Tuesday, March 11, 2014

7 (City Point - Otis and Summer Streets via Summer Street and South Station)

When the Silver Line Waterfront was first opened, it consisted of three routes: the SL1 to the airport, the SL2 to the Design Center, and the SL3 to City Point. The SL1 and SL2 still exist (obviously - I've reviewed them both), but the SL3 was eliminated in 2009 due to low ridership. Part of the reason was that most of the SL3's trip followed the 7 on Summer Street. Everyone was still using the 7 over the Silver Line, probably because the 7 goes all the way to Downtown Crossing whereas the Silver Line terminates at South Station.

Whatever the reason, the SL3 is gone but the 7 is still here. Think of the 7 as a City Point to downtown express - of the five City Point buses, the 7 is the fastest. After a nice walk on the Head Island Causeway (right near the City Point beach), I walked back to the "City Point Bus Terminal." I was a little unsure about this, as the driver of the 10 to City Point had kicked me off before we had gotten there. There wasn't really much there, just a small building for bus drivers and a bus sign. Since the sign was there, I assumed I was allowed to wait. There wasn't a bench, so I sat on a little barrier.

I think there's a mistake. I just said the Silver Line doesn't run here anymore!
It was a really weird neighborhood. To get to the bus terminal from the beach, I had to walk down a street with houses on one side and a massive wasteland with a "no trespassing" fence on the other. There was barely a sidewalk, if you can call it that. There was a large cluster of shifty-looking people I noticed on my walk, just hanging out beyond the fence. As for the actual terminal, there's a huge field to the south, a huge factory to the west, the wasteland to the east, and some strange vats (it's apparently a power plant) to the north. Not to mention it was getting dark, as well.

Luckily, the 7 drove in a few minutes later. "Am I allowed to wait here?" I asked the driver when she got out. "No," she replied, "but you can get on if you want." I got on the empty bus and just waited while the driver went on break. We were sandwiched between two buses, and in the one on the right, I noticed its driver doing some exercise routine. Five minutes later, the driver came back and we were off. I couldn't help noticing that there was a City Point Bus Terminal announcement, so apparently buses used to drop people off here.

Think of this as an "exclusive visit" to the City Point Bus Terminal.
We headed down strange East 1st Street, going by the cluster of people again. Soon we turned onto P Street, going through a nice area with three-story apartments. At just about every stop, one or two people would get on the bus (and every time, the driver would open the doors before stopping the bus - I always hate that). We turned onto East 4th Street, and my first thought was the 121. On both East 4th Street and Lexington Street (the street the 121 runs on), there are closely-spaced apartments, and both streets are very narrow. Our bus had to swerve aside a few times so cars could pass.

There was a tiny little park between East 4th Street and Emerson Street. It may be cute in the summer, but since it's winter, the grass was all dead and there were snow patches everywhere. There were some businesses at the intersection of East 4th Street and L street. Here, we turned onto L, which soon became Summer Street. There were a lot of potholes in the road as we went by a huge factory, and the bus bounced around a lot. "Sorry, this is supposed to be fun!" shouted the bus driver.

At the factory, there's an alternate routing of the 7. It turns onto East 1st Street, then again onto Pappas Way, joining with the regular routing at Summer Street. During rush hour, every other bus uses this route, and I actually really want to try it. It looks like a legitimate industrial wasteland, and Pappas Way looks like it has so many potholes it's unsuitable for buses.

The Design Center, glistening in the sunset. This was on the Summer Street bridge.
But this was a Saturday, and therefore we went over the Summer Street Bridge. The driver gunned the motor here ("Fun!") and we zoomed over the bridge. I didn't really have time to enjoy the beautiful view, but I got the above picture of the Design Center, anyway. After the bridge was more industrial wasteland, but that didn't last too long. We went by the absolutely gigantic Convention Center, then went on a bridge over an equally gigantic parking lot. There was another nice view from this bridge, but I didn't get any pictures.

I did get this somewhat nice picture of the Financial District, though.
After the bridge it got more built up around Summer Street. There was another bridge over the Fort Point Channel (another nice view, and again no pictures), then someone requested a stop for the first time on the trip. A little over half the people on the bus got off at South Station (including the driver, who swapped out with another one for some reason), then we headed up High Street, then Federal Street. We turned onto Franklin Street, going by the Fiduciary Trust Building (which I absolutely love), then Otis Street. Otis and Summer was the last stop, and I was happy to be around here without having to run for an express bus.

Those headlights seem really bright, don't they?
Route: 7 (City Point - Otis and Summer Streets via Summer Street and South Station)

Ridership: There were actually only 10 people who rode the bus on my trip. I think the route's length could possibly be a factor - it's not that long. But there were a fair amount of people waiting to go back to City Point, and based on its rush hour schedule (more on that in just a second), it must get really good ridership on weekdays.

Pros: As I said before, this is sort of like a City Point express bus, and it really travels fast. I don't think I've ever been on a local bus that went so quickly. I think this bus is worth a ride just for the views, as they really are quite nice, so long as the driver isn't going a million miles an hour. The fact that it goes right downtown is also a plus, as this is mostly a privilege for express buses. Finally, the rush hour schedule is absolutely amazing - every 4 minutes. I believe this is the most frequently running bus route on the MBTA, despite the fact that it's not a Key Bus Route. During the day it becomes every 20 minutes, but that's still fine.

Cons: The problem is the weekend schedule. On Saturdays, it runs every 40 minutes (essentially one bus shuttling back and forth), and it doesn't even run on Sundays. I've always thought this bus's schedule is a bit wonky.

Nearby and Noteworthy: The East Broadway @ Farragut Road stop is right next to the beach (don't go all the way to the end like I did - that neighborhood is really weird, and you have to walk a while to get to the beach). I recommend taking a walk on the Head Island Causeway - it's a little ways down the road, but the views it offers are absolutely fantastic. I may do a "Random Photos" with the pictures I took.

Final Verdict: 8/10
It's just too bad the crazy schedule isn't better. This bus has so much going for it: the speed, the views, the fact that it goes right downtown... and the rush hour and (to a somewhat lesser extent) weekday schedules are amazing. Every 4 minutes? That's 10 buses running on this small little route! It's just too bad the weekend schedule's so bad. I feel they could stick in an extra bus on Saturdays (bumping service up to every 20 minutes), or even run a single bus on Sundays for every 40 minute service? The ridership I saw seemed decent enough...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Yesterday, a Green Line train derailed near Fenway Station. 10 people were injured.

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