Saturday, January 10, 2015


In my post about the LRTA's downtown shuttle, I made a mistake. I said that the Robert Kennedy Transportation Center forms the whole of the complex: bus station and Commuter Rail station. But it turns out that only the bus station is the Kennedy Transportation Center - the whole complex is called the Charles A. Gallagher Transit Terminal. So maybe I should just rename my post to that significantly longer name. Or, you know, I could just stick with Lowell.

The entrance to the station.
I feel like this station has seen better days. It's really functional, and as a Commuter Rail station quite nice, but it just has this depressing feel to me. It's weird, because this is one of the most user-friendly Commuter Rail stations on the system, with the simple bus terminal, large parking garage, and sheltered waiting room. But it just didn't feel...lively, to me.

The bus terminal.
The bus terminal is surprisingly simple, especially for the number of routes it serves. There are three lanes of berths, and an easy, up-to-date map that actually helps you get around (cough, Dudley, cough). It has mostly benches on which to wait, but we'll get to the waiting area in a sec.

Well, speak of the devil.
The waiting area is definitely functional. It's spacious, with a lot of natural light coming in, and it has a few rows of benches. Passengers know when their buses are at the station because someone sitting in a booth outside makes announcements. The waiting room also features an out of order ticket machine (at time of writing), cool solar wastebaskets, a vending machine, and a Dunkin' Donuts. There are even some cool historical images on the wall facing the bus terminal.

The parking lot.
The parking garage is pretty big - it has almost 700 parking spaces, spread out between three floors. There's construction going on there right now (not sure why, I couldn't find any information on the MBTA website), so I believe there's only one way to enter the lot right now. Still, it's a huge garage with lots of spaces.

The hallway to the Commuter Rail platform.
The hallway to the Commuter Rail is pretty bland. It does have more solar garbage bins, windows, and even benches along it, but it still feels depressing to me. I didn't check the bathrooms along the hallway, unfortunately, but I have a feeling they're not the nicest.

The glass footbridge out to the platform.
Heading out to the platform, there's a door that automatically opens when it detects someone coming - very cool. There's a glass footbridge leading out to the platform with fairly dirty glass, but still lots of natural light. To get down to the platform, you can use a set of stairs or an elevator, which wasn't running when I got there. Luckily, a station worker fixed it before I left.

The platform.
The main part of the platform is fully high-floor, featuring lots of benches and wastebaskets (but just normal ones, not the awesome solar ones). At least in the winter, most people were waiting in the waiting room, though during the warmer months it may be nice to wait on the platform. The whole high-floor section is sheltered, though the low-floor section at the other end isn't. Overall, not bad, if a little bit dingy.

A train leaving the station.
Station: Lowell

Ridership: This is the fourth-busiest Commuter Rail station on the system, with 1,770 daily boardings. It was certainly busy when I was there - from when the train arrived to when it left, there were streams of people getting on. They would feed out slowly from the waiting room in small groups to board the train.

Pros: This station is really functional. It's filled to the brim with amenities, and is mostly sheltered. The bus area is nice and simple, and the LRTA buses go all over the place. The waiting area is nice enough, too, and so is the platform. The parking garage is pretty big, with lots of spaces.

Cons: Ergh, it just feels depressing to me! This isn't really captured in the pictures, it's just a feeling you get. I think you'd have to visit to understand what I'm saying.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I still have to recommend Eileen's in downtown Lowell. It's kind of expensive, but the pizza slices are huge and really, really good.

Final Verdict: 8/10
Yes, it may be a depressing station. But as a Commuter Rail station, this is really good. High-level platforms, shelter, and waiting rooms are all somewhat rare on the system. The bus area is easy to navigate, and there are plenty of spaces in the parking garage. Overall, a good, functional Commuter Rail station.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
It would seem the the Commuter Rail will start going to Foxborough full-time, starting in December 2016. Also, you probably know that Boston has been selected as the US candidate to host the 2024 Olympics. Possibly the only good thing that will come out of this is better transportation. Or will it?

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