Getting Around Boston – the T Subway System

T is the 20th letter of the English alphabet.  It’s a seemingly innocuous letter.  But in Boston, you better know that T refers to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).  T is just so much simpler and faster to say.

During most of my stay in Boston, I was at a conference for work.  We were staying at the Marriott Copley Place Boston .  It was smack in the middle of two Green Line stations and simple walk away from an Orange Line station.

MBTA Subway Map

The Subway System

You could probably guess that downtown Boston is smack in the middle where most of the lines converge and you would be right.  The Red Line is the oldest of these lines.  It just celebrated it’s 100th anniversary this year.  It must be the oldest subway in America.  It runs serves Cambridge and it’s famous universities north of the Charles River and communities south of Boston.  The subway cars are wide and the trains are long.  It’s exactly what you think a subway car should be.

The Orange Line runs a perpendicular line to the red line and serves southwest Boston communities like Jamaica Plains and then the North End and Oak Grove outside Boston proper. The cars that I boarded along the Orange Line felt worn down and old.  But the cars were amply wide and service amply quick.

Orange Line train and passenger

The Blue Line serves East Boston and its biggest landmarks include the Aquarium, Logan International Airport, and Wonderland.  I only rode a short two station stretch of the Blue Line when I was in Boston.  The cars are smaller than most subway cars and not as wide.  It almost feels like a VAL car (like ones used on the Neihu Line in Taipei) which is narrower and shorter.

The Green Line can be nominally called a subway in that it runs primarily underground, but I would say it feels like Toronto’s streetcars have been totally put underground in narrow, twisty, and noisy tunnels.  The Green Line is split into multiple lines in the outlying areas.  You will note in covers all letters from B to E, but there is no A spur. As far as I can tell, the A spur of the Green Line was replaced with a different service some time ago. Hence the missing A spur.  I saw a T-shirt in town that proudly proclaimed, “I hate the Green Line.”  After riding it during rush hour, I can understand why.  The cars are just like Toronto streetcars in their narrow gauge and you have to climb up from the platform to get on.  So forget about wheelchair accessibility.  During rush hour, the crush of people was insane.  It’s like a subway crowds for a streetcar.  I imagine some people have to wait a few trains before boarding.  The only saving grace for the Green Line, in my opinion, are that the cars used to ply the Green Line are very unique.  If they ran on the surface with smaller crowds, I think they would be great.

Then there’s the Silver Line.  This is not a subway line.  The Silver Line is an articulated, express bus service.  It also has multiple lines serving the city.  It does run underground through parts of downtown Boston.  Part of it runs in a dedicated, separated bus lane out towards Dudley Square.  Silver Line 1 also serves each and every terminal at Logan International Airport.  So it’s probably the most direct public transit route in and out of the airport.  Just be aware that there is no special area to stash your luggage.  So hold on tight and try to wiggle around everyone else and their luggage on the bus.

2 thoughts on “Getting Around Boston – the T Subway System

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