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Updated advice for those moving to Boston?
June 18, 2007 5:45 AM   Subscribe

The wife and I are moving to Boston sometime this summer and naturally I have housing questions. Their are previous questions here, but most are at least a year old. Naturally...

I will be working in Cambridge, she very possibly will be working a good deal south in Plymouth, MA. She is far more willing to have a longer drive time than I am, but probably still maxes out at about an hour before she will lost her mind. I will also be going into Chestnut Hill at least once a week.

I would love easy access to the "T" but we have cars so its not necessary.

Thus far we have looked mostly in Watertown/Waltham and Quincy.

We have heard so-so things about Quincy although we did like some spiffy new apartments there.

We have seen a few buy owners from Craigslist that are terrible but at least one we really loved (but someone swoopped in and got).

So I would love any suggestions on areas other than Watertown/Quincy that we should consider. I won't lie - we are curb appeal snobs and are probably snooty beyond our income level.

We need to keep rent below $2000 but would love around $1600 and need at least two bedrooms.

So suggestions? Areas to look?

If anyone has any other "moving to Boston advice" other than apts feel free to share.
posted by UMDirector to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
What kind of neighborhood are you looking for? Do you want quiet? Do you want quirky and offbeat? Do you want to be in the thick of things, or in a residential neighborhood with lots of kids?

I ask because otherwise I am not sure where to recommend.
posted by sutel at 6:02 AM on June 18, 2007


For the sake of your poor wife, you need to stop looking just west and go south/southwest a bit. Distance of commute is tied closely to quality of life here and Watertown is going to make your wife's life hell when she starts hitting the 95/93 connector every day. Quincy is a good idea, and look into Dedham, Canton, Braintree, Westwood and Norwood. I live in Newton, and if I had to drive to Plymouth every day I would kill myself.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:19 AM on June 18, 2007


Ugh, you don't want to drive everyday in Boston. The T will save you time (unless you have to take the Green Line).

My friends just got a place through this website and are paying $1850 a month. They are within walking distance of South Station, which gives access to the Red Line (which goes to Cambridge) and the Commuter Rail (which goes to Plymouth)
posted by mkb at 6:21 AM on June 18, 2007


oh yeah, so I guess to add to that do you want to live in the city or the suburbs? Dedham, Canton, etc. are definitely suburban, but Mayor Curley's right, driving to Plymouth from Boston will make your wife weep and possibly want to kill people every day. The mister was working in Hingham for awhile and driving from Brighton to Hingham was a solid hour each way.
posted by sutel at 6:40 AM on June 18, 2007


Braintree, Quincy, Weymouth.
posted by jerseygirl at 6:59 AM on June 18, 2007


I lived there for six years and recently moved away. :-(

I agree wholeheartedly on the advice to live somewhere in the south. Even though it doesn't look that bad on a map, most commutes into/out-of Boston are tough. I don't have any experience with Quincy, but if your wife will be working in Plymouth, then Waltham and Watertown are going to be pretty big commutes.

You can get everywhere on the 'T,' but the subway trains don't get to every place. Waltham, for instance, has no direct access to the subway trains. You must take the Commuter Rail. There's nothing wrong with this except the Rail doesn't run nearly as frequently as the underground trains. The Commuter Rail does go to Plymouth, but I don't know where the station is in relation to your wife's new job. It may not be practical at all.

Are you prepared for the weather?! ;-)

Go to MBTA.com for more.
posted by tcv at 7:02 AM on June 18, 2007


If your work in Cambridge is Red Line-handy, you should definitely be looking at the southern end of the Red (Quincy/Braintree area). Taking the T to work is a good thing, and this would make both of your commutes very reasonable.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:03 AM on June 18, 2007


Hmm. Let me just add this -- if you are going to need to drive to work (and you will if you have to go to Chestnut Hill from Cambridge with any rapidity), then the drive from Braintree to Cambridge is REALLY awful. If your wife is working standard 9-5 hours in Plymouth, you might be better off living in the city so that she is commuting against the major traffic. The Leather District would be nice, if rents there are in that price range anymore.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:12 AM on June 18, 2007


First thought:

Given that you are curb appeal snobs, this may not be a great suggestion, but have you considered the eastern part of Dorchester?

Dorchester is just north of Quincy/Milton, and is actually part of the City of Boston, though like many parts of Boston people tend to refer to it as a city in its own right.

While western Dorchester is not a very nice area to live, the eastern part, say, east of Dorchester Ave, is up and coming and there are a lot of nice streets that aren't nearly as high priced as the rest of Boston. There's also a lot of renovation going on, so it's getting better over time.

