Tuesday, July 7, 2015

42 (Forest Hills Station - Dudley Station via Washington Street)

When the Orange Line EL was demolished, it left many people in need of an alternate form of transportation. The section of the former line from Dudley to downtown got the Silver Line, which although not perfect, is certainly better than an average bus. So what about the section from Dudley to Forest Hills? Weeeeellllll...you guys get the 42.

Leaving the Dudley Square busway, we headed down Washington Street. After a short industrial section, we went by a housing development, then a pool and community center. There were a few businesses after that, but also more developments (including a tall apartment tower).

Retail came back in full force once we reached Egleston Square - there were lots of businesses lining the street. This continued for a while before it became densely-spaced apartments. And honestly, the street was pretty narrow. I can see how the EL would've been intrusive around here.

There were more businesses at Green Street (only a few blocks away from the Orange Line station), then it got a bit industrial. We passed a field, where I actually played once when I used to play soccer. I specifically remember how it was right next to the Southwest Corridor and I would always get distracted whenever an Orange Line train went by. Memories...

The Arborway bus yard!
After going by a high school and some more businesses, we then passed the Arborway bus yard! It was a really big complex, with lots and lots of buses. We went under what used to be the Forest Hills Overpass - it's just some pillars now - and after that, we turned into the Forest Hills busway.

This was the best picture I could get, back at Dudley.
Route: 42 (Forest Hills Station - Dudley Station via Washington Street)

Ridership: There were about 25 people on my ride, which is pretty good. Most of them got on at Dudley and got off at local stops, but a few people got on to go to Forest Hills, too. The route's ridership is healthy overall - an average of 3,047 passengers per weekday, 1,438 per Saturday, and 769 per Sunday.

Pros: Well, it covers the southern half of the Orange Line, which is good. It does it in a fairly short time as well, scheduled to take about 15 minutes. Plus, it's frequent for the most part - every 15 minutes rush hour, every 20 minutes during the day and on Saturdays, and every half hour during the night.

Cons: There's a massive drop in frequency on Sundays - every 50 minutes. And consider that the northern half of the old EL got the Silver Line. Now, granted, the northern half is denser, and the 42 runs fairly close to the current Orange Line, but still! Every 50 minutes!

Nearby and Noteworthy: There was nothing of note that I saw, except for the Arborway bus yard, which was pretty cool.

Final Verdict: 6/10
Meeeeh. I guess I'm of two minds for this one, since it has to be said that the southern half of the old EL is the less important one. For one thing, it's less dense than the northern half. Also, the Orange Line runs closer to Washington Street near Forest Hills, making the 42 borderline redundant. But still, that Sunday schedule is terrible.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Sunday, July 5, 2015

CT1 (Central Square, Cambridge - BU Medical Center/Boston Medical Center via MIT)

Ah, the crosstown routes. Famous for advertising themselves as "Limited stops", when in fact, they're not really all that limited. The CT1 epitomizes this by basically being the 1, except it doesn't go all the way to Harvard and it doesn't go all the way to Dudley. And I suppose it skips a few stops along the way.

The bus rounding the corner onto Magazine Street.
The bus arrived at the Magazine Street stop in Central Square about 15 minutes early, so we were sitting there for a while - I was the only one on board. "Look at that guy!" the driver suddenly shouted. "He's smoking two cigarettes at once! Oh my God!" Was she talking to me? Was I supposed to respond? I couldn't see the guy myself. I just sat there and stayed quiet. The driver then went to the door and struck a pose for a while. It was all kind of odd. Finally, with a few more people on board now, we left the busway.

Ha! Barely.
We instantly turned onto Mass Ave and made a stop at the rainbow shelter shared by the 1 and a few other routes. From there, we continued down Mass Ave, going by lots of businesses, some housed in multi-story buildings. The buildings got even taller as we went by industrial MIT facilities, then crossed over a single train track.

After that, it got more leafy, and we passed some more standard university buildings. We reached Memorial Drive, and then crossed over the Harvard bridge, which offered a fantastic view of Boston. Speaking of which, that was where the bridge took us, and we entered the Back Bay on the other side. Now we were surrounded by beautiful old brick buildings.

Considering the city was on the left and I was sitting on the right, this picture isn't too bad.
After we crossed over the Mass Turnpike and went by Hynes Station, the architecture became more modern. We passed the Mary Baker Eddy Library and the Christian Science Center, then Symphony and Mass Ave stations in quick succession. Now in the South End, the architecture was once again nice and brick. And right when the buildings got taller and more modern, we entered the Boston Medical Center, and everyone got off at Harrison Ave.

