Friday, June 23, 2017

Logan Airport Shuttle: 88 (Serves All Terminals and Economy Parking Garage)

Oh, Logan Airport parking...why musteth thou beeth so expensive? At a hefty $32.00 per day, Central Parking may be convenient to all the terminals, but it sure ain't cheap. Luckily, Economy Parking is here to help, with a rate of just $23.00 per day! What a "steal!" How does one get from Economy Parking to the terminals, though? They must use the 88.

We didn't actually start at the Economy Garage, but this is the only place where I actually got pictures of the bus...
Contrary to the picture above, Nathan, Sam, and I got the bus at Terminal A. Since the 88 serves all terminals, we got to do that whole shabang...always a pleasure. Thus, we deviated our way to the Terminal B parking lot in order to serve Stops 1 and 2, then we served the exteriors of C and E as well.

Some parking at Terminal E.
From Terminal E, we headed down Service Road, going by a bunch of parking lots, as well as a gas station, while a huge wall occupied one side of the street. The wall continued as we proceeded down the road, but hangars and airplanes were occasionally visible. The other side of the street was taken up by I-90.

Hark! Economy Parking approaches!
We passed Airport Station without serving it, then turned onto Cottage Street. It's a bit of an odd name, really, as there were no cottages around - only parking lots. Of course, the mother of all those lots was the big Economy Parking Garage. We drove straight in, using a bus-only entrance, and arrived at the stop within the garage.

That's a tight fit!
Logan Airport Shuttle Route: 88 (Serves All Terminals and Economy Parking Garage)

Ridership: Ridership on this thing is great for an airport shuttle. Our bus had about 7-10 people going to Economy Parking, which is great when you consider the frequency of the route. There was a good smattering of people going the other way as well, so ridership on the 88 seems to be steady and consistent.

Pros: I gotta say, I didn't know about Economy Parking until I rode this route, but this makes it seem pretty darn attractive! The 88 is frequent, relatively fast, and well-used. I'm glad it doesn't waste time serving Airport Station, instead opting for a direct route right to the terminals.

Cons: The waiting area at the Economy Parking Garage could be better - it's really just a few wastebaskets, and that's about it. Come on, let's get a bench there!

Nearby and Noteworthy: Economy Parking really isn't much less convenient than Central Parking, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper! Seems like the best place to park at the airport, really.

Final Verdict: 9/10
I gotta say, my experience with the 88 definitely turned me on to Economy Parking. The shuttle is so frequent and direct that when you consider the lower price, it's really a no-brainer! Sure, the waiting area at the garage could be better, but at least you're not going to have to wait too long for a bus.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Logan Airport Shuttle: 77 (Serves All Terminals to the Chelsea Garage)

It's odd that my first Logan Airport Shuttle review happens to cover the craziest and most obscure route on the system! The 77 "provided [sic] employee bus service between Logan Airport and the Chelsea Garage," and it runs incredibly frequently whilst doing so. The route operates 24/7, and you're never gonna have to wait long for the next bus to show up. Let's take a look!

The busway in Chelsea.
The 77 actually gets a proper busway in Chelsea, and it's great! There's a loop for buses, and the service is so frequent that there's always a vehicle waiting for passengers. Inside the employee garage, there's a waiting area, but apparently it's for "Authorized Personnel Only." Come on, it looks nice in there!

A bus pulling out towards the airport. The route wasn't using articulated buses this day for some reason.
From the busway, we headed out onto Chelsea Street, going over the Chelsea River. We entered East Boston on the other side, and it was one of the most horrible industrial areas in the entire city. What do those huge vats contain? They're so ominous!

Going over the river.
Next, we turned onto Curtis Street, which crossed over a little marshy brook. We then merged onto Route 1A, getting a surprise express section! The highway went elevated past some more mysterious vats, Wood Island Station, triple-decker apartments, and a bunch of businesses before coming down alongside some parks and airport buildings.

The view from the highway.
We curved alongside Airport Station, then came up alongside the East Boston Memorial Park. Eventually, we headed up onto an on-ramp that took us on an elevated bridge to the actual terminals. However, at certain times, the 77 splits into two "routes," with one serving Terminals A and B, and the other service Terminals C and E. This was one of those times, and we were on the C and E route.

