Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ruggles

Okay, I certainly had a lot of praise for Mass Ave, going as far as to call it the best station on the Southwest Corridor. I still stand by that, but it has to be said that Mass Ave's southern neighbor, Ruggles, is quite impressive. With an Orange Line station, Commuter Rail station, and massive busway, this station has quite a lot to talk about, so let's get right into it.

The Columbus Ave entrance.
Ruggles' entrance is very big and imposing, and that's a good thing. With a huge glass semicircle above the door, it looks great. Also, for some reason, they decided to imprint "Ruggles" into the concrete instead of doing a typical MBTA sign - interesting choice, but I like it. Another weird thing about the Columbus Ave entrance is that it advertises Commuter Rail trains but not Orange Line trains.

The entrance on the Forsyth Street side.
The Forsyth Street entrance on the other side of the station is similar, but it has more...stuff. For one thing, there's an actual T symbol here, though it's a bit unnecessary since the entrance on a dead-end street. There is also a division of the Northeastern University police force (which is apparently a thing), as well as a program meant to provide guidance to young adults, all within the station building! To top it all off, this side of the park has a nice little common.

Inside the Forsyth Street entrance.
Inside the Forsyth Street entrance, there are connections to the two services I mentioned before. To get up to the station, there are two sets of stairs, an upwards escalator, and an elevator. Now, I have to ask, why couldn't they replace the second staircase with a down escalator? I'm not saying it's completely necessary, but the second, smaller staircase just seems a bit out of place.

No picture could ever do this hallway justice.
Every part of the Ruggles complex is connected by a long hallway, and it's amazing. It's wide, with an incredibly tall ceiling, and it just connects the station so well! Plus, the art along it is great. There are a bunch of arrows suspended from the ceiling on the Forsyth Street side, while a nice mural lines the top of the doorway to Columbus Ave. Plus, there are lots of big signs with pictures and history of the area. There are also payphones and even a Dunkin' Donuts! Yes, this hallway has everything.

The huge busway.
I think Ruggles' busway grows on me as I visit it more often. I mean, it's all sheltered thanks to the massively high ceiling, and yet there are still bus shelters at waiting areas. In addition to those, there are open wooden benches, too. In the middle of the busway, there is an array of newspaper boxes, which is always welcome.

The busway...from above.
Ruggles is one of the biggest bus hubs on the MBTA, and one of the busiest. With 12 routes (13 on Sundays) all serving the station, you'd think the busway would be confusing. And yeah, to an extent, it is, but with only two lanes of traffic, it's not too bad.

The bus drop-off area.
If you're looking for a much simpler busway, look no further than the drop-off area. I mean, of course it's simple, since it's just a place for buses to drop people off, but it does have one great quality: there's a countdown clock for the Orange Line right there so you know if you have to run for the train or not when you come off your bus!

The Commuter Rail platform.
Okay, why is it that any Commuter Rail station that's even remotely underground is instantly horrible? Ruggles is just dark and dingy, but the above ground parts of the platform have no shelter, so if it rains...well, I hope you're not afraid of the dark, 'cause that's where you'll have to wait. The platform would normally be much longer than it is now, but a huge portion of it is "closed for repair". Yeah, okay...

The Orange Line mezzanine.
The Orange Line station doesn't really have a "mezzanine", it's more just kind of a side bit off of the main hallway. Nonetheless, it has a good amount of fare gates, which is good, since this station gets a lot of traffic. There's also a big sign saying "ENTER HERE", which is...convenient? I mean, I think it's pretty obvious that it's the entrance.

The room past the mezzanine.
Past the mezzanine, there's a fairly big room with not much in it. Aside from a somewhat random wastebasket, its whole purpose is just being a place for the platform entrances to lead to. There are two sets of stairs and escalators with each, but for some reason, both escalators go up. Wouldn't it be better to have one go up and one go down? Or maybe it is like that and I just have a bad memory. Well, anyway, there's also an elevator, of course.

If it weren't for that "Ruggles" sign, I'd think I was back at Mass Ave!
Yeah, it's the Southwest Corridor - of course I wasn't expecting much with the platform. If you read my previous review, then...yeah, it's basically the same platform as Mass Ave. You've got the benches, the wastebaskets, and of course, the white things connecting the roof to the walls. Nothing new.

A bad picture, but here's the underground part of the platform.
But Ruggles also has an underground section! Surely this must be unique and interesting! Well...no. It's basically the same thing as any underground station on the Southwest Corridor. If you've been to Jackson Square or Stony Brook, among others, you've seen this before.

Not an entrance, huh? Sure.
On the south side of the station, there's an exit-only staircase that leads to Ruggles Street. Well, at least it would be exit-only if the door wasn't propped open by a traffic cone! I'm sorry, but why is that there? I get that part of the staircase is under construction or something, but putting a cone there is just asking for people to come into the station without paying! Get rid of that thing!

A train stopped at the station (from above).
Station: Ruggles

Ridership: This is the third major hub on the Southwest Corridor, and so it gets a lot of ridership. On the average weekday, 10,433 riders board the Orange Line at this station, and that's not limited to inbound riders. In fact, I find that the Southwest Corridor gets a lot of local ridership, as well as people heading for Boston. On the bus side of things, Ruggles is served by four Key Bus Routes, as well as a number of other busy ones, so you can imagine how crowded the busway can get. Finally, for the Commuter Rail, there are a whopping 186 inbound riders per weekday. No seriously, I'm not even being sarcastic - that seems like a lot. I guess the Commuter Rail does provide a direct link to the Financial District, but the Orange Line goes pretty much right there, too.

Pros: There's nothing better than an intermodal hub, especially one as fluid as Ruggles. Just like how the mezzanine at Forest Hills is a base for all the different sections of the station, Ruggles' beautiful hallway connects everything up. Honestly, I could go on for paragraphs about how great that hallway is, but just know that it's fantastic. Also, Ruggles has a bunch of bus connections, and a good-looking and somewhat simple busway to go along with them.

Cons: Alas, Ruggles suffers the problem that most Southwest Corridor stations have: boring architecture. Note that this only applies to the Orange Line and Commuter Rail platforms - the rest is pretty impressive. Regardless, the Orange Line platform has both generic Southwest Corridor architectural styles merged into one, while the Commuter Rail platform is just dingy. Finally, there's that stupid Ruggles Street exit with the propped open door. Perhaps that traffic cone was temporary, but for goodness' sake, get rid of it.

Nearby and Noteworthy: It's weird, because all of the noteworthy places near Ruggles have E Line stations named after them. This is the closest Orange Line station to Northeastern, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Longwood Medical Area. I know that for the latter two, I've definitely walked to the Orange Line before because the E was delayed for some reason or another, and it would be just as easy with Northeastern.

Final Verdict: 8/10
For me, Ruggles slots in at being the second-best Southwest Corridor hub. I mean, okay, it's very easy to be better than Back Bay, but Forest Hills is pretty great. Ruggles and Forest Hills both have lots of bus connections, generic Orange Line platforms, and fantastic buildings. But it's the building where Forest Hills wins out. Come on, who doesn't like that clock tower? That said, Ruggles makes a good effort with its amazing hallway. Hey, it's still the second best hub on the Southwest Corridor.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

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