Welcome to Boston!

If you’re new to the area or thinking of moving here, this is part 3 of our Welcome to Boston primer. This section is about what’s where and how to get around.


The Callahan.  The old one that goes from downtown to Logan Airport.

The Sumner.  The old one that goes from Logan Airport to downtown.

The Ted Williams.  The new one on the Mass Pike that goes under the harbor to Logan.

The O’Neill.  The new ones (northbound and southbound-different tunnels) that replaced the Central Artery.

The I-90 Connector.  It’s the Mass Pike tunnel that goes from I-93 to South Boston. You come out of the tunnel for a moment and when you go back in it becomes the Ted Williams.

The Storrow Drive Tunnel.  Inbound only on Storrow Drive from Copley Square toward Mass General.

The City Square Tunnel.  It connects the Tobin Bridge with I-93. You go over the Mystic River on the bridge, under City Square in the tunnel, then up onto I-93 via the Cana Loop where you go over the Zakim Bridge and into the O’Neill Tunnel. Got it?

The Pru Tunnel.  The Mass Pike and the railroad go under the Prudential Center. It’s the 16th longest railroad tunnel in the world.  Often they’ll close it at night so they can replace light bulbs.  A never-ending process.

The Dewey Square Tunnel.  No longer exists, really. It’s now part of the southbound O’Neill.


The Zakim.  Officially the Leonard Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. The rather spectacular bridge that crosses the Charles when you come out of the O’Neill tunnel. It’s the widest single-span suspension bridge in the world.

The Tobin.  The big old green one that takes Route 1 over the Mystic River. (Remember the movie?)

The Longfellow.  Sometimes called the saltshaker bridge. Goes over the Charles from Cambridge Street by Mass General to Kendall Square in Cambridge. The T Red Line runs in the middle of the bridge.

The Harvard Bridge.  Often called the Mass Ave bridge. It crosses the Charles in the middle of the basin. Duck boats go down the Charles to the Harvard Bridge, then turn around. On one sidewalk there are markings called Smoots. The bridge was measured by laying a guy from MIT named Oliver Smoot end-to-end. The bridge is 364.4 Smoots…plus one ear…long.

The BU Bridge.  It crosses from BU over to Cambridge. Originally called the Cottage Farm Bridge, the name was changed becuase there were neither cottages nor farms anywhere nearby, but there was plenty of BU. Part-way over there is a point where you could have a plane flying over a car that s driving over a train that’s going over a boat. It’s the only place in the world where that can happen.

The River Street Bridge.  Crosses the Charles at the Allston exit off the Mass Pike. It’s a truly horrible intersection.

The Larz Anderson Bridge.  Crosses the Charles at Harvard. Harvard Business School and Harvard Stadium are on the Allston side, Weld Boathouse and the River Houses of Harvard are on the Cambridge side. A great spot to watch the Head of the Charles Regatta in October.

Broadway Bridge.  Goes from Southie over Fort Point Channel to I-93.

Jim Kelly Bridge.  Formerly the West 4th Street Bridge. Goes from Southie over to East Berkeley Street in the South End. If you want to go to the South End from Southie, take this bridge, not the Broadway Bridge.

Summer Street Bridge.  Takes you from South Station to the Seaport District.

Congress Street Bridge.  Does the same thing one block north of the Summer Street Bridge.

General Edwards Bridge.  Route 1A bridge that connects Revere and Lynn.  Lynn is often referred to as, “Lynn, the city of sin” but the actual slogan is “Lynn, the city of firsts.” Lynn had the first iron works, the first fire engine, the first jet engine, the first roast beef sandwich, the first WT Grant’s store and the first baseball game under the lights.

