Sunday, October 22, 2017

Morton Street

Let's take care of a one-off Fairmount Line review, shall we? This is Morton Street. It's a Fairmount Line station in Dorchester. That's all the background you need.

There it is!
Morton Street Station is located on the road of the same name, a four-lane behemoth of speeding traffic. It's too bad, then, that the station entrance is only on one side of the road, with no crosswalks for a while on either side! It's not too big of a deal, I guess, but it's definitely a little annoying. The entrances are marked with a few T symbols and station signs. There's a secondary entrance to the outbound platform on Flint Street.

Coming down on the inbound side.
The inbound side of the station has a lot more amenities than the outbound, such as a staircase and a ramp (the other side just has the latter) and some bike racks. This side also has a little parking lot, which is interesting. The MBTA website claims there's no parking here!

The platform.
Morton Street has a simple Fairmount Line platform. It's insanely long for no real reason, and it's entirely high-level on both sides. There are shelters near each entrance, with benches stretching all the way down the platform. The station features some historical information and photographs about the area on some its signs.

No train picture, unfortunately, but here's another one of the platform.
Station: Morton Street

Ridership: Like all Fairmount Line stations, Morton Street has exceptionally high ridership: a whopping 130 inbound riders per day. If that isn't huge ridership, I don't know what is. South Station, you've got competition!

Pros: As a normal Fairmont Line station, Morton Street features luxurious high-level platforms, beautiful convenient shelters, and more benches than are probably necessary, since this thing can't generate any kind of ridership with an hourly Commuter Rail service because this is destined to be a rapid transit line ARGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Cons: I gotta say, this station is somewhat lacking in the wastebaskets department! Other than that, it's really just the fact that there needs to be way more frequent service here, because the Fairmount Line as it is is just a joke.

Nearby and Noteworthy: There are some businesses to the east of this station, but they don't look particularly appealing...

Final Verdict: 7/10
It's a Fairmount Line station. The end!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Friday, October 20, 2017

Logan Airport Shuttle: 55 (Serves All Terminals to subway station and to Rental Car Center)

So I found out that before I can do the big review, I have to do some other reviews that sorta pertain to the big review in a way, mostly for dramatic purposes for when the big review finally comes out. It'll become clear at some point. Well, anyway, before I can do the other reviews before the big review, I'm gonna patch up the time by taking care of some reviews in my backlog of my reviews, not pertaining to the other reviews or the big review. Thus, here's my review of the Logan Airport 55 route review. Review? Review!

The bus at Terminal A.
The 55 is basically a combined version of the 22 and 33 that runs in the late evening and early morning in lieu of those routes. That's about it. So we started at Terminal A and proceeded to, yes, Terminal B - stops 1 and 2. From there, and I know this is a big surprise, we went to Terminals C and E! Oh, and there was also that weird Massport control tower stop between B and C that no one ever uses...

Oooh, blurry!
After Terminal E, we headed down Service Road, passing a gas station, some parking lots, and a few airplane hangars. Eventually we turned into Airport Station, then from there we went down Transportation Way. There was a park on one side, and we curved around it before running up to the upper level of the Rental Car Center. Alright, review over!

Another 55 getting ready to go back to the airport.
Logan Airport Shuttle Route: 55 (Serves All Terminals to subway station and to Rental Car Center)

Ridership: Since this route operates during the airport's off-peak hours, ridership is pretty light. My trip had maybe seven people in total.

Pros: It makes sense that during times of lighter ridership, Massport combines the 22 and 33 into one route. It does mean a longer ride to Terminals C and E, although in the case of E, most international flights don't leave when this route runs, so it's not too big of a deal. The route operates with consistent frequency, and you should never have to wait too long for a bus.

Cons: It's kinda weird that this uses 60-foot buses, isn't it? I mean, there really doesn't seem to be enough ridership to justify them, and I imagine the costs for running them are higher than normal 40-foot buses.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Every terminal of the airport! Woah!

Final Verdict: 6/10
I don't really have all that much to say about the 55. It's just a fairly meh shuttle that runs when the ridership isn't high enough to support the 22 and 33. Basically, you're in for a slow, quiet ride in a 60-foot bus with very few people on it.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Thursday, October 19, 2017

PVTA: R27 (Springfield/Eastfield Mall via 16 Acres-Wilbraham)

As I continue to work on my big review that I know all of you will like quite a lot, let's take a look at a defunct PVTA route! The R27 was eliminated pretty soon after I left Amherst, so I'm glad I got the opportunity to ride it - and it was hard to find even when it existed! Having been on this elusive bus, I can safely say that...yeah, good thing the PVTA cut this thing.

