11 Unbiased Pros and Cons of Living in Boston

11 Pros and Cons of Living in Boston

From the lively college city atmosphere and vibrant culture to the winning streaks of professional sports teams based in the city, there are many reasons why so many people are flocking to Boston. However, there are also downsides to be aware of if you’re considering moving to the city. Read on to discover the pros and cons of living in Boston to help you decide if the city is right for you.

#1. Pro: Boston has a thriving job market

Boston skyscrapers

One of the reasons many people flock to Boston is that there is a prolific job market in the city. Some of the most renowned companies in the country (and in the world) have operations in the city.

The most prolific industries in the metropolitan area include finance, technology, and life sciences. There are plenty of startups offering appealing stock options and benefits, as well as reputable entrepreneurs offering numerous opportunities. Here are some of the top employers in Boston:

  • Financial – Fidelity Investments, Putnam Investments, Wellington Management 
  • Technology – Microsoft, Google, Amazon
  • Life sciences – Pfizer, Merck, Novartis

#2. Con: The higher cost of living

Living in Boston is not cheap – in fact, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the country. According to the cost of living index by Numbeo, Boston’s earned a score of 88.27 out of 100 in July 2020 (NYC is the index’s most expensive metropolitan area, with a score of 100). The index factors the cost of consumer goods prices, including utilities, groceries, transportation, and restaurants.

#3. Pro: Plenty of educational opportunities in Boston

Harvard university
Harvard university

The Boston Public School system is made up of 12 public schools, which means there is a curriculum that suits most children and their families. Make sure you do your research on finding a neighborhood to live in to see if any corresponding schools can suit your preferences.

As with any other metropolitan area, there are upsides and downsides to the public school system. If you plan to move to an outlying suburb, private education or a smaller school district are also options.

The university scene in Boston is nothing short of impressive. By some accounts, the city is regarded as a college town and an important academic hub, which makes sense, especially when you consider how many higher education institutions are packed within a small geographical area. If you’re a college student moving to Boston, you’ll certainly appreciate the subsidized housing options that offer co-eds lower rent costs than standard units in more popular neighborhoods. 

Some of the most popular universities and colleges in Boston include:

  • Boston University
  • Havard
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Tufts University
  • Emerson College
  • Boston College

#4. Con: Traffic is a concern in the city

Boston traffic

Traffic in Boston is a headache. A report from early 2019 indicated that Boston had the worst rush-hour traffic congestion in the United States. Here are some of the reasons why traffic in the city is particularly awful:

  • Topography

The City of Boston is part of a tightly packed group of cities and towns that stretch for several miles. Transportation policy in the city, particularly when it comes to speed limits, signage, and road width – and bus lanes and bike lanes – can vary. The lack of coordinated planning has resulted in congestion. 

  • Relatively cheap parking

Several municipalities in Boston (including most notably the City of Boston) distribute free resident parking permits. In contrast, many others charge relatively low fees, such as $25 per household, for an initial parking permit. In addition, metered parking in Boston is some of the cheapest in the country. Many apartments and condo developments also invariably include parking. When you have no choice but to resort to private garages, you begin to notice just how much of a dent parking fees make on your finances.

  • Old roads

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, and its region is the country’s oldest major metropolitan area. Many of its roads are ancient and cannot handle the present day’s traffic volume. Boston’s highways – particularly I-90 and I-93 – are massive, modern, and relatively easy to navigate. However, in many cases, especially from the city’s outer reaches, these modern highways are only accessible via thin, poorly marked, shoulderless ribbons of cracked asphalt.

  • Population growth

In recent years, the population of Boston has grown in leaps and bounds. The upwards trajectory of the number of residents living in the city and driving to get around has greatly contributed to traffic congestion.

  • Rampant use of app-hails

App-hails such as Lyft and Uber are commonplace in Boston. According to a report published by the state Department of Public Utilities, the number of rides in the state of Massachusetts through these companies increased about 25 percent in 2018, to 81.3 million, compared with the previous year.  

#5. Pro: A variety of neighborhood options

Boston harbor

Like in any other metropolitan area, different districts offer varied lifestyles. Here are some of the best neighborhoods in the city:

A. Charlestown 

Located across the Charles River from the city’s center, Charlestown is Boston’s oldest neighborhood. It offers residents a mix of older single-family homes and brand new apartment buildings. The neighborhood is an excellent choice for those needing more space for less money. It is particularly popular with young families, professionals, and empty nesters.

Charlestown offers plenty of amenities, attractions, and restaurants that make it a popular place to live in the city. They include the Bunker Hill Monument, Legal Oysteria, Bunker Hill Mall, The Warren Tavern, Ironside Grill, Brewer’s Fork, and Pier 6.

B. Allston

Allston is a young, vibrant neighborhood that attracts musicians, artists, grad students, college students, young professionals, and working-class families. Typical homes in the neighborhood include condo buildings and low-rise apartments. It’s not uncommon to also find large three and four-bedroom apartments in Allston, which is ideal for those looking to live with several roommates to cover costs. 

There are a variety of hidden gems, vintage shops, upscale restaurants, and music venues in this quirky neighborhood. Popular spots include Garage Boston, Deep Ellum, Twin Donuts, Brighton Music Hall, Buffalo Exchange, White Horse Tavern, and Grasshopper.

