Dashing through the D’s

Who knew Dudley was a diamond in the rough?

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Exploring the D subways on D-Day was a last minute decision. A dash out the door and we were off!

(Alex and I continue to do our alphabetical excursions but I’m a bit behind in posting them. I do plan on catching up the blog to our alphabetical travels this summer.)

President’s Day was designated “Riding The ‘D’s Day” at the last minute. My days off and work holidays are limited so I wasn’t sure I could spend another day riding around in buses and subways. But, laundry piles and grocery shopping were the boring alternative, so off we went on 7:40am commuter rail train from Salem to North Station.

Alex had everything all planned out again.  He knew that President’s Day had a modified schedule and that we needed to follow Saturday schedules that day. (I still can’t figure out how he just knows these things. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to check.)

Our first “D” stop was Davis Square in Sommerville which is the 2nd to last stop on the Red Line. His plan was to take the Green Line from North Station to Lechmere and then board Bus 88 to Davis Square.  (Personally, I would have headed straight up the Red Line, but what do I know?) I’m still not a huge of fan of buses but I’m starting to get used to them from these excursions. The thing I liked best about taking this route was going through the Sommerville neighborhoods. From the huge “Sanctuary City” banner proudly displayed on Sommerville High School, to the smorgasbord of ethic restaurants, cute shops and trendy coffee houses, it was a fun and interesting ride. Once again, I resolved to myself that I must get back to Sommerville soon to try out one of these fantastic looking places.

At Davis Square we took the Red Line down to Harvard and then boarded Bus 1 to the Hynes Convention Center. We entered a brand new bus with shiny plastic blue seats and bright yellow handles.  Alex’s face lit up. He was very excited about the new bus design. It was quiet, clean, and mostly empty at 9am so I enjoyed the ride too.

Bus 9 (brand new!)

When we reached Hynes Convention Center we headed up the Green Line D train to Dean’s Road. This ride up towards Brookline had one of the most diverse Boston demographics I’ve experienced yet.  People of all colors, incomes and ages seemed to get on and off that train.

After we arrived at Beaconsfield, we walked to Dean’s Road, which is another one of those stops without a sign. We got a picture of him standing by a road sign instead of a subway sign.

Dean's Road

From Dean’s Road we took a Green Line C train and rode to Park Street. We walked the Winter St. Concourse tunnel to Downtown Crossing and snapped a few more pictures. It’s really amusing for me to see how much Alex enjoys things like the connecting tunnel between the Red/Orange and Green lines at Downtown Crossing. I see a neglected and dark tunnel that desperately needs updating. He sees an interesting concourse leading to more stations.

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At Downtown Crossing we rode the Red Line one stop to South Station and found the Silver Line platform.

We boarded Silver Line SL2 ( I had no idea there were 4 different Silver Line buses with different routes) but Alex knew exactly which one to take to get us to Design Center. I’ve never traveled in this area of South Boston before but it was really cool area to see, especially along the shipyard waterfront. I couldn’t get any good shots from my phone but we passed a lot of stacked shipping containers like this image I got off Google:

Ship yards Boston

We decided to get off the bus at Courthouse and get and an early lunch at Shake Shack. We had passed it on “C” day so both of us thought it would be fun to get burgers and shakes. Because it was early, we were practically the only customers at Shake Shack and it was the perfect reward for a day that was going very well. We only had one D stop left and it was only 11:30 am.  I guess I’d get home in time for laundry after all.

We re-boarded the SL2 and rode to South Station where we transferred to the SL4 after waiting at a bitterly cold bus stop, thankfully equipped with self-timed heaters.  We traveled the SL4 all the way to Dudley Station in the middle of Roxbury.  Dudley is a huge bus station that connects 17 MBTA bus lines, including 2 Silver Line buses. Alex gets just as excited about bus stations as subway stations so he couldn’t wait to get out at Dudley and explore.

Here, in the most unlikely of places, my jaw dropped.  I had ZERO expectations of liking a bus station in the middle of Roxbury. But, here I was, standing with my mouth open in awe and fascination at the incredible architecture of this historic building.

