Boston is nearly flat, and even the tallest hills aren’t too steep. Walking is the way to go if you can manage it. Public transportation is readily available, as are taxi, Lyft, and Uber rides. If you drive, check in advance about parking options at your destination or build in some extra time to find on-street parking.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or MBTA (tel. 800/392-6100 or tel. 617/222-3200), runs subways, trolleys, buses, and ferries in Boston and many suburbs, as well as the commuter rail, which extends as far south as Providence, Rhode Island. The MBTA trip planner provides route options.
The subway system is called “the T” and consists of the Red, Green, Blue, and Orange lines. Its logo is the letter “T” in a circle. Subway trains and trolleys travel both below ground and above ground. The center of the network is Park Street station, located on the northeast corner of the Boston Common. Train tracks are labeled as either “inbound” (toward Park Street and city center) or “outbound” (away from Park Street). Trains start running about 5am (6am on Sundays) and close down at 1 or 1:30am.
The commuter rail to the suburbs is shown in purple on T maps, and therefore is often called the Purple Line.
Buses travel through the city and to many suburbs. The Silver Line, a bus that travels both above ground and underground, is part of both the subway system and the bus system, with two sections: Riders on the Washington Street branches (SL4 and SL5) pay bus fares; riders on the Waterfront branches (SL1 and SL2), pay subway fares. (Yes, it’s confusing even to locals.)
The Boston Harbor water shuttle (tel. 617/227-4321) connects Long Wharf, near the New England Aquarium, with the Charlestown Navy Yard. The ride takes 10 minutes. The one-way fare is $3.50.
ACCESSIBILITY - Newer stations on the Red, Blue, and Orange lines are wheelchair and stroller accessible, with elevators. Some (but not all) of the trolley stops on the Green Line are accessible. All MBTA buses have lifts or ramps to accommodate wheelchair passengers. Details are at www.mbta.com/accessibility/subway-guide.
The T’s Fare-Collection System
Most MBTA passengers pay fares with stored-value tickets. The system is complex (and will be changing in 2020 to an all-electronic payment system). For now, travelers have the option of using either paper CharlieTickets or plastic CharlieCards; cash is only accepted on buses and above-ground Green Line subway stops. CharlieTickets are easiest to find—they’re available from kiosks at every station and every airport terminal—and with them the subway fare is $2.75, the bus fare $2. With a plastic CharlieCard—available at most downtown subway stations—riders pay less: $2.25 for the subway, $1.70 for the bus, with transfers that are either free or less expensive than with a CharlieTicket. Users can load and reload both the CharlieTicket and the CharlieCard, adding either enough money for one fare or, say, $20 to cover several rides. Tickets can be shared. Children ages 11 and younger ride free (up to 2 children per adult). Cards can also be loaded with 1-Day, 7-Day, or monthly passes: A 1-Day pass is $12, a 7-Day pass is $21.25, and a monthly pass (calendar month) is $84.50. To use the paper CharlieTicket, insert the ticket into the slot on the turnstile or at the front of the bus and then remove the ticket to keep. To use the plastic CharlieCard, tap the target at a subway turnstile or on the bus. Commuter-rail tickets are available at stations and on the trains, with a surcharge for on-board purchases.
Boston’s bike-sharing program started in 2011 as “Hubway” and in 2018 was rebranded Blue Bikes after Blue Cross Blue Shield became a major sponsor. In 2018 the system had 1,800 bikes at 185 stations across Boston and in neighboring Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville, with plans to expand to 3,000 bikes by 2020. Helmets are not included, so bring your own. A single trip is $2.50, and a 24-hour pass, with unlimited 2-hour trips, is $10. It’s a year-round service, with most stations open in the winter months.
Taxis can be tough to hail on the street. Your best bet is to head to a hotel, since many have cabstands. Both Lyft and Uber are active and popular in the city.
If you drive, keep in mind that road patterns are often confusing—few sections of the city use a grid system, and many streets are one-way. Using GPS or an app such as Waze on a smartphone will help considerably with navigation.
Finding street parking is a matter of good luck in most parts of Boston. If you’re driving to a restaurant or performance venue, check in advance if it has discount parking at a lot or valet service. Most parking spaces in Boston are metered until at least 6pm (and sometimes 8pm) Monday through Saturday. Meters cost $1.25 to $4 an hour, depending on the neighborhood; as of 2018 the city was testing using “surge rates” for the most popular times in Back Bay and the Seaport District. Older meters only take quarters, while newer meters will take quarters or credit or debit cards. If you don’t see a meter, look for a pay-and-display kiosk on the block. They accept both cash and cards and print out a receipt that you affix to the inside of your car window facing the sidewalk. In neighborhoods where there is resident-only parking, a few guest spots are reserved for nonresidents, usually for a maximum of 2 hours, between 8am and 6pm.
A full day in a parking garage costs between $24 and $45. The bright, well-maintained city-run garage under Boston Common (tel. 617/954-2098) costs $28 for up to 10 hours, with cheaper rates nights and weekends. The entrance is at Zero Charles Street, between Boylston and Beacon streets heading north. For other options, listed by neighborhood, go to www.boston-discovery-guide.com/parking-in-boston.html. A good option for finding hourly or overnight parking is SpotHero—you prepay for a reservation online, often at a discount, and simply show up at the designated time and flash the barcode that’s sent via email.
For most day trips listed in this book you’ll want a car. The major car-rental companies have offices at Logan Airport and in the city, and most have other area branches. Zipcar car sharing is active in Boston.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.