Pretty quiet over here at Terminal E!
We zoomed past Terminals A and B up on the Departure Level, then we pulled into C and dropped a bunch of people off. After that, we came back onto the road for a bit before turning off again, this time into Terminal E. Technically, this isn't the last stop - the route has one more at the Delta Hangar - but since it ends in such a restricted part of the airport, Nathan and I decided to depart here at Terminal E.

Goodbye!
Logan Airport Shuttle Route: 77 (Serves All Terminals to the Chelsea Garage)

Ridership: The ridership for this thing is great. Massport doesn't provide statistics for its individual routes, but from what we saw, the 77 has really consistent ridership. Considering how frequently it runs, the fact that our bus had about 15 people on it was great, and the other ones seemed to be pretty busy, too!

Pros: This is such an excellent route. It provides a speedy link from the Chelsea lot to the Airport, and it's so frequent - every 8 minutes to all terminals in the morning and late at night, every 8 minutes on the two "routes" middays and late evenings, and every 5-6 minutes in the afternoon and...from 2 AM to 6 AM, apparently! That's a lot of early-morning employees...

Cons: This route gets absolutely no signage anywhere at the airport! I think it's technically meant to be "employees-only," but this seems like a somewhat questionable policy. The Chelsea lot is right in the middle of one of the densest cities in the country! Wouldn't it be great if residents knew about and could use this shuttle to get to the airport quickly? Sure, there may not be too many people in Chelsea who are going to the airport, but the demographic is certainly there, and this shuttle is so convenient! It's also strange that it boards on the Departures Level going both inbound and outbound, but again, it has no signage up there, so it's not at all obvious where it stops.

Nearby and Noteworthy: If you need to get to Chelsea from the airport, this is your bus! The parking lot is about a 15 minute walk from Bellingham Square.

Final Verdict: 9/10
As a route, the 77 is absolutely perfect. It's frequent, fast, and serves an area of huge demand. I was so close to giving it a 10/10...but that lack of signage is really annoying. There's no indication that it boards on the Departures Level, and no signs up there saying where it stops! If there was more signage, the route could be open to the public and increase its ridership even more.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Thursday, June 15, 2017

GATRA: Pembroke Shuttle (Video Review)

Surprise! How's about a video review on this lovely Thursday evening? A walk from Pembroke to Halifax after taking GATRA's shuttle turned a bit crazy...


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Halifax

Hey, it's an Old Colony station that actually has something noteworthy about it! It's just too bad that one noteworthy thing is also terrible...but we'll get to that. Here's Halifax!

Coming into the station.
It starts out pretty boring, though. The station is, of course, located in the complete middle of nowhere, although the tracks don't go anywhere near Halifax's center, so I'll give it a pass. A long road leads to the station's entrance and parking lot, with 402 spaces. There is also a bike rack near the entrance, with 8 spaces.

Looking down the platforms.
The platforms are completely standard for the Old Colony. They're high-level, with shelters, advertisements, screens, benches, and wastebaskets. The platform stretches into the woods for a while, with mostly signs and benches, although there is an extra shelter on one of the sides. Which side is it? Hang on...

The extra shelter.
There's no signage saying where the trains go! All passengers get is "Platform #1" and "Platform #2." Maybe this is common knowledge and I just didn't know it, but I had to use this page to figure out that "Platform 1" means outbound and "Platform 2" means inbound. Although strangely, our train to Boston boarded on Platform 2. Soooooo...now I'm confused...?

Hey, you're on the wrong side!
Station: Halifax

Ridership: Poor ol' Halifax...it's the least-used station on the Plymouth/Kingston Line (well, except for miserable Plymouth), with 464 inbound riders per weekday. 

Pros: Well, it's got its classic Old Colony bits to it. There's the high-level platform, the big parking lot, and plenty of seating space.

