Monday, June 5, 2017

RIPTA: 14 (West Bay)

Most of RIPTA's routes are of pretty normal length...but then there are the long ones that go miles and miles into the Rhode Island hinterlands. The least-used of those long routes (not including rush hour expresses) is the 14, which runs along the west side of Narragansett Bay, as its name suggests. Like the others, it's a beast of a route, with its longer branch taking almost an hour and a half to complete! Settle in for the long haul here...

Bank of Newport, I guess?
I'll be covering the Salt Pond Plaza branch of the 14 in this post, since it's mostly unique while the Newport section essentially duplicates the 64 (although it is an absolutely beautiful ride). Thus, we left the really boring mall (seriously, half the slots for stores weren't even occupied) and made our way up the wide Old Point Judith Road. This part was parallel to the 66, but it ended very quickly when we turned onto South Pier Road, starting our unique section.

A wide intersection.
South Pier Road was mostly residential, although we also passed long driveways to both the Narragansett Middle School and the Narragansett High School. As we got closer to Narragansett Bay, the houses got denser, but we turned onto Boon Street before we could properly reach the water. There were a few businesses along here between the houses, with fleeting views of the bay down side streets.

Wow, that's not tilted at all...
Soon we arrived at a shopping development that blocked our way, so we had to make a one-block deviation to get around. Thus, we turned onto Kingstown Road, then Caswell Street, which became Narragansett Ave. This curved around past some condominiums, as well as a tiny marsh apparently known as "Lake Canonchet," then we turned onto Beach Street.

Nice view...?
As the name suggests, we were running right alongside Narragansett Beach! Unfortunately, some rather large parking lots obstructed the view of the water. The street became Boston Neck Road as it curved north, and the scenery became some rather large houses obstructed by trees. Eventually we crossed over a river, finally giving us the view I was craving.

Hooray!
We ran through essentially open fields on the other side of the bridge, then some woods with low-lying trees. Eventually, some houses began to show up, many of them being fancy seaside properties. Indeed, there were occasional views of the bay through layers of trees and fields.

That house must have some great scenery in the backyard.
The residences started to get denser and a little smaller as we continued north. The road curved away from the bay again, and some suburban businesses and shopping centers with parking lots started to line it. There was a short break with some houses and a chapel, then the businesses came back, along with a park.

How exciting...
At Bridgetown Road, we were joined by the 64 on its way to Newport. The scenery got pretty woodsy, with houses hiding behind the trees and down side streets. As the road curved northeast, we entered North Kingstown, and there was a brief spurt of development (i.e. houses and a post office) at the intersection with Ferry Road.

Another view!
After that spurt, though, we went through pure farmland for a little while, and the open space offered another view of the bay. Entering the woods again, it became residential, with suburban houses along the road. We arrived at a few businesses, and after a park-and-ride, we crossed over Route 138, the highway to Newport. This is where the Newport branch of the 14 joins up, and we enter the route's "main line."

No view of the amazing bridge to Newport, alas...
There were more woods after the highway interchange, with the occasional open field. Eventually we started to pass some housing developments, as well as a gun shop (we were most definitely out in the countryside). There was an elementary school and some more businesses, and we crossed over the tiny Annaquatucket River near a marsh.

Another fleeting look at the bay down a side street.
There were more businesses on the other side of the river, ranging from a pizza place to a few auto shops to a motel. It got mostly residential after that, though, and the surroundings consisted of entirely houses for a little while. Finally, we crossed over Wickford Cove, then went through an intersection with Brown Street, Wickford's main drag.

This route has been pretty scenic, eh?
Unfortunately, the 14 doesn't directly serve Brown Street, but the charming businesses of the village are within easy walking distance of the route. Meanwhile, our road became Philips Street, and it consisted of mostly houses. We turned onto Route 1 (Tower Hill Road) next, going by a few suburban businesses and the Wickford Middle School.

A field for the middle school.
There was more retail at the intersection with Main Street, then we passed a combined building for the North Kingstown police and fire departments. It was mostly residential again beyond there as the street became Post Road, but it all changed once we went by a Rhode Island State Police building. After that, there were two motels and a bunch of businesses with huge parking lots.

A rather nondescript building.
The retail continued for a while, with a few random industrial buildings mixed in between them. Eventually the road went on a bridge over a train track and Route 403, then we made a strange deviation onto Gate Road. It took us out to a rotary and back, and basically only served to take the route slightly closer to a mall than if we had just stayed on Post Road.

The view of Route 403.
Post Road was much wider than before when we returned to it, and it was lined with businesses, mostly of the sketchy variety. "Black Lotus Tattoo Studios" housed in a strange industrial building? No thanks. There was a proper shopping plaza (Kingston Plaza) with slightly more reputable businesses, and across the street was...Rhode Island's largest aquarium? Huh...okay!

Looks like a great place for a bus stop...
We went over the tiny Sandhill Brook, and there was a bit more retail on the other side. There was a bit of a break where we passed a cemetery and a church, but then the businesses came back. We crossed the Commuter Rail/Amtrak tracks, then passed some shopping plazas and entered East Greenwich.

