Boston, Portland’s Sister City?

Recently I took a trip over to the north east coast with my girl. We had a great trip visiting Conneticut, with our flight in and out of Boston. We used a mix of transit while in Boston to connect from the airport to the intercity bus to Hartford. Where we then bummed a ride with my girl’s folks. Overall it was a great trip, but this is my Transit Sleuth Blog, so enough about all that, let’s talk about hard core transit in Boston and how bad ass Boston is.

I’m generally pretty hard to impress when it comes down to transit. Portland does OK, San Francisco does OK, but the cities that really get me are usually the hard core operators like Chicago, New York or Vancouver, British Columbia. Well, Boston has officially entered those ranks of amazing cities. When it comes to removing that noose of automobile ownership and really getting down to important ideals, livability and effective transit and biking options.

Boston Transit Options

Two lines we took that are built out subway style heavy rail, included the Red and Orange Lines. Both of these lines were clean, are practically spotless by American standards, and amazingly well run. The lines were also smooth, without much jarring, and during rush hour I was still able to easily board and de-train in the inner core of the city.

Boston’s subways are cleaner, seemingly faster, and better rides than other comparable systems in cities like New York (MTA has notorious bumpy subway trains, they’re still not as bumpy and jarring as busses, but for a train they’re ridiculous) or Chicago. They’re also very easy to ride. The signage is good and getting around is simple, even when I wasn’t paying attention. The calls for each stop were clear and easy to hear (by comparison, there’s always room for improvement) which was a pleasant break from the standard mumbling on some systems.

The another rail mode option, as Portlanders, San Franciscans and Seattleites would now know, is light rail. I believe in Boston they refer to these as Streetcars however, but I’m not 100% sure. The Green Line was the main line we rode on, getting from North End to the Northeast College area. These trains were driven like a bat out of hell, jarring a bit in the turns, but fast and extremely efficient with solid ridership. The Green Line even splits into three separate segments as it exits the inner core of the city. This line, as the orange and red, was also technically a subway.

Which speaking of, the Silver Line is a bus line, that is underground that runs directly from the airport. This line is technically BRT the way it is intended to be built. However, Boston just refers to it as part of their subway system. There is a lot of contention about the quality of service of the Silver Line versus real rapid transit lines like the other subway lines, since Bostonians were originally promised a light rail line. It appears, after some research on wikipedia and digging through state records that they botched up the construction estimates and planning during the epic big dig failure.

On any of these lines, albeit during rush hour, we never waited for more than 90 seconds, with most of the trains we transferred from or to we had zero wait time. We literally walked onto the platform and onto the train. A transit rider’s dream transfer!


I’m aiming to have a part II to this article regarding the biking options and other parts of the MBTA and Boston’s Transit & biking options. Stay tuned!

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