Owning a Car
Trains & Buses Out of the City
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), aka “the T,” is your answer to public transportation.
Boston has the oldest underground subway system in the US. When it opened in 1897, women were heard exclaiming, “O, dear, isn’t it delightful?” You too, can experience the delight.
Charlie Card Fare (pick one up from a station teller and recharge in stations or online)
Subway Routes & Transfer Stops
The five subway lines—Red, Green, Blue, Orange, and Silver—meet at six transfer stops in downtown Boston: Park Street, Government Center, Downtown Crossing, South Station, Boylston Street and State Street.
The Red Line is the line that runs through the parts of Cambridge and Somerville close to the GSD. It transfers to the Green Line at Park Street, the Orange and Silver Line at Downtown Crossing. Its terminus stations are Alewife Station (northwest), Ashmont (south, Dorchester) and Braintree (southeast).
Inbound/Outbound & Terminus References
One source of confusion when first navigating the T is the inbound and outbound signs. In general, if you’re traveling toward the transfer nexus in Boston, you’re going inbound and if you’re traveling away, you’re going outbound. On the Red Line, Downtown Crossing is “the center.” But it’s actually much easier to just use the terminus station as a reference, since those aren’t dependent on where you’re starting. If you want to go southeast on the Red Line, you’ll take a Ashmont/Braintree train (branches after JFK/U Mass); to go northwest, you’ll take an Alewife train.
Stations to Know
Park Street is the busiest (and oldest) station in the system. Also a good place to start walking the Freedom Trail, if you’re one day so inclined. (Red/Green Lines)
Downtown Crossing is the most “inbound” station. (Red/Orange Lines)
South Station is the central Boston bus, Amtrak and MBTA commuter rail depot. Plan an extra 10 minutes to walk from the MBTA station to the bus terminal—it’s far. The SL1 to/from Logan Airport stops here, too. (Red/Silver Lines, West & South Commuter Rail, Amtrak, Bus Terminal)
North Station is another Amtrak station and also a station for many of the commuter lines that’ll take you on all kinds of adventures up the coast (like, e.g., to the beach). (Green/Orange Lines, Northwest & North Commuter Rail)
At least in Cambridge, the bus system is often more direct than the subway. Fares are $1.50/ride with a Charlie Card, or $2.00 per ticket or cash on- board. You must have exact change or a card.
#1: Harvard Sq/Dudley Sq via Mass Ave
The #1 bus runs along Mass Ave toward Boston. It’s the best way from the GSD to Newbury Street. Pick it up in front of the Fogg Museum at Cambridge and Quincy Streets or in Central Square. During rush hour, though the #1 is slow and packed.
#66: Harvard Sq/Dudley Sq via Allston-Brighton
The ultimate in cross-town buses, the #66 goes to downtown Allston, Coolidge Corner, Brookline Village, up over Mission Hill and into Roxbury.
#69: Harvard Sq/Lechmere
The quickest way from Harvard Square or Inman Square to the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall.
No Late-Night T
Unfortunately, the subway and buses stop running at 12:45am, and depending on which stop you are at, the last train may be as early
at 12:15am. Look for signs posted in stations. Trains begin running again at 5am.
Semester-long student passes at an 11% discount are available through Ryanne Hammerl at Student Services. Deadline to order fall semester pass (October 1 – January 31) is September 9 at 4:30 p.m. Only checks or money orders made payable to Harvard University are accepted. To receive this discount, please submit an order form with payment to Student Services (Gund Hall, room 422) by the deadline date.
Boston cabs cost a minimum of $2.60, and $0.40 for each additional eight of a mile. Passengers must pay any tolls. Cambridge cabs usually only pick up in Cambridge, so if you live in Somerville, call a Somerville cabbie. Don’t forget to tip. Some cabs do not take credit cards if the ride costs less than $10. Make sure you ask! Some reliable cab companies are:
Cambridge Ambassador Brattle Cab (617) 492-1100
Yellow Cab of Cambridge (617) 547-3000
from Harvard phones 5 TAXI (8294)
Somerville Green & Yellow Cab Co. (617) 628-0600
A Zipcar is incredibly convenient for quick trips to the grocery store or Home Depot and is also great for day trips. For overnight and long-distance trips, a rental car is probably cheaper. ZipCar was founded by a Loeb Fellow, and rumor has it that Harvard graduate students supported ZipCar in the early years and helped the company thrive. An annual membership fee allows you access to the self-service car-sharing club. As a Harvard student, you get a sizeable discount on the membership fee. Zipcars are parked at various locations throughout the Boston area. You can rent a car for as little as $7.74 per hour, including gas. You simply make a reservation online (or on the app), use your Zipcard to unlock the car at its specified location, and return it to the same location when you’re finished. Never pay for a mechanic or shovel a car out of snow again!
