Driving and walking in Boston requires a high degree of grit and determination: the traffic can be terrible, parking tickets are common, and pedestrians demand their right of way at every crosswalk. For these reasons, most Bostonians choose to use public transportation to get around on a daily basis. When you are forced to drive, be prepared to wait in Boston traffic at any time of day and keep your eye out for pedestrians and bikers!
Public Transportation: Boston’s public transportation system is comprised of the city’s four-line subway system, known as “the T,” (short for MBTA) and a network of bus lines that weave across neighborhoods. The four lines of the T – Red, Orange, Green, and Blue – begin downtown Boston and extend outwards to the edges of the city and into the surrounding suburbs.
The Red and Green Lines are generally the most frequently used, especially when trying to get to the city’s more popular destinations. Both the Red and Green Lines have multiple route options, which become critical as the trains move further out of the city (the Green Line into Back Bay and Brookline and the Red Line into Dorchester and Mattapan); just be sure to notespecify the terminal station of the trainwhich train option you are looking for before boarding.
The Blue Line runs from Downtown to East Boston and offers a second option for traveling to the airport from the city. The Orange Line runs straight through the middle of the city, starting in Charlestown and running south into Roxbury.
One strange thing about the T is that trains run “inbound” and “outbound” rather than uptown/downtown or using cardinal directions, as is frequently the case in other cities. Trains are running “inbound” if they are moving towards downtown Boston and “outbound” if they are moving away. The easiest way to navigate this is to know the name of the final stop in the direction you are moving, as trains will have signs noting which end-stop they are moving towards.
The “Charlie Card” (named after the famous song “Charlie on the MTA”) is the frequent-riderbuyer card for the MBTA system. You can pick up one of the plastic cards at any of the major T stops and recharge it constantly. Doing so will save you money and time, as they can be swiped throughinto the scannerselectronic systems on buses and subways and come with a reduced fare for riders. Anyone planning on using the subway as a regular part of a commute to work should consider purchasing a monthly pass, which runs for $750.
Bus: The bus system is vast but sometimes inconsistent, as some of the more obscure lines tend to come only every 20-30 minutes (less frequently on the weekends). While there are official bus schedules available through the MBTA, many Bostonians utilize mobile apps or websites that locate buses real-time and offer more precise schedules. MBTA has created its own, but other options include Nextbus, Pocket MBTA, and OpenMBTA. A full list of app options can be found here.
Car and Bike Sharing: For those who want only occasional access to personal transportation, there are a number of car- and bike-sharing stations throughout the city. Boston has instituted the “Hubway” project with bike stations throughout the city, where individuals can rent bikes by the day or by the hour. Just pick one up and drop it off at a Hubway stop close to your destination! Similarly, Zipcar is a very popular option in Boston, particularly among young people who don’t have a need for a full-time car.
One of the main reasons car-sharing is a great idea is because it saves you the hassle of finding parking in Boston, which generally feels like an impossible task. If you are forced to park, look into public lots and street parking in your area – private lots can be incredibly expensive and won’t be a sustainable option.
Many parts of the city have strict parking regulations, frequently requiring residencets’ permits to park in a neighborhood or limiting the amount of time a car can be parked there. Be sure to follow these regulations – Boston police will tow your car and are known for being aggressive about hunting down expired meters and illegally parked vehicles!
Getting out of Boston: South Station is the main transportation hub for Boston, and boasts a full bus terminal, a connection to Logan airport, and a train station. South Station is the city’s main ground transportation hub, with commuter rail lines, Amtrak trains, and coach buses leaving for destinations all along the East Coast throughout the day. Those looking for a fun day trip can try hiking in the Blue Hills, taking the ferry to Cape Cod, or hopping on an Amtrak Downeaster train to Maine.
For those looking to live slightly outside of the city (or just hoping to visit relatives or friends in the suburbs), the MBTA commuter rail offers a reliable and inexpensive option. Amtrak trains also regularly come through South Station, and offer service to destinations along the East Coast (3.5 hours to NYC on the Acela for $75+). Peter Pan Bus line, Bolt Bus and Megabus are three of the more popular bus lines that run out of Boston – if you book early enough, you can find cheap fares to basically any city in the Northeast, with direct buses to New York City making the trip in 4.5 hours for under fifteen bucks