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While I walked around in wonder taking photos, Alex followed while excitedly rattling off bus routes numbers that left this station  We must have made quite a pair. We looked so strangely out of place that a police officer actually approached us and asked if everything was okay.

I had to look up the history of Dudley.  Per Wikapedia, Dudley Square MBTA station first opened in 1901 as part of the Boston Elevated Railway (BERy, a predecessor of the MBTA.) It is reportedly one of the best-preserved BERy stations remaining. The Beaux Arts/French Renaissance structure was designed by Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1985.  They actually took the entire station and lowered it 12 feet in 1993. Here are some historic photos of it before it was lowered into it’s current spot.

 

I’m so pleased they saved the architecture of the station when re-designing.  And the fact that it was once a subway station but is now a bus station? Fascinating.

Dudley.  Who knew?  D Day did not disappoint.

 

Catch us if you Can

Cruising the C’s and Catching ‘T’ Fever

Our first C stop was Capen St., which is on the Mattapan Trolley line in Dorchester. Riding the Mattapan Trolley, which opened in 1929, is like stepping back in time and I found it historically fascinating.

The 10 trolleys that run this 2.6 mile “high-speed line” (named as such because its route is only intersected twice by city streets) were built in the mid 1940’s, and are said to provide more than 4,600 rides on weekdays, running about every five minutes during rush hour. Every time a breakdown occurs, the MBTA machinists reportedly have to either make their own replacement parts, or contact museums for spare parts. I actually love that they still exist, although I’m not sure I’d feel the same way if I had to ride them crammed like a sardine at rush hour, as the local residents probably have to do.

We also managed to get a ‘re-do’ shot of Butler, which had been a big disappointment on the night of our disastrous Bleeping B’s excursion (see Part Two post) when it was freezing cold and too dark to get a picture. That made us both very happy.

Riding the Mattapan trolley was interesting and fun and I was enjoying our excursion on this warm, sunny, early February morning. I had also decided before we left that I needed an attitude adjustment. It’s all in your attitude! I heard the voice inside my head say, just like I would say to my own kids.

Just 10 days after the very bad B’s, I received an email from Alex planning our ‘C’ excursion day. The careful plans he laid out and communicated were impressive (remember, he’s age 11) and I felt guilty. Here he was trying to share the joy of his favorite hobby with me, and although I had let him lead and had gone along, I wasn’t in the right mind-set during our B excursions. And I hadn’t made them very much fun.

Here’s the email he sent, exactly the way he wrote it, with no edits:

Hi Mommy,

This is an update since I will tell you the route I want us to take and why.

To get into Boston, I don’t care what way we take, as long as we don’t take a car. Again, the most likely stations will be North Station, Haymarket, and Wonderland. From Wonderland, I want us to take the blue line in to Bowdin (As Usual) But get off at STATE. The reason is so we can take the orange line. Since the orange line stops at North Station and Haymarket, it isn’t a big deal. Here is why:

1. The orange line is slightly faster than the green line.

2   We haven’t taken it barely in our other excursions, and this one too.

3   It is closer than Government Center on the blue line and is closer than park st to Ashmont.

Then we take the red line to Ashmont and hop on the Mattapan line. Ride to Capan St. We wait for a train going to Ashmont and ride to Central Ave. Repeat 1 more time to Cedar Grove. Next depends on weather.

We either walk if the weather is nice (If we feel like it)

Or we take another train to Ashmont (if the weather is not nice.)

Then we take the red line to Alewife. We get off at Central. Unfortunately, I looked into the station, and you can’t switch sides without paying. So we switch and ride to Charles MGH. While we wait for the next train to Park St, we go to the lobby and chat “Where could they make the Blue line entrance?” When the train comes, we ride it to Park St. Then we hop on a Green Line D train to Riverside. Here we pass by 4 Stations in a small amount of time. We ride it to Chestnut Hill. Then we switch sides and ride the train 1 Stop To Resevior. We walk up north on Central Ave, passing by Cleveland Circle. Once we get to Central Ave, we walk to Chiswick Road. Then we hop on a B train to Park St. We get off at Bolyston and get something to eat in Chinatown. Once we are done, we hop on an orange line train to Oak Grove and ride it to Community College. Then we switch directions and ride it to Forest Hills. We get off at Roxbury Crossing and take bus 66 To Coolidge Corner. Then we hop on a C train to North Station and ride it to Copley. Then we get out of the station and walk to Back Bay. Hop on a commuter rail train to South Station. Ride the train to South Station, and use the silver line to get to Courthouse. To get home, we walk to State, and take either the Blue Line or Orange Line.

