Saturday, December 26, 2015

89 (Clarendon Hill or Davis Square - Sullivan Square Station via Broadway)

Split terminals. Ugh. Yes, I consider it lucky that most of the MBTA's bus routes are linear and only have one terminus. However, there are those unfortunate few that have to deal with two...such as the 89. Much of the route is shared, but on its eastern end, there is ultimately a split, with some buses going to Clarendon Hill and some going to Davis Square. Let's check 'em out.

The bus at Clarendon Hill.
Clarendon Hill was quiet, and so we left with a mostly empty bus. Turning onto Broadway, there was a mix of houses and businesses, but it became mostly the latter as we reached Teele Square. Here, the 87 and 88 headed onto Holland Street to go to Davis Square, but we stayed on Broadway. The street was lined with dense houses all the way to Powderhouse Square, where there were connections to some other routes.

Another bus on another day at Davis Square.
Those "other routes" included the 89's second branch, which heads down to Davis. I figure I'll discuss this branch as well, starting at the Davis Square busway. Turning onto College Ave, it runs along with the 94 and 96, passing mostly houses. The section is short, and it soon reaches Powderhouse Square to join the other branch of the 89.

Rejoining my ride at Powderhouse Square, we continued down Broadway after navigating that horribly rotary. Now joined with the 80, the street was lined with houses for a bit, but it became all businesses at Ball Square. We crossed over the Commuter Rail tracks, then passed a field.

It was all retail again at the intersection with Medford Street, where the 80 turned off. We continued down Broadway, getting a short independent section. The street was mostly lined with houses, with a few apartments in there. As we started to head down a hill, the 101 joined us from Main Street.

Hey, is that Boston? Or a blurry mess?
It was around this point that Broadway got a grassy median and businesses started to appear. It became almost entirely retail the further we got, but we also passed a fire station and a park. Eventually, we crossed under I-93, went over the Orange Line tracks, and pulled into the Sullivan Station busway.

Another picture from the time I took the route to Davis Square. Note the second 89 behind the foreground bus.
Route: 89 (Clarendon Hill or Davis Square - Sullivan Square Station via Broadway)

Ridership: Okay, so on weekdays, this route is really crowded! It has even higher ridership than the 88, with an average of 4,156 riders, slotting it at number 30 on the ridership rankings. However, there's a massive drop on Saturdays, with only 1,917 riders, and an even larger drop on Sundays, with a measly 858 riders. My ride was on Saturday, and the bus had a good 25-30 people in total.

Pros: I like to think that this route sews up northern Somerville (and Medford, to an extent). I mean, by running right down Broadway the whole time, it makes for a nice, straight artery through the dense area. In addition, it has a pretty good schedule on weekdays, when it gets used the most. So good, in fact, that it runs every 9 minutes during rush hour! This becomes roughly every half hour during the day, and on Saturdays, it's every 35 minutes.

Cons: Well, first of all, the route runs every hour at night and a dreadful every 70 minutes on Sundays. However, there's an even more glaring problem with the route than that: split terminals. Even when the 89's schedule is good, the service to the individual terminals is always half that. And this doesn't matter too much, since most service is on Broadway, but what if someone needs to go to Davis Square? On Saturdays, the route only goes there every 70 minutes, and it doesn't go there at all on Sundays! Too bad for you, Davis Square commuter!

Nearby and Noteworthy: There are a lot of businesses the 89 passes, but I'm just gonna go with my gut and say Davis Square. Of course, service there is once in a blue moon (and nonexistent on Sundays), so good luck with that.

Final Verdict: 6/10
I can't get over the split terminal thing! And yes, I know it doesn't affect that many people, since most riders use this route for the Broadway section anyway. But come on, Davis Square is an important subway connection, while Clarendon Hill is...Clarendon Hill. I mean, I think putting split terminals on bus routes is just asking for trouble. Seriously, just pick one! Or maybe only have split terminals during rush hour. I dunno, but this route is just too complicated and infrequent as it is.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates


  1. Before around 2000, I don't remember the exact year, the 89 only served Clarendon Hill. The Davis Square stub is much more used than the Clarendon Hill variant, based on my experience of whether the bus is crowded or not. But the Clarendon Hill 89 is the only route serving Broadway between powder house and Teele square.

    I've always thought a more logical service pattern would be to send the 88 to powder house and continue to Clarendon Hill, and send the 89 full time to Davis.

    Also, when I had to get to Davis square on Sunday from the 89, I just got off at powder house square and walked. It's only about a 5-7 minute walk between Davis and powder house.

  2. Another thing which you note on many of your posts is coordinated schedules. In this case, the 89 and 101 are coordinated to have even scheduled headways along their shared route (although the 101 and 95 are very badly coordinated to provide even headways to Medford square).

  3. I live in South Medford and work in Arlington. The 89 lets me down all the time, as many of the Clarendon bound buses switch to "out of service"when I need them most, which is that stretch of Broadway from Powder House to Clarendon. It stinks. The 80 bus is super unreliable, too. Most days I walk the entire 2.25 miles on foot, and it seems dumb that the buses aren't better during morning rush hour.


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