You're only kidding yourself, CT1!
Route: CT1 (Central Square, Cambridge - BU Medical Center/Boston Medical Center via MIT)

Ridership: Well, in total there were about 25 people who rode, which is pretty good. But I'm pretty sure most of them would've been fine with either a CT1 or just a 1. Well, regardless, the route gets pretty good ridership, with an average of 2,191 riders per weekday.

Pros: Well, I guess it's a fine supplement to the 1. And on its own, the weekday-only schedule is pretty good - every 20 minutes rush hour, and every half hour during the day.

Cons: But it's the 1 we're competing with here! That route a) runs much more frequently than this one, and b) runs on weekends. Plus, the 1 is longer. There were a few occasions on my CT1 ride where people would confusedly get on, only to be told the bus wasn't going all the way to Dudley. Also, between the rainbow shelter at Central and Harrison Ave, the 1 makes 13 stops. Want to know how many the "limited stop" CT1 makes? Ten. It skips three stops. Nice try, CT1, nice try.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Pretty much the same as the 1, but without Harvard or Dudley.

Final Verdict: 3/10
This bus seems like a trick by the MBTA just to confuse people who want to take the 1. Did I mention that we were bunching with a 1 the whole time? It was behind us, so we got a lot of its riders, but does the CT1 really need to exist? It barely provides any sort of limited stop service, and it just feels like a short-turn of the 1. Maybe that's what they're going for?

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

67 (Turkey Hill - Alewife Station via Arlington Center)

I have a friend who once had to use the 67 for some reason or another. He told me that the bus only had a few old people on it. After that, I was sort of interested in taking this seemingly odd little route. Well, I did, and though the people who rode it weren't especially old, they were certainly few.

The bus at Alewife.
We made our way to Route 2, and of course, I'm obliged to mention that we did indeed skip past the stop at the pedestrian walkway. As usual. We made the first exit, then headed back onto the highway, but at the second exit, we left the other Route 2 routes by turning onto Pleasant Street. This was a very leafy residential neighborhood, and it was quite nice. There were even some short glimpses of Spy Pond down side streets.

This, however, is Route 2. It is not especially nice.
Eventually we reached Mass Ave, which we turned onto. We passed lots of businesses and restaurants in Arlington Center, as well as Arlington Town Hall, before turning onto Mill Street. This street was a bit industrial, but it went back to houses when we turned onto Summer Street. After passing the Arlington High School, we turned onto Symmes Road.

This is a deviation the route makes going outbound only. Going up a hill, we went by an assisted living building, then entered a development with identical houses. After looping around the development, we headed back down the hill and continued down Summer Street.

A skyline view from the top of the hill! The Prudential is blocked by a sign, unfortunately.
We then turned onto Washington Street, now back in a normal residential area. It became Clyde Terrace, and then the bus stopped. I was the only one on it, so it was really awkward when the driver turned the engine off. I tried to be as quiet as possible, hoping the driver wouldn't notice that I was planning on going right back to Alewife. After a few minutes, luckily, we started up again. It certainly wasn't as bad as the pen-personifying driver from the 451.

You're looking into Winchester, my friends.
We turned onto Forest Street, basically at the very tip of Arlington. The route doesn't make it into Winchester, but it pretty much goes right up to the border. We headed down Forest Street, which was entirely residential, then turned back onto Summer Street. After going by some fields and an ice skating arena, we rejoined the outbound route and headed back to Alewife.

Have I ever mentioned that the Alewife busway is a dank place? Because it is.
Route: 67 (Turkey Hill - Alewife Station via Arlington Center)

Ridership: On my ride, there was only one other person going out of Alewife, while on the way back, there were about six. Clearly not a very high ridership route in the late morning - or in general, in fact. The route only gets an average of 588 riders per weekday, which is low.

Pros: This is a north-south route that cuts right through central Arlington, and it's pretty much the only cross-Arlington MBTA route. It also has a large chunk of northern Arlington all to itself, and even southern Winchester, if people are willing to walk.