Cons: What is up with the signage here? I could just be "out of the loop," but are most people aware of the fact that Platform 1 is outbound while Platform 2 is inbound? It seems a little obscure. Not to mention the fact that the inbound train boarded on 1, but I assume that's just typical Commuter Rail craziness...? This whole thing baffles me!

Nearby and Noteworthy: Uhhhhh...nope.

Final Verdict: 5/10
It doesn't take much for an Old Colony station to lose points. Sure, a normal one will get a 7, but throw in one little imperfection and BOOM! Down go the points. Yeah, how hard is it to say "Trains to Boston" and "Outbound Trains" or something? This track business is confusing...although so is the fact that the train didn't even board on the right one. Arghhhhhh!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Sunday, June 11, 2017

GATRA: Pembroke Shuttle

One of the strangest things about the GATRA is that it's composed of many different "systems" that don't really connect and have nothing to do with each other. Some of the most isolated of those systems are the rush hour-only commuter shuttles: weird, one-way routes that only operate during peak hours from Commuter Rail stations. Still, as a system that typically targets seniors, the idea of the GATRA catering to commuters is an interesting one. Let's see how they do with the Pembroke Shuttle!

EW!
Well...evidently GATRA couldn't care less about its Pembroke Shuttle, because it doesn't even get a proper bus! Nope, this shuttle is stuck with a stupid Dial-a-Ride vehicle that doesn't even get any signage. The inside was reasonably nice, though, with fine seats, an unjiggly wheelchair lift, and...a monkey. Sure, why not?

A monkey!
In the midst of traffic coming from the train, we edged our way out of the Hanson parking lot and turned onto Main Street. After a few industrial-looking businesses, the road became residential, and houses lined the street for the most part, aside from a police station. We came across some suburban retail with parking lots and a shopping center at the intersection with Monponsett Street, and a few more at the intersection with Mattakeesett Street (in a neighborhood called Bryantville), onto which we turned.

Some businesses in Bryantville.
Now in Pembroke, we headed north past mostly houses. We also passed a cemetery, as well as some free commuter parking at Mattakeesett Fields. Yeah, I think "commuter parking" just means "use the same lot that you would use for the fields," but it's still a nice provision.

Nice view!
Next, we came up along a pond shrouded by trees, then a marsh on the other side. At a rotary we merged right, where the road passed between two other ponds and was lined with little houses. From there, it got a little industrial, with a few stretches of buildings of that category between the residences.

Downtown Pembroke, everyone...
Eventually we arrived at "downtown" Pembroke, which was mostly just a cluster of suburban businesses with parking lots. The bus is technically supposed to deviate to serve more makeshift commuter parking at the Community Center, but we were the only ones on the bus, and we had told her we were going to the Housing Authority. Thus, we turned onto Center Street, and after a bit of confusion from the driver about where the turn was, we pulled into a housing development, ending our rather short trip. Time to walk to Halifax!

The bus leaving the Housing Authority.
GATRA Route: Pembroke Shuttle

Ridership: Well, on this trip, it was just me and my friends Michael and Shuvom. Do other trips get more people? We asked the driver, and she said the most she's seen in a day is three. GATRA's ridership report offers a slightly higher number, with 15 passengers per day in 2014 - divide that by two because of the commuter nature of the shuttle, and we've got about 7 people using this thing every day. Ouch!

Pros: Seeing GATRA cater to commuters is great, and this route's schedule is perfect for them: the two morning trips and three evening trips all time very well with Commuter Rail trains going in and coming out of the city, respectively.

Cons: Does Pembroke reeeeeaaaallyyyyyy need a bus? I mean, come on, every house we saw had a driveway. The ridership for this route clearly isn't there, either - seven people per day? That's awful. If the trip we rode had no one on it, then cut the trip! In fact, I almost wonder if this route should just be once in each peak, timing with one train. That way, you could consolidate all seven-or-so people into one bus, drastically raising efficiency. I'm sure the driver just goes back to doing Dial-a-Ride work when the Pembroke shift is done, so it would free up another vehicle for that, as well.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Sorry, but Pembroke is a really boring town. Aside from a rather nice-looking library, all of Pembroke's attractions are just chain businesses with big parking lots out front.

