|The 116 in Bellingham Square. That destination board seems a bit askew...|
|Sunset falls over some parking lots near Wonderland.|
|The 117 in the well-lit busway.|
We came pretty close to Revere Beach Station, but rather than directly serving it, we turned onto Beach Street. There were some nice apartments along here, then we went over the Commuter Rail tracks, past a plaza, and around Bell Circle. Continuing down Beach Street, the apartments became houses until we turned onto Broadway, rejoining the 116.
Broadway had a bunch of small businesses, and was well-lit thanks to some fantastic old-fashioned streetlights (night had fallen by this point). We passed Revere City Hall, then went under Revere Beach Parkway and over a small creek. It then became more residential, with apartments lining the street.
Now on Meridian Street in East Boston, we went by a bunch of cute apartments. These soon turned to businesses as we went through Central Square, then we crossed over the Callahan Tunnel portal. We turned onto Chelsea Street, and were let out right outside Maverick Station. The bus then looped around the entrance, changed its destination board to 116, and shut off, presumably for a short layover.
|A nice night shot at Maverick.|
Ridership: It's a Key Bus Route, so heavy. The 116 from Bellingham Square to Wonderland only saw about 25 passengers, but the 117 back to Maverick had almost 50. Bellingham Square was a major stop, but for the most part people got on at local stops and fed into Maverick. There were surprisingly few people that got on at Wonderland.
Pros: These buses serve a lot, including transit-starved Chelsea. And the schedule, with both buses coordinated, is great. It's every 10 minutes during rush hour with additional short-turn service from Bellingham to Maverick, about every 10 minutes during the day, every 20 minutes at night (with service running until 2:30 on Fridays and Saturdays), about every 15 minutes Saturdays, and about every 20 minutes Sundays.
Cons: First of all, I noticed some bunching with buses going the other way - there was a 117 running right behind a 116. Also, you may have noticed that I said "about" a lot in the schedule description above. That's because 116 and 117 buses seem to leave at totally random times rather than following consistent headways. It can make following the schedule very hard. And finally, I'm not sure if we need two separate routes here. Based on the ridership I saw, the MBTA could probably combine them into one.
Nearby and Noteworthy: There were lots of small businesses along the route, with Bellingham Square being the largest commercial area. Bellingham isn't very nice, though...
Final Verdict: 7/10
I wasn't sure whether to do a six or a seven, but thinking about it, these buses do serve a lot. Chelsea may not have a subway service (they're getting a Silver Line, though), but at least the bus routes that run through it are frequent. That said, I feel like the 116 and 117 don't have to be two different routes. Turning all the buses into 116's would make things much less confusing for passengers. Still, they could also just run buses at consistent headways instead of the current craziness to cut down on confusion.
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