wikiHow to Ride the MBTA Subway in Massachusetts

The MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) subway system is the most efficient way to get around Boston and its surrounding areas. It is used by thousands of people each day. However, this transportation system is a little tricky to use as a newcomer.


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    Learn the different train colors and study a map. Within the system, there are red, green, orange, blue, and silver lines. The silver line is more of an articulated bus rather than an underground subway.
    • Some lines intersect with each other in the Boston metropolis or major station depots (such as the North and South Stations) and then weave out to different parts of the city.
    • In addition, there are commuter rails that run in & out of Boston, as well as many bus lines run around other cities that connect with subway lines.
    • The green line separates into four different directions outside of metro Boston towards the west (B, C, D, and E). The B line goes to Boston College in Brighton, the C line goes to Cleveland Circle in Brighton, the D line goes to Riverside in Newton, and the E goes to Heath Street in Boston.
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    Learn "inbound" from "outbound". It may be easy to tell at some stations and difficult at others. Inbound usually means "towards Boston" or when you're heading into metro Boston, while outbound means "getting out of metro Boston". Inbound and outbound station street level accesses are normally found either across the street or around the corner from each other.
    • An easy example would be if you were coming from Fenway to North Station. You would simply take the Green Line Inbound because you're going into the city.
    • A difficult example would be if you were coming from Harvard to the Airport Station. You'll need to take the Red Line Inbound from Harvard Station to Park Station, Green Line Inbound to Government Center Station, and Blue Line Outbound to Airport Station. There is also taking the Red Line Inbound to Downtown Crossing Station, connect to the Orange Line Inbound to State Station, and Blue Line Outbound to Airport Station.
    • It is also possible for the two to switch while still travelling in the same direction. For example, you can be going inbound on the Red Line towards Park Street and Downtown Crossing. But once you pass the downtown stations, you are now going outbound.
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    Get a Charlie Ticket card to enter the actual subway line. Some ticket machines only accept debit and credit cards instead of cash. When you get to a machine, press the "Bus/Subway" option. You will then be asked a few questions, such as how many tickets you wish to purchase. Use the correct method of payment and wait for your ticket to be printed. You also have an option of getting a receipt.
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    Slide your ticket through the door machine with the arrows matching up. If you have a pre-paid Charlie Card, place it on the front of card reader machine & wait for the light to change. Wait for the doors to open and walk to the appropriate subway line. Be cautious for "piggy-backers", whom are people that attempt to go through the doors literally right behind you before they close again without paying.
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    Make sure that you are waiting at least 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) away from the rails on the platforms for your safety. Wait for the subway to come to a complete stop. Allow people to exit the train before entering.
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    Claim a seat or walk fully into the the train. Do not just stand in the doorway when you enter, as there may be others behind you.
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    Depart the train at the appropriate stop. Trains will notify passengers on the upcoming stops, whether it's by automated machine or the conductor over the intercom.
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    Find the appropriate route to a connecting subway line or an exit to the street level. Some street level exits are only stairs, escalators, or elevators, while others are a combination of any three.
    • If you're confused on where the street level exit is, just follow the roof signs concerning the street level or basically just follow the majority of the crowd.


  • When riding the Green line, beware that all stations along the street level go by a "Front Door Policy" during non-rush hours, meaning you can only enter and exit through the front doors of the subway cars. During rush hour times (6:30 to 9:30 am and 3:30 to 7 pm), one must hold up their Charlie Card or ticket in the air to notify the conductor when entering through the rear and side doors.
  • Be aware that many MBTA "T" stations are within easy walking distance of each other. Having a map is very useful, especially when delays happen due to rush hour or sporting events. You might even find that some bus connections are faster than subway routes.
  • If a train is full, don't attempt to squeeze your way in. Either wait for the next one, find alternative routes, or you might find that walking is a great resort. Full trains are notable during rush hours and sporting events, such as Red Sox games.
  • Never feel afraid to ask someone for directions. The typical person who frequently takes the subway line are students, business workers, or people who reside around the area.
  • For information on the CharlieCard, you can read this article.


  • Offer your seat to elderly, disabled, passengers with crutches and canes -- IMMEDIATELY.
  • Remove your backpack/rucksack on the train; place it between your feet or hold it in your hand. Wearing it makes it difficult for other passengers to disembark and enter the train, forcing them to miss their stop or otherwise, get up before the train comes to a full stop in order NOT to miss their stop.
  • When riding escalators, you need to know there's two "columns". Stay on the right-hand side if you are stationary, and the left-hand side if you are walking. This allows people to travel faster on escalators to catch their subway. Porter Square Station in Cambridge has the longest escalator in the MBTA system.
  • Preferably do not opt to sit in designated disabled seating when other seats are free. It's difficult enough navigating the city when disabled and --sometimes the difficulties involve speaking.
  • Let people OFF trains and buses before boarding yourself.
  • Additionally, when traversing the platforms, MBTA stairwells and streets of Boston, keep to the right of oncoming pedestrians.
  • Do not move to the exit until the train is fully stopped. Forcing others to let go of their grips on the safety handles just so you can get through before the train fully stops is very rude and dangerous. On the other hand, when entering the train, please do not stand in the doorway area. This is very rude and others need to get in as well.
  • When a bus arrives, it is not Every-wo/man-for-themselves. If someone was waiting at the bus stop when you showed up, allow them to board first. First come, first served applies. Bear in mind: just because you may have a phone alert of your bus's next arrival time, it doesn't mean everyone can afford to have one.
  • Many professional pickpockets lurk in the crowded trains. Secure your belongings, and avoid storing valuables in your exterior pockets. Pickpockets are skilled at using razor blades to cut through your exterior pockets!

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