Wednesday, October 19, 2016

RIPTA: 64 (Newport/URI)

(the 64 is insanely scenic...)

The bus at the Newport Gateway Center.
But what the heck even is the 64? Where does it go? Well, it's a route from Newport to the Kingston Amtrak station, via URI. It's ostensibly meant to bring college students from URI to Newport, I think, but it doesn't seem like too many people actually utilize that connection... Well, let's find out, I guess. Prepare for some amazing views!

Well, okay, not yet, but that's a nice little street.
We headed up the narrow one-way 3rd Street, going by lots of dense, charming houses. It was a tight squeeze, but eventually 3rd Street finally became two-way, and a bit wider. We went under Route 138, then passed through a strange neighborhood with houses, apartments, and weird industrial backlots. We also went by a rather intimidating US Navy complex.

This is weird...
Next, we turned onto Admiral Kalbfus Road, heading around a rotary. Now, keep in mind that our ultimate destination was Route 138, and there was a tantalizing interchange with it here. But could we get on the highway? NO, we had to do a bunch of random deviations first! So we - ugh! - pulled into the parking lot for a shopping mall called - UGH! - "Newport Towne Center".

Gotta love parking lotsssss...
After that madness, we continued north, running up JT Connell Highway past industrial buildings and a weird motel. Yes, we had to deviate to serve CCRI Newport...on a Saturday. Uh-huh, that makes a lot of sense. No one was there, which is a big shocker. At least we finally turned around and went back to that we could get on that stupid highway. We passed a dog park and a few industrial buildings before...

ALL OF A SUDDEN WE CAME ONTO A BRIDGE! And it was weird, because at first it was low and almost at water level, but then suddenly IT ROSE UP AND GAVE THE MOST SPECTACULAR VIEW! Oh my gosh, we were simply so high up and there was so much to see!!! That picture heading up the bridge was Sam's, by the way.

We passed through a toll, then took the exit into Jamestown. Merging around a little pond thing in the interchange, we headed down East Shore Road, which took us onto Conanicus Ave. We went by a police station on one side and a golf course on the other, then the street became lined with nice houses. Next, the road came up along the coast, and my immediate reaction was to force myself past Sam to the other side of the bus in order to get a picture. Sorry, Sam...

Man, that's a beautiful bridge!
Lots o' boats in the harbor.
Next, we turned onto Narragansett Ave, which was the main drag of Jamestown. It was a very pleasant downtown, with most of the businesses housed in...houses! Or, converted houses, at least. As we left the center of town, we passed a fire station, some churches, and the very charming town hall. After that, we turned onto North Road.

A side street downtown.
We went by a cute little bakery and a gas station, then an auto shop and some houses. After that, there was a golf course, but it was hidden behind some trees - Jamestown definitely seemed like the kind of town that would have a golf course. Next, the road went into a marsh and we got yet another awesome little view!

Past the marsh, it was pure farmland. And it was beautiful! Eventually, it became entirely trees and woods, until finally we came back to Route 138 and took the on-ramp to continue west. The highway passed mostly more woods, as well as a cemetery, until...

Okay, I wanted to at least put one farmland picture here before we get to...
WE WENT UP ONTO ANOTHER SUPER HIGH BRIDGE! AND ONCE AGAIN, IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Plus, this bridge had all of its support down below, so there was an unobstructed view from the bus! Oh my gosh, just water and land and islands and currents all over the place...once again, it was truly incredible.

I HAVE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE THE WONDER! Also, Sam managed to get a zoomed-in shot of Providence in that last picture!
On the other side of the wonderful bridge, now in North Kingstown, we took the first exit and almost immediately pulled into a park-and-ride. No one was waiting (I'll bet most people use it for the 14, which runs to Providence), but it had a nice shelter and some bike spaces, which was good. Now we headed down Boston Neck Road, which was mostly forest with driveways leading to houses.

The park-and-ride.
A water tower was visible down one side street, and we passed through some more farmland a little later. As the road curved a bit, there was a very quick water view, with the bridge from Newport to Jamestown visible way in the distance. We went by a charming little post office, and then it was fairly woodsy again (with houses down the side streets).

It's such a striking bridge!
On weekdays, buses make an extra deviation around here - they turn onto South Ferry Road, run through the woods a bit, and loop around the URI Bay Campus. However, this was a Saturday trip, so we turned onto Bridgetown Road instead, which was more consistently lined with houses. The street curved south a bit, then east again for a lovely little river crossing.

