Better Bus is here, my friends, and I am so excited to have a generally positive service change post for once! Even aside from the changes branded as “Better Bus,” there are a number of others that are great as well. It’s not like we don’t have a few stinkers in here, but a good chunk of these changes made me really happy. It is odd that we’re not getting all the Better Bus changes in one go, but I guess it gives us something to look forward to in the winter! So the information page is here, and remember, these changes come into effect September 1st. This is also the biggest number of MBTA changes in my lifetime, so strap in – it’s a long one.
CT1/1: Oh, we are starting off nice and strong. Get those last “limited stop” CT1 rides in while you can, because that route is toast! Its resources are being put to use on the 1, which is generally improved. There are a bunch of places where service is getting better: every 8 minutes from every 9-10 at rush hour, every 10-11 from every 12-14 middays, and most importantly, every 15 from every 16 on Sundays – the fact that it was every 16 always bothered me. This all comes at the sacrifice of Saturday service, though, which I imagine had to be stretched for better on-time performance: many headways on Saturdays are about a minute longer than they used to be. This is especially annoying because crowding on Saturdays is actually worse than on weekdays. Like, honestly, let’s just get a rail line under Mass Ave at this point…
CT2: Service will be less frequent during the rushes, probably for on-time performance reasons. The headways are a bit random across the board, so it’s hard to generalize; just know that alas, buses will come less often.
SL1/SL4: Aw man, that weird 2:30 AM trip from the airport that turned into an SL4 at South Station is being eliminated. I guess it wasn’t getting ridership, although I think part of that was just the complete oddness of its entire existence.
4: Because the 4 refuses to die, we’re touting the elimination of a deviation on this peak-only route as a Better Bus improvement. Yes, buses will no longer serve Northern Ave, staying directly on Seaport Boulevard like any normal bus should do. Despite this, the 4 has awful on-time performance, because of course it does, so it’s actually losing a trip in the morning rush, with a few schedule tinkers elsewhere.
5/16: I think some of the 5’s resources are being put to the 10 as well, but the most direct replacement for (yay!) the elimination of the 5 is the 16. The 16 is one of those routes that’s so busy that any headway increase is positive, so it’s good to see increased service of any kind. That being said, clockface is thrown out the window, with midday service becoming about every 20-25 minutes, and Saturday service every 20-24, instead of every 30 like it is now. Sunday service gets a slight increase in service from every 35 minutes to every 30 in the afternoon. There is also a new weekday and Saturday midday variant that runs to McCormack Housing, providing better service there than the 5 ever did, while also making the 16 that much more complicated.
7: The 7’s getting a little bit stretched, but not enough at rush hour to make a noticeable dent in headway. More unfortunate is a brief portion on Saturday afternoons when buses will be every 42 minutes instead of every 40.
8: Just a few time shifts on Saturday middays.
9: More stretching. The weekday cuts aren’t the end of the world (like the 7, the 9 is frequent enough that it doesn’t make a huge dent in service), but Saturdays will run every 20 minutes for less time (it will begin far later in the morning than it does now), and Sundays go from a clean every 30 minutes to…every 35. Ugh.
10: I would say this is more of a cleanup effort than anything, with headways getting more standardized. That doesn’t mean there’s not stretching, though: Saturday afternoons see a bit less service (every 23-24 minutes instead of every 22-23), while Sundays become every 45 minutes instead of every 40. They also cut that early-morning variant that skips the South Bay Center, which makes the route simpler. Even though there is some stretching, I appreciate the more even headways and cutting of variants.
11: The inbound 5:22 PM trip on weekdays will now leave at 5:24. I guess this wasn’t a big enough change to put “Schedule Change” on the paper schedule, because it’s not there!
15: OH MY GOD THEY FIXED THE 15!!!!! Of all the changes I’ve covered on the blog thus far, this is far and away the most amazing one. There are off-peak service improvements across the board here. Every 13-14 minutes weekday middays instead of every 17! Every 15-18 minutes on Sundays instead of every 20! And Saturdays…WOW. Now every trip will go to Fields Corner, and the route will run at least every 15 minutes almost all day. These changes are…SO good. I can’t praise this enough.
