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How to Survive the Boston Transit System: Tips for Commuter Students

I remember the days of living in a dorm and walking to class. Rolling out of bed, throwing on a sweatshirt and brushing my teeth before taking a casual stroll across campus. Then, later, popping back over to my room to take a nap or grab a snack. Now, as a commuter student, I’m a compulsive Google Maps refresher, with a 20 minute walk and a 30 minute bus ride. It’s tough being a commuter student, and it isn’t helped by the commuting options in Boston being unreliable at best and completely broken at worst. Here are some commuting tips from someone who’s walked, biked, bused, and braved the MBTA to get to Simmons.

Always check before you go. The transit systems in Boston are constantly changing, and even if your commute is usually consistent, that can change on any random day. A holiday might mean that the buses are running on a different schedule. A road can suddenly be blocked off for construction. Don’t even get me started on the MBTA. If something’s down, you don’t want to be stuck waiting at the station trying to scrap together a different way to school.

As much as possible, double check before you head out. Google Maps can be fairly reliable, but I’d also recommend the Transit app, which I’ve found to be even better, especially for buses.

Leave earlier than you think. In a city where the transit maps look like a plate of spaghetti, things rarely run smoothly. Especially if you’re trying to make it in time for a class, better to err on the side of caution.

Use your commute time purposefully. I don’t necessarily mean studying or answering emails, though you can definitely do that too. Depending on how busy you are, that 20 minutes might be a good chance to do the thing you don’t have much time for elsewhere. Listen to a podcast, read a book, construct the perfect playlist, do the Wordle. Unless I’m clutching onto a pole for dear life while the bus swings around a turn, I’ve found it nice to have a dedicated time in my day to do something that brings me joy. That time on your commute doesn’t have to be wasted.

Take advantage of the commuter resources Simmons offers. Check out the commuter lounge on the ground floor of the main building. If you have a lot to carry each day, see if you can rent a locker. If you’re trying to save money on food, find the microwaves on campus and bring food from home. There are a surprising number of resources at Simmons– you just have to find them.

If you can, laugh it off. It’s easy to get frustrated, but it helps to find humor in the MBTA’s deficiencies. Make a meme, listen to M.T.A. by the Kingston Trio a few times, and if you’re late, crack a few jokes at the MBTA’s expense. Frustration with Boston transit is something that unites us all

Above all, rest assured that you are not alone. There are lots of commuter students in SLIS, and we’re all surviving the Boston transit system one day at a time. If the MBTA can keep limping along, then so can we.