Subway a cheap second in race against bicycle, taxi

By Vivian Yee
Globe Correspondent / July 29, 2011

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In the interest of fairness, we had agreed not to sprint or even power-walk on our journeys. But I could not help settling into a brisk pace as I headed to the right of the Boston Public Library and descended into the Copley Square T Station on Boylston Street.

After swiping my CharlieCard by the card reader, I emerged onto the platform just as a Green Line train pulled away. As I pictured losing valuable minutes, I felt the first tremors of resentment and recrimination rising within. Why hadn’t I hurried more? But within seconds, another Lechmere-bound train appeared at the far end of the platform. I found a seat by the door.

This will be so easy, I thought. Get on, sit, get off, walk a bit. No cars, pedestrians, cyclists, or traffic lights to maneuver around. And I would never have to leave the Green Line.

To be sure, the ride was less smooth than I had anticipated. As the train lurched and paused, lurched and paused all the way down the Green Line, I averted my eyes from the six or so other passengers, most of whom returned the favor by staring at poles and light fixtures or hunching down with headphones. I strained to eavesdrop on a conversation for a few minutes before realizing it was being spoken in a language I did not recognize.

By the time we rolled into North Station at 1:13 p.m., the car was almost empty; most of the passengers had disembarked, predictably, at Park Street, the busiest of all the stations we passed through. Things had gone so perfectly, I was certain I had a fighting chance of arriving at the statue of Bobby Orr before the taxicab, which I considered my closest competitor - no offense, Hubway. The T had cut a nearly straight passage from Copley to TD Garden; I barely had to wait. The cab could have been snagged in traffic.

Jaywalking across the street toward TD Garden with a gaggle of summer campers, however, I realized I had no idea where Orr’s statue stood, being a newcomer to the city and all. Inside, perhaps? I rushed through the first floor, pausing to ask a police officer for directions. But once I reached the asphalt plaza on the other side, I saw I had been squarely beaten by my cab-riding colleague. It was 1:17 p.m.

Still, as I insisted when I reached the statue, my journey by subway had been far more cost effective than the winner’s. A regular T fare costs $2, $1.70 with a CharlieCard. The taxi? Without a tip, about $10.20.

Vivian Yee can be reached at

Man vs. Machine

As Boston's bike-sharing program gets underway, three travelers sought to see how it fits into the city's transit web. From the Public Library in Copley Square, they set out on bicycle, Green Line subway, and taxi in a race to the TD Garden.