My favorite part is when he planned out that we could “go to the lobby and chat ‘where could they make the Blue Line entrance?’”  at Charles MGH station.

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There is currently no Blue Line connection at this station, but Bowdoin station is very close by and a tunnel entrance could easily be created connecting the two underground. Personally, I had never thought of this before, but he was right. And so, when we changed platforms that day, we did stop at Charles MGH and we discussed where such an entrance might be. Maybe at the bottom of these stairs here?

We also had lunch in Chinatown. This was definitely a highlight and treat for me because I finally got to have dim sum again, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I loved every minute with my handsome lunch date.

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Something else I was starting to really enjoy were the unexpected surprises we’d discover when entering some of these stations or neighborhoods. I had worked near the Courthouse Station when they were building it about 12 years ago, so I knew it was a newer station. But I had no idea when we disembarked the SilverLine bus here, at our last stop of the day, that we’d be transported into a future dimension. We arrived at the station at 3:44pm and it was empty and glowing so I snapped this shot from my phone:

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Our C excursions went exceptionally well due to Alex’s excellent planning and my new attitude. We cruised through them all and even managed to catch an unexpected new way back home to Salem. Bus 459, just a 2 minute walk from Courthouse, took us directly home to Salem at about 5pm.

We celebrated the C’s that night with popcorn and a couch viewing of “The American Experience; The Race Underground” on PBS, which had aired a few nights before. It was all about how the Boston subway system—the first in America— was built in the late 19th Century. I had finally caught Alex’s T fever because I found the documentary really fascinating too. It was the perfect ending to a great subway excursion day. We crushed the C’s.

Riding the C's

The *Bleeping* B’s; Part Two

Why are there so many B subway stops?

There are 19 ‘B’ subway stops on the Boston MBTA, which is double the average. Why so many? Is it a British thing from colonial days? I wonder if the Brits have lots of B stops on the London Underground?

These are the thoughts that ran through my head when I boarded the 450 bus with Alex to Haymarket from Salem on a very cold afternoon late December. I took a half day off work during his winter school break to complete part two of the B’s.

After Boylston on the Green Line, we traveled the orange line to Downtown Crossing and Red Line to South Station. Alex was excited to be able to ride the commuter rail and we bought a ticket and boarded the Kingston/Plymouth train that departed at 2:47pm. We arrived at Braintree at 3:07pm.

My log read as follows:

  • Walked over to Red Line platform and left Braintree at 3:12pm. Transferred to Green C line at Park St. Arrived at Brandon Hall at 4:30pm.
  • Walked 5 minutes in Brookline to bus 66 after stopping for a bathroom break at a Mobil station. Bought a snack and boarded Bus 66 for Brigham Circle at 4:42pm.
  • Arrived at Brigham Circle at 5pm and took the Green Line E to Copley Square where we took bus #9 to Broadway. Arrived at 5:40pm.

Surprise! Broadway station on the Red Line is Art Deco awesomeness. Who knew I’d see my son shining under the lights of Broadway tonight? For once, I was more excited than he was.

Broadway Station Redline

We entered the Red Line at Broadway station heading to Brookline Hills on the Green Line, after transferring at Park St. I was pleasantly surprised again as we walked to Brookline Village down Davis St. through a very charming neighborhood. I made a vow  to myself that I would come back some day.

We decided to eat at a Turkish Restaurant in Brookline Village. As soon as we sat down to eat at 6:35pm, we realized we had a problem. We knew we had to get from Brookline all the way to Butler station in Dorchester, and then back home to Salem, but we were running out of time. Alex started to get nervous, but he had a plan. We rushed through our kebabs and optimistically left the restaurant at 7pm knowing that if we timed everything just right, we’d be able to accomplish our goal of completing the B’s that same night.

