Friday, October 31, 2014

74 (Belmont Center - Harvard Station via Concord Ave)

I've used the 74 twice to meet my friend in Belmont, and both times something's gone wrong. The first time, there was construction on Concord Ave, but for some reason the bus didn't take the detour. Instead, a cop was there to stop traffic going the other way so the bus could travel down a single lane in the wrong direction. It was pretty awful.

The other time was even worse. I think the 74's schedule has changed since I last took it (that's not a good thing), but it was running every half hour on Saturdays at the time. Wanting to catch the 2:25 bus, I arrived at Harvard at about 2:15. Guess what? It never came. I was just pacing around the busway for an eternity until a bus finally came at around 2:50. Had the 2:55 bus come early, or was the 2:25 bus 25 minutes late? By this point I didn't really care, so I hopped on along with the other poor souls that had to wait for so long.

This was a very welcome sight.
Coming out of the tunnel, we went along the Cambridge Common on Garden Street, then merged onto Concord Ave. There was a mix of houses and apartments for a bit, then after going by a big laboratory there were some businesses. There were some closely spaced houses before we went by a school and an industrial area. We went around a few rotaries, going fairly close to Alewife Station, then we went by a big office park.

Turning onto Blanchard Road, there was a nice residential area that continued on Bright Road, where we were joined by the 75. We came back to Concord Ave, which had a really nice tree-lined median. After going by the massive Belmont High School complex, there were businesses again. There was a tunnel under the Commuter Rail tracks (right next to the station), then we turned onto Channing Road and then Cross Street, a residential area. The last stop was at Alexander Ave and Leonard Street (which is the main drag of Belmont Center), where a few people were waiting to head back to Cambridge.

The bus in Belmont.
Route: 74 (Belmont Center - Harvard Station via Concord Ave)

Ridership: This is one of those routes where everyone gets on at the first stop and trickles out at local stops and vice versa. In this case, that busy first stop is Harvard. There were about 30 people who rode the bus the initial time I took it, but unfortunately I didn't keep track for my second trip. 30 people is pretty good, but it was during that rush period where students from CRLS (Cambridge's high school) are going home.

Pros: It's one of two buses to serve Belmont Center, and is pretty quick in getting you there. The ride takes about 20-25 minutes, as long as the bus you want comes (sigh). Though admittedly, the late bus got to Belmont in something like 18 minutes, so that's silver lining, I guess.

Cons: All together now: the schedule! It runs about every 20 minutes during rush hour in the peak direction, which is meh, but also every hour during the day and on Saturdays! Not to mention there's no Sunday service. Also, this bus is lacking in terms of unique sections. The only bit that's just served by the 74 is the small portion on Blanchard Road, which is only two blocks from the 75 (and the 74 heading back up to Concord Ave) anyway.

Nearby and Noteworthy: It's pretty small, but Belmont Center has some nice stores and restaurants. I've already mentioned the Stone Hearth Pizza on Mass Ave in my 77 review, and the one in Belmont is practically the same, but it's still a fantastic restaurant.

Final Verdict: 5/10
I feel bad for giving it such a low score, since I have friends that use this bus, but I must be objective. This is pretty much the bus to take if you want to go to Belmont (except on Sundays, when you have to use the 72/75), since the 75 isn't nearly as frequent. That's not to say the 74 is, though...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
The MBTA wants to utilize a freight line for Commuter Rail service from Walpole to Foxboro, but there's a lot of debate surrounding the proposal...

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