This route has so many views...
The road gained a median beyond the crossing, and grew rather wide by the time we reached the intersection with Route 1. There were a few suburban businesses at the intersection, but then the street became Mooresfield Road, and it was pure woods. And it was awesome!

We really are in the middle of nowhere, aren't we?
For the next while, the scenery consisted of mostly forest, with the occasional break for a farm. Houses became a little more frequent as we went along, but they were always hidden behind trees and driveways. There were a few developments here and there, as well. Finally, we started to see some really charming old houses and businesses - we were approaching URI!

What a nice-looking side street!
We turned onto Upper College Road, which was lined with more houses, then we turned onto Campus Ave. From there, we went around a small bus loop to serve URI. The campus is quite pretty, although the loop was mostly surrounded by ugly brick buildings - I guess you have to go further into the college to find the cool historic ones.

Come on, URI, you can do better than that!
From the loop, we headed down Lower College Road, then turned onto Kingstown Road. We went by a gigantic university parking lot, and then it was back to more woods. It wasn't for too long, though, as eventually a gas station, an art center, and a post office cropped up along the road. And just before it went onto a bridge over the Amtrak tracks, we turned off and entered the loop for (West) Kingston Station!

Why doesn't the bus say "64"? Beats me...
RIPTA Route: 64 (Newport/URI)

Ridership: The 64 either has bad ridership...or decent ridership. Yeah, it depends on how you look at it. RIPTA's automatic passenger counters in 2012 said that the route gets an average of 234 riders per weekday, which is pretty small; however, their farebox data said that the route got just shy of 500 riders per weekday, double what the APCs said! I'm not sure what to say about that discrepancy, but at least we can all agree that Saturday ridership stinks: 66 people.

Pros: THE VIEWS THE VIEWS THE VIEWS!!!! In all of my transit adventures so far, this has been the absolute most scenic route I've ever been on. From the sweeping water views of the two bridges, to the charming harborside running in Jamestown, to the nice little river crossing on Bridgetown Road, to the woods and farmland along Mooresfield Road...the 64 has everything! Too bad everything else about it is terrible...

Cons: What do we start with? How about the route itself? A connection from URI to Kingston just doesn't make that much sense, and ridership is very limited beyond the first two and last two weekday trips - why they even run this thing on Saturdays is beyond me. Also, what's with all those deviations in Newport? Why not leave them to the 63, which already serves those places much more frequently? And I haven't even mentioned the fact that the entire section of the route from Newport to Boston Neck Road is shared with the 14. There has to be a better way of arranging those services...and it has to be said that the Newport trips on the 14 get more ridership than the 64...

Nearby and Noteworthy: Who cares about getting off the bus when the views are so great?! But Jamestown does look like a pretty cool place, so there's that.

Final Verdict: 3/10 (but a perfect 10 for those views!)
Gosh, I could see the argument for the 64 being a rush hour only route. After all, it gets very few people, doesn't have too many notable unique sections, and is quite expensive to run. And sure, those views truly are amazing, and I wholeheartedly recommend taking a ride on the route if you feel like heading out there, but...the 64 just isn't very good!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Monday, October 17, 2016

RIPTA: 60 (Providence/Newport)

Ahhh, Newport...a very popular place to go for some fantastic beaches. But why drive there for an hour and a half when you can just take public transportation there from Boston for...almost 3 hours? Yeah, okay, 99% of people won't choose that option, but if you did, here's the bus you would use! That's right, today we're taking a ride on the insanely long 60.

The bus in Providence...on an earlier 60 trip. We did not end up with a vehicle nearly as fancy and new...
Leaving Kennedy Plaza, we made our way onto Memorial Boulevard, curving around downtown Providence. Next, we turned onto South Water Street, which crossed the Providence River and then ran alongside it. The other side of the street was adorned with mostly brick buildings, while there was a park running between us and the river.

Looking across towards downtown.
The neighborhood started to get more undeveloped, with a strange half-park thing between two streets. After passing a few industrial buildings (and some repurposed ones - perhaps it was a developing neighborhood), we came onto I-195, starting an express portion! The highway took us past houses and buildings, then over the Seekonk River, entering East Providence on the other side.

