How to Use "the T": a Definitive Guide to the MBTA

Greetings baby Eagles! Since it is now officially August, I’m sure you have been getting psyched to move into your freshman residence halls (unless you are unhappy with your recently announced housing assignment… in which case, I promise it'll be okay) and begin the crazy experience that is your freshman year at Boston College. That’s all fine and dandy, but there is a crucial bit of information that you MUST know before you dive head first into life in the great city of Boston: how to use the subway system, otherwise known as the MBTA, otherwise known as “the T.”

Before I explain anything to you, let me provide you with this map to give you some visual reference as to what I am trying to say:

Photo courtesy of Tumblr.

As a college student, there is no better way to get around the city of Boston than by the T. Although it is far from perfect, it is much cheaper than getting a cab or an Uber, and is generally easier and more direct than taking the city bus. Your relationship with the T will definitely be one of both love and hate (love: hopping on the D line for a quick 20 minute ride downtown; hate: spending an hour and a half between the green and red lines trying to reach an ultimately disappointing Harvard party on a Friday night in March), but either way, you won’t be able to live without it.

Learning the Basics


Congratulations! The class of 2018 is the first to fully experience the T’s extended schedule. Click here for specific information on that.


$2.65 per ride, or $2.10 if you have a CharlieCard. More on that later.


If you are boarding the train on the street, just use cash or a CharlieCard to pay the meter at the front of the train, next to the conductor. If you’re at a real station, such as Reservoir or Copley, there will be machines where you can purchase a CharlieTicket, which is basically just a temporary ticket made of paper and loaded with a set amount of money that cannot be re-loaded after it has been used up.

Now, let’s familiarize you with the different lines of the T:

Green: your new BFF. It splits into four different branches traveling in/out of metro Boston, the B, C, D and E lines. The B, C, and D lines will all ultimately get you back to BC, while the E line runs out into Northeastern territory. The B line begins down near lower campus, next to Dunkin Donuts/White Mountain, so it is geographically the closest to campus; however, it is the slowest of the three branches because it has the most stops on the street level (meaning it has to yield to pedestrians and all traffic). If your destination is somewhere on Comm Ave., take the B line. If you are just trying to get downtown as quickly as possible, however, opt to take the Comm Ave. bus to the Reservoir T stop and board the D line (down the stairs from where the bus lets out) or the C line (down even farther on the street, across from Chipotle). It’s tedious, but it’s ultimately still faster than the B line.

Red: this will get you out to Cambridge, aka Harvard and MIT. The only time you should probably use this is if you know the trek will be worth it, or to attend the Head of the Charles rowing regatta in the fall.

Orange: somewhat irrelevant to BC students, but you may have to use it to get to Logan or the Aquarium due to the Government Center station being closed (more on this below).

Blue: this leads out to the Seaport District. The most relevant point of interest here is the aquarium. It’s a long ride, but you get one free aquarium ticket per semester with your BC ID, so take advantage of it!

Silver: it’s a somewhat questionable bus/van that you only really need to get to the airport.

Inbound vs. Outbound

Green & Blue: toward Government Center is Inbound; away is Outbound

Red: toward Park St. is Inbound; away is Outbound

Orange: toward Downtown Crossing is Inbound; away is Outbound

Silver: toward South Station is inbound; away is Outbound

Before you board the train, check the sign at the top of the first car. It will say exactly what the train’s destination/final stop is.

Useful Tips & Random Advice

Government Center Station: this is a pretty important stop on the T, but it’s closed for renovation for the next 2 years. Keep that in mind when planning your trip and looking at a map.

EmbarkBOS: this app may save your life… or at least make it a whole lot easier. Download it from the App Store and see for yourself.

CharlieCards: These are cards made of hard plastic (as opposed to the paper CharlieTickets), and you can get one for free at any of the bigger stations (ex. Park St.). It will save you money on your fares, it can be re-loaded, and it allows you to simply tap your wallet to the machine to pay your fare.

Entering the train: proceed as far as you can into the trolley car. If the car is packed, try your hardest not to lean on or block the doors. The conductor will yell at you.

Watch your bags: this is pretty self-explanatory. Keep them on your lap, or within your eyesight. While Boston is pretty friendly, it’s still a city, and you can never be too careful.

Hopefully, I have imparted some wisdom to you on how to use the T. But, either way, the best way to become familiar with the system is simply to try it out for yourself.

Native Massachusetts girl with an addiction to coffee in all its glorious forms. In love with cities she’s not yet visited & shamelessly obsessed with anything J. Crew. Proudly owning the term ‘basic.'