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Beginner's Guide to the Subway

Subway Guide clickable graphic

The subway is the largest part of Boston’s public transit system, with more than 700,000 trips each weekday. It is often referred to simply as the T (the “T” from MBTA—the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority).

The trains—or trolleys, as they’re sometimes called here—connect downtown Boston to communities within and near the city.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the basics of the system, and we’ll explore each line and where it can take you. Sit back and enjoy the scenery—each line runs at least partially above ground!

Getting to Know the Subway

Orange Line Train Pulling into Assembly Station with Sign

Wherever you’re going in Greater Boston, the T can help get you there. Here are some basics of the subway.

Taking Your Trip

Green Line customers wait at stop

Here are some things to keep in mind at your station or stop, when you board your train, and while on your trip.

The Green Line

Green Line train in station

The Green Line serves more than 180,000 customers each weekday. The light rail line runs south from Cambridge into Boston, where it branches into the E Line, to Heath Street, from Copley. Past Kenmore to points west of the city, it splits into the: 

The Green Line got its name because it travels through Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system.


Did you know? The Green Line Extension (GLX) will extend the northern end of the Green Line from Lechmere to Union Square in Somerville and College Avenue in Medford. 

The Orange Line

Orange Line in motion

The Orange Line serves nearly 200,000 customers each weekday. This heavy rail line runs south from Malden through downtown Boston and into the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. 

The Orange Line gets its name from its route under Washington Street, which was formerly named Orange Street, via Downtown Crossing, Chinatown, and Tufts Medical Center.


Did you know? The Orange Line fleet will be entirely replaced with all-new trains by 2022, and the fleet size will increase from 120 cars to 152.

Learn more about the new Orange Line vehicles

The Red Line

Customers wait to board Red Line

The Red Line serves more than 260,000 customers each weekday. The heavy rail line runs south from Cambridge into Boston and South Boston, and branches into 2 sections south of JFK/UMass. The Braintree branch travels through Quincy (on the South Shore), and the Ashmont branch travels through Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. From Ashmont, the Mattapan Trolley offers light rail service to Milton. 

The Red Line got its name because it travels through Harvard University, home of the Crimson.


Did you know? The Red Line fleet will be entirely replaced with all-new trains by 2023, and the fleet size will increase from 218 cars to 252.

Learn more about the new Red Line vehicles

The Blue Line

Blue Line in station

The Blue Line serves more than 67,000 customers each weekday. The heavy rail line travels from Revere, on the North Shore, into Boston, where it ends near the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood.

The Blue Line got its name because it travels underneath Boston Harbor and along the Atlantic Ocean.

Planning an Accessible Trip

Rider in Wheeled Mobility Device Exiting Blue Line Train with Bridgeplate

Many subway stations are accessible to people with disabilities, and we offer trip planning assistance to help you get the most out of your journey on the MBTA. 

If you are a senior or person with a disability, you may be eligible for reduced fares.

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Visitor's Guide Clickable Graphic
Bus Guide Clickable Graphic
Commuter Rail Guide Clickable Graphic
Clickable graphic for the Ferry Guide: vertical lines with a colored pattern of yellow, light blue, and dark blue

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