SRTA: NB 5 (Rivet Street)

We are finally done with this system! I have been continuously reviewing SRTA routes since…geez, since August???? Okay, I did not realize it’s been that long. Basically, ever since I transitioned to Miles in Transit, every “MBTA” bus review has just been the darn SRTA! Well, let me stop talking and let’s get this final route, the NB 5, over with.

Laying over at Stop & Shop.

We pulled out of Stop & Shop, making our way onto Rockdale Ave, then turning onto Bolton Street. After passing a sketchy-looking shopping plaza, one side of the road was dense houses, while the other side was just a big
abandoned field of sorrow and despair. There were a few businesses when we reached an actual park and turned onto Rivet Street.

Looks like a lovely place to bring the kids.

It was all houses for a bit before we crossed the NB 1 at County Street. From there, we made a left onto 2nd Street and a right onto Potomska Street, which curved left to become MacArthur Drive. There was nothing much to see here other than a bunch of ocean-based industry (i.e. boats and fish) and a Price Rite supermarket that felt pretty out of place.

One of the many warehouses out here.

We went by more industry and parking lots, including a big power plant, then we turned onto Walnut Street then 2nd Street, heading into downtown New Bedford. Wait…why are we turning left? No, no, no, we’re so close, don’t do this deviation to me! Sigh…we had to do a loopy-loop to serve some apartments that are already served directly by the 1. Great. Can we go downtown now? The 5 travels via Union Street for some reason, which no other SRTA bus does, although Union Street runs through the really nice part of downtown with cobblestoned streets. That was pleasant, I guess. But I was so happy when we turned onto Pleasant Street and travelled up to the terminal.

It’s too bad I never got to check this neighborhood out. Next time, I guess.

SRTA Route: 5 (Rivet Street)

Ridership: Bear in mind that the New Bedford routes tend to get overall higher ridership than Fall River routes (barring the North End Shuttle, as usual). Well, besides the North End Shuttle, the 5 is the least-used bus route on the entire SRTA. Yes, just about 129 riders per day were using this thing in 2014. The route also has the fewest passengers per revenue hour, 11.18, on the system, aside from the North End Shuttle (of course).

Pros: Honestly, the best thing I can say about the 5 is that it serves that Price Rite in the industrial area. That’s kinda the one unique thing it does.

Cons: The 5 is very much in the shadow of other routes. Aside from the industrial part (which I’m sure attracts very little ridership throughout the day barring the Price Rite), the 5 is never further than a 5-minute walk away from another bus route. I guess it kinda has a crosstown thing going on with its Rivet Street section, but the route’s alignment isn’t really filling any huge gaps in the system. Also, with service every 45 minutes on weekdays and every 60-65 minutes (inconsistent headways) on Saturdays, it’s even less useful as a crosstown. Oh, and there’s that stupid deviation that’s entirely redundant to the 1! Look, the 1 is every 20 minutes, this is every 45. I mean, come on. Yes, the 5 serves Price Rite, but if infrastructure was installed to let pedestrians cross the JFK Memorial Highway, walking from the 1 wouldn’t be a problem.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Hey, it does serve that nice part of New Bedford! But also, you can just walk there from the terminal in a few minutes, so once again, this route isn’t really doing anything new.

Final Verdict: 3/10
It may not be the most infuriating route on the SRTA, but it is one of the most useless. There are clearly some people using it, but I’d be curious to see how many of them could almost just as easily use a different route. I’ll bet it’s a lot. For the record, the SRTA was an overall decent system; we’ve just ended on a few bad routes, I guess. Sorry, SRTA.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

NJT: 419 (Camden – Route 73/Pennsauken Station – Riverside)

Look, I like the River LINE. I know the diesel-powered light rail/commuter rail hybrid from Camden to Trenton is basically there just so NJT can say “Look, we have light rail in South Jersey!”, but it’s great for what it is. It’s reasonably frequent, it has vastly exceeded ridership projections, and it’s super cheap. Here’s a question, though: if we have this frequent, well-used, cheap light rail line…why does the 419, the infrequent, barely-used, expensive bus line that just parallels the light rail to Riverside, still exist?

Mmm…so majestic.

Okay, well, maybe it exists to give passengers a one-seat ride to Philly. After all, a one-seat ride is something a lot of people value, and the fact that the River LINE doesn’t run to Philly is a potential detriment to its ridership. Oh wait, no…the 419 starts in Camden. Alright, so a one-seat ride isn’t it.

Well geez, the rainy weather doesn’t do any favors to Camden’s aesthetic appeal, does it?

We pulled out from the Walter Rand Transportation Center onto Haddon Ave, which became 7th Street as it crossed I-676. We entered a dense residential neighborhood on the other side, which continued as we turned onto State Street. Well, hey, the River LINE doesn’t serve this neighborhood, so this is good! Oh wait, the 452 serves it too, and it runs more frequently than the 419 on weekdays. Darn it!

Some of the many rowhouses of the neighborhood.

Once State Street crossed the Cooper River, things got a lot more…middle of nowhere. Some apartments had been built on one side of the road, but the other side was basically just a wasteland. At a recycling plant, we turned onto Harrison Ave to deviate into the Kroc Center. This makes sense: the Kroc Center is an important Salvation Army community center for the city of Camden. Unfortunately, no one got on or off here. Hmm…maybe because it was 7:45 AM on a Sunday…and the Kroc Center doesn’t open until 9?????? YEAH, THAT’S PROBABLY IT.

Pulling into the parking lot.

And then, rather than use the local (admittedly narrow) roads to get to the next main street on the route, River Ave, buses have to return to Harrison all the way back to State! And for our trip, there was construction on River Ave, so we only travelled a block down State before turning onto Pierce Ave. While River Ave is a main road with a ton of retail, Pierce Ave was super narrow, and all we passed was decrepit apartments and vacant land.

Such is the nature of Camden, I suppose.

We turned onto 26th Street, making it onto River Ave for just two blocks before having to run down 28th Street on another detour. We travelled down Hayes Street, which was also residential, decrepit, and super narrow, and then we used Reeves Ave to finally get back to River Ave for the normal route. It was a mix of businesses and apartments. By the way, we were still directly following the route of the 452.

Darn detours!

The 452 finally leaves the 419 at 36th Street to terminate at the River LINE station of the same name. Great, now we were on our own! Here, surely, the 419 would become much more useful. River Road went on a long bridge over the River LINE tracks, leaving the city of Camden, and…we were in suburbia. Every house had a driveway. Curses, foiled again!

Pennsauken Transit Center.

Even though the 419 has seven other River LINE connections, apparently the route needed one more. So, after heading through an industrial wasteland for a bit, we used Derousse Ave to deviate into the Pennsauken Transit Center. And I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, it’s to connect to the Atlantic City Line!” To which I say: if there really was anyone who regularly makes that connection and can’t walk two blocks to get to the station, I would be really surprised. Who goes from the AC Line to the 419?

Oh, hi, South Jersey.

We returned to River Road, running past more suburban houses, as well as a few businesses and the Betsy Ross Bridge to Philly. Entering another industrial wasteland, we sped past the Route 73/Pennsauken River LINE station and River Road became New River Road. Crossing Pennsauken Creek, we passed through a classic South Jersey cloverleaf interchange, then we turned onto Public Road to get to Broad Street.

Crossing the River LINE track.

Okay, Broad Street was a major throughway with dense houses and some businesses. Surely now, finally, the route would be useful. But wait, what’s that two minutes away? Oh, it’s the Palmyra River LINE station! Another two minutes of driving and here was downtown Riverton and its River LINE station. Three minutes later, here was Cinnaminson Station. And that one wasn’t even in a downtown, it was just an apartment development and some industrial buildings!

Some houses in between Palmyra and Riverton.

But Cinnaminson and Riverside are actually far away – a little under 3 miles. Finally, right at the end, here’s where the 419 becomes useful. Except no, it doesn’t. Because there’s a reason the stops are so far away: there’s basically nothing between them! It’s just woods and industry. That’s it. When we came back into a real neighborhood, there were a few blocks that were pretty far from the station, but again, everyone had driveways. And just like that, we were in downtown Riverton, and the route fittingly ended right at the River LINE station.

Heading off to the layover point.

NJT Route: NJT: 419 (Camden – Route 73/Pennsauken Station – Riverside)

Ridership: Oh, I would love to see the ridership numbers for this route. Well, my Sunday morning ride got a glorious two people, and the driver said the route is that light throughout the day. So…yeah, about what I was expecting.

Pros: Hey, I’ll say something good about the 419: it actually has a really impressive service span. Buses run from about 3:30 AM to 1:00 AM on weekdays, and 5:30 to 1:30 on weekends. The River LINE only runs from about 6 AM to 9:30 PM (midnight on Saturdays), so there are times when the 419 is the only option. It’s also every hour throughout the day, which is…consistent.

Cons: Wow, that was a longer Pros section than I was expecting. Well, now it’s time to tear the 419 apart by showing how it’s inferior to the River LINE in every way:

  • Frequency: The River LINE is every half hour for most of the day, and every 15 minutes at rush hour. The 419 is every hour.
  • Speed: The River LINE takes 22 minutes to get from the Walter Rand Transportation Center to Riverton. The 419? 48 minutes.
  • Convenience: Sure, the 419 does stop more frequently than the River LINE, but most of the proper neighborhoods it serves are no more than a ten minute walk from the light rail. And what are you going to do, walk ten minutes to the frequent and fast light rail, or wait an hour for the bus that will take longer anyway?
  • Price: I swear to God I’m not making this up: the River LINE costs $1.60 to get from Camden to Riverside; because of the bus zone system, the 419 costs $2.75. I’m sorry, in what world is it acceptable for the in-all-other-ways inferior bus to also be more expensive than the in-all-other-ways superior train? This is the last straw.

Nearby and Noteworthy: On a Sunday morning, downtown Riverside is pretty dead. Actually, the town is pretty dead at most other times, too. But even if that wasn’t the case, why would you take the 419 there?

Final Verdict: 1/10
Okay, look, even the parts of the 419 that are away from the River LINE are still served by the 452! Sure, the 452 is a weird circulator thing that takes longer than the 419’s direct ride, but if the 419 was eliminated, more resources could be put into serving those neighborhoods with more logical and frequent service. The only time it makes sense to run this route is during the early morning and late night hours when the River LINE isn’t running. That’s it. At the very least, make the bus the same darn price as the train. PLEASE!

Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates

Guide to the MBTA’s Better Bus Project Proposals

Totally out of nowhere, the MBTA has released its proposals for the bus network in the first phase of the Better Bus Project. These changes are meant to be easy targets that are cost-neutral, with the bigger fixes coming later down the line in Phase 2. Each route gets a “profile” with really in-depth ridership information (and I am so excited to pore through it all), and a big chunk of routes are getting changes. If they were to go into effect, it would be on September 2019. Also, remember to give feedback on these proposals after reading them! Okay, let’s get right to it!

SL2: Oh thank goodness, they want to get rid of the 88 Black Falcon Ave deviation. I’ve always thought it was a waste of time, giving the stop a 1/10 in my original review, and the T seems to agree. Eliminating the deviation would save two minutes per trip, plus it would make the route a lot less complicated. Also, the profile seems to admit that way too much service is provided on the SL2 during off-peak times, but I guess they’re not doing anything about that at this juncture.

1 and CT1: Oh yes, they finally played the “Hey, maybe we should cut the CT1!” card. So many transit advocates (me included) have been saying for years that this thing needs to be cut, moving its resources to put better service on the 1. Adding to that better service is the second proposal, which involves having the 1 loop around via Dunster Street in Harvard Square instead of going all the way around the yard. As long as they can ensure buses will be able to traverse Dunster okay (i.e. double down on making sure people don’t double-park and block the road), I am totally in favor of this. That Harvard Square loop has always been a nightmare.

4: The proposal to the 4 is just to eliminate the Northern Ave jog in the Seaport District. Sure, that’s all well and good, but the 4 has some big problems that go beyond just that one deviation, namely the fact that although it does provide a one-seat ride from North Station to the Seaport, the traffic it faces is soooooo bad. The three-seat ride via subway and Silver Line is honestly probably faster than using the 4…

5 and 16: Huh, really interesting idea here. The MBTA proposes cutting the 5 and extending the 16 to JFK Station and UMass Boston weekdays and Saturdays to cover for the lost service. The bus used on the 5 would be added to the 16, slightly improving frequency along the whole route. This is a neat proposal, and it will overall improve service for most people.

8: Make the 8 less crazy? Heck yeah! The proposal is to cut a bunch of jogs from the 8 in order to straighten the route. Most of them are great: straightening the route through the Longwood Medical Area, getting rid of the complex routing to the Boston Medical Center, and eliminating the South Bay Center deviation (a bold move, but I like it). The one cut I’m not a fan of is having outbound buses skip the Ruggles Busway. Apparently this would save 5 minutes of running time, but even if it does save time, it would make finding the bus from Ruggles really confusing, so signage would have to be really good to help people get to the route. Although…5 minutes is a lot of time. Alright, they said that this redesign would have some out-of-the-box proposals. Just make sure those signs are as clear as possible!

9: Oh hey, it’s the exact proposal I made four and a half years ago in my original review to straighten the route’s inbound routing at Broadway. Well, I will happily take all the credit for this one, MBTA! Okay, in all seriousness, it’s great to see that crazy inbound route getting fixed, regardless of where they got the idea from.

18: The proposal here is to have the route skip the Fields Corner busway. This one is easier for me to swallow than the 8 skipping Ruggles, since…well, very few people use the 18. Still, despite saving 6 minutes, I’m gonna say it again: the signage had better be good. Also, despite the route’s profile pointing out that the Auckland Street jog gets “less than one passenger” per trip, the MBTA does not propose getting rid of it. Would it really be so controversial to make people walk an extra one minute to get to Dot Ave? Heck, the time savings for the bus would be equal to or greater than the extra walking time!

19: First of all, like the 8, the MBTA wants to have the 19 skip the Ruggles busway in the outbound direction. Again, just make sure the signage is good. Otherwise, the plan is to extend the route to Kenmore at all times. Currently, it only runs there during rush hour. I like this change – it’ll make it a lot easier for residents of Roxbury and Dorchester to get to the Longwood Medical Area. However, this extension comes with a cost: the amount of buses on the line won’t be increased, so frequency will drop by 5 to 15 minutes. Considering the route runs every hour midday, any further drop in frequency could be devastating. For now, riders will have to decide if the extension is worth it with the frequency drop, but I hope the T will be able to improve service when Phase 2 of the redesign comes around.

26 and 27: At first I was disappointed to see my beloved 26 loop disappear, but this does seem like…well, an interesting proposal. Basically, run the 26 down Norfolk Street to Blue Hill Ave, then down to Mattapan (replacing the western half of the old loop) and have the 27 use Washington Street to get to River Street, then continue with the current route to Mattapan (replacing the eastern half of the loop). There are a lot of advantages here: it eliminates duplicate service on both Dorchester Ave and Gallivan Boulevard, and the bidirectional service would be a lot simpler than the confusing loop that exists now. On the downside, the routes that these were duplicating aren’t frequent enough to cover the loss of service, and the new 26 will only run every 25/45 minutes peak/off peak, versus the current 15/30. The 27 will lose frequency too – apparently wait times will be about 8 minutes longer than they currently are. Overall, I think this proposal has merit, but I would rather wait until Phase 2 to see it happen, so that the frequencies of these and connecting routes can be maintained and increased.

34 and 34E: Okay, so the 34 and 34E would be combined into one route. That makes sense. Also, a deviation to Legacy Place every 30 minutes would be added. That also makes sense – Legacy Place is a major destination, after all, and I complained about the walk from the bus in my review. This last bit is confusing, though: service would be simplified to three variants: Dedham Mall, Legacy Place, and Walpole Center/East Walpole. Well, getting rid of all of the 34E’s other weird variants is great, and I am definitely in favor of that. But…does this mean that Dedham Mall and Legacy Place will only be termini and not deviations? Will Walpole Center trips skip both of those destinations? It’s hard to say, and the document does not explain it well. But hey, I’m all for eliminating variants!

36: The 36 is too confusing! Luckily, it is proposed to operate with just two variants: Forest Hills to Millennium Park via VA Hospital would operate during the day, while it would instead terminate at Rivermoor Industrial Park at night. Buses would operate through the hospital, no longer serving Charles River Loop. Service would be slightly less frequent, but also a lot more simple, so I think this is a great change overall.

37: This is a simple one: eliminate the LaGrange and Corey variant…except during school hours. Well, it’s something, at least.

44: It is proposed to eliminate this route’s John Eliot Square jog that runs evenings and weekends. I don’t have much to say – I think it’s a great idea to speed up service, and very few people use the deviation.

47: The 47 is a crazy route with a lot of problems, so it’s a little sad that its changes aren’t particularly drastic. Basically, straighten out the route in the Longwood Medical Area and bypass the Ruggles busway going outbound. I’ve already covered other routes that are doing this, so my thoughts on those are the same here.

52: Cutting the 52’s variants is the story here. The route will be pared down to just one, running via Wheeler Road. Also, all trips after 9 AM will run to the Dedham Mall, although the Old Navy stop will be eliminated (this will apply to all other Dedham Mall routes, except, for some reason, the 35). It all sounds good to me!

59: Again, the T wants to cut the 59’s variants. All trips are proposed to run via Needham Street.

60: The 60’s route would be shortened slightly by cutting it back to Chestnut Hill Square. This does screw over riders to the Chestnut Hill Mall, who would have to walk across several parking lots and treacherous Route 9 to get to the bus. All this for…service that’s one minute more frequent. Huh, well, that’s a letdown. It looks like Chestnut Hill Square is a much bigger destination than the Chestnut Hill Mall, though, so I guess it will save those people time.

64: The 64 has two, count ’em, two proposals. I’m going to start with the second one, because it’s one I’m fully in favor of: get rid of the Hobart Street jog. Hobart Street is criminally narrow for buses, and this change has been a long time coming. Cutting this jog will improve headways by one minute (yay?), but more importantly, it will save people a lot of time from not having to sit on buses struggling to make a turn that they shouldn’t have to make.

And then Proposal 1. Now, this is one that a lot of Cambridge transit advocates have been clamoring for: extend the route to Kendall Square all day. Well, I like that they’ve chosen to run it via Main Street, which should save time. I’m just not sure how big the market is for midday one-seat rides to Kendall Square that will take longer than just connecting to the Red Line. Plus, overall service on the route will decrease from every 35 minutes middays to every 45 minutes. I hope I can be proven wrong here, but I don’t really see this as an overall positive extension.

65: Okay, this is an interesting one. The proposal is to reroute the 65 from Kenmore to Ruggles. I’m going to give a tentative thumbs-up here. The route intersects with every Green Line branch that serves Kenmore, so it’s easy to transfer if you’re going there. The connection to the Orange Line would be useful, and the route would run straight through the Longwood Medical Area on its way to Ruggles. This change would result in up to ten minutes of lost frequency, but at least the route is providing a new connection instead of the redundant connection with the 64 extension.

70 and 70A: Hallelujah, let’s make a start on fixing this beast! First of all, the 70 will see more trips running to Market Place Drive middays and evenings, and hopefully with this change will come better coordination between the route’s different termini. The 70A will, huzzah, be relegated to its own loop from Waltham to North Waltham. The route will no longer be a figure-8, becoming more of a figure-backwards-9, leading to simpler service. Also, the loop would gain Sunday service! Although…huh, it would apparently be every 90 minutes. Ugh. Well, it’s a start.

72, 74, and 75: This one has been a long time coming. The 72 and 75 will finally be combined at all times, with the 75 running via Huron Ave…oh, except at rush hour, the 72 will also run. Okay, weird. I wonder if with the new wires, the T will now have a rush hour-only trackless trolley route! Hey, better than nothing. Although in all seriousness, I don’t even think the 72 needs to run at rush hour. Other than that, the 74 would omit its Bright Road deviation, saving time for through riders. These changes combined would allow for better overall bus frequency for West Cambridge and Belmont, so yay!

89: Eliminate the 89’s Clarendon Hill branch? Sure! This will simplify the route, and the 87/88 generally provide frequent enough service for the transfer to Clarendon Hill at Davis to not be too painful.