Additionally, both branches of the Red Line are within a 5-10 minute drive anywhere in the area, and you can get up into Cambridge pretty easily that way, though it isn't the quickest trip (you're basically going from one end of the red line to the other in that case)

Plymouth is probably 40 minutes from most of that area, and I believe most of the travel would be in the opposite direction of most traffic (south on 93 out of the city in the morning is pretty light, I can't speak for 3 south though as it has been years since I've really driven it).

Second Thought:

Seriously consider the commuter rail, and someplace on the south shore.

Your wife will thank you as she will have a much easier commute (you can probably get hers down to 20-30 minutes), and all you'd have to do is take a train to South Station (25-45 minute ride depending on how far out you go) and then ride 3-5 stops on the red line out of South Station, and you're in Cambridge.

I used to get into the city from practically the end of the Plymouth/Kingston line and I could be at my job in the Back Bay in about an hour, and that included 2 separate subway lines (Red, Orange). If you went further up the Kingston line (Say, Abington or South Weymouth), you could probably make it to Cambridge in 45 minutes to an hour (only a single subway line, Red), and a big chunk is sitting on a train where you can read or sleep or whatever.

Additionally, a lot of the towns on the South Shore are pretty nice. They're not super swanky, but Whitman/Abington/Weymouth are all good towns.

I have to echo the sentiment of other people: do not move to Watertown or Waltham and expect your wife to drive to Plymouth. She will hate you for it. Assuming no traffic at all, it's over an hour drive, and believe me, that assumption will be proven incorrect on most weekdays.
posted by tocts at 7:12 AM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


As someone else who lives in the Boston area, I must confirm what the others have said. You need to be looking for some place South of town. Watertown/Waltham would be terrible hellish for the daily commute to Plymouth.

Commuter Rail or some place with access to the end of the Red Line are what you need to be considering.

Also, you have cars, but before you think about driving where are you going to park in Cambridge? If your company doesn't provide parking are you willing to run out and feed the meter ever two hours?
posted by MasonDixon at 7:31 AM on June 18, 2007


Okay so I should add some details and some questions.

1) A lot of people have referred to the drive to Plymouth as hellish and also an hour. Is it hellish just because it might take an hour? She is prepared for that...now if its hellish and will take 2 hours that diff.

2) Only one person mentioned that she will be going against the flow of traffic into Boston. Would that not help as much as I had hoped?

3) We don't really want generic suburb-ville but if its close enough to Boston/Cambridge we can escape it so in that case we would be okay. That is a good example, however, of why we are not looking right outside Plymouth.

4) We have good friends in Cambridge and they do not have cars. We are afraid if we get too far away from that area our social lives will die.

5) Yes we are prepared for the weather. I am originally from NH...even worse!

6) That for everything so far...keep is coming !
posted by UMDirector at 8:05 AM on June 18, 2007


As far as 1 goes, it will be hellish and more than an hour. It's an hour without traffic, and living in Waltham would require her to go into the city (with traffic) and then back out (with less traffic). Not nice for her.
posted by JonahBlack at 8:41 AM on June 18, 2007


1) Waltham/Watertown to Plymouth will be hellish because assuming zero traffic, it would take over an hour, and on most days, there is not zero traffic, even in that direction. She'd be looking at 1.5 - 2 hours each way depending on the day.

2) To get from Waltham/Watertown to Plymouth, her only real option is to take 128/95S to Route 3 South. She will not be going against the flow of traffic. While she won't be going into the city, once you get below I-90 on 128/95, you are in rush hour traffic. This is for a few reasons.

First, many people are going 128/95S to 93N into the city. So at that point she's essentially doing most of the commute into the city (and all the traffic that implies).

Second, those not going into the city may well be going to one of the many jobs on the 128 corridor.

Up until Route 3 South, she will essentially be commuting directly with the worst of the traffic.

3) How far away is too far? With the commuter rail and T service, you can go way out on the Red Line south of the city and still be able to be in on non-workdays in 20-30 minutes.

I also reiterate eastern Dorchester. You can be downtown in 10 minutes by car outside of rush hour. You can be anywhere on the Red Line in 20-40 minutes as well, including a short ride to the North Quincy stop (good parking option).

4) Consider living in the city then. Assuming you can find someplace that comes with parking (not a given), you could easily take the T to work yourself and if your wife was driving out on 93S to 3S she would be going out of the city against the prevailing traffic. She could conceivably manage a 45-60 minute commute without too much of a headache.
posted by tocts at 8:46 AM on June 18, 2007


I agree with everyone who suggested South of Boston on the red line. You can easily ride the T to Cambridge (Chestnut Hill will take longer but still T-able) and she can jump on 93S to Plymouth and avoid a lot of the congestion to the west of the city.

