How to Ride the Boston Subway


          So you have found yourself in Boston one way or another. Maybe you are a new college student to the area or maybe you are on vacation. Either way the best way to get around the city is using the subway. The subway in Boston is called the MBTA or “T” for short. MBTA stands for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. If you are as confused as most newcomers to Boston, review these simple steps to travel around the city.

Step 1

Charlie Card MbtaPurchase a Charlie Ticket or a Charlie Card available at many Boston subway stop locations. Boston used to use subway tokens as its currency to ride the subway. Recently the city has switched to an all card based system. The Charlie ticket is a thin card with a bar code on it that you can purchase and add money to. The Charlie Card is a thicker plastic card that offers a slight discount on subway fares if you use the card. Current rates for subway travel are $2.00 per fare using a Charlie ticket and $1.70 per fare using a Charlie card. Also there is a separate website for the Charlie card where you can add money to your card online.

Step 2

Learn the basic structure of the subway line system. Boston’s subway is separated into 5 distinct lines: Green, Orange, Red, Blue, and Silver Lines. Many of the lines connect to each other at one point or another. For example the Green line connects to the Red Line at Park Street Stop. The Orange Line connects to the Red Line at Downtown Crossing. The best way to review is to pick up a subway map at one of the MBTA locations and spend quite a bit of time reviewing it.

Step 3

Learn what the local subway lingo means. You have probably heard the expression Inbound and Outbound. This can be very confusing because of the reference point the MBTA uses to determine this. For example taking an Inbound train generally means a train going towards the center of the city of which Park Street and Government Center can be considered. So you can technically take an “inbound” train from two directions. Both will converge and go through the center of the city. Outbound generally means away from the center of the city. So an outbound train will take you further and further away from the center of the city in any direction.

Step 4

Some of the colored subway lines are further separated into sub-lines that you must learn as well. For example, the Green line is separated into the B, C, D, and E trains. Each train ends in a different location outside of the city. Generally, the B train goes through Boston University towards Boston College. The C train goes into Brookline. The D train goes through Newton and the E train goes past Northeastern University into Brighton.

Step 5

The only way to truly learn the Boston subway system is to review the system by riding on it day in and day out. Even veterans who have gone to college there still never know their way around the entire city. This is because the city was built on old cow paths and not on a grid system like New York or LA. As such there are a large number of one way streets that curve into different directions all around the city making it impossible to fully learn your way around.

Step 6

If all else fails ask someone on the street for subway directions. You may have to ask a few people before you get a correct answer though so make sure you get a few confirmations.

Additional Advice

                   Don’t get discouraged if you get lost. You can always find a train back towards your original location and you can take a cab if necessary.

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