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Red line MBTA
Photograph: ShutterstockRed line MBTA

19 ways to ride the T like a true Bostonian

Or at least like a decent human being.

Olivia Vanni
Written by
Olivia Vanni

Oh, the MBTA! Boston’s public transit is both the bane of our existence and the butt of our jokes. (Honestly, we try to laugh so that we don’t scream). Locals who have long endured the trials and tribulations of the T have, over time, learned the unwritten rules of the rails here. So it’s no surprise that when a novice happens to hop on our city’s subway system, they usually stick out from the crowd. 

Whether you’re a college student who’s new to the area, a tourist bouncing around town for the weekend or simply someone who’s absolutely clueless, beware of our unspoken, underground code of conduct. The next time you’re riding the Red Line to Harvard Square or you’re bound for Fenway on the Green, here are 19 ways for you to handle the T like a local… and not piss everyone off in the process. 

1. Don’t pay for a ticket using large bills. The machine will spit back a tsunami of $1 coins that you then have to haul around like you’re Scrooge McDuck. 

2. When boarding, let people off first. You’re not a lineman for the Patriots. 

3. The doorway is not a place for standing. Get in and then quickly move to the back of the car, we beg of you. 

4. If the car is full, just accept that it is full. Don’t hold up an entire train trying to cram yourself into a nonexistent nook as the door repeatedly fails to shut on your obviously protruding body. 

5. For the love of God, take off your backpack. No one wants to take a beating from your bag when they’re just trying to get to work. 

6. Don’t put your stuff on a seat either. Seats are for people, not your belongings. Put everything on the floor, between your feet like a thoughtful human being. 

7. Avoid eye contact with other passengers. Your phone, the floor, the ads for medical research subjects that are hanging on the wall are all acceptable places to stare—honestly, anywhere but at another person’s face. 

8. And definitely don’t try to strike up a conversation with a stranger. What are you, insane? 

9. Offer people who are clearly in need of help your seat, if you’re able-bodied. We are not heathens here.

10. Automatically build an extra 15 minutes into your expected commute time. There will inevitably be delays and disabled trains, almost always on those days when you need to be somewhere.  

11. Don’t bother running to catch the train. There’s a 90% chance that the conductor will not wait for you—even though they see you—so best save all that cardio for the gym. 

12. Learn to push and shove, but in a polite way. A timid “excuse me” will not part the sea of headphone-clad passengers preventing you from getting off at your stop.

13. Speaking of headphones, use them. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone thinks that that track slaps, so the entire car doesn’t need to hear it on full blast. 

14. Be sure to share the pole. Everyone needs something to hold onto, and there’s nothing worse than someone hogging and hugging the entire pole. Plus, ew. 

15. Take your garbage when you go. Do you know how infuriating it is to be on a packed train with an empty seat covered in spilled iced coffee that someone left behind?

16. Understand that if you have to change lines more than once to get to your destination, you’re better off walking, taking an Uber or frankly, not going at all. 

17. Dress for the elements. Most T stations are like a smelly, sewer sauna in the summer and like the frozen, innermost circle of Hell during the winter.

18. Memorize the home schedule for the Sox, Bruins and Celts… and then avoid the Green Line at all cost on those days. 

19. Expect a total shit show on major drinking holidays—or weekend nights, if you’re traveling the B Line, thanks to the high population of college youths. 

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