Saturday, March 28, 2015

Newton Centre

It's another "Center", except this one's spelled the British way! Yes, we're taking a trip on the D Line out to Newton Centre. I had actually come here once before when I was really little, back when there was a Starbucks right in the station building. That Starbucks is gone now, and I have no memories of when I was here before, so this is pretty much a fresh look.

The old station building.
The outbound side of Newton Centre gets the perk of the old station building providing shelter. The building is in the National Register of Historic Places, and it's certainly a beauty. It now houses the Deluxe Station Diner, but I didn't go in. The building even has an old "Piccadilly Square - Newton Centre" sign!

The more boring inbound platform.
The inbound platform is just a typical D Line platform. It has that classic wooden shelter and that classic heated CharlieCard shelter, plus a wheelchair ramp. There's also an entrance from the residential Braeland Ave down to this platform, but I didn't notice it when I was at the station. I do know that the entrance has a T symbol, which is always important yet something that some stations lack.

A ground-level view (I was going up the stairs).
The station has quite a few entrances, all things considered. The main one leads to an area with a bunch of newspaper boxes, as well as a bench. Entrances on Herrick Road and Langley Road are just long ramps that lead down to the station. Signage is really good around the station, so it's always easy to find if you're walking around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, this is also a "screw you" station, as I found out when I watched my train leave while I tried to run toward it.

That's a lot of benches...
Newton Centre is only served by one bus route, and that's the extremely limited 52. Still, this is a train connection, so it makes sense to provide shelters. The outbound shelter had lots of litter around it when I was here, but it was fine. The inbound shelter was interesting in that it has five benches lined up next to it! I'm not sure if they're meant for waiting for the bus or if they're just random benches, but this is the 52 we're talking about. The 52! You do not need that many benches for the 52!

Aww, it's a cute little one-car!
Station: Newton Centre

Ridership: This is the D Line, so don't expect too much. That said, the station gets an average of almost 1,900 riders per day, which is pretty good, considering the line it's on. Most to all of this ridership is probably just local riders from around the area.

Pros: In terms of aesthetics, this is one of the better D Line stations out there. This is mostly due to the awesome old Newton Centre building, which is amazing even if it's on the outbound platform. As for the inbound platform, it still has those classic D Line wooden and heated shelters. Newton Centre has four entrances, so there are plenty of ways to get in.

Cons: One of the most important parts of any D Line station is tranquility, and unfortunately I didn't get a very tranquil feeling waiting for the train here. This was because of a noisy air conditioner outside of the old building that completely ruined any quiet, peaceful feelings this station may have had.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Tucked away in an alley is the Union Street restaurant. I ate there for lunch, and it was pretty good.

Final Verdict: 7/10
It's that typical D Line score. In regards to aesthetics, this station is excellent because of the great old Newton Centre building. Unfortunately, that radiator kind of ruined the tranquility here, and reminded me of the fact that there was civilization nearby. I'm sorry, but I like my D Line stations tranquil. Thus, I'm subtracting the extra point the building would've given the station.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Random Photos: Is There a Laundry Service?

I got on a pretty much empty train at Alewife, and sat down. Looking across from me, I noticed that someone had left a whole bunch of clothing under one of the seats! How the heck do you forget something like that?

Geez, Louise...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Malden Center

Malden Center is the undisputed hub of the northern Orange Line. The subway station is accompanied by a huge number of buses, as well as a Commuter Rail station. It's also elevated! However, brutalist architecture is very present here...uh-oh.

The Orange Line platform, as seen from the Commuter Rail platform.
There is a lot of concrete at Malden Center, and the platform is no exception. I think it looks really ugly, though the whole thing is sheltered. They even have pay phones right on the platform, which is convenient, even though probably no one uses them. An annoying and possibly dangerous aspect of this station is the fact that it's an island platform, with a very small space to wait in some cases. This station can get busy, so it's important to watch where you walk here.

The crowded mezzanine.
The mezzanine is functional, for sure. It has a good amount of fare gates and machines, and is big and open with room to wait for trains if it's cold outside. There's one of those stands that would normally carry all the MBTA bus schedules, but for some reason it only has the Malden Center routes here. The mezzanine also has a little flower stand, which is really nice. In terms of aesthetics, though, this mezzanine is lacking.

The barren Commuter Rail platform.
The Commuter Rail platform is parallel to the Orange Line one, and serves both inbound and outbound trains on a single track. This one is also entirely concrete, making it just as ugly as its subway counterpart. It also has just two benches, making much of the platform just barren concrete.

A train coming in.
A staircase leads from the Commuter Rail platform to street level, but it's emergency exit only - all passengers have to use the one that goes to the mezzanine. The latter is nice, though, with bright orange walls. There's also an elevator for the Commuter Rail platform, but it had some...unique smells inside.

The smaller west busway.
Malden Center has two busways, but signage is either nonexistent or just not very obvious. The west busway is the smaller one, with four routes serving it. It's pretty simple, with a shelter and a few benches. This side of the station also has a "Pedal and Park" bike facility, as well as a small parking lot.

The east busway.
The bulk of Malden Center's bus routes go to the east busway, on the other side of the station. Like any busway with lots of routes, it can be confusing. Though it's easy to navigate, actually finding the route you want is a different story. As a busway, it's pretty nice, with lots of sheltered seating.

A train leaving the station.
Another train, also leaving.
Station: Malden Center

Ridership: Being an intermodal station, Malden Center gets lots of ridership. On the average weekday, this station gets 12,686 riders! I assume a lot of them are transferring from other modes, though there's good local ridership here, too. As for the Commuter Rail, I know the station gets 80 inbound riders per weekday, and probably more outbound.

Pros: There are lots of transfers to be made here, which is great. And the station has amenities for sure, the flower shop in the mezzanine being a particularly nice touch. It's elevated, too, which is always fantastic.

Cons: But the station has some really ugly brutalist architecture. There's just concrete everywhere. It's a really ugly place. Plus, the platform gets really small in certain places.

Nearby and Noteworthy: The area in the immediate vicinity of the station isn't much, and you have to make a short walk to Main Street to reach civilization. An interesting exception to this is the Pearl Street Restaurant, which is a bit north of the station - it's in the old station building that used to be here!

Final Verdict: 6/10
It's a functional station, that's for sure. This is a huge hub between the Orange Line, the Commuter Rail, and a bunch of buses. The problem is that it's so ugly. Brutalist style is a really awful-looking kind of architecture, and Malden Center demonstrates that awfulness quite nicely. In addition, the small amount of space at parts of the platform can be potentially dangerous.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Revere Beach

Revere Beach is a really weird station. It has a lot of strange little oddities that really make it super unique. Also, it's the last station on the Blue Line to be reviewed on this blog, at least until Government Center opens! It's too bad, because the Blue Line has some of the best stations on the system (including the best, in terms of review score), though Suffolk Downs isn't one of those. I'm gonna miss you, Blue Line. But here's one last review before we part...

Looking at the platforms from Beach Street.
For one thing, Revere Beach has a very urban feel, which is kind of odd for the above-ground portion of the Blue Line. The platforms are squished in between a building and a wall, with the mezzanine crossing on top of them. Looking at the platform from the side, you can see the odd design in the shelters that looks pretty artsy - they have a few shapes cut out of them, as you can see above. And those shapes go down the whole length of the shelter.

On the platform.
Pretty much all of the platform is sheltered by either the mezzanine or those interesting shelters. Its colors are unique, too, from simple grays to shades of yellow and green. Revere Beach also has the same Blue Line history artwork running along its floor as Beachmont, adding more colors to the mix!

It may be emergency exit only, but lots of people use this exit, anyway.
The Beach Street exit is another weird aspect of this station. For one thing, it's supposedly emergency exit only, but people still use it. It also has a turnstile, but no one seems to use that, opting for the emergency door instead. Also, someone could easily get into the door and get onto the platform without paying, which is really annoying.

The station's main entrance.
After leaving onto Beach Street, I took a walk to Revere Beach, which required crossing two busy roads. On my way back, I figured I'd have to go in through the main entrance, so I headed back a little further down Beach Street. To get to the entrance, there's a nice pedestrian path, as well as a T logo on Beach Street so people know where the station is. Finally, a station that gets it right! The entrance itself is really modern-looking.

The shiny mezzanine.
The mezzanine is fantastic! It's really clean and spacious, and very modern. Everything seems to be mirrored, particularly the amazing ceiling. There are even some payphones here, as well as bus schedules for the three buses that serve this station.

Love the wooden doors!
From the mezzanine, I noticed a doorway leading to a third exit. The door opened up to another, mostly shiny room, though with a brick wall on one side. This room led to two wooden doors, after which both walls became brick. All of this ended up at a waiting room for a hospital! I was surprised, and felt a bit awkward there.

