The T, Column, Metro

COLUMN: An Ode to the MBTA (Really)

It started out innocently enough: with an unlimited monthly pass for the T so I could get to work and back every day this summer. It was a necessity, a small way to save some money. It meant I didn’t have to keep track of how much money I had on my Charlie Card every day. I could just tap it and tear through the gates, and off I would go to my destination. It was rather convenient.

It was also rather dangerous.

Questions like “Hey, what’s at the end of the Blue Line?” ceased to be things I would find out in the always-distant “eventually.” My fellow T pass-wielding explorer and I could find out as soon as the thought struck us, so off we went to discover a brave new world.

Actually, it wasn’t much of a brave new world. It was Wonderland (yes, that’s the actual name of the last station on the Blue Line) and Revere Beach instead.

I’ll be the first to admit that Revere Beach is nothing spectacular. It’s kind of dirty, and the born and bred Bostonians I know tell me it’s not in the best of neighborhoods. But it’s a beach about an hour away from Boston College, and it has the biggest seashells I’ve ever seen still intact on the sand. Once we’d found the beach, we went back again later over the summer on a slightly more planned-out trip.

It became a part of my Boston. Knowing where the beach was and how to get there expanded the city limits, and Boston became more than just the Public Gardens and Newbury Street. It became a city full of tucked-away treasures that other people seemed to have forgotten about or simply never realized existed.

So we set out to discover as many of them as we could.

We could go anywhere the MBTA’s subways and busses wanted to take us-to the South End for salsa dancing in a park, to comedy shows in Cambridge, to a marina by the airport to watch the planes take off and land.

I admit to even taking the T just from my apartment on South Street to campus when the thought of walking over on suffocating, humid days was enough to tire me out. Yes, I know it’s just one stop. But I could take the T five times in one day and not have to spend $12.50 every time to do it. I had paid my dues, so to speak, when I bought the pass at the beginning of the month.

I’ve always been infatuated with the T, but trust me, I know that not everyone shares this adoration. The B line takes forever to get into the city. The whole green line in general looks like it hasn’t been repainted since the ’60s. The red line likes to break down, and the orange and blue lines are full of Boston’s more, shall we say, eclectic characters. The T is incredibly underfunded and staffed by sometimes-grumpy people. It’s absolutely nowhere near a perfect system.

I still think that’s all worth dealing with if it means I have a way to run wild around Boston like a kid on her first trip to Disneyland.

There are still pieces of this city that I haven’t seen yet, and there are pieces of it I think I know well that are still quietly keeping some secrets. Now that I don’t have to go to work every day, however, it’s just not practical to pay for a monthly pass. My map of the T will have to wait before I circle any more stations on it or further annotate its margins.

Inevitably, though, there will be a Saturday in my near future when I wake up feeling like I just can’t stay on campus for another minute. Maybe instead of revisiting a favorite haunt along the green line, I’ll bring along a map and a friend and invest in a one-day pass. Those can’t be just for tourists, right? Because I think we explorers can definitely make use of one.


September 4, 2013