Getting from Boston Logan to Providence by rail
June 24, 2014 5:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to E. Greenwich, RI for a wedding in September and it's about $60 cheaper per person to fly into Boston than to Providence (arrive Thursday 3 pm - depart 7 pm Monday) I don't really want to deal with the traffic driving from Boston to Providence so I'm looking into rail options but I can't make heads or tails of the MBTA schedule. 1) Can I pick up the Providence line at the airport or would I have to get a cab or bus to the train? 2) Can I take my luggage (probably two bags)? 3) Can I rent a car on arrival in Providence? 4) What will it cost?
posted by caroljean63 to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
MBTA's silver line bus service will take you for free from Logan to South Station, where you can get an AMTRAK to Providence. You can also take the subway from the airport, but with two bags the bus will be easier than navigating two line changes to get from Blue line to Red. I don't think there' s a car rental service in the Providence Station, but there's an Avis facility at the Biltmore hotel, a few blocks walk or a short cab ride from the station.
posted by spitbull at 5:37 PM on June 24, 2014

Oh, and the Silver Line bus is SL1 on the Boston subway map.
posted by spitbull at 5:40 PM on June 24, 2014

Response by poster: Is the Amtrak the only way to get to Providence by rail?
posted by caroljean63 at 5:40 PM on June 24, 2014

One last thought, which is that it will probably be cheaper overall to rent a car at Logan and make the relatively short drive to Providence, about an hour. You'll spend more time (and money) than that taking Amtrak and renting in Providence.
posted by spitbull at 5:41 PM on June 24, 2014

No, there's a commuter rail line too -- Providence/Stoughton line. I think it also stops at South Station. Much slower, though.
posted by spitbull at 5:42 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Although, it's true that arriving at 3pm on a Thursday (and by the time you're in a car, that's 4pm) means you will be driving in the heart of a brutal rush hour. But it's all highway, albeit brutally slow highway at that hour of the day -- Ted Williams tunnel, to Mass Pike, to 93 to 95. Even if it takes you two hours to drive it, you'll save time and money. But it will be stressful.

There is also almost certainly a direct bus from Logan to Providence. (No one flies into Providence. No one.)
posted by spitbull at 5:47 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The commuter rail line will take you from South Station to Providence, or to the airport just south of Providence which might be the easiest option for renting a car and which will be within 20 miles of East Greenwich. This is the schedule you need to look at. TF Green is the airport. Note that not all trains go all the way to the airport, some stop in Providence.

The other option would be to go all the way to Wickford Junction which is pretty near to E Greenwich, but it's out in the middle of nowhere so you couldn't rent a car, you'd have to have someone pick you up.

I haven't found the commuter rail to be particularly slow... It's about an hour and 20 minutes from Providence to South Station, around $10 each way.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:50 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry to pepper the thread, but yes, there is a Peter Pan direct bus from Logan to Providence (bus station) for $25 R/T.

Also, I concede the point on the commuter rail line. I've never taken it.
posted by spitbull at 5:51 PM on June 24, 2014

Driving in Boston rush hour really, REALLY sucks, especially on the roads you'd travel from Logan to Providence. As long as you don't have a ton of luggage (say, one suitcase and one bag/backpack per person), I vote for Silver Line to South Station and then MBTA Commuter Rail. I agree about getting to TF Green in order to rent a car.
posted by underthehat at 5:52 PM on June 24, 2014

I agree thast silver line plus commuter rail is the best way to go. Make sure to check the schedule and get on a train that will go all the way to TF Green. It's super cheap and just as fast as the much less frequent and much more expensive Amtrak. You can take your two bags without any extra fee. If you end up on a train that just goes to Providence, the Providence train station is right downtown. You can pick up a cab from there (there are always several waiting) and they could take you to a car rental spot.
posted by cubby at 5:56 PM on June 24, 2014

MBTA schedule outbound from South Station to Providence can be found here. The fare will be about $13 each way (assuming you're going to the Providence airport, TF Green, to pick up a car to drive to your final destination), so massively cheaper than Amtrak, though yes, slower. Might be a bit cheaper if you put the MBTA app on your phone and buy your tickets that way.

If you arrive on-time at 3 at Logan, pick up your bags, and take the T to south station, you're probably looking at the 5 or 5:40 train, which gets into TF Green at 6:26 / 7:02. Your Monday return has gobs of options that will get you to Logan for a 7pm flight, possibly with a lovely day spent wandering Boston (inbound train schedule here). The luggage will be no problem on the MBTA.

You can probably save money doing this, but honestly, you're going to spend a huge amount of time dealing with public transit as a tradeoff. On the other hand, sometimes there are double decker train cars on the MBTA lines, and even as a daily commuter rail rider, they still make me super giddy.
posted by amelioration at 5:57 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

No one flies into Providence. No one.

I totally do! All the time! But I think the point is that no one going to the Boston area flies in to Providence. That said, it's a cute little airport and very very easy to get into and out of. THAT said, public transport from Boston to Providence is simple as people have said above. But it will take a while.