18: Instead of being a standard every hour all day on weekdays, there will now be a 55-70-55 minute gap midday. Um, okay. There are few minor shifts in the evening rush, too.
19: A few one-minute time shifts in the morning.
21: Some one-minute time shifts, mostly at rush hour.
22: The route sees huge improvements at night, with standardized 20-minute (or better) service when before, there were some 25- or even 30-minute gaps. Saturdays lose a bit of service in some places and gain service in others, but it remains a general every 12-15 minutes for most of the day. Sunday mornings are every 17 minutes now, but that will soon be a clean every 20, which is probably for the better. Sunday afternoon service that’s currently every 18 minutes will shrink down to every 17. Pretty good stuff here, especially those night improvements!
23: There don’t seem to be a ton of weekday or Saturday changes to write home about, although there will now be no gaps longer than 20 minutes at night – awesome. Sundays see some nice service improvements as well, with service every 13-17 minutes throughout most of the day instead of every 16-18.
30: Some new school trips are being added to the route: the round trips will leave Forest Hills at 6:00 AM and 2:05 PM, and Mattapan at 6:32 and 2:38.
31: Really nice standardization on weekdays: every 8 minutes all day. I love it. Weeknight service also becomes every 13 minutes instead of every 15. Now let’s just iron out that annoying “every 21 minutes” Sunday schedule!
34/34E: I’m excited for the larger changes coming to this route in the winter, but there’s some nice variant elimination for now, with the Upland Woods and Xaverian Brothers High School trips on the 34E no longer running. Times on Saturday night are shifted around too, in an effort to get rid of scheduled bunching between the 34 and 34E. The headways are still a little weird, but scheduled bunching is awful and I’m happy to see it eradicated.
36: A pair of school trips, one in the morning and one in the evening, has been eliminated. Also, the 3:35 PM inbound trip will now leave at 3:30 from Charles River Loop instead of Millennium Park, creating…oh, a scheduled bunch. Well, darn. I can’t wait to see the variant elimination that begins in the winter, because that’ll hopefully make things a bit less crazy here.
42: “Weekday schedule changes throughout the day,” but the only change I can find is outbound night service leaving ten minutes earlier. Maybe there’s other stuff I missed?
44: Despite the nice elimination of the John Eliot Square variant on weeknights, it doesn’t affect headway at all, and in fact, the route has generally been stretched. Morning rush service becomes every 18-20 minutes instead of 16-18, and Saturday service goes from every 20 minutes to…every 21 minutes. UGH! Sundays lose service as well, although at least it’s a clean hourly schedule for more of the day,
45: A few minor weekday time shifts, mostly at rush hour; Saturday headways from 6 to 7:30 PM shift a bit; and the last trip on weekends moves from 1:00 AM to 1:15, perhaps to reflect the reality that the last train is always late. We should shift more of those over…
47: Hey, weekday midday service becomes every 20 minutes, down from 22! That’s awesome! Saturday and Sunday service is stretched, though: on Saturdays, it’ll be every 25 minutes instead of every 24 (probably not the worst change in the world), while Sundays go to every 50 instead of every 45 (probably not the best change in the world). But look, one last good thing: that variant on Sunday mornings that only runs to BU Medical Center will be eliminated, with all trips now going to Broadway. The 47 will become a variant-free service!
55: The 9:00 AM trip from Queensberry will leave at 9:05 instead.
57: Looks like stretching. Morning rush service will be slightly less frequent, as will service on Saturday mornings. Still, early Saturday evenings become every 11 minutes from every 13, and Sunday service sees a few small frequency upgrades: every 14 minutes instead of every 15 in the afternoon, and every 17 minutes instead of every 20 in the early evening.
59: Eliot Street people didn’t want to lose their bus entirely, so two trips per day in the peak direction will serve it, while all others will go via Needham Street. Providing this barebones service instead of eliminating the variant entirely is not the way Better Bus should be going, and the T shouldn’t be bucking to political pressure like this (and it gets worse later on). Service will be an impressive every 30-35 minutes on weekdays, though, instead of every 45. Weekends see some time shifts, but it’s still every 90 minutes, alas.
60: Time shifts across the board, seven days a week. Nothing seems to affect frequency.
64: Time shifts on weekdays, with no change to the number of trips. Hopefully we see some more radical changes to this route in the winter.
