These MIT Grad Students Rode Every MBTA Line in One Day

It took an entire Saturday, but they managed to complete the task in roughly 12 hours.

In his 15 years as an employee for the MBTA, spokesman Joe Pesaturo can’t recall anyone reporting that they took on the challenge of traveling on every single transit line owned by the agency, from end to end.

But last Saturday, as a little bit of summer sun finally started showing in Boston, that’s exactly what several masters students from the MIT Transit Lab set out to do. “Surprisingly, there were some pretty nice views from the MBTA. I was a big fan of the D branch, specifically going by the Reservoir stop and Crystal Lake. Newton was nice in general,” said Raphael Dumas, recalling the day-long trip on each of the T’s high speed and light rail train lines. The challenge took the students along every branch of the Green Line, as well as the Red, Blue and Orange Lines. It didn’t include the Silver Line, or the Commuter Rail, however.

Dumas said he and three friends, William Chow, Katie Pincus, and Michael Gordon, met early Saturday, June 22, at the Red Line’s Park Street stop, before boarding the train and spending more than 12 hours on various lines, casually hopping off here and there to explore the area, and catching a few buses for a change of scenery. They live-Tweeted the experience, so others could follow along and see pictures and commentary about their impromptu T adventure.

Besides noticing that “Cambridge needs more recycling bins in Harvard Square,” and taking a slight detour by foot to find a street in Dorchester that shared his last name, Dumas said the trip was merely an experiment, and strictly for fun. As a graduate student at the MIT Lab studying science and transportation research, Dumas said the transportation relay formed from curiosity. “None of us had ridden the whole network, so we decided to challenge ourselves to see if we could do it all in one day,” he said, adding that some schoolwork was involved. “I’m working on an algorithm in the MIT Lab to look at where people get in and out of the network.”

Unlike the average daily rider, Dumas said the group managed to avoid common occurrences that come with traveling on the T, including trains breaking down, serious delays in service, and the characters that seem to get caught between lines while underground, often creating a scene in front of passengers.

While that surprised him, what was even more surprising to Dumas was that a vast majority of T stops were met by nothing but vast stretches of empty space and concrete, with little to no buildings immediately nearby. “I was surprised that the size of the Green Line and Northern of Red Line, most stations are next to parking lots. I come from Montreal where the entire network is tunnels, and everything is a lot more dense above ground,” he said.

Dumas was impressed with a lot of the scenery different lines had to offer as they traveled above ground, however, something he wouldn’t otherwise be able to see in a city like Montreal.

Besides the empty lots near certain stations, overall, Dumas said he was impressed by the T’s infrastructure, citing that the Blue Line was the cleanest, and most enjoyable to ride in terms of comfort. When it came to enjoyment, however, he liked the Mattapan line best. “The area wasn’t interesting, but the line was really, really pretty,” he said.

Dumas said he was impressed with how far the MBTA traveled to different communities outside of Boston’s main network, but noted that the T obviously needs more money to fix a lot of [structural] problems. “But, unfortunately, that’s more of a political issue,” he said.