Shuttles & vans exclusive to the Harvard community
MBTA subway, bus, commuter rail, student semester pass discount; Taxis and rideshares
Zipcar, car rental, moving vans
Permits, parking, driver’s licenses, MA state IDs
Amtrak, Greyhound, and more
Flying from Boston’s Logan Airport
Important information & trip registration requirements for any student traveling abroad, especially international students
Harvard operates several Shuttle & Van Services which can make it easier to get around the extended Cambridge/Allston main campus, to the Longwood campus, to Harvard housing, and more.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), aka “the T,” is your answer to public transportation. The T includes the subway, bus, and commuter rail systems, though most people mean the subway when they say they’re going someplace by T.
You can use one fare card for both subway and bus, but the easiest way to buy commuter rail tickets is through the commuter rail mobile app. There are two kinds of fare cards: the Charlie Card and the Charlie Ticket. Charlie Cards are RFID-enabled plastic cards which you can refill with both cash and weekly or monthly passes at a station or online. Using a Charlie Card gets you a discount compared to a Charlie Ticket, but you can only get Charlie Cards at a few select stations or through the mail. Charlie Tickets are paper tickets available from vending machines at every station, and you can fill them either with cash or a weekly pass, but they can’t be refilled. MBTA fare rates are kept up to date on their website. And check below for information on the MBTA’s semester pass discount program for students!
The MBTA has several endorsed mobile apps. These apps plus others available at various app stores allow you to track buses, plan journeys, and more.
Boston has the oldest underground subway system in the US – it opened in 1897!
Subway Routes & Transfer Stops
The five subway lines—Red, Green, Blue, Orange, and Silver—meet at six transfer stops in downtown Boston: Park Street, Government Center, Downtown Crossing, South Station, Boylston Street and State Street.
The Red Line is the line that runs closest to the GSD. It transfers to the Green Line at Park Street, the Orange and Silver Line at Downtown Crossing. Its terminus stations are Alewife Station (northwest), Ashmont (south, Dorchester) and Braintree (southeast).
Inbound/Outbound & Terminus References
One source of confusion when first navigating the T is the inbound and outbound signs. In general, if you’re traveling toward one of the main transfer stops in downtownBoston, you’re going inbound and if you’re traveling away, you’re going outbound. On the Red Line, Downtown Crossing is “the center.” But it’s actually much easier to just use the terminus station as a reference, since those aren’t dependent on where you’re starting. If you want to go southeast on the Red Line, you’ll take a Ashmont/Braintree train (branches after JFK/U Mass); to go northwest, you’ll take an Alewife train.
Stations to Know
Park Street is the busiest (and oldest) station in the system. Also a good place to start walking the Freedom Trail, if you’re one day so inclined. (Red/Green Lines)
Downtown Crossing is the most “inbound” station. (Red/Orange Lines)
South Station is the central Boston bus, Amtrak and MBTA commuter rail depot. Plan an extra 10 minutes to walk from the MBTA station to the bus terminal—it’s far. The SL1 to/from Logan Airport stops here, too. (Red/Silver Lines, West & South Commuter Rail, Amtrak, Bus Terminal)
North Station is another Amtrak station and also a station for many of the commuter lines that’ll take you on all kinds of adventures up the coast (like to the beach). (Green/Orange Lines, Northwest & North Commuter Rail)
Porter Square Station also connects to the Fitchburg commuter line, which runs west through northern Massachusetts. (Red Line, West Commuter Rail)
To get around within Cambridge & Somerville, the bus system is often more direct than the subway. You must pay with a fare card or have exact change to pay in cash.
#1: Harvard Sq/Dudley Sq via Mass Ave
The #1 bus runs along Mass Ave toward Boston. It’s the best way from the GSD to Newbury Street. Pick it up in front of the Fogg Museum at Cambridge and Quincy Streets or in Central Square. During rush hour the #1 is often slow and packed.
#66: Harvard Sq/Dudley Sq via Allston-Brighton
The ultimate in cross-town buses, the #66 goes to downtown Allston, Coolidge Corner, Brookline Village, up over Mission Hill and into Roxbury.