C. Coolidge Corner

Located just a few minutes outside Boston, Coolidge Corner is a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood home to young professionals, grad students, college students, young families, artists, and intellectuals. There are numerous bungalows and single-family units to choose from, as well as condos and multi-unit homes.

Coolidge Corner is known for its arts scene, Jewish delis, and proximity to public transportation. Top spots in the neighborhood include Hops N Scotch, the Coolidge Corner Theater, Zaftigs, Mint Julep, Regal Beagle, Brookline Booksmith, Otto Pizza, and Osaka.

D. Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill is a thriving historic Boston neighborhood home to many mainstay cafes, boutique shopping, and small cafes. There’s no shortage of charming homes in the area, with plenty of single-family houses, mansions, and newer apartments and condos. You’ll love the gorgeous row homes, historic architecture, and cobbled streets.

Some of the top places worth visiting in the neighborhood include the Massachusetts State House, the Barbara Lynch restaurant, Beacon Hill Bistro, Tatte Bakery, Tip Tap Room, and No.9 Park. 

E. Back Bay

This stately Boston neighborhood is a popular shopping district with an array of high-end stores lining the renowned Newbury street. Other top spots worth visiting include the Prudential Center, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston Public Library, Eataly Boston, Parish Café, and  The Oak Bar.

#6. Con: Public transport is not particularly efficient

women sitting on a bus

Boston’s most popular public transit options include the subway (fondly referred to as the “T”), commuter rail, bus, water taxis, and ferries, all of which are under the management of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Although the MBTA is often hailed as one of the best public transit systems in the USA, it is plagued with quite a number of issues.

For starters, the transit system in the city is the oldest in the nation, which means it’s in dire need of constant repairs. The MBTA has had to deal with an aging signal system and months of shuttle busing due to track repairs. Some of the Mattapan trolley cars are so old that they are in perpetual need of repair. 

Although the MBTA serves large swaths of the city, many parts of Boston proper that could benefit from its use, such as Roxbury, Hyde Park, and much of Dorchester, have no easy access to underground transit, relying instead on cumbersome bus commutes.

#7. Pro: Boston is one of the most walkable cities in the country

Beautiful street in Boston

Although Boston’s sheer size may initially seem daunting, you’ll quickly discover that it’s quite a walkable city. Boston is relatively small, meaning you can see just about anything and everything the city offers on the weekend. It’s estimated that about 50% of the city’s residents don’t commute by car, opting to walk or use public transport instead. The city also offers plenty of bicycle lanes, effectively promoting biking as a way of getting around. 

#8. Con: You must find a home that is close to your workplace

Boston is full of commuting residents. Because of how the city is set up, it is of utmost importance that you find a neighborhood close to your place of work to limit the amount of time you spend between destinations. Ideally, you want to live in a neighborhood within cycling or walking distance or at least be on the same color as the train line. Otherwise, you’ll experience many issues traveling Celtics back and forth.

#9. Pro: Boston cuisine has a lot to offer

Boston-style Clam Chowder

Boston is the place to be if you enjoy food and drink. From tasty oysters to savory clam chowder, seafood in the city is fresher than in many other parts of the nation. The beer brewing scene is also on the rise in the city. Here are some of the top spots to visit if you’re looking to unwind after a long workday.

  • Kava Neo-Taverna

Set in the South End neighborhood, Kava Neo-Taverna stands out from a bevy of other restaurants in the area thanks to its modern Greek cuisine and high-quality wines served in a lively, intimate room. You can also dine on a beautiful patio overlooking the picturesque Union Park.

  • Our Fathers Restaurant & Bar

This restaurant in Lower Allston perfectly blends modern Israeli cuisine with traditional Jewish delicacies. It is set in a groovy dining room with a serious bar program that offers superb cocktails.

  • Prairie Fire

If you’re looking for gorgeous pasta, wood-fired pizza, and Italian-leaning small plates, this relaxed, understated newcomer is the place to be. You’ll also love the interesting beer, cocktails, and wine offerings.

#10. Con: A highly competitive rental market

If you plan to relocate to Boston, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with what your rights would be as a tenant if you want to rent. The rental market in the city is one of the most competitive in the country due to the high cost of housing.

There are more owner-occupied two-unit and three-unit homes in Boston than there are apartment buildings, which means you can expect to come across amateur landlords. It’s quite helpful to seek the service of a real estate agent to help you navigate the competitive market. 

#11. Pro: The place to be if you love sports

american football

 There’s something special about the buzzing Boston professional sports scene. The city is fondly referred to as Titletown and with good reason. Some of the most important sports teams:

  • Boston Red Sox

Sports lovers love watching the formidable MLB Sox play the Yankee at Fenway Park.

  • Boston Celtics

The Bolton Celtics have 17 championships, making them one of the most successful NBA teams in history.

  • New England Patriots

Who doesn’t know this world-renowned professional American football team? Football fans will be thrilled to know that the New England Patriots hail from Boston.

  • Boston Bruins

Hockey lovers can embrace this historic NHL team, which typically plays alongside the Celtics at TD Garden.

Final thoughts

As you can see, living in Boston is certainly not for everyone. The city presents a unique set of challenges you will need to face upon relocating here, but if you’re willing to tackle them, there are plenty of upsides to love and appreciate as a resident. 

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Zoltan Szatmari

Zoltan is a test and industrial engineer from Europe who loves learning anything new and working on small projects. When he is not working, he is usually hiking or going to the cinema.

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