Thursday, September 25, 2014

Service Change: NYC, Part 2 - The E, S, 4, and 6

We took some interesting elevated lines on our trip to New York, but we also took a lot of underground lines. This is a post that covers all of the trips we made in the boring subterranean world.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Random Photos: Portal of Power

I figured I'd get one more post out before going to New York this weekend - again. I haven't even written about my subway rides from the last trip, and we plan to take some more on this one. As you can see, I'm really on top of things.

But anyway, this was taken from the Portal Park, right next to North Station. It was a pretty cool view.
Traffic looks bad...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Service Change: NYC, Part 1 - Amtrak's Northeast Regional

Let's be honest: assuming there's no traffic, driving is both quicker and cheaper than taking the train to New York. But there often is traffic, and that can be pretty stressful. Flying is also stressful, what with security and the fact that it's a pain to get to downtown from either of New York's airports. So why not take the train? It's scenic, fairly quick (a little over four hours; the Acela is about 45 minutes faster), and it's not (that) stressful. So why not?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bonus Review: 83 (Broadway @ Felton Street - Rindge Ave)

I know I should be working on my New York posts, but high school started last week so I've been pretty busy. I did want to write about this interesting bus, though. Normally I just walk to Harvard from the Rindge and Latin and take the train home, but I decided to take this special 83 once. It only runs once a day at 2:40 (there aren't any trips to the high school, for some reason), though the MBTA runs two buses along the route

That's a very good thing, because it was packed. Think of a school bus filled with really annoying kids, then make half of them stand. Add a driver that lets some kids in without paying but makes others do it, and it's pretty much a recipe for torture.

The bus started out at Broadway @ Felton Street, a short walk from the school. We soon turned on Quincy Street and then Cambridge Street, going through a tunnel. Instead of going into Harvard Square like other buses, however, we headed onto Mass Ave going north. No one got on or off the bus along this stretch, and it wasn't until we turned onto Rindge Ave that people started to hit the stop request button.

I was very happy when the ride ended. Though I had the benefit of a seat, it was still extremely uncomfortable and an awful ride. It wasn't as bad as that bus to the Toronto Zoo, but let's never mention that one again. For a more detailed look at the route along Mass Ave, I direct you to my 77 review. And here's the review of the 83 proper.

Route: 83 (Broadway @ Felton Street - Rindge Ave)

Ridership: Don't even get me started!

Pros: This is essentially a school bus for students who live along Rindge Ave and in that area. It definitely minimizes walking time, but...

Cons: Even with the walking the train is still faster. Plus it's not as crowded and the people are more civilized (though if the bus driver likes you, and he didn't seem to like me, you can get in for free). I find it interesting that the MBTA doesn't do a trip to the high school in the morning, Why not?

Nearby and Noteworthy: Nothing that hasn't been talked about before. See the 77 review, linked above.

Final Verdict: I'm not going to give this a numbered score, since I'm biased against it due to the ride itself and the driver making me pay while others didn't have to. It serves its function as a school bus well, but it would probably make sense to do an inbound trip in the morning, too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Assembly - First Day!

I did an excursion to the first MBTA station to open in almost 30 years with my friend today, and I took quite a few pictures. I'm not going to do a proper review yet, since the station isn't fully completed (they're still working on a second entrance), but here are the pictures I took.

After this, I have some more New York Service Changes, since I went there over the three-day weekend. So look forward to that...

Two views of the train leaving.
This waiting area was useful when it started pouring.
Looking down the platform.
Nice view...
The platform again.
Another nice(ish) view.
Some more construction.
You probably can't see that very well, but it's about Ford vehicles. Okay...
I love these new fare gates!
The other side.
I love these so much.
An odd bench.
The bridge leading out.
The lobby.
Looking outside.
A new Commuter Rail locomotive going by...
...and over the bridge.
Same with an Orange Line train.
And finally, a plaque.

Friday, August 29, 2014

95 (West Medford - Sullivan Square Station via Mystic Ave)

I've made it clear that I really hate those neighborhoods with all those fast food restaurants and auto shops that all have really big parking lots out front. They usually come up for somewhat short periods in comparison with the rest of the route. But not the 95, though. From Medford Square all the way down to Sullivan this is purely that kind of neighborhood. So fasten your seatbelts (or not, our buses don't have the amenities that Montpelier's have) and let's take a ride on the 95.

It starts out at the intersection of Playstead Road and Winthrop Street, right where the 326 dropped me off. So we headed back down Playstead Road, going through the only nice residential area seen on the entire route. We went past West Medford Station and the businesses surrounding it, and after some more houses came into Medford Square.

This was all very nice, with cute small businesses without - and I can't stress this enough - overly large parking lots. But then we turned onto Main Street (Stop! You don't know what you're doing!), went over the Mystic River (Listen to me! Turn around!) and under Mystic Valley Parkway (Don't do it!), and merged onto Mystic Ave (Too late!).

Do we really need so many auto shops? The "businesses" along Mystic Ave were, like, 50 percent auto shops. And the rest was just parking lots and fast food restaurants and parking lots and storage warehouses and parking lots and PARKING LOTS. This is the epitome of pit, people. And as I look on the map, there's a nice residential area less than a block away!

But I digress. There was a pseudo-reprieve with some projects, but then it went back know what, this time with an elevated highway on one side. Lovely. We made a stop somewhat close to Assembly Square and then the road went up to parallel the highway. We went without stops until Sullivan, though the outbound route takes a different street and makes stops. I assume that when the Orange Line station opens the 95 will be rerouted to serve it, but that may be pointless since it goes to Sullivan anyway. And speaking of Sullivan, the road we were on merged onto Maffa Way, where we then turned into the busway.

Back in West Medford, the bus manages to take a huge u-turn.
Route: 95 (West Medford - Sullivan Square Station via Mystic Ave)

Ridership: It was surprisingly decent; about 20 people rode the bus. They all seemed to feed on at various stops, and I don't think a single person got off before Sullivan.

Pros: I ranted about the road it travels along for this entire review, but this bus does serve a lot. There are residential areas tucked behind the awful auto shops, and this is the only non-rush hour bus to serve Playstead Road. The schedule's decent enough: it's every 20 minutes rush hours and every half hour weekdays and Saturdays. It has a good service span, too, with the first bus leaving Sullivan at 4:55 and the last at 1:05.

Cons: It's every hour during the night and every 65 minutes on Sundays. That Sunday schedule in particular is pretty bad.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Ha! Yeah, right.

Final Verdict: 7/10
I really hated that neighborhood. I hated it with a passion. But there's no denying that the bus itself is pretty good, and those residential areas behind the auto shops need to get served. The Sunday schedule drags the score down a bit, but overall this bus isn't bad at all.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
The MBTA is ordering new buses! They're all due to arrive by February 2015. Also, the MBTA is getting a new station on September 2nd when Assembly Square finally opens to the public.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Service Change: Montpelier - The 82 (Montpelier Hospital Hill)

Though our hotel was right near Burlington's 1 bus, we ended up taking a ride on one of Montpelier's buses. See, we were coming back from Burlington and decided to stop off at Vermont's capital to walk around. I picked up a bus schedule at the visitor's center, and we took a joyride on the 82! Now, keep in mind that I didn't have my camera, so these pictures were taken on my mother's iPhone. The quality is still surprisingly good, though, so don't worry about any pixelated blobs in this post.

The Montpelier bus system is operated by the Green Mountain Transit Agency, or GMTA. They also run services to nearby towns like Berlin, Barre, and Northfield. There are long distance buses to places like Stowe, St. Johnsbury, and even Burlington, but they seem to be run by other companies.

But we're focusing on the 82. This seems to be a shuttle for people getting from Montpelier to Berlin, and it's pretty quick between them. As you would expect from such a tiny bus company, the schedule is...lacking. It's every hour on Monday-Saturday, from 7:16 (8:16 for the latter) to 5:16. Keep in mind that the bus operates in a loop, so the last bus from Berlin leaves a little before 6 back to the capital.

The fares are only a dollar, but there is a discounted fare for students and seniors (which the driver failed to tell us about) of 50 cents. Interestingly, students and staff at colleges in the area can ride the buses for free. Also, you can flag down or get off GMTA buses between designated stops, of which there are few anyway. You can even call 24 hours in advance to deviate the bus from its route to pick you up! That's always a nice way of operating buses.

The 82 starts at "Lane Shops," a little north of downtown Montpelier. We got on the bus at Shaw's, which is the hub of the system. And I'm not kidding, they actually call the hub "Montpelier Shaw's." The hub in Berlin is also named after Shaw's and the one in Barre is called "NAPA Auto Parts." Well, a small system like this could certainly use the extra income from naming rights.

Welcome to Shaw's...
A typical bus sign, almost identical to the ones in Burlington.
The GMTA runs its services with these cute little minibuses. I can see why they would use these, since there were only six other people who used this bus on our run. The fact that they had poles for standees was kind of funny, but maybe the vehicles get busier during rush hour. The seats even had seat belts! A nice precaution, I suppose.

No, it doesn't say "2." It's just a bit cut off.
It's blurry, but you can clearly see how small this thing is.
Looking towards the front.
As you would expect, there weren't any automatic announcements. They had a pull cord for stop requests, but most people would just notify the driver they were getting off, since they wouldn't be using a designated stop. We left Shaw's, heading away from the beautiful downtown area and over the Winooski River (which you can't help saying in a funny voice).

The river has a ridiculous name, but this is a lovely (albeit blurry) view.
We turned onto Berlin Street, which parallels the river. Running along with the 80 and 89, which both go to Barre, the street got residential pretty quickly. They continued to follow the river on River Street while we went up into the hills on Berlin Street, the unique portion of the 82. There was a lovely view of town coming back this way, and there were some fabulous mountain views the whole way.

Berlin Street turned into Paine Turnpike North as it got positively rural. We then turned onto Fisher Road and soon after pulled into the Central Vermont Medical Center, where two people were waiting. After navigating through a large parking lot, we then went onto Berlin Mall Road and picked up someone at the mall.

After that we turned onto Route 62 and, after going by the Berlin Elementary School, looped around the Berlin Shaw's. We went back up Route 62 then turned onto Airport Road, and then Hospitality Drive, picking someone up at Berlin Health and Rehab. The bus had to reverse to be able to pull out of there, and then it was back to Montpelier where our car was waiting.

I tried to capture the view...
The section by the river was very nice.
Looking the other way down the river.
That number's still cut off!
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