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OPINION: T-free is the way to be (or, How I learned to stop waiting and love the streets of Boston)

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 18, 2012 06:13 PM

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mbta orange line.jpgBy Kenny Soto

Growing up in Brookline, I spent a lot of time waiting for the T. As a kid, getting on the Green Line for a field trip to the Museum of Science or to head down to a Red Sox game was just about the most exciting thing in the world. I watched the train come around the corner, paid my 40 cents (yup, that was the fare!), and held on for dear life, pretending to be a surfer or snowboarder, as we flew down the tracks.

Today, waiting for the Green Line is a nightmare: The weather (temperature, if you’re on the underground part) is bad, the cars are overcrowded, and once you’re on the train, you face every manner of hazard, from other vehicles to malfunctioning electrical systems.

That’s why, about three years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to take it anymore -- literally. I gave up my Charlie Card for life. Now, I walk just about everywhere I need to go.

Before you call me crazy and protest that this idea is ludicrous: Yes, I realize that my decision was probably rash, and, yes, I know that for most people, this arrangement would be impossible. No, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get to work, class, or wherever else you need to be on time except by getting up even earlier than you already do to give yourself the extra hour to walk, run, or bike there. But if you can live T-free -- even just on the weekends, your days off, or some portion of your time -- believe me, it’s worth it.

Giving up the T has changed my life. For starters, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds, yet I’ve barely changed my diet at all. Walking close to eight miles each day has lowered both my blood pressure and cholesterol from what were once dangerous levels for a 22 year old. With so many of us watching our parents, grandparents, and the rest of this country battle diabetesheart disease, and a host of other health issues, the health benefits of giving up the T should be plenty of motivation in and of themselves.

In that same vein, your mental health will almost instantly improve as well. Instead of pulling your hair out and cursing the MBTA as yet another express train zips by even though you've been waiting for 30 minutes or trying not to bowl over half a dozen other passengers as you helplessly cling to that tiny bit of overhead handrail on a crowded rush hour train, you're taking a relaxing late afternoon stroll.

Which brings me to the best part of giving up the T: Boston itself. We live in an absolutely beautiful city, which most of us never really take the time to see. We move through our days, from home to the office to a bar and back home again, without ever really enjoying our surroundings. By not taking the T, I've gotten to see all of the beauty that Boston has to offer: I've seen the sunset over the city and walked through the Christmas lights on the Common. I've watched baby ducks play in the Charles and counted literally hundreds of BU girls in yoga pants. You never see baby ducks waiting for the T.

I know that, even with the upcoming fare hikes and the daily mental anguish, most people won't (or can't) give up on the T. I've even had to take it on a few occasions, despite my staunch opposition. And while the experience wasn't absolutely horrific, I'd still rather skip it.

But if you do decide to give up ol' Charlie and join me on the sidewalks, I have some advice: Invest in a good pair of sneakers and the proper outerwear (hats, gloves, rainboots, an umbrella, etc.). We do live in in Boston, after all.

Do you use an alternate mode of transportation? Would you ever give up taking the T all together?

Photo by marioanima (Flickr)

About Kenny -- I'm a professional blogger and entertainer. In my spare time, I enjoy Boston sports and exploring all of the adventures that my hometown has to offer. You can connect with me on Twitter @RealKennySoto.

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