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Exploring Boston, Northeast

By Christine R. Fry

EDITOR IN CHIEF

This article is the first in a series intended to introduce freshmen to life in Boston and at the Institute. Future installments will deal with other necessities of life at MIT, including banking and purchasing textbooks.

Now that you’ve arrived at MIT and marveled at the architectural masterpieces like the concrete behemoth we call the Student Center, you’re probably ready to escape and see something new for a change. Not ready to leave? You will be when you get within “What the hell is that?” range of the Stata Center.

Once the fervor of Orientation and classes dies down, you will probably realize that there is a world outside of the boundaries of the MIT campus. The most immediate world is called Boston and Cambridge. Outside of that is the United States of America. It’s time to explore, kids.

MIT and local shuttles

Getting around MIT and the various living groups in Cambridge and Boston is easy and free. During the day, TECH Shuttle runs every twenty minutes from 7:15 a.m. until 7:15 p.m. on weekdays, stopping at various locations around campus including 84 Massachusetts Ave. (that’s the Student Center), Burton-Conner, and Kendall Square.

SafeRide is the nighttime MIT shuttle that stops at or near every MIT dormitory and living group. It operates from 6 p.m. until 3 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 6 p.m. until 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. There are four shuttles, serving Cambridge East, Cambridge West, Boston East, and Boston West. You can catch SafeRide on the half hour from the bus stops at 77 and 84 Massachusetts Ave.

Beginning this year, there will be daytime SafeRide during the coldest months of the school year to prevent students from freezing to death as they trek to school.

The SafeRide and TECH Shuttle vans are equipped with global positioning satellite devices that allow the shuttles to be tracked on the Shuttletrack Web site. It is not currently functional, but it’s something to watch for.

The Wave is another useful free shuttle that leaves from the MIT campus at the Kendall Square Coop. It provides quick transportation to the CambridgeSide Galleria, the closest mall to MIT. It departs every 20 minutes from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon until 6 p.m. on Sunday.

EZRide provides service from Kendall Square to Cambridgeport, East Cambridge, and North Station in Boston. It is free for people with an MIT ID card and runs from 6:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Wellesley-MIT Exchange Bus transports primarily cross-registered MIT and Wellesley students between the two campuses for free. It runs regularly from 7:35 a.m. until 12:10 a.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7:35 a.m. until 6:10 p.m. on Friday. It stops at Buildings 34 and E40. You must show an MIT or Wellesley identification card to ride the bus.

Don’t worry, you can still make a late night trip to Wellesley on the weekend via the Senate Bus. The Senate Bus, more often referred to by a more crude name (ask an upperclassman), leaves from McCormick Hall and, on the Boston side, Boston University’s Danielson Hall (just west of Mass. Ave. on Beacon St.). It stops regularly at MIT from 7 p.m. to 2:50 a.m. on Friday night, 8:50 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, and 8:50 a.m. until 11:50 p.m. on Sunday. You can buy tickets at LaVerde’s Market on campus and at Marlboro Market on Mass. Ave. in Boston. The cost at LaVerde’s will probably be $2.50 for a one-way ticket.

MBTA serves Boston area

By now you’ve probably figured out that Boston has a subway and bus system called the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or simply the T. It’s America’s first subway system so it’s a little grimy and unpredictable, but functional.

The subway has four lines that are named by colors: Blue, Orange, Red, and Green. Each serves different areas of the metropolitan region, with some overlap towards the center of Boston.

MIT has a stop on the Red Line at Kendall Square. The Red Line serves areas northwest and southeast of the city. Stops of interest include Central Square and Harvard Square, which have lots of restaurants, shops, and nightlife spots. The Red Line also serves Downtown Crossing, which is one of Boston’s shopping districts and right on the edge of Chinatown.

The Green Line serves east Cambridge and points west of Boston. There are four branches of the westbound Green Line: B, C, D, and E. The B line runs down Commonwealth Ave. and is frequented by Boston University and Boston College students. The B line ends at the Boston College campus. The C line trains travel down Beacon St. to Coolidge Corner. There is a small movie theater at Coolidge Corner and other interesting places to explore. The D line ends at Riverside, in the suburbs of Boston. It stops at Longwood, which is the hub for several hospitals and Harvard Medical School. The E line will take you to Northeastern University and the Museum of Fine Arts (free with the MIT ID).