This schedule is Exhibit A!
Oh boy, it's one of these schedules, huh? More dashed lines than actual timepoints? Every single trip has some sort of letter attached to it that makes it different from all the others? Cooooool. I'd also like to point out that only three of the five trips actually operated as R27s; the two evening ones were deviated B17s.

Well, here's the stop...or something...
Sam and I took a B17 to Sixteen Acres Center, and we had half an hour to wait for the R27 (despite the fact that the schedule promised a "transfer to and from the B17"). We literally spent almost all of that time poring through the horrible PVTrack app looking for the right R27 stop - there were so many of them, and they were in seemingly no order at all! We were paranoid about missing the bus (or worse, the bus not coming at all), so we settled for the stop after Sixteen Acres Center, which was pretty desolate.

We were already past the suburban businesses of Sixteen Acres Center at this second stop - by this point, it was all residential. We headed down Wilbraham Road past lots of houses; eventually we entered Wilbraham, and the name changed to Springfield Street. It already started to feel more rural, with more trees and larger spaces between houses.

A pleasant side street.
For some reason, the R27 was planned in the most complicated way possible. It had two deviations along the route that certain trips served, and my trip was doing one of them. Thus, we turned onto Stony Hill Road, which was more houses, then it ran straight through a golf course. We turned onto Tinkham Road next, passing more sparse houses.

We went by the entrance to the Minnechaug High School, then a cemetery, and next, we turned onto Main Street. There was farmland for a bit, then it went back to being residential once more. Eventually, at the intersection with Springfield Street, we reached Wilbraham Center! It was basically a few businesses and a small common...and Main Street dissolved into woods a few seconds after passing through the downtown.

Welcome to Wilbraham Center! YAY!!!!!
Houses came back pretty soon, and they were the only thing along here for a while. Eventually we went by a church, and soon after, we turned onto Boston Road. This was completely different from before: now there were auto shops, suburban businesses with parking lots, and...a few ponds!

This is me trying to get a picture of one of them...
The suburban sprawl continued for basically our entire run on Boston Road. Now, Sam and I were trying to catch the Palmer Village Shuttle from the Eastfield Mall, where this route terminates. Somehow, though, our bus was late (a rarity for PVTA!) and we had to get off just before the mall in order to catch the PV on its way out. Still, there isn't much to the end of the R27 - all it does is deviate into the mall, and that's the end of the route.

This could very well be the last picture ever taken of an in-service R27!
PVTA Route: R27 (Springfield/Eastfield Mall via 16 Acres-Wilbraham)

Ridership: My ride featured a grand total of one other person! Cool! According to the PVTA, this route got 11 riders per revenue hour, which seems like a lot. I mean, maybe the rush hour trips got busier, but my midday trip was empty.

Pros: The PVTA must have some political obligation to serve Wilbraham, because there can't be any other reason why fixed-route buses are running through such a low-density area. In that sense, I guess this route provided that service?

Cons: The R27 was just a confusing mess - its schedule was completely nonsensical! Also, the ridership was really low, and the route was just way too complicated for its own good, with too many deviations and service variants. The stops were organized really badly on the app, too, and the route itself was insanely hard to find in real life!

Nearby and Noteworthy: Wilbraham Center is not a thriving hub of activity by any means, but...yeah, that's about all you've got on this route.

Final Verdict: 2/10
The only thing keeping this from a 1 is that if the numbers are to be believed, this route got at least a little ridership. Anyway, the way they replaced it was well-done: they just deviate three rush hour B17 trips per day to Wilbraham now. It doesn't affect that route's frequency, and B17 riders aren't impeded at all - the ride takes the same amount of time, with the added bonus of less padding on those trips. That means less waiting at random stops! Yay! This is much simpler and more convenient than what the R27 was like, so I'm really glad they integrated the two routes.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Harvard Shuttle: Crimson Cruiser (Quad - Mather House via Memorial Hall)

Might as well crank this one out while we're on the topic of Harvard Shuttles. The big review that's coming will be really good, I promise!