90: I’ve never thought about it, but this one makes perfect sense! The 90 would get cut back from Wellington to terminate at Assembly Square. No longer will buses have to deal with the brutal traffic to Wellington that is redundant to the Orange Line anyway! Alright, well, that’s it, what a great change…wait, they want to have buses skip Sullivan??? Okay, I have some beef with that. Unlike with Ruggles or Fields Corner, Sullivan is not in a walkable area. Making 378 Sullivan riders per day walk seven minutes along and underneath highways just to get to the Orange Line does not seem like a good idea. Look, yes, it is an annoying deviation. But it’s serving a train station! It’s important! A ton of people use it! You cannot call Lombardi Street a connection with the Orange Line, which combined with the route’s truncation at Assembly, would mean the 90 would no longer connect to the Orange Line. And that’s no good.

92: The proposal here is to cut the 92 from Assembly Square to Sullivan full-time. Yes, that is a great idea! It will improve frequency significantly, and riders can just take the Orange Line to Assembly instead.

93: Yeah, sure, cut the Navy Yard variant. Makes sense.

95: Ooh, this one is juicy! Basically, the 95 would stop serving Playstead Road and instead run to…Arlington Center! You don’t realize how close those Medford Square and Arlington Center are when you’re on transit because it’s basically impossible to get between the two, but now there will be a direct connection! Yeah, I love this. Very few people use the Playstead Road portion of the route to begin with, and those that do can just walk to the 134 to Wellington instead. The MBTA says that people will have longer wait times, but apparently this new routing will run every 30 minutes, which is the same frequency as the current route. Maybe it will also be every 30 at rush hour (versus every 25)? Well, I still think that’s a decent trade-off for what will be a fantastic direct connection.

106: They want to cut all service back to the Lebanon Loop. Absolutely. Let’s do it. Barely anyone uses the service to Franklin Square to begin with, and this will make the route so much simpler.

111: I’ve never understood why the 111 gets extended to Broadway and Park Ave in the evening and only in the evening. Well, apparently, neither does the MBTA, because that extension would be eliminated with this proposal. This will allow for a simpler schedule and more frequent service for a route that needs as much service as it can get.

120: First of all, the 120’s awkward and pointless loop in Central Square, East Boston would be eliminated. Good riddance. Also, the terminus would be moved to Jeffries Point to improve the reliability of trips leaving from there. Yeah, I think that makes sense!

131, 136, and 137: Another one that fell under my radar but is a good idea. Aside from early-morning trips, the 136 and 137 would be cut back to Oak Grove, allowing for more frequent service on those routes. As for the 131, it would serve Malden Center full-time, covering for the lost bus service along Main Street. Yes, that would affect the 131’s frequency, but the trade-off is worth it to improve headways on the far more important 136/137.

134: Okay, uh, the 134 has this one deviation that runs six times a day that serves the Cambridge District Court. This proposal is to, uh, not do it anymore. Okay, yeah, that’s awesome, but is that really all you could do for this variant-filled monster? Ugh, there had better be some big changes in store here for Phase 2.

201/202: With this proposal, the 201/202 would remain a loop on weekends, no more serving North Quincy. This seems reasonable – it would improve frequencies, and the section to North Quincy mostly serves offices anyway. There is just one caveat: the report claims that “Route 210 continues to provide Saturday service [along the North Quincy segment].” Uhh…no, that’s completely wrong. The 210 only runs between North Quincy and Quincy Center on Saturdays. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s important to note that this service will well and truly be eliminated on weekends, with no replacement whatsoever.

215: This proposal would cut an early morning round trip to North Quincy meant to serve the first Braintree train of the day. Instead, the trip would leave earlier in the morning and run to Ashmont to get the first train from there. This will make the route that much simpler, and it won’t have a huge effect on riders.

220: Some more variant cutting here. Buses would no longer serve the Hingham Shipyard, as well as, interestingly, the Hingham loop. I totally get cutting the Hingham Shipyard deviation – it only operates twice a day in each direction, the shipyard is an easy walk to Lincoln Street, and only 3 riders per day use the deviation. The Hingham loop is more interesting, though. It would improve frequency a tad, but some people would lose service. How many? 10 per day. Oh! Okay, wow, I did not realize the loop was that lightly used. Alright, sure, cut it!

222: More weird Quincy variants. This proposal would cut the odd midday trips to Essex Street, losing just 3 riders per day. Yeah, sounds good to me.

225: I remember looking at an old MBTA system map and seeing a route 252 direct from Braintree to Columbian Square. I always thought that looked like a really convenient connection. Well, it’s (sort of) coming back! Yes, the 225 would be cut back full-time to Lincoln Square, while a new route, the 226, would run from Braintree to Lincoln Square, then down to Columbian Square! This is an awesome idea that will improve frequency for the 225, although: we have no idea how often this 226 character would run and when. There’s no indication of it in the proposal. So, we’ll have to wait and see how useful the service actually is. Oh, also, service will be “reduced” on one of the 225’s variants, but apparently not entirely cut. Darn it, I was hoping it would be simplified to just one!

238: Remember when the MBTA cut the 238 back to Quincy Adams and then immediately rescinded it because of the backlash? Well, they’re proposing it again! I’ve always been in favor of this plan. This time, too, the T says it will improve frequency on the route with the new cutback. Even better!

350: I remember way back in 2012 when my predecessor, (T)he Adventure, proposed that the 350 should serve Northwest Park. And that was when the place had barely developed! Well, finally, the 350 would serve Northwest Park, including its many offices and the trendy 3rd Ave retail development. This would increase headways by five minutes, and it would force buses to skip the Burlington Mall (stopping on the Mall Road instead), but this would overall be a huge boon for the Northwest Park development, particularly 3rd Ave.

411: Oh, the crazy 411. This change will make it just slightly less crazy, at least in the peak: buses would only run between Malden Center and Kennedy Drive at rush hour. Yes, that is cutting off a ton of the route, but it’s a part of the route that’s A) covered by other buses, and B) doesn’t get a lot of ridership at rush hour anyway. I like this. This makes a lot of sense.

424: Part 1 of the Great De-Expressing of the North Shore is one of the easiest to swallow. After all, morning 424s already end at Wonderland. This proposal would make the evening ones end there too. It would also take a more efficient route to get to the station.

428: Cut the route back to Lynn Fells Parkway? But…they already did that. That’s literally already in effect. Okay then…

430: The 430 currently takes a crazy route in Saugus, running from the Square One Mall to Cliftondale Square and then back up to Saugus Center, then looping around to serve the Saugus Iron Works. This proposal would run service directly from the mall to Saugus Center, as well as cut the Saugus loop. Ultimately, this would speed up the route a lot and give it higher frequencies. The disadvantage is that Cliftondale Square would lose a direct connection to the Orange Line, though, and the transfer between the 429 and the 430 probably wouldn’t work out a lot of the time. It’s a big trade-off, and more people use the route from Cliftondale Square than from Saugus Center – although then again, maybe that’s because it’s so circuitous. We’ll have to see if the 430 ends up getting more Saugus Center riders, I guess.

435: This route would lose its twice-daily Pine Hill variant. Anything to simplify this mess of a route seems good to me. Only 4 riders would lose service.

441, 442, 448, and 449: Bye-bye, 448 and 449! All service on these corridors would be to Wonderland only. It looks like the T is really gonna double down on service from Lynn to Wonderland, including better frequencies and new express runs between Lynn and Wonderland. I won’t be fully happy until the 441/442 become Key Bus Routes, but this seems like a good start, a good start indeed.

455/459: So long, 459! All service on this route would only run to Wonderland. This will allow for huge frequency increases for the 455, with average wait times decreasing by 20 minutes! And since this is the final cut express route, let me just explain why I’m happy they’re getting rid of these: the Blue Line is faster than sitting on traffic-prone highways, and people will actually save money from not having to pay an express bus fare. Even for those going to the Seaport, the SL3 now makes that commute viable – even though it runs through the Ted Williams, you’re sitting in the same traffic that you would’ve on the express bus.

501, 502, 503, and 504: A radical change for Newton Corner! Now, these express routes will only loop Newton Corner when they have to, i.e. the 501/503 will do it in the outbound direction and the 502/504 will do it in the inbound. This mainly saves time for 502/504 riders to Watertown, who used to have to sit through the Newton Corner deviation in both directions. I like this change, but I do hope the MBTA makes it clear how to get to and from Newton Corner by express bus. If anything, having all four routes share a schedule card might be the best way to make the service pattern as clear as possible.

Okay, and those are the 47 changes documented in Phase 1 of the Better Bus Project! Overall, I think most of them are great. Yes, there are plenty of routes that should’ve been tweaked but weren’t (hi, 112) and a few changes that I wasn’t a fan of, but I am so happy to see the MBTA finally giving the bus system some love. Let me know what you thought of these changes and if you disagree with me on any of my opinions, but more importantly, let the MBTA know! This redesign is supposed to be based on rider feedback, so make sure you give them something to work with.

15th/16th and Locust Street (PATCO)

Oho, we’re getting some PATCO up in here! As much as I love going to New Jersey (I know a lot of people hate it, but you can’t deny it’s one of the most interesting states in the country), the main thing keeping me away is the fact that, despite having a SEPTA pass, I still have to pay to get there! Well, when trying to ride all of the transit modes in the Philadelphia area in one day, I made an exception and headed to 15th/16th and Locust on an early Sunday morning to go to the Garden State.

It’s such a nice entrance and I can’t even get an in-focus photo of it!

This station has no fewer than five stair-based entrances spread between 15th and 16th Streets, and four of them are just staircases into the ground. That’s nothing new for Philadelphia. However, there is one fancy entrance near 16th Street that actually takes up the front of a building. Of course, it is still just a staircase into the ground, but at least it’s different.

Very ornate “SUBWAY” lettering.

Luckily this station is accessible, but boy, the elevator sure is lurchy. Located at 15th Street, the doors will close on this thing, but it’ll wait a few seconds to actually start moving. During that time, you contemplate whether or not you’ll be stuck in here for the rest of your life, but then, with a loud screech and a shudder, you’re finally going. The same process repeats in reverse when you get to the bottom. Oh, and don’t forget about the trash on the floor and the horrible smell!

Okay, I feel obligated to include a photo of the regular entrances as well. Here are two of them.

