Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (2024)

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (1)

Whether you’re trying to plan your commute to work or you just want to get out of the city for a bit, the Commuter Rail offers easy connections to and from Boston and the surrounding communities.

During your trip, don’t hesitate to ask Commuter Rail conductors or MBTA staff for assistance.

Getting to Know the Commuter Rail

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (2)

Wherever you’re trying to go in eastern Massachusetts, the Commuter Rail can get you there. Here are some basics of the system to help you get the most out of your trip.

Visit our Commuter Rail Safety page to learn safety tips for your trip

The MBTA Commuter Rail connects communities in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island to downtown Boston, with 137 stops throughout the region. The service area includes 12 routes that run 7 days a week, plus special service to Gillette Stadium from Boston and Providence for sporting events and concerts.

In Boston, all trains originate at North Station or South Station, where it’s easy to make connections to or from the MBTA subway and bus, Amtrak, and regional bus services. There are also 20 Commuter Rail stations in Boston with connections to subway and bus service.

See all Commuter Rail routes

Did you know? If you’re not sure which station your train leaves from in Boston, just remember that all routes that travel north of Boston leave from North Station, and routes that travel south of Boston leave from South Station. Trains to Worcester, located west of Boston, leavefrom South Station.

Each Commuter Rail route runs on a set timetable, with service beginning as early as 5 AM and ending as late as 1 AM at some stops. Service is more frequent during peak travel times, Monday – Friday, 7 – 9 AM and 4 – 7 PM.

Schedules are adjusted every 3 months to account for service demands. Timetables are always available on our website, so you can plan ahead for a trip you’re taking tomorrow or in a few weeks!

See all Commuter Rail schedules

Commuter Rail schedules are available in several formats:

  • On our website: Simply click on any line to see a timetable featuring real-time train locations.
  • As PDFs: Select the line you need a schedule for, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click “Download PDF.”
  • Paper printouts: These are usually available at train stations, but you can also request them from Customer Support.

Please note that schedules list departure times, and trains are expected to leave at exactly that time. We recommend arriving at the station at least 10 minutes before your scheduled departure time.

On schedules:

  • Flag stops are marked with a purple “f.” Trains will only stop here if people need to board or exit. To board, make sure you’re visible on the platform so the operator knows to stop there. To exit, notify the conductor of your intended destination when they check your ticket.
  • Early departure stops are marked with a blue “L.” Trains may leave earlier than the listed departure time at these stops. Please plan to arrive ahead of schedule to make sure you don’t miss your train.

Did you know? “Inbound” and “Outbound” describe the direction of service. If you’re traveling toward Boston, you want to catch an “Inbound” train. If you’re traveling away from Boston, you want an “Outbound” train.

The easiest way to plan a trip on the Commuter Rail is to use our trip planner.

Try Trip Planner

You can also check Commuter Rail schedules on our website or in the mTicket app.

See all Commuter Rail schedules

If you have questions about a route or schedule, call Customer Service at 617-222-3200.

View the Rider's Guide

Choosing the Right Commuter Rail Pass

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (4)

Commuter Rail stations are located within Zones, numbered 1A – 10, based on how far they are from Boston. Commuter Rail fares are determined by the Zones you are traveling to and from.

A one-way ticket costs between $2.40 – $13.25. Round trip, 10-ride, and monthly passes are also available. Reduced fares are available for eligible riders.

Each Commuter Rail station is in a “Zone,” determined by its location. Stations in Boston and nearby communities are in Zone 1A, while stations at the end of each line are in Zones 8, 9, or 10.

Your fare will depend on how far you’re traveling, between $2.40 – $13.25 each way. There are no discounts for buying round trip tickets.

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (5)

To see how much your trip will cost, just enter your origin and destination stations into our Commuter Rail fare finder.

Learn more about Commuter Rail Fare Zones

$10 Weekend Passes

Take unlimited trips anywhere on the Commuter Rail network on Saturdays, Sundays, and select holidays for just $10.

Learn more about $10 weekends

In addition to one-way and round trip tickets, 5-day Flex Passes and monthly Commuter Rail passes are also available.

  • One-way and round trip tickets are ideal if you don’t use the Commuter Rail very often. We recommend buying them ahead of your trip in the mTicket app or from a fare vending machine.
  • 1-day and 7-day Commuter Rail Zone 1A CharlieTickets are best for anyone looking to travel by Commuter Rail and Charlestown and East Boston ferries in addition to the subway and Local Bus.
  • 5-day Flex Passes are great for anyone who will be taking the Commuter Rail occasionally over the course of a month. They’re delivered as five, discounted 1-day passes that can be used separately and expire after 30 days and are available in the mTicket app.
  • Monthly passes are ideal for daily commuters, and are valid for unlimited trips until the end of the month they were purchased. Passes purchased at ticket windows or fare vending machines are also valid for travel on the subway and bus. Monthlypasses in the mTicket app cost $10 less than those purchased at ticket windows and fare vending machines, but they are only valid for travel on the Commuter Rail.

