Starting out at the Buckley Transportation Center, we made our way down Essex Street, going past some businesses in the western part of downtown Lawrence. We passed a few apartment buildings, then crossed over some railroad tracks, where there was a small industrial area. Outside of a housing development, we made a really circuitous, pointless deviation into "Essex Plaza" - it was literally about 200 feet from the road, but I guess the MVRTA felt the need to have the route directly serve the parking lot.
We headed down Margin Street from the shopping center, traversing a small rotary onto Melrose Street. After going by some houses and a factory covered in graffiti, we turned onto Water Street, the route's namesake. It was mostly lined with dense houses, but there were some businesses in there too.
The road became Riverside Drive when we entered Methuen, and the scenery got a little more suburban, with the houses more spaced-out. One side of the street was entirely occupied by trees, and on occasion the Merrimack River was visible through them. Houses eventually took up both sides of the street, but then we turned onto Burnham Road. This took us up to Merrimack Plaza, into whose parking lot we entered, thus ending the route.
MVRTA Route: 35 (Water Street)
Ridership: This is one of the lesser-used routes in Lawrence, coming in at 4th-worst overall. In 2015, the 35 got 106,139 riders, or about 290 per day. On my ride, there were mostly shoppers heading home from Merrimack Plaza - Essex Plaza didn't get any ridership.
Pros: The route covers a decently-sized chunk of western Lawrence and southern Methuen. Having the bidirectional service is definitely useful for riders who live along the route, since they can get dropped off in the same place both ways. The route has that classic MVRTA pulse schedule, too, running every half hour during rush periods, and every hour middays and weekends.
Cons: The length of the route is definitely a problem. The 35 is short, with a scheduled round trip of 34 minutes (and that's being generous on the MVRTA's part), meaning drivers get a minimum of 26 minutes of layover at Buckley! That's not efficient at all!
Nearby and Noteworthy: There isn't much along the route aside from the two shopping plazas, and Merrimack Plaza is already served more directly and more frequently by the 41.
Final Verdict: 6/10
The 35 is a short little route that performs its function reasonably well. This is the kind of description that would sound great on a non-pulse system, but the problem with the 35 is that it has so much layover time. One solution could perhaps be extending it up Lowell Street a ways from Merrimack Plaza, maybe as far as Oakland Ave. That would serve some somewhat dense areas of Methuen, give the route a more reasonable length, and increase ridership - a win-win-win situation! It could also allow the 40 to shorten its long, loopy deviations that run close to that area.
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates