To acquire wisdom, one must observe

A Beginner’s Guide to Local Public Transportation

You probably know the feeling: It’s break on campus, you decided to stick around for the week, and now that all your friends have stowed away for the week, you’re left without a car or the Brandeis shuttle to get you out and about.


There is an easy, accessible solution to cure those break blues and satisfy your curiosity about the world outside of Waltham: the MBTA. Massachusetts is nationally recognized for its extensive public transportation network. You can get from Waltham to Boston’s North End in 40 minutes. You can venture to Porter Square with only two bus transfers. The MBTA is reliable and consistent and doesn’t follow the academic calendar. 


Are you not fully comfortable with your local public transportation savvy? Don’t worry, this article has you covered. Whether you’re looking to run errands, scouting out a new restaurant or want to walk an uncharted stretch of the Charles River Bike Path, there is something for everyone in this list of the 10 best stops off the 70 and the 553.


Of course, cover the basics:


Where are the bus stops for my pickup? 

First, know what to look for. When finding a stop, look for the unassuming yellow plaques with the classic MBTA “T” logo at the top. They’re easy to overlook but just as easy to notice if you know what you’re looking for. If you’re taking the 553, head down to Gosman and you’ll see the stop right on the corner of South Street and the Gosman car entrance. If you’re taking the 70, you’ve got a few options. If you live up in North Quad, take the North Cut through Cedarwood to the stop at Everett Street and Main Street. If you live closer to South Street, walk 15 minutes (or BranVan) towards Main Street and just off the corner of Prospect Street. 


What’s the best way to track the bus? 

In my experience, Google Maps has proven to be more accurate than the official MBTA app. Get there 5 minutes before the scheduled arrival. Unlike Brandeis shuttles and buses, MBTA buses won’t wait if they arrive early to a stop.


How much does a bus ride cost?

For the 70 and 553, each ride costs $1.70. You can pay with a CharlieCard, CharlieTicket or in cash (you do not need exact change, but you won’t get your $0.30 change). They do not accept credit cards, as I discovered the first time I took the 70 into town.


The 70

  • Oakland Street @ Main Street

Just two blocks southwest of this stop and you’ll find Central Rock Gym, a New England rock climbing gym with locations all over the greater Boston area. If you want to visit on days that the Brandeis Mountain Club isn’t making a trip, the 70 is your way to get there. You can just go for bouldering, or sign up for a staff belay buddy to tackle some top-rope climbs. 


  • Cross Street @ Main Street

This stop is the nexus of numerous activities. Food, shops, museums, groceries––you name it, Watertown has it. You can hop on the Charles River Bike Path for a stroll in urban nature. You can peruse vinyl selections (mostly punk and metal) at Wanna Hear It Records. You can explore the history of Watertown’s substantial Armenian community at the Armenian Museum of America. If you have a sweet tooth, check out Tabrizi Bakery, a spot for traditional Iranian treats. 

And while it’s a bit more of a trek, Sakayana and Little L Bakery are two gems tucked away in the residential area of Watertown. Sakanaya specializes in sashimi-cut seafood and offers quality take-out sushi. The adjacent storefront, Little L Bakery, open Thursday through Saturday, sells a modest amount of Japanese-French fusion pastries. 


  •  Arsenal Street @ Arlington Street

You could easily get off at the stop before this one (Arsenal @ Elm street) for Target and Arsenal Yards, but the Arlington Street stop gets you closer to a must-see location of East Watertown in the spring. Mount Auburn Cemetery is just as much garden as it is burial ground. Take your time walking the winding roads here before ending at Sofra Bakery & Cafe just outside the cemetery grounds. 


  • 450 Western Avenue

This unsuspecting stop is surrounded by a breadth of shops. If you’re a plant fanatic, check out Mahoney’s Garden Centers. They have a slew of houseplants that are dorm friendly. Walk down a block further, and you can take a coffee break at Pavement Coffeehouse. If you walk a few blocks toward Everett Street, you can appreciate the Charles River at Herter Park. 


  • Massachusetts Avenue @ Pearl Street

The second to last stop for the inbound 70 does not disappoint. Here in Central Square is the connection point for the red line T train. It can take you further into Boston proper or a bit northwest towards Harvard Square and Somerville. There are so many opportunities in the area that choosing just a handful would be a disservice to everyone. So, follow your nose, heart or Google maps to guide you around the area. Any cardinal direction can lead you to gems. 


The 553 


  • Elm Street @ Webster Street

This stop drops you in the homey town center of West Newton. Stop at Mango Thai Cuisine for their golden rolls. Or dip into The Paper Mouse or Artitutes, two local gift shops with handcrafted art and supplies. If you’re into cinema but prefer a smaller, calmer environment to that of AMC theaters, visit West Newton Cinema. The theater is independently run, has a small array of concessions and is wheelchair accessible. 


  • Washington Street @ Cross Street

I’ll say it, Hannafords and Market Basket just are not the same as Trader Joe’s. Lucky for you, the 553 drops you off directly in front of the Newton Trader Joe’s here. Not to mention, you won’t have to vie for a parking spot in the cramped lot behind the store. 


  • Washington Street @ Harvard Street

You can’t say you’ve had the full metro-Boston college experience without experiencing Cabot’s. The old-school diner is one block from the bus stop and a sugar fanatic’s dream. They serve over two dozen flavors of ice cream and are very generous with their portion sizes. It is a Newton landmark that will transport you back in time and into a food coma. You’ll be glad you don’t have to drive home after. 


  • Washington Street @ Lewis Terrace

Just over the bridge from this bus stop is Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit organization that organizes and distributes children’s goods to families in the Greater Boston area. If you want to get involved in community service, you can sign up to volunteer with Cradles to Crayons through their website. Right across from Cradles to Crayons is Cabot Park. As someone who needs a steady fix of dogs in my life, this is a good park to find some.


  • Washington Street @ Bacon Street

This final stop serves as a connection point for buses heading in all directions. My favorite is the 504 express into Back Bay. On weekdays when the Boston shuttle isn’t running, you can transfer here onto the 504 for direct service to the steps of the Boston Public Library. It’s a premier study spot and a good place to see a healthy dose of non-Brandeis students. 


Brandeis transportation services are great—they can get you all over Waltham, campus and (less frequently) into Cambridge and Boston. At the same time, it’s a useful skill and fun challenge to explore the services provided beyond the campus bubble. I implore everyone to take advantage of the nationally-renowned transit services right in our neighborhood. Learning the ups and downs of public transit and expanding your understanding of our immediate geography may make for a more meaningful and well-rounded college experience. 


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