Working and Commuting in New England
January 23, 2005 9:50 AM   Subscribe

One of us needs to be in Providence, RI. One in Bedford, MA. Is the commute doable from one to the other? Are there good places to live in between? We're 20something liberals, but we're okay with interesting suburbs.

(Posting anon to preserve pseudononymity.)
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
It's a tradeoff between cost and convenience. The closer you get to the Boston suburbs, the better the commute is (the southbound commute is against rush hour traffic), but it's also more expensive.

The other factor is public transportation. You can get to Providence from many stations along the I-95 corridor in Massachusetts, but you can only get to Bedford via commuter rail from North Station.

We lived in Arlington for a year and loved it. You can bike to Bedford along the rail-trail, but the drive to Providence will be about an hour each way. Closer to the Rhode Island border, towns like North Attleborough are pleasant and pretty afforable.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:06 AM on January 23, 2005

Take a look at this map. Providence is down South accesible via South Station. Bedford is out west, accessible via North Station. The map has major highways marked on it, albeit in grey. one of the main questions you'll need to ask is "who minds commuting?" "who minds public transportation?" "who minds suburbs?" "how do you want to live?" If you're interested in lifestyle and don't mind driving/taking the train, you could live in the Boston area and each commute out to your jobs -- one probably drives to Bedford, since you can't necessarily get to anyplace from the train station, no public transpo etc, one trains to Providence. Driving to Providence from Boston is a bit of a pain because it's a busy nasty highway but it's a totally doable reverse commute. Being in one place and commuting to the other would involve a LOT of pesty driving. The Bedford area isn't sucky for traffic, but Providence can be, though not at all like Boston. I don't know the South Boston suburban areas much but it would seem that living West and South of Boston someplace near the commuter rail would make an easy train ride to providence and not a completely awful drive to Bedford. It's a pricey area [I used to work in Concord in high school, I know the area more as a kid than as an adult].

If I had to toss a dart, and because you're youngish liberals, I'd say "Move to Jamaica Plain!" which is a hippish gay-friendly little neighborhood with some cool stuff to do and on both the subway and the commuter rail [though maybe not the right rail, check the map, but that general area]. I'm not thrilled with the suburban areas in a lot of that area, too dull and too expensive for how dull they are. Unless you know you like suburban living, I'd look for a more city solution.
posted by jessamyn at 10:16 AM on January 23, 2005

I'd pick a town in the Norwood - Canton area. It's close to the Attleboro/Providence line and the Bedford commuter can hop onto 95. It's a pretty area, but not terribly interesting (based on what friends living there thought.) It just seems to be the best compromise. In fact, a friend's wife drives from this area to a job in Bedford while he takes the rail into Boston.

Unless you live really close to Bedford, the Bedford commuter is probably going to have an annoying drive every morning from any point south of Boston. But, anything near Bedford will probably make the Providence person's life really difficult ff they are driving or using public transportation.

And JP is a more interesting place to live (in my opinion) if that's a big factor for you. All trains on that commuter rail stop at Ruggles, but the drive for the Bedford person will be less direct and more annoying.
posted by sophie at 12:04 PM on January 23, 2005

Aside from the immediate Boston/Cambridge area, everything in Mass. is boonies. I'm born and raised here, so no, don't even bother flaming me, it will not stand. If you plan on having any life outside of work, plan on living in town.

Your commute, either way, is going to be a bitch. Might as well live in Boston (Jamaica Plain is not bad), because Providence is an hour away, and so is Bedford, once you factor in the T or driving. There is no such thing as easy-access here.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:14 PM on January 23, 2005

Keep in mind that the commuter rail doesn't go to Providence on the weekends. It might not matter if you're not living in Providence, but if the RI job has weekend hours, it's something to keep in mind.
posted by Ruki at 12:20 PM on January 23, 2005

In terms of public transportation, Bedford = Boonies, Providence = City. Whoever works in Bedford gets the car, whoever works in Providence takes public transport. If you want suburbs, find a place between 93 and 495 that's close to 95. That way one can get dropped off at the T (to Providence), then the other drives to work (to Bedford).

