Parking & Driving, Boston
People on foot in Boston are some of the friendliest around. When you find yourself down some weird side street, ask directions. But when they get behind the wheel they are A**holes honking! We took this personally at first, but later when we walked around the city, we noticed honking was just a popular past time. But most importantly, get a map before you go in. Our garmin nearly melted and simply could NOT direct us to the Omni downtown.
People complain that the drivers in NYC are bad have never met Boston drivers.... they are definitely the worst in my opinion. As a pedestrian you can never be sure if they will obey a trafic signal or sign and as a fellow driver you fare much worse.
It can be tricky to get out of the airport and onto a major highway. Go slowly and watch the signs, of which there are not many, and get your bearings first. Otherwise you may find yourself going in circles.
I found that a great deal of study is needed to get into the suburbs with a vehicle. I read ahead of time to not even think of taking a car downtown Boston. The parking fee and nightmare directions and traffic will turn you off very quickly. Park and ride the public systems of rail, subway or bus.
Half of downtown Boston was being dug up when I visited, so that an underground expressway system could be built. This construction is was known was the Big Dig. All the elevated freeways were being torn down at the time that I visited, making traffic somewhat chaotic.
Big Dig aside, traffic in Boston's famously ugly. As someone once wrote on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree Message Boards, 'Not only is parking expensive (and on-street parking is nearly impossible to find,) driving in Boston is frustrating, to say the least. Streets are poorly marked, follow no discernible pattern, change to one-way without warning and the other drivers are rude and downright dangerous--and this coming from someone who lives in the heart of the city and drives as little as possible. However, Boston is a wonderful walking city, with lots of parks and scenic paths to follow, and its small size makes it very accessible'
I never drove while in Boston, but did get a few rides from friends. I found that their subway system the T, was more than adequate to see all the attractions in and around Boston. I wouldn't rent a car if I were to visit again, I'd rely on the T the entire time.
Driving in Boston is dangerous for more reasons than you can imagine. Mostly because the roads don't make any sense, even to a Boston native. Commonwealth Avenue is a great example of this. If you decide to drive in the city please be careful and pay close attention to road signs. By the way, Boston natives have no fear what so ever. Also please don't drive up the T tracks. I've seen that happen one time too many.
Dont EVER EVER EVER, under any circumstances, drive you car onto Washington Street near the Downtown Crossing Area. The police wait on foot on the side streets leading to Washington Street and if you should have the misforture to accidentally turn onto one of these streets they will flag you down and give you a ticket. Be very careful driving in the Downtown Area below Washington Street because there are many one way streets that force you to turn onto other streets that have do not enter signs in the middle and before you know it BAM!!! you are heading onto Washington Street where you will be stopped and given a fine. This is a trap to designed to generate money for the city, because many people who are not familiar with Boston, will find themselves in this situation. The one way and do not enter street signs are carefully planned to force you onto these street where the police are waiting. It is best to get familiar with the area on foot before attempting to drive it. Walk down to Washington Street and stand on the corner in front of payless shoes and watch the spectacle unfolding in front of your eyes. There will be ten cars all lined up waiting to be ticketed.
There is lot's of free parking to be had in Boston. You just have to know where to look. I have lived in Boston for years and have never payed to put my car in a garage. Good areas to find spaces are Charles Street between the Public Garden and Boston Common, Newbury Street and Boylston Street in the Back Bay (and any of the side streets that run between Newbury and Boylston) , Harrison Avenue in Chinatown, and most of the side streets in and around Post Office Square.
NEVER park ANYWHERE you may see a Resident Parking sign especially Beacon Hill as the people who live here tend to call the cops and have your car towed if they can't find a space of there own. Don't park on Tremont Street, Causeway Street, Batterymarch Street or Cambride Street, you will be ticketed.
In the rare event you find on street parking in Boston, you will often be greeted by a homeless person who holds your door open and offers to watch your car. GIVE HIM A DOLLAR and thank him with a smile! First of all, there is a good chance he will actually watch your car. Second, if you ignore him, you will find a long scratch on your car when you return.
First : If there's a big show somewhere (baseball, hockey, etc) don't go drive near there, I've spent an hour in the traffic just right next to the Fenway Park.
Second : know where you want to go. with all the construction site, and all the one-way, you can get lost very easily.
Third : get a map, like a laptop with some software with GPS to know exactly where you are, and get you where you want to go.
Fourth : trust you co-driver who read the map :)
Remember that parking can be very expensive in Boston. The parking garages around Newbury run about $17 per hour and a half. You can get your ticket validated at the mall if you park on Boylston but it’s only a $5 discount. Other places in Boston can set you back about $50 for the day. Valet parking can save you a headache if you’re out for a dinner on the town and it’s not that much more expensive than parking on your own. My advice is to park outside of Boston and take the “T” in.
Be careful when driving around Boston. If you have an old map then some of the tunnels might not be on it yet. Also, a lot of the roads are one way, or turn into one way in the middle. This is especially true around the Theatre District and Chinatown. Also, for some reason, a lot of the roads aren’t very well lit in and around Boston University and Boylston Street so if it’s dark then be careful of people crossing the streets. There is still lots of construction going on so you will want to be careful when driving in general.
The Massachusetts Turnpike (Masspike) is the 138-mile long stretch of Interstate 90, which spans Massachusetts from West Stockbridge on the New York border to Logan International Airport in East Boston, and on to Route 1A. The Massachusetts Turnpike is generally known as the 'Mass Pike'.
The Masspike is a toll road; it costs $4.60 to travel from Exit 6 in Chicopee to Logan Airport. No toll is charged for passenger vehicle travel between Chicopee and the New York border. The return trip from Logan Airport costs $3 more, since the Ted Williams Tunnel has a toll in the Westbound direction.
Massachusetts uses a system of sequential numbering for the exits on the Pike. Since the time that the exits were originally numbered, more have been added, leading to situations like Exit 11, which is a minor state route, and 11A, which is a major Interstate 10 miles away.
Also, near Boston, some of the "exits" are actually solely onramps and are not signed as exits, so there is no "Exit 21" signed.
Traffic, roadworks and getting stuck in a tunnel on route to the airport, can make this journey hellish at times. Take some water and sandwiches, if you are travelling during the rush hour.
Downtown Boston is fairly safe at all hours because it is so densely populated and well-lit, but use good judgement. Like any big city there are bad guys looking for a mark. Stay away from Roxbury and parts of Dorchester.
Driving in Boston is not for the faint of heart. If you can drive in Boston you can drive anywhere. However, the reverse is not true. With the big dig having most of downtown torn up it's difficult even for native Bostonians to navigate. Use the 'T'. It's reliable and goes just about everywhere worth going. There is also an extensive bus system to augment the subway. If you must fly into Boston (Logan airport), you can take public transportation into the city.
If you are driving around Boston, do pay attention on the road... most of the roads are one way street... and allow left or right turn only... so bring a good map!! You might have to make a few turns before getting to your final destination~