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The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)—known as "the T"—operates subways and buses along five connecting lines, as well as many bus and several rail commuter lines that reach nearby suburbs and cities. Subways and buses operate from about 5:30 am to about 1 am, with limited late-night service. A 24-hour hotline and the MBTA website have specific information on routes, schedules, fares, wheelchair access, and other matters. Free maps are available at the MBTA's Park Street Station information stand, open daily from 7 am to 10 pm. The www.mbta.com site has a useful trip planner tool.
"Inbound" trains head into the city center and "outbound" trains head away from it. If you get on the Red Line at South Station, the train heading toward Alewife (Cambridge) is inbound. But once you pass the Park Street station, the train becomes an outbound train. The best way to figure out which way to go is to make note of the destination station, usually listed on the front of the train. So from Downtown the Red Line to Cambridge would be the Alewife train and the Green Line to Fenway would be the Boston College or Cleveland Circle train. Large maps prominently posted at each station show the line(s) that serve it, with each stop marked.
The Red Line originates at Braintree and Quincy Center to the south; the routes join near South Boston at the JFK/UMass stop and continue to Alewife, the northwest corner of Cambridge (near the border with suburban Arlington). The Mattapan high-speed line, also known as the M line, is considered part of the overall Red Line. Originating in Ashmont Station, it transports passengers via vintage yellow trolleys to Mattapan Square. The Green Line operates elevated trolleys that dip underground in the city center. The line originates at Cambridge's Lechmere, heads south, and divides into four routes that end at Boston College (Commonwealth Avenue), Cleveland Circle (Beacon Street, in Brighton), Riverside (Newton at Route 128), and Heath Street (Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain). The Blue Line runs weekdays from Bowdoin Square (and weeknights and weekends from Government Center) to the Wonderland Racetrack in Revere, north of Boston. The Orange Line runs from Oak Grove in north suburban Malden to Forest Hills near the Arnold Arboretum.
The Silver Line (a bus line with its own dedicated lanes) has four routes. SL1 connects South Station to Logan Airport; SL2 runs between South Station and the Design Center; SL4 connects Dudley Square and South Station; and SL5 runs between Downtown Crossing and Dudley Square, also stopping in Boylston (SL1 and SL2 are priced like the subway, but SL4 and SL5 are priced like buses, so the fare on these last two lines is only $1.50). Park Street Station (on the Common) and State Street are the major Downtown transfer points.
T fares are $2.50 for adults paying in cash or $2 with a prepurchased CharlieCard. (Most bus fares are $0.50 cheaper, with the exception of the SL1 and SL2 bus lines, which are priced as if they were part of the subway.) Children age 11 and under ride free. Senior citizens pay $1. Fares on the commuter rail—the Purple Line—vary from $2–11, depending on distance.
Getting a CharlieCard makes it easier to transfer between the subway and the bus, because such transfers are free and you don't need to keep track of individual tickets. Get your CharlieCard from a ticket agent at subway terminals during business hours (7 am to 7 pm); from a machine at the T stations at North Station, South Station, or Back Bay; the CharlieCard office at Downtown Crossing; or online or from some retailers. Check the T's website for more information.
One-day ($11) and seven-day ($18) passes are available for unlimited travel on subways, city buses, and inner-harbor ferries. Buy passes at any full-service MBTA stations. Passes are also sold at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center and at some hotels.
MBTA (800/392–6100; 617/222–3200; 617/222–5146 TTY. www.mbta.com.)