Getting Around in Boston
- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Boston Guide (PDF)
As a relatively compact city, getting around Boston is fairly easy by foot or using public transport. However, traffic congestion, high parking fees and the city's confusing street design make it difficult to navigate Boston by car. Consequently, most residents choose not to drive.
Expats will find that there are a wealth of public transport options available in Boston, which will make getting to grips with the city much easier.
Public transport in Boston
Boston has an integrated public transport system run by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Expats will find that public transport makes getting around Boston convenient and relatively inexpensive.
The MBTA is made up of the subway, buses, water shuttles and commuter rail.
The CharlieCard is a contactless smartcard that forms the basis of the MBTA payment system. The CharlieCard is available at any underground station and gives commuters access to discounts on all subway and bus fares, as well as free transfers.
There are weekly and monthly passes that allow for unlimited subway and local bus travel. These can be loaded onto the CharlieCard and are ideal for expats making regular use of the MBTA system,
Boston’s subway, or ‘the T’, is composed of four colour-coded rail lines. This comprehensive network covers all the main areas of the city. If using a CharlieCard for one-way rides, commuters get free transfers on most subway and local bus routes.
Expats will find that while bus travel in Boston may be slower than using the subway, a bus ride will often be cheaper and take them closer to their final destination. As with subway travel and if using a CharlieCard for one-way rides, commuters will get free transfers on most subway and local bus routes.
Express buses which travel longer distances operate in Boston. These are more expensive than regular buses.
The MBTA runs a number of water shuttles. There are also non-MBTA ferries and water taxis available at several ports.
The commuter rail system in Boston is primarily used for travelling to towns outside the city. Due to the fact that these trains are infrequent, it's much faster to use the subway when travelling within Boston.
Taxis in Boston
Boston taxi fares are some of the most expensive in the US. Unless planning on sharing a taxi with a group of friends, it makes more sense to use the city's extensive public transport system.
Rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft operate in Boston and, like regular taxis, they allow for more specific routes, but at a generally cheaper price. As Uber and Lyft services are charged directly to a user's bank account, they allow for travel without needing to carry cash.
Walking in Boston
Boston is a relatively small and safe city and many locals walk around the city centre. Walking will allow visitors to see more of the Boston than they would on the subway. However, walking is not always easy in the winter months when the snow and wind in Boston pose a major obstacle to pedestrians.
Cycling in Boston
Bostonians love to cycle and, thanks to the city's small size and flat terrain, cycling is relatively easy (except in winter). Boston is a relatively cyclist-friendly city, though existing cycling infrastructure isn't completely comprehensive and needs to be expanded.
Driving in Boston
Navigating the streets of Boston is difficult for newcomers. Unlike other US cities, Boston’s streets do not follow a grid system or centre on a geographical feature like a river or lake. Therefore, getting around Boston by car is not advisable. There is also a lot of traffic congestion in the city centre and parking is both difficult to find and expensive.