Then everything went wrong. Alex tripped in the dark on our way to the bus station and he skinned both knees and his hand. Luckily he was only slightly bleeding because I didn’t have any band-aids. Then we discovered that the bus stop we were heading to was closed due to construction. I tried to convince him that we should take the T instead, but when we looked up times and route possibilities, they had us returning to Salem too late. Alex got upset and started crying. We checked Google maps one more time and found an alternative bus stop. We quickly sprinted to the stop, with Alex limping the whole way.

But we made it. We boarded bus 66 at 7:15pm and transferred at Malcom X bus stop to bus 28 towards Mattapan Station. I noticed the changing demographics in passengers as our bus traveled across Boston into Dorchester, and our faces gradually became the only white ones. Alex doesn’t even notice these things, as he’s too interested in the bus stops along the way.

We arrived in Mattapan at 8pm. The Mattapan trolley looks like something straight out of a 1940’s Depression movie. It’s amazing that these historic trolley’s still run so regularly. We waited 9 minutes in the cold, dark station. It felt like an hour. Finally, the trolley came and stopped at Butler. Our plan was to have Alex hop out for a second so we could take a picture, but the Butler station sign was on the other side of the tracks! It was pitch black outside, so we couldn’t see the sign anyway. We both felt a bit defeated. All that drama to get to Butler, and it was too dark to see or snap a photo. We ended up taking a picture of Alex on the dark trolley, pointing to Butler on the map.

We then boarded the Red Line at Ashmont to start our long trip home. It was 20 degrees on this chilly December night, and a guy got on wearing no shirt, while loudly and passionately arguing with himself about politics.

We had been so worried about running out of time, yet ended up 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled bus back to Salem anyway. We rode elevators at Haymarket station to kill time. Alex loves elevators, (I’m not a fan, especially in subway stations where I have to hold my nose). Neither of us wanted to wait outside, so it seemed like as good a plan as any. The bus finally came and brought us back home around 10pm.

I collapsed into bed that night, but fell asleep with a smile on my face.

All 19 *bleeping* B’s were done.

It’s about the Journey. Not the Destination

Why my son Alex and I are riding the “T” (MBTA Boston subways) in alphabetical order

How far would you go for a child? Would you get up at 4:30AM on a dark, frigid morning and bring him or her to hockey practice? Stand in the cold rain for hours during a soccer tournament? Drive a hundred miles to a dance competition? How about volunteer countless hours as a band parent? Little league coach?

Then don’t judge me.

My kid’s ‘thing’ is public transportation. Prior to having him, there is no way I would have ever dreamed of taking subway trips ‘for fun.’ Subways and buses were a necessity to get to work and most of time, I cursed them for being too crowded, too late, or too dirty, just like everyone else I know.

But now, the best way of spending quality one-on-one time with my son is by riding the ‘T.’ The T is Boston’s MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority), and my son Alex is obsessed. He loves the schedules. And the maps. And the trains. And buses. He loves planning how to get from A to B. He loves the announcements calling off each station and connection. (Check the ‘About’ section for more about Alex.)

Seeing and experiencing his excitement while planning these trips is worth the hours that a big part of me would still rather spend anywhere else. We plan together. We connect. That’s not always easy with him, so I cherish every moment. I love it because he loves it. What parent could ask for more than that?

Join us as we embark on a crazy journey to visit every subway stop within the MBTA system in alphabetical order. He’s a smart kid (a real smart-Alex), and he tricked me into it. (Find out how on A day!) But I’m committed now.

If we average about 6-8 stations a day it will take us 15- 20 days total. If we average 8-10 of such days per year, it will take us 2-3 years to complete this list:
wikipedia.org/List_of_MBTA_subway_stations

He might be in high school when we reach the last subway stop: World Trade Center.

Is it too much to start dreaming about that last stop now? Maybe we’ll be met with cheers and balloons and I’ll get a mom-of-the year award. Or maybe I’ll get a high-five and a big smile by an exceptional kid.

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