Aug 18, 2014
How to Get Home from the Airport for Free
Almost exactly a week ago, after a blissfully underbooked flight back to Boston from a family vacation in Toronto, I took the T back to MIT for free like I always do.
When I first came to MIT I was terrified of public transportation. It was only a few years ago that I stopped taking cabs when travelling alone.
The T is not scary. In addition, if you’re on your way home from Boston Logan, it’s free. I Instagrammed the trip back from the airport so that I could show you, step by step. Keep in mind that the T is only an option if your plane arrives when the T is actually running (5-ish am to 2-ish am on weekends or midnight-ish on weeknights, except on Sundays, when the T runs 6-ish am to sometime shortly after midnight).
As soon as you get off the plane, follow the signs to the Silver Line bus stop on the first floor. Just outside will be a neon sign counting down to the next bus. (The Silver Line stops at each terminal.)
Wait under the big cement Silver Line T posts. Bring a book.
To your left (or somewhere nearby) is a map of the MBTA subway system. You’re going to take the Silver Line bus to South Station; from there you are going to take the Red Line to MIT.
I don’t actually expect you to be able to read anything in the picture above. You can see the map online here.
Eventually, a Silver Line bus will arrive. Get on the bus.
Inside the bus are racks to store your luggage and a scrolling neon sign announcing the next stop, which is also announced over the intercom. (If you were travelling to rather than away from the airport, the announcements would include the terminal and the airlines that use that terminal.) You want to stay on until the very last stop, South Station, which is when most of the other people on the bus will get off.
Get off at South Station. Behind you is the desolate industrial wasteland that is Silver Line Way.
Luckily you don’t have to go there. A charitable and durable bus took you through Mordor for free.
Turn back around. Ahead of you, another neon sign advertises the next Red Line trains. It will list Alewife, Ashmont, and/or Braintree. Turn right. You’re going toward Park Street and Downtown Crossing, which are in downtown Boston, so you’ll want to follow the signs to the inbound train (currently the train to Alewife). Go up the stairs and turn right.
In case you don’t have the inbound and outbound directions from each station memorized (I don’t), there is a helpful map at the top of the stairs.
The last labelled station on the right is South Station, the station we are in now. Among the labelled stations are Kendall, the station closest to MIT’s campus, and Central, the station closest to Random Hall. We seem to be going the right way.
Follow the stairs on your right to the inbound trains. On your right will be another neon sign, now advertising the arrival time of the next two trains going in this direction. If you’re hoping to make it to MIT, it should say Alewife. If you were heading in the other direction, from MIT to South Station, it would say Ashmont or Braintree (the two branches at the bottom of the rightmost map above).
Notice that at no point have you had to pay. On this trip, you won’t.
On your left will be more of the same and, eventually, a train. Get on that train.
As in the bus, inside the train is a scrolling neon sign announcing the next stop; the next stop is also announced over the intercom. In addition, there are helpful placards over the doors displaying the same map from earlier, now with all the Red Line stops written out. You can track your train’s progress as it makes its way to MIT (Kendall and Central).
Eventually, you will see Kendall outside the windows and on the neon sign in your train car, and you will also hear it announced. Unless you live in Random Hall or want to stop by a grocery store or a restaurant or have an adventure, get off here. (If you do live in Random but you prefer the scenic route through the Infinite Corridor over the scenic route through Central Square, you can get off at Kendall anyway; it is almost the same distance home.)
If you live in Random Hall, get off at Central instead. Cross the street and walk against traffic on that side of Massachusetts Avenue (turn left after crossing the street). Harvest and Shaw’s (two wonderful grocery stores) and then Random will be on your right. H-Mart (another wonderful grocery store) will be on your left. Random Hall is next door to the gas station.
If you get off at Kendall, this is the view that will greet you.
Turn right and walk through the ninja gates with which people pay to get on the train. You didn’t have to pay to get home from the airport, but any other trips you take will not be free. There is a Charlie card embedded in your student ID. After you recieve your ID you can add money at any entrance marked as having a pay station. In case you are wondering, if you try to sneak past the gates, perhaps on accident, you will be able to do it, easily. You are then likely to be stopped and ticketed several hundreds of dollars. It happened to a friend of ours.
Once you’re past the gates go up the stairs on your left.
At the top of the stairs is a glowing Microsoft sign. You are almost home. Above you is Microsoft. MIT is behind you. After the stairs make a 180-degree turn and look ahead. You are on Main Street.
Cross the street. Turn right and walk straight, toward the glowing blue T.
On your left is where you would probably enter the T if you were travelling back to South Station. It is an entrance to the inbound trains—inbound because it would take you back toward Park Street and Downtown Crossing. (Because you passed Park Street and Downtown Crossing on your way from South Station to MIT, the entrance to the train you just got off of now says outbound, not inbound.) Turn left, toward the entrance to the T, and then walk past it. There will be benches and trees in the brick sidewalk around you.
Directly ahead on your right is E25, which is attached to MIT Medical. Walk up the stairs and to the door. Notice that there is a label in the glass by the entrance telling you what building it is. There are similar helpful labels on all buildings on campus, or at least all the buildings that I’ve encountered.
You will soon have an ID card that can get you into E25 after hours. For now, if it is after hours you will need to walk around the building (see map below) or wait for someone to open the door for you. If it’s daytime and the door is unlocked, pass through E25 and into the courtyard.
Ahead on the left is the Media Lab. The arch just to the right of the Media Lab was the setting for the upside down lounge hack the CPW when I was a prefrosh. You can also see the Green Building (and its white weather balloon) poking out well behind the Media Lab.
Keep walking toward and then under the arch. As you pass the Media Lab on your left, you can look into the first floor to contemplate some art. There is a lot of art at MIT (which you can highlight in the map below and track down in person if you’d like).
Go down the stairs and across the street. East Campus is directly on your left. On your right is building 66 (the pointy triangular one in the photo on the right), where you will turn in your 7.01x p-sets and maybe take some biology classes. Main campus is ahead of you (you can just barely see the Great Dome in the photo on the right).
Follow the map below to your living group. You can return to this map whenever you have Internet access at whereis.mit.edu. I’ve marked buildings 66 and E25, which I mentioned above.
Welcome home! :)