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Guide to Boston public transportation

How to get around by bus, rail, taxi, car and bike in Boston

By Time Out Boston Staff
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Local public transportation is run by the Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority (MBTA) and consists of the subway system (known as the T), commuter rail, buses and ferries.

Fares are slightly cheaper with a CharlieCard; if you don't have one, ask at the ticket windows at Back Bay, Harvard, Downtown Crossing, North Station or South Station. The cards can be topped up at stations. 

Subway

America’s first subway, the T is easy to use, efficient and inexpensive, though delays often cause grumbles. Transfers between subway lines are free, but transfers from subways to buses are only free with a CharlieCard. Trains run from 5.15am to 12.30am Mon–Sat and from 6am to 12.30am on Sundays. Free T maps are available from the larger stations.


Although the Silver Line routes appear on subway maps, they actually use buses. Silver Line Waterfront serves the airport, South Station and the South Boston Waterfront. Silver Line Washington Street serves Downtown Crossing, Washington Street and Dudley Square in Roxbury, and charges a local bus fare.

Not many people know that each branch color was chosen to reflect a characteristic of the area the line covers. The Green Line, for example, was named in honor of the Emerald Necklace, the chain of parks that links Boston and the western suburbs.

Buses

The MBTA runs myriad bus routes in Boston and the suburbs.

Routes and timetables are available from major T stations or online. The busiest bus routes run from 5.30am to 1am daily.

Rail

Boston has three major rail stations: South Station, North Station and Back Bay Station. The MBTA Commuter Rail runs from all three, serving the Greater Boston area and Massachusetts, as far away as Providence, RI. Tickets can be bought on the train, but it’s cheaper to buy them at the station.

Taxis and rideshares

Taxis and rideshares (like Uber and Lyft) can be hailed at any time of day or night, although sometimes it can be difficult to land a ride once the bars get out after 1am. Taxi ranks can be found near major hotels, big train stations and in Harvard Square in Cambridge. 

Getting around by yourself

Driving

The Hub's traffic can still be painfully slow, and tempers often fray. The speed limit on many major highways is 55mph, going up to 65mph on sections of the Mass Pike. State law requires seat belts to be worn.

Boston’s two main car parks are under Boston Common (entrance on Charles Street, directly opposite the Public Garden, 617-954-2098) and under the Prudential Center (800 Boylston Street, Back Bay, 617-236-3060).

Cycling

Boston was once consistently rated one of the worst cities in America for bikers by cycling magazines, but lots of designated bike lanes have made things much better. Overall, however, the roads are often narrow and hilly and drivers are still getting accustomed to sharing the road. Cambridge is a bit better, but we recommend that all but the most hardened urban cyclists should stick to special bike trails such as the Paul Dudley White Charles River Bike Path and the Minuteman Bikeway.

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Walking

Boston is not called “America’s Walking City” for nothing. You can easily cover the city centre on foot, and walking through the different neighborhoods is a pleasurable way to explore them.

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