South Acton station (MBTA)

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South Acton
Footbridge at South Acton station (1), May 2017.JPG
South Acton station in May 2017
Location10 Central Street
Acton, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°27′41″N 71°27′25″W / 42.461428°N 71.456881°W / 42.461428; -71.456881Coordinates: 42°27′41″N 71°27′25″W / 42.461428°N 71.456881°W / 42.461428; -71.456881
Owned byMBTA (station)
Town of Acton (parking lot)
Line(s)Fitchburg Line
Platforms2 side platforms
Parking287 spaces:
170 resident sticker spaces
107 open spaces ($2.50 fee)
6 accessible spaces
Bicycle facilities100 spaces
Disabled accessYes
Other information
Fare zone6
OpenedOctober 1, 1844
December 19, 2015[1]
Passengers (2013)902 (weekday inbound average)[2]
Preceding station MBTA.svg MBTA Following station
Littleton/Route 495
toward Wachusett
Fitchburg Line West Concord

South Acton is an MBTA Commuter Rail station in Acton, Massachusetts. It serves the Fitchburg Line, it is located off Route 27 near Route 2 in the South Acton area. It is the busiest station on the Fitchburg line, averaging 902 weekday passenger boardings and thus generating 15% of the line's traffic,[3][2] it serves as a park and ride station for Acton and other suburbs of Boston, with a 287-space parking lot owned by the town.

There has been a station on the Fitchburg mainline at the South Acton site since 1844; until 1958 it also served a branch line to Maynard which in earlier years had extended through Hudson to Marlborough; this unused right-of-way became the Assabet River Rail Trail. South Acton has had continuous Boston commuter service since its inception except for five months in 1965 during the transition from fully private railroad operations to state subsidy.

As part of a $277 million project upgrading the Fitchburg Line, South Acton station has been completely rebuilt with two handicapped-accessible high-level platforms connected with an overhead pedestrian bridge, as well as a drop-off lane off Maple Street;[4] the work began in 2012 and the new station opened on December 19, 2015.[5][1]


B&M era[edit]

A Marlborough Branch train at South Acton in 1911

The Fitchburg Railroad began serving the town with a stop, located off of School Street east of Main Street, when it reached the town on October 1, 1844; the railroad completed the first station in 1845 and, when the new station was built in 1892, the old station was moved to Jones Farm and used as a fire station until 1927.[6] The new South Acton Station served the Boston & Maine Railroad until the company sold the building in the early 1970s after it exited the passenger transportation business; this station burned in 1984 and was torn down.[6]

South Acton served as a station stop for both the Fitchburg Branch and Marlborough Branch of the B&M; the Marlborough Branch split off from the Fitchburg Railroad west of the station. The station also maintained a two-stall round house, a freight house, and a turntable, located off the Marlborough Branch. Marlborough Branch passenger service ended in 1939, though freight service continued on the line until around 1970; the stub of the branch at South Acton was used as a siding to turn RDC trains until its abandonment in 1979.[7] The right-of-way has since been reused for the Assabet River Rail Trail on its Hudson and Marlborough section. In 2018 rail trail construction will be completed on a 3.4 mile section starting at train station and extending southeast through Maynard to the Maynard/Stow border.

MBTA era[edit]

1980s-built platform in 2011 before reconstruction

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was formed in August 1964 to subsidize suburban commuter rail service. On January 17, 1965, northside services were cut to the boundaries of the MBTA funding district; the Fitchburg Line was cut to West Concord until June 28, 1965 when it was reopened to Ayer, restoring service to Ayer.[8][9] After service to Ayer was discontinued on March 1, 1975, South Acton was the end of the line until service was restored as far as Gardner on January 13, 1980.[8] During that time, the line was known as the South Acton Line.

In the 1980s, the Town of Acton and the MBTA moved the station stopping point two tenths of a mile westward, off of Central Street west of Main Street, to provide expanded on-site parking; the original parking lot is now the "overflow" parking lot; portions of the former platform remain in the brush off the north side of the tracks.