Final Verdict: 2/10
Unlike many of GATRA's other routes, the Pembroke shuttle does actually have a schedule to match its ridership. Five one-way trips per day makes sense when you're only getting 15 total riders! And really, they could easily consolidate that down to just two per day - one in the morning, one in the evening. That way the vehicle could be freed up for a longer period of time to do Dial-a-Ride work.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Hanson

Why on earth would I come to Hanson, you ask? Could it be to ride the rush-hour only GATRA shuttle from there to Pembroke, you ask? Why, yes, that was exactly why I came to Hanson! Before I can review that exciting GATRA shuttle, though, I have to review...Hanson. Wooooo...

The sheltered part of the platform.
Hanson is as typically Old Colony as you can get. The platform is all high-level, with a sizeable sheltered portion featuring benches, signs, and wastebaskets. Of course, the platform stretches way beyond the sheltered bit, going into the woods where there are a few more benches and signs.

Since this was on a weekday, the parking lot was actually busy!
Does Hanson have a parking lot? Yes, of course it does, and with 482 spaces, it's big enough to handle the rush hour crowds. There are bike spaces here, too, and a pedestrian path that leads out to the street. One advantage about Hanson is that it's technically in a downtown - that is, if "downtown" Hanson was at all worth talking about.

A train leaving the station.
Station: Hanson

Ridership: This is the second least-used station on the Plymouth Line, with only 473 inbound riders per weekday. Hey, the parking lot fits 482, so that works out pretty well, eh?

Pros: The high-level platform means the station is fully-accessible, and there's plenty of seating space, with a well-sized parking lot. Yeah, I mean, there isn't much to say here. It's also in a "downtown"!

Cons: Not much - it's just kinda boring. It's an Old Colony station, so yeah, boringness fits the bill.

Nearby and Noteworthy: As I mentioned, we are in "downtown" Hanson! Highlights include a Dunks, a pizza joint, and a fireplace shop...and that's about it.

Final Verdict: 8/10
Hey, you know, Hanson is pretty good for an Old Colony station! Okay, well, the only thing that makes it a cut above the others is that it's technically in a downtown...and yes, it's the most boring and suburban downtown possible, but it's still a downtown. Old Colony reviews are so fun, aren't they?

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Monday, June 5, 2017

RIPTA: 14 (West Bay)

Most of RIPTA's routes are of pretty normal length...but then there are the long ones that go miles and miles into the Rhode Island hinterlands. The least-used of those long routes (not including rush hour expresses) is the 14, which runs along the west side of Narragansett Bay, as its name suggests. Like the others, it's a beast of a route, with its longer branch taking almost an hour and a half to complete! Settle in for the long haul here...

Bank of Newport, I guess?
I'll be covering the Salt Pond Plaza branch of the 14 in this post, since it's mostly unique while the Newport section essentially duplicates the 64 (although it is an absolutely beautiful ride). Thus, we left the really boring mall (seriously, half the slots for stores weren't even occupied) and made our way up the wide Old Point Judith Road. This part was parallel to the 66, but it ended very quickly when we turned onto South Pier Road, starting our unique section.

A wide intersection.
South Pier Road was mostly residential, although we also passed long driveways to both the Narragansett Middle School and the Narragansett High School. As we got closer to Narragansett Bay, the houses got denser, but we turned onto Boon Street before we could properly reach the water. There were a few businesses along here between the houses, with fleeting views of the bay down side streets.

Wow, that's not tilted at all...
Soon we arrived at a shopping development that blocked our way, so we had to make a one-block deviation to get around. Thus, we turned onto Kingstown Road, then Caswell Street, which became Narragansett Ave. This curved around past some condominiums, as well as a tiny marsh apparently known as "Lake Canonchet," then we turned onto Beach Street.

Nice view...?
As the name suggests, we were running right alongside Narragansett Beach! Unfortunately, some rather large parking lots obstructed the view of the water. The street became Boston Neck Road as it curved north, and the scenery became some rather large houses obstructed by trees. Eventually we crossed over a river, finally giving us the view I was craving.