- Silver line (which you think may be a subway but is actually a bus) to South Station and then you can take a variety of trains or buses to get to Providence.
- Train station (commuter rail and Amtrak go there, both have wifi, commuter rail is cheaper but has mostly commuter-time trains) is pretty near downtown Providence. Not sure where buses leave you off.
- There's a Zipcar location a few blocks away but rental cars are further than that and I wouldn't want to schlep it with bags. That said Enterprise often does the "we'll pick you up" thing so that might work okay for you.

Contrast this with flying in to Providence where the rental car options are right there and, if it were me and it was just me and/or me+1, I'd fly into PVD. If you have a whole family going actually, I might do that also because who wants to drag kids around through a public transportation. If it's just you and money's really a thing and you enjoy this sort of adventure then it's totally doable (I've done it) and a fun way to get to travel around Boston. Let me know if I can help in any other way I'm pretty smart with the public transpo options in this part of New England.
posted by jessamyn at 6:01 PM on June 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you do plan to consider Zipcar, remember to join it well in advance if you aren't already a member.

Sorry didn't mean to diss PVD, if you can get there in one or two hops it's possibly worth the fare difference.
posted by spitbull at 6:17 PM on June 24, 2014

Also, a rental car may well be cheaper at PVD than at BOS.

I just priced the first weekend in September for a Budget rental car at both airports, and Logan was almost $100 cheaper.
posted by spitbull at 6:17 PM on June 24, 2014

Ditto what Jessamyn said. I've used both Logan and TF Green, and I'm down in East Greenwich not infrequently. (La Masseria is fantastic, if you get a free night.) In your shoes, I'd take a hard look at the price-versus-hassle. That's a real commute, with nothing that's directly at the airport or to East Greenwich. If you're looking at renting a car anyway, and all this is tacking onto a wedding weekend, and luggage, too...personally, I'd use TF Green.
posted by cribcage at 6:26 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for just flying into PVD. It's a small airport which means that not only are you saving commuting time/money/stress flying into Boston, but the TSA line has always been quick and friendly every time I've flown from there (three times a year for the past several years). Plus it's ridiculously easy to navigate since it's only one terminal.
posted by JDHarper at 7:20 PM on June 24, 2014

I live and work in Boston. I assure you that I would gladly pay the $60 to avoid traveling from the airport to South Station, two bags in tow, to then catch the commuter rail or Amtrak to Providence.

You are easily adding on another 3 hours to your trip each way in commuting to South Station, waiting for a train, and then traveling to Providence. Never mind the fact that you will be beholden to the train schedules.

It's really an unpleasant journey, especially at that time of day. Don't do it. Just don't.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:25 PM on June 24, 2014

I would definitely recommend just flying to TF Green as well. Technically Green is in Warwick and East Greenwich is less than twenty minutes away, even closer than driving from Providence. You'll also have way more options for rental cars there than at the train station, plus getting from the train station to the Biltmore would be a pain on foot with luggage (it's not far but there are weird turns and hills and stuff and it might be confusing).

I think that the added costs of getting from Boston to East Greenwich, especially in terms of hassle and uncertainty (buses and trains can both be very, very late and you'd still need to get a car when you arrived), would negate the differences in the ticket cost.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:36 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just another voice to say I flew through TF Green all the time I was in school and it is pretty much my second-favorite airport (after LGB) and Logan can't burn down too soon. Go to PVD.
posted by dame at 8:43 PM on June 24, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great advice. I ended up finding a flight to Boston for $160 and couldn't pass it up. I think we'll just suck it up suffer through the drive (did it once before on a Friday rush hour...loads of fun!). We still have the option of the rail if we change our minds. I appreciate all the great tips -- it really helped!!
posted by caroljean63 at 9:50 PM on June 24, 2014

To be clear, my quip about PVD was precisely about the fare always being higher than flying in to Logan, and the usual need to change planes en route to get there, which wipes out the time advantages of a smaller airport, especially if you end up with a long layover.

(Currently, tix from NYC and Philly to PVD are running nearly $500, a month out! For a 25 minute trip in a tin can!)

Get as far as you can before traffic snarls to a halt, stop for dinner, and it won't be that bad when you're done. I find Boston traffic challenging, and I was born and learned to drive there! But if you avoid the worst time slots it's manageable.

Have fun.

BTW Logan is a lot better than it was 10 years ago, and not nearly as bad as any NY area airport for access, TSA, etc.
posted by spitbull at 3:34 AM on June 25, 2014

Response by poster: Pro-tip on the other end of this trip - Akron-Canton airport (CAK) is fabulous to fly in and out of if you're coming to the Cleveland area. It's about an hour south of Cleveland with quick in-and-out and no traffic. We're halfway between CAK and CLE and will pay a little more to fly out of CAK for the convenience.
posted by caroljean63 at 11:39 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

You'll need to get to South Station. You can take the T from Logan (Either the Silver Line or Blue Line -> Green Line -> Red Line if memory serves -- it's been 5 years since I lived in the Boston area), or a taxi.

From South Station you can either take an Amtrak or MBTA Commuter Rail train to Providence.

If all that costs you more than $60, then it may be worth it to just fly into PVD.
posted by tckma at 1:39 PM on June 25, 2014

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