Quincy sounds perfect, location-wise, and you can definitely find something nice within your price range. If you're city mice, South Boston and Dorchester would be appealing. As previously mentioned, Dot's got some dodgy areas, but some nice ones, and you can get a lot more for your money. The Leather District is not affordable anymore.
posted by emd3737 at 8:50 AM on June 18, 2007


I'd like to add one more thing:

I highly recommend checking out Boston Online's Crime Stats.

That particular link is to a google maps mashup that overlays every reported violent crime in the city of Boston since January 1, 2006. There are also versions on that site that show only the last 6 months, as well as some other options. It's pretty useful knowledge when you're looking at places within Boston to potentially live, as it gives a good idea of what crime is like in the area.

If you look in the southern part of the city, that's Dorchester . Note that west of I-93 out to the first major (yellow) road (Dorchester/Dot Ave) there's basically no crime. That's the part I'm talking about when I say the eastern part of Dorchester.
posted by tocts at 9:02 AM on June 18, 2007


Getting to the south shore, by car, while living north of the city is just awful in rush hour. You might think it's against traffic, but it's not, because you only have 2 options:

(a) go through the city at rush hour to make it to 93 south. This will take 45 minutes. And 93 is brutal.

(b) go out of the city to 128 (aka I-95) at which point you're going around the city just like everyone else, and you're no longer against the flow of traffic. And then I bet you have to hit I-93 north again just to get to the south shore.

Saner options are: live in quincy and take the red line or commuter rail into the city. live close to downtown and have your wife take the commuter rail to plymouth. live on the south side of the river.
posted by cotterpin at 9:07 AM on June 18, 2007


Partially out of curiosity, and partially to help UMDirector, is there any way to have your car "live" at the Plymouth commuter rail stop? I seem to remember that you are not allowed to park there overnight, but what else is someone to do who lives in the city and works in Plymouth?
posted by Rock Steady at 9:21 AM on June 18, 2007


We did look into the commuter rail line. According to the website they have very few pickups/drop offs down near Plymouth.
posted by UMDirector at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2007


@Rock Steady:

There are private companies that offer shuttle services from commuter rail or T stops to local businesses. They are paid by the businesses they service, so obviously, this is only a viable plan if the company is big enough that they've got the money to spend on this perk. This also only applies, obviously, if such companies even exist in Plymouth. (I've seen them closer to the city, just never had a reason to look far out on the South Shore)
posted by tocts at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2007


Anyone think its worth using a realtor to look for an apartment. I know some realtors charge a fee to the person searching and the landlord. If it says "No Fee" they are talking about the fee charged to the person searching for the rental correct?

I have looked on CL but there is a LOT of agent spam.

Can anyone recommend someone in any of those areas above?
posted by UMDirector at 10:57 AM on June 18, 2007


Waltham/Watertown to Plymouth will be hellish because assuming zero traffic, it would take over an hour, and on most days, there is not zero traffic, even in that direction. She'd be looking at 1.5 - 2 hours each way depending on the day.

And on Fridays in the summer, she'll be fighting Cape traffic... The precise reason I leave early on Fridays. I wish I worked in Waltham, that'd be a piece of cake.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:18 AM on June 18, 2007


Hmmm...this is all sounding very disheartening.

There almost does not seem to be a good answer...I am getting the feeling no matter what we do we are screwed.

If we were to move farther south towards Plymouth how much would it hurt do you think to be out of Boston? Will we be outcasts with the Boston crowd in general?
posted by UMDirector at 11:31 AM on June 18, 2007


I live in Belmont, at the nexus of Belmont, Watertown, & Cambridge. I also taught last year and the year before in Bridgewater, which is south shore, though still west and a tad north of Plymouth. I drove and I took public transportation, so here are my thoughts.

Public transportation: less stress, but more time. From my house, I walk 1 block to the bus, bus to Harvard Station, red line to South Station, commuter rail to campus. Basically the whole trip door to door was just shy of 2 hours. For me, a major con was getting up obscenely early, but that may not be an issue for your wife. Pros however were that once you are on the commuter rail, it is relatively relaxing, you can eat, sleep, work, etc. on the train, and the south-bound commuter rail trains are practically deserted, b/c in the morning everyone is coming into the city from the south.

However, those trains don't run very frequently, and it looks like the Kingston/Plymouth line runs even less frequently than did the one I took to Bridgewater. So it may not be an option in any case.

Driving: With absolutely no traffic, which is really only possible between about 10am-1pm during the week, the trip to Bridgewater took me a minimum of 50 minutes. Average was more like 1 hour, and during rush hour (leaving say around 7:45am) it would take me usually 1 hour 20 minutes. I experimented with various routes, and generally during rush hour 93 south (going east on 90 to s 93) was slower than 90 west to 95 south. But to get to Plymouth you'd take 3 instead of 24, so I don't know what kind of impact that would make.

