Press coverage of Car-Free® in Boston

Boston Globe article, 5/11/03 May 11, 2003 Boston Sunday Globe (page B2)

Starts & Stops
Mac Daniel

Car-free in Boston

It's been years since one of the most important transportation resources in Boston has been updated, but finally it's here.

No, It's not a road, a rail line, or a bridge. It's a book called "Car-Free in Boston," and it's an indispensible guide to getting around Boston without a car (or bike).

The guide has been around since 1977 but hadn't been updated since 1995. The problem largely was money. The publishers, the Association for Public Transportation, ran out of funds. Thankfully, in stepped the folks at Rubel BikeMaps, and the 10th edition was born.

The updated editions should be in stores May 21. To learn more or mail-order a copy, contact Rubel BikeMaps, P.O. Box 401035, Cambridge, MA 02140 or visit

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Boston Metro article, 56/4/03 (Text of article at right.) June 4, 2003 Boston Metro (page 11)

Fred R. Moore President, Association for Public Transportation Inc.

The Association for Public Transportation, in partnership with Rubel BikeMaps recently published the 10th edition of "Car-Free in Boston."

Q: What kind of research was done for the book? A: Our members are all mass-transit users and they give us tips. The MBTA was also very helpful-they basically gave us the keys to the city.

Q: What's new in this latest edition? A: They have been so many service changes since the ninth edition (1995): the Old Colony commuter rail service has been revived, Night Owl bus service and Bus Rapid Transit have opened. The greatest thing that we put in was the synergy between bikers and walkers. We do exclude how to drive to the stations.

Q: What would you say are the benefits of being car-free in Boston? A: You don't have to look for a parking space. Most of the time, even when you can find a parking space, you have to walk so far that you might as well have used mass transit. There's also the aggravation factor of driving a car: the traffic, getting lost, shoveling snow, repairing the car. I haven't owned a motor vehicle since the 1980s. I live in Saugus, and I bike to work every day.

Q: So you consider Boston to be friendly to mass-transit users? A: Well, compared to other American cities, yes. But compared to European cities, no. We try to emulate American ideas about mass transit and we shouldn't.

Q: Where is the book available? A: At bookstores and specialty shops. Write to: Rubel BikeMaps, P.O. Box 401035, Cambridge, Mass., 02140. On the web at

© Copyright 2003 Boston Metro.

June 16, 2003 The Patriot Ledger (pages 16-17)
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Without wheels: 'Car-Free' is a valuable transit guide


Once you've read the book ''Car-Free in Boston,'' there's no reason to stay housebound because of a lack of wheels or away from the city because of distaste for traffic. In fact, you can get just about anywhere in Greater Boston and beyond without a car once you know how to take advantage of the myriad trains, buses and ferries.

''A lot of people don't realize all the options there are,'' said Quincy resident Madeleine Noland, a managing editor and cartographer for the book. ''Public transportation can be easier and more convenient than they thought.''

If you're skeptical, check out ''Car-Free in Boston: A Guide for Locals and Visitors,'' by the Association for Public Transportation (Rubel BikeMaps, Cambridge, $9.95). The book returns in a revised 10th edition after being out of print since its last update in 1995.

''During the hiatus, a lot of demand built up for this book because people were used to getting a new edition every few years,'' Noland said, who takes the MBTA Red Line into the city.

Since 1977, the Association for Public Transportation, a nonprofit advocacy group, has published the book. This is the first edition published by Rubel BikeMaps.

Updated, the book describes every Boston-are transit route by subway, bus, train and boat, including schedules and fares. Or, you can choose from hundreds of destinations - towns, parks, beaches, museums, cultural attractions - and find out how to get there by public transit. It's so well organized, with a 10 page index, that you quickly can find what you're looking for.

''Car-Free in Boston'' also is a travel guide, providing highlights of the best that Greater Boston and beyond has to offer.

''It's an idea generator for people who aren't sure what they want to do, whether they've lived here a long time or are new to the area,'' Noland said. ''You can look up Quincy and see there are these cool things here. It's home to Wollaston Beach, Blue Hills Reservation and a president's birthplace. And I didn't know (before working on the book) that New Bedford is a jewel and it's surprisingly easy to get there. From South Station, a bus goes right into the heart of the historic district.''

To plan a trip, you can search by town or city or by attractions such as museums, theaters, malls and universities. Under each community, there's a ''recommended excursion'' with details on how to get there. In some instances, however, you'll need flexibility and patience because trips are infrequent.

Beyond the MBTA trains, buses, commuter rail and ferries, the book includes regional transit authorities, Amtrak, private bus lines, commuter boats, ferries, airports, as well as guided tours. If you're traveling with a bike or use a wheelchair, everything you need to know is there. The maps are especially useful for downtown Boston, Providence, Worcester, New Bedford and other communities.

