Friday, February 21, 2014

93 (Sullivan Square Station - Downtown via Bunker Hill Street and Haymarket Station)

Have you ever noticed that finding a bus downtown is like finding a needle in a haystack? When looking for the starting point of the 93, I went to both of the major stops downtown (Otis and Summer, and Federal and Franklin) and the 93 stopped at neither. I had a paper schedule of the route, which showed the bus going down Devonshire Street, so I headed there. I finally found a bus stop at the intersection of Devonshire and Milk. Checking the paper schedule again, I found that the next 93 came in 5 minutes, and what's more it was one of the elusive Navy Yard trips (the bus runs every 20 minutes on weekdays, but every hour a trip goes via the Navy Yard and the Constitution).

There was a lot of smoke billowing out of a sewer, as you can see in the picture. Just before the bus came, some people were even taking pictures in front of it!
When I got on, the driver told me that I should've been waiting around the corner at Franklin Street and Washington Street. Gee, sorry. It's not my fault Boston has such a complicated street system. There were about 7 people on the bus, all of whom got off at Franklin and Washington. There were quite a few people waiting to get on, though, and many of the seats were filled by the time we left.

The bus does a figure-8 loop downtown involving lots of turns, so I won't get into too much detail. After Post Office Square, we headed up Congress Street, serving State and Haymarket. Inbound, I believe the 93 directly serves the Haymarket busway, but we just stopped at a street corner close to it (where a few people got off, surprisingly). Some early morning and late night buses short-turn here, as well.

From there, we followed the 111 route up North Washington Street and over the North Washington Street Bridge. But whereas the 111 would head up onto the Tobin Bridge, we turned right onto Chelsea Street. Now most 93 buses would directly turn onto Vine Street from Chelsea Street, but as this was a Navy Yard bus we went onto 5th Street instead. Unfortunately only the sails of the Constitution were visible, not the boat itself. I did get a picture of the U.S.S. Constitution museum, but that's not really the same thing (and the picture was terrible, anyway).

The neighborhood around the Navy Yard was absolutely beautiful, though, with old fashioned buildings and even street signs. Unfortunately, after navigating a short loop, we came back onto Chelsea Street and into the shadow of the Tobin Bridge. This didn't last for too long, and we soon turned onto Vine Street, rejoining regular service.

Nice, but the Constitution would've been better.
Vine Street almost immediately became Bunker Hill Street. I absolutely loved the neighborhood - dense, different colored apartments, interspersed with small businesses. During this portion, the bus stopped at almost every stop to either let people on or drop them off. The road was also very hilly - so hilly, in fact, that when there's snow or slippery road conditions, the bus takes an alternate route on Medford Street. There was a great view of the area from the front of the bus as Bunker Hill Street started going downhill, and then we went around the rotary near Sullivan Square.

At about this time, there was actually another 93 that passed our bus. We had apparently been bunching, but as Bunker Hill Street is so narrow the other bus probably couldn't get by. It was a race in heavy traffic to get to the station, and the other bus ended up winning. But as we were pulling into the Sullivan Square busway, I noticed another 93 laying over. Would there really be three 93's leaving Sullivan at the same time? Apparently not - the bus ahead of us went out of service, and our bus became a 101. As I got off, I noticed the countdown clock said the train was arriving (the driver's a pirate!), and just as I rushed onto the platform it closed its doors. Darn.

Hello, other 93!
Route: 93 (Sullivan Square Station - Downtown via Bunker Hill Street and Haymarket Station)

Ridership: Pretty heavy - all in all, about 40 people rode our bus. No one went from beginning to end, as you can probably expect; most people got off or on from their houses. There wasn't anybody who got on or off on the Navy Yard loop.

Pros: It's one of the two buses to serve Charlestown (the other being the 92), and this one cuts right through it. The schedule is also fantastic, running an amazing every 8 minutes rush hour, then every 20 minutes during the day, every half hour in the evening, and every 20 minutes on Saturdays. And there was definitely healthy ridership, which is reflected in the schedule. Finally, it's one of the very few local buses to actually go downtown, so that's definitely a plus despite the fact that the stop is impossible to find.

Cons: Every 40 minutes on Sundays isn't so hot. And actually, I think it's unnecessary to serve the Navy Yard. I mean, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the ride, but nobody got on or off there.

Nearby and Noteworthy: The typical Charlestown historical stuff: the U.S.S. Constitution, easily accessible even without the Navy Yard routing, and the Bunker Hill Monument, which is just a little closer to the 93 than it is the 92.

Final Verdict: 8/10
Direct service from downtown to Charlestown is pretty great, especially since the Orange Line used to serve it (but now obviously doesn't). I believe the 92 more closely follows the route of the original EL, but the 93 cuts right through Charlestown. The schedule's great for the most part, but the Sunday schedule could use a bit of work - every half hour or even every 20 minutes would be much better, especially if the Sunday ridership is anything like the ridership I saw. I personally don't feel the Navy Yard routing is necessary, though; does anyone actually use it? Leave a comment if you know. But overall, a pretty excellent route.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates (I've been forgetting to include this for a while!)
Nothing much has developed in the last few days, unfortunately.

3 comments:

  1. The only inbound 93s (and 92s) that serve the Haymarket busway are the short turn ones (including the early morning 89/93 run). The ones that go to Downtown Crossing turn right before the busway, then left onto Congress Street. Just a little info for you, great blog so far.

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    1. Oh, okay. Thanks for the information!

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  2. I use the navy yard 93 all the time as i work in the navy yard. But because the navy yard bus doesn't come regularly I often walk to vine street instead to get the bus there.

    You're right that a lot of people leaving in east charlestown especially those in charlestown projects by the bridge rely on the 93 and far fewer workers in the navy yard do (Partners healthcare runs a free shuttle between the navy yard and north station, and charles/MGH station on the red line which is much more reliable than the 93).

    But I think that if the route were more reliable, it would be more widely used. It only takes about one or two minutes to go through the navy yard and a lot of people I feel don't understand when the navy yard bus comes. Also, most of the navy yard buses follow a regular commute, with many outbound navy yard buses in the morning and then inbound navy yards in the evening, which parallels the reliable partners shuttle. My commute -- optimally anyway -- is between the navy yard and sullivan, which is more difficult.

    Another issue with the navy yard bus is that the bus has to make an extremely sharp turn at chelsea and 13th street which clearly wasn't meant for a bus. This would be a huge issue if there were more service to the navy yard, but it could be remanded by sending the bus down the wider intersection at chelsea and 16th street instead, which would also service Spaulding hospital.

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