So, now that passes for PAX East 2014 are sold out, and I was lucky enough to snag a few for the first time in years (Friday and Sunday), I thought it was only fair that I do my part to help people coming to PAX this year, especially those coming for the first time. I am a native of the Greater Boston area, and I've been planning obsessively for how I am going to get to and from PAX - I know the entire transit system like the back of my hand. While the MBTA may not be as confusing as systems in other cities (I'm looking at you, London) it can be very intimidating for someone unfamiliar with it. I will be covering how to get to PAX based on plane travel, train from the south, and train from the north - from the perspective of Bostonians, "north" refers to Maine and Canada.
First, a note: your ultimate destination as a waypoint to get to PAX is South Station. South Station is essentially Boston's equivalent of Grand Central, and is only a 5 to 10 minute walk to the BCEC. However, due to the convention taking place in early April, you may opt for an even shorter taxi ride. South Station offers plenty of food, ranging from the quality of McDonald's to an Au Bon Paine. There are also various newsstands. You may want to consider using South Station as a jumping point to get to PAX, your hotel, or to anything else in Boston you want to see.FLYING IN
If you live so far away from Boston that a plane is the only logical way to get there, you may want to take a few moments prior to your flight in order to understand the layout of Boston Logan International Airport - its complexity rivals that of the entire transit system, and explaining the layout of the airport would be another thread in and of itself. That being said, once you've obtained your luggage and (hopefully) your bearings, you're going to want to look for signs that point to the MBTA or, as we call it, the "T" - the logo is literally a solid black T on a white square. The Airport subway station is not on the grounds of the airport; however, the Department of Transportation has regular shuttles between the terminals of the airport and the station. Once you get to the station, you'll want to get on a Blue Line train headed for Bowdoin. Get off the train at State, and proceed to the Orange Line platform. From there, get on an Orange Line train headed for Forest Hills, and get off one stop later at Downtown Crossing. Finally, switch to the Red Line and get on a train headed for Braintree. Take it one stop forward, and get off at South Station.TRAIN FROM THE NORTH
You will most likely come in to North Station, which is (appropriately) in the northern part of the city. From North Station, take an Orange Line train headed for Forest Hills to Downtown Crossing, and from there take a Red Line Braintree train to South Station.TRAIN FROM THE SOUTH
95% of trains from "south" of Boston come into South Station to begin with, but if you're in that other 5%, you may end up in this not-so-nice place called Back Bay. In all honesty, the station is pretty nice, but for our purposes, it is not where we want to be. From Back Bay, there are two ways to South Station: the expensive and nice way, or the slightly cheaper and slightly less nice way. The "nice" way is grabbing a Commuter Rail schedule (that's the local surface rail) and figuring out when a train will come along to take you to South Station. Because Back Bay and South Station are in Transit Zone 1A, fare should only be $2 (careful though! - the price is higher if you buy the ticket on board!). The Commuter Rail is a nice option if you just want a nice, quiet, warm ride just to collect yourself for maybe ten minutes before entering the chaos that is South Station. In fact, the Commuter Rail trains are probably quieter and smoother than the Amtrak or Acela train you took in the first place! The "less than nice" way is to get on an Orange Line train headed for Oak Grove, and get off at Downtown Crossing. From Downtown Crossing, switch to a Red Line train headed for Braintree, and then get off at South Station.THE LAYOUT OF SOUTH STATION, AND GETTING FROM THERE TO BCEC
As I said earlier, South Station is Boston's equivalent of Grand Central. However, it's about a million times less chaotic and, if you happen to live in NYC and are familiar with Grand Central, will probably be a breath of fresh air. There are plenty of seats and tables, and as I said earlier, newsstands and various kiosks dot the mezzanine floor. The mezzanine and food court is shaped almost like a funnel, with the wide end opening to the Commuter Rail and Amtrak platforms, and the narrow end leading to a single exit. Assuming you're facing the wide end, most of the food establishments will be in a cluster at the rightmost edge of the mezzanine; the leftmost edge has ticket kiosks and various information booths, both about the MBTA and about Boston. The exit at the narrow end opens up to Summer Street. Summer Street is a fairly busy street, so it's important to be careful and exercise any and all street safety precautions. However, MassDOT has been kind enough to provide us with some sidewalks. To get to BCEC, you're gonna need to turn right onto Summer Street and.....walk. Literally, just walk. You should cross a bridge over the water within 100 to 200 yards, and to the left at the far end of the bridge should be the Boston Children's Museum, recognizable by a giant freaking Hood milk bottle. Just keep walking, and eventually BCEC will tower over you on the right. Look up some pictures of it - you literally cannot miss it. Because Boston is pretty popular with tourists, taxi and bus drivers have an uncanny knowledge of where a lot of things are. So, if you end up in (increasingly) likely scenario that April in Boston is cold, dark, and snowy, simply hail a cab and let them know you're heading to "BCEC". DO NOT JUST SAY "THE CONVENTION CENTER"!! If you hail the cab on Summer Street, they'll probably know what you mean, but it's easier to specify because Boston has so many convention centers. I have no knowledge of any bus or shuttle routes from South Station to BCEC, but if they exist, by all means use them.
