Boston's MBTA Subway Trains
You'll find it convenient to "take the T" (short for MBTA), America's first subway train system (1897) to reach a variety of sights in Boston.
Visitors to Boston will find the MBTA's Red Line and Green Line, which intersect at Park Street Station beneath Boston Common, most useful for seeing the sights. The Blue Line and Silver Line are useful for getting to and from Logan Airport.
Here's information on fares.
Park Street Station, entered at the corner of Tremont and Park streets at the easternmost corner of Boston Common, has two levels.
You descend from Boston Common to the first level, commonly called Park Street Station, for Green Line trains to Government Center and Haymarket (for Faneuil Hall Marketplace), North Station (for TD Garden and MBTA Commuter Rail trains to towns north and west of Boston); and also for the various Green Line trains going west through the heart of the city to many other points.
Descend one more level to Park Street Under for Red Line trains to South Station, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Cambridge stations of Kendall Square/MIT, Harvard Square, Porter Square (North Cambridge), and Davis Square/Tufts University.
The nearest BLUEbikes Bike-Sharing System station is a 2-minute walk south along Tremont Street at the corner of Tremont and West streets.
The Red Line goes from Alewife Station on the Cambridge/Arlington border to Davis Square in Somerville (for Tufts University), Porter Square, Harvard Square (for Harvard University), Central Square, Kendall Square (for MIT), Charles Street-MGH (for Massachusetts General Hospital), through Boston's main subway station at Park Street Station beneath Boston Common, then to the heart of Boston shopping at Downtown Crossing, then to South Station Transportation Center, then on to JFK/U Mass (for the John F Kennedy Library and University of Massachusetts-Boston), and on to the suburbs of Quincy, the home of early US presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams; Braintree and Mattapan.
The elaborate Green Line goes from Medford/Tufts University and Union Square (Somerville) via Science Park (for the Museum of Science in East Cambridge through Park Street Station (beneath Boston Common) and central Boston to Copley Square, after which it splits into four lines going to western and southern suburbs.
Green Line E trains ("Heath Street") can take you from Boston Common to Copley Square, the Prudential Center (for Hynes Convention Center, Symphony Hall, Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Blue Line subway trains in Boston run from Bowdoin Station north of Beacon Hill to Government Center (for Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and the Green Line), State Street (for the Old State House), Aquarium (for the New England Aquarium and Long Wharf (MBTA Ferries and harbor cruises), then under Boston Harbor to East Boston and Logan AInternational Airport.
Shuttle buses from the Blue Line Airport subway station circulate to all the airport terminals.
(The other way to travel between the airport and the center of Boston is by the Silver Line. See below.)
From the airport, the Blue Line continues northeast to Orient Heights, Suffolk Downs horse-race track, the city of Revere and Revere Beach, with the last station being Wonderland (an amusement park).
The Orange Line between Oak Grove and Forest Hills is a southwest-to-north route connecting you to Back Bay, Chinatown, Downtown Crossing, State Street (Old State House & Faneuil Hall Marketplace), Haymarket, North Station (Commuter Rail trains & Amtrak's Downeaster to Portland ME) and Charlestown's Community College station for Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides").
From the Community College station in Charlestown (map), it's a half-mile (800-meter, 12-minute) walk up to the Bunker Hill Monument, then a 700-yard (644-meter, 10-minute) walk downhill to the Charlestown Navy Yard and the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"). You can also use the MBTA Charlestown Ferry to reach these points. More...
The Silver Line is not an underground train but rather four bus routes via limited-access hybrid trolleybus/ diesel buses running partly underground, partly via surface roads, connecting South Station Transportation Center with Logan Airport, Boston's Seaport World Trade Center, the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Flynn Cruiseport Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, and hotels in the Seaport District.
The SL1 line starts underground beneath South Station (where there's also a Red Line subway station)., with stops at the Moakley Courthouse and World Trade Center before coming above-ground to the Silver Line Way Station, where its electric catenaries give way to the diesel engine.
It continues as a diesel bus to Logan Airport, where it stops right at aairline Terminals A, B, C and E, before returning to the city via the same route.
The SL3 bus also stops at Logan Airport, but only at the Blue Line Airport subway station.
The advantage to taking the Silver Line to the airport over the MBTA subway Blue Line is that Silver Line buses stop right at the terminals. With the Blue Line, you go to the Airport subway station and transfer to an airport shuttle bus which takes you to the terminals.
The SL2 line follows the same underground route from South Station, but instead of going to Logan Airport it follows Northern Avenue to the World Trade Center and the Flynn Cruiseport Black Falcon Cruise Terminal and the Design Center.
The SL4 and SL5 lines go southwest from South Station. SLW connects South Station with the World Trade Center and Silver Line Way.
Tickets & Passes
To ride MBTA subway trains, buses and ferries, you use either a Charlie Ticket (best for short-term visitors), or a Charlie Card, both available from vending machines at stations.
New Fare Gates
New fare gates are being installed across the system. At the new gates, you can enter by tapping a Charlie Ticket or Charlie Card, an RFID debit or credit card, or a smartphone using Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.
Children aged 11 and under ride free. Kids 5 to 11 pay a reduced fare for most rides. High school and college students at participating institutions may obtain an MBTA Student ID to qualify for the reduced student fare. Members of the US Armed Forces in uniform ride free, and need no identification; those in plainclothes ride free by showing their military ID to the conductor.
Seniors 65 years and older pay half-fare at most stations if they have an MBTA Senior Charlie Card.
The name "Charlie" comes from the popular Kingston Trio song Charlie on the MTA about a man riding the Boston subways who paid the fare to get on the train, transferred to another line, then discovered there was an additional fare to be paid at his destination stop—and he had no more money.
He was obliged to stay on the train forever....
The extra fares collected at distant stations are a thing of the past, but the song was so popular that the name of its "hero" was adopted for the MBTA's digital fare cards.
The MBTA owns and operates 100+ parking lots and garages with more than 44,000 off-street parking places in New England and rents them at good prices to travelers using its system. If you're visiting Boston, Cambridge, or any other city or town served by the MBTA systems, you can probably save money by parking outside the city center and riding the train, bus or boat into the center. More...
Hours of Subway Operation
Times on subway and bus lines vary, but you're pretty sure of being able to take the T any day from 5 am up to 12:30 am (and up to 1 am on some lines).
After that, be prepared to take a taxi or rideshare app car unless you get the final trip time from an officer of the line, and meet the schedule. Hours may vary on Sunday.
Boston Subway History
In the late 1800s, Boston public transport was by horse-drawn carriage and trolley—8,500 horses and vehicles crowded the city-center streets, bringing transport to a halt.
Something had to be done.
The USA had no underground railways until Boston's Tremont Street Subway line beneath Boston Common was opened on September 1, 1897. It followed some European cities:
—London's Metropolitan Railway, now known as the Underground, was opened in 1863.
—Budapest's Metro opened a year before Boston's, in 1896.
Today the MBTA, which includes the subway system, is the USA's fifth largest public transit system by daily riders.