Saturday, April 19, 2014

170 (Central Square, Waltham - Dudley Square)

Third time's the charm, as they say. That certainly held true for the 170: I tried twice to catch it, and failed both times. Finally, on my third attempt, I managed to catch it. "So why couldn't you have just waited for the next one?" you may ask. Well, that's the catch: it only runs twice a day in each direction.

It looks so sad and lonely...
Luckily, the bus to Waltham (I took the 553) arrived a half hour before the 170 was scheduled to leave. I was able to finally ride this rare route. We left the Waltham Commuter Rail station with...two people. The other guy was having a spirited conversation with the bus driver, while I was just awkwardly sitting in the back looking out the window.

We headed up Lexington Street, which was mostly businesses, then we turned onto Dale Street, going by a large baseball field. We then turned again onto - I'm not kidding here - Bacon Street. But rather than being filled with meat, it was actually a more suburban street, bordering on rural. When we merged into Lexington Street, it was less woodsey with more closely spaced houses - but they still seemed rather large.

We went by the Waltham High School, a massive complex hidden in the woods, then we went through a section with endless forest on one side of the road and large houses on the other. There was a large shopping complex when we turned onto Lake Street, though, and then Lake Street felt like a normal suburb. There was even a cute playground complex.

It started to get weird again when Lake Street became Lincoln Street. I could sort of tell when we went by the "Briar Glen Village" gated community. It became pseudo-rural once again. When we turned onto Wyman Street, we were surrounded by forest with large office park complexes looming behind the trees. There was some "stuff" when we turned onto Winter Street, namely a weird motel that nobody in their right mind would want to stay at. I'll bet it's cheap, though.

We crossed over I-95, and I actually recognized the area as I took swimming lessons near here when I was very young. We did a u-turn around a fountain in the middle of the road, then turned onto 2nd Ave. It started to get even weirder over here. This was basically a huge complex of random office parks, and it was where people started getting on.

The stops were really far apart over here, and once 2nd Ave became Bear Hill Road it started twisting around like crazy. Eventually Bear Hill Road was just paralleling I-95, but it was just plain rural by this point. There was a dramatic change once we turned onto Main Street, joining the 70 route. The area was all of a sudden very thickly settled, and soon it became urban as we came back into Waltham Center.

We turned onto Moody Street, and I assumed we would make a loop around Waltham Common to serve the Commuter Rail station but we ended up bypassing it entirely. Crossing over the Charles River, it was still quite urban, with many small businesses lining the road. Eventually we turned onto River Street, and that was more residential fare. It was normal, though, unlike the weird pseudo-rural areas we had been to before.

We then turned onto Elm Street, and there were some businesses again once we got to I-90 and West Newton Station. Turning right on Washington Street (instead of left, like the other buses that go on Elm Street), we crossed over I-90, then merged on. The driver floored it, as usual, and we barreled down the highway, going through (yes, through) a Shaws and a hotel, then later going through the toll plaza and onto a bridge, then going past Fenway Park and into a tunnel.

We had been lucky with traffic, but it started to accumulate in the tunnel. Luckily we were getting off at this exit (unlike the other I-90 routes), though everyone else seemed to want to take it too. Turns out there was a baseball game and this is the closest exit to Fenway Park, but we had an easy time since the way to Fenway Park branches off of the road.

Still, the tunnel had been dingy and dark so I was happy when we came out and turned onto Dartmouth Street, joining the 10 route. Almost everyone got off at Back Bay, leaving only three people. The guy who had been talking with the driver the whole time also got off here, but not before sharing a hug with him.

I had talked about the lovely brick apartments in my review of the 10, and they were still great when I took the 170. And the sudden transition to a not-so-great neighborhood happened at Tremont Street once again. But we turned onto Washington Street, leaving the 10 and joining up with the Silver Line. Interestingly (and annoyingly), we didn't use the bus lane at all. I'm not sure if it was just this particular driver (though it's not like there would be a lot for a twice a day bus route), but it was kind of annoying.

The remaining person got off on Washington Street, but surprisingly another person got on at the same stop. When we got to Dudley, the bus said "Not in Service," and presumably would make a non-revenue run back to Waltham to start the route again.

The 170 is a very rare sight to see.
Route: 170 (Central Square, Waltham - Dudley Square)

Ridership: There ended up being about 20 people who rode. I was somewhat surprised that only about half of them came from the office parks.

Pros: Having an express from Waltham to Back Bay and Dudley seems great. There's only one small problem...

Cons: It runs twice a day! Not to mention it only goes in one direction depending on the time, and it's weekdays only. Also, the bus doesn't go to the Commuter Rail station after going around the long, weird loop. I feel it should stop at it in case people want to go from Waltham to Dudley without spending an extra half hour going through the middle of nowhere. Granted, it stops pretty close to the station, but still...

Nearby and Noteworthy: Unless you like office parks and forests, there's no reason to take this bus. There's stuff in Waltham Center and in Boston (of course), but you wouldn't take the 170 exclusively for those.

Final Verdict: 3/10
The route itself isn't bad, though I wish it stopped at the Commuter Rail station after the loop. However, its schedule drags down the score quite a bit. I feel they could have a few runs midday that omit the loop, and just go from the Waltham Commuter Rail station to Dudley. I'm not sure if anyone would use it, though...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

3 comments:

  1. I'm surprised Albany Street is running this route(where bus 0451 is based out of) rather than Cabot. Cabot has more excess capacity, is nearer to the service area(not that any garage is close to Waltham), and is a full time garage(if the 170 was ever to start weekend service). But who knows, Albany Street is one of the oldest garages in the system, they could have been operating it before Cabot existed.

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  2. Here in London, we have a route that may be just as hard to get on: the 347(Romford station - Ockendon station via Gidea Park, Gallows Corner, Harold Wood and Upminster). There is a bus every 2 hours and there are only 4 buses a day. Oh, and it is run by Go-Ahead Blue Triangle(one of the worst operators in London, we have a privatised bus system with many operators)with MDL1 usually making an appearance, a one-of-a-kind bus in London, because it is a MCV Evolution-bodied DAF SB180.

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  3. I understood the route began as a way to take city workers out to jobs in the Waltham industrial area (not sure how industrial it is anymore).

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