Benny's, I guess.
East Greenwich offered much of the same scenery as before, until eventually houses became the dominant surroundings. We passed a few apartment developments, then the businesses came back, although the parking lots were much smaller this time. In fact, they went away entirely when the street became Main Street and we passed through beautiful downtown East Greenwich.

My camera was dreadfully low on batteries by this point, so sorry for no pictures of Greenwich...
North of the lovely downtown, the street became Post Road again, and it got residential. Near some more apartment developments, we came up along the Northeast Corridor, which in turn was running right along the bay. We entered Warwick along this section, and eventually turned away from the tracks. There was a mixture of houses and businesses along the next section.

A side street.
The scenery got pretty diverse soon, ranging from housing developments to industrial buildings to businesses to houses to a cemetery. We crossed over Hardig Brook, then Post Road curved right, becoming a one-way street. This was Apponaug, but aside from some beautiful historical buildings near an intersection and a bunch of traffic, there wasn't too much of note.

A view of Apponaug.
There were a few houses along the street as we left "downtown" Apponaug, then the street curved up and it got really industrial. The Route 1 designation left Post Road, but we stayed on it, going past a mixture of houses and businesses. Just as it started to become industrial, we made a few curves and took a ramp onto...oh, I guess it's still called Post Road. Also, it was Route 1 again!

Some random parking lot.
It continued to be industrial, with a few airport-related businesses along the way as well. Speaking of airports, we turned off onto the T.F. Green Airport Connector Road, taking us into the terminal. After stopping there, we made our way back around, turning back on ourselves to run the other way down the road - but it wasn't just a "road" anymore. No, it was time for the express section to Providence, and we were on a highway!

The T.F. Green Airport walkway to the Commuter Rail.
We went through the woods for a while, then merged onto I-95. We passed by some industrial-looking buildings, then it was a bit more forest...then industrial buildings again...then forest again! We entered Cranston when we crossed over the Pawtuxet River, and beyond there, we saw industrial buildings on one side and houses on the other.

Barry Manilow is great!
We passed through a rather large interchange with the Huntington Expressway and went over the Northeast Corridor after that. From there, we got a nice view of the Roger Williams Park Zoo, beyond which dense houses lined one side of the highway. Next, we curved around into that gigantic industrial area south of Providence.

The view of the zoo!
Easing its way around the Rhode Island Hospital, the highway made its way into some dense areas south and west of downtown Providence. By the way, did I mention that we had been stuck in traffic since Cranston? And that Nathan and I had a very short amount of time to make our train back home? Yeah, by this point, all we wanted was for the bus to leave the traffic-stricken highway and get the heck onto some side streets, but we kept on chugging...

The industrial area.
Finally, at a gigantic interchange, we merged onto Memorial Boulevard, right outside the Providence Place Mall. We turned onto Francis Street, then Exchange Terrace, taking us along the northern side of Burnside Park. As it turned out, the 14 uses one of the closest Kennedy Plaza berths to the Commuter Rail station! Nathan and I got out and sprinted for our lives to the station, just barely making the train. This seems to happen a lot...

The bus allllllll the way back at Salt Pond Plaza...
RIPTA Route: 14 (West Bay)

Ridership: Like I said, the 14 is the least-used "long" route on the RIPTA, since it doesn't serve any particularly big ridership hubs (the 54 serves Woonsocket, the 60 serves Newport more quickly, and the 66 serves URI). Thus, in 2012, it only got 789 riders per weekday and 325 per Saturday, with most of them coming from the inner section of the route, before it splits in two.

Pros: Despite the fact that ridership isn't as good as the other long RIPTA routes, the 14 still serves a huge part of Rhode Island. It's the only route to some fairly important places like East Greenwich, Wickford, and Narragansett Beach, so clearly a lot of areas fall under the influence of the 14.

Cons: The problem is that the schedule is infrequent and inconsistent. It runs about every hour on weekdays, but it's not consistent at all. There are bouts during the rushes where it gets more frequent, but again, it's inconsistent. On Saturdays, it leaves about every hour and a half, but once again, the times are completely random. Also, the fact that it's every 90 minutes means that service to each branch is once every three hours. Then there are some weird express trips that happen mostly during the evening rush that add an extra layer of complexity to an already crazy route, and we're left with just a big mess.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Of all the towns the 14 serves, my favorite was East Greenwich. It's surprisingly big, and simply oozing with charm, with a bunch of hills and dense businesses! If only it wasn't such a pain to get there by public transportation - the 14's schedule is hard to deal with.

Final Verdict: 6/10
The 14 is an important route, but the schedule completely drags it down. I think hourly headways do make a lot of sense, but why can't they be more consistent? It also seems like it's not particularly worth having Saturday service to the branches - if they cut it back to maybe Gate Road, they could improve the frequencies, plus it would improve ridership efficiency. Perhaps even Sunday service could be tried with this arrangement?

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that interesting little travelogue. I live here in RI and am glad to pick up any bits of info re public transit here in the Ocean State.

    Bern

    ReplyDelete

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