Thursday, August 4, 2016

LRTA: 14 (Burlington Mall/Lahey Clinic)

It's fitting that the first LRTA route to be properly reviewed on this blog is also the first LRTA route I ever rode. This time, though, I took the entire route from Lahey Clinic to Lowell! What is this long trip like? Let's find out!

The bus at the Lahey Clinic.
From Lahey Clinic (which featured a nice little shelter), we made our way onto the wide Burlington Mall Road - oh yes, this route starts in office park land. After going by many office developments and a few shopping plazas, we turned into that classic beast: the Burlington Mall. We picked up some people there, then navigated back through the huge parking lot to return to the road of the same name.

Oh look...a...shopping plaza...
Soon after that, we turned onto another wide road, Middlesex Turnpike. We were passing more office parks and shopping plazas, including 3rd Ave - the Assembly Square of Burlington. From there, it was just boring boring boring office parks! Big office parks, small office parks, technology corporations, random businesses located within office parks... WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Lovely...
Well, okay, eventually we came by a pretty big field containing multiple baseball diamonds. Now that's rather nice, isn't it? I like the idea of a field in the middle of...wait..."MITRE Fields"? They're named after a nearby corporation?! Sigh...

You're a PHONY field! Phoooooooooony!
We went by the huge MITRE corporation after that, and then a few housing developments. But don't worry - the office parks came back soon enough. They started to get further apart, though, after we crossed the Shawsheen River. They were still around, but there was a lot of forest now and the road wasn't as wide.

The 99 Restaurant! *clap clap* Always the real deal!
The office parks did come back eventually, although we also went by the 99 Restaurant, considered to be a "major stop" on the route map. Eventually, we finally passed some good ol' fashioned houses, then crossed over Nutting Lake. It was almost entirely residential on the other side, which was a nice relief.

Nice view!
But were the office parks gone forever? Nope - this was a rush hour trip, and so we deviated onto Concord Road in order to serve Fields First Federal Street, yet another collection of office parks. We returned the way we came and headed the other way up Concord Road, now lined with mostly houses.

The blocked-off Middlesex Turnpike simply ends a little beyond Concord Road.
Eventually, we reached Billerica Center, where we merged around a nice little common. There were a few little businesses here, as well as a church, a library, and..."Billerica Town Halll." Yeah, the stop announcement sign had a bit of a typo there. It returned to being residential after that.

A retail block in Billerica Center.
However, eventually the street became lined with...oh come on, more office parks? And auto shops? And shopping plazas? And millions of parking lots? Sigh...at least we got a nice river crossing. We deviated to serve Treble Cove Plaza at one point, and merged onto Chelmsford Road soon after.

Going over the Concord River.
This street was lined with houses once again, then we went through a short woodsey section. On the other end was...more office parks. Sigh. We turned onto Brick Kiln Road, soon passing a UPS facility but not going in - a few trips per day deviate into it, but ours wasn't one of them. However, it was all houses from there as we entered Chelmsford, and they continued when we turned onto Carlisle Street.

I mean, this is just getting old!
Other points of interest along Carlisle Street were a tower (water, perhaps?) and a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle office park sneaking its way into a residential neighborhood. Soon we crossed over I-495, then stayed straight onto Boston Road, entering Lowell. This street made its way through a cemetery before becoming Plain Street. At this point, we deviated into yet another mall.

Going over the highway.
We went under the Lowell Connector (another highway), then turned onto Chelmsford Street, which was lined with businesses. Eventually, it became a total mix of houses, retail, and industrial buildings, until we turned onto Thorndike Street. After that, we pulled into the LRTA hub, where the bus went out of service.

I got no pictures in Lowell, so here's Lahey Clinic again.
LRTA Route: 14 (Burlington Mall/Lahey Clinic)

Ridership: The LRTA doesn't give ridership details for specific routes, but my ride on the 14 was pretty good - there were about 25 people in total. This was an inbound trip at 3 PM, so that's not bad! This route does get a lot of reverse commuters, admittedly, which could also explain the decent ridership. Although...many of those riders were shoppers coming from malls! Okay, well, the point is that the 14 gets good ridership.

Pros: Well, for one thing, this is a nice long route that serves a lot. It has a consistent every-hour schedule six days per week, which is the standard for an LRTA suburban route. But my favorite part about the 14 is that it allows you to get to Lowell entirely by bus! Just take the 350 to the Burlington Mall, then hop on the 14! Yes, it's significantly longer than the train, but it's less than half the cost. Lowell's a pretty cool city, and if you're on a budget, this is a good alternative for getting there.

Cons: The route isn't well-coordinated with the outbound 350 on Saturdays, though - the 14 leaves only a few minutes before the 350 arrives, so it's an hour-long wait if you're transferring. It would be nice if the 14 was shifted ahead about five minutes to make for better coordination, although who knows how many people even make that transfer?

Nearby and Noteworthy: OFFICE PARKS OFFICE PARKS OFFICE PARKS OFFICE PARKS OFFICE PARKS OFFICE PARKS OFFICE PARKS OFFICE PARKS. Oh, and some malls, Billerica Center, and Lowell.

Final Verdict: 8/10
This is a really solid route that serves a lot and also lets you get to Lowell much cheaper than the train! Well...except for that whole coordination thing. But I guess most people aren't coming from the 350, so it doesn't matter much.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

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