Transportation tips every Bostonian should know

Rotary (Globe photo / Jim Davis)
By Elizabeth Gehrman
Boston Globe / September 30, 2010

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How to avoid a long wait at the RMV Don’t come on the first or last of the month, on a Monday or a Friday, or around lunchtime. “At the very beginning of the day,” says Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles communications director Ann Dufresne, “if you queue up at a branch prior to its opening, you’ll be in a line. But if you come an hour after opening, we’ll have worked through the line and your wait will be shorter.” Don’t forget that you can do almost all transactions online at – including checking wait times, which are updated every 60 seconds.

How to get a low-number license plate License plate applications are taken June through August for a lottery held soon thereafter. Download the form at

When to bring bikes and dogs on the T Bikes are allowed on the T, but you need a PhD to figure out when and where. Park Street and Government Center stations do not allow them, nor do the Green and Mattapan trolley lines; at Downtown Crossing, you can have them only if you are transferring between the Red and Orange lines. You can’t take them on the subway on New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July, or during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Boston Marathon (though they are allowed on the Commuter Rail that day), before or after Red Sox games, from 8:30 to 11 p.m. during TD Garden events, or, according to the T’s website (, during “special events at or near individual stations.” Otherwise you’re fine, as long as it’s a weekday before 7 a.m., between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or after 7 p.m. On the upside, they don’t cost extra, and your bike can ride a bus any time as long as there’s space on the external rack.

Non-service dogs on leashes are allowed on the T at the driver’s discretion during non-peak hours (9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and again after 7 p.m.). Dogs are only allowed on a bus in a carrier.

When to speed it up Some Massachusetts roads have minimum speeds in addition to maximum. On the Massachusetts Turnpike, you must drive at least 40 miles per hour. In the Callahan, Sumner, and Ted Williams tunnels, you must travel at least 20 miles per hour. On other state highways, you must stay to the right and “maintain a speed sufficient so as not to obstruct traffic,” says Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio.

When to yield the right of way Roadway respect for funeral processions and emergency vehicles is mandated by law. If you’re entering a rotary, you must not cut off a car that’s already in the rotary, and if you reach an intersection with stop signs at the same time as another car, whoever’s on the right has first dibs. Safe merging on highways, says State Police spokesman David Procopio, “is more an art than a science. It depends on common sense and courtesy.”

How to take advantage of Fast Lane Not signed up for the state’s electronic toll-collection program? You can order a Fast Lane transponder online to be delivered by mail. Go to

If you take the U-turn on the Massachusetts Turnpike back to Boston at the Allston/Brighton toll and you don’t have a Fast Lane transponder, expect a $50 ticket.

Elizabeth Gehrman, a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine, is a freelance writer in East Boston. Send comments to


101 things every Bostonian should know:
  • October 3, 2010 cover
  • Globe Magazine