Some rental car companies offer student discounts.
Not necessarily the cheapest, but probably the most convenient when used in conjunction with their temporary and long-term storage units.
844 Main St
Owning a Car
There are many advantages to owning a car in Cambridge: grocery shopping, moving studio supplies around and adventurous trips to the Cape or Mass MoCA. Living without a car, however, has its own advantages, too.
The Parking Lowdown
Parking a car in the Cambridge area can be difficult. Look for apartments that offer off-street parking. If you don’t have to park on the street, it makes it possible to keep your car registered in your home state. If you do park it on the street, get a permit and pay attention to street cleaning days and emergency snow routes: if you leave your car on the street during these all important clearing times, your car will be towed.
The lottery for student parking permits is competitive. Even if you do get a parking spot, it will probably be at the Business School lot across the river, a 20-minute walk from Gund.
Harvard Parking Office
Holyoke Center 8th Flr
Getting a Parking Permit in Cambridge
Unless you have an off-street parking spot, you’re going to want a permit to park on the street. This can be done at Cambridge City Hall. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to get Massachusetts insurance (the highest rates in the country) to get a local parking sticker. At least the stickers are only $8 per year.
Cambridge City Hall
795 Mass Ave
Getting a Parking Permit in Somerville
In Somerville, you can get a resident parking permit for $30 per year. They also offer temporary guest parking permits for $10 for a two-day pass and $40 for a three-day pass. You’ll need to bring them proof of residency (e.g. bank statement, utility bill, lease, etc.).
Somerville Parking Dept
133 Holland St
Getting a Parking Permit in Boston
In Boston, only residents have street parking permit privileges.
Boston Parking Clerk
1 City Hall Square, Room 224
Boston, MA 02201
Inevitably, your car will get towed around here and you’ll meet Boston’s nebulous underworld of towing bureaucracy. To find your car, call Cambridge Police (have your license plate number ready) or use the online Towed Vehicle Lookup.
Cambridge Police Department
Getting a Massachusetts Driver’s License
To get a new driver’s license in Massachusetts, you will need to complete both a written and a driving test at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. For the driving test, you will need to have access to a car. If you only need to transfer an out-of-state license, you just have to bring them some paperwork and a $125 fee. They’re kind of a pain down there, and the wait is pretty long, so check and double check that you’re bringing the right documents. See this dedicated page for more information on Massachusetts ID cards.
Registry of Motor Vehicles
550 Arsenal St, Watertown
M–W, F: 9am–5pm
International Students: Getting a Massachusetts ID Card
Massachusetts has a minimum drinking age of 21, and waiters/doormen will check your ID. To avoid carrying your passport around, you might want to get a Massachusetts Driver’s License or Liquor ID Card from the RMV. $25, good for five years.
Annual State Inspection
Cars registered in Massachusetts must pass annual inspection and emissions check, offered at local garages for $29. Cars with Massachusetts plates and an expired state inspection sticker will be impounded.
Parking Near the GSD
Good luck! There are meters on Oxford, Cambridge and Kirkland. Bring quarters. Two-hour max. For loading and unloading, you can park in front of Gund on Quincy in the turnabout.
If you’ve never driven in the snow, take it easy and definitely check out mass.gov for tips.
Massachusetts drivers consistently rank among the worst in the country, according to the GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test. The roads here are narrow, windy and often one-way, making navigation tricky. Top that off with hard-to-find parking and snowy winters, and you’re in for a real mess.
Trains & Buses Out of the City
South Station Bus Terminal
From South Station, follow the signs to direct you from the T Station through the main hall of the Amtrak terminal and across to the South Station Bus Terminal. The walk is a good 10 minutes, so factor this into your schedule. Most regional bus trips depart from South Station. All buses have wi-fi and outlets, but Megabus’ rarely work. Greyhound drops off at Port Authority in NYC. Bolt’s street-side drop-off and pick-up point in NYC is far more convenient than Mega’s at 34th Street between 11th and 12th Avenue, which requires a four-long-block hike through a less-than-scenic part of Midtown.
