Monday, October 12, 2015


Whenever I return to Boston, I like to come back with a bang. So, who's up for a Commuter Rail station on its last legs? Chelsea Station has always been a bit of an outcast, a lone Commuter Rail station where there ought to be proper transit. That's being rectified now with the Silver Line Gateway, which will also move the Commuter Rail station further down the line, but while we still can, let's take a look at the current disaster that is Chelsea Station.

It's not much, is it?
Due to Silver Line construction, the outbound platform was completely demolished. This means that it's now just a slab of asphalt between the two tracks. The only aid given for crossing between the two is this slab of wood thrown onto the inbound track. I mean, the station was never wheelchair accessible, but come on!

Here's a look at the construction that was going on.
The inbound platform gets a shelter, and it's standard for the Commuter Rail. You've got some benches (complete with gum and graffiti), a few crowded wastebaskets, some defaced ads, and a screen that only works on one side. You can tell this station has gotten a lot of neglect over the years...

One of the MBTA's leased locomotives passing under Route 1.
This station can get...noisy. As you can see in the picture above, it's right next to the huge elevated Route 1 structure, and you can imagine how it would sound with cars speeding past all the time. Plus, the station is situated at a level crossing with a four-way intersection. And the platform is tiny, so half the train is always sticking out over the level crossing. It's a bit of a mess.

Another train, this one heading to Boston.
Station: Chelsea

Ridership: I was here on a Sunday, and there were way more people going outbound than inbound. Indeed, I was the only person that got on the Boston train, while people who had missed the previous outbound train would have to wait for quite a while longer. I will say that most of the outbound passengers were asking if the train was going to Lynn, so maybe something was going on there that day. Regardless, this station gets low inbound ridership, with only 179 passengers per weekday.

Pros: I would say the only thing the current Chelsea has going for it is location. It's much closer to Bellingham Square (pretty much downtown Chelsea) than the new location will be, and that means it has more bus connections.

Cons: Honestly, this station has always been subpar. The outbound platform has always been a slab of asphalt anyway, and the inbound shelter is decrepit. The station isn't wheelchair accessible, and it generally has this industrial, gritty feel. Plus, there's the fact that trains spill out into the level crossing because the platform isn't long enough. Oh, and did I mention how noisy Route 1 is?

Nearby and Noteworthy: Nearby Bellingham Square has a lot of businesses and restaurants, but I believe that area can be a bit sketchy. Go at your own risk, I guess?

Final Verdict: 3/10
If I didn't have the knowledge that Chelsea Station was being moved, I would probably still say that the MBTA needs to start from the ground up. I mean, this station is really horrible. The new station should hopefully be wheelchair accessible and feature more amenities. The only thing about the current Chelsea that's good is the location, but hopefully the new one will feature a parking lot (something else the current one lacks) so people can get there easily. But as for this Chelsea Station? I think it's time to say goodbye.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Service Change: Portugal, Part 15 - TST Bus 161 (Costa da Caparica - Lisbon (Pca. do Areeiro) via Alcantara)

You'll remember how on the way to Costa da Caparica, we used the ferry-bus combo, which was pretty long. I will say, however, that that way is useful if you're coming from downtown Lisbon. However, if you're staying further north (like we were), your best option by far is the 161. It reminded me of New York's X1 bus - express route, nice coach buses, and an amazing bridge crossing.

The bus waiting at the Costa da Caparica bus station.
As I mentioned, the 161 used coach buses for its route. They had plush seats and were generally quite comfortable. Anyway, we left the bus terminal and headed up Av. Dr. Aresta Branco, going by apartments and businesses.

We then turned onto R. Horacio da Silva Louro, picking up a bunch of people at a stop in front of an apartment building. This street merged into route A38, which climbed into the hills and left the city behind. Soon it became a full highway, with exits and everything. It was rural, running mostly through fields.

Eventually we reached a cloverleaf interchange and curved north onto the IP7. Soon after that, we came to a toll plaza, using some form of E-ZPass to get through. From there, we passed Lisbon's version of Christ the Redeemer, then went up onto the 25 de Abril Bridge. And let me tell you, even though it was dark, the view of Lisbon was incredible.

Of course, it was nighttime, so the pictures were terrible.
Here's another one.
After crossing the Tagus River and soaring over Lisbon for a bit, we took the first exit and curved around to Ac. Ceuta. There was a stop at the Alcantara suburban station, then we continued up the mostly leafy street. We sped down this road for a while without much in the way of scenery, then it became Av. Calouste Gulbenkian and we went under an old aqueduct.

This street was highway-esque until it became Av. Berna. Now it was a local street lined with apartments and businesses. We passed the park containing the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, then later on we had a stop at the Campo Pequeno Metro station. We went by a cool circular building and a huge bank, then around a rotary. This was Areeiro Station, with a simple shelter for the bus stop. The trip had only taken about 45 minutes, and it was amazing. If you're staying in the northern part of Lisbon and you want to go to the beach, the 161 is a must.

