|Ahh, our good friend Joseph's!|
|The inside of the bus.|
|Looking towards the front.|
|Some construction near Wellington.|
|Crossing over the Orange Line tracks with a train in view.|
|Wotta great mall...|
|A residential street off of Riverside Ave.|
|This is strange...|
|That's a nice median on Salem Street...|
|Gotta love leafy medians!|
|A residential side street.|
|The bus at Doonan Street.|
Ridership: Nothing special, as you would probably expect - there were only two other people on both my outbound and inbound trips, and the driver said that's about average. The route only gets an average of 19,176 riders per year (about 76 per day), after all. HOWEVER, when the bus came into Wellington while I was waiting for it, it dropped off almost 20 people! Turns out they were just headin' into town and had asked the driver if the bus was going to Wellington.
Pros: Yes, it's a very niche route, but it serves its purpose. The hospital deviation is a pretty long one, but it's one of the biggest ridership draws on the route; ditto for Meadow Glen Mall, although that's partly due to an apartment complex located nearby. During rush hour, it gets a few commuters from Wellington, although they don't seem to be the main reason for this route's existance. I also think the 710's 60-minute headways are sensible, and can be done with one bus.
Cons: I have some...okay, a lot of problems with this route, particularly in the schedule, but I'll get a few small issues out of the way first. Number 1, the outbound route in Medford Square is ridiculous and needs to be simplified. Number 2, there needs to be proper signage for the route at Wellington; right now, it boards in the drop-off area for cars with a "Shuttle buses only" sign being the only indication of a potential bus that stops there. Okay, so now onto the schedule...
Right, so first of all, why is there a two hour gap in the schedule? The driver informed me that a switch happens there, which requires driving the bus back to the yard and handing it over to the next driver. Seriously??? Just drive a car to the terminus and have the two drivers swap vehicles. Mission accomplished! Okay, secondly, I think the 710 should have Saturday service. One of its main ridership draws is shoppers, and I imagine it would get a similar level of ridership on Saturdays as on weekdays. According to the driver, the route used to have Saturday service, and many of its riders want it back.
And now for the big problem: why the heck does this route only serve Wellington at rush hour? Look at that huge group of people that took the bus there before I got on! Had that not been a rush hour trip, they would've been out of luck for getting into the city. Now, my guess for this service pattern is that the trip takes a half hour with no layover time, so it could get late if it served both Stop & Shop and Wellington. So...why not only serve Stop & Shop one way, in the peak direction? And Meadow Glen Mall, for that matter? Observe...
With this schedule, the route would be able to serve Wellington all day, plus it would get a layover! Hooray! But what about people going against the peak? Well, shoppers going from Meadow Glen or Stop & Shop back to North Medford in the morning could stay on the bus through Wellington and then head back, and vice versa in the afternoon. I think having an all-day connection to Wellington would increase ridership from people wanting to head into Boston.
Nearby and Noteworthy: There's nothing along the 710's independent section that's really worth seeing, although if you happen to be going to Medford Square or Meadow Glen during rush hour, this is an alternative to the 134.
Final Verdict: 6/10
I gotta be honest, this isn't a bad route. It serves some nice neighborhoods and gets a few local shoppers and commuters every day. Yes, it may be the lowest-ridership contracted route, but it's pretty short and it does its job. THAT BEING SAID, it has many problems that ought to be addressed, the most glaring of which is all-day Wellington service. The whole driver switch thing is pretty badly handled, too. And get some dang signage at Wellington!
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