Sagamore Bridge and Bourne Bridge. These two bridges are the only way to get to Cape Cod by land. When you’re heading there, you’re going down to the Cape, never over to the Cape. Patti Page, the “Singing Rage” had a big hit in the 1950’s called, “Old Cape Cod.” She also had a hit song called, “Cross Over the Bridge”…and that’s what you have to do to get to Cape Cod. You’re not there until you cross over the bridge. Once you’re there you’re on the Cape, never at the Cape.

Toll booths
Some places, like Michigan, don’t have them.  We do.  You’ll find them at all the exits and entrances on the Mass Pike from the New York line to Newton.  There’s also a toll plaza on the Pike in Weston and another in Allston.  There’s one heading into Boston on the Tobin Bridge and in the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels.  None of those have outbound tolls.  Heading north to New Hampshire you’ll hit a toll shortly after crossing the state line.

Get an EZ-Pass transponder. Until a few months ago it was called FastLane, but the signs that said, “FastLane, 15 MPH” looked like a joke. It’s free, you don’t have to wait in the long Cash Only lines, and the toll you pay is lower.  You get a 25 cent toll discount at the Allston tolls and a 50 cent discount at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels as well as the Tobin Bridge.  If you have an EZ-Pass from another state it will work, but you don’t get the discount.  You can also take a tax deduction for tolls paid with EZ-Pass.

Driving alerts
People here aren’t good about using directional signals.

A Yield sign is not a stop sign.

If you see a traffic signal with a flashing red light, it’s the same as a stop sign.  Then again, it might turn solid red now and then, making it a regular red light.

Green means go, yellow means go faster.

Curiosity Factor. That’s when people going the other way slow down to check out a traffic accident. Down south they say “rubbernecking.” In the midwest they call it “gawking.’

Heading west on Storrow Drive there’s an exit that says Fenway (to the left) and Kenmore Square (to the right).  If you’re heading for Fenway Park, don’t follow the Fenway signs. You’ll wind up in the Back Bay.

Storrow Drive and Soldier’s Field Road are the same road.  The name changes at the BU Bridge.

On Comm Ave by BU you’re in Boston on the north side of the street, Brookline on the south side.

As you’re heading west on I-93 south in Canton it suddenly becomes I-95 north with little warning and without as much as a bend in the road.  Just go with it.

The signs at the Braintree split that say, “I-93 North to Boston and Cape Cod” are actually a joke.  Cape Cod is south, not north.

Getting around by T
The MBTA runs trolleys, rapid transit trains, buses and commuter rail. The common nickname is the T.

Charlie Card.  It’s named for Charlie, the guy who rode the Boston subway and never returned.  If you take the T at all, there’s absolutely no reason not to have a Charlie Card.  They’re free, you don’t have to fumble for change or wait in line to buy paper tickets, and you pay a lower fare.  The regular subway fare is $2.50, but with a Charlie Card it’s only $2.  Regular bus fare is $2, but only $1.50 with a Charlie Card.  Note that a paper Charlie ticket is not the same as a plastic Charlie Card.

Charlie Cards work on the Green, Red, Blue, Orange and Silver lines, plus T buses.  They do not work on the T Commuter Rail.  To get a Charlie Card, go to the booth where you buy Charlie tickets and ask for one.  Then go over to the ATM-like machine on the wall, activate it, and put some stored value money on the card.  That’s it.

On the subway you can switch between lines easily at most stations.  Two exceptions are Copley Square and Symphony on the Green Line, where you cannot switch between inbound and outbound. If you need to switch take the train to the next station, then switch.

Blue Line.  From Bowdoin Square, under the harbor, to Wonderland.  That’s the one you can take to the airport.

Silver Line.  There are two of them. Make sure you’re on the one you want.  One of them also goes to the airport, but it’s a bus, not a train.  The other goes to the Seaport District.

Orange Line.  Basically north-south, from Oak Grove to Forest Hills, through Downtown Crossing.

Red Line.  Heading south the Red Line goes to two different places: Ashmont and Braintree.  Make sure you’re on the correct one.  From JFK/Umass station north you can get on any train.  They all go to Harvard Square and on to Alewife.

