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Boston Transportation

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Boston drivers have a richly deserved reputation for aggressive, unpredictable driving. Turn signals are optional. Tailgating is a popular sport. But then, the roads are every bit as insane as the drivers. Boston's streets were not planned, but are said to have evolved from old cowpaths and "temporary" detours that became permanent as much of the city was landfilled in the early 20th century. Except for the Back Bay and part of South Boston, Boston has no street grid, which is confusing for American drivers. Roads change names and lose and add lanes seemingly at random. The New England weather constantly degrades the road surfaces and lane markings. And then there are rotaries. Legally, cars already in a rotary have the right of way. In reality, whichever car has the least to lose has the right of way.

The Big Dig is the most expensive road project in the history of the United States. State officials claim that when it is finished (allegedly in 2004), it will solve the region's traffic woes. They made the same promise in the 1950s when they pushed through the Central Artery - the elevated highway the Big Dig is replacing.


Because of Boston's notorious traffic, many commuters choose to take public transportation into and out of the city.

There are four subway lines in the metropolitan Boston area: the Red Line, Green Line, Orange Line, and Blue Line, all of which head into and out of downtown Boston. That is one of the system's strengths - the subways do an excellent job of getting people to and from downtown. However, there is no cross-town service (The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which runs the system, has begun developing a cross-town bus line, though). Also, the subways stop running at 12:45 a.m. each day, which is inconvenient as bars and clubs in Boston are open until 2 a.m. The MBTA currently runs "Night Owl" buses between 1 and 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The basic fare is $1, although you'll have to pay extra to get on or off at some of the more remote stations, such as Quincy or Riverside. Monthly commuter passes and day and week visitor's passes are available.

Boston has the oldest subway system in North America - the first car began running under Tremont Street in 1897 (today, that line is part of the Green Line). The Red, Blue and Orange lines are traditional subway lines (although the Blue Line uses catenary power north of Boston Harbor). The Green Line and the Mattapan branch of the Red Line are really light-rail lines, using trolley cars. The Mattapan line uses refurbished pre-war "PCC" trolleys; the Green Line relies on more modern LRV cars from Japan and Italy.

In the early 1960s, the then-new MBTA hired Cambridge Seven Associates to help develop a new identity. Cambridge Seven came up with a circled T to represent such concepts as "transit," "transportation" and "tunnel." Today, Bostonians call their subway "the T." The colors of each line have a meaning: The Green Line runs into the leafy sububs of Brookline and Newton; the Blue Line runs along the ocean; the Red Line used to terminate at Harvard (whose school color is crimson) and the Orange Line used to run along Washington Street, which was once called Orange Way.

Commuter Rail

The MBTA's commuter rail system, sometimes known as the Purple Line, brings people from as far away as Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island into Boston. Lines from the North Shore and northwestern suburbs begin and terminate at North Station; lines from the South Shore and the west start and end at South Station. There are approximately 125,000 one-way trips on the Commuter Rail each day.


There are two major rail stations in Boston: North Station and South Station, both serviced by Amtrak trains and commuter rail. There is a third station on Rte. 128.


The MBTA operates 162 bus routes within the Greater Boston area with a combined ridership of approximately 375,000 one-way trips per day. The basic fare is 75 cents; monthly commuter passes are available, as are transfers between some bus lines and the subway.

In addition, South Station is a major bus depot for inter-city travel.

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See also : Boston

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