#69: Harvard Sq/Lechmere
The quickest way from Harvard Square or Inman Square to the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall.
No Late-Night T
Unfortunately, the subway and buses stop running at 12:45am, and depending on which stop you are at, the last train may be as early
at 12:15am. Look for signs posted in stations. Trains begin running again at 5am.
MBTA Semester Pass Program
GSD students can purchase semester MBTA bus, link, and commuter rail passes (all zones) at a 11% percent discount by completing the MBTA Semester Pass order form online by the appropriate deadline. The cost of the semester pass will be charged to the student’s term bill. Once available, student purchasers will receive an e-mail to pick up their passes at the Office of Student Affairs in Gund Hall.
Fall passes cover the period from September through December. Spring passes cover the period from February through May.
Order your Fall 2023 MBTA Semester Pass here. The firm deadline to order a Fall 2023 semester pass is Monday, August 7 at 12:00 pm EST.
Please consider your needs carefully before placing an order. After an order is placed, we are not able to process refunds.
Certain students with disabilities are eligible for reduced MBTA fares. For more information, please visit the MBTA’s Transportation Access Pass page: https://www.mbta.com/fares/reduced/transportation-access-pass
Semester Pass Program FAQs
Q: What is the difference between a Zone1A and a Link pass? They cost the same.
A: The Link pass offers unlimited travel on subway and local bus. The Zone1A pass offers the same unlimited coverage as the Link pass with the addition of Zone1A commuter rail stops. See the MBTA Commuter Rail Zone map for more information. Students must pick up their next month’s Zone1A pass towards the end of each month (ex. November’s pass will be picked up at the end of October). Link passes are picked up once each semester. Lastly, lost Link passes may be replaced, whereas lost Zone1A passes may not be replaced; students would have to wait until the next month when they would pick up their next pass.
Q: Can I pay for my pass with a check?
A: No, all T-pass orders will be charged to the student’s term-bill.
Q: When and where can I pick my pass up?
A: The Office of Student Affairs will be in touch via e-mail when the passes are ready for pick-up.
- Fall pass pick-up is at the end of August/beginning of September.
- Spring pass pick-up is at the end of January/beginning of February.
- Commuter rail passes must be picked up monthly, as the MBTA only manufactures monthly commuter rail passes.
Q: What happens if I lose my pass?
A: Only bus and Link passes may be replaced by the MBTA. If you have lost a bus or Link pass, please contact Ryanne DePuy ([email protected]) and she will deactivate your lost pass and order a replacement pass on your behalf.
Q: Is there summer T-pass coverage?
A: No, the MBTA sets the parameters for the Semester Pass Program. The summer months are not part of the program.
Q: Can I buy a pass just for a month?
A: No, the Semester Pass Program offers coverage for four consecutive months. Students are charged for the entire amount and cannot opt in or out of coverage during the semester.
Q: Can the Office of Student Affairs mail me my pass?
A: No, students must pick up their passes in person.
Boston area cabs have a minimum base fare and then charge by distance traveled. Passengers must pay any tolls. Don’t forget to tip. Some cabs do not take credit cards, especially if the ride costs less than $10. Make sure you ask before you ride! Some reliable cab companies are:
Cambridge Ambassador Brattle Cab (617) 492-1100
Yellow Cab of Cambridge (617) 547-3000
Somerville Green & Yellow Cab (617) 628-0600
The Boston area is also well-served by app-based rideshare companies such as Lyft and Uber, and many local cab companies can be booked through apps such as Curb, Arro, or their own company apps.
A Zipcar is incredibly convenient for quick trips to the grocery store or Home Depot and is also great for day trips. Plus, the ZipCar founder is a Loeb Fellow! For overnight and long-distance trips, a standard rental car is probably cheaper. An annual membership fee allows you access to the self-service car-sharing club. As a Harvard student, you get a sizeable discount on the membership fee. Zipcars are parked at various locations throughout the Boston area. You simply make a reservation online (or on the app), use your Zipcard to unlock the car at its specified location, and return it to the same location when you’re finished.