This is my first station review that’s connected to the Center City Concourse, so I should bring that up. Basically, Center City has this huge transit concourse that runs between a lot of the stations downtown. Its usefulness mostly comes down to being able to walk between stops without having to go outside, but the corridors are often stark and dingy. In this case, the concourse is quite useful for getting between PATCO and the Broad Street Line (although people are far more likely to make the connection at the next stop east), but it’s clear where PATCO ends and SEPTA begins: the PATCO area is nice and clean, but once you pass through a doorway, the ground becomes dirty, the architecture gets bland, and on this early Sunday morning, a few people were making the big wide SEPTA hallway their home for the night.

But back to PATCO.

Well, okay, the architecture for the PATCO mezzanine is pretty bland too, but at least it has these cool green lights on occasion! No, but seriously, it’s a bad mezzanine. There’s a ton of space but not nearly enough fare machines or gates, so it all ends up feeling empty. Plus, since PATCO has zone fares, you have to exit through the faregates as well, forcing them to handle double the traffic (at least SEPTA usually has exit-only turnstiles to lighten the load). The mezzanine has two sets of faregates, one at each street, and a hallway between them.

Past the fare gates.

Now in fare control, we have a few things you would expect: some wastebaskets, stairs, and a this-time-not-smelly elevator down to the platform. However, this area also has another fare machine, meant for people who might’ve bought the wrong zone on their ticket, as well as bike racks. Yes, the in-station bike racks are actually within fare control, which I guess makes them harder to steal, but that also means you have to lug your bike through the fare gate. I would say it evens out to be net neutral.

Down on the platform.

Every PATCO platform has a specific color, and this one is yellow. The platform has that sleek retro-future feel that I get from a lot of PATCO stations (just check out those benches!), and it has what you would expect: seats, wastebaskets, PATCO’s cool tactile maps, and a screen that looked to be in testing at the time. Also Xfinity Wi-Fi, apparently. The station also has photos of Philly on the walls, which is nice. Since this is the first stop on the line, there’s probably gonna be a train waiting here, leaving most people with no time to appreciate the platform much. After I was done with my pictures, I too hopped onto the waiting train.

The two-car train all set and ready to go to…”Philadelphia”. Oh…

Station: 15th/16th and Locust Streets (PATCO)

Ridership: Well, darn, PATCO doesn’t give ridership information by station. And 7 AM on a Sunday is really not the time to be analyzing ridership, when very few people are using transit. Well, I’ll say this: people most likely transfer to the Broad Street Line at the stop before this one, 12th/13th, leaving 15th/16th to be used for what’s around it. What is around it? Rittenhouse Square. Well, that’s a big boost for pleasure-seeking off-peak ridership, then!

Pros: This is a decent place to end the service. I know it was originally supposed to be part of a loop around Center City, but as it stands, the station is two blocks from Rittenhouse Square, which seems fine. And the station itself is pretty nice, feeling generally much cleaner than SEPTA stations do.

Cons: The elevator heading up to street level was an unpleasant experience to ride. The mezzanine feels sparse, and when everyone has to enter and leave through the faregates, I can see things getting pretty congested during busy times.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Rittenhouse Square, of course! Everything around there is pretty expensive, but I still enjoy walking through the park and around the neighborhood.

Final Verdict: 7/10
Yeah, this is a good station. Why didn’t it score higher? The problems it does have are pretty major, and there isn’t anything special here to blow me away and help overlook the other issues. Still, this is better than most SEPTA stations, and I know that’s not saying much, but I still like this one anyway!

Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates

SRTA: NB 6 (Shawmut/Rockdale)

At this point, I had been riding the SRTA more or less continuously for 9 hours, so as you can imagine, I was exhausted. Ergo, I wasn’t happy when for the second-to-last route, the SRTA decided to throw me this:

So that’s what we’re up against. The NB 6. Ugh.

Bad picture. Oh well.

We began by heading west on Mill Street, passing houses and a few businesses. We then turned north onto Park Street (bearing in mind this route’s final destination is south), a local road through a residential neighborhood. Next, it was a right onto Parker Street for two blocks, then a left onto Shawmut Ave.

Yup, just this for a while.

There were some small businesses at the intersection with Durfee Street, then a bit of industry at Potter Street. We turned onto Potter, a local road that went past a housing development. When that road ends, many trips just take a left. But I was on one of the ones that gets to do an additional deviation! Oh boy! Right we go!

That housing development on Potter Street.

So we went over Route 140 and entered a residential neighborhood. The following streets are so local that you really wouldn’t expect a bus to be using them. Also, bear in mind that our driver was flying around each turn, probably to get this stupid deviation over with faster. Okay, here we go: left on Granite Ave, left on Sandstone Drive, right on Pamela Drive, left on Carriage Drive, right on Bryant Lane, right on Hill Road, right on Rockway Street, right on Roseanne Street, left on Pamela Drive, left on Sandstone Drive, right on Granite Ave, right on Rockdale Ave. I had no idea where we were, all I could see was houses, no one was getting on or off, and I just wanted the ride to be over.

The right side of the picture that’s in focus is me before the deviation. The left side that’s all blurry is me after the deviation. I have no idea why this photo came out like it did, by the way.

Well, at least now we could continue with the regular route on Rockdale Ave, which was mostly residential, although we did also go by an elementary school and the New Bedford Police Headquarters. At this point, we had been driving for about 20 minutes, but crossing the one-way pairs of Mill and Kempton Streets, it dawned on me that the 9 and 10 run here…and arrive in a third of the time! It was houses after the brief splurge of businesses around those streets.

Not interesting businesses either.

Oh, hey the 6 has a by request deviation to the Buttonwood Community Center! That’s right, if you’re going outbound, just ask the driver to take you there; if you’re going inbound, you have to talk to the secretary at the community center to call SRTA to deviate the bus for you. Oh, gee, that’s real intuitive. Luckily it only does this deviation on weekdays (although I doubt it happens much to begin with), so we just sped by the community center and the rest of Buttonwood Park.

The edge of the park.

Oh, this route is nefarious. Just when I was starting to get used to being on the same street for a while, we got to do…a deviation! Yes, we took a left on Hawthorn Street, a road that was, yes, way too local for a bus, passing, yes, more houses. These were generally bigger and more spacious than the ones we had been seeing before. We turned onto Page Street in order to serve Saint Luke’s Hospital (along with the 3), then it was a right onto Allen Street to head right back to where we were before.

Did I mention houses?

There were a few businesses when we turned back onto Rockdale Ave (for what felt like the 50th time). It quickly turned back to houses, though, but there was also a bit of retail and a big cemetery, so that was a nice change of pace. Finally, we reached Dartmouth Street, and this was where we made our final deviation into a Stop & Shop. The bus stopped in this weird industrial area next to the store, but at this point, I really didn’t care. We were done.

It had already become the 5 when we got to Stop & Shop, so here’s the bus back when I got on at the hub.

SRTA Route: NB 6 (Shawmut/Rockdale)

Ridership: This route has the second-lowest ridership in New Bedford if you don’t count the North End Shuttle (which, frankly, I don’t). It got about 252 people per day in May 2014.

Pros: Well, hey, on the bright side…it does serve stuff. That is an advantage over the North End Shuttle.

Cons: The route itself is absolutely bonkers. You’ve seen the map! You know how many crazy turns it takes! Not to mention the “Rockdale West Extension” deviation, that one where it loops around a residential area, and the Buttonwood Community Center deviation, the on-request one that I’m sure very very very few people use because…it’s an on-request deviation. During the day, the route has a sad schedule, with service every 45 minutes on weekdays and every hour on Saturdays, which I suppose matches demand, at least (although the Rockdale West deviation makes some trips longer, creating confusion in the timetable – and they carry over to the 5 on Saturdays when the two routes interline). There’s an additional school trip that skips part of the route in order to serve New Bedford High School, but…it only happens in the morning? That doesn’t make sense! Usually school trips run in the afternoon because the end of the school day doesn’t align with parents’ work hours. Plus, New Bedford has an extensive list of its own school bus routes, although strangely, they don’t seem to run in the afternoon either. Maybe the school just sucks up its students for them never to return…

Nearby and Noteworthy: This is the closest bus route to the Buttonwood Park Zoo, which does look awesome, but just take the 9 or 10 and walk a little bit. It’ll be a lot less painful.

Final Verdict: 3/10
I thought the North End Shuttle was useless. And, to be fair, it got a lower score than the 6. But honestly, I think this might be my least-favorite SRTA route. I mean, it’s trying to be crosstown but it still leaves from the terminal! It ends up not working as both a radial route and a crosstown route. But…what if it did become a crosstown line? And what if in doing so, it could make another route a lot simpler? Take a look:

I turned the 6 into a fully circumferential route and had it take over the 11‘s deviation to Market Basket, thus eliminating its redundant portion with the 2 in New Bedford (and providing overall more residents with a one-seat ride to Market Basket). One flaw with this plan, though, is that the 6’s radial section out of New Bedford is lost. This is definitely a tough tradeoff, but most of that part of the route is within a 3-minute walk of the 8.

In Fairhaven, I originally had buses going to the town center further south on Main Street, since I had lamented the fact that no bus actually runs there. However, people probably wouldn’t take the bus there, especially when it’s a circumferential route, plus residents would likely oppose and the streets in that neighborhood are very narrow (not that that hasn’t stopped the SRTA before).

I tried to write a schedule for this, but SRTA interlines like crazy at the terminal with no rhyme or reason that I can see. If it’s helpful, though, a one-way trip on this new route 6 should take about 35 minutes, an outbound 11 trip (with all the deviations) should take about 20 minutes (an improvement of 15 minutes over the current route!), and an inbound 11 trip should take, no joke, about 10 minutes. I think it’s about time the SRTA looked into doing a redesign…

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

36th Street (Trolleys)

The first time my family came to Philadelphia, we stayed at a hotel right next to this station. I was shocked when we took the trolley for the first time. “Where are the fare gates????” I asked desperately. Oh, Miles. You had a lot to learn.

The station’s two entrances.

As much as I like my dorm’s location and transit options, I have to hold some jealousy for those who live in King’s Court, since the trolley station is right outside that dorm! Plus the El station at 34th Street is only a few blocks away. Hmph. Well, anyway, I’m stalling, because these two entrances are just staircases going into the ground and that’s it.

Oh, look, a mezzanine!

Well, would you look at that. A big, giant, open mezzanine with nothing in it (well, aside from a nice mural on the far end). Hmm, I have a small proposal that might help to fill the space a little bit. Definitely a little out of the box, so bear with me. How about putting in…FARE GATES????????