Go Bus is another great bus option for trips to NYC. It stops at Alewife Station (northern terminus of the Red Line and quite a spectacular place in its own right) in Cambridge and close to Penn Station in NYC.
Trains from T Stations
Trains from South Station Amtrak tickets can be expensive, but you can often find deals and discounts hidden away under promotional advertisements. Look under the “Savings and Promotions” area of the Amtrak website. Pay special attention to packages for museum trips or Broadway shows. Amtrak trains depart from South Station and make a second pick-up at Back Bay Station. There are two types of trains: Acela and Regional. The Acela shaves a bit off the time and are more comfortable, but cost twice as much—probably not worth the extra bucks.
Trains from North Station
In addition to the commuter rail, North Station also provides rail service to the New Hampshire and Maine coastline. The Downeaster offers great deals for tickets up to Portland, ME.
MBTA Commuter Rail
From Providence to Rockport, the commuter rail (the Purple Line on T maps) connects outlying towns and gives the un-automobiled a method of escaping the city, or commuting into town. You can get to a nice beach town in less than an hour! Commuter trains leave from two stations: North Station (trains headed north to Concord, Lowell, North Shore) and South Station (trains headed south or west to Worcester, Providence, South Shore). Schedules change seasonally. Download the handy MBTA mTicket app for your smartphone and you can buy a ticket ahead of time or even once you’re on the train.
MBTA mTicket app
Boston Logan Airport
There are many ways to get to Logan Airport — taxis, cars, vans, or by T. Here’s the rundown:
Taking the T
Take the Red Line to South Station (six stops), transfer to the Silver Line 1 (free from airport!) and take it to Logan Airport. The bus will stop at all airport terminals. You should expect the trip to take about an hour, but at peak times, the BRT (bus rapid transit) Silver Line is absurd: one bus, three doors, 100 people with luggage. Fine on the way back when the bus is empty, it’s no problem. You might want to just take a taxi on the way to the airport.
Note: If you live closer to a Green Line connection, take it to Gov't Center, transfer to Blue, and at the ‘Airport' stop you board a quick bus to the terminal check-in. It takes about the same time (but with at least an additional transfer) as the Red/Silver route.
Taking a Taxi
You may find that dragging your bags all over Boston on the T is too exhausting. For about $40, a taxi will take you to Logan from Harvard Square. Students often split cab rides to the airport during periods of mass flight (the Fellow- Students email list is both great and annoying for this sort of thing).
Thanks to the Big Dig, driving to Logan now only takes 20 minutes from Cambridge. Take the Mass Pike towards Boston and follow the signs for the airport. If you are in Somerville, take Washington Street to McGrath Highway at Union Square. Pop onto 93 South, follow signs to the airport and kazaam! Logan in under fifteen minutes (if it isn’t rush hour).
International Students: Travel Outside the US
The Harvard International Office recommends checking with their office before making any travel plans. This goes for when you’re considering traveling options studios, too. Students should only travel outside the US if all of their documents related to US immigration status are in order.
Many GSD students will take an option studio that involves international travel. Please read carefully the Travel Warnings and Consular Info provided by the US State Department.
Harvard University has contracted with a company called International SOS (ISOS) to provide 24-hour worldwide emergency medical and evacuation assistance for Harvard students traveling abroad on University business. Your program coordinator will give you a copy of an SOS card that you should keep with you.
Harvard Travel Registry
All students traveling abroad are required to register with the Harvard Travel Registry for trips funded or arranged by Harvard or for which they will receive Harvard credit. It has been created so the University can locate you quickly and provide assistance in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Register your itinerary and contact info online and be sure to update it if they change during the course of your trip. The Travel Tools website also contains useful info for planning a safe trip, including links to important resources such as International SOS and visa services vendors, which provide assistance with visa and passport requirements and applications.
Harvard Travel Registry and Tools
If you are an international student and traveling outside the US, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are in compliance with all the DHS regulations and that you have the proper documents for travel and re-entry into the US. Please remember to bring your passport (with a valid visa stamp), I-20, DS/2019 and all other visa documents. To avoid confusion, use your legal name for all transactions, such as airline tickets. Visit Gund 422 for specifics.
If you want to go off on your own, make sure the trip leader knows where you’re going, when you’ll be back and how to reach you. Write down all of your important info (passport, credit card numbers emergency contacts), and store it at home or with a reliable person in case of theft.