Some rental car companies offer student discounts. See travel.harvard.edu for information.
U-Haul is not necessarily the cheapest, but probably the most convenient when used in conjunction with their temporary and long-term storage units.
Owning a Car
There are many advantages to owning a car in Cambridge: grocery shopping, moving studio supplies around and adventurous trips to the Cape or Mass MoCA. Living without a car, however, has its own advantages, too.
Challenges of car ownership
Parking a car in the Cambridge area can be difficult. Look for apartments that offer off-street parking. If you don’t have to park on the street, you can keep your car registered in your home state. If you do park on the street, get a local permit and pay attention to street cleaning days and emergency snow routes: if you leave your car on the street during these all important clearing times, your car will be ticketed and towed, at considerable cost and inconvenience to you. Cars registered in Massachusetts must pass annual inspection and emissions check, offered inexpensively at local garages. Cars with Massachusetts plates and an expired state inspection sticker will be impounded.
The lottery for student parking permits is competitive. Even if you do get a parking spot, it will probably be at the Business School lot across the river, a 20-minute walk from Gund. More information is available from the Harvard Parking Office.
Getting a Resident Parking Permit
Unless you have an off-street parking spot, you’re going to want a permit to park on the street. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to get Massachusetts insurance (the highest rates in the country) to get a local parking sticker. You generally need to show some proof of residency (e.g. bank statement, utility bill, lease, etc.). Check the most up-to-date specifics for your city:
If your car is towed, you may need to contact the police to find out where it’s been taken. Have your license plate number ready. In Cambridge you can also use or use the online Towed Vehicle Lookup.
Getting a Massachusetts Driver’s License
To get a new driver’s license in Massachusetts, you will need to complete both a written and a driving test at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. For the driving test, you will need to have access to a car. If you only need to transfer an out-of-state license, you just have to bring them some paperwork and pay a fee. It can be a long wait at the RMV, so before you go check and double check that you’re bringing the right documents.
See this dedicated page for more information on Massachusetts ID cards.
International Students: Getting a Massachusetts ID Card
Massachusetts has a minimum drinking age of 21, and waiters and bar door staff will check your ID. To avoid carrying your passport around, you might want to get a Massachusetts Driver’s License or Liquor ID Card from the RMV.
Parking Near the GSD
Good luck! There are meters on Oxford, Cambridge and Kirkland. Bring quarters, though some meters can now be paid through an app. Meters have a two-hour maximum. For loading and unloading, you can often park in front of Gund on Quincy in the turnabout.
If you’ve never driven in the snow, take it easy and definitely check out mass.gov for tips.
Massachusetts drivers consistently rank among the worst in the country, according to the GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test. The roads here are narrow, windy and often one-way, making navigation tricky. Top that off with hard-to-find parking and snowy winters, and you’re in for a real mess.
Trains & Buses Out of the City
Most regional bus trips leave from the South Station bus terminal From the South Station MBTA stop, follow the signs to direct you from the T Station through the main hall of the Amtrak terminal and across to the South Station Bus Terminal. The walk is a good 10 minutes, so factor this into your schedule. Most buses have wi-fi and power outlets, but they don’t always work. Greyhound and Peter Pan drop off at Port Authority, NYC’s main bust station. Bolt Bus’s street-side drop-off and pick-up point in NYC is far more convenient than Mega Bus’s.
Go Bus is another great bus option for trips to NYC. It leaves from Alewife Station (the northern terminus of the Red Line and only a few stops from Harvard) in Cambridge and drops off close to Penn Station in NYC.
Amtrak from South Station
Amtrak tickets can be expensive, but you can often find deals – look under the “Savings and Promotions” area of the Amtrak website and pay special attention to packages for museum trips or Broadway shows. Amtrak trains depart from South Station and make a second pick-up at Back Bay Station. There are two types of trains: Acela and Regional. The Acela is about half an hour faster and is more comfortable, but costs significantly more.
Amtrak from North Station
In addition to the commuter rail, North Station also provides rail service to the New Hampshire and Maine coastline. The Downeaster offers great deals for tickets up to Portland, ME.
