Beginner's Guide to the Bus
Whether you’re getting to work, catching a meeting, or catching up with friends, MBTA buses can help get you around Boston and its surrounding communities.
If you need assistance during your trip, don’t hesitate to ask your bus operator or MBTA staff for help.
Getting to Know MBTA Bus Service
Wherever you’re going in Greater Boston, buses can help get you there. Here are some basics of the system to help you get the most out of your trip.
T buses connect neighborhoods in Greater Boston with each other, and offer service to several surrounding cities and towns, from Bedford and Medford to Saugus and Salem.
The service area includes more than 170 routes that run between 5 and 7 days a week. There are 8,000 stops throughout the region.
It’s easy to connect to or from other MBTA bus routes, the subway, Commuter Rail, Amtrak, and regional bus services.
Did you know? On weekdays, nearly 450,000 trips are taken on MBTA buses in 44 cities and towns.
Each bus route has its own schedule, with most routes running between 5 AM and 1 AM. Some routes also run between 1 AM and 5 AM.
Schedules are adjusted every 3 months to account for service demands. You can view bus schedules on our website at any time to plan ahead.
Did you know? On each route's schedule page, you can also view alerts, schedule and stop location changes, and connections to other modes of transit.
Bus schedules are available in several formats:
- On schedule pages on our website: Simply click on any route to see pick-up times and real-time bus locations.
- As PDFs: Select your route online, and download a PDF on the right side of the page.
- Paper printouts: These are available at carousels at stations including Airport, Downtown Crossing, Haymarket, Harvard and Park Street. You can also request them from Customer Support. Braille and large-format schedules are available as well.
On the busy streets of Boston, delays and traffic can impact bus arrival times. We recommend using a real-time app, like the MBTA-endorsed Transit app, or the website as your departure time approaches to track the location of your bus.
On PDF and paper schedules, there are several letter designations that give more information about certain trips. For example:
- Times marked with an “s” indicate buses that DO NOT run during school vacations.
- Times marked with a “w” indicate buses that wait at T stations for the last train to arrive before departing.
If you have questions about a route or schedule, call Customer Service at 617-222-3200.
Did you know? Many streetcar lines that once ran through Boston’s streets exist as bus routes today. Bus service began on Route 9 from City Point in place of streetcars in 1953. And the 77 to Harvard from Arlington Heights was converted from streetcar to bus in 1955.
Local Buses make stops within Boston and communities in the immediate area.
Inner and Outer Express Buses travel farther out, connecting a number of cities and towns, including Bedford, Burlington, Wakefield, and Watertown, with the Boston area.
If you are riding an Express Bus locally (you board and exit the bus before it reaches the highway), you can pay the Local Bus fare. Let the driver know your exit stop to pay the lower fare.
You might be confused to find the Silver Line listed with train routes sometimes, but it's actually a bus! Technically, it's a bus rapid transit system, which means part of its route is on its own dedicated lane or road. There are 5 routes, and fares vary depending on which route you take.
Some Silver Line stops are underground and use fare gates, just like subway stations.
The SL1 picks up and drops off at every Logan Airport terminal, with connections to the Red Line and Commuter Rail at South Station in downtown Boston.
Service from Logan Airport is always free.
If you're headed to Logan Airport, transfers from the Red Line to the SL1 are free.
Each bus route schedule page offers real-time updates about bus locations.
Stay updated about delays with our bus alerts.
There are also a variety of smartphone apps to help you plan trips on the MBTA.
The MBTA-endorsed Transit app is the best way to plan your trips around Boston. Use the app to find the nearest bus stop, see when the next bus is arriving, and find out how long your commute will be.
The easiest way to plan a bus trip is to use our trip planner.
You can also check bus schedules on our website.
Did you know? Routes 1 – 121 provide almost all local service in the core of the Boston area. Routes were originally numbered roughly clockwise from South Boston to East Boston, though there are some exceptions. Routes in the 200s serve Quincy and South Shore communities. Routes in the 300s travel to northern suburbs like Medford, Burlington, and Reading. Routes in the 400s go to Salem, Lynn, and Beverly.