The platform.

No, of course, we have to deal with the classic trolley business of flagging things down, paying on board, and just generally having a terrible and sad time. Look at this platform, it’s just so…bleh! I’m glad that the walls and floors are generally clean, but the industrial-like ceilings? The mysterious yellow liquid oozing down the tracks? Yeah, no thanks.

Psh, definitely taken on the same day…

Because Google Maps (somewhat misleadingly) considers these to be the same station, let’s hop up two blocks to the 36th Street Portal, used by the 10 trolley. There isn’t much to it: just two shelters, one for each direction. Signs are plastered all over the tunnel entrance saying various permutations of “SEPTA Vehicles Only!”

Looking toward the tunnel entrance.

There are two other noteworthy aspects of this station. First of all, if you look at the photo above, you can just make out the bike rack sitting behind a tree! I dunno, seems like it would be pretty hard to actually lock up your bike there. Also of note is the fact that this station has the dreaded blue light that lets you know when trolleys are being diverted to 40th Street. But wait…”Trolleys will operate…via Spruce Street.” Welp, that’s just blatantly wrong. The 10 doesn’t go near Spruce! Oh, SEPTA…

A 13 coming into the underground station.

Station: 36th Street (Trolleys)

Ridership: Oh right…SEPTA doesn’t release ridership information for the trolleys. Well, the station is the closest to many of UPenn’s buildings, so most of its ridership is probably from university workers and students. I’m sure it gets a decent number of riders per day. As for the portal…I honestly can’t see much reason in using that to go into the city when you have four times the frequency in the underground station!

Pros: It’s a straightforward station that’s very easy to navigate. The mezzanine has that nice mural. The portal…has…shelter…?

Cons: Look, I get the portal not having fare control, since it’s basically a street stop. But the subway station has this perfect mezzanine that would be so easy to install fare gates in! Like, way easier than 19th and 22nd, where they really had to get creative to install the things. Other problems here include the dinginess of the subway station and the overall uselessness of the portal. So, you know, this station is pretty bad.

Nearby and Noteworthy: UPenn, wooooooo! Also, the free Institute of Contemporary Art is right outside the trolley entrance, but bear in mind it’s closed until the beginning of February.

Final Verdict: 3/10
There are definitely no redeeming qualities to this one like there have been with my other trolley station reviews. 37th Street had the cool trolley entrance and 19th and 22nd Streets had fare control, but there’s nothing here that could raise the score above a 3. I mean, okay, the mural in the mezzanine is nice, but that’s certainly not enough to add a point. Put fare gates in there already!

Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates

Guide to the RTAs’ Winter 2019 Service Changes

This went over really well when I did it for the MBTA, so let’s try it for the RTAs! Each system changes its schedules at different times, so I’m not sure how often I’ll do these round-up posts, but this one will cover any changes that are happening soon or have happened recently (or not so recently…).

BAT
No new changes have happened at BAT since July, when they increased their fares by 25 cents ($1.25 to $1.50). If you ride the system regularly, you’re definitely aware of that by now.

CATA
One thing to know about CATA: they never change anything. In this sense, they’re keeping the tradition alive.

FRTA
I actually did review the route in question here, so I’m gonna include it! Starting Monday, the 23 will gain two midday trips. Nothing much to say about it, it’s just a really good addition and provides extra connectivity to Amherst and UMass!

GATRA
Back in August, GATRA added a new route just to make me as mad as possible. The Wareham-Plymouth Connection seems to be designed to get people to a school, and it is very, very hard to ride. That’ll sure be fun to review!
Also, in February, the system will be undergoing a really hefty fare increase: from $1 to $1.50! They’re quick to point out that it’s their first fare increase in 15 years, but that’s still a lot to ask. The cost of passes and dial-a-ride is rising with the same proportions, but ADA paratransit takes a massive jump from $1.25 to $3.00. I don’t entirely know what the difference between that and dial-a-ride is, but a 140% fare increase is crazy!
The one silver lining is that transfers will now be free. But honestly, GATRA is not really a system designed around transfers, and I can only see them being useful for sneaky return trips (e.g. take the 10 one way to Emerald Square Mall, then “transfer” to the 12 for the return journey).

LRTA
The LRTA increased its fares somewhat recently (as in, sometime in 2018), but I can’t remember when it happened. Again, if you ride the system regularly, you know this happened by now.

MART
MART’s last big service change was in October, but I’ll go over the main highlights.

Fitchburg Routes: The changes in Fitchburg were small. A few trips at the beginning and end of some routes’ days were removed (making MART end even more ridiculously early than it did before), while changes were made regarding Reliant Medical, which has moved locations. The 7 and 8 no longer serve their former branches of the clinic, while the 9 now has an extra deviation to a new one.

7A: Ah, the 7A…one of the dumbest bus routes I’ve ever ridden. Well, it no longer exists, sort of. The route is now a call-in service with the same hours as the former fixed route. This makes sense – it’s one of the rare occasions where a dial-a-ride vehicle will get more passengers than a fixed route. Seriously, the 7A was really stupid.

11, Gardner – Wachusett Commuter Shuttle: These schedules have been rearranged, I think possibly to provide better connections with each other. The number of trips on the 11 remains the same (with a better balance between the morning and evening now), while the Gardner – Wachusett Shuttle actually gained two trips, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Gardner Routes: The 1’s last trip is now cut back to City Hall instead of the “ITC“. That’s it for Gardner.

Athol/Orange Van Shuttle: This is an…odd change. You may remember that this route used to be a horrible messy loop with a million deviations. Now it only runs with one bus, but it’s been dramatically changed to be a linear journey between Athol and Orange! On the one hand, this is a lot more rational, and it can now run every hour instead of every 90 minutes like before. On the other hand, one look at the map is enough to tell you that they should really just extend the G-Link to Orange and use the resources of this bus to put better service on that one. They’re basically the same route at this point.

MVRTA
They added a deviation to the 14…then they got rid of it “until further notice”. I don’t know.

MWRTA
Back in October, some changes were made to this system’s commuter shuttles. I don’t actually know what they are, but they still connect to trains and serve offices, so they probably weren’t major. Yeah, I’ll probably have to ride those routes at some point…

PVTA
The PVTA made some big changes back in late summer, but the page announcing them can only be found on the WebArchive now. In short, they added a new downtown loop in Springfield; replaced all service to Wilbraham with a call-in service for residents only; added a new 39E route for seemingly no reason; reconfigured the former X98 for the 50th time; made the R24 even worse; totally rearranged the Palmer and Ware routes to the point where I might have to ride them again; and reconfigured a few other schedules.

RIPTA
RIPTA’s changes came into effect today:

3: Trips are getting padded out to improve on-time performance. This only affects arrival times in the outbound direction, but coming inbound, a lot of trips are leaving earlier than they usually do, so watch out for that.

9x: RIPTA doesn’t really give the full story here. They list a few trips that won’t be deviating to Citizens Bank, but in actuality, only one trip that served it before will be skipping it now. The new rule of thumb is that only reverse peak trips will serve the bank. Also, they’ve changed the times of two inbound trips without telling anyone – one will leave earlier and one will leave later.

10x: This once-daily route will be detouring due to construction. It looks like it’ll actually become more of an “x” route, spending some more time on the highway. Bear in mind that its trip times have changed slightly to reflect the new travel times.

1719323334: These routes used to have a cool arrangement where they would interline through the center of Providence and form one cohesive corridor. Well…no more. RIPTA will be breaking the interline, which is unfortunate. They’re also rescheduling the routes slightly. The 17/19 combo will remain every 30 minutes each on weekdays (every 15 minutes coordinated), but service at night and on weekends will now be every 50 minutes (with 25 minute coordinated headways) – a downgrade from Saturday’s current every 45 minutes, but an upgrade from every hour nights and Sundays. The 32’s weekday-only schedule will stay every hour, but with new times. The 34 will continue to coordinate with the 32 on weekdays with an hourly headway, while on Saturdays, it will go from every 45 minutes to every 40. The Sunday schedule is more or less the same, although with shifted outbound times. The 33’s times are being shifted, with a Saturday increase in service from every 45 minutes to every 40. Also, I never noticed that the 32, 33, and 34 all coordinate to provide service every 15 minutes into East Providence on weekdays. I wish RIPTA made that more obvious, although I guess they do hint at it on their system map

20: Four new short-turns to RIPTA’s Elmwood Garage have been added, while one has been discontinued. We’ll get to why those new trips have been added later…

50: An inbound school trip in the afternoon has been discontinued.

54: The 8:55 AM outbound trip on weekdays will no longer connect to the 87, not that they ever tell you which trips connect to begin with (get on that, RIPTA). Also, presumably coming from the 87, the former 1:07 PM weekday inbound trip will now depart from Main and High Streets across from Woonsocket City Hall (a different location than the regular starting point) at 1:09. Remember that, because the route’s schedule doesn’t actually tell you this information. It just shows the bus arriving at the next timepoint at 1:16 with a note that says “Trip starts from Main St. at the Municiple [sic] Parking Lot across from Woonsocket City Hall.” Nice, it doesn’t tell us the time, and it needs a round of spell check.

60: Two inbound trips in the afternoon, the 3:03 and 3:33 from Newport, will now depart ten minutes earlier. I’m not really sure why they did this – it creates some annoying scheduled bunches with the supplementary trips that deviate to NUWC, a naval base.

62/66: Trips are being shifted around and changed for better on-time performance, but the frequencies remain the same.

64: Apparently this change was made back in October: the 7:00 AM outbound trip was moved to 6:45. I don’t know why this is showing up on the winter schedule change page, but I’m putting it here anyway!

QX: Oh darn it, of COURSE they had to add a new route! It’s better than some of the super infrequent housing-complex-to-Walmart routes they’ve been creating recently, but this thing still only has just two trips in each direction every day! Anyway, the QX is the Quonset Express, a route providing a much-needed express service to the Quonset Business Park. If they can advertise it well, I think this will be a really well-used route, since there are a ton of jobs in Quonset that aren’t served well by transit (the 14 kinda goes into it, but it’s not meant to get people to jobs). Until April 22nd, the route will be free to ride, so hopefully commuters will try taking a ride! Incidentally, this is why those route 20 short-turns to Elmwood Garage were added – this route runs in service to and from the garage for some reason.