Please note that all pass types are only valid within the zones they are purchased for, which is printed on all paper tickets and shown in the mTicket app. You can travel outside of your ticket’s designated zone by purchasing a new ticket, or paying a fee on board the train.

Learn more about Commuter Rail tickets

mTicket

Commuter Rail passes for all Zones are available in the mTicket app. Purchase your tickets any time before your trip, and then activate them when you’re ready to board. Please note that mTicket passes are not valid for travel on the bus or subway.

Fare Vending Machines

Commuter Rail passes and Commuter Rail Zone 1A CharlieTickets for Zones 1A – 10 are available at fare vending machines located in subway stations and some Commuter Rail stations—including North and South stations. Fare vending machines accept credit, debit, and cash payments.

You will need to know which Zone you are traveling to in order to purchase your ticket. At some stations, Zone maps are posted next to the machines. You can also reference this Commuter Rail Zone map.

Ticket Windows

Tickets and passes for all Commuter Rail Zones are available at ticket windows located in North, South, and Back Baystations. This is especially helpful if you aren’t sure which Zone you’re traveling to—simply tell the agent where you’re headedand whether you’re going one-way or round trip.

Retail Sales Locations

Tickets and passes for Commuter Rail Zones 1A – 10 are available at retail stores throughout the region. Stores accept credit, debit, and cash payments.

Did you know? During Fare is Fair events, tickets are checked before boarding to reduce fare evasion and ensure customers are buying the right tickets for their trips. While these checks are done randomly, in-station signs will indicate if you need your ticket to enter the platforms.

On Board the Train

You can also buy your ticket from the conductor after you board. You can pay with cash or credit card, and there may be an additional $3 fee if you board the train at a station where there’s a fare vending machine or a ticket window.

Please note that this is not always available, and conductors may check your ticket before you board. We recommend buying passes in advance whenever possible.

Fare Calculator

Choose your origin and destination to calculate your fare with our Trip Planner.

$10 Commuter Rail Weekends

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (6) $10 Commuter Rail Weekends

Enjoy unlimited travel on the Commuter Rail for just $10 every weekend. Passes are valid on all lines and zones, Saturdays, Sundays and select holidays.

Navigating Commuter Rail Stations

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (7)

If you’ve never taken a Commuter Rail trip before, you may be wondering what the stations are like. They’re a little different than subway stations, but they’re pretty simple once you get used to them.

Here are some common questions about catching a train on a Commuter Rail route.

Some, but not all, Commuter Rail stations have parking.

To find parking, visit our list of Commuter Rail stations. Any station marked with a “P” has a parking facility. At some stations, you can park for as little as $2 a day.

See all Commuter Rail stations

Single-platform stations

Some Commuter Rail stations, like Salem, only have 1 boarding platform. This makes it really easy to make sure you’re getting on the right train. A conductor will let you know which doors are open for boarding.

Multiple-platform stations

At other stations, such as Canton Junction, there may be a handful of platforms. They will be numbered or lettered, and your train’s platform number will be posted on digital signs several minutes before its arrival.

Large Stations

At large terminals, including North,South, and Back Baystations, a departure board in the main terminal will indicate each train’s platform number. It may not be available until a few minutes before the train arrives, but once it’s posted, you will have time to make it to your train before it leaves.

Did you know?Trains that run on the same schedule don’t always leave from the same platform. For example, a 9 AM Framingham/Worcester Line train from South Station may board at platform 1 on Tuesday, but platform 4 on Wednesday.

At North, South, and Back Bay stations, staff are available from 5:30 AM – 12 AM, Monday – Friday, and7 AM – 11 PM on weekends and holidays.

Staff members may be available at other stations on a limited basis.If you need assistance, please call Customer Support at 617-222-3200.

If you need to report an emergency, please dial 911 or call the Transit Police at 617-222-1212.

Large stations, including Back Bay, North Station, South Station, Providence, and Worcester, have public restrooms.

Restrooms are not available at all stations but are available on Commuter Rail trains.

On the Train

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (8)

We hope your journey on the Commuter Rail is a comfortable one—but during rush hour and big events, trains can get crowded. We ask customers to follow a few rules to ensure the comfort and safety of everyone on board.

While you may be tempted to enjoy an adult beverage on your way to a Patriots game, alcohol is not permitted on the Commuter Rail.

Non-alcoholic drinks are always allowed.

Bicycles are allowed on the Commuter Rail during off-peak travel times. We even have cars with bike storage on the Newburyport/Rockport Line and summer CapeFLYER service.

Bikes are not allowed ontrainsduring peak travel times (M – F, 7 – 9 AM and 4 – 7 PM).

Learn more about bringing your bicycle on the T

Did you know?Many of the popular bike trails in Massachusetts are built along old railroad rights of way. The Commuter Rail often runs right alongside or near them, making for easy connections to a weekendtrail ride.

There are restrooms on Commuter Rail trains, and they are accessible to people with disabilities. They are located at the ends of some cars.

Please note that on some trips, the car with a restroom may be closed, but you can ask the conductor for access.

Popular Destinations

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (9)

With 130 stops in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the Commuter Rail is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of New England—without worrying about traffic or parking.