I couldn't get any good river pictures, so here's...this.
Coming off the bridge, we descended into a gully with houses lined up above us. However, we were back above ground level soon enough, blazing over Broadway and then some more houses. We merged onto the next exit, which was to the Wampanoag Trail. It ran through woods for a bit before someone hit the stop request button. What?! Yes, we actually made a stop right on the highway, called "Wampanoag Trail Opp Gates of Heaven". I have no idea how anyone is supposed to cross the highway to get to the cemetery the stop is referencing, but someone did indeed get off here...

A small (and boring) shopping plaza.
There were a few other random attractions along the highway that also got stops, such as a gas station, a field, and the entrance to an oil facility. Eventually Wampanoag Trail became less of a highway, with various businesses, houses, and other buildings on either side. It came up next to the Hundred Acre Cove for a bit, then we entered Barrington and the street became County Road.

A farm!
County Road came back alongside the cove again, where there were some waterside houses and a church. We also passed Barrington High School, which prompted this interesting exchange from two people on the bus (in thick Boston accents):
"Yo, dude, Barrington got SMOKED in the football game last night!"
"Yeah, man, they SUCK!"
Anyway, the street gained a brick median as we entered...Barrington Center, I guess? The businesses weren't anything special (lots of chain stores with parking lots), but the town hall had a really great park surrounding it.

Noooo, that camera spot ruined the picture! Luckily it's gone now, but I rode this bus a little while ago.
We passed a shopping plaza, then the street curved east. After some houses, we crossed over the Barrington River. There were some denser residences on the other side, but then we went over the river again and entered Warren! Both bridge views were lovely, although the surroundings were quite industrial immediately after the second crossing.

The second crossing!
Pretty soon after, though, there was a mix of houses, businesses, and churches along what was now called Main Street. We entered Warren Center (or downtown Warren, or Warren Square, or something...I never know what to call these places), which was a really cool downtown with old-looking businesses lining the street. After passing the charming town hall, it became mostly residential again.

Some houses down a side street.
The street was almost entirely lined with houses, but we did go by the occasional business, too. Once we entered Bristol (with the road becoming Hope Street), we started passing a bunch of private housing developments. I mean, on the right side of the bus, it was just one after the other! Oyster Point, Bagy Wrinkle Cove, Jacobs Point, Hanley was a bit insane.

The entrance to what eventually leads to a waterside park.
A few other points of interest along here were an elementary school, a few shopping plazas, and a cemetery. It was still almost entirely residential, though, right up until when we came along Bristol Harbor briefly. Hope Street curved inland pretty quickly, and took us into downtown Bristol. Or Bristol Center. Or Bristol Square. Or something like that.

Looking out across the harbor.
This was probably the most charming town center we had seen so far, with lovely old buildings lining the street. There were so many different kinds of businesses and restaurants and museums, and there were water views down each street. The main drag even had an "American" divider in the middle, with red, white, and blue instead of the usual yellow!

A side street downtown.
A lot of people got off here in Bristol, and we got another fabulous exchange from those two people from earlier, once again with their Boston accents:
"See ya, Frank."
[Frank gets up and starts to walk to the front]
[Frank keeps walking without listening. Other people try to get his attention.]
[Frank leaves the bus. The other person gets on the phone.]
"Frank, I put your bag in my knapsack. Okay, Frank. See ya, Frank."

Another harbor view!
South of downtown, the businesses continued for a bit more with tiny local shops and dense houses. Hope Street came up to the harbor again, and the houses got a lot bigger. Next, we merged onto Ferry Road, which was much more woodsey - large residences were hiding behind the trees, though. Eventually, the road got a grassy and tree-lined median as we passed Roger Williams University.

And then, out of nowhere, the street went up on a gigantic tall bridge! Sam, who was riding with me, can attest to the fact that I could not stop saying "Oh my God" repeatedly because the view was so amazing. It was just...water as far as the eye could see, with various patches of land spread around! On the other side of the bridge, the 60 splits into "East Main" and "West Main" variations - we were an East Main trip, so we turned onto Boyds Lane.

A small business and a side street.
Now in Portsmouth, we passed some houses and a farm, then went under the Fall River Expressway. Next, we merged onto East Main Road, the branch's namesake. The street itself had various small businesses with parking lots along it, but houses were visible on the side roads. We went by a little shopping plaza, a few blocks away from the Portsmouth High School.

