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Old 02-20-2011, 04:59 PM
25 posts, read 47,463 times
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Hello Bostonians!

I've been accepted to Boston College for grad school in the fall and, barring an amazing last minute offer from another school, it looks like my husband and I will be moving to your wonderful city in a few months!

We are so very excited!

A little about us:
We are in a late 30's with no children, and have lived all across the country in both large and small cities...so we hope to adjust pretty quickly. Having spent the last 4 years in Florida, we're really looking forward to being in the north where there are 4 seasons...even if it means having to deal with a few months of brutal cold. For me, I loathe the heat and humidity of the south...so Boston will be a welcome break!

On to my questions:
-We'd like to stay fairly close the BC campus and have a budget of around $1500-2200/month to rent a small apartment. Will this suffice? I've read that Brighton is a decent area...is it doable with our budget, or do you recommend another area(s)? We'd like to stay around other young professionals and grad students and waaaaaaaay away from undergrads if possible

-What is the best way to go about finding a place: rental agent? rental services? There are a few things that we feel we really must have and don't want to waste a lot of time if it's not out there.

-I have heard horror stories about the Boston traffic. How long of a drive should I plan on every morning? Is the T the way to go?

-Although school will devour most of my time, we really do want to ensure we enjoy all of the cool things Boston has to offer...sports, history, culture..etc. If we are living close to Boston College, how much travel time is there into these other areas? I've read that you can take the T and be downtown rather quickly...is this true?

-I'm a little familiar with public transportation from when I was stationed in DC many years ago...but how easy is it to get the hang of the Boston system? How safe is it for daily commute early in the morning and into the late evenings?

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Old 02-20-2011, 11:01 PM
5,755 posts, read 13,320,646 times
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Congratulations on your acceptance to grad school!

Now, once you're here, yes, your budget will suffice for a small apartment. I will say, though, that it would be a good idea to be open to various possibilities about where you find that apartment. If you're willing to consider subdivided townhouses, large old detached houses that have been subdivided into apartments, two-families, etc. you'll have a lot more options around Boston and vicinity than you would if you limited yourself to apartment buildings or complexes.

If you're considering Brighton and want to avoid undergrads, look west of Market Street. The areas around Brighton Center and Oak Square may be especially to your liking, if you'd prefer to have some young professionals and grad students mixed in with the blue-collar and middle-class families who also are found in Brighton outside the undergrad areas.

Two other areas I'd suggest would be Newton and Brookline. In Newton, look at areas north or just south of the Mass. Turnpike if you'd prefer to be relatively close to B.C., and if you'd prefer neighborhood commercial districts with small local shops and eateries. Brookline comes with the caveat that Brookline bans parking on the street overnight, so you'd need to rent a place with on-site parking, or else rent a parking space, either of which will add to costs and reduce your options, but Brookline is worth a look. Check around the Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village neighborhoods if you'd like a mature mix in the population which will still include some young professionals and maybe some grad students, and again if you'd like a local commercial district.

There may be other areas worth considering, depending on your preferred commtuing time and the kind of feel you'd like your local neighborhood to have, but the areas I've suggested are good starting points for areas fairly close to B.C. that should have a lot of what you're seeking.

When it comes to getting around, B.C. is in kind of a tricky location for public transit. One thing I should tell you is that I'm not highly familiar with bus routes, so if there is are bus routes that could connect neighborhoods I've suggested to B.C. someone else would be better able to tell you about those.

When it comes to the subway/light rail lines, B.C. lies at the western terminus of a line which starts right in the heart of Boston, where parking is tough and rents are high, and then passes through some areas saturated with undergrads before arriving at B.C. Unless you could tolerate living in undergrad areas, or preferred to live right in the city, and deal with city parking issues and more limited options for rental properties in your price range, you can't live along the subway line directly connecting to B.C. You have to live along other lines which will take you in to the edge of the central city, where you then have to transfer to the line going back out to B.C.

If you lived in either of the Brookline neighborhoods I've suggested, this would not be a bad trip, as it's a short ride in to the transfer point. From most of Newton, you'd probably be better off driving to campus. From the west side of Brighton, away from the undergrad areas, there is no subway service. I do know that there is a bus line that goes in toward the central part of Boston, but I'm not sure how convenient the trip to B.C. would be using that bus line. Unless it turned out that this was a convenient trip using that bus line, Brighton would be another area where you'd do best to drive to campus.