Cons: It's an Alewife route - thus, the schedule. The 67 runs weekdays only, every 27 minutes during rush hour and every 50 minutes during the day. I guess since it's mostly a commuter route, the fact that it even has midday service is good, but still. Also, this is a nitpick, but the route's map on the schedule card doesn't show the section on Symmes Road.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I've mentioned Arlington Center before, so that's out. Um...there was that ice skating rink...

Final Verdict: 6/10
Schedule-wise, the 67 reminds me of the 84, except the former gets the bonus of midday service. Infrequent midday service, sure, but midday service regardless. Also, the 67 certainly serves more, and that makes me wonder if limited Saturday service would do it well. Overall, the 67 is still pretty meh, but slightly less meh than the 84.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Tomorrow the MBTA is getting rid of the "honor box" system at parking lots. Passengers will have to pay for parking with their phones now.

94 (Medford Square - Davis Square Station via West Medford and Medford Hillside)

There was one time, a while ago, when I almost took the 94. It was a Sunday, and I was at Davis, all ready to go. Then I found out that the Red Line was running shuttle buses - crap. Then I found out there was a road race going on - double crap. Then I found out that all buses were boarding on Mass Ave, five minutes away - well, there goes the 94. Now it's time to actually ride it.

The bus in Medford Square.
Leaving Medford City Hall, where the 94 and 96 terminate, we made our way down High Street, going by the businesses of Medford Square. As the retail thinned out, we reached a rotary, where High Street curved south a bit. From there, it was mostly houses.

Eventually, we passed a school, then some more businesses near the West Medford Commuter Rail station. After crossing the tracks and going by a few more businesses, it became residential once more. We then turned onto Boston Ave, which almost went in the same direction we were coming from.

What a lovely day!
Crossing over the Mystic River, we passed a park, then went through a short industrial section. It was residential once more from there, until the intersection with Winthrop Street, where there was a business block. From there, the surroundings were mostly Tufts University buildings, which continued as we turned onto College Ave. After navigating through Powderhouse Square, College Ave eventually led to Davis Square, where the bus terminated at a street stop.

The bus at Davis.
Route: 94 (Medford Square - Davis Square Station via West Medford and Medford Hillside)

Ridership: I was surprised at how high it was! There were about 25 people on my trip from Medford to Davis. The 96 had less than 10! And it's odd, because the 94 does get lower ridership than the 96 overall - an average of 1,596 riders on weekdays, 728 on Saturdays, and 544 on Sundays.

Pros: Okay, I didn't realize this until now, but the 94 and 96 are actually coordinated. They have the exact same schedules (every 17 minutes rush hour, 35 minutes weekdays, 40 minutes nights, 50 minutes Saturdays, and 70 minutes Sundays), so technically all those headways are divided by two for Medford to Davis service. That means that coordinated, the routes have great schedules!

Cons: So you know how the MBTA sometimes puts two bus routes on the same schedule card? Can they please do that for the 94 and 96? I think that would make it a lot more clear that there are two options for getting from Davis to Medford Square. They do say "For additional service between Medford Square and Davis Square Station please refer to Route 94/96 schedule card" on their respective schedules, but that doesn't really say much about how the schedules are coordinated.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Medford Square and Davis Square are interesting, but there isn't much of note in between. Well, Tufts, I suppose.

Final Verdict: 8/10
Well, I done goofed. I criticized the 96 for having a pretty terrible schedule on its own. But now that I know it's coordinated with the 94, they actually have a good schedule together! I just wish it was more obvious that they were coordinated. If the two routes had a combined schedule card, it would be much easier to plan trips out.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
I was asked by Gus Rancatore to post a map of the stations of the Green Line extension, so I figured I'd put that here. Thanks for reading, Gus!

Image source

96 (Medford Square - Harvard Station via George Street and Davis Square Station)

I've used the 77 many times, and would consider myself quite familiar with that route. But from around Porter Square down to Harvard, there's this other mysterious bus that shows up sometimes: the 96. It doesn't come around too often, but it used to almost threaten me when I was younger. Whereas the 77 used those familiar New Flyers, the 96 used loud, agressive Neoplan diesels on its route. Well, it's time to put those strange Neoplan fears to rest and finally ride...the 96.

Usually you can take any awful picture you want and pass it off as "artsy", but I think doing that for this would be an insult to artists everywhere.
So as I mentioned, the 96 follows the 77 for a stretch north of Harvard. Thus, we headed onto Mass Ave, going by lots of familiar businesses for me. It was a bit odd - like being on the 77, but significantly quieter. The road curved towards Porter, and soon after that, we turned onto Beech Street, leaving the familiar section behind.

