by Amy Scheuerman
While all Boston neighborhoods offer a balance of ups and downs, Brighton’s balance tips toward downs. Without ever visiting the area, I moved to Brighton in August of 2008, the main appeal being price. I soon learned my mistake.
Two things that Brighton has going for it are the low cost of housing and its closeness to a wonderful selection of ethnic restaurants. $1500 a month may sound like a lot for a two-bedroom apartment with a living room and eat-in-kitchen, but here in Boston once you tell someone that all utilities are included in the price, it seems downright cheap. My roommate and I had plenty of space, hardwood floors, and never had to worry about the heat or cable bill.
Brighton is connected to the rest of Boston by the B train of the Green Line. This train is the slowest and most inconsistent of all the MBTA subway lines. The train travels above ground through most of Brighton, and stops not only at each of the 18 above ground stops, but also at each and every traffic light between Kenmore and Boston College. Unlike the other MBTA subway lines, the Green Line trains are only two cars long, which means that they are frequently very crowded.
While the B train will take you to Boylston Station in downtown crossing for a quick walk to the Friedman School, students who take classes at the Medford campus will find they have an even more arduous trek. The easiest route between Brighton and Medford is the notorious 66 bus. While scheduled to run every 11 minutes during the weekdays, buses actually come about every 20 minutes, at which point two will appear on the horizon and then, after picking you up, will leapfrog each other across the Greater Boston Area in an inefficient manner until you reach Harvard Station in Cambridge. From Harvard you will take the Red Line to Davis Square and walk 15 minutes to the Medford Campus.
Another great thing about Brighton are its neighboring areas, the hip Allston area, and the upscale city of Brookline. Allston has an amazing selection of authentic Vietnamese, Korean, and Ethiopian restaurants as well as many grungy but hip music and dance clubs such as Harpers Ferry. The Sunset Grill is known all across the city as having one of the best on-tap beer selections in Boston.
Brookline is a different flavor altogether. A high rent neighborhood that is probably unaffordable for most graduate students, the city is spattered with interesting places to poke around. The Brookline Booksmith is a great independent bookstore and the Coolidge Corner Movie Theater always has a couple of interesting independent films playing.
Brighton’s population is split between lower income, primarily immigrant families, and Boston University students. While living there I found the former to be friendly and very willing to offer advice on places to shop for groceries or eat out. Unfortunately I found the latter to be loud and obnoxious.
My apartment building (near the Alston Street Station of the B train), while in no way affiliated with BU, was full of BU undergraduate students. Loud music frequently lasted late into the night and rare was the weekend morning when I did not find broken beer or liquor bottles littering the entranceway.
Few Friedman students choose to live in Brighton and those who do tend to be spread far apart from one another, so you won’t get a real sense of community from the area. That plus the pain-in-the-ass transportation situation were enough downs to make me break my lease and move to Teele Square, near the Medford campus and Davis Square off the Red Line, after just four months of Brighton fun.
Take Away Message
If you don’t mind a long commute and a dearth of local culture, Brighton is a safe-ish and cheap place to take up residence. However, you can probably find a closer apartment on a better subway line for just about the same price if you work hard at it.