Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The PAX visitor's guide to Boston: Getting around

Above: The MBTA map. There will be a quiz.

Penny Arcade Expo East kicks off this Friday in my hometown of Boston. Many of you are traveling to the show from other cities, and even countries. You have the guts to do what I never could: leave the house. Well played.

To welcome you to our humble city, I thought I'd offer a few tips for how to make the most of your stay here. First: how to get around.

Most people get around Boston by subway with the help of the friendly folks at the MBTA, who run a clean, efficient, and reliable subway service that never strands you in a tunnel for 15 minutes or more with no explanation. The T, as the locals call it, may not be one of the world's greatest transit systems, but it is certainly one of the oldest, and also one of the cheapest.

You probably received a Charlie Card with your PAX badge. You can add value to the Charlie Card at subway kiosks with cash or a credit card. This may be worth it because fares with a Charlie Card are a little cheaper than paying with cash: $1.70 per ride as opposed to $2.00.

Boston is small enough that the T will get you almost anywhere you need to go, and usually in a reasonable amount of time, unless that time happens to be after 12:35 AM, because that's when the T stops running. Service resumes around 5:30 AM, if you can wait that long. Otherwise, if you're looking to stay out until last call (no later than 2:00 AM anywhere in the city, and sometimes earlier), you'll have to get a cab, or hoof it.

If you're staying at almost any of the hotels linked from the PAX site, then I'd recommend you not take the T at all. Nearly all of them are located in Back Bay, well within walking distance of the show venue. In fact, you can walk almost anywhere in Boston without too much trouble. From Back Bay it's easy to get to parks, Beacon Hill, Faneuil Hall, the North End, the South End, Kenmore, Fenway, and probably even more neighborhoods that I'm forgetting.

Even if you're not an ambulation enthusiast, if you're going five stops or less on the Green Line anywhere between Government Center and Kenmore, you're still better off walking. It's faster, cheaper, and less irritating. You may stroll through gorgeous old neighborhoods and wide-open park space, and, if you're lucky, you'll see the guy who rides around on a three-wheeled bike making siren noises with his mouth. If you are a bit further out -- say, across the river, or out in Brookline -- then taking the T probably is your best bet.

You have two choices for T service at the airport, the Blue Line and the Silver Line. The Blue Line connects with the Green Line at Government Center, and is the better choice for traveling to Back Bay, Brookline, and Allston-Brighton. The Silver Line connects with the Red Line at South Station, and is a better choice for traveling to Cambridge or Somerville.

I hope this helps some newcomers navigate the mean streets of Boston. Whether you're walking or taking the T, it's pretty easy and pleasant to get around this city. (But not if you're driving. Driving in Boston is a freaking nightmare.) If you have any specific questions, ask away and I'll try to answer. And if any other natives have some helpful tips, please leave them in comments, as well.

Oh, one more thing. For god's sake, don't just take one step onto the train and then stop right on the stairs. I'm begging you.


Unknown said...

So when's the Insult Swordfighting meet-up? I'm travelling all the way in from far-away Milford to experience exotic Boston.

Y'know, I started writing this comment as a joke, but if something's getting together I wouldn't mind meeting up with like-minded gamers.


Unknown said...

I'm from a state that is allergic to public transport so this info is very helpful, thanks!

Mitch Krpata said...

Good question! I dropped the ball on trying to get anything together, formal or informal, and there are plenty of companies throwing their own parties. I suggest coordinating Insult Swordfighting flash mobs through Twitter.