Oh, how I hate it when stations don’t have free crossovers! Especially when I’m not paying attention to what entrance I’m going into and end up on the wrong platform, then when I try to get into the other one it says “Pass already used” and I have to get a 1 to Harvard to take the train from there. Yes, the situation only pertains to Central, but it was really annoying when it happened.
|That train stuck around for quite a while before leaving.|
Even though you can’t cross between them, the platforms are kinda nice. I love the walls, which have a mosaic pattern along them, and there are different ones in each waiting area. Something I didn’t notice when I was there, but that I can see in the picture is an old-fashioned Central sign. It’s pretty cool that they kept that. Unfortunately, the ceiling does have quite a few random pipes, lowering the aesthetic appeal of the station.
|The main entrance, with the escalator shelter visible in the background.|
Central actually has three entrances (six if you count the other side), lined up along Mass Ave. They’re all New York subway style, meaning they’re just staircases leading underground from the street. The main one, the middle of the three, also has an elevator and an up escalator. The other two just have stairs.
|The mezzanine of the main entrance.|
The main entrance has the biggest mezzanine of the three, which means it’s slightly less tiny than the others. Actually, it’s basically a long, thin hallway with the fare machines on one end and the gates on the other. There’s even a customer service booth – what an amenity! And this is the only entrance that has one.
|The second mezzanine.|
The second entrance has a sign that says “PURCHASE CharlieCards/Tickets.” I’m not sure why it says this, since you can’t get CharlieCards at Central. The fare machines in the (tiny) mezzanine are also interesting, in that they have signs over them saying “Cash, Credit/Debit, Tokens.” Why does it say “tokens?” The token system doesn’t exist anymore! What an odd entrance…
|The smallest mezzanine is really quite cramped.|
The smallest entrance of the three is accessed by a really tight staircase. It can barely fit two people going in opposite directions, and even then you have to squeeze up to the wall a bit to make it past. What’s more, this mezzanine literally has no fare machines. Oh, there’s room for one, but I guess this station just had to be even more annoying. At least the entrance’s sign says there aren’t any fare machines, but still.
|The main bus shelter on Mass Ave.|
The complicated bus system at Central is nothing to sneeze at. And even if you did try to sneeze at it, you wouldn’t know where to sneeze because there’s no signage to the station’s three bus stops. The main one is on Mass Ave, and it’s primarily for the 1 and 47. It’s a nice shelter with a multicolored glass roof. There’s nothing else to say about it, really.
|A shelter on Green Street.|
There are three Central buses (the 64, 70, and 70A) that leave from University Park, about a 10 minute walk away from the station. Why? Who knows? Let’s make the bus situation even more confusing! I wasn’t able to walk to University Park, but I got the above picture of a shelter on Green Street. This is the closest stop to the station for outbound University Park buses. And don’t be fooled by the Mass Ave shelter – the 64, 70, and 70A stop there, but only on their way to University Park.
|Looks like my shadow photobombed the picture.|
The third one is an actual busway, located on Magazine Street. It serves the 83, 91, and CT1, and is the most “advanced” stop out of the three. For one thing, it’s not a street stop like the other two – cars aren’t allowed in this busway. And this one actually has schedules in a little sheltered bin! They still get soaked if it’s raining, but it’s nice to have them there. The question is, why can’t the 64, 70, and 70A use this much more sophisticated stop?
|Good thing the platform was a little longer than the train so I could get a picture of it.|
Ridership: Believe it or not, this is one of the very busiest stations on the system. It comes in seventh place in terms of ridership, with over 16,500 riders per weekday! I don’t know why it gets such high ridership, but the residential areas around the station are pretty dense. And this station covers quite a few Cambridge neighborhoods, including East Cambridge and all of Cambridgeport.
Pros: As I said, the station serves a lot of important neighborhoods in Cambridge. As for Central itself, well, I like the mosaics on the platform and the Magazine Street busway. That’s pretty much it.
Cons: Well, there’s the fact that the platform is pretty ugly overall. Or there’s the fact that there are three separate bus stops, without signage in the station letting you know where to go. And of course, there’s the lack of free crossovers. And actually, Central’s a pretty nasty station in that regard if you’re heading outbound and accidentally use the inbound platform, because Kendall also has no free crossovers. You’d have to go all the way to Charles in order to head back in the other direction.
Nearby and Noteworthy: There are a whole bunch of restaurants and businesses near the station. One place that I go to for breakfast occasionally is Veggie Galaxy in Central Square. Its french toast gets the totally arbitrary Miles Seal of Approval.
Final Verdict: 5/10
Okay, so this is clearly an important station. But is it a good station? Not really. The platform is ugly, the bus system is overly complicated, and there aren’t any free crossovers. This is also one of those stations where you can find very…unique smells. But I suppose a whole bunch of people use it, and it’s certainly in a good location.
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