66: Route 66 riders rejoice: you’re getting better service! No night gaps above 20 minutes anymore! Every 9 minutes in the morning rush instead of every 10! Every 13 minutes middays instead of every 14-15! Every 16 minutes on Saturday and Sunday afternoons instead of every 17! Every 18 minutes on Sunday mornings instead of every 20! Huge improvements to early morning service on weekdays and Saturdays! The one place that suffers is Saturday mornings from around 6 to 8, but it’ll just be every 17-19 minutes instead of every 13-18 – not a horrible change, and at a time where ridership is probably light.
86: Time shifts every day, but nothing affecting frequency.
89: The goal was to eliminate Clarendon Hill service entirely, but political pressure led to the restoration of the Clarendon Hill variant…on weekdays before 9 AM, and between 1 and 7 PM. Still, there has been a huge increase in service across the board: every 10-15 minutes at rush hour, every 22-25 minutes middays, every 17-27 minutes on Saturdays, and every 38-46 minutes on Sundays. It definitely feels like they tried to squeeze out as much as possible from the added resources, leading to the odd headways, but it’s still a lot better than the current service. Sundays are every 70 minutes right now!
90: Wow, it’s pretty amazing how much service you can add if you’re not running through the traffic mayhem to Wellington. Yes, the 90 has been cut back to Assembly (I would even rather see it end at Sullivan and have people transfer to the Orange Line, but oh well), and with that come major frequency improvements. Weekends become mostly hourly, which is nice compared to the 70-minute headways today, but weekdays become every half hour midday. It’s every 45 minutes right now! That’s a huge increase in service! Rush hours become about every 35-40 because of the longer trip time, but it’s still better than today!
91: Firstly, the route is changing to once again use Prospect Street in the outbound direction, meaning that that weird bus-only lane will be used by something other than the CT2! There are running time changes across the board, while Saturdays get stretched-out service in the morning – every 30 minutes becomes every 35-36 minutes, which kinda makes sense given that the current schedule expects a single bus to do the complete round trip in half an hour, which is insane. Sundays just get weird, going from every 45 minutes to every…whenever it wants? I mean, the number of trips stays the same, but the headways are alllllll over the place.
92: Because it’s no longer serving Assembly Square, the 92 sees major frequency upgrades. Rush hour unfortunately gets stretched because buses never served Assembly during those times anyway, but middays go from every 35-45 minutes (which is a gross oversimplification of the insane schedule) to every half hour, while Saturdays go from every 35 minutes to about every 20! Shame there’s still no Sunday service, though.
93: Stretching. Morning rush service will be about every 8-10 minutes instead of every 5-10, while midday service goes to every 20 minutes from every 18 (which at least makes it easier to remember). The clean 20-minute Saturday headway has been replaced with a service with occasional 21- or 22-minute gaps, and Sundays are in a similar boat. Also, the around-the-world late-night trip via the 93, 109, 108, and 104 has been canned, probably because it was always kinda stupid.
95: Again, political pressure screwed things up. The new Arlington Center routing will only be every other bus, while the rest will go to West Medford. Because, you know, having service every two hours on Sundays to each branch will really bring in the ridership! The new headways are all over the place, too, but they’re almost all worse than what they are now (Arlington Center is further away than West Medford, admittedly). At least Sundays go to every hour from every 65 minutes, but again…service every two hours on each branch. They’re gonna end up reverting back to West Medford and calling the pilot a “failure” because no one wants to ride a bus this infrequent.
97: Some minor trip time shifts in the morning rush heading inbound.
99: Not only are we getting stretching, but there’s also some weirdification of the headways. Nights are standardized to hourly, but the rest is all over the place! I mean, the frequencies are generally the same, but it’s a lot less consistent. At least morning rush service gains an inbound trip at the expense of losing an outbound one.
100: Trip time changes throughout the weekday and on weekends after 9 PM. Nothing affects headway, although night service on weekdays actually gets improved slightly: it’ll run every half hour until 10 PM now, unlike currently when the route becomes hourly at 8.
