As a daily commuter, the MBTA can be unpredictable and crowded. As a parent in non-rush hours, riding the T with kids is the most affordable way to get around Boston — and it’s a cheap form of entertainment for the little ones. (I’ve actually gotten on the MBTA for one stop, literally three blocks to the supermarket, just because my daughter loves to ride the “choo choo train.”)
If you aren’t an MBTA regular but want to give it a go for your next downtown Boston adventure, have no fear! We’ve got you covered with these rail and bus riding tips.
1. Kids ride free.
Don’t worry about passes or tickets for kids — children 11 and younger ride free with a paying adult. Once you’ve tapped your own pass, let your little ones walk right through with you.
2. You can cover lots of ground!
Boston’s MBTA offers five different train lines that cover nearly 80 miles — and that doesn’t take into account the hundreds of miles covered by buses and commuter rail trains! There are stops near all the major attractions you’d ever wish to visit in and around the city. Use Google Maps or the MBTA’s trip planner to play around with different destinations, times, bus/T combinations, and more!
3. Take a seat!
MBTA trains and buses can be fast and make frequent stops. It’s best if kids are seated or holding on tightly to you. If you are in need of a seat (pregnant, disabled, just stinkin’ exhausted), don’t be shy! Ask somebody to share theirs, or grab a free one as soon as you see it.
4. You WILL have enough time to get off.
Even when trains are full, don’t stress about having enough time to get from your seat to the exit. There is plenty of time. The doors will start to make a beeping noise before they close, so if you are worried you won’t make it through a crowd in time, ask someone near the door to hold it for you. It’s no biggie. It happens all the time.
5. Using a stroller? Check your station first!
If you are traveling with a heavy stroller, make sure the stations you’ll be using are accessible. Some stations do NOT have elevators (Boylston and Hynes, to name a few). Fortunately, stops are pretty close together downtown, so going one additional stop and walking is doable. The accessibility tool here shows which stations are handicap accessible.
6. Navigate your stroller like a pro.
On above-ground trolleys, like the Green Line, when two cars are combined, at least one has to be wheelchair accessible. You can tell by a sticker on the front of the train. You can pay your fare up front, and then stroll to the back door where there are no stairs and easy access for strollers. Or, enter through the back with your stroller, and then walk inside the train to the front to pay your fare. Buses are similar, so enter wherever it is most accessible! Keep in mind that MBTA buses and some trains have narrow aisles, so you’ll want to park your stroller in one of the handicap accessible spots — some seats fold up to allow more space for people to pass by.
7. Prepare your children for the sights and the sounds.
Got a sensitive kiddo? Prep them for the loud noises of the trains and the buses. The MBTA rails are old, and the trains screech loudly as they pull into the station. Also, the train or bus operator (or an automated recording) will announce each stop over the loudspeaker. If your little ones are particularly bothered by noise, packing some earplugs or noise-canceling headphones could be a good idea.
8. When in doubt, ask for help!
Not sure if you’re heading the right direction? Need to lug your stroller up a flight of stairs or on and off the train? Ask an MBTA staff member or friendly stranger for help! Bostonians can be nice, when prompted!