Right after that, we turned onto Elm Street, joining the 87. As this was an outbound trip, we bypassed downtown Davis Square, going on side streets until we reached the Davis busway. From there, we turned onto College Ave, which was residential. There were a few businesses at Powderhouse Square, otherwise known as The Rotary Of Infinite Slowness Because It Has Traffic Lights. Seriously, a rotary with traffic lights? Come on!

After that mess, we continued up College Ave, going by a big field before passing through Tufts University. Turning onto Boston Ave, we went by more university buildings, including one that was under construction. There were some restaurants marketed toward students, then we turned onto Winthrop Street, crossing over the Commuter Rail tracks.

Crossing the Mystic River.
This was the 96's solo portion, and it was mostly residential. Soon, we turned onto George Street, going down that for a while. Then we turned onto Main Street, joining the 101 and passing through a short industrial area. We crossed the Mystic River, then turned onto Riverside Ave, now in Medford Square. I got off in the square, while the bus continued one stop further to its terminus at Medford City Hall.

The bus at City Hall.
Route: 96 (Medford Square - Harvard Station via George Street and Davis Square Station)

Ridership: On my trip, there were less than 10 people that rode. This was evidently a fluke, though, as the 96 does generally get pretty good ridership. On weekdays, it gets an average of 2,192 riders; on Saturdays, it's 1,364; and on Sundays, it's 696. Most people on my trip used the route for the Medford portion, either for the Square or for residential neighborhoods south of it.

Pros: It's one of two links from Davis Square to Medford Square, and it's the more direct one. Also, it goes all the way down to Harvard, making a link from Cambridge to Medford, as well. Its weekday schedule is pretty good, running every every 17 minutes during rush hour and every 35 minutes during the day.

Cons: Unfortunately, the rest of the schedule is much worse. The 96 runs every 40 minutes at night, every 50 minutes on Saturdays, and every 70 minutes Sundays! That's less blasphemous than the 101's Sunday schedule, since that route gets more ridership, but it's still horrible.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I spent a bit of time walking around Medford Square, and it seemed pretty happening. I don't have any specific businesses, though.

Final Verdict: 6/10 8/10 (see addendum)
Briefly, I was considering giving the 96 a 7. I figured that it gets less ridership than the 101, so the bad schedule is slightly more justified here. Honestly, this route just looks bad on the 101's part, since that has significantly more ridership yet the exact same headways on Sundays. In regards to its routing, though, the 96 is pretty good. It's just the schedule that drags it down. Addendum: Okay, so it turns out the 96 is coordinated with the 94. This means that together, the two routes actually run quite frequently to Medford Square, so I'm raising the 96's score to an 8.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

78 (Arlmont Village - Harvard Station via Park Circle)

I've never thought about if "Arlmont" had a meaning to it or not. It's always just seemed like an odd name for a neighborhood to me. Then I realized that it's actually a combination of Arlington and Belmont! Because it straddles both towns! I love that!
...
Anyway, here's the 78.

The bus at Arlmont.
We left the Arlmont bus stop and soon after turned onto Appleton Street, going by a MassDOT office...thing. That was about the extent of landmarks here, as Appleton Street was all houses. They were very nice houses, don't get me wrong, and the street was pretty windy. At a huge six-way intersection, we curved onto Wachusett Ave, coming close to an elementary school.

Zooming past a park at Arlmont.
We then made a sharp turn onto Park Ave and came to Park Circle. Here, we looped around a water tower, merged back onto Park Ave, and went back the way we came. It was a bit odd, and no one got on or off during the loop. Anyway, Park Ave continued south, and we reached Route 2 eventually. Here, we turned onto the East Service Road, speeding alongside the highway on a big hill.

Reaching Pleasant Street, we left the Alewife buses behind and headed south. There were a few businesses on Pleasant Street, but when we turned onto Brighton Street, it was once again residential. After going by a housing development, we crossed over the Commuter Rail tracks and went by some fairly industrial-looking buildings.

After a few more houses, we turned onto Concord Ave, joining the 74. With a park on one side and industrial buildings on the other, we went around two rotaries, continuing down the same street. We passed a school, then it became dense houses. There were a few non-consecutive business blocks, then it got more leafy, and the road started to get lined with apartments.