On the other hand, when it comes to getting into downtown Boston, from any of the areas I've suggested, whether you'd be riding the bus or subway/light rail, the T is the way to go. There are some points to consider, however: 1) From some sections of Newton--Auburndale, West Newton, Newtonville--the public transit is the commuter rail, which has long gaps in service inbound to Boston from those stations. However, if you'll have a car, you'll most likely find that you can live in one of those neighborhoods and have a short drive to a light rail station with a parking lot, with light rail trains running fairly frequently throughout the day and evening. 2) And, speaking of running through the evening, be aware that the T shuts down at roughly 12:30-12:45AM, give or take depending on the station you're using, so it's not the way to go if you happen to plan a late evening (don't know how likely it is that a grad student would plan many late evenings doing anything but studying, but worth keeping in mind in case).

As for safety, you should be fine using the T in the areas I've suggested, which are all either solidly blue-collar/middle-class areas or quite upscale, as well as in the central neighborhoods of Boston in and around downtown. There are a few subway stations known to have muggings from time to time, but these are located in areas you're not too likely to travel to when you're out enjoying Boston's attractions.
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Old 02-22-2011, 12:06 PM
25 posts, read 47,463 times
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Ogre, you are a gem!

Thank you so much for your thorough response. I appreciate it!
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Old 02-22-2011, 01:48 PM
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Whatever you've heard of traffic in Boston it doesn't really pertain to the area of the Boston College campus (driving in Boston really isn't that big a deal in any case) - the main BC campus is in Chestnut Hill - I got my MBA part-time over a 5-year (was it? I forget) span but just realized I've never quite understood where BC is legally - according to Wikipedia Chestnut Hill is really just an area encompassing parts of Brookline, Newton and Boston. I never took public transportation the whole time I was going there (usually two or three times a week over the years).

You might consider looking for a place in Waltham, which is an interesting small city not far from BC, but without much undergraduate population (aside from Brandeis, I suppose).
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:07 PM
Location: Quincy, Mass. (near Boston)
2,049 posts, read 3,460,267 times
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I think that Metro Realty on Babcock St. In Brookline in Coolidge Corner is respected; at least they've won a Boston Magazine "Best of..." award in past years, if I'm not mistaken. A search of Craigslist should result in some decent 1 BRs if you don't mind the upper end of your price range. But even most modern properties in Brookline may be 30 years old, so prepare yourself for some older buildings.

Archstone and Avalon have fancy newer offerings in different parts of Newton, but a car would be almost a necessity for these. Although one property is across from Chestnut Hill Mall in Newton on Route 9, near both the Eliot and Chestnut Hill green line stops.
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Old 02-22-2011, 10:36 PM
5,755 posts, read 13,320,646 times
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Originally Posted by Thomas144 View Post
Whatever you've heard of traffic in Boston it doesn't really pertain to the area of the Boston College campus (driving in Boston really isn't that big a deal in any case) - the main BC campus is in Chestnut Hill - I got my MBA part-time over a 5-year (was it? I forget) span but just realized I've never quite understood where BC is legally - according to Wikipedia Chestnut Hill is really just an area encompassing parts of Brookline, Newton and Boston. I never took public transportation the whole time I was going there (usually two or three times a week over the years).

You might consider looking for a place in Waltham, which is an interesting small city not far from BC, but without much undergraduate population (aside from Brandeis, I suppose).
I believe that B.C. is located mostly in Newton. I think I may have heard somewhere that a small part of the campus may cross the line into Brighton, but I'm not sure about that.

The exact city of B.C.'s location is not really important. The main point is that it's a short drive from the north sides of Brookline or Newton and from Brighton.

For a location a little farther away, but still fairly close, I like Thomas144's suggestion of Waltham, IF the OP would plan on driving to campus. As I said above, I'm largely unfamiliar with bus routes, so it's possible there might be a bus between Waltham and B.C. which I don't know about. Otherwise, it's not a commute you'd want to make by public transit. By rail, that commute would involve about a 20- to 25-minute ride into North Station by commuter rail, then likely a half an hour's ride or longer on the green line to B.C. The driving commute would not be bad, though, and the commuter rail would make access to Boston by public transit convenient from Waltham.

PerfectlyHumble, the area of Waltham that might interest you would be the vicinity of downtown, in the blocks near Moody and Main Streets. The nightlife there centers around a pretty good variety of restaurants. If I'm not mistaken there aren't a lot of grad students in downtown Waltham, but the area does have a young professionals presence.

Another area that could be a possibility if you want to expand beyond the really close neighborhoods in Newton, Brookline, and Brighton is Jamaica Plain. I can't give you a lot of detail on J.P., as I don't know the area really well. I do know by word of mouth that some neighborhoods in J.P. are very nice and others are kind of gritty, so you'd want to get a good picture of the character you'd find in any part of J.P. where you might want to rent. Some of the nicer neighborhoods in J.P. have developed a presence of young professionals. The downside to this is that, from what I hear, housing costs have gotten kind of steep as a result.

