Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Service Change: Lexington's Lexpress - 3 (Depot Square - South Lexington via Marrett Road, Spring Street, & Hayden Ave)

When I found out I wouldn't be able to get driven to piano lessons, I had to find a way to get there via public transit. I ended up with the following three options:

  • This weird Alewife shuttle thing to a housing development called Windsor Village, meant for commuters.
  • The Red Line to Central, then the 70A up to the Waltham-Lexington border.
  • The 62 to Lexington Center, then the Lexpress 3 route to a housing development called Lexington Ridge.
I was originally planning to take the first one, but hit some complications. For one thing, the schedule for the bus ominously says "For use by Windsor Village residents only." Also, I couldn't find any fare information. The website just gave a phone number to call for daily or monthly passes. This seemed much too complicated, But the second option would take almost an hour and a half, which is much too long. So, I picked door number three.

The Lexpress is the local bus system in Lexington. And can I just say, that name is the best thing ever. It's a standard hub-and-spoke system, with all the bus routes radiating out of Depot Square in Lexington Center. There are six lines, all of which are very...loopy. The scheduling is interesting, as well, in that routes 1, 3, and 5 leave Depot Square on the half hour while 2, 4, and 6 leave on the hour. It's weekdays only, but based on the ridership I saw (spoilers: not good), that makes sense.

It was dark and rainy when I set out for Alewife. This was quite a monster storm, as I found out later looking at the news. Another problem was that the 62 ended up being five minutes late, since the bus was coming to Alewife after a run on the 83. And the massive traffic jam heading up to Route 2 lost us another five minutes. I got fairly nervous by this point - the 62 was scheduled to arrive at Lexington Center at 5:15, with the Lexpress leaving 15 minutes later. And we were already 10 minutes late!

Accidentally getting off one stop early at the Lexington Post Office, I had to run to Depot Square. When I got there, I found that Lexpress actually had its own private busway! There wasn't anything too special, but they had some schedules and benches set up. No shelters, though, which wasn't the best in the torrential rain. There was a single bus waiting there, as well as one other person. She told me the waiting bus was a 5.

The busway. Note that as it was dark and raining, most of these pictures will be terrible...
Most of the Lexpress system is "flag-down" style, where there are no official stops. But they do have a sign put up in Depot Square.
Some schedules on the sign.
The 3 came a few minutes later. I took a (pretty bad) picture of the bus, which caused the driver to angrily open the doors. "Why are you taking pictures of the bus?" He yelled. I decided to tell the truth, and told him I was reviewing the system. "Do you have any authorization from Lexpress to take pictures?" He asked. "Well, I have the MBTA photo policy," I replied (good thing I had printed it out). The driver calmed down and let me on. The fare is an even two bucks for adults, $1.75 for students, $0.75 for seniors, and free for children under five. If you're transferring to another Lexpress bus, the second ride will only cost a quarter, but I don't know why you'd need to make a transfer on a system like this.

You can't really tell, but the bus said Lexpress 3 & 4. I guess that means there are only three buses in the whole fleet, running two routes each.
The minibus was pretty reminiscent of the ones in Montpelier. However, the seats on the Lexpress were different and though they were still comfortable, they lacked the seatbelts from the Montpelier buses. Not that that really matters. When the driver closed the doors, all the regular lights inside the bus went off, leaving only the ghostly red glows from the emergency exit lights.

Creepy...
For some reason. this one came out really bright.
The best picture I could get of the stop request sign up front. Sad, I know.
You probably noticed that the bus was completely empty in the above pictures. That's because I was the only one on the bus for the whole trip. Not a single soul got on at any of the other stops, and I took the route all the way to the end, Maybe it was the rain or maybe it was the fact that I was going outbound, but that's really bad ridership.

We made our way to Mass Ave, going by the businesses of Lexington Center. But soon after, we turned onto Waltham Street, which was a much more suburban residential area. The Lexington High School came and went, then it was houses again. There were a few businesses at the intersection of Waltham Street and Marrett Road, which we turned onto.

There were some more businesses at the intersection where we turned onto Spring Street, then it was residential once again. All of a sudden, though, we were in office park central. Turning onto Hayden Avenue with Route 2 in view, there were massive offices just lining the road. As you can probably imagine, it wasn't the nicest neighborhood.

Eventually we rejoined Waltham Street, crossing under Route 2. There were a few businesses, then the bus turned into a residential complex where all the houses were the same. This was Lexington Ridge, and I had assumed we would just loop around the complex. That's what it seemed like we would do, but then the driver reversed the bus to turn around. I feel like it would be easier to utilize the road loop then to turn a minibus around in the middle of a housing complex, but that's just me.

I pulled the stop request cord (woo!) and the sign up front glowed red. It also made an interesting sound as if air was being released from somewhere. The driver opened the doors and all the lights came back on as I left. My eyes!

The driver kindly stopped so I could take this picture. Unfortunately, it probably wasn't worth it.
And the bus leaves the complex at warp speed! This is probably my favorite picture of the bunch.

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