Some houses and, I guess?
From there, it was basically just a mix of houses with various businesses, churches, and parking lots. We also went by a library near the intersection with Turnpike Road, and a combined police and fire station later on. We went through a short industrial stretch, and even passed some farmland after that! And of course, the houses and businesses kept on coming.

Gotta love farmland on a bus.
The houses, businesses, and farms all continued for a while as we entered Middletown, including a vineyard! Soon after that, though, it shifted a lot more to the business with parking lot side of things. We went by a few shopping plazas, then turned onto West Main Road, rejoining the other branch of the 60. The street continued to be that same residential-retail mix, albeit with denser houses.

The intersection with West Main Road.
As we entered Newport, the street became Broadway. Now it was lined with dense houses, albeit somewhat big ones. The surroundings were like that for a while, although shortly after we passed the Newport Hospital, businesses became the main scenery - some nice, and some not-so-nice. Finally, we turned onto Marlborough Street and arrived at the Newport Gateway Center a few blocks later.

The bus at the Gateway Center.
RIPTA Route: 60 (Providence/Newport)

Ridership: Oh yeah, the 60 gets a lot of people. Our Saturday trip had something like 40 riders in total, and most of them got off at the various downtowns along the route - Warren, Bristol, and Newport. RIPTA's 2012 statistics for the 60 say that it's the third-busiest route on the RIPTA, with 2,290 riders per weekday, 2,175 per Saturday, and 1,442 per Sunday. Also, keep in mind that this was before the top two routes were consolidated into the R-Line, so the 60 could very well be the second-busiest route now!

Pros: The 60 is a crucial link between Providence and Newport, and it serves a bunch more towns along the way. It carries a lot of people, and that's also representative in the schedule - every 15 minutes during rush hour (it's a long route, so imagine how many buses that requires), every half hour during the day and on Saturdays, every hour at night, and every 45 minutes on Sundays! There are even a few late-night trips on Thursdays and Fridays meant for college students.

Cons: Man, you know it's a good route when I can't really think of any cons! I guess the 60's long length is its downfall, since it drives up the operating costs. That said, the whole point of the route is that it's long, so that's a rather dead-end con right there.

Nearby and Noteworthy: You've got Warren! You've got Bristol! You've got Newport! Lots of beautiful downtowns, small and big! Plus, beaches in Newport!

Final Verdict: 9/10
The 60 is an important route, and one that gets a lot of people. The schedule is absolutely perfect so that most of the trips get (optimally) a full-seated load, and it's a nice ride, to boot! Indeed, it's arguably one of the most scenic routes on the RIPTA, but they do have better things in store with that regard...stay tuned!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Sunday, October 16, 2016

CATA: Yellow Line (Gloucester - Magnolia)

The CATA has a very strange obsession with school trips. For every route on their website, they actually put the school trips for each route first, which can be very confusing - "Why does this bus only run twice a day?" My friend Nathan and I ended up riding one of these school trips, but it ended up being a lot crazier than we expected. Time to ride the Yellow Line!

The bus in Gloucester.
Okay, so let's talk about the Yellow Line as a route. I've mentioned before (in my first non-MBTA review!) that the CATA actually has three Yellow Lines with no relation to each other at all. The one we're talking about today runs from downtown Gloucester to a neighborhood called Magnolia to the southwest.

Looking to the front of the bus.
The bus was similar to the one on the GATRA 140 (possibly the same vehicle). However, and I can't believe I'm saying this, the GATRA one was much better designed. That one had felt more like a real bus, with a screen up front and better seats, in my opinion. The CATA vehicle had those...minibus seats, and only a simple "stop request" sign that made THE MOST ANNOYING NOISE WHEN TRIGGERED. Also, instead of putting the fare machine up front, they stuck it to the side a bit, getting rid of a whole seat pair!

Nice view!
From the grand CATA hub of Dunkin' Donuts, we headed down Main Street, passing the businesses of downtown Gloucester. Eventually the street became Western Ave, and came up along the harbor with a huge median and lots of trees and grass everywhere. However, as this was a school trip, we deviated from the normal route by turning onto Centennial Ave. This took us to a loop in front of the Gloucester High School, where other buses had already congregated.