Choosing Your Bus and Payment Method
Local Buses make up the majority of the T's bus service, but there are also Inner Express and Outer Express bus routes.
A 1-way trip costs between $1.70 – $5.25 depending on the route. Several pass options are available. Reduced fares are available for eligible riders.
For Local Bus service, a 1-way fare is $1.70 with a CharlieCard, CharlieTicket, or cash.
Cash fare payments do not include transfers to other modes of transit.
- Payments by CharlieCard or CharlieTicket include 1 free transfer to another Local Bus or the SL4 or SL5 within 2 hours of your original ride.
- With a CharlieCard, pay the difference in fares when you transfer to the subway, Inner Express Bus, or an Outer Express Bus.
For Inner Express service, a 1-way fare is $4.25 with a CharlieCard, CharlieTicket, or cash.
- Payments by CharlieCard include 1 free transfer to subway, Local Bus, or any Silver Line route within 2 hours of your original ride. You’ll pay the difference in fare for transfers to Outer Express Bus.
For Outer Express service, a 1-way fare is $5.25 with a CharlieCard, CharlieTicket, or cash.
- Payments by CharlieCard include 1 free transfer to subway, Local Bus, Inner Express Bus, or any Silver Line route within 2 hours of your original ride.
Did you know? Some of the most heavily used bus routes have stops at subway stations, including Harvard, Ruggles, Forest Hills, Kenmore, Haymarket, Maverick, and South Station, allowing easy transfers between modes.
In addition to 1-way fares, there are 1-day, 7-day, and monthly passes available on CharlieCards or CharlieTickets.
A 1-Day Pass* is $12.75 and includes unlimited travel for 24 hours on Local Buses and the subway. CharlieTickets are valid from the time of purchase, and CharlieCards are valid from the first time they are used.
A 7-Day Pass* is $22.50 and includes unlimited travel on Local Buses and the subway. CharlieTickets are valid from the time of purchase, and CharlieCards are valid from the first time they are used.
Several monthly passes, valid for 1 calendar month, are available depending on the service you normally take:
- Local Bus Monthly Pass: $55.00
- Monthly LinkPass for travel on Local Buses and subway: $90.00
- Inner Express Bus Monthly Pass*: $136.00
- Outer Express Bus Monthly Pass*: $168.00
* The CharlieTicket version of these passes is valid for travel on Commuter Rail Zone 1A and the Charlestown Ferry. Inner and Outer Express Bus monthly passes on CharlieCards pre-printed with the date are also valid.
Did you know? The most popular pass for most commuters is LinkPass, for unlimited travel on Local Buses and subway, which is now available as a CharlieCard that automatically renews every month.
There are several options for buying tickets or loading up your CharlieCard.
Fare Vending Machines
You can buy or renew 1-day, 7-day, cash value, and monthly passes at fare vending machines. They are located at all subway stations. Fare vending machines accept credit, debit, and cash payments.
Retail Sales Locations
Tickets and passes are available at retail stores throughout the region. Stores accept credit, debit, and cash payments.
Cash value and passes can be added to CharlieCards online. You can also sign up for Auto-pay, a monthly pass that automatically renews each month. Register with a MyCharlie account to protect your card if it is lost, stolen, or damaged.
On Board the Bus
You can pay your fare in cash onboard all MBTA buses. You can also add up to $20 in cash value to a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket at onboard fare boxes.
At Your Stop
There are a few things to remember when you’re finding your stop and catching the bus. Here’s what to look for and expect at an MBTA bus stop.
Most bus stops are labeled with white, black, red, and yellow signs with a large “T” logo. Signs include a list of the bus routes that serve that particular stop. Many bus stops also have shelters.
Stops at hub stations are a little bit different. Some are located on busways, which are busier than street stops because multiple routes access the same area. And some have fare vending machines and digital arrival and departure signs. You can wait for your bus near the sign that has your route number on it.
