Commonwealth Avenue (Boston)

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Commonwealth Avenue
Boston Commonwealth Avenue.jpg
Commonwealth Avenue in 2006
Length11.0 mi [1] (17.7 km)
West endMA Route 30.svg Route 30 in Auburndale
MA Route 16.svg Route 16 in West Newton
US 20.svg US 20 in Allston
ToArlington Street in Back Bay
NorthMarlborough Street (Back Bay)
South Newbury Street (Back Bay)
Construction in Back Bay (1870) with the two sides of Commonwealth Avenue flanking the tree-lined Mall. 1870 BackBay July4 map byFFuchs JohnWeik detail.png
Construction in Back Bay (1870) with the two sides of Commonwealth Avenue flanking the tree-lined Mall.

Commonwealth Avenue (colloquially referred to as Comm Ave by locals) is a major street in the cities of Boston and Newton, Massachusetts. It begins at the western edge of the Boston Public Garden, and continues west through the neighborhoods of the Back Bay, Kenmore Square, Boston University, Allston, Brighton and Chestnut Hill. It continues as part of Route 30 through Newton until it crosses the Charles River at the border of the town of Weston.



Often compared to Georges-Eugène Haussmann's Paris boulevards, Commonwealth Avenue in Back Bay is a parkway divided at center by a wide grassy mall. This greenway, called Commonwealth Avenue Mall, is punctuated with statuary and memorials, and forms the narrowest "link" in the Emerald Necklace. It connects the Public Garden to the Fens.

Where Commonwealth Avenue reaches Kenmore Square, the MBTA Green Line B branch rises above ground and dominates the center of the roadway through the campus of Boston University and the neighborhoods of Allston, Brighton and Chestnut Hill to the city of Newton and the Commonwealth Avenue Historic District. The section in Newton is made up of two roadways separated by a grassy median lined with trees. The south side of the roadway contains the main, two-lane east-west roadway, with a one-way, westbound "carriage road" providing local access on the north side of the median.

The linear 1.5 miles (2.4 km) stretch of Commonwealth Avenue between Kenmore Square and Packard's Corner (where Brighton Avenue maintains a straight continuum and Commonwealth Avenue splits off) is well known to be Boston University territory. Boston University owns much of the property along and around this part of Commonwealth Avenue and either rents it out or uses it for its own purposes. This 1.5-mile stretch is the most central route to commuting around Boston University's main campus, also known as the Charles River Campus, and is frequented by pedestrians, cars, motorcycles, vespas, bikes, skateboards, scooters, both the inbound and outbound MBTA Green Line B branch trains (running above ground), both the inbound and outbound MBTA #57 & #57A buses, the Boston University Shuttle, charter buses, and trucks alike. Walking from one end (Kenmore Square) to the other end (Packard's Corner) or vice versa takes about 25–35 minutes. There are nine MBTA Green Line B branch stops between Kenmore Square and Packard's Corner (inclusive) within these 1.5 miles and they are very commonly used for transportation from one end of campus to the other, and beyond. Moving farther from the city and closer to the outskirts and the suburbs, the Kenmore Square stop is followed by Blandford Street, Boston University East, Boston University Central, Boston University West, St. Paul Street, Pleasant Street, Babcock Street, and Packard's Corner. Together, these nine stops are renowned for representing Boston University's presence in and around this 1.5-mile stretch of Commonwealth Avenue. In addition, a majority of the BU student body, which consists of approximately 33,000 enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, [2] resides alongside these stops, creating a particular neighborhood that identifies this area.


The Commonwealth Avenue Mall was designed by Arthur Delevan Gilman. [3] Frederick Law Olmsted designed the Newton portion of Commonwealth Avenue and included the parkway as part of the Emerald Necklace park system. The first statue on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall was erected in 1865 at Arlington Street. [4]

The Newton end of the roadway was constructed in 1895 with a line of the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway in the median. Streetcar service was cut back to its present terminus at the Boston border in 1930 and buses last ran on Commonwealth Avenue in 1976. An amusement park and ballroom known as Norumbega Park was built at the end of the line on the Charles River in 1897 to increase streetcar patronage. [5] The eastern half of the Newton section of the road is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Commonwealth Avenue Historic District. The mall that includes the landscape features, monuments, street furniture and fences that are bounded by Kenmore Street, Arlington Street and Commonwealth Avenue was designated as a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1978.

The addition of protected bike lanes between the BU Bridge and Packards Corner in 2020 resulted in a tripling of bikeshare usage along that segment. [6]


Starting at the Public Garden and going westward, the following statues can be seen on the mall:

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St. Paul Street station is a light rail station on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Green Line B branch in Boston, Massachusetts. The station is located in the median of Commonwealth Avenue at St. Paul Street, surrounded by the Boston University campus. St. Paul Street consists of two narrow side platforms, which serve the B branch's two tracks.

Babcock Street station MBTA subway station

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Packards Corner station Light rail station in Boston, Massachusetts

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Boston University West station MBTA subway station

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Boston University Central station MBTA subway station

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  1. Google (May 24, 2019). "Commonwealth Avenue" (Map). Google Maps . Google. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  2. "Boston University".
  3. Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay - Commonwealth Mall Archived 2007-03-11 at the Wayback Machine
  4. NABB - Comm Ave. Mall Statues: What's In A Name? Archived 2006-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Auburndale Community Association page on Norumbega Park". Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
  6. Karpinski, Elizabeth (July 3, 2021). "Estimating the Effect of Protected Bike Lanes on Bike-Share Ridership in Boston: a Case Study on Commonwealth Avenue". Case Studies on Transport Policy. 9 (3): 1313–1323. doi:10.1016/j.cstp.2021.06.015. ISSN   2213-624X.
  8. "Leif Erikson statue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin". (Dry Plate Glass Negative). The shores of Lake Michigan. c. 1899. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  9. "Whitney, Anne"  . The Encyclopedia Americana (1920) via Wikisource.

Further reading