The eastern end of the Green Line takes you to the Museum of Science (also free with the MIT ID) and ultimately Lechmere, which is right next to the Galleria.

The two less-used lines of the T are the Blue and Orange Lines. You may have ridden the Blue Line from Logan Airport. You can also use the Blue Line to reach a couple of beaches north of the airport. The beaches are a bit grungy and there’s lots of air traffic overhead, but it may help to eliminate that Boston pallor that you will soon develop.

The Arnold Arboretum and Krispy Kreme Donuts are two highlights of the Orange Line. You can get to the Arboretum, a “tree zoo,” from the Forest Hills stop. Krispy Kreme (along with several stores including Target) is located at Wellington.

The T runs every day from approximately 5 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. Each line has its own schedule so check the MBTA Web site before heading out early or late. The fare is $1.00 per ride, but may go up next year to $1.25.

The MBTA bus system serves points across the city and metropolitan area. The Massachusetts Ave. bus (Route 1) is probably the most important bus to MIT students, especially during the winter.

It travels up Mass. Ave as far north as Harvard Square, and down Mass Ave beyond Symphony Hall, stopping eventually at Dudley Square. In particular, it stops at Beacon and Mass. Ave., travels across the Harvard Bridge, and stops at 77 Mass. Ave. The bus operates Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. until 2 a.m. and on Sunday from 5 a.m. until midnight. Bus fare is 75 cents. You can pay with a dollar bill, but you won’t get any change back.

MIT subsidizes MBTA monthly passes for members of the MIT community. The subsidized local bus pass is $9.50 (reduced from $25) and the subsidized subway pass is $17.50 (reduced from $35). You can sign up for passes by filling out a form in the Cashier’s office in the infinite corridor or by going to the MIT Parking and Transportation office in Building E32.

Mini-vacations on commuter rail

The commuter rail, intended for people who work in Boston and live in the suburbs of Boston, provides an inexpensive means of escaping the city for the day, or even the weekend. The commuter rail serves points in all directions outside of the city. You can reach Salem (witches!), Manchester (beaches!), Plymouth (beaches!), and Providence (Rhode Island!).

Trains traveling to points north of the city depart from North Station (accessible by Orange and Green Lines) and trains traveling to points south of the city depart from South Station (accessible by Red Line). Trains operate from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekends. Fares vary based on the distance traveled from the center of the city and range from $1 to $5.75.

Cheap trips to New York City

Chinatown buses are the way to go if you want to go to New York City. These buses take you non-stop from Boston Chinatown to Manhattan Chinatown. Most companies have over 20 buses each day and prices run around $10 to $15 each way. Most companies allow you to purchase tickets online; however you can buy tickets in Chinatown as well. The trip takes about four hours, but can vary depending on traffic.

Greyhound, in an attempt to compete with the Chinatown buses, offers $20 one-way fares to the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal. Greyhound leaves from South Station and serves points across the country, in addition to New York City.

Trains, planes whisk you away

Amtrak trains arrive at North and South Stations and can send you any where in the country. Perhaps the most relevant Amtrak line to Boston students is the northeast corridor. Acela, the high-speed Amtrak train, can speed you to New York City in under four hours for about $100 one-way. The normal trains take just over four hours and cost approximately $76 one-way. Also on the northeast corridor is Washington, D.C., which can be accessed by both Acela and normal trains for $165 and $106 each way, respectively. That trip takes about eight hours.

Almost any airline you could ever desire leaves from Logan Airport. Especially of interest to poor college students are the discount airlines such as AirTran. AirTran allows people between the ages of 18 to 22 to fly stand-by for $52 per trip segment. This offer expires Dec. 17, 2003.

Cheaper flights are often available from airports in smaller markets such as Providence, RI, and Manchester, NH. There are a few bus lines that provide service between Boston and Providence or Manchester airports.