Hooray!
We ran through essentially open fields on the other side of the bridge, then some woods with low-lying trees. Eventually, some houses began to show up, many of them being fancy seaside properties. Indeed, there were occasional views of the bay through layers of trees and fields.

That house must have some great scenery in the backyard.
The residences started to get denser and a little smaller as we continued north. The road curved away from the bay again, and some suburban businesses and shopping centers with parking lots started to line it. There was a short break with some houses and a chapel, then the businesses came back, along with a park.

How exciting...
At Bridgetown Road, we were joined by the 64 on its way to Newport. The scenery got pretty woodsy, with houses hiding behind the trees and down side streets. As the road curved northeast, we entered North Kingstown, and there was a brief spurt of development (i.e. houses and a post office) at the intersection with Ferry Road.

Another view!
After that spurt, though, we went through pure farmland for a little while, and the open space offered another view of the bay. Entering the woods again, it became residential, with suburban houses along the road. We arrived at a few businesses, and after a park-and-ride, we crossed over Route 138, the highway to Newport. This is where the Newport branch of the 14 joins up, and we enter the route's "main line."

No view of the amazing bridge to Newport, alas...
There were more woods after the highway interchange, with the occasional open field. Eventually we started to pass some housing developments, as well as a gun shop (we were most definitely out in the countryside). There was an elementary school and some more businesses, and we crossed over the tiny Annaquatucket River near a marsh.

Another fleeting look at the bay down a side street.
There were more businesses on the other side of the river, ranging from a pizza place to a few auto shops to a motel. It got mostly residential after that, though, and the surroundings consisted of entirely houses for a little while. Finally, we crossed over Wickford Cove, then went through an intersection with Brown Street, Wickford's main drag.

This route has been pretty scenic, eh?
Unfortunately, the 14 doesn't directly serve Brown Street, but the charming businesses of the village are within easy walking distance of the route. Meanwhile, our road became Philips Street, and it consisted of mostly houses. We turned onto Route 1 (Tower Hill Road) next, going by a few suburban businesses and the Wickford Middle School.

A field for the middle school.
There was more retail at the intersection with Main Street, then we passed a combined building for the North Kingstown police and fire departments. It was mostly residential again beyond there as the street became Post Road, but it all changed once we went by a Rhode Island State Police building. After that, there were two motels and a bunch of businesses with huge parking lots.

A rather nondescript building.
The retail continued for a while, with a few random industrial buildings mixed in between them. Eventually the road went on a bridge over a train track and Route 403, then we made a strange deviation onto Gate Road. It took us out to a rotary and back, and basically only served to take the route slightly closer to a mall than if we had just stayed on Post Road.

The view of Route 403.
Post Road was much wider than before when we returned to it, and it was lined with businesses, mostly of the sketchy variety. "Black Lotus Tattoo Studios" housed in a strange industrial building? No thanks. There was a proper shopping plaza (Kingston Plaza) with slightly more reputable businesses, and across the street was...Rhode Island's largest aquarium? Huh...okay!

Looks like a great place for a bus stop...
We went over the tiny Sandhill Brook, and there was a bit more retail on the other side. There was a bit of a break where we passed a cemetery and a church, but then the businesses came back. We crossed the Commuter Rail/Amtrak tracks, then passed some shopping plazas and entered East Greenwich.

Benny's, I guess.
East Greenwich offered much of the same scenery as before, until eventually houses became the dominant surroundings. We passed a few apartment developments, then the businesses came back, although the parking lots were much smaller this time. In fact, they went away entirely when the street became Main Street and we passed through beautiful downtown East Greenwich.

My camera was dreadfully low on batteries by this point, so sorry for no pictures of Greenwich...
North of the lovely downtown, the street became Post Road again, and it got residential. Near some more apartment developments, we came up along the Northeast Corridor, which in turn was running right along the bay. We entered Warwick along this section, and eventually turned away from the tracks. There was a mixture of houses and businesses along the next section.

A side street.
The scenery got pretty diverse soon, ranging from housing developments to industrial buildings to businesses to houses to a cemetery. We crossed over Hardig Brook, then Post Road curved right, becoming a one-way street. This was Apponaug, but aside from some beautiful historical buildings near an intersection and a bunch of traffic, there wasn't too much of note.

