Things I Wish I Knew, Vol. 6: The Car (or No Car) Chronicles (Part 2)

Happy April, everyone! This is a continuation of last week’s post (check it out here!) on the question I get most frequently from students about what it’s like having (or not having) a car in Boston.

While I do have a car, I find that (whenever possible) it’s much more convenient to take public transportation. So much like last week, I’ll tell you what my experience has been in not using a car to get around.

PROS OF NOT HAVING A CAR

– You will never have to dig out your car or worry about parkingEnough said. 

Me and my ladies getting ready for Law Prom right before we took an Uber there.

Me and my ladies getting ready for Law Prom right before we took an Uber there.

– Going out is much easierLaw school is about having fun too, and not having a car or having to drive means you don’t have to worry about getting home safely from things like Law Prom.

– You’ll develop a knowledge of the MBTA that your friends will both fear and loveIt’s amazing to me how many students with cars don’t know how to get around without them. You will be their guide and guru, showing them the wonders of a whole new world.

– No car means no gas moneyOr car payments. Or insurance payments. Which means more money in your pocket to spend on things you actually enjoy.

– You learn to budget your time betterI have friends who live in Back Bay who get more done on their commute than I get done all day. Plus, because they don’t have a car, they’re always conscious of getting places on time. They know how to make their time count because they know that the ride home will either be a long one, or a generous offer from a friend.

CONS OF NOT HAVING A CAR

– The T isn’t everywhere. When you hear about public transit in Boston, you think of the T, i.e., the sometimes above-ground sometimes underground subway train. But the fact is, the T doesn’t go everywhere. For example, the T will not bring you to BC Law’s campus; it stops short at the main campus. I live 10 minutes from school, but I’m a 30-minute walk from the nearest T stop, something I didn’t know when I moved to my house. Pro tip: if you aren’t bringing a car, check out this map of the T on MBTA’s website (make sure to click the tab for the interactive street map) and see how far away you are from a subway stop. But even if you aren’t close to one of those, you’re probably close to a bus stop that will help you get at least part of the way you need to go.

– The T is slow. There’s no getting around this. We are honored and burdened with having the fifth oldest method of public transit in the country, and it shows. From my place in Brighton to the Kenmore station near Fenway Park is about a 35-minute ride. And let’s just say there have been times that I’ve been on the orange line that I’ve thought the next Game of Thrones book would come out before I reached my destination. This past winter was particularly difficult with several days of limited or no T service. However, MBTA is up-front about both the cancellations and the lengthy rides, and both the Embark Boston app and Google Maps will tell you when a train isn’t running or how long it will take to get to where you want to go.

– The buses can be hard to navigate. Story time: I was standing at the bus stop in 10-degree weather waiting to catch a bus to Chinatown for the famous Lunar New Year Dinner put on every year by BC’s Asian and Pacific American Law Student Association (see E.B.’s post about all the fabulous food I missed out on). For an HOUR, I stood outside waiting for a bus that never came for all I know. Because the buses don’t have their own lane on the roads, they’re subject to the same traffic and delays that cars are. MBTA doesn’t have an official app for the buses, but there are a few free third-party ones that I know are fairly trustworthy, like Transit App and Moovit.

– Not everyone shovels their sidewalk when it snowsAnd in some neighborhoods, like Newton, they aren’t actually required to. My roommate, who walks and takes the bus almost everywhere, had to invest in some walking spikes for her snow boots to trek through the unplowed icy/snowy sidewalks on her way to work every day. And at some point, you will walk into a tunnel of snow (i.e., a sidewalk) only to discover that there is no exit because someone was too lazy to dig out the rest of it.

A screenshot of some of the prices we faced during the Super Bowl blizzard.

A screenshot of some of the prices we faced during the Super Bowl blizzard.

– Surge pricing on Uber or LyftIt’s basic supply and demand – ridesharing options like Lyft and Uber charge more when more people want them. So basically the times you need them most: when it’s raining, when it’s freezing, when the T isn’t running. The app will alert you that they’re charging a “surge” fee, anywhere from 1.2 to 4 times the regular rate. My Lyft back from boat cruise cost me almost $60 because it was 11:00 on a Saturday night. Not having a car and relying on these to get around often means weighing how badly you need to go somewhere and possibly finding a different time to go.

– Grocery shopping is hard. Or, really, any activity that involves transporting things. Luckily, there are always services like Peapod from Stop and Shop that deliver groceries to you, and friends who will take you shopping if you ask.

I hope some of this has been helpful – prioritizing what matters most to you (cost, convenience, etc.) will help you decide whether or not bringing a car is worth it. Either way, know that there are Eagles doing just fine in both scenarios and that having or not having a car will not make or break your law school experience. See you all next week!

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 ochogo@bc.edu. 

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