Lots o' variety here!
After the five minute trip to the school, we now had to wait...15 minutes?? Yeah, they have the bus get to the school before it even lets out! And since this trip leaves from Gloucester, it actually gets other riders - there were two other people who had gotten on before that had to wait, too! Oh well, after the steady stream of students had gotten on, we left and headed back to Western Ave.

A residential neighborhood near the high school.
We went over a river, then passed the Gloucester World War II Memorial where Western and Essex Aves split. We stayed on Western, which curved around through a residential neighborhood. We passed Stage Fort Park, and the street became more woodsey from there. Turning onto Hesperus Ave, it was now entirely forest for the most part.

A fleeting water view!
We passed the Hammond Castle Museum (which looks beautiful), and soon after the street became Norman Ave. The houses were denser now, as we were in Magnolia Square, almost in Manchester but not quite. We turned onto Fuller Street and made a little loop via Hesperus Ave, Lexington Ave, and Flume Road, passing houses and a few businesses in the process.

Looking down Lexington Ave, the "main drag" of the neighborhood.
Now we headed up Magnolia Ave, which was residential once again. Once we reached Magnolia and Western, Nathan and I assumed the trip would be over - on the schedule, it listed this as the last stop. But wait...we crossed over Western Ave and continued down Magnolia! No normal CATA route does this, not even the regular Yellow Line, which would've turned onto Western to get back to Gloucester! Well, things were getting weird...

Where are we???
Our original plan was to walk to West Gloucester from Magnolia and Western, but since the bus was now heading in that direction, we figured we'd roll with it. Magnolia Ave had houses along it for a bit, then after some woods, we went by an industrial park. The street curved a bit more before passing under the Commuter Rail tracks, then we reached the intersection with Essex Ave. Perhaps we'd turn towards Gloucester now? Wait, no, we turned westward - away from Gloucester!

Some rather large houses. now we were heading down Essex Ave in the wrong direction. What the heck was going on? And then...we turned onto Concord Street?? It was this narrow street that went by a school and then under Route 128. "We're getting further and further from West Gloucester," Nathan pointed out. But I had to see this strange route through.

Hey, at least there's a nice view!
It was residential on the other side of 128, although we also passed a variety store. We came up alongside a marsh, then turned onto Atlantic Street. It continued along that marsh, with a few houses on the other side. Finally, we turned onto Castle View Drive, entering a gated community, and the final passengers got out in this development.

Some intersection...or something...
Now the driver turned around and asked us where we were going. "West Gloucester," we said. "This is West Gloucester," the driver replied. "Uh...could you take us to the Commuter Rail station if that's okay?" I asked. He kind of grunted, and then drove us back, but it was obvious he wasn't happy about it. Oh well, at least we made it to the station...

The bus heading down Essex Ave.
CATA Route: Yellow Line (Gloucester - Magnolia)

Ridership: N-O-T G-O-O-D. It's the least-used CATA route on weekdays with less than 25 riders, and on Saturdays it gets maybe 10-15 (it's so low down on the graph I can't really tell). I will say that this school trip got a good amount of people, though - around 15 in total! So I guess school trips are where most of this route's ridership are.

Pros: Well, the route does serve...stuff. Like, um, a lot of woods. And some houses. The school trips get people...

Cons: Let's start with nitpicky stuff and move outward. Firstly, that school trip really should leave Gloucester later - if it has actual riders, too, why make them wait at the school for 15 minutes for no reason? Also, you know all that weird stuff on the school trip that didn't show up on the Yellow Line schedule? Well, turns out it's on the Purple Line schedule! What the heck?? Can you not show the full route on one or the other? Sigh. But no, the Yellow Line's main problem is that it really doesn't serve...anything. Most of the houses it runs by wouldn't be using the bus anyway! That's probably why its schedule is so bad - three trips on weekdays and four on Saturdays. Hey, why the heck does it run more often on Saturdays when less people are using it??

Nearby and Noteworthy: Hammond Castle looks incredible, and I actually really want to visit it myself. However, with the Yellow Line's schedule, be prepared to spend a lot of time there...

Final Verdict: 2/10
Honestly, I see no reason why this route couldn't just be eliminated outside of the school trips. They seem to be the only ones that get any ridership! Maybe if the Yellow Line got extended to Manchester, it could get more people, but even that would be mostly forest. Okay, I'll draw it out, why not?

But yeah, I doubt that would get too much more ridership. The Yellow Line could probably be relegated to school service and I doubt too many people would care...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
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