I’ve taken the 71 twice so far, but haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet. Since it got requested to me by Eric Cornell, however, I feel compelled to review it. The best part about the 71, of course, is that it’s a trackless trolley (and I love trackless trolleys). One of the two buses to really serve Watertown (there are others, but they only just nick Watertown Square), the 71 travels through a more suburban-residential part of Watertown, unlike the strip malls and industrial areas along the 70.

The 71 and 73 board on the lower busway at Harvard Station, requiring an interesting way of paying your fare. Since the lower busway platform is on the left side of the bus, you have to enter in the left-hand door in the center of the bus. You actually don’t pay your fare until leaving the bus, which requires sort of an honor system of paying. There are no instructions in the busway about this, so I was a little confused the first time I rode.

A very low-quality (and terrible in general) picture of the 71 at Harvard.

Exiting the busway, the bus immediately turns onto Mount Auburn Street with a stop just outside the post office. Leaving Harvard Square, Mount Auburn Street gets suburban very quickly. The bus passes the Mount Auburn Hospital, a major stop, and then goes by the Mount Auburn Cemetery. Intersecting with Brattle Street, things get more urban again, with apartments and a small clinic. The bus also passes Aberdeen Ave, the terminus for the 72 bus, and shortly after the 71 and 73 split up, the 73 travelling up Belmont street and the 71 staying on Mount Auburn.

At this point, there’s a mixture of houses, churches, and  businesses, including yet another medical center. The bus passes a large sporting complex among an almost purely residential portion with a few churches dotted in here and there. Nearing Watertown Square, reasonably large buildings start popping up, including a shopping center with some big-name stores. The bus then enters the small Watertown Square (not yard) busway, shared with the 59 bus, as well as the 70 on nearby Main Street. The wires continue off to Watertown Yard, although the yard isn’t running anymore (I’ve always thought it was kind of a sad place, but that’s just me). My father and I were one of the three or four people who got off in the busway, the other passengers getting off one stop earlier to get to the businesses of Watertown Square.

A MUCH better picture of the 71 at Watertown Square (shouldn’t that destination board say “Harvard?”).

Route: 71 (Watertown Square – Harvard Station via Mount Auburn Street)

Ridership: I’ve ridden this bus twice towards Watertown, and both times there were only about 10-15 people on it. Both times, however, I would see buses going the other way that were packed…I have no idea. The bus seems to mostly consist of routine riders, since most people knew how the fare system works and the driver seemed to know everyone’s names.

Pros: It’s a trackless trolley – duh! Also, it’s one of the only buses to really serve Watertown, and it serves a lot of it. Being a Key Bus Route, it has a very good schedule, running every 9 minutes rush hour, every 15 minutes midday and Saturdays, and every 20 minutes Sundays – although, as someone I know described it, “There’s one 71 for every five 73’s.” Although the 73 runs a little more often than the 71, I don’t think I would exaggerate it that much, although I do see more 73’s than 71’s on Mount Auburn Street. Also, I have never, ever seen the 71 bunching, a feat rarely pulled by Key Bus Routes.

Cons: Not much, except for the fact that the fare system’s a bit weird. I wish there was some signage about it at Harvard, but that’s about it.

Nearby and Noteworthy: There’s a vegan restaurant on Mount Auburn Street called The Red Lentil that’s absolutely delicious. I’ve only ever been for breakfast, but it’s very good food. In Watertown Square, there’s also the Armenian Library and Museum of America, a museum that features Armenian artifacts from the past 3,000 years. It makes for a very interesting hour or two, and the third floor exhibit changes every few months.

Final Verdict (1-10): 9
I may be biased, since this is a trackless trolley, but it serves a large part of Watertown, has a good schedule, and doesn’t bunch (and it’s a trackless trolley). It’s never been crowded for me, but I often see 71’s that are quite full, making it a bit hard to judge the ridership (but it’s a trackless trolley). Overall, a very good, frequent bus (that’s a trackless trolley).

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Something the MBTA hasn’t displayed on its website for some reason, is the new rail line they announced just a few days ago: it’s a shuttle between the Convention Center in South Boston and Back Bay Station utilizing an abandoned track. It’s meant to create a direct transit route between the Convention Center and “downtown,” since there is currently none. While I think it’s a great idea, I do think the route is a bit crazy:

Image source

It would be nice if they could just cut across so as to bypass the South Bay rail yard, but there’s no existing right-of-way there, so it would be very expensive to build. It should be ready in two years, hopefully. Many more pictures here.