The bus in nighttime Lisbon.

Service Change: Portugal, Part 14 - TST Bus 124 (Cacilhas - Costa da Caparica)

Okay, so it turns out there's a faster bus from Cacilhas to Costa da Caparica, but we ended up on the slow one. That made things more interesting, though, since we got to see a bunch of local neighborhoods. Of course, maps on the TST website are pretty much nonexistent, the only one being this horrible comic sans network map. So I'll be relying on the Google Maps one to figure out the crazy route of the local 124 bus.

By this point, I was having to take pictures with my mom's iPhone, which explains this atrocity.
And this one.
Cacilhas had a large bus station with many different berths. One of those berths was for the Metro - yes, there was a light rail metro system down here. I was very mad that I didn't get to take it, but it doesn't go anywhere to which tourists would want to go.

On the 124, we left the bus station and headed down Av. Alianca Povo MFA, which paralleled the Tagus River. We were following the Metro, which along with us, turned onto Av. 25 de Abril de 1975. This street was very urban, with tall apartment buildings and a few businesses lining the road.

There was a nice Metro station at Gil Vicente as we continued to follow it, the street now called Av. Dom Afonso Henriques. We went around a rotary while the Metro plowed right through, and now the street was called Av. Dom Nuno Alvares Pereira. We continued down here for a while, the street still lined with modern apartments.

After another rotary at Almada, we left the Metro by turning onto R. Dom Joao de Castro. Along here the tall apartments from before shrunk into two-story ones. We then crossed over the IP7 highway, which becomes the 25 de Abril Bridge into Lisbon. This was also where we left the city for good.

There was a rotary, then we headed down R. 3 Vales, going through some fields. There was another urban section after, with tall apartments once again. The street curved south, leaving the buildings behind. We had a stop at the Formega Metro station, but after following the line for a bit, we turned off once again.

We squeezed down the narrow R. Trabalhadores Rurais, going past tight businesses with apartments on top. The street then curved back up and we rejoined the Metro for a bit, only to leave it for the last time, going by a university (and some marshland). We crossed over the A38 highway, then headed down R. do Areeiro, which was quite narrow.

Turning onto the N10 road, we entered a town, with smaller apartments alongside the street. The road got narrow when we got to a downtown area, squeezing through some tight businesses. It got slightly wider when the surroundings got more residential, with individual houses.

There was a view of the ocean and the buildings of Costa da Caparica at a rotary, which meant we were getting close. We turned onto the A38 highway, running down the rural hillside. Once we reached Costa da Caparica, though, it was instantly urban. We turned onto R, Vitimas da Guerra Colonial, running by lots of businesses. Soon after that, we pulled into the Costa da Caparica bus station, dropping off all the remaining passengers.

Aw man, that destination board is garbled...
So, is the ferry+124 combo worth it? Not if you're looking for speed. The 124 takes 40 minutes to get from Cacilhas to Costa da Caparica, and every time there was a sign for the latter, we'd go in the opposite direction. That said, it is quite scenic and you get to see a lot of local areas, but those looking for speed would prefer the 20-minute 135 bus. However, there is a faster way of getting to the beach from Lisbon, which we'll be looking at in the next and final Portugal post.

The bus terminal didn't have much - just some shelters.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Service Change: Portugal, Part 13 - Lisbon Ferry (Cais do Sodre - Cacilhas)

When we got back to Lisbon, we only had one full day left in Portugal, with one thing we wanted to do: go to the beach. Now, Cascais is the city's main touristy beach, but we found out that the water there can get so polluted that you can't even swim in it! So we decided to head to where the locals go - Costa da Caparica. This beach is more out of the way, requiring one to take a ferry and a bus to get there. Let's start with the former.

The entrance to the Cais do Sodre ferry terminal.
Oh, and since we're at Cais do Sodre again, I get an excuse to show the rabbits!
The ferry terminal at Cais do Sodre was clean and modern. Featuring boarding areas for each of the ferry routes, the place was organised as well. Plus, the ferries used the same Viva system as the rest of Lisbon transport, so you could get into the boarding area simply by tapping your card and going through turnstiles.

There were a few shops inside the terminal. 
Turnstiles going into the boarding areas.
The boarding area was simple, with benches running along the walls. When the boat came, it let all its passengers out, who headed for a separate exit that bypassed the boarding area. Then a big orange door opened up...and it was chaos. Getting onto the ferry was basically a free-for-all, with everyone pushing through to get through the doors onto the boat.

The boarding area.
The boat coming in.
The boat had a lot of capacity, with many seats inside. As for the ride, it was fairly short, but the views of the city across the water were great. After the jaunt across the Tagus River, we reached Cacilhas, which had a simple ferry terminal. Overall, I'd say the ferry ride is worth it, even if you're not taking it anywhere.

