Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MART: 2 and 9 (Intermodal Center - Monument Square - Jytek - Walmart)

A Walmart in the middle of nowhere? Sure, what better place to start a bus? I mean, it has to be said, the Walmart stop does get ridership. And, you know, the route serves a lot between the mall and its terminus in Fitchburg. Anyway, today we're looking at the MART's 2 and 9 routes, which together run from the south of Leominster all the way up to Fitchburg.

I had gotten on at Monument Square, so, uh, here's Monument Square.
This bus was different from the last one I took, in that it was a hybrid. I think it's more or less the same model as the MBTA's hybrids, except that this one had a rear window! Other than that, the inside was rather fancy-looking, but functionally, it was the same as other MART buses.

I love the bright color scheme!
I had taken the bus from Monument Square down to Walmart, but I'm gonna start the review with the trip back. So we left the Walmart parking lot and headed onto Jungle Road, but only to turn onto the wide New Lancaster Road. The big box stores got replaced by trees for a bit, and then we turned onto the narrower Willard Road.

Going over a train track on Willard Street.
This street was a strange mix of industry and housing developments. We crossed over a train track, and then the road was more traditionally lined with houses. We then turned onto Central Street, although on weekdays some trips come from the south to serve an industrial park. As this was a Saturday, though, we headed north.

Turning onto Central Street.
The scenery along Central Street was...repetitive. I mean, it was just a lot of businesses with big parking lots out front. Sure, there was the occasional housing development off the road, but nothing unique. Outbound trips pull off the street to enter the Johnny Appleseed Plaza (alright, Leominster, we get it), but we just sped right past.

I'm not sure what this is a picture of, but, uh, here it is.
We passed a trailer park at one point, and there started to be a few regular houses in between the businesses. Not a lot, but at least a few. Eventually, the businesses lost their parking lots as we entered Monument Square, looping around the common and picking some more people up. Now we had become the 2 and we were headin' for Fitchburg!

An earlier picture of a different bus on the 2.
We turned onto Main Street, the so-called "main drag" of Monument Square. To be honest, none of the businesses that lined it looked very interesting, noteworthy, or in some cases, open. We eventually passed a nice-looking park on the right, and after a few other businesses, it got residential.

The park.
This next bit is a bit confusing, mainly because it's being changed. Now currently on the 2, only outbound trips serve the Leominster Hospital, and since we were going inbound, we skipped it. Inbound trips serve the Water Tower Plaza, a mall, instead. However, with the elimination of the 10 on March 1st, the 2 will start serving the hospital and the Plaza in both directions. On our trip, though, we only deviated to serve Water Tower Plaza.

It has a huge parking lot! Of course.
The street got very wide from there as we crossed over Route 2. And on the other side of that interchange? More businesses with parking lots! Woo! Most trips make a deviation onto Erdman Way to serve some offices, a hotel, and a big box store, but ours was one of the ones that didn't.

Going over the highway.
The businesses went on for quite a while without any breaks. The most noteworthy thing that happened was when the road changed to Water Street when we entered Fitchburg! Well, okay, I will say that after that momentous occasion, houses started to appear more frequently between the retail.

I love that bridge! And in the foreground, that's a..."haunted mansion".
We went by a pretty impressive bridge, then the street became lined with houses and apartments. Eventually, we headed down a slope, crossing the Nashua River and passing a shopping plaza. The 2 doesn't directly serve the plaza, but there's another route, the 11, that goes into it.

The view of the river and the plaza.
Water Street went onto another bridge, this time over the almost-Commuter Rail tracks. We then turned onto Main Street, heading away from downtown Fitchburg. Thus, we arrived at the Intermodal Center soon after, and the bus got ready to head back to Monument Square and eventually that one Walmart in Leominster.

The bus in Fitchburg.
MART Routes: 2 and 9 (Intermodal Center - Monument Square - Jytek - Walmart)

Ridership: This is the second-busiest route combination on the MART, with the highest being a free college shuttle, so that doesn't count. Over the course of a year, the 2 and the 9 get an average of 135,000 riders, or about 431 riders per day. My particular ride was somewhat quiet, with about 15-20 passengers in total, but that seems fine for a MART bus.

Pros: Aside from the 4, that aforementioned college shuttle, this is the most frequent route on the MART. Well, by frequent, I mean every 45 minutes, but it was deemed busy enough to run with two buses. The routes also serve a lot, with the 2 providing an important link between Fitchburg and Leominster, while the 9 heads further south into the latter city.

Cons: Like what happened with the 1 and the 3, MART's March 1st schedule changes are basically fixing all the problems I have with this route. For example, there's the fact that the 2 only serves either Leominster Hospital or Water Tower Plaza depending on its direction. Now it will serve both. Also, the 9 currently serves the Jytek Industrial Park all throughout weekdays, when it really only needs to go there during rush hour. That's being fixed, too. Well-played, MART. Well-played.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Aside from serving Monument Square and downtown Fitchburg, the 2 and the 9...don't go anywhere particularly interesting. I was interested in the Haunted Mansion thing, but apparently it's gone bankrupt.

Final Verdict: 9/10
I mean, this has to be in the top 3 best routes on the MART, right? It's one of the most frequent, even though clockface scheduling is sacrificed with the 45 minute headways. Still, more frequent service is more frequent service. Plus, the routes serve a lot, and most of their problems are being ironed out with the March 1st schedule changes.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

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