Oh, yeah, this entrance just screams "train station".
I decided to head out of the waiting room to see where the entrance actually ended up. And it turned out it was a building I walked right by when going back to the station from Revere Beach! It has no signage whatsoever, and looks like just a boring old building. Maybe the entrance is supposed to be exclusive for hospital patients? I don't know, but it's a lot easier for those going to Revere Beach than traveling all the way around to the main entrance.

The mezzanine, now in fare control.
I went back to the mezzanine, going through the fare gates. Now, usually the area past the fare gates doesn't deserve any special mention, but this one is awesome! It has more shiny ceilings and walls, a cool pattern on the floor, wastebaskets, and a big window looking over the station platform. It's rare to see this much stuff past the fare gates!

Even the staircase is cool!
Walking to the outbound platform, I found yet another oddity. The hallway turns left towards a staircase (which is cool anyway, thanks to some artwork and a curving glass window/ceiling), and there are Dunkin' Donuts signs at that turn. I assumed it was just advertising, but I looked over the signs and saw right into the kitchen of the Dunkin' Donuts next door! This station just gets cooler and cooler, doesn't it?

Next stop, Wonderland.
Station: Revere Beach

Ridership: Not bad, at least for the Blue Line. The station gets about 3,200 riders per weekday, and probably more during the summer. When it's not the summer, I assume most of those riders are either locals from the area or hospital workers.

Pros: For one thing, it's just a nice station - modern, clean, and accessible. But also, it has so many weird, unique aspects to it that make it one of the most interesting stations on the system.

Cons: Two major cons: firstly, the hospital entrance could really use some signage on the outside, as it's much closer to the beach than the main entrance. Also, why would you even use this station to get to the beach when Wonderland has the pedestrian bridge over Ocean Ave? Seriously, Wonderland is so much more accessible for beachgoers than Revere Beach is (which is ironic, considering the latter's name).

Nearby and Noteworthy: I'm not the biggest Revere Beach fan (the beach itself, not the station), but being able to ride the subway up to the beach is such a great thing to be able to do. Wonderland is better for getting to the beach, though.

Final Verdict: 9/10
This high score goes against my better judgement. However, although it has a few issues, just look at how unique this station is! It has so many weird oddities that really set it apart from other Blue Line stations, and other MBTA stations in general. If you're into strange, unique stations, Revere Beach is absolutely worth a visit.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Orient Heights

Orient Heights Station was a mess. It wasn't accessible, and it was literally falling apart. Finally, in 2013, the MBTA gave it a much-needed renovation. But does that mean the aesthetics are good? Well, let's find out.

The platform.
Okay, so I have to say, I wasn't a fan of this station's aesthetics when I visited. But having just reviewed Wood Island, Orient Heights looks pretty good in comparison! So I could be a bit influenced by that in this review. We'll see...

And under the platform's shelter.
I think the platform itself is kind of a mixed bag. I like the reflective pillars, and the whole platform is sheltered. But the steel shelters are ugly, and those stupid Suffolk Downs fences are ever-present on the outbound side. Also, there are a few emergency exits along the platform. That's certainly a good thing, but what's really annoying is that it seems like they're very popular for fare dodgers, since they lead right onto the platform.

Another shot of the platform.
On the inbound side of the platform, the fences get replaced by some nice glass panels. This station also has some of those pointless bench shelters! They're the ones where the benches are already sheltered by the station, yet they get their own little room, anyway. I think this might be the only station on the Blue Line that has these.

The station's footbridge.
To get between sides of the station, there are two footbridges. Well, they're enclosed in the same structure, but separated by a fence - one is within fare control and the other is outside. With this footbridge, they use actual windows, so you can see the trains coming in from up there!

This one was taken about a year ago. But look at all those solar panels!
From the footbridge, you can also see the station's solar panels. 20% of the station's power needs are provided by these bad boys, which produce 100 kilowatts of energy. Apparently Orient Heights is a really energy-efficient station as a whole, so says this informative, albeit kinda pretentious PDF. And in the PDF, they spelled "sustainable" as "sustainabile", which is hilarious.

Looks like one of that train's doors is broken.
Another interesting thing about this station is that it doesn't have any mezzanines. There's a busway on the Bennington Street side, and from it are fare gates that lead right into the platform. I think this sort of layout is unique to Orient Heights, which makes it all the more interesting. Of course, that also makes this a "screw you" station, where you can see the train waiting there as you enter the station, but there's not much you can do about that.

The Bennington Street busway.
The Bennington Street busway is served by the 120, which is the only true MBTA bus that serves this station. It's a nice busway, a simple road paralleling Bennington Street. It has another bench shelter, as well as countdown clocks for Blue Line trains! I love when there are countdown clocks in busways!