SRTA
Nothing happening here. Which is good, because I talk about this darn system enough in my regular reviews!

WRTA
This system’s last service change was in September, when most notably they added a route 3A to the Ecotarium and North High School, and they moved the 5‘s terminus to a residential neighborhood rather than the near-abandoned Southwest Commons.
However, they’re also doing some changes that will come into effect on January 26th. Firstly, they’re eliminating all but one of the 15‘s weird short-turns at Fairlawn Plaza. Why they kept one, I have no idea. The other changes involve new service spans: the 5 is shifting one hour earlier on weekdays; the 6 is gaining an hour at the beginning and end of its service day; the 25 is shifting one hour later on Sundays; and the 27 is shifting an hour earlier on Sundays (leading to overall more service hours at the Auburn Mall between it and the 25, I suppose), but also losing its last Saturday inbound trip. These are pretty neutral changes overall – the WRTA is capable of doing much worse.

The Blog’s Sixth Anniversary!

A lot has happened in 2018. I’ve ridden the first trip of a new commuter rail line, conquered the bus from hell, and even changed domains and started writing about Philadelphia for some reason! As it stands, the vast majority of my viewership is still from Massachusetts (represent!), so hopefully the blog can stir up some interest in Philly this coming year. That doesn’t mean I’m done with New England, though – the backlog for Miles on the MBTA is intense, and as long as I’m still going back there for breaks, the jurisdiction will just keep on growing. Every bus route in Massachusetts? Sure! Every bus route in Rhode Island? Definitely! Every bus route in New England? You never know!

So thank you all for sticking with me, whether you’ve been reading all six years or whether you’re one of my Penn friends reading the blog because I wouldn’t shut up about the fact that you should totally read the blog. Here’s to another amazing year…we’re gonna accomplish some fantastic things.

SRTA: NB 3 (Dartmouth Street)

We’re three routes away from finishing this darn system! Fittingly, our third-to-last review will be the 3, a route that calls itself “Dartmouth Street” but takes a pretty significant deviation away from it when it gets into New Bedford.

“Big Value Plaza”!

Now, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I did miss the route’s outbound-only deviation to Sol E Mar apartments. It basically makes a loop where it serves them on its way to Big Value Plaza, the shopping plaza in Dartmouth with nothing of note in it where the 3 officially starts. But while there’s a charming town center further south down the road, people aren’t gonna take the bus there, so we’re forced to start at this plaza named after a bargain store. Woo.

Too bad we don’t deviate…

We headed up Dartmouth Street, a road mostly lined with sprawly suburban businesses, with houses on the side streets. Honestly, the entire Dartmouth section of the route was like that, until six minutes later when we entered New Bedford and deviated into a Stop & Shop (connecting to the 5 and 6). Continuing up Dartmouth Street from there, the neighborhood was a lot more mixed-use, with businesses occupying the ground floors of dense houses and apartments.

The side streets were residential, meanwhile.

We passed a cemetery, and later on we made a sudden sharp turn onto Allen Street. We wouldn’t touch Dartmouth Street again for the rest of the route. Allen Street was all dense houses, and once we turned onto Page Street, it was clear why we were doing this deviation: it was to serve Saint Luke’s Hospital. Okay, that’s reasonable. What came after was annoying, though: left on Hawthorn Street, right on Rotch Street (which no bus should go down to begin with, since it’s just a local side street), right on Union Street. The street network does necessitate the jog, but it was a relief to take Union Street straight into downtown New Bedford, where we reached the bus terminal.

And this whole section was just houses.

SRTA Route: 3 (Dartmouth Street)

Ridership: As far as New Bedford routes go, the 3’s ridership is pretty lame: about 312 riders per day. But also, the route has among the worst productivity on the New Bedford system, and we’ll see why soon.

Pros: The route has great service on weekdays, running every half hour from 7 AM to past 9 PM. It also serves a lot, running down the main corridor of Dartmouth Street. The deviation to serve the hospital is annoying, but I get why the route does it.

Cons: On Saturdays, it’s every hour from 8 to 5, which is…significantly worse than weekdays. But also, why does this route with mediocre ridership get one of the best service weekdays of any SRTA route? This is why its productivity is so bad! Maybe some of those resources could be put onto higher-performing routes than this one. That jog to the hospital also gets even more annoying after 6 PM on weekdays, when for some reason, it doesn’t use Rotch Street, instead jogging further out to Rockdale Ave! Maybe it’s because residents don’t want big buses clogging up their tiny street at night? I’m not sure, but it’s very odd.

Nearby and Noteworthy: That nice downtown in Dartmouth is only a sidewalkless 20-minute walk away from Big Value Plaza! Oh, you want a place that’s actually on the bus route? Eh…

Final Verdict: 5/10
I see why it exists. I see why it does what it does. But that doesn’t make it any less unbearable to ride, and it doesn’t make the schedule any more logical. Oh well.

Latest MBTA News:Service Updates

Tasker-Morris (BSL)

I’m back in Philly! So far I’ve taken the El and a few buses, but I’ve yet to set foot on the ol’ Broad Street Line. Will that hinder my ability to properly review Tasker-Morris Station in South Philadelphia? Uhhh…doesn’t matter, because there’s no turning back – I gotta get through my backlog!

Really easy to miss, huh?

There are four entrances to Tasker-Morris, two at Tasker Street and two at Morris Street. All of them are…discrete, to say the least. I mean, the staircases are really tucked away next to buildings. This is more or less the standard for South Philly, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan. Also, there are no elevators, which means that this is one of the many Broad Street Line stations that’s not wheelchair accessible.

Welcome to the Hall of Mirrors!

The two Morris Street entrances can only be accessed by walking down these long, twisty hallways. They both have strange mirrors on the corners that are used to…peek around, I guess? Also, one of the hallways requires passengers to go a few steps down to access, even though it’s taking them above ground. That’s just annoying!

Hmm…I think there’s a flaw in the bike ramp…

Tasker-Morris has a similar bike situation to Snyder: the bike racks are underground, and passengers can bring their bikes to lock them up in the station. SEPTA at least acknowledges the presence of these spaces on its station page, unlike with Snyder, but it says there are only 16 racks – in reality, there are 20. Also, Snyder’s special bike stair ramps didn’t exist, but they are here, on both of the Tasker Street exits! There’s just…er…one slight problem: the ramps stop midway up the stairs to make room for the gates to close the station. Hey, at least they still cover, like, 85% of the journey…

A SEPTA mezzanine that’s way bigger than it should be? SHOCKING.

As usual, the mezzanine for this station is just a giant place with way too much space for its own good. I mean, look at how much room there is here! There’s really no excuse to only have three fare gates and two fare machines. SEPTA, you have to use your space better than this! Why not put in some new fare gates closer to the exits, since at the moment, you have to walk down to the center of the mezzanine to enter the station? They would be unstaffed, but ideally the cashier would have a security camera view of each one to potentially catch fare dodgers.

The waiting area.

Another classic SEPTA element of Tasker-Morris is the waiting area just beyond the fare gates. It has a few benches within sight of the cashier, as well as some maps and wastebaskets. Multiple staircases lead from here down to the platform, while the signage directing passengers towards exits and buses is pretty good.

I really hope that sign doesn’t say “AT&T Station” anymore…

There isn’t much to say about the platform, since it’s what you would expect. It’s a center platform with benches and wastebaskets all along it, and that’s about all there is to it. Everything is as aesthetically meh as you would expect from a Broad Street Line station.

Someone waits for the 29.

Oh right, we have to talk about the bus connections. I gotta say, the bus stops here make a lot of sense. The 4, which runs straight up Broad Street, essentially has four stops here, two each at Tasker and Morris – all but one of them are signs, which is really all the 4 needs. The 29, meanwhile, is the crosstown route along Tasker and Morris Streets. Even though both of those are tiny one-ways, the route gets shelters at both of its stops here! Granted, neither of them have benches underneath, but it’s a start.

I think those AT&T headsigns on the trains are more or less gone now.

Station: Tasker-Morris (BSL)

Ridership: Tasker-Morris is the second-busiest station in South Philly, getting just over 5,000 riders every weekday. Most of that ridership is coming from the dense apartments all around the station, although nearby East Passyunk Ave is probably a draw, too.

Pros: This station has perhaps the most sensible bus infrastructure I’ve seen so far at a SEPTA stop (not including the big transportation centers)! Other than that, it’s in an excellent location, which lends itself to high ridership.

Cons: Even though we finally get bike ramps on the stairs, they’re hardly functional because of the gap in the middle! If you’re gonna have to lug your bike off of one ramp around onto the next one, you might as well just carry it all the way down the stairs. The mezzanine is a terrible use of space, as usual, and the station entrances are underwhelming. Finally, it’s not wheelchair accessible.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I love my East Passyunk Ave. This is the closest stop to many of the attractions along that thoroughfare. Also, I missed it this year, but the Miracle on South 13th Street is a tradition where all the houses on 13th between Tasker and Morris go all-out with Christmas decorations. It looks like a ton of fun, and I hope to make it down there next year.

Final Verdict: 5/10
Yeah, I’d say this is of similar quality to Snyder. Tasker-Morris is a touch better than Snyder, but with all its problems, I can’t see it getting higher than a 5. This is just a generic, uninteresting Broad Street Line station, although it is close to a bunch of great stores and restaurants. Also, there’s a punk song about it, so…that’s neat?

Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates

SRTA: NB 8 (Mount Pleasant)

The NB 8 is the same bus as the North End Shuttle, with every run on this route turning into a loop on that one before coming back. I really wish they made it more obvious that they use the same bus, but marketing them as two different routes does have one advantage: it makes the 8 look a whole lot better on its own.

Ah…good place to start a bus route.

I just stayed on the North End Shuttle, so after deviating to Fieldstone Marketplace (which has nothing of substance in it), we took Kings Highway over Route 140 and turned onto Mount Pleasant Street. Although there were a few houses and a cemetery along here, it was mostly industrial. We crossed Route 140 again and there was some public housing on the other side, although we missed out on a Price Rite supermarket and a bunch of apartments a few blocks away.

That McDonald’s sign is where the Price Rite is. So, not an insignificant distance.

Mount Pleasant Street still did run through some dense housing. We also went by another cemetery and an elementary school. It was all residential as we crossed I-195, and it remained so on the other side, apart from a few convenience stores here and there. Eventually, we turned onto Kempton Street, and this led us into downtown New Bedford. After taking a right on 6th Street, we had arrived at the terminal.