Green Line.  The Green line has B, C, D and E trains. If you’re downtown and heading to, say, Kenmore, you can take any of them except the E. The E line branches off toward Huntington Ave just after Copley Square. The B, C and D lines stay together until just after Kenmore, where they come out of the ground and head in different directions.  The B line goes to Boston College.  The C line goes to Cleveland Circle.  The D line, the fastest of the bunch, goes to Riverside out by Route 128 in Newton. The E sign usually has a slash through it.  That’s because the E line used to go all the way through Jamaica Plain to Arborway.  If you drive down Center Street in JP you’ll see some trolley tracks that are still in the street, but with no overhead wires.  A block or two later the tracks are paved over.  The slash in the E means they shortened the line and it now ends at Heath Street..

Are you wondering why there’s no A line?  There used to be one that went to Watertown Square, but the traffic in Newton Corner, usually congested anyway, was made worse by trolleys heading the wrong way in the middle of traffic on the bridge over the Pike. They run buses now.

If you’re curious about which line Charlie took, he got on the Red Line at Kendall Square in Cambridge, changed at Park Street for an E train on the Green Line, and headed for JP.  The MTA (as it was then known) charged an extra fare to get off once the train came out of the tunnel. (This still happens, by the way, on the Red Line at Braintree.) Thus, Charlie’s problem. The Scollay (pronounced “Scully”) Square station where Charlie’s wife handed him a sandwich every day at quarter past two is now called Government Center.

Stadiums, Arenas and Theaters
Fenway Park needs little introduction. It’s the oldest major league ballpark, now over 100 years old, and it’s an experience you should absolutely take in. In addition to Red Sox games, Fenway hosts concerts (Bruce Springsteen this summer) and some Liverpool soccer games. Last winter the NHL Winter Classic hockey game was held at Fenway as well as Hockey East.  Parking is difficult and expensive. You can get there on the Green Line (Kenmore station or Fenway Park station) or the Commuter Rail (Yawkey station).

Harvard Stadium. The game of football as we know it was invented here, and the width of a football field (160 feet) was based on the width of Harvard Stadium, the oldest football stadium anywhere. It’s in Boston, by the way, not in Cambridge.

Alumni Stadium. Boston College is typically described as located in Chestnut Hill, which is partially in Newton and partially in Brookline.  Alumni Stadium, which is right on the campus, is actually in Boston.

TD Garden.  The Celtics and Bruins play there, and it’s a major concert venue.

Agganis Arena.  On Comm Ave at BU.  New and nice.  Named for Harry Agganis (pronounced Ah-GANN-is), star athlete at Lynn Classical High and BU. He also played 1st base for the Red Sox.

Nickerson Field.  The big one at BU. It was built in 1915 as Braves Field, home of the National League Boston Braves, who are now the Atlanta Braves.  BU dropped football a few years ago, so it’s mostly soccer and LAX these days.  The grandstand you see today is the old right-field bleacher from the days when the Braves played there.

Boston Opera House.  Originally a palatial movie theatre called BF Keith’s, later the RKO Keith Memorial and the Sack Savoy, the beautifully refurbished Opera House is home to Boston Ballet performances such as “The Nutcracker.”

Emerson Majestic Theatre.  Also a former movie theatre called The Saxon, it now owned by Emerson College and has been restored to it’s original grandeur.

Paramount Theatre.  The movie palace that was closed for decades has also been brought back to life by Emerson College.  The original art-deco marquee makes you feel like you’re in Hollywood in the 1930’s.

Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre.  The biggest theatre in Boston (4400 capacity). Originally called the Metropolitan, then the Music Hall, then the Wang Center, then Citibank bought the naming rights. Nobody actually calls it that.  They simply say, “The Wang.”  Go down to the first row and look up at the ceiling. It’s spectacular.


Don Kelley


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


HTML tags are not allowed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.