The bus alongside Cambridge Common...and a car that got in the way.
I got on at Garden Street along Cambridge Common, and we looped around the Harvard Bus Tunnel onto Mass Ave. After going by the Harvard Law School, we turned onto Everett Street, then Oxford Street, which took us past the Harvard Natural History Museum, among other buildings. Next, we turned onto Kirkland Street.

Ah, much brighter than the Extended Overnight!
We pulled into the Memorial Hall deviation, and...oh, cool, we were early? Great, fun, let's wait around. Luckily, we were only stuck here for about a minute, and we were soon off to make our two-block jog because of one-way streets. Finally coming onto Quincy Street, we ran alongside Harvard Yard and dropped someone off at the Lamont Library.

Somewhere on some side streets.
After the library, we cut our way down Bow Street, curving down onto DeWolfe Street. This took us down to Cowperthwaite Street, where we arrived at our Mather House stop...four minutes early. Sigh...alright, more waiting...

No one's on board. At least we have the nice poofy seats!
Finally, it was time to go, so we went up Banks Street, then looped around to Mass Ave. We ran on this all the way up to Harvard Yard, where we made the stop at Holyoke Gate, then continued around the yard past the Red Line station. After that, we looped around the bus tunnel again in order to get back onto Garden Street, which we took out of the square and back to the Quad...where the bus was early. Again.

Aw man, the sign is off!
Harvard Shuttle Route: Crimson Cruiser (Quad - Mather House via Memorial Hall)

Ridership: Here's the lowdown for morning ridership: from the Quad to Harvard Square, the bus gets packed. Going around the Memorial Hall loop, you might see one or two people; ditto for Mather House. Then the bus loops empty back to the Quad and gets another huge load of people for the trip back down to Harvard. In the afternoon, I imagine the Quad traffic switches to the other direction, but I'm pretty sure the other ridership camps still stay light.

Pros: This route provides crucial weekend morning service around Harvard, which is clearly well-used by students. There's also service for a few trips weeknights, replacing the former River Houses B. After we establish the fact that this is an important route, though, it all goes downhill...

Cons: Firstly, this route has the same earliness and timing problem that the Extended Overnight has: it has mid-route layovers, and it runs with uneven 35-minute headways. Unlike that route, though, traffic is more variable during the day, and getting rid of layovers to increase frequency may not be the best idea just in case an unexpected jam occurs. Instead, a better solution to run more frequent service would be to cut one of the deviations - either Memorial Hall or Mather House. Neither one gets very high ridership, and getting rid of one would easily allow for half-hourly service. However, I'd also like to point out that the 1636'er, which runs weekend afternoons and replaces this route, gets two buses and runs every 20 minutes. Why does that route get more service? It's basically the same thing as this one (almost), except in the afternoon and evening! Clearly the Crimson Cruiser would benefit from more service - it can get really crowded to the Quad!

Nearby and Noteworthy: Well, you've got all of Harvard Square, I guess! Oh, except for Peabody House - this route unfortunately doesn't perform that "important," "useful" deviation.

Final Verdict: 5/10
The Crimson Cruiser's main function, at least based on ridership, is getting people between Harvard Square and the Quad. The other two deviations, as far as I'm concerned, are pretty unnecessary, although probably political - I doubt Harvard could eliminate them. Still, something has to be done about those crowds, and the solution might have to be an extra bus. After all, the 1636'er gets another one! Why can't the Crimson Cruiser have one too?

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Harvard Shuttle: Extended Overnight (Quad - Mather House via Memorial Hall)

We're taking a break from the PVTA for just a bit while I work on a huge review that I think all you guys will really like! In the meantime, let's look at this piece of trash.

Comin' round the bend.
The Extended Overnight is Harvard's overnight bus (obviously), running from around 1 AM to 4 AM (5 on Saturday and Sunday mornings) on a strange, loopy, deviatory route around the entirety of Harvard Square. Nathan, Sam, and I took this route before doing the 171, because...well, why not? We boarded at the Quad at 3:10 in the morning.

No buses coming out of here at this time of night!
From the Quad, we made our way down to Garden Street, which was briefly residential before we came up alongside Cambridge Common. We looped all the way around, circling the Harvard Bus Tunnel and running up Mass Ave. It wasn't for long, though - we turned onto Everett Street, then Oxford Street, going by various Harvard buildings.