The inside of the ferry's second deck.
Check out that view!
The 25 de Abril Bridge.
A washed-out view of Lisbon.
The ferry terminal at Cacilhas.

Service Change: Portugal, Part 12 - The Alfa Pendular High Speed Train

As you know, when we were going from Lisbon to Porto, we took the slightly-fast Intercidades train. That one could go up to about 120 MPH, which is speedy for sure. But if you want a true high-speed experience, the Alfa Pendular is the way to go. Running from Braga in the north to Faro in the south, via Porto and Lisbon, this train gets up to about 140 MPH - the fastest in Portugal. As luck would have it, we got to take this service going back to Lisbon, and it was fantastic.

It honestly felt like an airline. Stewardesses kept coming past to give refreshments. These headphones were for...
...this TV. It didn't show anything interesting, but it was a nice addition, I guess.
Our car was not very crowded, for some reason.
This screen showed how fast we were going, and it was very fun to watch. The fastest we went was 226 km/h. Plus, these high speed trains could tilt around corners!
The inside again.
The windows had curtains that could be lowered by the push of a button.
Of course there's a bathroom picture - this one was pretty cramped.
A screen on the side of the train.
The train at Oriente, back in Lisbon.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Service Change: Portugal, Part 11 - Porto Metro, Lines E and F (plus a funicular!)

Although the independent section of Line E is incredibly short, it's still important, as this line serves Porto's airport. The line splits off from Line B at Verdes Station, which was an interesting one due to its stacked design. Line B had side platforms, while Line E had depressed platforms in the center, since it went underground just past this station.

You can see the Line B platforms rising up on either side.
The view of Maia from the station.
The shelter on one of the platforms.
The train coming in.
As I mentioned, the line went underground past Verdes. We made a turn in the tunnel and surfaced in the median of Av. de Aeroporto. After a stop at Botica (where the surroundings were mostly industrial), we entered another tunnel, curved north, and surfaced at Aeroporto Station, the last stop. Told you the ride was short.

Lots of people getting out of the train.
The train waiting for everyone to get out.
The grassy tracks leading back toward Porto.
Aeroporto was a very nice station, with a big glass shelter. 
The entrance from inside.
A big sign for the airport.
And here's the train again, back at Ponte de Cuco.
The F is the only line that goes eastward beyond Estadio do Dragao, and when we rode it, it didn't even get the dignity of having its own letter - they were just through-running every other Line A train to Line F's terminus. My camera was out of battery by this point of the adventure, so this will be purely text. Sorry, Line F...

Leaving Estadio do Dragao, we paralleled a suburban rail line, rising up to an elevated station at Contumil. We then turned onto the median of an unnamed street which went past...nothing much, really. We went below a rotary, then into a tunnel.

We surfaced at Levada Station, which was close to a huge shopping mall. Running in our own right-of-way from there, we twisted through areas of various density (there was even some farmland). After Baguim, we went under another rotary and surfaced in the median of another unnamed street. We went through a town with some apartments, but the next and last stop, Fanzeres, had a rural feel to it. However, it also had a parking lot with free parking for Metro users!

And here's a bonus - the funicular!
There's one more thing that's technically part of the Porto Metro system, and that's the funicular. It uses the same fare system, but for some reason the funicular costs double. I have no idea why, since it's a pretty short ride, but it does save a long walk up steep steps.

The ticket booth.
We didn't have Andante Cards yet when we rode the funicular, so we got these special tickets.
This sign showed how many more people could enter. The cap was 25.
Now, the funicular could be a great link between the bustling riverside and the city up a hill, but the problem is the wait. The way funiculars work is with a weight-counterweight system, and usually the counterweight is a second vehicle - here, however, it's literally just a counterweight. And with a limit of 25 people in a vehicle, you could end up waiting 20 minutes just for a 3 minute ride.

The funicular coming down the hill.
That one was too busy for us, so we had to wait for the next one.
The funicular is articulated, since it's not at the same slope the whole time.
Stupid counterweight...
As for the inside of the funicular, there wasn't much to talk about. It was small, clean, and it got the job done. There were a few benches, and of course a big window, since the view going up the hill was fantastic.

The Luis I Bridge.
The bridge again, but from higher up.
Looking down the hill.
And the bridge again.
Looking across the river.
The inside of the funicular.
Soon after passing the counterweight, the funicular went underground. It was in tunnel for a while until we arrived at Batalha, the underground northern terminus. It was a clean station with a nice entrance - I do wish the signage to Sao Bento from there was better, though. Overall, the funicular is pretty cool if you're a tourist, but if you're trying to get somewhere quickly, it's meh. You're probably better off walking if you can handle the hills.

Heading underground.
Looking down the tunnel.
The station.
And the entrance.
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