MBTA Commuter Rail
From Providence to Rockport, the commuter rail (the Purple Line on T maps) connects outlying towns to the city. You can get to a nice beach town in less than an hour! Commuter trains leave from two stations: North Station (trains headed north to Concord, Lowell, North Shore) and South Station (trains headed south or west to Worcester, Providence, South Shore). Schedules change seasonally. Download the handy MBTA mTicket app for your smartphone and you can buy a ticket ahead of time or even once you’re on the train.
Boston Logan Airport
There are many ways to get to Logan Airport — taxis, cars, vans, or by T:
Taking the T
Take the Red Line to South Station (six stops from Harvard), and transfer to the Silver Line 1 to Logan Airport. The bus will stop at all airport terminals. You should expect the trip to take about an hour, but at peak times, the Silver Line (which is an express bus, not a subway) can be crowded and chaotic. The Silver Line is free when boarding at the airport.
Note: If you live closer to a Green Line station, head to Gov’t Center, transfer to Blue, and at the ‘Airport’ stop board a quick shuttle bus to the terminals. It takes about the same time (but with at least an additional transfer) as the Red/Silver route.
Taking a Taxi
You may find that dragging your bags all over Boston on the T is exhausting or time-consuming. For about $40, plus tip and tolls, a taxi or rideshare service will take you to Logan from the Harvard Square area. Students often split cab rides to the airport around holiday and break times.
Driving to Logan only takes about 20 minutes from Cambridge, when traffic is good (budget twice that if it’s rush hour). Take the Mass Pike towards Boston and follow the signs for the airport. If you are in Somerville, take Washington Street to McGrath Highway at Union Square, get onto 93 South, and follow signs to the airport. Have a friend drive you – you’ll pay much more in airport parking fees than you would spend on a taxi.
International Students: Always check with HIO
The Harvard International Office (HIO) recommends international students check with their office before making any travel plans. This goes for when you’re considering which traveling options studios to rank highly, too. Every country has its own visa rules and timelines for travelers of various nationalities.
Students should only travel outside the US if all of their documents related to US immigration status are in order. Make sure you are aware of any potential travel impacts from special circumstances, such as a leave of absence or travel after your official date of graduation. If you have any questions or doubts, check with HIO before you leave the country.
Traveling for a GSD Studio or Course
Many GSD students will take an option studio or research seminar that involves international travel. Please read carefully the Travel Warnings and Consular Info provided by the US State Department for the country or countries you plan to travel to and through.
Harvard University Global Support Services has a program called Harvard Travel Assist to provide 24-hour worldwide emergency medical and evacuation assistance for Harvard affiliates traveling abroad on University business.
During a medical or security incident abroad, you can call Harvard Travel Assist at +1-617-998-0000 for immediate support. If you can’t call, email [email protected] with “Urgent” at the start of your subject line if it’s an emergency. The phone line is answered immediately; an email response may take four hours for urgent requests and 24 hours for non-urgent requests.
To expedite assistance, it’s crucial that your itinerary is entered in the Harvard Travel Registry.
Harvard Travel Registry
All students traveling abroad are required to register with the Harvard Travel Registry for all trips funded or arranged by Harvard or for which they will receive Harvard credit. It has been created so the University can locate you quickly and provide assistance in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Register your itinerary and contact info online and be sure to update it if they change during the course of your trip. The Travel Tools website also contains useful info for planning a safe trip, including links to important resources such as visa services vendors, which can provide assistance with visa and passport requirements and applications.
If you are an international student and traveling outside the US, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are in compliance with all the DHS regulations and that you have the proper documents for travel and re-entry into the US. Please remember to bring your passport (with a valid visa stamp), I-20, DS/2019 and all other visa documents. To avoid confusion, use your full legal name as it appears on your passport for all transactions, such as airline tickets. If you have any questions, consult the Harvard International Office (HIO).
If you want to go off on your own while on a group trip, make sure the trip leader knows where you’re going, when you’ll be back and how to reach you.
Write down all of your important info (passport, credit card numbers, emergency contacts), and store it at home or with a reliable person in case of theft.