A driving commute to B.C. from J.P. would be okay. Public transit on the subway/light rail would involve going into central Boston on one line and back out to B.C. on another, so it would not be the greatest commute, but the total trip would most likely be short enough to make the commute practical. Based on commuting covenience, though, I'd rank J.P. a bit lower than most of the other areas suggested. J.P. might be worth adding to your long list, though, as you're just beginning your search, and may want to keep open various possibilities at this point.

Last edited by ogre; 02-22-2011 at 10:49 PM..
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Old 02-23-2011, 05:34 AM
Location: Maryland not Murlin
8,185 posts, read 21,737,838 times
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I practically work at the main entrance to BC, and that address is Brighton. However, from my place of employment, it would appear that the majority of the campus lays in Newton, but according to BC, the address for the main campus is Chestnut Hill. It's just one of those Boston things, I suppose (just like I live in Brighton, but 500 feet to my left and right is Allston and Brookline, respectively).

Brighton is not a bad place to live, but it does have a high concentration of undergrads and I would avoid it all together unless you are willing to put in the time necessary to find a spot that is not party central.

Rent in Brighton is also pretty pricey, but within your monthly budget. It seems that rent in the "student ghettos" is higher than what it should be, but landlords know that they can jack up the rent since a) parents will pay for it, and b) it is still cheaper than paying for a dorm (so parents will pay for it). You can find more living space in better neighborhoods for the same price, if not cheaper.

One thing that should be noted is that parking in Brighton and Brookline is a pain. In Brighton, you'll require a parking permit, although there are a handful of blocks where anyone can park. Finding a spot during the day is not that bad, but trying to find a spot after 8 pm or so...expect to circle around for awhile until something opens up. Brookline only allows two-hour street parking, and parking on the street overnight is not allowed. If you invite friends over, they will have to use the T or cabs to get to your place. Or get a $40 parking ticket.

My GF lives in the Jamaica Pond area of Jamaica Plain. Her rent is half of what I pay and she has a larger apartment. Commuting to BC from JP is fairly straightforward and traffic is not a problem at any time of the day. Coming from Florida, JP should not offer any surprises, but from Boston's perspective, it can be a tad bit gritty. I say a tad bit because it does have some rough areas, but nowhere near as rough as areas of Dorchester or Mattapan.

As for the T being "fast" into downtown...uh, right. The C train of the Green Line is the fastest, but the B train (that services BC) can take forever, and for some reason, always breaks down. I would not rely on it. There is a B stop two blocks from my place, yet it is actually faster for me to walk the 1/2 mile to the closest C line stop and take that into downtown. From BC to downtown on the B train can take up to an hour sometimes (although the C line terminus is just below BC, so it is not too much of a hike).

There are no busses that serve BC other than the 86, and the closest that goes is Chestnut Hill and Comm Ave. I believe it travels in an east/west direction, so unless you want to go to Harvard, you'll probably never ride it.

The Boston "system" is stupid in my opinion. The Green Line is supposed to come once every 7 minutes, but don't kid yourself. It does not run on a schedule, and trains arrive when they get there. Two or three trains can pass the same stop within a few minutes, or you can wait up to twenty minutes without seeing one. Also, they have a habit of going express out of the blue. So, you might have to get off and wait for another train (which is usually right behind the one going express).

The bus system is okay, but like the train/subway/trolly (what-ever it is called), they tend to come when they want despite the posted schedule. Some buses run 24/7 and others don't have Sunday service and some only run during the day. Just because you took a bus to your destination does not mean that you may be able to take it back.

Outside of that, public transportation can get you to most destinations you'd like to go.

I should note that cabs in Boston are expensive.

Traffic in Boston is not that bad, but I suppose it is relevant to what you are used to.
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:37 AM
25 posts, read 47,463 times
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More great advice/ideas...thanks everyone.

Waltham really sounds like it would work for us. We like having local restaurants to walk to. It's definitely on the "must check-out" list.

I'm not opposed to driving, and we have plenty of vehicles. I've had to commute through traffic for hours in Houston, Orlando, and DC in the past, so a nice 20 min drive through neighborhoods to campus isn't a big deal. I brought up public transportation because it seems to be the preferred method for many people to get around, especially into Boston.

We'll certainly put JP on the list as well. We're planning to get to the Boston area about 6 weeks prior to school starting to allow some time to get a feel for the area and not be rushed into signing the first place that comes along.