101: Okay, I see they’re wringing this one out to get as much service as they possibly can! Morning rush service will be every 6-8 minutes now, while middays will be every 27 minutes instead of every 30. Saturdays gain service in the morning and evening, with buses every half hour until about 9 AM and from 7 to 11 PM; midday service remains every 40 minutes, unfortunately. Sundays see the biggest increase in service, from every 70 minutes to every…33! Okay, weird headway, but that is a rock-solid frequency improvement right there! Wow!
104/109: These routes see minor increases in service. Saturday nights, for example, will run every half hour after 7. Weeknights will be much more frequent on both routes. Middays gain a bit of service. Saturdays are now “every 40 minutes or less” instead of just every 40. Sundays are every 45 minutes instead of every 55. Sunday morning service is a little more robust…mostly. But the one bad thing is the loss of Sunday morning Glendale Square short-turns on the 109 that helped give it extra frequency during a surprisingly overcrowded time. Now the 109 has just one trip before 6 AM on Sundays, with the 104 gaining one it didn’t have before. I just hope things don’t get too busy.
105: A few time shifts on weekdays.
106: Okay, we’re losing all service past Lebanon Loop – that’s good, it means way simpler service. It also means better service on weekday middays, every 40 minutes instead of every 55. The morning rush takes a slight hit thanks to the loss of Lynwood and Lynde short-turns, but the evening rush will be better, every 20-25 minutes versus every half hour. Weekend service is more or less unchanged, although times are shifted (often making the schedule crazier, especially on Sundays).
108: Generally stretching, although a long gap in the morning is plugged. Aside from that, the clean half-hourly weekday schedule becomes every 34 minutes; the rushes lose some service, particularly with the evening turning into every 24 minutes instead of every 20; and there are some minor time shifts on Saturday middays.
110: I’m seeing mostly stretching on weekdays – you can add about 5 minutes to whatever the current headway is to get a decent idea of what the new one is. Still, weekends get some better service: Saturday mornings will be every half hour until 10, when they’ll revert to more or less their current frequency; and Sundays will run every 35 minutes instead of every 70, a massive improvement!
111: If you thought the 111 couldn’t possibly get any more frequent at rush hour, you were so wrong. They manage to squeeze in even more service in the peak direction, while night service is massively improved thanks to the elimination of the Broadway and Park variant. There’s not a ton to say about rush hour – it’s even more insanely frequent – but night service is now every 6-7 minutes instead of every 10, which is awesome. Weekend service doesn’t seem to change minus a few time shifts and some new Sunday morning 111C’s (which are very much needed).
112: A few time shifts on Sunday afternoons.
114/116/117: Oof, it’s getting hard to look at these tiny schedule fonts to find changes. Rush hour and midday times shift without noticeable frequency improvements, but all other times look a lot better. Weeknights are every 10 minutes straight ’til midnight, unlike the current schedule which has a 15-minute portion. Saturdays are every 13 minutes instead of every 14, while Sundays are every 17-18 instead of every 20. Alas, however, the late-night 117 from Haymarket to Lynn via the 442 is gone.
119: Time shifts on weekday evenings.
120: Two major route changes to the 120: it will no longer do that stupid Liberty Plaza deviation (good), and the start of the route will now be Jeffries Point instead of Maverick (which makes sense). So how do these affect the schedule? Um…weirdly? They definitely squeezed the route as much as possible, but it leads to some odd headways: every 22-30 minutes at rush hour, every 34 minutes during the day, every 26-32 minutes on Saturdays, and every 51-61 minutes on Sundays. Yeah, can’t say I’m really a fan, even if they are generally improvements over the current frequencies.
131: Two midday inbound trips will leave two minutes earlier.
132: Some weekday time shifts, including a new outbound morning rush trip! Not that the route gets much reverse peak morning rush ridership, but maybe they just put what was previously a non-revenue trip into service.
134: The poor 134 has had a rough couple of schedule changes. Luckily, a near-half-hourly weekday midday service is being restored, which is way better than what we have now. Rush hour trips see time changes, too. That variant to the Cambridge District Court is being eliminated. Finally, the last trip on Saturdays is being pushed up by 5 minutes.
350: The once-a-day school trip in each direction to Arlington Center has been canned.