Fitchburg Line upgrades[edit]

Before the upgrade project, this switch just east of the station was the outer end of double track on the line until Ayer. (The branch on the right led to a siding for trains which terminated at South Acton).
Platforms fully constructed in August 2015, with pedestrian bridge work and track work continuing

Until 2011, the main double-track section of the Fitchburg Line ended a quarter mile east of the station, with a short second under the Main Street bridge to allow a trainset to sit while preparing for an inbound run; the 1980s-constructed station had a single low platform, which was not handicapped accessible, serving the single track. As part of the ongoing upgrades to the Fitchburg Line infrastructure, South Action station was rebuilt and opened 2015, as the second track was added to the Acton-Ayer section of the line; the new station has separate platforms for inbound and outbound service; both platforms are full-length high-level for accessible boarding. They are connected by a pedestrian bridge which includes ADA-required elevators.

A single-platform design was considered in 2009, but the imposing design and the need for large ramps were disliked by town residents; the two-platform design, accepted in 2010, eliminated the need for large ramps and allowed for Maple Street access.[10] The new design was largely based on community input.[4]

A small drop-off lane was built on the south side of the tracks off Maple Street, next to the new inbound platform. However, daily parking capacity was not immediately increased.[4] Additional service and parking at Littleton/Route 495, additional parking at Ayer, and the opening of Wachusett should help to mitigate the demand for parking at South Acton.[10]

On June 11, 2012, the MBTA opened bids for the $9.622 million construction project.[11] Construction preparation began in September 2012. During the periods where the 1980s-built station platform was closed, temporary platforms east of the station (at the former station site) and west of the station were used to board passengers;[4] these platforms were installed in October and November 2012; ceremonial groundbreaking was held in December.[12][13]

The station site was prepared during the winter of 2012-2013, and work on the high-level inbound platform began in April 2013.[14] Foundations for the inbound platform and the pedestrian bridge were laid in 2013; the subcontractor for the steel bridge structure was replaced due to compliance issues in 2013, delaying plans to have the project open by early 2015.[5] The inbound platform was constructed in mid-2014, followed by the outbound platform in November 2014.[15]

The new station was largely complete by the end of November 2015 and opened on December 19, 2015.[5][16][1] On January 30, 2016, the MBTA held an opening ceremony with local and state officials.[17]


A train stopped at the temporary platform in late 2012

Until 2014, South Acton was the only station other than Porter and North Station served by all Fitchburg Line trains, for a total of about 16 daily round trips. About one-third of these trips formerly terminated at South Acton, while the others continued to Fitchburg.

After the Fitchburg Line improvements are complete, South Acton will no longer be the outbound end of double-tracking. All short turn trains were extended to Littleton/Route 495 (which was rebuilt in 2013) effective August 4, 2014.[18] However, as a high-ridership station, South Acton is still served by all trains.


South Acton averaged 902 inbound weekday boardings in 2013, making it the most heavily used inbound station on the Fitchburg Line,[2] it is the sole train station in Acton, a town with over 20,000 residents. The station also serves commuters from Route 2, which is 1.6 miles (2.6 km) to the north. The western expressway portion of Route 2 terminates in Acton, making South Acton convenient for many riders.

Ridership is also high due to the high number of trains that serve the station; some commuters will drive inbound to South Acton from areas further outbound on the line in order to have a larger selection of trains. However, with more trains running to Littleton/Route 495 station and increased parking planned there, more commuters may drive there instead due to its closer proximity to Route 2.


Bicycle parking area

There are 300 parking spaces, including 6 handicapped-accessible spaces, at South Acton split between two lots; the main lot contains 282 spaces, which are split between 155 resident permit parking spaces and 107 daily 12-hour spaces. The secondary "overflow" lot is located two-tenths of a mile from the station on School Street and contains 15 resident permit parking spaces. Resident parking permits cost $100 annually ($50 for seniors), whereas the daily 12-hour spaces cost $5 a day.

