Friday, December 26, 2014

68 (Harvard/Holyoke Gate - Kendall/MIT via Broadway)

I actually use the 68 almost every day. See, I have clubs most days of the week after school, so I can't take the glorified school bus back home. If I can time my club departure right, though, I can grab the 68 right outside of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin and take it the few blocks to Harvard Station (because walking to Harvard takes energy). But I had only taken the whole route once before, and I didn't review it then. So since I've taken the whole thing again, I'll give the 68 the review it rightfully deserves. (Though it may not like its final score...)

Too bad that pole got in the way.
The bus was a bit late coming to Holyoke Gate, but we were off soon enough. We curved around to Johnston Gate, where surprisingly no one was waiting, and then went through a tunnel. After that, we turned onto Broadway, going by some apartments, and then past the high school. It then got residential, with ornate brick apartments on one side of the street and sizeable houses on the other.

We passed a few businesses, and another school. There were a few more businesses at the intersection with Prospect Street, where the 64 joins the 68 on Broadway during rush hours. We went by a park, then it became a mixture of retail and residential buildings. There was another school, and then out of nowhere we were surrounded by the office buildings of Kendall Square.

Normally the route would go further down Broadway and swing around onto Main Street to stop at Kendall Station. But the "swing around" street was being worked on, as an MBTA Police vehicle on Broadway told the bus driver. So we followed the police van, snaking through the bowels of Kendall Square, and somehow ended up back at the Kendall Station bus stop. The few riders on board got off, and the driver got ready to head back to Harvard.

The bus sign appears to have fallen down...
Route: 68 (Harvard/Holyoke Gate - Kendall/MIT via Broadway)

Ridership: Both times I took this bus there were only about 10 people who rode, riding for fairly small distances. And it's always pretty much empty whenever I take it after school. I think part of the reason for the low ridership is the route itself - you can see from the length of this post that it's a short one. Also, the route is sandwiched between the 1 and the 69, which are both more frequent than the 68. And even when it gets further from those two, it's never far away from another route with a better schedule.

Pros: Well, it provides service on Broadway. But is this service needed?

Cons: Signs point to no. As I said in "ridership," the 68 doesn't have any portions where it's the only option. The schedule seems to reflect this, as the route only runs every half hour, weekdays only, until not even 7 PM. So on weekends, those who use the 68 are forced to walk to the nearest other service, a walk which is never longer than about 15 minutes.

Nearby and Noteworthy: None of the businesses we passed seemed especially noteworthy, but maybe there's something along the route.

Final Verdict: 2/10
This route just doesn't seem necessary. It's very short, and most of it is close to other services. On weekends people have to use those other services anyway, since the 68's schedule is awful. I honestly feel like the MBTA could scrap this route, and it wouldn't affect that many people (I'm even willing to walk to Harvard after school). Indeed, this is one of the least-used routes on the system, with even less ridership than the 4, which was on the chopping block a few years ago.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Weekend service for three Commuter Rail lines starts tomorrow! Huzzah!

4 comments:

  1. "I honestly feel like the MBTA could scrap this route, and it wouldn't affect that many people."

    But it would affect the right people. The city likes the route because it provides service near low income housing and connects the subway and buses at Harvard and Kendall to the City Hall annex and to the library. Plus, the kind of people who take the 68 three or four stops are the kind of people who will show up at a public meeting and write to their legislators and demand that the route be retained.

    It's also a relatively inexpensive route to run; a single bus can make two roundtrips in an hour ($2.23 subsidy per trip, about the median for buses). You better believe that it's a job favored by more senior operators; it seems pretty cushy.

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    1. Okay, I see what you mean. And if it's inexpensive to run, I guess there's no harm in keeping it. That doesn't mean I think it's a good route, though.

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  2. As Ari mentioned somewhat obliquely, this bus route has an interesting distinction in that it's only ever served by one single bus, one that it shares with another Kendall route, the 85, which might have actually gotten popular enough to warrant a second bus (though I'd have to check the new timetable to be sure).

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    Replies
    1. I took the 85 after the 68 (the review's almost done), and it used a different bus. But I believe the 85 is still one vehicle shuttling back and forth.

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