For a while, the only way you could get to the airport was the Blue Line to Airport Station, where you have to take a shuttle bus to actually get to the airport. Fairly recently, we got an alternative, the Silver Line SL1. Although it’s far from perfect, it’s COMPLETELY FREE when you’re coming back from the airport. No, that is not a typo. It is actually free, which makes it great in my book.

The bus starts out in South Station, in its underground transitway. Leaving here, the bus is already crowded with standees. Unfortunately, severe speed restrictions in the transitway force the bus to go only 10 miles per hour. Sitting near the front, I saw there was a machine that said how fast the bus was going (the driver was “going too fast,” apparently). The bus passes through the bells and whistles of Courthouse Station (the station with the second worst ridership on the system after Suffolk Downs) and World Trade Center Station. Heading toward the airport, one person got on at Courthouse and none at World Trade Center.

That’s my favorite price!

The bus then exits the transitway into the open air and goes to Silver Line Way. The only real purpose of this “station” is for the bus to change from electric to diesel power (which is actually pretty interesting). No one got on or off here, either, and then the bus was off to I-90. Unfortunately, traffic was heavy. At this point, I feel it’s worth noting that my personal definition of rapid transit does not include being stuck in a crowded bus in heavy traffic on an interstate highway. It was made more annoying by the fact that the announcement system was glitching (sound familiar?) and rattling off every stop on the line repeatedly. Perhaps the Silver Line should have its own bus lane on I-90? I suppose it would require some tunnel construction, but it would be nice…

Finally, the bus pulled off the highway and entered the airport. It was slow-going, since there was absolute chaos at each terminal; things are not calm when there are five different buses trying to pull into the same area. At Terminal C, there was even some bunching with another bus. At Terminal E (where my father and I had to get off), the bus driver opened the doors, so we started to get off. But it turns out he only did it to yell at a bus driver in the Silver Line bus we were bunching with. Finally, we got off the bus into the pouring rain.

It’s hard to tell by looking at the picture, but it was pouring rain.

Each Silver Line airport stop has a tiny shelter that’s hard to find and a very inaccurate countdown clock. That is, it said that a bus was coming in four minutes, but when I checked again two minutes later, it said there was an eleven minute wait for the next bus. They also only show the countdown clock for two seconds at a time, since the clock cycles through the following: “The time is now xx:xx/Board here for Silver Line/Free, courtesy of Massport.” After all of those, it tells you when the next bus is coming for about two seconds.

Yeah, right.

On the way back, the bus takes a mostly similar route, but with one difference: after exiting off the highway in Boston, it makes a stop right outside World Trade Center Station. Then it loops around back to Silver Line Way, and then goes into the transitway. However, this interesting routing can’t be helped because of where the highway exit drops the bus off. Overall, it’s a much more direct route than the Blue Line, which is even advertised on a poster at the airport. Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

This is the SL1, I promise. This is at South Station.

Route: SL1 (Logan Airport – South Station via Waterfront)

Ridership: People coming to and from the airport, obviously. Basically, everyone got on at South Station and then got off at various places in the airport. The bus was very crowded.

Pros: It provides a direct link from the airport to downtown Boston, unlike the Blue Line which required a shuttle bus ride. The route operates with nice articulated buses, and each one has a large luggage rack. Oh, yeah, it’s free, too.

Cons: The traffic on I-90 was absolute torture to sit (or stand) through. The countdown clocks are complete bogus. At Silver Line Way, the conversion malfunctions sometimes, forcing the bus driver to leave the bus to do it manually. This must be weird for tourists who have no idea what’s going on. There’s absolute madness at each terminal, as the Silver Line has to compete with other buses to navigate through the dense gridlock. The bus also doesn’t serve Airport Station for some reason. It might mess up the loop, but a connection to the Blue Line would be great. Also, if you have heavy luggage, you might have to perform the “Walk of Shame” (my mother’s term) from the train station. Or, if it’s pouring rain, that’s not pleasant, either. Although the walk could be eliminated by using a cab, the Silver Line is free!

Nearby and Noteworthy: The airport is really all there is on the solo portion of this route. But a free bus is pretty noteworthy, right?

Final Verdict: 8
Yes, I know I ranted about how bad the traffic is on this bus. Yes, I know I made fun of the countdown clocks. Yes, I know the cons section is much longer than the pros section. But it’s a free bus! What more do you need?

Latest MBTA News: The MBTA has officially approved the construction of a new Wachusett Commuter Rail Station that will expand the Fitchburg Line about 4.5 miles west of its current terminus. On May 28-29 and June 2-3, shuttle buses will replace the Blue Line between Suffolk Downs and Wonderland from 9 PM to the end of service. There’s also a diversion on the SL5 and many other buses on Sunday, May 26. On Memorial Day, there are a lot of bus diversions. Read about them here.