We turned onto Kirkland Street, then we pulled into the Memorial Hall deviation...and had to wait, because we were early. Well, gosh, I might as well be reviewing a PVTA route, since clearly Harvard took a page out of their book! We finally left and made a loop around the block via Quincy Street, Cambridge Street, Prescott Street, and Broadway, before coming back to the one-way Quincy.

The Yahd!
We were alongside Harvard Yard now, and we continued our loop around its perimeter by heading onto Mass Ave. We ran past the Holyoke Gate stop, however the route bypasses it,, I have no idea why it does that. We turned onto Dunster Street, then Mount Auburn Street, going by smaller, more local Harvard Square businesses.

The intersection of Mount Auburn, Bow, and Linden Streets...duh!!! It's so obvious from the picture!
Next, we turned onto Dewolfe Street, then Cowperthwaite Street, which took us to Mather House...and we were early again! Oh boy! After a wait, we had to deviate to serve Peabody Terrace (or "Peobody" in the schedule - good one, guys), so we turned onto Banks Street. Upon reaching the stop, we just...did a three-point turn to turn around. Sigh...

The driver graciously let me take a picture at Mather House!
We went up Banks Street until Mount Auburn Street, where we looped around to Mass Ave for the third time on the trip. We took this up towards Harvard Square, but we got off at the stop just before it, at the intersection with Quincy Street. The bus continued towards Harvard, where it would eventually go back up to the Quad.

Goodbye, you rascal.
Harvard Shuttle Route: Extended Overnight (Quad - Mather House via Memorial Hall)

Ridership: On the outbound trip to the Quad, there was one person who got off. For our entire ride, there was absolutely no one. Yes, folks, this route truly gets amazing ridership.

Pros: It does provide overnight service to Harvard, but as we'll see, this doesn't mean much...

Cons: Okay, first of all, the route is a loopy mess. It's literally faster to walk to your destination than take the bus a lot of the time! Also, why the heck is it every thirty-five minutes? I mean, this thing definitely has at least five minutes of waiting time - it could easily be cut down to every 30 minutes to simplify the schedule. Finally,and here's the real kicker, why does this route run at all? Harvard provides an evening on-demand van service for all students and faculty that can be called with a special app - why isn't this just the only service? It would get people to their destinations much faster, plus it would save the university money by not having to run the Extended Overnight around in circles all night!

Nearby and Noteworthy: I don't know what you're doing up at 3 AM, but if you are, all of Harvard Square is at your fingertips with this route!

Final Verdict: 1/10
Cut it. Cut it. Cut it. Okay, I know there's probably some political reason that this route needs to exist, but why? The evening van can literally perform all of its functions more directly and more efficiently. That's right, I am actually calling a flex service more efficient than a fixed-route service. That's how bad this route is!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Monday, October 16, 2017

PVTA: G1 (Chicopee/Sumner-Allen/Canon Circle)

The G1 is honestly the most legit-feeling bus route on the PVTA. Sure, the B7 is busier and more frequent, but the deviations along the route still make it feel like an RTA. The G1, meanwhile, could honestly pass for a T bus route in Boston, at least for most of it.

Okay, not this part.
Granted, the route does start with a double-deviation. Sam and I got on the bus (which was 10 minutes late, of all things) at the Big Y, but it deviates to serve Walmart before that. I would like to point out that I was originally going to take this route on a different day, but the only mention of the Walmart deviation being first is a tiny footnote at the bottom of the schedule with no asterisks leading down to it. Heck, the route's line map even shows Walmart as being the second stop! So yeah...needless to say, I didn't realize it serves Walmart first, and I missed the bus waiting there. Thanks, G1!

Coming onto Memorial Drive.
We turned onto Memorial Drive, a wide road with suburban businesses and parking lots on either side. They got a little sparser after we went under I-90, and in fact, it even got a little woodsy. There were a few more businesses, then we went over the Chicopee River, where there was an amazing view.

On the other side of the bridge.
After the river had been crossed, we turned onto Main Street, then Grove Street. There were businesses at first, but Grove Street added some apartments to the mix. We merged onto Front Street next, which was mostly retail, but there were a few random houses in there as well.

A residential side street.
We went by a park, then it started to get more urban, with lots of different buildings lining the road. There were dense houses, businesses, a library, a basilica, and a school, among other things! We soon entered Chicopee Center, where we turned onto Cabot Street, taking us through the really boring and run-down downtown.

