Happy Monday and welcome to this week’s edition of TIWIK! This is the first part of my two part post on the question I get asked most often by prospective students: “Should I bring my car?”
Real talk: driving in Boston is less than ideal. But the thing no one told me was that having a car in Boston is a zero-sum game. Everyone wins and loses on this point, whether you have a car or not. Either way, you will survive, and I can promise you that you will find a way to be both happy and grouchy about it.
I brought my car because I drove to Boston from Florida with all my worldly possessions stuffed in the trunk. But for all the prospective students out there who have a choice to make come this fall, here’s my experience:
PROS OF HAVING A CAR
– You can go places. (Theoretically – see my note on parking below). Whether it’s a trip up the east coast to Boston like I did, or driving to Vermont for ski trip, or the beach this summer when it (possibly?) gets warmer, you have the wheels to get there on your own schedule.
– You can carry things. From laundry to groceries to furniture to shopping bags, it is definitely easier transporting things in a car.
– You don’t have to rely on public transport. Many students at BC live in areas that aren’t easily accessible to public transportation. Plus, it’s super nice to be able to hop in the car when I want rather than waiting for a bus or the T.
CONS OF HAVING A CAR
– Parking. Parking parking parking parking parking. Trying to find parking in some places in Boston will make you late, make you say words you probably wouldn’t say in front of your grandparents, make you cry, etc. And if you don’t have a parking permit, it makes living in that area very difficult.
Repeat offenders for the worst parking:
- Anywhere on Commonwealth Avenue, or a street just off of it (including the Cleveland Circle area after, like, 5:00 p.m.)
- Anywhere downtown, Back Bay, Fenway, South Boston, etc. etc. (unless you want to pay $40 to park in a garage)
- Parts of Cambridge if you don’t have quarters
(Although I should mention that there are some excellent places to park, too: the Oak Square area in Brighton (where I live), Allston (especially near Harvard Ave.), Brookline with its parking meters from the future (because they take credit cards), and Newton where you can park to your heart’s content)
My biggest piece of advice here is threefold: first, look into the parking situation BEFORE you sign a lease somewhere. Second, whenever you have to go somewhere you haven’t been before (particularly in the city), I would recommend scoping it out using the T or a cab/Lyft/Uber/Google maps street view before you commit to driving there. And third, if you don’t already know how to parallel park, LEARN.
– Out of state license plate. So my car is not “mine” so much as it is my parents’, who pay the insurance and registration…in Florida. Coming to Boston was quite a challenge in this because in many neighborhoods, while street parking is abundant, you have to have a permit. Alas, getting a permit through the city (even for a student) involves showing proof of registration, in Massachusetts and in your name. (For more info, check out the parking permit process here). I lucked out and my house has completely free street parking , but in my temporary place before my lease started, I was stuck fighting for a spot on the one side of the street that didn’t require a resident permit. So for those of you in my shoes who are planning on bringing a car that you don’t plan on changing the registration for, check the signage near your future homes/apartments and save yourself a lot of heartache in the future.
– SNOWPOCALYSE. For those of you just tuning in, we broke the record for snow in Boston this past winter with most of it happening in the 28 days of February. Digging out my car was a back-breaking, endless experience. Driving on the roads where the snow banks were so high I couldn’t always see oncoming traffic was terrifying. I had my groceries delivered to me and ordered Ubers to get out of having to drive so many times that Wells Fargo called me to make sure some hadn’t stolen my credit card. So here’s what I learned in my time in the Snowpocalypse:
- The Starks were right – winter comes for everyone.
- You need both an ice scraper and a shovel in your car. Don’t cheap out on this or you will regret it.
- Make sure your car fluids are “winterized.” (Note: they did not know what this was in Florida, so they told me I was good to go, but my wiper fluid froze back in December and I just now got it back, so…)
- Check the tread on your tires, especially if your car doesn’t have four-wheel drive. Better tread means better traction on those winter roads.
- Shovel in layers, not in one big go. Shoveling 5 inches of snow at a time every few hours beats shoveling two feet of it at the end of the storm.
- Dig out your car, even if you don’t plan on driving it. I shoveled probably six feet of snow onto a huge snow bank…only to discover it was someone’s unshoveled car. Oops.
- People will steal your parking spot, no matter how well-marked it is.
- ALWAYS tuck in your side mirrors if you can to avoid the well-meaning but often clumsy snow plows.
- Avoid driving (in case that wasn’t obvious). Take the T, take an Uber, walk, snowshoe, bobsled, whatever. Just don’t drive, especially if you don’t feel safe.
For those of you who don’t plan on bringing a car, I haven’t forgotten about you – I’ll be explaining how to prepare yourself to get around in Boston without a car next week in part two of this post. See you then!
I’m what I like to call a 1.5L (first year, second semester). Check out my posts every week about things I wish I knew as an incoming 1L so you’ll actually know them when you get here. My inbox is always open so you can comment on here, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.