The bus changed routes when we got to New Bedford, so you know what? Here’s a picture of the FR 8. You can’t tell the difference!

SRTA Route: NB 8 (Mount Pleasant)

Ridership: This one gets a respectable-for-SRTA-standards 340 passengers per day. My trip got 9 people, which was one of the highest I had seen all day.

Pros: It’s a nice straight shot serving a lot of dense houses and apartments on its southern half, plus it gets decent ridership.

Cons: Despite getting a decent amount of passengers, the 8 has a pretty awful schedule. Service only operates from 7 AM to 6 PM (8 to 5 on Saturdays), and it’s every 40 minutes throughout the day. The NB 3 gets fewer people than this, but that one runs every half hour until 9 PM! Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but a jog or deviation to Price Rite might be a good idea. It’s an 8-minute walk from the route at present – serving a supermarket would probably add a lot of ridership, especially with the route’s midday-focused schedule. It would also provide access to a giant apartment development.

Nearby and Noteworthy: It’s mostly residential, apart from the plazas at the end, which don’t have much in them.

Final Verdict: 4/10
It doesn’t seem like the 8 is especially useful at the moment. Its schedule doesn’t match its ridership, and it doesn’t really serve much once it leaves the urban core. As it stands, for passengers to get food, they have to stay on when the bus becomes the North End Shuttle and use the Stop & Shop deviation, but that’s only in one direction. Of course, SRTA also doesn’t tell you the two routes interline, so that connection might as well not exist for an unfamiliar riders!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

14 (Oxford Valley and Neshaminy Malls to Frankford Transportation Center)

It’s time to spend some quality time on Roosevelt Boulevard. This road is among the ranks of Route 1 in West Palm Beach, FL, Route 1 in Saugus, MA, and Route 1 in South Jersey as being one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen. Oh, and Roosevelt Boulevard is Route 1, too! Look, I know Route 1 has pretty parts to it, but there’s no denying that this road tends to attract a lot of horrible suburban sprawl. Anyway, let’s take a long and depressing journey on the 14, which spends most of its length on the ol’ Boulevard.

It’s pretty weird to see articulated buses way out here. Not as weird as seeing them in Doylestown, but still pretty weird.

As one of the most complex routes on SEPTA (and that’s saying something), the 14’s service patterns are enough to make your head spin. The important thing to know is that most trips terminate at the Neshaminy Mall, but some of them continue on to the Oxford Valley Mall, which is a full 20 minutes further out. Those are a lot less frequent, so all I can say is…thank goodness there’s a big indoor mall here to wait at.

Time for the trek to Frankford.

As much as I hyped up Roosevelt Boulevard, the route does not actually begin on it. No, the first main street the route traverses after leaving the Oxford Valley Mall is Maple Ave, and while it’s no Boulevard, it is a horrible road lined with industrial car lots. That said, it got a lot more leafy after we crossed I-295, the West Trenton Line, and Route 1. There was even a semi-dense, semi-charming downtown-type area, but we turned onto Pine Street a block before it.

Guess I’ll get my “bus inception” photo out of the way early.

Pine Street was total woods as it crossed over Route 1, passing a street literally called “Woods Drive”. It curved to the right, then we made a left onto Bellevue Ave, running through a leafy residential neighborhood. That ended abruptly when we hit Langhorne Station, with a connection to the West Trenton Line, or the…ahem…”R-3″, according to the announcement. SEPTA, if you’re gonna get rid of the R designations, can you at least eradicate them entirely and stop reminding us that it’s a far better system that what we have now?

Ooooh, a BIG carpet sale!

There wasn’t much to see around the station, just some ugly businesses with big parking lots. Indeed, they continued as we turned onto Lincoln Highway, at least until it became woods and industrial buildings. We navigated an interchange to get onto Route 1, but it was still called Lincoln Highway. Taking the next exit onto Rockhill Drive, it was time to deviate to the Neshaminy Mall, where most 14 trips begin, as does its limited-stop cousin, the Boulevard Direct.

Coming into the mall.

Leaving the mall, we retraced our steps and turned onto Horizon Boulevard, a street lined with restaurants surrounded by parking lots. The street curved right at a Walmart, and it twisted its way down a hill onto Old Lincoln Highway, which featured some mobile home parks. We went under I-276 and passed a giant cemetery, then there were some giant office parks as we merged onto Route 1. A few seconds later, we crossed Poquessing Creek and entered Philadelphia, when the road became…Roosevelt Boulevard. Uh-oh.

It’s! So! Wide!!!!!!!

The road grew to its classic arrangement of three “express” (barely) lanes and three “local” lanes in each direction. For a little bit, all we could see from the road was trees (hiding the industrial wastelands beyond), so that was somewhat tolerable, but eventually that stuff came right up to the road. Plus, we got to see giant shopping plazas!

I really hope these pictures capture how depressing this road is.

What else, what else? Well, we went by the general aviation Northeast Philadelphia Airport, but it was blocked by a row of trees. Eventually we encountered a few residential areas, whose residents’ livelihoods are hopefully not affected too much by the countless fumes spewing from the twelve-lane monstrosity in their backyards. The road crossed Pennypack Creek and entered an area with a denser street network and apartments rather than houses. That didn’t mean the suburban businesses had gone away, though – their parking lots were just a little smaller.

Oh look, it’s…a little bit denser.

Suddenly…yes! We were turning off of the Boulevard! Yes, we were now on Bustleton Ave, and it took us past a bunch of rowhouses, as well as SEPTA’s Comly Depot and a cemetery. And finally, the sight of a train yard meant that we were arriving at our destination, the Frankford Transportation Center. Well, that was a long and arduous trip from the middle of nowhere – I think the Boulevard sucked all the life out of me. Good thing I never have to travel along that road again. Oh wait…there are still a ton of other bus routes that use it. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The 14 and…something else.

Route: 14 (Oxford Valley and Neshaminy Malls to Frankford Transportation Center)

Ridership: It’s one of the busiest routes on SEPTA. In fact, coincidentally enough, it’s the 14th-busiest route on SEPTA! But though the route gets a very respectable 12,340 riders per weekday, it’s not especially efficient or productive, just because it’s so long. But we’ll get to that.

Pros: As awful as the Boulevard is, there’s no denying that it has quite a few attractions along it that people want to take the bus to. The main trunk of the 14 is beautiful in its directness, sticking to Roosevelt Boulevard up until just before the Neshaminy Mall. The route’s trunk also has fantastic frequencies: every 5-10 minutes at rush hour (though the peak direction is away from Philly in the morning and vice versa in the evening because of all the industrial parks on the 14’s outer portions), every 15 minutes middays and Saturdays, and every 20 minutes on Sundays. Bear in mind, too, that all of these headways are further supplemented by the Boulevard Direct, which is always just as if not more frequent than the 14 when it’s running – transfers between the two routes are free. Heck, this route even has overnight service to Neshaminy Mall, and though it’s only every hour, it’s still a great lifeline for employees and residents, especially given how suburban the area is.

Cons: I’ve heaped a lot of praise onto this route, but it has so many problems that I need to pull out a bulleted list:

  • A simple one first: peak service is less productive than midday service. And when you’re running service every 6 minutes over an up-to-20-mile route, it’s gonna take a ton of resources that would probably be better used elsewhere. You know how many buses the 14 uses during the peak? 24.
  • Speaking of which, this route is sooooooo long. I get that it’s providing a one-seat ride from far-out locales to the El, but the length combined with the short stop spacing (oh yeah, that’s another con) can cause reliability issues and low productivity.
  • Not to mention that doing a full trip to the Oxford Valley Mall on this thing is really difficult, since only some trips run all the way. Frequencies can range from every half hour on weekdays to every 45 minutes on Saturdays to…every 40 minutes on Sundays. Huh, it actually gets better Sunday service than Saturday service.
  • And that brings us to the variants. Ohhhh, geez, the variants. Does every industrial park along the way really need its own special trip with its own special note on the schedule? I’m sure they get ridership, but my gosh, where does it end? I can only imagine how this route has probably mutated over the years, adding new schedule notes whenever a new industrial park wants to be directly served by the bus. But come on. This has gone too far:

Nearby and Noteworthy: Uhhh…malls? Let’s stick with malls. Although Sesame Place is quite close to the Oxford Valley Mall if you’re looking for some Sesame Street-related amusement park attractions!

Final Verdict: 6/10
I’ve thought long and hard about this. For all its flaws, I still have to applaud the 14’s relatively consistent frequency, direct trunk route, and 24-hour service. When you get right down to it, this is a really important route that could be a whole lot worse. That said, I am fully aware of its many problems, and they do drag down the route. In particular, cutting down on the industrial park deviations would be great for simplifying the schedule, although I can’t see that happening without a lot of pushback. Also, there’s the interesting case of the Oxford Valley Mall. Honestly, its service is so bad that I think all 14’s should terminate at Neshaminy, and a separate route with a free transfer can run between there and Oxford Valley. That would improve reliability, create better frequencies to the outer parts of the route, and generally simplify the 14.

Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates

New North Station Pedestrian Tunnel!

Well…this was a surprise! No one really knew when the underground walkway between the subway and the Commuter Rail was going to open up, but the most recent rumor had been that it was slated to open tomorrow. I guess they decided to do it a day early, though, because as of today, the walkway is now up and running! Will it be enough to raise North Station‘s score to a 10? Let’s find out.

This was such a shock to see!

From the subway, the entrance to the walkway comes straight out of the fare gates. The MBTA’s signage has been really on point lately, and they did a great job here directing passengers to the new route. The screen showing Commuter Rail departures wasn’t working when I was here (maybe it hasn’t worked for a while, I don’t know), but once they get it fixed, it will be in a great location right next to the tunnel entrance.

A new elevator partway down the hallway.

First thing’s first, this tunnel gives us a new elevator leading to the north side of Causeway Street. The elevator itself is great and while I can’t see the entrance being too useful (there isn’t much outside of TD Garden and the station on this side of the street), it does provide a redundant elevator in case the one directly to the station needs maintenance. The signage to and from this entrance is excellent as always.

Here’s the full walkway!

