Sam Hegg got to ride on the incredibly rare 171, and wrote a fantastic review of the route. Thanks, Sam!
The 171 is a special route because it only runs two one way trips to the airport. Sure, there are a lot of routes that run one or two trips a day, but what makes this route even more special is that these leave Dudley (the starting point of the route) at the lovely hours of 3:50 AM and then again at 4:20 AM, which made riding the route all the more challenging. So when my friend wanted to ride the 171 and pay for the Uber to get to Dudley, I couldn’t resist the urge to ride the last route I’ve never before taken.
I should explain how early morning service works (meaning 3 AM to 4:30 or so) before I begin with the route review. All buses from the 171 come off of a special variant of the 15 that begins in Ashmont, runs up Dorchester Avenue (like the 18) and then like a 15 from there to Dudley. Also operating at this hour are northbound only 28 trips that run Mattapan-Dudley, which are run by one bus that picks up people going to Dudley, then runs out of service back to Mattapan. These are run to connect the people on Blue Hill Avenue to the 171 route. Finally, the 171 gets these people from the 15 and 28 to Andrew and the Airport.
The front half of the bus was mostly filled with MBTA employees having a conversation as we left Dudley Station at 3:50 AM. We went up Washington, made a right on Melnea Cass and a left on Harrison Avenue. We made a loop through BU Medical Center where no one got on or off. A T employee got off after the loop however, probably walking to a nearby bus garage.
|The interior of the bus.|
Then the bus went down Mass Ave and through Newmarket Square. There were two stops named “Newmarket Square” in fact. We stopped across from the Southampton Garage (where all 60 foot buses are stored) to let out another employee, who the other employees sent off with wishes for a good day.
Just over the bridge from Southampton Garage is Andrew Station. Some people got off here, but mostly it was people getting on. The bus was pretty crowded at this point. I’d estimate 20-25 people were onboard as we left Andrew.
The bus made a left out of the Andrew busway and ran down Dorchester Avenue. An unofficial stop was made outside of Cabot Garage near Broadway to drop off all of the remaining T employees, who thanked the driver and said their farewells until tomorrow.
We passed right by Broadway Station and then made a right turn onto Broadway (the street the 9 runs on). We then cut through Southie to the same entry point that the SL1 uses to enter the highway, where the driver floored the bus.
A steady stream of passengers got off at each of the terminals. Even though the bus is supposed to go as far as Airport Station, nobody goes there and the 171 will usually end at Terminal E, where it will deadhead to Southie and start another route.
|The back of the bus at the airport…|
|…and the front.|
Ridership: Pretty good for 4:00 AM. Most of the people came from the early 15 and 28 trips with a few people boarding at Dudley and a few more at Andrew.
Pros: An early link to the Airport for those who need it. This bus is also great for T employees as it gives them another option to get to work.
Cons: It’s a shame the bus doesn’t run a wider variety of service hours. Heck, most routes haven’t even started service by the time the 171 ends! I think a route connecting Dudley, Andrew, and the Airport would get people at other hours in the day as well as the hours it currently runs.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Well, there’s the beautiful Dudley Square, the upscale BU Medical Center, the marvelous Andrew Square, and the serene Logan Airport. And if you’re a Bostonian, you know I’m being sarcastic.
Final Verdict: 6/10
This bus does its job of a sort of “early morning owl” so to speak. For a bus at 4 in the morning it certainly gets people, and it’s pretty much the only public transportation option in the area at that hour. The schedule could DEFINITELY be better, but overall I’m impressed with the 171.