How to Conquer T-phobia — 5 Tips for Riding the T

I ride the T everywhere. I’ve been visiting Boston since I was pretty young, and even back when I was 13 I was always the one who would navigate public transportation for my family. For some reason, the colorful lines on the map of the T just made sense to me.

That’s why, when I got to BU, I was so shocked to meet so many people who just don’t ride the T. They would tell me that they Uber everywhere they go off campus, because they’re too intimidated by Boston’s subway system to try to navigate it on their own.

I definitely understand where BU kids are coming from when they say they don’t bother to try riding the T. Ubering everywhere seems a lot simpler — you just put in your exact destination and go — but it’s also a lot more expensive, especially over a long period of time.

And if you need more persuasion than the high cost of ubering to get you to ride public transit, check out this episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. 

In order to save your wallet and the planet as the year continues, I’ve compiled 5 tips that will hopefully make riding the T a lot less intimidating for those of you who haven’t set foot on public transportation before.

  1. 1. Get a CharlieCard

    You can pay for rides on MBTA transit in two ways: CharlieTickets and CharlieCards. CharlieTickets are fine for people visiting the city for a weekend or even just a day, but the best long-term option is definitely a CharlieCard. You get a reduced fare, and tapping them to pay your fare is much easier and faster than waiting for the machines to process a CharlieTicket payment.

  2. 2. Look to the Green Line

    The map may be overwhelming at first — all the intersecting colorful lines definitely could be confusing if you aren’t that familiar with Boston. The good news is that BU is along the B branch of the Green Line, and if you’re going to do something closer to downtown, all you’ll probably have to worry about is the Green Line. That means no transferring or outbound/inbound confusion. If the entire T system intimidates you, just focus on the Green Line and it’ll seem a lot more manageable.

  3. 3. Pick up on train etiquette.

    Obviously this is broad, but I know that I started to feel a lot more comfortable riding the T once I started to pick up on some of the unwritten (and, I suppose, written) rules of the train. First of all, you should always let everyone off before boarding the train. For college students, when the train is crowded take your backpack off and keep it at your feet. This saves precious space, especially during peak hours. Don’t start making your way to the doors long before your stop comes — that’s the true mark of an out-of-towner. And an extra trick I’ve learned? If you’re going outbound and getting off at an above-ground stop, it’s best to be standing in the back of your train car because once the trains leave the tunnels, all riders get on at the front of the car and it gets crowded pretty quickly.  

  4. 4. Don’t be afraid to take the bus.

    Alright, so you’ve mastered the Green Line, you know the train etiquette, and you’ve found your favorite spot to stand when there aren’t any seats. My next recommendation? Venture out into the bus system. While the buses still intimidate me a little, if you remember to request your stop and track your bus with the Transit app, it can make some places in and around Boston (like Harvard Square, for example) a lot more accessible.

  5. 5. Speaking of the Transit app, use the Transit app.

    Transit will literally (well, figuratively) save your life if public transportation isn’t your thing. This app lays out all the options to get from point A to point B, complete with a user-friendly layout that lets you compare routes. It’s also endorsed by the MBTA, and gives you real-time data for all MBTA transit systems (like the T and the buses).

Hopefully these tips have helped make transit in Boston more manageable for all of you first-time riders! Now that you have the info you need, you’re ready to ride the T like a true Bostonian.

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