The Saratoga Street busway.
On the other side of the station is the Saratoga Street busway. This is where the 712/713 contracted buses to Winthrop stop. It's scaled down from the Bennington Street one, including with the number of fare gates, but it's still fine. Now, something I didn't realize when I visited Orient Heights is that it actually has a pretty large parking lot. The lot is right next to the Blue Line yard (there's a big train yard here), and has 434 spaces! I can't believe I didn't notice this before!

Snowy...
I'm honestly not sure if the snowy picture above is at Orient Heights or not, so here's another one that I know was taken at the station.

Station: Orient Heights

Ridership: I was really expecting this to be higher. The station gets 2,833 riders per weekday, which makes it the third-worst station on the above-ground section of the Blue Line in terms of ridership. I mean, this station is the "gateway" station into Winthrop, and has a sizeable residential area around it! I was really expecting more riders.

Pros: Okay, so this station is actually pretty nice. And I'm gonna be honest, it's pretty good aesthetically. It's also really energy efficient, and has a really big parking lot considering its ridership. For a Blue Line station, the bus connections are plenty.

Cons: The emergency exits on the platforms need to be a little better at keeping people out, since I saw a lot of people coming into the station through them when I was here. Also, I guess there are a few aesthetic decisions I don't really like, but on a whole the station looks nice.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I have a friend that used to live in this area who could probably give a few noteworthy businesses. That said, he doesn't read this blog, and I don't know anything about the area, so...sorry.

Final Verdict: 7/10
Overall, I guess I do like this station! I wasn't expecting it to get an especially high score, but a seven is pretty good. I think my real problem with this station is that it's still generic in terms of looks. There's nothing here that makes it stand out from the crowd (except for the fare gate layout, which isn't that noteworthy). But I guess I do like Orient Heights after all.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Wood Island

A blog post?! Gee, it's been so long since the last one, I hope I still remember how to write these...
Yes, I've been super busy lately and haven't been able to write. But I finally have another station review, as we take a look at a really generic Blue Line station, Wood Island!

It's been a while since this picture was taken.
The platforms are pretty stark. I don't like the steel shelters running along most of their lengths (though the outbound one has an open-air section). One can step further into shelter, due to a "room" to the side of the platform. I like the bricks in here, though there's a little too much concrete.

Is that a "wet floor" sign? I don't remember the floor being too wet...
As I arrived on the outbound platform, I wanted to cross over to the other side so I could see the main mezzanine. That "room" to the side of the platform I mentioned also has stairs that lead up to a footbridge to the other side. Aesthetically, it was fine, being clean and wide. I don't like those weird glass panels they always use for these footbridges, though, because they don't let you look out and see the trains coming in from above.

The mezzanine.
The mezzanine is actually pretty nice. The brick architecture is good-looking and the ceiling is really high, though once again there's a little too much concrete for my liking. Also, those awful fences from Suffolk Downs make a return here. In terms of fare gates, there are enough, considering the ridership this station gets.

I guess this is the best busway picture I could get.
Outside, the station's busway is a simple loop. Passengers get dropped off right in front of the entrance, then buses pick people up further down a platform (seen in the picture above). It was nice, with brick architecture once again. I didn't like the little stone benches, however.

Nobody was using the bike shelter, and for good reason...
Though there's no parking for cars, there is a small bike shelter with 10 spaces. It was covered with snow when I was here, but I assume it's well used on normal days. This entrance leads out to Bennington Street, which has a problem I've been seeing a lot lately: no MBTA signs. I mean, yeah, you can see the station from the street, but still! It doesn't really look like a train station from a distance.

I assume most of this snow has melted by now.
The entrance on the other side of the station is a bit weirder. For one thing, it leads out to an industrial street that seems to be mostly airport buildings. For another, it doesn't have a mezzanine. Sure, you can leave the station here from the outbound platform, but getting in is a different story. You have to cross over a different footbridge, this one out of fare control, then come in through the main mezzanine. That seems really annoying, especially since there's room for a small mezzanine on this side. That said, I can't imagine that many people actually using this entrance.

Goodbye, train!
Station: Wood Island

Ridership: Oooh...not good. This station has the second-worst ridership of the above-ground Blue Line stations, with only about 2,500 riders per day (the worst is Suffolk Downs). In fact, this station has the 10th worst ridership in the entire system! So, yeah, not many people use Wood Island.

Pros: Parts of the station are nice, like the mezzanine and the footbridges. I also like the busway, and this station has some good bus connections for the Blue Line - the 112, 120, and part-time 121 all stop here.