I had concerns that the walkway would be too narrow, and as it turns out, I was right…sort of. The majority of the passageway is actually quite wide, but the elevator entrance to Causeway Street juts out and creates this bottleneck just before the subway entrance. I don’t think it will be as big of a problem as what we’ll see later on, but it is something to note. The tunnel looks fantastic, though, and it’s currently squeaky clean – we’ll have to check back six months later and see if that still holds true, though.

Take your pick.

The walkway ends with a choice of stairs, an escalator (which wasn’t working this morning), and an elevator. This, I fear, is where the rush hour bottlenecks will be. Look at the stairs – they are really narrow, and the constant divider in the middle doesn’t help. I was here on a Sunday, and I ran into someone coming down on the left. Imagine trying to go in the reverse peak direction here against the swarms of people walking the other way. I hope I’m wrong about this, but the narrow staircase seems like a recipe for congestion. For the escalator, I think the best tactic would be to run it in the downwards direction during the morning rush (I assume its default will be up). That will essentially double the capacity in the peak direction, which may just leave a little more room for riders travelling the other way.

Again, fantastic signage.

Once you get up to the landing, there are Green Line, Orange Line, and Commuter Rail maps before the doorway leading into the station. It drops you off right next to the exit that one would’ve used to get to the subway before the walkway opened. I just have one problem: I wish there were Green and Orange Line countdown clocks somewhere at the beginning of the walkway! Yes, they still exist in the foyer leading out the Legends Way exit, but that’s not super useful for someone using the new tunnel. They do broadcast all countdown announcements within the passageway, but being able to see the clocks and know how fast you have to walk or run would be fantastic.

Look, people are using it!

Despite my complaints, this tunnel is such an amazing upgrade to North Station. To see just how useful it is, I decided to time the old method of getting to the subway versus the concourse, with a few rules: walk at a steady pace, climb steps one at a time, and no jaywalking. I was unlucky with the lights taking the aboveground route, and it clocked in at 3 minutes, 47 seconds. The concourse? 1 minute, 56 seconds, plus warmth and protection from the elements. Okay, that settles it for me. North Station‘s new score is a 10/10!

129 (Frankford-Knights to Oxford Valley Mall)

I think most of us can agree that in the grand scheme of things, 2018 was not a great year. It feels fitting to close it off with a long, crazy route that doesn’t really go anywhere (at least not quickly) and makes way too many deviations for its own good. Hi, 129.

It’s gonna be a long ride from here.

The route begins at the Frankford-Knights Loop, right on the Philadelphia city line. We crossed Byberry Creek on Bristol Pike, instantly entering Bensalem – the houses and businesses on this road felt like they were trying to be as dense as possible while still remaining annoyingly suburban and car-oriented. The Woodhaven Mall was a proper suburban development, although certainly not a true mall. At least the outdoor plaza did have a movie theater in it.

Ice cream, anyone?

Because this route is full of surprises, we suddenly had a brief express section on Route 63! It was only for one exit, but it still came out of nowhere. Once we left the highway having reentered Philly, we instantly ran down Franklin Mills Court in order to serve the Philadelphia Mills Mall (which is an actual indoor mall, for the record). We headed onto Knights Road after that, which actually did have a few dense apartments on one side, but it quickly devolved into suburban houses, car-oriented residential developments, and shopping plazas once we left Philly for Bensalem again.

Yeah, like this!

There were a few municipal buildings among some fields as we turned onto Byberry Road, but that was the only unique thing about the scenery here. It started to get industrial when we turned onto Bridgewater Road, and this is where the first of the 129’s weekday-only industrial park deviations occurs: buses will do a jog to serve the Bridgewater Industrial Park. I rode on a Saturday, so I didn’t get to experience any of these wonderful deviations.

I feel like I’m in Florida or something.

Despite not deviating further into the industrial park, we still got to experience some of the random warehouses and factories of the area on Bridgewater Road. But then it ended abruptly and we entered a residential neighborhood, turning onto Bensalem Boulevard. The only business along here was a Wawa, although that’s really all you need, am I right?

Some houses.

We eventually reached a patch of open land, and across the street from that was a small shopping plaza with a few small businesses. Soon after, we turned onto New Falls Road in order to cross Neshaminy Creek, then we took a right on Newportville Road. Yes, we had essentially turned in the opposite direction, but in the route’s defense, this is the most direct route via local roads because of the creek.

Wow, “creek” really undersells it!

There were actually a few cool historical-looking buildings on the other side of the creek (part of a village called Newportville), but it wasn’t a downtown or anything. Newportville Road quickly got residential, but once we turned onto Ford Road, we were in another industrial area. This is where the second weekday-only deviation occurs, this time to serve the Keystone Industrial Park. This one is particularly special, as it gets an express trip directly to it in the morning rush. Oooooooh.

I knew New Jersey Transit was a big system, but this is ridiculous!

We crossed I-95 and turned onto the narrower Wharton Road, passing the third and final weekday-only deviation, this one to serve an unnamed industrial area. That road ended and we turned onto Veteran’s Highway, but we weren’t on it for that long before deviating into the Bucks County Office Center. It featured such attractions as United Gymnastics Academy, Nirvana Family Fitness Center, and Taco Bell. Okay, okay, the complex did have a community college and a welfare office, but no one was using this deviation on a Saturday!

Just look how empty that parking lot is.

We continued down Veteran’s Highway, a giant road lined with some houses. We soon turned into the Bristol Commerce Park (or the “Bristol Park Shopping Center”, according to SEPTA), a plaza that really wasn’t offering much, but it was a clever deviation that let us get onto Bristol Pike. Incidentally, this was the same Bristol Pike we had been on way at the start of the route, and I can tell you this would’ve been a much shorter ride if we had just stayed on that.

Or just “Bristol Park” according to the sign. Huh, now I don’t know who to believe!

We weren’t on this fast road for long, as we soon turned onto Bath Street, going under the Northeast Corridor. Now we had entered the urban part of Bristol, and it’s actually urban! There were a ton of dense row houses everywhere, although this route doesn’t stay in that part of town for long – we turned onto Pond Street, then Beaver Street, skipping the downtown part of Bristol. At least the six-days-a-week 128 goes further into the urban core. The 129 does serve Bristol Station on the Trenton Line, though, and there were more apartments and a few businesses around the station.

The downtown part of Bristol is that-a-way.

Once we crossed Bristol Pike, our street became Beaver Dam Road, and we were back in suburbia. After passing through an apartment complex, we turned onto Plymouth Ave, which was a side street in a residential neighborhood. It became Elwood Ave when it curved sharply to the left, and we went under a highway interchange and turned onto Green Lane, a more major street. We went by some massive industrial buildings, while some unfortunate houses sat across the street.

This is when we were on those small side streets.

We crossed Mill Creek and entered good ol’ Levittown, which is just as boring and sterile as you would think it to be. We turned onto Mill Creek Road, then Bristol Oxford Valley Road, then New Falls Road, and though there were a few businesses (particularly on that last road), mostly all that could be seen were quiet streets lined with the American dream of the 1950s: lots of suburban homes. Oh, by the way, that New Falls Road is the same New Falls Road we used to cross Neshaminy Creek half an hour ago. It would take literally two minutes to drive directly between the two points. Yeah, I love this route!

A typical side street.

Eventually, we headed down Durham Road, which took us into Langhorne – there were a few apartment developments between the houses here. The street went over I-295 and we eventually ended up in downtown Langhorne, which…really wasn’t much besides a few suburban businesses and a West Trenton Line station. This was the home stretch, though! We turned onto Lincoln Pike, passing an absurd number of car dealerships, shopping plazas, and parking lots, before finally deviating into the Oxford Valley Mall to finish the route! PHEW!

That was only 75 minutes? Oof, that felt like way longer!

Route: 129 (Frankford-Knights to Oxford Valley Mall)

Ridership: The route gets the rather low patronage of 879 riders per weekday. But wait, it’s not terribly frequent, so maybe it’s better if you calculate it on a per-trip basis? Let’s see, that leaves us with about 25 passengers per trip. The route is 26.5 miles long. So…less than one passenger per mile. Alright, the ridership is terrible.

Pros: Okay, writing off the ridership as “terrible” isn’t totally fair. Bucks County is so sprawled out that it’s really hard to serve by bus, so I at least appreciate the 129 for trying. I mean, the thing runs hourly Monday through Saturday until around 10 PM – that’s not bad. It’s not such a bad route. Right?

Cons: Hahahahahaha. Okay, let’s get an easy target out of the way first: at every 90(-ish) minutes from 8 AM to 7 PM, the Sunday service is next to useless. More importantly, this route is just a complete mess! I get that you have to serve stuff, but one glance at the map of this thing is all you need to know that for anyone who’s trying to get somewhere in a rush, you might as well drive. It was truly a slog to sit through from beginning to end, but even if you’re going for a short distance, there are very few portions of the 129 that could be perceived as direct!

Nearby and Noteworthy: I mean…it’s really just a bunch of malls. This route is just endless suburbia. From Philadelphia Mills to Oxford Valley and everything in between, the 129 has got you covered!

Final Verdict: 4/10
Unlike a lot of the horrible routes I review in Massachusetts, the 129 does actually get some ridership – the highest of the four SEPTA routes that Bucks County subsidizes. It connects to some legitimately frequent transit services, and it covers areas that probably should have access to at least a barebones bus route like this one. This is a terrible route, but it does have a few good things about it that kinda sorta justify its existence. Just like 2018. Happy New Year!

Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates

New Battery-Electric Buses on the Silver Line!

Hot off the heels of new Green Line trains, the Silver Line has begun phasing in a new addition to its fleet. Last night was the inaugural run of battery-electric buses on the SL3 – unlike the current dual-mode buses, which have to change from electric wire to diesel power at Silver Line Way, these new vehicles can change to electric mode on the fly, meaning no more wait times at Silver Line Way! The bus also ran in electric mode on the Chelsea busway, which is better for emissions, although unfortunately it’s locked to 20 miles an hour in that mode for the time being. I look forward to seeing these roll out in the future!

No wires on this bus! I love the big bold headsign.
The inside is identical to the MBTA’s other articulated buses, which is certainly not a bad thing. It’s great to hear the Silver Line announcements on the crisp speakers.
And here we are at Chelsea! Going through Silver Line way without stopping was so incredibly satisfying – it was like getting revenge on fourteen years of the trolley poles not transitioning properly.