Trains, Buses, and Feet

Seeing all of Boston on the way to class
MAY 2019
Jordan
H.
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology

On Tuesday mornings, I catch a 7:30 bus to get to an 8:30 class. This class is roughly 2.5 miles from my apartment. 

Why so far? Well, I’m a PhD student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, which focuses on integrating clinical experience into an engineering PhD. This involves taking M.D. classes through Harvard Medical School, which is roughly 2 miles away from MIT. 

The M-2 Shuttle, which runs from Harvard Square to Harvard Medical School, stops at MIT every fifteen minutes before 7.45, but only runs every half hour after 7:45. However, the 7:30 bus is actually the 7:45 bus because they're always running late, so basically there's only one bus. In theory, I could walk to class at 7:30 AM and still get there on time, but something about Boston in the winter makes that option unappealing.

You know that white line that you're supposed to stay behind on buses? Most days, I stood in front of that line. Sometimes, I even got to stand right next to the door. While I would have liked to appreciate the views from the front windshield, the collective body heat of everyone in the bus made my glasses fog, so I listened to podcasts to pass the fifteen minute ride instead. Even in the dead of winter, I never had to worry about being cold on the M-2.

Getting back to MIT from Harvard Medical School  is better. Our class ends  at 12:30, and we wait outside for the 12:45 bus before piling on in the back. One fall day in mid-October, the location of the bus stop changed from one side of the street to the other with no warning. I took the 1:15 bus that day.

Getting over to Boston University from Harvard Medical School(specifically the Longwood Campus where I take classes)is not better. While both are on the Green Line, which goes from east to west from the North End of Boston to Park Street, the line splits into four separate lines after Park Street, with Boston University on one and Longwood on the other.

This means that it is usually faster to either walk or take an Uber. Both my desire to see the city and my frugal graduate student habits typically lead me to the former option. If I wanted to go back to MIT from Boston University, I could take the T, but walking is just as fast (or, put another way, the Green Line is just as slow) for it to not make much of a difference.

On nice days, I walk. On rainy days, I take the T.

Does it sound like I'm not a fan of Boston public transit? Probably, but it's actually not that bad. I grew up outside of New York City, so, for a long time, my only frame of reference for public transit was the NYC Subway system. While I could definitely come up with many complaints regarding the NYC subway, it does manage to cover the vast majority of New York City and makes getting around much easier. 

Then I moved to Ithaca, NY to go to Cornell University. Ithaca has the TCAT, which is a bus system designed to serve all of Tompkins County, but primarily serving Cornell’s campus. This was convenient for me (and probably sucked for anyone who went to Ithaca College), but most of the time I didn’t need to use the TCAT. The majority of places that I needed to get to in Ithaca were at most a 30-minute walk, and you could get almost anywhere on campus by foot within 15 minutes.  

Boston is… somewhere in the middle. We have the T, which will take you to most places in Boston and some places in Cambridge. There are also the buses, which you can pay for using the same CharlieCard that you use on the T and which will get you most places in Boston and Cambridge. And then Harvard and MIT have their own shuttles, in case you need to get from one side of campus to the other (or, in my case, from one Harvard campus to another). 

From hopping on a bus to class to riding on the Green Line to Boston University, Boston’s public transit will show you the entire city in a day of classes, ending with at least one interesting story to tell your friends. Looking to explore your sense of adventure? Hop on.