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Smooth ride on MBTA and roads

A few glitches, but no gridlock.

The region's patchwork but resilient transportation system managed to get fans to and from yesterday's Red Sox victory parade without too much trouble.

Governor Mitt Romney had warned that traffic "will be a mess." MBTA officials said there was no way buses, subway, and commuter rail could possibly handle the anticipated 3 million-plus people converging on Boston.

But sounding the alarm, as with the dire warnings prior to last summer's Democratic National Convention, apparently had its intended impact. The roadways were incident-free, with volumes slightly less than a typical workday. And the MBTA, while filled to a Tokyo-like brim in many spots, functioned smoothly. No stations had to be closed because of overcrowding.

"I thought it was going to be much worse," said Gabrielle Smith, 19, from Orono, Maine, who had just taken a Green Line trolley from Kenmore Square to Government Center station, and was about to ascend to catch another glimpse of the team going by on Cambridge Street. The trains were crowded but not oppressively so, she said. "It wasn't bad at all."

Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said the warnings about station closings were prompted by crowd estimates made by city officials. T planners were concerned that the Green Line -- the system's busiest on an average weekday with 225,200 daily boardings and which followed the parade route -- would be overwhelmed, he said.

By the end of the day, however, about 1 million people used the MBTA system -- far more than an average Saturday but just under the 1.1 million people who use transit on an average weekday. The estimate is based on observations at stations and entries to T parking garages and lots, Pesaturo said. "Things went very smoothly," he said.

"We kept people moving and that's the objective. This was much more spread out than a typical weekday rush hour and it lasted longer, but the system was ready for it."

While the crush of fans never reached the system's capacity of 100,000 riders an hour, the subways were full for a few hours, Pesaturo said. The MBTA was able to handle so many riders because the busy periods were spread out through the day.

In some spots, the rail network was strained to its limits. The 1,000-space parking lot at the Green Line's Riverside station in Newton was full by 6:30 a.m., and jam-packed trolleys couldn't take any more passengers from Cleveland Circle into downtown. The T diverted trolleys from the E branch along Huntington Avenue to get more trains on the B, C, and D branches, where there was more demand.

That, in turn, caused some delays for E branch riders, who were told to catch the number 39 bus but were uncertain where to do so; Copley Square station was a dead-end because riders couldn't cross Boylston Street, the parade route, to board the bus at Back Bay Station.

Riders at Government Center also got a quick education in the T's construction project that has cut off Green Line trolley service to Science Park and Lechmere. The shuttle bus to those stations was not operating yesterday; riders were told to take the Red Line to Kendall Square. There was no way to get to Science Park -- a prime spot to get off and view the Duck Tour boats as they splashed into the Charles River.

Some commuter rail trains were packed shortly after the start of their runs, at daybreak yesterday, and had to pass by some platforms without stopping. Passengers on some trains originating from Kingston got off at Braintree and took the Red Line into Boston, so the empty trains could be sent back to pick up more people on that line, Pesaturo said. Riders also filled trains from the Route 128 parking garage into South Station, he said.

Throughout the system, T personnel were on their best behavior, stepping out of collectors' booths to give instructions, motioning trolleys forward in bright orange vests, and sweeping up litter on polished station floors seemingly the moment it hit the ground.

The region's roadways functioned even more smoothly than the transit system. No incidents or major congestion were reported on roads in and around Boston. Traffic in the morning was relatively light on the Massachusetts Turnpike, where tolls were lifted until 10 a.m. for eastbound traffic at the Allston/Brighton booths. In the afternoon, volume thickened on the Southeast Expressway, as drivers left Boston.

Anthony Flint can be reached at

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