|The bus, as seen from behind a glass window.|
|Going around the rotary.|
|Some houses in the neighborhood.|
|A shelter outside the plaza...but it's on the wrong side of the street!|
|Crossing the Nashua River.|
|An industrial view.|
|The park at Waites Corner.|
|The bus at Central Plaza.|
Ridership: This is kinda tough to judge, since the ridership data in MART's Regional Transit Plan is from 2014, when the 5 was interlined with the 6. The ridership given is for both routes combined: 154 average riders on weekdays, and 58 on Saturdays. Sad as it may sound, this was apparently MART's fourth-busiest route. Now that the 5 is its own separate bus, I can't tell you how much ridership it gets in total, but my round trip got about 10 people.
UPDATE 4/7: I found more recent MART ridership data that shows the 5 all on its own. The route averaged about 187 riders per day in late 2016, which is pretty good, especially given its ridership two years before!
Pros: The route's long deviation does serve a very dense neighborhood, one that definitely needs a bus running through it. It also seems to get a decent amount of riders, at least based on my ride - the numbers don't agree, but perhaps ridership has gone up since 2014.
Cons: Oh boy, there are lots of these. Let's start out with the elephant in the room: why is the long deviation, which is where literally every person on my ride went, only served in one direction? There were a bunch of people who got on there to get to downtown Fitchburg, but they had to ride all the way out to Waites Corner and then come back in! Check this out:
When going from Parkhill Plaza to the Intermodal Center, it takes only five more minutes to walk than to take the bus! You could even walk to the 3 and take that in - only three minutes slower! If this isn't horrible route planning, I don't know what is. And the worst part is that no one got on or off at Waites Corner. Well, gosh, why even serve it, then??
The problem is that there have to be sacrifices made to fix this problem. The route takes 48 minutes for a round trip (yet they run it every 50 minutes, which is stupid - just make it every hour, it's a lot easier to remember), meaning there's not enough time to serve the deviation on the way back. This makes me think that the only solution would be to eliminate all Waites Corner service, except for the twice-daily Montachusett Industrial Park trips, and just run the route to Parkhill Plaza. That's where all the ridership was, after all...
Nearby and Noteworthy: Yeah, no, not really. Parkhill Plaza seems like kind of a dump, as does Central Plaza. That one pizza place the route passes has good reviews...
Final Verdict: 4/10
It's not like this route doesn't get riders, because it definitely does. The problem is that they're practically all coming from that deviation! Having to go all the way out to Waites Corner just to get to Fitchburg seems like the biggest pain. Unfortunately, it seems like the only solution would be to just cut most Waites Corner service. The route would be shorter as a result, but maybe it could be interlined with certain trips on the 4 to keep it from needing too much layover time.
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
This is really late notice, but there's a mock-up version of a new Orange Line car displayed at City Hall! Tomorrow is the last day to see it, and yes, I am most definitely seeing it tomorrow. Expect a post with pictures! I've tried not to look at any, so it's going to be a surprise!