Cons: I don't like a large portion of the station's architecture. The bricks look good, but the steel and concrete are terrible! Also, the footbridge situation with the smaller entrance is annoying, but I'll bet barely anyone uses that entrance, anyway.

Nearby and Noteworthy: It seems like you need to walk a bit down Bennington Street to get to businesses. I don't know anything specific, but I did find an interesting oddity when looking at the area on Google Maps. Next to the station, there's a street called Frankfort Street that has just one triple-deck apartment on it, surrounded by a park! The apartment looks so lonely and out of place there.

Final Verdict: 5/10
This is a pretty boring, generic station. Sure, it's not grossly unclean or insanely ugly or anything, but just...boring. And it's not like it's a major station - quite the contrary, in fact. I guess I don't not like Wood Island, but I don't like it.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
As compensation for its performance during the blizzard, the MBTA is offering a free fare day on April 24. The whole system will be free to ride, even the Commuter Rail! They will also be giving discounted monthly passes for May.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Airport

Being a Red Line user, the Silver Line is the much more efficient way of getting to the airport for me. But for Blue, Orange, and Green Line (before Government Center was closed) users, Airport Station is more direct. And most tourists would probably use the station too. Luckily for them, this place is fantastic.

Just look at this platform! It's beautiful!
I love the platform - the whole thing is sheltered. Not only that, but the ceiling is really high. It's very well lit, with lots of natural light getting in (the line is above ground here). There's lots of historical information lining the walls, and quite a few benches, too. Things seem to end up in the rafters a lot, though.

The center of the platform.
In the center of the platform, the ceilings get very high to accommodate two footbridges. They go between the main mezzanine and the Bremen Street entrance - one within fare control and one outside. This center portion has some really high windows, which have some cool artwork on them. And we can't forget about how Blue Line trains switch power at Airport!

The beautiful main mezzanine.
The main mezzanine is huge. It has a bunch of fare gates, anticipating huge crowds. Aside from schedules for every bus route on the system, there's also a handy-dandy board showing departures to and arrivals from the airport. It does have an abundance of airline ads, but there are also these really cool payphones that look like rocket capsules about to take off. Also, there are some really random brochures. Why is there a brochure for Toronto at Boston's airport?

The busway.
The busway where the airport shuttle buses pick up is pretty simple. It's a simple shelter running down the length of a sidewalk. There are some benches along it, too. The busway has a second lane, which is unsheltered and only meant for buses dropping people off. Airport Station is also served by the early-morning 171 bus, and once they build the Silver Line to Chelsea, that will be stopping here, too.

The much smaller Bremen Street mezzanine.
The station's second entrance is on the other side. Its mezzanine is much less grand than the main one, with only two fare gates. That's not to say it's dirty or ugly, though. Indeed, this whole station is really modern and clean. The Bremen Street entrance probably doesn't get as much use, though, so only two fare gates are necessary.

It's so big!
The station looks really big if you look at it from the Bremen Street side. This entrance leads to a pedestrian path that goes over and under two highways, and into a nice-looking park. This then goes to a residential neighborhood, though unfortunately there's no T symbol outside the park.

You can see the portal in the background.
Station: Airport

Ridership: As you might expect, this station gets pretty high ridership for the Blue Line. Its 7,429 daily riders make it the second-busiest non-transfer Blue Line station. And not all these people are going to the airport - there are also residents of nearby neighborhoods who use this station.

Pros: I mean, I just love everything about this station. It's all sheltered, it's beautiful, and the mezzanine has some fantastic amenities. It's annoying that you have to take a shuttle bus to get to the airport itself, but imagine how expensive it would be to give the airport direct train service. The shuttle buses run pretty frequently, anyway, and this is the most direct link for those who use the Blue, Green, and Orange Lines.

Cons: I just wish there was a T logo on Bremen Street. How expensive can it be to put simple signs up?

Nearby and Noteworthy: The airport, I guess. There are some businesses along nearby Bennington Street, too.

Final Verdict: 9/10
Airport Station is beautiful. I love all the station's aesthetics, and it has some great amenities in the main mezzanine. Something I didn't mention was the elevator in the mezzanine that was double the size of a normal elevator, which was amazing to discover! I just wish there was a sign on Bremen Street, but I guess you can't have everything. Even though a sign wouldn't be too hard to install!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
An increase in schoolwork recently means I won't be able to post nearly as much as I was doing before. I'll probably be able to one or two posts a week, hopefully. Sorry, everyone.
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