The commute from Boston to Providence is about an hour & ten by T, and you'd probably have a lot of the train to yourself, at least until you got to Norwood. The drive from Boston will suck a little bit of your soul out from your eyesockets every day. The only consolation is that it would suck much harder in the other direction.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:20 PM on January 23, 2005

Another thing to keep in mind about driving to Providence is that the parking situation downtown uniformly sucks. The Providence Place mall garage is big, safe, and not too expensive on a monthly basis. But it's a 5-10 minute walk from most office buildings downtown.

Train schedules to Providence from South Station here. There was a good point made about there being no weekend service, and the weekday times aren't very robust either. (For example, there's a northbound gap between 6:00 PM and 8:10 PM, which can really screw you if you keep irregular work hours.) If you do choose to live in or near Boston, factor in the subway ride to the commuter rail. From JP it's a 10-15 minute ride to Back Bay on the green line, not including the walk to the trolley stop and the walk from Copley Station to Back Bay.

Norwood is also an excellent option, and will make the drive north to Bedford a bit more bearable as the rush hour traffic on 128 will be a little less crazy than the traffic on 93.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:47 PM on January 23, 2005

Commuting traffic is horrible around Boston, and not great in Providence either. Unless one of you are comfortable with a 2+ hour commute, living in Bedford or Providence is not be an option. Assuming fairly standard work/school schedules, from Boston proper to Providence would be a 2 hour commute (I drove it Friday, midday with moderate traffic it was 1.5 hours). The commuter rail is an option, but it definitely requires you have a carefully planned day and the ability to stay on schedule.

The best compromise would leave each person with around an hour commute to their destination on good days. I'd check out the following: Waltham, Dedham, Needham, Framingham, and Norwood.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 3:58 PM on January 23, 2005

The best compromise would leave each person with around an hour commute to their destination on good days. I'd check out the following: Waltham, Dedham, Needham, Framingham, and Norwood.

Look at the Jamaica Plain option, for sure, also Roslindale or Brookline, but the commute will be kinda nasty for both, you're basically in the city and will have to deal with short term gridlock just getting onto the highway.

In terms of the suburbs I would second the above- I currently live in Dedham and have previously lived around Framingham (email me if you want some specifics). I'd rule out Framingham- it would be too much travel for both with too little cultural payback. The "interesting suburbs" part is kinda an oxymoron unfortunately. In terms of commute, here in Dedham which is right off 95, it would take 40-50 minutes to Providence and probably about the same to Bedford, maybe a touch less. Keep in mind though, that around here the time of day makes an incredible difference- if you have to be at work at 9am sharp on a consistent basis, that can be stressful because that 45 minute commute can easily jump by 30 minutes easily.
posted by jeremias at 6:25 PM on January 23, 2005

Quincy might work. It's on the Red Line so trharlan's park-at Alewife-drive-to-Bedford idea would work. It's not obscenely expensive, only ridiculously which is about the best you can hope for in the Boston area. There are some things to do there and there's a beach (although it isn't great but better ones aren't far). It's a little closer drive to Providence and mostly a reverse commute. Or you could take the Redline to South Station and catch a commuter rail to Providence. I think it'd end up being an equal drag for both of you so at least you wouldn't argue about who's getting the raw deal.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:11 AM on January 24, 2005

And to add to jeremias' comment about commute times: for a while i commuted to Braintree from Somerville. I needed to absolutely be there by 8:30 (I'd have a classful of students waiting for me). If I left at 7:00 I'd get there at 7:30 with nothing to do for an hour; if I left at 7:30 I'd arrive at 9:00.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:15 AM on January 24, 2005

For that matter, I'm assuming that the Providence job is downtown. If it's not, RIPTA is being gutted at the moment, so I wouldn't recommend it as a reliable mode of transportation.

As far as commuting within RI, it's not so terribly bad unless you're taking 195. It's generally less that 40 minutes from anywhere within the greater Providence area. (For me, a half hour gives me enough time to wait in the drive through of Dunkin' Donuts and get from Warwick to Providence during rush hour.)

The bedroom communities of northern RI are ridiculously expensive, although not as expensive as the suburbs of Boston, and prices are going down.
posted by Ruki at 12:32 AM on January 24, 2005

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