Stay a safe distance from the curb. As the bus approaches, try to position yourself near the bus stop sign, where you’ll be most visible to the operator so they know they need to stop.
The destination and route of each T bus is displayed on the front and side of every vehicle. You can also ask the operator for the bus route number if you’re unsure.
The T and cities and towns do their best to keep bus stops clear for easy boarding. Contact the owner of the stop if your bus stop is obstructed.
On the Bus
We hope your journey on the bus is comfortable and convenient. Once you’re onboard, there are some things to keep in mind.
Local Bus and Silver Line fares are paid at the onboard fare box at the front of the bus. At underground Silver Line stops, you pay at a fare gate to access the platform.
Tap your card on the fare box target to pay your fare. The display will show how much value remains on your card.
With the orange arrow facing up and away from you, insert your ticket into the fare box ticket slot to pay your fare. Your ticket will be returned after the machine reads it. The display will show how much value remains on your ticket.
Did you know? If you're not sure if your fare payment went through, listen for the beeps: 1 long beep means your payment was successful, 3 quick beeps means the machine wasn't able to process your payment. You may need to try again or load more money on your pass.
The fare amount is displayed on the fare box. Insert bills and coins into the marked slots on the fare box.
If you pay $0.50 or more over the required single-ride fare, the extra will be loaded onto a CharlieTicket and dispensed from the fare box.
Buses can get crowded. We ask riders to follow a few rules for the comfort and safety of everyone on board:
- Let passengers exit the bus before attempting to board, especially during rush hour.
- When boarding the bus, please move all the way into vehicle, as far away from the doors as possible, to help make room for other passengers.
- Only take 1 seat. And if you have a seat and no other seats are available, please offer your seat to seniors, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
- Take off your backpack, and keep large personal items on the floor and out of the way.
Service animals are allowed on the T at all times. Non-service dogs are not allowed on the T during peak hours: 7 AM – 9 AM and 4 PM – 6:30 PM on weekdays.
Dogs should be on leash and cannot take up a seat, but there is room for them to lay down under the seats.
Small animals like cats and rabbits should be kept in pet carriers. Please keep the carrier on your lap if possible and away from vehicle doors, especially during rush hour.
All non-electric MBTA buses are equipped with bike racks that can hold 2 conventional bikes. Let the driver know you’re going to use the bike rack before you load your bike.
Safety first! When using an MBTA bus bike rack, never crouch down below the driver’s sight line in front of the bus. And don’t cross the street with your bike in front of the bus—traffic can’t see around it.
All stops and transfer points are announced automatically and displayed on a screen at the front of the bus. If the automated system isn’t working, the MBTA operator will make those announcements.
Stops may be requested by pressing the yellow or gray strips located near the windows of the bus, or the red “Stop” buttons located on vertical handrails. If you need help finding your stop, ask the operator for assistance.
Every MBTA staff member is trained on emergency procedures and preparedness.
If there is an emergency on board a bus, the exterior lights will flash green, and the destination displays will say “Emergency. Call Transit Police.” If you see this, call the Transit Police immediately.
Planning an Accessible Trip
The entire MBTA bus fleet is accessible to people with disabilities, and we offer trip planning assistance to help you get the most out of your journey.
All MBTA buses are accessible to people with disabilities.
Some stops may have barriers to accessibility, but the operator is required to find a safe location for you to board.
Priority seats are available near the front of the bus. Operators are required to ask riders to make priority seating available upon request. Riders are expected to yield their seats to seniors and people with disabilities, but cannot be forced to move.
Seniors and people with disabilities may qualify for reduced bus fares.
If you have a Transportation Access Pass (TAP) or a Senior CharlieCard, you can add value or passes at fare vending machines and retail sales locations. You can also add value online and at onboard fare boxes.
People who are blind or have low vision ride all MBTA services for free with a Blind Access Card.