And the book has useful fare information, including the added fares at Quincy Adams and Braintree stations, senior citizen rates and the family discount on commuter rail lines. What's more, how many people will be surprised to learn that the MBTA guarantees timely service and will refund fare if the train or bus is delayed more than half an hour?

For her part, Noland takes the MBTA Red Line from North Quincy to Davis Square in Somerville on work days and takes the MBTA into Haymarket for outings with her husband. She avoids the hassle of driving and expense of parking, and she likes to walk to and from the station and read on the subway.

''To me, it's a total win,'' she said. ''I wish that the upkeep were a little better, especially in key stations, but Boston's system is very, very good.''

Barry Steinberg, another Quincy resident, also uses trains and buses to get around Quincy and into Boston.

''I'm a transit enthusiast,'' said Steinberg, who is clerk of the Association for Public Transportation. ''When you drive, you don't talk to people or see people. You miss a little bit of culture that people in past generations had.''

Jody Feinberg can be reached at
© Copyright 2003 The Patriot Ledger.

June 22, 2003 The Boston Sunday Globe (City Weekly section page 9)

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The 10th trip was the toughest, but 'Car-Free' arrives
by Mac Daniel, Globe Staff

Andy Rubel, a software engineer turned "Rubel BikeMaps" maker, was pedaling around Boston Common recently carrying several copies of the latest edition of "Car-Free in Boston," a local how-to- get-around-sans-automobile classic, when he decided to drop into the Common's visitors' center and hand off a fresh copy. The book is billed as a guide for locals and visitors and focuses in easy-to-understand, non-Internet terms of getting around Boston and the surrounding region in anything other than a car.

It's a book that's been around Boston in various guises since 1977, and was long published by the nonprofit Association for Public Transportation, which had come to depend on the attention and revenues generated by the book's quasi-biannual publication to help fund many of the advocacy group's projects.

But when Rubel walked into the visitors' center, it had been six years since the last edition of the book was published, and he wasn't sure what to expect when he pulled out this 10th edition and handed it to the workers behind the counter.

"Hey, here, it's a present," Rubel recalled saying as the eyes of the woman behind the desk lit up.

"Oh, we know that book," she said, pulling out what Rubel later described as a book so worn and ragged that it was no longer square- -an old and much-loved 9th edition.

"It was oval," Rubel recalled. "The corners were worn off, and the right-hand side slants off where the pages had been thumbed over the years. I have never seen a more used book."

Out of empathy or sheer joy, Rubel gave them two copies.

If more people knew about it, "Car-Free in Boston" could well hit the local bestseller's list, a strange thing for a homegrown book that simply tells you how to get around without a car, both on the MBTA and off.

What makes it so popular, however, is its simplicity. If the Children's Museum is your destination, look it up in the "Destination" section and the book tells you how to get there. Want to know which buses stop at which subway lines? The "Route Details" section has it.

"The T's website can't do that," said Madeleine Nolan[d] of Rubel Publications.

The genesis of the 10th edition, however, is proof that the book fills a vital need in Boston.

In 1995, while preparing for the 10th edition, there was a problem at APT with funding, according to current APT president Fred Moore. The Big Dig was hurting the agency's advocacy, interest was waning in the movement, and funds were tight. Worst of all, a vicious cycle had been created. Money made by "Car-Free in Boston" helped to pay for "Car-Free in Boston." But because the publication had been delayed, Nolan[d] said, "we don't have the money to fund Car-Free in Boston because we don't have Car-Free in Boston.... The cycle got broken. [APT] were in a little bit of a pickle with this."

APT board members were asked to take out second mortgages on their homes to fund the book's publication. And by 1998, the 10th edition was more or less done when the funds all but dried up to print it. There the book languished. "The patient would have bled to death before we could stop the bleeding," said Moore.

Still, people would call APT's voice mail and scream: "When's the new Car-Free coming out?"

Finally, a member of the APT grew frustrated enough to try to get the book published. This time, however, the old computer files had gone completely missing.

It then became Rosemary Jason's job to scan each page of text from a handful of 10th edition printouts and reassemble the work. It was painstaking, Nolan[d] said, because the scanning process can't tell the difference between some letters and numbers, such as Os and zeros.

So Jason approached Rubel. APT "want it, want it, want it, and they just didn't have the know-how or the tools to get it done," recalled Nolan[d].

And with that, the 10th edition was finally updated--with some necessary bicycle components--and fully born.

Rubel worked with the board and came up with a contract "that worked for everybody," Nolan[d] said. Rubel will now do the updates, and the APT gets some of the sales proceeds, though less than before, which frees the organization to "get the time freedom to get all the things that they want to do without having to worry about Car-Free again."

"People are really pleased to have this back," said Nolan[d].