411: So I thought that the elimination of rush hour service past Kennedy Drive would make for more frequent peak service there, but it really affects evening service more. Buses will run about every 20-30 minutes there after 6 PM, while headways during the day have risen to about 70 minutes instead of 65. There’s also an annoying scheduled bunch heading inbound at around 6, thanks to the Jack Satter House variant being way longer than the short-turn to Kennedy Drive. I dunno, it’s nice that Kennedy Drive gets better weekday evening service, but it doesn’t seem like the time that it most needs it…
424: The 424 to Haymarket is no more, which is fantastic as far as resource allocation goes. Plus, they can now run six evening rush trips instead of four!
426: A few evening rush Haymarket trips have become Wonderland trips, allowing for more frequent peak-direction service during that time. Weekend service is slightly more frequent as well, squeezing as much as they can out of the limited resources they have. It’s not much, but it results in one extra trip on Saturdays and Sundays.
428: The 428 won’t go to Wakefield High School anymore, terminating at Oaklandvale proper instead. The effect this has on schedule times is marginal, but look out for some shifts in the morning.
429: The 429 currently has a two-hour gap during the evening rush, but that’s now being patched with a few new trips. Weekends see some time shifts, and you know what that means: the clean, even headways have gotten a lot more messy!
430: The 5:25 PM inbound Saturday trip will leave at 5:20.
435: The Pine Hill variant is being eliminated, which really serves to simplify the route and not much else. There are a lot of time shifts (on weekends, too), but other than that, the only new addition seems to be an outbound morning rush trip to Danvers Square.
436: Some weekday time shifts and a new starting point for an afternoon school trip.
439: The 6:52 PM inbound trip will leave eleven minutes earlier and go all the way to Wonderland. Also, the route now shares a schedule card with the 441/442! I’m gonna miss the 439’s anemic schedule being given its own card.
441/442/448/449: Firstly and most importantly, the 448 and 449 are being eliminated to provide better service on the 441/442. Also, the 441/442 rush hour short-turn point has been moved up to New Ocean @ Eastern Ave, which I’m honestly not in favor of – Central Square is where most people are going. Weekend service is mostly the same with some time shifts and an even more inconsistent Sunday schedule. Weekday middays are also all over the place, losing the half-hourly headways in favor of all-over-the-place headways. So honestly, the only place that sees improvement is rush hour, although it is very good: buses will be super frequent from Lynn, about every 7-12 minutes.
450: Phew, headways are actually streamlined for once: weekday midday service will be a clean every 80 minutes. The evening rush unfortunately loses a trip, though, while on weekends, headways get crazy but at least Saturdays gain a trip.
451: A couple of time shifts.
455/459: Ooh, this is a good one. The 459 is being eliminated, which allows for much better 455 service on weekdays. The headways need streamlining badly (midday service will be anywhere from every 20-40 minutes, and the evening rush is all over the place – every 24-56 minutes), but they are a lot better. Weekends get crazier, too, and there’s some stretching on Sundays that leads to the loss of a trip. The big winner here is midday, and the morning rush comes out well with a bus every 10-25 minutes, but the evening rush is still super empty. Hopefully this whole route gets patched up later.
456: Some time shifts.
465: A time shift, but a major one: the 8:10 AM inbound trip will leave a full 20 minutes earlier!
501/502/503/504: Ah, the big Newton Corner express bus realignment. This is good: in order to keep the 502/504 from having to loop around in the outbound direction, the routes serving Newton Corner in the peak direction will be the ones that don’t have to loop, i.e. 502/504 in the morning inbound and 501/503 in the evening outbound. This leads to time shifts across the board. The 503 loses a morning rush trip, but the 502 gains one. 504 midday service gets crazier, but no trips are lost.
Okay! I think this round of changes has been the most positive one I’ve ever done! There are still a lot of rough ones, particularly crazier headways and stretching, but there’s a lot of good stuff, too. I mean, the 15 alone made it worth it, but most of the Better Bus changes were good ones as well, not to mention the positives that weren’t considered part of the program. I’ve been seeing a lot of people online complaining that the Better Bus Project is only eliminating routes and nothing else, but the truth of the matter is that without additional resources, the only way to increase service is to cut it elsewhere. Frankly, I think the MBTA did a great job given that their funding has, as far as I know, remained the same, and I’m super excited to see what they come up with in the winter.