looked at the number of CharlieCards/Tickets that were tapped at Quincy Center station the previous year (September 1, 2017 - December 3, 2017) and checked if the same cards were tapped at Quincy Adams station between December 4, 2017, and May 31, 2018. We found that 8.49% of the cards that were tapped at Quincy Center station between September 1 and December 3, 2017 were tapped at Quincy Adams station between December 4, 2017, and May 31, 2018. 

This led us to conclude that even though riders who used CharlieCards/Tickets at Quincy Center station before December 3, 2018, used it at Quincy Adams station after December 3, 2018, it is not necessarily the direct impact of the reopening the Quincy Adams station entrance at Independence Avenue. Riders usually take the Red Line from either Quincy Center station or Quincy Adams station.  

Conclusion

We looked at the data in a number of ways, but could not find a significant indicator of use of the pedestrian gate at Quincy Adams. Of course, we also don’t have any counters or sensors at that gate or on the path, so we don’t believe that no one is using it – just that it was not a big enough change to notice in the data, especially compared to the people who use the other entrance and parking garage to access the station.

Looking at the neighborhood near the new entrance, it is not particularly dense (mostly single- and two-family homes), so we would not expect a huge number of new riders compared to the thousands who were already accessing the station from the other side. It is also likely that since the entrance was closed historically, people whose usual trip was on the Red Line would not choose to live there in great numbers. This may change as time goes on and new people move to the neighborhood, or people living there change their travel patterns. 

This investigation also shows the limitations of our current data, especially on ridership. We don’t always have the level of detail needed to discern relatively small changes like this, especially since there is always normal variation in passenger behavior. We are always investigating new cost-effective ways to learn things about how our passengers travel while continuing to respect their privacy.