Dear Boston Mamas: Moving to Boston

boston-skyline.jpgToday's Dear Boston Mamas question comes from Denae via e-mail. Denae had a series of questions regarding her relocation to Boston, which I have broken out into categories. In addition to my responses, Kate -- a Boston urban planner and car-free/public transport enthusiast -- kindly weighed in (thanks, Kate!):

Dear Boston Mamas: We are looking at relocating to Boston with a 3 month old. Coming from the South and big spaces, I am terrified by two things: an infant on the bus system and an infant in snowy weather. We will be leaving our car behind and I have no experience with snow...With the hubs getting his Master's we would be going to a single income and it looks like we could save a lot of money by not bringing our Honda Civic...if we can make it work. Thanks for your help!

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Dear Denae,

Thanks for writing in and welcome (almost) to Boston! I can completely understand your trepidation, but fear not. Boston is a great city to be car-free in and the winter is definitely do-able (I say this particularly having spent 3 years living in Canada...). Below I've broken down your questions with responses following.

1. Car-free in Jamaica Plain

Denae: We are looking for as affordable as we can get around Jamaica Pond. Brookline was outrageous for a 2/1 bedroom flat. Something $1,300 or less would be ideal. Would northeast of the pond be more transportation friendly? My hubs would be going to school just west of the pond.

Kate: In general, the best place to be in Jamaica Plain if you want to live without a car is somewhere along the Centre Street corridor (east of Jamaica Pond). The best mass transit options lie either along Centre Street (various bus routes that carry you to downtown Boston, particularly the No. 39), or on the Orange Line, a subway line east of Centre Street that also carries you to downtown Boston and points north. Centre Street is also a nice retail center, with a small supermarket, drugstores, restaurants, etc. $1,300 sounds pretty low for a two-bedroom, but might be do-able for a one-bedroom (maybe).

2. Strollers & Buses

Denae: Is it common to bring strollers on the bus? Would I not need a car seat? You can't strap a car seat into a city bus right?? I assume a baby carrier (Ergo?) is the best way to get the kiddo to daycare and back.

Christine: Yes, it is common to bring strollers on the bus. Whether your baby is in a car seat attached to the stroller, or is simply in a stroller, simply lock the stroller wheels once you're situated on the bus. Your child wouldn't actually sit in a seat on the bus until they were older (i.e., probably out of stroller).

Kate: Strollers are very common (and completely allowed) on all public buses. Depending on the size of your stroller, it can be a squeeze during rush hour or any time when the bus is crowded, but you are certainly allowed to use the area close to the driver that is reserved for strollers and wheelchairs (the seats fold up to make room -- don't be shy about asking the driver for help with the folding).In general, strollers are expected to defer to wheelchairs. Most buses no longer use wheelchair lifts -- the vast majority of buses now 'kneel' in order to bring the floor of the bus close enough to the sidewalk that you can just roll on without the need for a lift. You cannot strap a car seat into a public bus -- babies/toddlers remain in strollers until they are old enough to sit safely in a regular seat by themselves (my daughter started sitting without a stroller at 4 years old).

3. Keeping Baby Warm in Boston

Denae: How do you keep an infant warm enough for the bus wait and trek to where ever you go? The snow suit doesn't look like it really comes in small baby sizes much less fit in an infant carrier.

Christine: In my opinion, the easiest way to keep baby warm on the go, then not have to worry about un-bundling and overheating once you get to your destination, is to use a snuggly car seat insert. When Laurel was a baby I used the JJ Cole Infant Bundle Me. She just wore regular clothes underneath -- so easy!

Kate: I used a Brookspond stroller 'blanket' with a zipper (it looks a bit like a sleeping bag) that worked great in the coldest weather. The stroller straps fit right through the blanket so that my daughter could be both warm and safely tethered.

4. Car-free Grocery Shopping

Denae: How do you grocery shop with an infant while not having a car?

Christine: If you have need to get a lot of groceries, I would recommend a grocery delivery service, such as Peapod. Otherwise, for smaller runs, I used to go to our neighborhood market and stow items in the basket under Laurel's stroller and in bags over the handles. If I just needed 1-2 bags of groceries, I would carry Laurel in a sling and just carry the groceries. It was a good cardio workout!

Kate: Some market trolleys seem to fit infant car seats, although I never did that myself. Small shops are definitely possible with an infant in a sling, and I recommend a rolling cart/suitcase to bring groceries home. Big shops are harder, and I would recommend Peapod for those.

5. City Sidewalks

Denae: I am trying to get the idea of how this city is planned but it seems to make little sense. Roughly around squares? There seems to not be strong commercial centers in these not downtown areas. Around the squares seem to have sidewalks but the area around the pond seems to not. I don't relish the idea of walking a stroller on the side of the street, especially with the Boston driver reputation.

Kate: There are very few areas in and around Boston that do not have complete sidewalks. The area immediately around the Pond may be an exception because it's a park-like area, and the Jamaicaway was designed primarily for cars. All of the neighborhoods elsewhere in Jamaica Plain will have good sidewalks, particularly as you move east -- as I recommend -- toward Centre Street. The bigger challenge can be in the winter, pushing a stroller through the snow. Ugh. There's not much to be done to make that better, but a sling can be handy then. In general, I would recommend traveling to Boston before picking a neighborhood/apartment -- it's hard to do sight-unseen.

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I hope this information is helpful Denae - good luck with your relocation to this fine city!

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Have a question for Christine? Drop her a line! And of course feel free to comment in if you have recommendations beyond those made above.

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