Friday, March 21, 2014

79 (Arlington Heights - Alewife Station via Massachusetts Ave)

The 79, like many other buses I've reviewed, was a "whatever comes first" situation, and the 79 happened to come first. It's basically a companion to the 77, except that it leaves from Alewife instead of Harvard. Other than a short bit at the beginning, this runs with the 77 the whole time (although the 77 is much busier at the portion that this bus doesn't run with). But whereas the 77 is a Key Bus Route, the 79 runs weekdays only. Always a recipe for success.

It boarded from the smaller part of the Alewife busway, the one where the 350 also boards. After a few people got on, we left immediately - no layover or anything. We headed down Alewife Station Access Road, still following the 350's route. We then went on to Alewife Brook Parkway and sped down to Mass Ave, where we joined the 77. From here on out, the 79 follows the 77 the whole time (but since the 77 has a longer portion down to Harvard, I figured I'd review this one first - review of the 77 coming soon).

Mass Ave was a great mixture of houses, small businesses, and apartments. People were actually getting on the bus, which surprised me somewhat. It continued on like this until Arlington Center, which was more built up. Many of the people on the bus got off in this area. After Arlington Center, it started getting more residential, though there were still small businesses scattered through, as well as the occasional apartment.

There were more businesses, though, at the intersection with Park Ave. Here, a few other bus routes merge onto Mass Ave. A little past Park Ave, we got to the Arlington Heights busway. There were only a few other people on the bus by now, and of course we all got off here (awkwardly, as the driver stopped and opened the doors midway into pulling in). The driver then turned the destination board off, ruining any good pictures I could've gotten.

The doom and gloom of the Alewife busway will have to suffice.
Route: 79 (Arlington Heights - Alewife Station via Massachusetts Ave)

Ridership: There were, in total, about 15 people who rode the bus. I was a bit surprised by that, actually, as only about a third of them came from Alewife. No one rode from beginning to end - most people used it for more local service.

Pros: As an alternative to the 77, this bus is pretty good. If you want to get to Arlington from the Red Line and don't want to be packed in like sardines, this is definitely your bus. And since it leaves from Alewife, you get to ride the train further, which is much faster than the 77 from Harvard. And actually, this bus is faster than the 77 anyway, because there aren't as many people to request every stop along the route.

Cons: Weekdays only service is never good. This bus runs every 20 minutes rush hour, every half hour midday, and every 45 minutes during the night. It's a somewhat decent schedule, but the fact that it doesn't run on weekends makes it much worse.

Nearby amd Noteworthy: Punjab in Arlington Center is a fantastic Indian restaurant, if you like Indian food. I love it, personally. There is also a piece of track from the former Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad (now the Minuteman Bikeway) in Arlington Center that's worth a look.

Final Verdict: 7/10
If it's a weekday and you have to get from the Red Line to Arlington, the 79 is possibly your best choice. It's faster, and way less crowded than the 77 always is. Of course, keep in mind you can only ride it on weekdays. That's probably the bus's only problem, but it cost it three points as it's a pretty big issue.

Latest MBTA News: Government Center's two year closure is starting tomorrow. Expect your travel plans to be ruined.

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