Oh, gross!
We passed a post office and a small park, then we merged into Center Street. After a mix of auto shops and normal retail, the road grew really wide for an interchange with I-391 and we came up alongside the Connecticut River. It was woodsy for a little while, but it got industrial after we went under I-91.

Some random auto shop.
Soon we entered Springfield, and the street became Main Street. We went through part of the Baystate Medical Center complex, then we went under I-91 again. On the other side, there was a gas station, a post office, and some businesses later on. We also passed the PVTA garage; there are lots of short-turn "G1" trips that pull back here from other routes.

A side street.
From that point, Main Street was basically lined with businesses for quite a while. Eventually it grew really wide and we went under I-291 (so many highways to go under!) and past some office buildings. Finally, we came into Union Station, the midpoint of the route. There were a lot of people waiting to get on.

Union Station!
We returned to Main Street, going under the Union Station tracks and past lots of buildings and businesses. The buildings were tall for a while until eventually they lowered and it became just pure retail. There were also some apartments and churches mixed in there, too. Also, did I mention the bus was packed by this point?

This is getting a little ridiculous! Remember, this isn't the MBTA!
Eventually we merged onto Locust Street, then another merge onto Fort Pleasant Ave. This was a wide road lined almost entirely with dense houses. Next, we turned onto Sumner Ave, which was...basically the same. We passed a park, and there were lots of businesses when we went through The X, but it was back to houses after that.

There were a few bits of retail at certain points, but it was almost entirely residential by now. Also, at some point along here...we were passed by another G1. I'll repeat: we were passed by another G1. THIS IS AN RTA ROUTE WITH BUNCHING! HOW COOL IS THAT?? Okay, it was also kind of annoying, but still!

Houses, houses, houses...
We merged into Allen Street, which was one-way, and it continued to be the same kind of housing as before (aside from an apartment development at one point). Once the two one-way roads merged back together, there were suburban businesses with parking lots, mostly to the south. Allen Street eventually got narrower, and after a run through a semi-woodsy area, we turned onto Cooley Street.

More, more, more houses.
After some regular residential areas, we turned onto Canon Circle, which was home to Spring Meadow Apartments. We looped around the development, then made our way back up Cooley Street. This time, we bypassed Allen Street in order to deviate to both Stop & Shop and Five Town Plaza. Yeah, the G1 feels like a legitimate bus route except at both of its termini...

More people! Poor bus!
Two G1's going in opposite directions - the one on the left was our bunch.
PVTA Route: G1 (Chicopee/Sumner-Allen/Canon Circle)

Ridership: This is the third-busiest route on the PVTA, so...yeah, it gets great ridership. It averages about 33 passengers per trip, but my late bus got absolutely packed, as you could see! The buncher behind us wasn't that busy...

Pros: The G1 provides frequent service to lots of dense parts of Springfield and Chicopee. By "frequent," I mean every 20 minutes on weekdays, every half hour on Saturdays, and every 45 minutes on Sundays. This is an important route!

Cons: Wow, as it would turn out, I have a lot of problems with this route. First of all, the G1 is decidedly busier than the P20 (not by much, but still), yet the P20 is far more frequent on weekends. Also, the whole Walmart thing with the G1 bothers me - it needs to be way more obvious in the schedule that the route serves Walmart first. Finally, there's the fact that this is a huge beast of a route that clearly gets late a lot. It seems like it would be better to split it into two - are there really that many people going from one side to the other, anyway? If it was two routes, I'm sure the on-time performance would be much better.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Meh, I didn't see much of note along here. The malls and stuff that it serves are probably the most interesting places, since downtown Springfield and Chicopee Center are not.

Final Verdict: 6/10
Huh...okay, well, turns out I dislike the G1 more than I thought I would. It's an important route, but in that vein, it feels like it should be more frequent on weekends. As for the Walmart bit, I think I wouldn't care if I hadn't experienced it the hard way, but I did, so now I'm a big advocate for making the footnote on the schedule way more obvious! And then there's the lateness...this seems to be the one PVTA route that normally gets late (from my experience, at least), and I think a good way of fixing this would be to split the G1 at Union Station. That way, late buses would get some layover time and they wouldn't have to stay late all the way to the other side of the route.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Last Route (Video)

Well, this is long overdue! Here's a video review of the last bus route on the T...but that's easier said than done. Enjoy!

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