Here are some of the most popular destinations for day trips on the Commuter Rail. Please note that some of these routes are seasonal.

You can take the Commuter Rail into Boston anytime for sporting events, festivals, or just for a getaway!

Skip the hassle of traffic and parking in the city by taking the Commuter Rail to:

  • Hockey or basketball games and concerts at TD Garden, just above North Station (Fitchburg, Haverhill, Lowell, and Newburyport/Rockport lines)
  • Dining and shopping on Newbury and Boylston streets, a short walk from Back Bay Station (Framingham/Worcester, Franklin, Needham, and Providence/Stoughton lines)
  • A nature walk through Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace, within walking distance of Forest Hills Station (Needham Line)
  • A Red Sox game or concert at Fenway Park near Yawkey Station (Framingham/Worcester Line)
  • Dining, art installations, and food trucks along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, just across the street from South Station (Framingham/Worcester, Needham, Franklin, Providence/Stoughton, Fairmount, Greenbush, Middleborough/Lakeville, and Kingston/Plymouth lines)

Learn more about visiting Boston

Looking for a day trip outside of Boston?Check out Mass By Train for scenic, historic, and fun destinationsthat are just a train ride away.

Providence is just an hour from Boston on the Commuter Rail, and is a popular destination all year. The train station is just steps from the State House, dining, shopping, and the award-winning WaterFire installation.

At Providence Station, customers can easily connect to Amtrak and local bus service. Additionally, the Commuter Rail also stops at TF Green Airport in Rhode Island.

See Providence/Stoughton schedules

Salem, Massachusetts, is about 30 minutes from North Station on the Newburyport/Rockport Line.

The downtown area is within walking distance of Salem Station and features a number of museums, restaurants, and cafes.

While it’s a popular destination all year, extra trains are put into service in October to accommodate increased demand during Haunted Happenings.

Did you know? During the summer, the Newburyport/Rockport Line is an easy way to get to some of the North Shore’s most popular beaches. The best part? You won’t even have to pay for beach parking!

The Commuter Rail is a great way to avoid the hassle of traffic and parking at Gillette Stadium. And, by train, Foxboro is just an hour from Boston and Providence.

Trains are scheduled in advance for Patriots games, some soccer games, and some concerts and special events. Regular Commuter Rail tickets and passes are not valid for travel on Foxboro Event Service.Tickets are only available through the mTicket Appand must be purchased in advance.

View the Foxboro Event Service schedule

The Franklin/Foxboro Line is a regular Commuter Rail service that isn’t timed to events at Gillette and has more stops on the way to Foxboro. Regular Commuter Rail tickets and passes are valid on the Franklin/Foxboro Line. Tickets are available through the mTicket app and fare vending machines.

View theFranklin/Foxboro Line schedule

Through the winter, special Commuter Rail trains run 3 days a week on the Fitchburg Line to Wachusett Mountain. Trains are equipped with ski storage, and Wachusett Mountain provides free shuttle service to Commuter Rail riders from Wachusett Station.

Learn more about trains to Wachusett Ski Resort

Did you know? Duringthe summer and fall,try taking the Commuter Rail to one of the many local farm stands and pick-your-own orchards throughout eastern Massachusetts.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, weekend service on the Middleborough/Lakeville Line is extended to Hyannis on the CapeFLYER. Even better: You can bring your bike and dog along, too.

Take the Commuter Rail to Cape Cod for:

  • Easy access to bike paths
  • Time on the beach
  • Shopping and dining on the water
  • Ferry connections to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard

Planning an Accessible Trip

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail | MBTA User Guides (10)

Many Commuter Rail stations are accessible to people with disabilities, and we offer trip planning assistance to help you get the most out of your journey on the MBTA.

If you are 65 or older or a person with a disability, you may be eligible for reduced fares.

Most, but not all, Commuter Rail stations are accessible to people with disabilities. There may be some barriers to access at stations with low-level platforms.

You can check station accessibility before your trip by visiting our list of Commuter Rail stations. Stations marked with the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA or "wheelchair symbol") are accessible to people with disabilities.

We’d be happy to help you plan an accessible trip. Call our Customer Support team at 617-222-3200 or 617-222-5146 (TTY).

Learn more about planning an accessible Commuter Rail trip by visiting our access guide.

Yes. People 65 and older and people with disabilities are eligible to ride the Commuter Rail for half the price of a standard one-way fare. One-way and round-trip tickets and monthly passes are available.

If you have a Transportation Access Pass (TAP) or a Senior CharlieCard, tickets are available at fare vending machines, ticket windows, and retail sales locations. You can also use mTicket if you have registered your reduced fare card in the app—go to Account Details and then Reduced Fares.

People 65 and older can also purchase tickets on board the train. Just show the conductor your Senior CharlieCard or a state-issued ID for proof of age.

People who are blind or have low vision ride all MBTA services for free with a Blind Access Card.

Learn more about reduced fares

More Guides

Our user guides can help you learn how to navigate the system, get to local events, use accessibility features, and more.

View all guides

Beginner's Guide to the Commuter Rail  | MBTA User Guides (2024)

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