If we end up with a warm, sunny, and lovely April in Boston, the walk to BCEC is actually rather pleasant.OTHER IMPORTANT TIPS
To make sure your experience of getting around Boston is just as enjoyable as the convention itself, here are some helpful tips that I did not include above:
-Boston has some pretty spectacular rush hours - spectacularly awful. The MBTA runs subway trains every 9 minutes instead of every 15 minutes during peak times, which are 7 to 10AM and 4-7ishPM. For those of you taking the Red Line, be sure to look for cars that are labelled "Big Red High Capacity Car." These cars have considerably fewer seats than other cars, but can accommodate many more people and (hopefully) their videogame-related luggage.
-It saddens me that I have to say this, but FOR THE LOVE OF ROBERT KHOO BE POLITE AND RESPECTFUL. It just takes one jerk on a train to ruin EVERYONE's day; do not be that jerk. You could easily wind up in the arms of the Transit Police at the next stop, not to mention giving all of the other PAXers in the system a reputation of being jerks. If you were lucky enough to get a seat, be prepared to give it up for people who are disabled, elderly, sick, pregnant, those with children or strollers, or those with heavy bags or luggage. There is no specific ritual to do this; you don't even need to say anything. Just politely smile, and get up. The world will thank you.
-South Station can be full of scuzzy people, particularly in the evening and early morning. If someone who looks suspicious comes up and asks for money to "buy a train ticket", your first reaction should be, naturally, suspicion. Of course, if you have two or three dollars to spare, you can be a good little noodle and hand it over if you really really want to. Otherwise, politely say "I don't have any money" or "I'm sorry; I can't." Usually, this will make them leave you alone. If they continue harassing you, though, or if they turn aggressive or hostile, find a Transit Police officer or even some random employee. They'll fix the problem, and the people sitting around you in the mezzanine will probably be thankful.
-If you're from out of town, and people begin asking you questions about where you're from or why you're here, tell them! I mean, if they look creepy and stalker-ish, don't tell them and try to go find a Transit Police officer - but if they look nice enough, they are nice enough! We Bostonians take genuine interest in tourists, so feel free to brag about how you flew in from Alaska and how you killed a polar bear with nothing but a stick and a beer bottle. We'll be happy to listen.
-All MBTA stations have a full map of the entire system, so if you get confused or if you want to get to a tourist attraction that you looked up online, just look for the map or ask an employee!
Well, that about settles it. Also, if you will need any of this information in the future, MAKE SURE YOU REMEMBER THIS THREAD!!!!!
If you have any specific questions about this topic or about Boston in general prior to PAX, feel free to shoot me a message; I'll help you out as best I can.
I'll try to put out some other relevant help threads as PAX approaches.
Ok, time to go have a heart attack from anticipation.
PAX East 2015: Passes For All Days [X] -- Free Time [X] -- Pass For Girlfriend [X] -- Hype [X]
PAX EAST 2015 IS A GO!