Concord Ave merged into Garden Street, then we turned onto Waterhouse Street. We curved around the Cambridge Common (which is being worked on right now), and dodged around some buses that were laying over. From there, we merged into Mass Ave, then into the Harvard bus tunnel, arriving at the station soon after.

Oh, wow. Simply beautiful.
Route: 78 (Arlmont Village - Harvard Station via Park Circle)

Ridership: On my trip, there were a little over 10 people who rode. Most of them got on along the Concord Ave portion, which is shared with the 74, anyway. Only about three or four people got on before Concord Ave. Overall, the route's ridership is pretty low - an average of 1,488 riders per weekday, 532 per Saturday, and 462 per Sunday.

Pros: I consider this bus to be sort of a link between the Alewife buses and the Harvard buses, which is great. It also provides most Arlmont service (because let's be honest, the 84 barely runs), and creates a nice link from Harvard to Route 2 and Arlington.

Cons: Turns out I actually have a lot of problems with this route! Firstly, the schedule isn't the best. Every 35 minutes during the day is okay, but it runs every hour on weekends. The 78 may run about every 20 minutes during rush hour, but instead of Arlmont, it runs to Arlington Heights. I get that the 84 provides Arlmont service during that time, but shouldn't there still be at least a few rush hour 78 trips there to accommodate for people who may be commuting to Harvard? I also think it's unnecessary for the route to serve Park Circle when it's coming from/going to Arlmont. It's kind of a pointless deviation, and it doesn't really serve much extra.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Had it been a few weeks ago, I would've said the Pepperidge Farm store, but that closed recently. Um...Harvard Square, I guess?

Final Verdict: 5/10
Wow! I was expecting to give this route a higher score. But really, look at the cons section compared to the pros. I would say the base route of the 78 is good, but it has some annoying quirks that make me dislike it. Also, the schedule isn't the best, but maybe the ridership just isn't there to increase it. Still, I can't say I'm a big fan of the 78, when all's said and done.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Saturday, July 4, 2015

84 (Arlmont Village - Alewife Station)

I get that when taking a route in the non-peak direction on the day before July 4th, you wouldn't see much ridership. But I was expecting at least, you know, other people to ride with me on the 84. But nope, there was no such thing. Maybe there were riders on the way back.

The bus at Alewife.
Since I was the only one on the bus, I got into a conversation with the driver. As we were navigating the Alewife busway, we went past an MBTA official van. "Hold this," the driver said, passing me his coffee. He then started talking to someone in the van, while I spilled coffee all over myself. Finally, we left the busway and headed toward Route 2.

Yeah, that's about the extent of the ridership on this bus.
Of course, we went past the Route 2 stop at the pedestrian overpass, which is a stop I'm starting to wonder if anyone has ever used. We took the first exit, crossed over Lake Street, and returned to the highway. This was repeated at the second exit, then we went onto the huge hill that leads to Park Ave. From there, we came back down, and actually picked someone up at the Arlmont Village shelter. I was gonna continue around the 84's Arlmont loop, but then I saw the 78 I wanted. The driver let me off, and I ran back to the Arlmont shelter to pick up the 78. The loop will be covered in my 78 review...coming soon.

"Disappearing inc." That's hilarious!
Route: 84 (Arlmont Village - Alewife Station)

Ridership: Pretty much nonexistent, since it was just me and then one guy going back. That said, it was the last morning trip of the route, and more people might've gotten on heading to Alewife. The 84 only gets an average of 356 riders per weekday, but that's not too bad considering the small amount of trips it makes.

Pros: As a commuter route, it's pretty good. It runs directly from Alewife to Arlmont, and is the quickest way from the latter to the Red Line. It also runs pretty often during the evening rush hour: every 17 minutes.

Cons: But during the morning rush hour, it's every half hour, which isn't as good. And those are the only times this route runs. No midday service. No weekend service. Just rush hour.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I don't think I've ever mentioned this, but all the Route 2 buses go by the Lanes and Games bowling alley, which is a place I love. I suppose that's one use for the stop at the pedestrian overpass...

Final Verdict: 5/10
I mean, it's a fine route as a commuter bus, but...ehhh. I dunno, it has a very limited schedule, it's not well-used, and it's honestly quite short. I guess it's a fine route, but there's nothing spectacular or noteworthy about it. It's just a slightly below-average Alewife commuter route.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
The T is free after 9 PM tonight! Happy July 4th!
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