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Getting to know the T

Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History & Museum Studies M.A. 2020

Ask any Tufts student what their go to means of getting around is and their reply will almost certainly be: “why the T, of course”! The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is the agency responsible for providing public transportation services for the Boston area, including the subway (affectionately known as the T) as well as bus, commuter rail, and ferry systems. Though hanging out on campus is great, you’ll quickly want to get out and explore all that Boston has to offer and the T is one of the best ways to do it. As someone who uses public transportation on almost a daily basis for commuting to work, running errands, and generally having fun, I can attest to the fact that, despite the occasional delay, there is no better way to get around than on the T. Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned about ways to make the most out of public transit in Boston.

Subway

Opened in 1897, Boston’s subway system was the first of its kind in the United States. Today, the system consists of five lines (red, orange, blue, green, and silver) that run through downtown and out to the many surrounding suburbs.

The line that many Tufts students are familiar with is the Red Line, which stops at Davis Square and is just a short walk from the Medford/Somerville campus. A ride on the Red Line can take you to some of Boston’s most notable universities, including Harvard, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts at Boston, as well as the Boston Common, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, and the birthplaces of the second and sixth presidents of the United States: John and John Quincy Adams.

The Orange Line is also a key travel route for many Tufts students as it makes stops right at Tufts Medical Center in downtown Boston. Aside of commuting to classes and work, you can also hop on the Orange Line to see the site of one of the first battles of the American Revolution at Bunker Hill, watch a Bruins or Celtics game at TD Garden, or grab a bite to eat in Chinatown.

An easy transfer from both the Red and Orange Lines, the Green Line runs through several Boston neighborhoods and is the perfect way to visit the Museum of Fine Arts, catch a ball game at Fenway Park, do some shopping at the Copley Place Mall, or get some studying done at the Boston Public Library, the second largest library in the United States! Though slightly shorter routes, the Blue Line allows for an easy escape to the beaches of East Boston while both the Blue and Silver Lines provide easy access to and from Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Buses/Commuter Rail/ Ferries

In addition to running the subway, the MBTA is also responsible for running buses, commuter rail trains, and even ferry boats in the Boston area. The Medford/Somerville and Boston campuses are directly serviced by eight bus routes, and within walking distance of many more, that are great for making a quick run for groceries or taking a convenient “above ground” journey to the hundreds of tasty restaurants, nifty shops, and cool historic sites in the area that just aren’t served by the extensive subway system.

The commuter rail is similarly useful for making trips from Boston to places a little further afield than those served by the subway, including Tufts’ Grafton Campus on the Framingham/Worcester Line. The commuter rail is also useful for making a day trip to see historic Plymouth Rock, take a stroll around Providence, Rhode Island, and explore the bewitching city of Salem. Of course, you can’t forget about the ferry system with boats leaving from Long Wharf in downtown Boston that can provide you with an alternative route to visit the USS Constitution, take a hike on beautiful Georges Island in Boston Harbor, and yes, even get to Logan Airport!

Taking Your First T Adventure   

The number one necessity for taking a ride on the T is a ticket. Passes can be purchased for single-rides and short periods of time at all subway stations and multiple convenience stores near the Tufts campuses. However, many Tufts students opt to use a reloadable “Charlie Card” that can be topped up with funds as needed for bus and subway rides. Tufts also offers discounted semester passes to students for the bus and subway, commuter rail, and ferry.

Once you have your ticket, just pull up directions for the place you want to visit and away you go to explore the city! If you ever have questions or in need of directions, don’t worry! You’ll quickly find that many of your fellow “Bostonians” are willing to lend a hand and point you in the right direction. Happy travels!