I always get a surge of excitement whenever I ride a weekdays-only bus that was on the chopping block – and, coincidentally, the 4 is one of them! Frankly, I’m surprised this was on the chopping block, since it seems to have decent ridership. However, true to its former chopping block status, the schedule is typical weekdays, rush hour only fare.
It’s really too bad, as well, because this bus actually makes a very scenic loop around Downtown Boston. This is how I advertised it to my mother, and how I got her to take a bus. We were aiming to take the 3:46 PM bus, but the Red Line was experiencing delays, and the Green Line was exactly the same as it usually is (not a good thing) so we ended up missing the bus. We walked into North Station proper to try to find some information of when the next bus was. The person I asked had no idea and had to check a schedule of the 4, but luckily there was one coming in the next 5 minutes (although the 4 only runs rush hour only, it runs fairly often within the time frame).
We went back to the stop right outside North Station on Causeway Street and waited for a few minutes. Seeing a bus coming down Causeway Street from the other side, I pointed it out to my mother. She figured it was just going “the other way.” However, since the 4 goes only one way around the loop (in different directions, depending on the time of day), that obviously wasn’t the case. As the bus came closer, I saw that its destination board said “Tide Street/BMIP,” which was where we were going. We had to run to the bus, and luckily the driver was nice enough to let us on.
I was really mad that the sign at the wrong bus stop had said that the stop was served by PM service as well as AM, when it obviously wasn’t, but I shook it off once on the bus. Looking around, I saw that we were the only ones on, and I figured it made sense for the bus to be on the chopping block. We crossed North Washington Street/Charlestown Bridge, and Causeway Street turned into Commercial Street. The bus went by Old North Church, an athletic facility, and many docks and ports. Two stops after North Station, people started to get on the bus. It was usually about 1-2 people per stop until there were about 10 people on the bus.
Eventually, Commercial Street becomes Atlantic Ave, and soon after Interstate 93 goes into its tunnel with the Rose Kennedy Greenway above (the parks created after the big dig). The bus goes by that new carousel recently opened, and then goes by Aquarium Station, the New England Aquarium, Long Wharf, and Faneuil Hall. It also goes by the “Rings Fountain,” which is a circle of fountains that shoot up at different times. Then it goes right through the Financial District, with some of the tallest buildings in Boston. Once the bus gets down to South Station (where everyone got off and we were the only ones again), it turns onto Summer Street and goes over the Fort Point Channel, with the Children’s Museum and the milk bottle just visible.
There are a few more buildings, but then the surroundings drastically change to a more industrial vibe. Leaving the small cluster of buildings, the bus is suddenly surrounded by a huge parking lot. It then goes by the Convention Center, with Track 61 visible below the road. After that, it gets very barren and industrial (including a parking lot full of army trucks), and the bus turns off of Summer Street onto Dry Dock Ave, into the Boston Marine Industrial Park (BMIP). Here, it travels with the Silver Line SL2 up to the Design Center. It then turns onto Tide Street, then Northern Ave. At this point, the bus driver said “last stop,” and kicked us out at a stop where about five people were already waiting.
|Not the nicest place to get dropped off.|
First of all, I was surprised that the 4 even had a last stop – I figured it just went around the loop over and over again. Second of all, the place we were at was a complete industrial dump, just like the surrounding neighborhood. I was annoyed, but luckily, the bus back to North Station came in a few minutes. The bus driver, however, seemed surprised that we were all waiting at the stop. Once everyone got on, he asked someone about where the buses usually lay over, as if he didn’t know the route. They talked for a few minutes before the driver finally started driving.
The bus then goes up Northern Ave, with Silver Line Way visible to the left, and that huge performance tent to the right. Buildings start popping up again when Northern Ave turns into Seaport Boulevard. The bus then turns onto Northern Ave again (a different one, I guess?), going by the late Anthony’s Pier 4, the ICA, Courthouse Station, the courthouse, and more massive parking lots. At the courthouse, the bus turns onto Sleeper Street, then Seaport Boulevard again. On Sleeper Street, there is a beautiful view of the financial district to the right of the bus.
|A bad picture of the view from Sleeper Street.|
The bus enters the Financial District again, turning left on Purchase Street/Atlantic Ave and then turning right on Pearl Street. The bus comes into Post Office Square, and then passes the Old State House and Boston City Hall, the ugliest building in the city. Then the bus passes Haymarket, turns onto Causeway Street, and is back at North Station. Everyone who was still on the bus got off here (the others got off at State Station), and nobody else got on. My mother and I got off and headed for the Green Line.
|The 4 at Tide Street.|
Route: 4 (North Station – World Trade Center via Federal Courthouse and South Station)
Ridership: I was surprised at how many people rode the bus – about 30. No one went to the industrial area, which makes sense since it was the evening rush hour, but many people came from the industrial area (as well as the Financial District) back to Boston, either to the subway or the Commuter Rail in a few cases. Also, these were some of the most hardcore riders I’ve ever seen – literally almost every single one of them had passes, so the 4 is obviously a major part of people’s commutes.
Pros: If you’re new to Boston, this is your bus. Although it doesn’t run that often, it goes by so many landmarks in Downtown Boston (more on that later). Also, although it only runs during rush hours, it runs often during those times. It also gets very good ridership for a bus that was on the chopping block.
Cons: Obviously, the schedule is terrible like all chopping block buses. Also, although I said this is a good bus for Boston newcomers, I would be very surprised if I were a tourist and I got dropped off in some desolate industrial wasteland in an unfamiliar city.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Old North Church; Faneuil Hall; the New England Aquarium; South Station; the Children’s Museum The Convention Center; The World Trade Center; the John J. Moakly Courthouse; the Old State House; Boston City Hall; T.D. Garden; and assorted small stores and landmarks. ‘Nuff said.
Final Verdict: 7
Like the 439, although this is a great bus, I have to lower the rating because of the schedule. You may say this one should be higher since its schedule isn’t as bad as the 439, but then you also have to consider that the 439 doesn’t drop you off in an industrial wasteland…
Latest MBTA News: Service Alerts
Two MIT students have developed the Sesame Ring, a CharlieCard that fits around your finger. It should be a convenient alternative over searching through your purse or backpack looking for your CharlieCard. I’ll probably only get it if it’s free, though…
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A year or so ago, I very briefly worked on the waterfront in one of the buildings on Dry Dock Ave along the SL2 route. Had the job lasted enough to a pending move I had at the time, the 4 would've been my bus to work and looking at that terminal I'd have taken four seats (SL2-Red-Orange-Commuter Rail) over two. Good work!
Thanks a lot for the comment!
The 4 is a last-mile commuter route, through and through. As the first commenter posted, nearly everyone on the route is coming from North Station and working in the Seaport, a bear of a commute if you have to go Orange-Red-SL2 at rush hour, especially in the morning when the roads are relatively traffic-free. A lot of these people might drive if they had to take a three-transfer ride, so having the 4 around might mean more ridership on the Commuter Rail. I would bet that a lot of the passes you saw flashed had numbers like 4, 6 and 8 on them. The 4 operates similarly to the EZRide Shuttle in Cambridge—a last-mile trip from North Station for Commuter Rail riders.
This bus is (currently) the only direct connection between North and South Station, by the way…
They should run this more often, its the only direct routing between north and south station. if they ran a rush hour only version that went nonstop express between north and south stations along the fastest route they could really pick up some riders, currently you have to take the red and green lines but the bus would simplify that to 1 bus
About Union Square service starting by 2017…