I really appreciate you insights everyone.
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:53 AM
Location: Downtown, moving to Miami Shores
18 posts, read 26,750 times
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Congrats on grad school! I'm finishing up a PhD from BC (living in Miami now), and loved our time there.

I'll try not to repeat what others have already said, but you've got a lot of options for living locations with your budget. I'd break it up by how you want to commute. If you want to walk or bike (Boston is HILLY) Newton and Brighton are probably your best bet, with Washington Sq a good mixed neighborhood, Cleveland Circle and Harvard/Comm Ave are mostly undergrads. BC has a few shuttle buses-- from the Law campus in Newton and Cleveland Circle plus some side streets in Brighton-- that might help.

If you're driving, the city's your oyster. You could find a *tiny* apt in the Italian North End or fancy Beacon Hill, or a big place in JP, get half a house in Watertown or a decent apt in Cambridge or Sommerville.

The downside to BC is that there's no clear center of gravity for grad students. They have grad student housing, but it's just starting and seems more geared towards singles. There's no "grad ghetto" as I've seen at other schools, and really liked... so you're out and about in the city.

Enjoy the historical things while you're there! Go to Plymouth Plantation and Old Sturbridge Village, walk the freedom trail, go to Salem, visit graveyards, see the USS Constitution, visit Lexington, tour breweries... and yeah, sports and all that.

Traffic's not bad, esp compared to Miami. Just a little aggressive. Each lane has a speed, know it-- move right if you go too slow, left if too fast. Navigating, though... now that's a killer. Good luck learning the streets. Boston's not a big honking city. And the battle between car and bike is waged daily on the streets.
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Old 02-23-2011, 05:34 PM
Location: Newton, Mass.
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Originally Posted by ogre View Post
I believe that B.C. is located mostly in Newton. I think I may have heard somewhere that a small part of the campus may cross the line into Brighton, but I'm not sure about that.
Chestnut Hill's a ZIP code. It covers parts of all three cities. I understand the city line actually goes through the center of the main campus, so the Conte Forum and Alumni Stadium, along with some other buildings on the east side, are in Brighton. BC also now has the land on the east side of Lake Street, and that's in Brighton too.

Originally Posted by ogre View Post
The exact city of B.C.'s location is not really important. The main point is that it's a short drive from the north sides of Brookline or Newton and from Brighton.
As always Ogre's spot on.

I second Brighton west of Market (look for "Brighton Center" or "Oak Square") and Newton. If you're driving you can look at Newton Corner, Nonantum, Newtonville, West Newton and Aubundale in the north, and at Newton Centre, Newton Highlands and Waban farther south. I live in Newtonville and the drive to BC is a breeze. Newton's also very pretty and safe and surprisingly affordable for renters, though there are many ultra-expensive houses here. On the weekend you can take the Green Line or commuter rail in, or drive in pretty quickly via Mass Pike or Storrow Drive and there's fairly cheap (~$10) garage parking around.

Public transit's best if you live in a very urban part of Boston, or to commute downtown. Boston can be a pain to drive in, or to, at rush hour. It takes some learning but isn't that bad at other times. For BC, though, it's probably easier to drive. The only direct public transit is the slowest line in the system and runs straight through all the undergrad areas.

Although BC is largely in Newton, the mass transit commute from there's a bit of a pain. Commuter rail flies right past BC, not stopping between Newtonville and Yawkey, which is near Fenway Park in Boston. The B branch of the Green Line does not extend past BC into Newton, it only runs eastward toward Boston. The C also doesn't run into Newton. The D branch runs into Newton and makes 7 stops across the center of that city, but the nearest stop to BC is Reservoir. That's across the Chestnut Hill Reservoir from the back entrance to the BC campus on Beacon St. From Reservoir it's a 15-20 min walk or you'd take the BC shuttle (which probably takes at least that much time).

So a 10 minute drive would be 35-40 mins by mass transit. Good news: If you do drive but don't have campus parking it's pretty easy to park for free on Beacon St (the back of the main BC campus), just east of BC along the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, and walk to campus. Just watch the parking restrictions; you'll have to park near the playground closer to Reservoir and Cleveland Circle, so you'd have to schlep a bit.

Likewise, Waltham is pretty close by car but there's no train or bus from Waltham to BC. In fact, I don't think there's an MBTA bus from anywhere to BC, just the BC shuttles (which I've seen on Chestnut Hill Av between Cleveland Circle and the BC main gate on Comm Av. They're probably elsewhere too). The 86 bus (from Brighton Ctr) and 65 bus (Washington St in Brighton and Brookline) do connect to the B line.
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