Although service increases at Littleton/Route 495, a new garage at North Leominster, and the opening of Wachusett are expected to bleed off demand, insufficient parking at South Acton is considered a town concern. Although no firm plans were in place, town officials stated in January 2014 that they were considering adding parking spots to serve the station and the Assabet River Rail Trail.[19] In February 2015, the town reported that it was considering the purchase of a property to create an additional 100-space parking lot on the south side of the station;[20] because many spots at the station are reserved for Acton residents[21], many communters from other towns find difficulty parking at the station.[22]

South Acton also has bicycle parking areas with 100 spots (62 north side, 38 south side) to accommodate commuters who do not wish to drive to the station; the completion of the Assabet River Rail Trail will eventually allow bicycle commuting from Hudson and Maynard to the station. A Minuteman Bike Share station is also located at South Acton station.[23]

Connecting service[edit]

In 2010, the Town of Acton launched a shuttle service named MinuteVan between the station and a satellite parking area in West Acton.[24] In November 2015, the town added Cross Acton Transit, an hourly fixed-route bus service that connects the North Acton, West Acton, and Acton villages to the station.[25][26]

The Maynard/Acton Commuter Shuttle service between downtown Maynard and South Acton station was piloted from October 2016 to January 2017,[27] it became permanent in 2017.


  1. ^ a b c Loughmann, Molly (15 December 2015). "South Acton train station set to open Dec. 19". Wicked Local Acton. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
  3. ^ "Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line Improvements Project: Alternatives Analysis" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. September 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Lefferts, Jennifer Fenn (10 November 2012). "Work begins on new South Acton train station". Boston Globe. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  5. ^ a b c "South Acton Station". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 8 July 2014. Archived from the original on 27 November 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  6. ^ a b Klauer, William A. (14 July 2010). Images of America Series: Shapleigh and Acton. Arcadia Press. p. 69,75.
  7. ^ Karr, Ronald Dale (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England. Branch Line Press. pp. 200–205. ISBN 0942147022.
  8. ^ a b Belcher, Jonathan (23 April 2012). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  9. ^ O'Keele, John (2 March 1975). "MBTA ends Boston & Maine's Ayer, Littleton, West Acton service; cites deficit". Boston Globe. Retrieved 19 January 2014 – via ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  10. ^ a b Martin, David (5 January 2012). "South Acton Train Station Project Information". Acton Patch. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  11. ^ "Construction Bid Solicitation". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 11 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  12. ^ Fucci, Robert (11 November 2012). "Construction on South Action Station Begins". South Acton Patch. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  13. ^ Jordan, Abby (21 December 2012). "Acton Commuter Rail Station Ground-Breaking Ceremony is Today". South Acton Patch. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  14. ^ "Work begins on South Acton commuter rail station". Littleton Patch. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  15. ^ "News". Acton Train. November 2014. Archived from the original on 27 November 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  16. ^ Loughman, Molly (9 November 2015). "South Acton MBTA construction nears completion". Wicked Local Acton. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  17. ^ Jessen, Klark (29 January 2016). "MBTA: New South Acton Commuter Rail Station Opening Event" (Press release). Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
  18. ^ "Fitchburg Line Schedule" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 4 August 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 July 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  19. ^ Lefferts, Jennifer Fenn (9 January 2014). "Fitchburg commuter line improvements to be finished by end of 2015". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 13 January 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  20. ^ Loughman, Molly (19 February 2015). "Property near South Acton train station considered for parking". Wicked Local Acton. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  21. ^ "Acton Resident Sticker Program". Parking. Town of Acton. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  22. ^ Schulert, Mark (April 24, 2019). "Stow selectmen mull parking woes at Acton train station". Wicked Local Stow.
  23. ^ Mallio, Matt (May 16, 2019). "Acton promotes Minuteman Bike Share program". Wicked Local Boxborough.
  24. ^ Lefferts, Jennifer Fenn (8 April 2010). "New shuttle service to aid commuters". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 April 2010.
  25. ^ Zadakis, Scott (May 3, 2016). "Establishing a Fixed Route Community Shuttle: The Acton Experience" (PDF). CrossTown Connect. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  26. ^ Loughman, Molly (October 5, 2015). "Acton introducing new transit service". Wicked Local Acton. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  27. ^ Camero, Holly (October 4, 2016). "Maynard pilots free shuttle program". Wicked Local Stow. Retrieved October 7, 2016.

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