Savvy riders can use bus shortcuts

by Beacon Staff • October 5, 2005

A typical day off for the college student is walking up and down Newbury Street, relaxing at Espresso Royale and checking out the new CDs at Virgin Megastore. But to continue window-shopping at Harvard Square, hopping on the Green Line and switching to the Red Line at Park Street, a trip that can cost a precious hour of down time, is not necessary.

While buzz has begun recently for a future "Yellow Line" that would transport commuters from Medford to Cambridge and Allston to Dorchester without passing through downtown, this change will be years in the making. The good news is that the Rt. 1 bus simply goes straight down Massachusetts Avenue through Central Square and Harvard, eliminating the need for a downtown transfer, cutting trip time in half and broadening bargain horizons.

By now, most Emerson students have established their daily transportation routines around the city, but it is not too late to learn about alternative options. The primary mode of transportation for Emerson students is the subway; however, some students are aware of the convenience of riding the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) buses.

"[The bus] gets you around as quickly as taking the above-ground T," said senior audio major Mary Modica. A lower Allston resident, she frequently rides the Rt. 66 bus.

Modica's apartment is far away from any subway stop, which leaves her with a long trek to either the Green B Line or the Red Line in Harvard Square. Rather than walk, she takes the bus from North Harvard Street, which intersects with both subway lines.

Many students, however, do not ride the buses because they are unaware of the accessibility. Freshman broadcast journalism major Ryan Fleury said he has seen many buses around the Emerson campus, but he does not know where they depart from or where they go. "The subway seems more convenient," he said.

Quick Silver

Emerson students can board the Silver Line within steps of the Little Building, as the Rt. 55 and Rt. 43 buses stop outside the outbound Boylston Station. Park Street Station has two racks full of bus schedules on the eastbound and westbound platforms.

Schedules are also available in PDF format on the MBTA Web site (www.mbta.com). In addition, the Web site features a "trip planner" section (http://trip.mbta.com) where you can enter your location and destination and it will tell you what bus or subway stops and schedules are most convenient and accessible.

Despite its name, the Silver Line is not a subway but a double-length bus. With global satellite tracking, the MBTA keeps track of the exact location of each bus and provides the arrival time on the digital message boards located at most Silver Line stops. It operates on the bus fare of 90 cents, and drivers provide transfer passes for the subway and other buses. Midday travel time from Downtown Crossing to Dudley Station is 15 minutes and up to 35 minutes during rush hour.

In about five minutes, the Rt. 43 bus, also departing from Boylston, can get you from the Emerson campus to the heart of the South End, and to the Northeastern campus in 15 minutes. It runs to Ruggles Station and back to Boylston via Tremont Street, with buses departing every 15 to 20 minutes.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66, from Brookline to Allston

This route takes passengers from Dudley Station to Harvard Square by going through Mission Hill, Brookline and Allston before arriving in Cambridge. An ideal college bus route, it covers the most popular student neighborhoods and intersects the Red, Orange and Green B, C, D and E lines. For Allston students, it is a more scenic and less stressful trip to visit friends in Mission Hill or the Harvard campus. The bus comes by every 10 to 15 minutes.

Extra credit: Route 1 to MIT and Harvard

The Rt. 1 bus runs every 10 to 15 minutes. This is the perfect way to visit Central Square and Harvard from the Back Bay without having to go through downtown first. It travels through the areas of Symphony Hall, Berkelee College of Music and the MIT campus. The bus runs from Dudley Station to Harvard Square via Massachusetts Avenue. The route serves Roxbury, the South End, Back Bay and Cambridge

Downtown to Forest Hills On 39

This bus departs from Back Bay Station and follows the MBTA Green Line/E Train, but continues down to Forest Hills Station. It runs faster and more frequently than the above-ground trolley, departing every five to 10 minutes. The cost is 90 cents, but it also accepts subway passes. This route provides service to Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts and the neighborhoods of the Fenway, Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain. This is ideal for trips to the Colleges of the Fenway.

Brighton-Bound on 57

This bus is also a faster alternative to the Green B Line if you are headed to Brighton. It departs from Kenmore Station every five to 10 minutes and follows the B Line until Brighton Avenue, where it continues toward Union Square, Brighton Center and Watertown. The route avoids the congested intersection of Harvard Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Allston.

Despite the additional transportation the MBTA provides with the bus system, not everyone is pleased with the service. Senior directing and dramaturgy major Adam Thompson said he was satisfied with Rt. 39, but not with the Silver Line.

"I only took it once, but it was fairly slow and took forever to arrive to pick me up," he said.

Sara Holt, a senior advertising major, had a similar view. "I have taken the buses around Boston and I don't actually like them," she said. "They seem to be very ineffective."

The best reason to take the buses is to avoid the regular subway crowd, according to Modica. "There aren't as many drunk college students at night," she said.

Whether you prefer the Red Line or the Silver Line, if you need to go to Watertown, you will have to wait years for the Yellow Line-or you can simply wait 20 minutes for the next bus. The choice is yours. As you get acquainted with the city, you will know which mode of transportation is best for each trip.

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