Personally, I would not describe the commute as hellish, not in terms of icky, stop-and-go, road-rage kind of hellish, but it is long. And boring. But I always observed more people going the opposite direction than me, both in the morning and in the afternoon. I would NOT, under any circumstances, want to be driving north into the city from the south shore, bleh.

Even though the commute was long, I wouldn't trade where I live. I looked at Quincy and it seemed ok, but for social life, etc., I absolutely love where we are--close to Harvard Square and easy public transportation to pretty much any where we want to go (except Chestnut Hill; Chestnut Hill is impossible to get to under any circumstances.)

I think Waltham would be less interesting; when I looked at apartments there the town seemed much more generic-suburban than the general environs of Cambridge/Watertown.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:01 PM on June 18, 2007


@jerseygirl: does the cape traffic screw up the northbound commute on Fridays? I used to live way down on 3 and I thought it just screwed up the southbound.

@UMDirector:

I wouldn't get completely disheartened, I just think that you're going to have to decide on the relative importance of a few things.

Correct me if I'm wrong but your basic requirements are:

1. Can commute to Cambridge in a reasonable time
2. Can commute to Plymouth in a reasonable time
3. Can get into the city for social gatherings
4. Can get to Chestnut Hill in a reasonable time

If this is the case, I really do think that what I and others have said is pretty much the solution: go for someplace on either the red line or the southern commuter rail lines.

Dorchester, Milton, Quincy, or Braintree would work fine for this. Any of those will make it easy for you to get to the T to get to work (the Red Line to Cambridge is not a bad commute, though it's crowded), and your wife to drive to Plymouth. She'd be driving out of the city and southwards in the morning, and into the city/northwards in the evenings, which means that most of the time she'd see little traffic.

In this scenario she should be able to get to work in 45 minutes to an hour, and you will probably be looking at a 30 or 40 minute commute. Given the geography of the state and the placements of your workplaces relative to each other, this is pretty good (and probably about as good as it gets)

At the same time, from any of these places, you can be anywhere in the city (downtown, up to Cambridge, etc) within 15-20 minutes or so by car (non-rush hour) and maybe 30-40 minutes at worst by the T (often less).

The only way you're going to find it easier to get to social gatherings in the city is either live in the city (also works, just expensive) or take on a nasty commute from north/west of the city just so you can be closer to the city social scene. Obviously that's something only you can decide on, but commute time really is a quality of life issue, and I can't recommend enough against trying to do a west-of-the-city to Plymouth commute 5 days a week.
posted by tocts at 12:12 PM on June 18, 2007


Great advice thus far.

How about Canton?

I think what tocts says is a great summary. I should add I wouldn't mind having to drive a little bit to a T station if that would help the situation.

I should add the Chestnut Hill thing is probably the least important since that would only be once or twice a week unlike the 5 day a week business commute!
posted by UMDirector at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2007


I grew up in Canton. It's a nice town, and has gotten more pleasant and vaguely more gentrified over the years, but there isn't much to do there. Each town in that area seems to have one upscale restaurant and a few decent pizza/takeout places. There is no movie theatre or live theatre or even a coffeehouse with live music, although you can find all of those within a 20-minute drive. There are, however, some lovely neighborhoods from a purely aesthetic standpoint.

The drives to Plymouth, Cambridge, and Chestnut Hill are all reasonable. For public transport to Cambridge, you'll either take the train from Canton Center or Canton Junction to South Station (and then the red line), or you'll drive to Quincy Adams and take the T from there.

If you end up looking at apartments in Canton and would like more info on specific neighborhoods, feel free to email me.
posted by hsoltz at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2007


I grew up in Plymouth, have lived in Quincy, and now live in Somerville, so I know the areas you are talking about. I agree completely with those who say red line south of Boston - that way, you can ride the T into Cambridge and she will have a reasonable reverse commute (from Quincy or Braintree, it's probably 35 - 40 minutes, though Plymouth is huge area-wise and her commute would be even longer if she is working in South Plymouth/Manomet). Avoid 128 and the pike like the plague. Really, they are awful. I would personally suggest Quincy or Braintree. Braintree is pretty bland, but there are some cute parts, and it's quiet. Quincy is an interesting cultural mix, as there are a lot of Irish, Indian, and Chinese (and other ethnicities) all living there. Quincy has a lot of different neighborhoods, so check them out and get a feel for what suits you best. It's not a particularly artsy or cosmopolitan city, but you'd be close to Boston and Cambridge via the T, and you can get good Asian food in Quincy. Unfortunately, as you know, real estate is still awful in the Boston area and it might be hard for you to find the "perfect" place within your price range.
posted by tuff at 5:24 PM on June 19, 2007


oh I should mention that in particular the Wollaston area of Quincy is where I lived, and there are some pretty houses there, and you can walk to stores and the beach.
posted by tuff at 5:25 PM on June 19, 2007


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