A view of Apponaug.
There were a few houses along the street as we left "downtown" Apponaug, then the street curved up and it got really industrial. The Route 1 designation left Post Road, but we stayed on it, going past a mixture of houses and businesses. Just as it started to become industrial, we made a few curves and took a ramp onto...oh, I guess it's still called Post Road. Also, it was Route 1 again!

Some random parking lot.
It continued to be industrial, with a few airport-related businesses along the way as well. Speaking of airports, we turned off onto the T.F. Green Airport Connector Road, taking us into the terminal. After stopping there, we made our way back around, turning back on ourselves to run the other way down the road - but it wasn't just a "road" anymore. No, it was time for the express section to Providence, and we were on a highway!

The T.F. Green Airport walkway to the Commuter Rail.
We went through the woods for a while, then merged onto I-95. We passed by some industrial-looking buildings, then it was a bit more forest...then industrial buildings again...then forest again! We entered Cranston when we crossed over the Pawtuxet River, and beyond there, we saw industrial buildings on one side and houses on the other.

Barry Manilow is great!
We passed through a rather large interchange with the Huntington Expressway and went over the Northeast Corridor after that. From there, we got a nice view of the Roger Williams Park Zoo, beyond which dense houses lined one side of the highway. Next, we curved around into that gigantic industrial area south of Providence.

The view of the zoo!
Easing its way around the Rhode Island Hospital, the highway made its way into some dense areas south and west of downtown Providence. By the way, did I mention that we had been stuck in traffic since Cranston? And that Nathan and I had a very short amount of time to make our train back home? Yeah, by this point, all we wanted was for the bus to leave the traffic-stricken highway and get the heck onto some side streets, but we kept on chugging...

The industrial area.
Finally, at a gigantic interchange, we merged onto Memorial Boulevard, right outside the Providence Place Mall. We turned onto Francis Street, then Exchange Terrace, taking us along the northern side of Burnside Park. As it turned out, the 14 uses one of the closest Kennedy Plaza berths to the Commuter Rail station! Nathan and I got out and sprinted for our lives to the station, just barely making the train. This seems to happen a lot...

The bus allllllll the way back at Salt Pond Plaza...
RIPTA Route: 14 (West Bay)

Ridership: Like I said, the 14 is the least-used "long" route on the RIPTA, since it doesn't serve any particularly big ridership hubs (the 54 serves Woonsocket, the 60 serves Newport more quickly, and the 66 serves URI). Thus, in 2012, it only got 789 riders per weekday and 325 per Saturday, with most of them coming from the inner section of the route, before it splits in two.

Pros: Despite the fact that ridership isn't as good as the other long RIPTA routes, the 14 still serves a huge part of Rhode Island. It's the only route to some fairly important places like East Greenwich, Wickford, and Narragansett Beach, so clearly a lot of areas fall under the influence of the 14.

Cons: The problem is that the schedule is infrequent and inconsistent. It runs about every hour on weekdays, but it's not consistent at all. There are bouts during the rushes where it gets more frequent, but again, it's inconsistent. On Saturdays, it leaves about every hour and a half, but once again, the times are completely random. Also, the fact that it's every 90 minutes means that service to each branch is once every three hours. Then there are some weird express trips that happen mostly during the evening rush that add an extra layer of complexity to an already crazy route, and we're left with just a big mess.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Of all the towns the 14 serves, my favorite was East Greenwich. It's surprisingly big, and simply oozing with charm, with a bunch of hills and dense businesses! If only it wasn't such a pain to get there by public transportation - the 14's schedule is hard to deal with.

Final Verdict: 6/10
The 14 is an important route, but the schedule completely drags it down. I think hourly headways do make a lot of sense, but why can't they be more consistent? It also seems like it's not particularly worth having Saturday service to the branches - if they cut it back to maybe Gate Road, they could improve the frequencies, plus it would improve ridership efficiency. Perhaps even Sunday service could be tried with this arrangement?

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
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