Before the 10th edition was published in May, Wordsworth's in Harvard Square back-ordered 25 copies. After the book's first weekend on sale, the shop ordered 100 more. The Globe Corner Bookstore has ordered twice already, having sold a case (62 books) since May.

"It's a clearinghouse for information," Nolan[d] said. The book "was conceived and written by transit nerds...but I don't think you can get this information anyplace else."

Rubel said "Car-Free in Boston" fits into his small company's goals. "I have the goal of improving our transportation infrastructure by making it less monolithic and less dependent on cars, and this was just another piece of the puzzle," he said.

"Now," said the APT's Moore, "even if the organization goes down the chute, 'Car-Free' will go on."

The book costs $9.95 plus shipping and handling and is available through

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

July 2003 TRANSreport (Transportation News from the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization, page 3)

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Car-Free in Boston, 10th edition -- This new edition, which was produced by the Association for Public Transportation in partnership with Rubel BikeMaps, includes information about MBTA service additions since 1995 [previous edition of Car-Free], such as Night Owl service, the Silver Line, and the Old Colony Commuter Rail Line Restoration. It is available in bookstores and specialty shops and may also be requested by writing to Rubel BikeMaps at P.O. Box 401035, Cambridge, MA, 02140, or logging on to their Web site at

Summer 2003 Commonwealth Magazine (pages 34-35)

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Car-Free guide is back on track
By Robert David Sullivan

After nearly a decade in the shop, Car-Free in Boston is back in service--and, for those who prefer their transportation public rather than private, not a moment too soon.

A compendium of every conceivable way of getting around Greater Boston without getting behind a steering wheel, Car-Free has had loyal fans since 1977, when it was first published by the nonprofit Association for Public Transportation. But some MBTA riders have been worrying that their copies would fall apart before they could get replacements.

After being updated every two years or so, the guide disappeared from bookstores after 1995, when the costs of production became too much for the APT to handle. This year, the group handed publishing duties over to Rubel BikeMaps, a Cambridge-based firm well known in New England's cycling community.

The new edition, which sells for $10, looks a bit sleeker than its predecessors, with more-detailed maps (including pick-up spots for rent-by-the-hour Zipcars) and bus schedules.

"Our standard is one of being informative without being ridiculously punctilious," says editor Jeff Perk, who notes that the MBTA "has its idiosyncracies that have grown over the years." So while Car-Free tries to explain the convoluted fare system of the Green Line, it won't tell you to watch out for the outdated signs, which in some stations go back to the Carter administration.


While Perk and his staff avoided judgmental language in listing the services of the MBTA and other transportation providers, they had to tread carefully in describing one new feature on the mass- transit landscape. "The Silver Line defied every categorization," Perk says. "That made for an editorial headache."

Car-Free ultimately swallowed the MBTA's party line, describing the Silver Line as "bus rapid transit" and placing its schedule with those of the subway lines rather than the bus routes. The Silver Line, which began operation late last year, currently consists of natural-gas-powered buses running in a "dedicated" lane along Washington Street from downtown to Dudley Square; the T ultimately plans to extend the route through tunnels to the Seaport district and Logan Airport.

But the "bus rapid transit" label rankles Fred Moore, president of the APT, who calls it "the most flagrant misuse of terminology since 'German Democratic Republic,'" referring to the communist regime in the former East Germany; he says the Silver Line is nothing more than a bus. (Moore often peppers his rhetoric with such politically charged language; the "systemic extermination of light rail," in which he includes the MBTA ripping up the tracks of the old Green Line branch to Watertown, he refers to as the "trollocaust.")

The APT was founded in the mid-1960s to fight proposed superhighways through and around Boston--one of which would have traveled the path of the current Orange Line--and the group's membership has fluctuated in sync with various transportation controversies in Boston, according to Moore. (He says that advocates of a rail link between North and South stations "bailed" from APT after their pet project lost steam.) Moore won't say how many members his group has today, though he calls it "lean and mean." He'd be glad to get some new blood, though, and Moore sees Car-Free as a good recruiting tool.

And despite his occasional reference to "bike path hyenas" who want to tear up unused railroad tracks, Moore sees strategic advantage in the publishing partnership between APT and Rubel BikeMaps founder Andy Rubel. "Andy is going to be the bridge builder between the bike lobby and the transit lobby," says Moore.

Perk agrees, to a point. "Everyone involved with the [Car-Free] project would characterize themselves as rabidly pro-rapid transit," Perk says, but he adds that the book won't be used as a platform for more specific political views. "You'll find no snide comments about the expansion of the Greenbush [commuter-rail] line, for example."

Though their styles of advocacy may differ, Moore and Perk both see Boston as a great place to be car-less. "All the carping about the T's ability to govern itself and provide adequate services aside," Perk says, "by and large Boston is very well served by mass transit."

Copyright © 2003 The Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth

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