“Attention passengers: the next Red Line train to Alewife is now arriving on the Braintree track.” Darn! I was waiting on the Ashmont track! Now I have to run all the way back to the stairs, run all the way back to the mezzanine, run all the way to the other side of the mezzanine, run all the way back down the stairs, and probably miss my train. See, JFK/UMASS has two separate platforms, one for Ashmont trains and one for Braintree trains. If you choose the wrong one heading inbound, you could miss your train.

Now admittedly, this setup is better than how it was before, when Braintree trains just bypassed the station (making the unnecessarily long distance to North Quincy even longer). They added a new platform for Braintree trains in late 1988, creating the setup still used today.

The mezzanine – probably my favorite picture for this station, just because of my classmate’s strange expression, and my English teacher’s strange swagger.

This station has two entrances, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit the first (being on a school trip and all). All I know about it is that it’s off of Columbia Road, and that it presumably leads into the mezzanine. The mezzanine, incidentally, is very nice. It’s enclosed, but there are numerous windows so it has a very airy feel to it. Aside from the typical vending machines and trash cans, the mezzanine has two things worth noting. The first is the small shop, which would normally be a standard subway station convenience store if it didn’t have its awesome name.

I pity the fool who doesn’t shop here.

When I was little, I always loved going into a store like CVS and seeing myself on the security camera display. They actually have one of these in the JFK/UMASS mezzanine, and I got that same excitement out of seeing it. Like the ones in CVS, it’s fairly unnecessary, but I absolutely love it. The other good thing about the mezzanine is that it’s a pseudo-solution to the inbound platform problem. You can wait in the mezzanine and just go to the corresponding platform when they make the announcement, but there’s unfortunately only one bench.

The second entrance to this station is via the busway. It’s an ugly, rusting staircase that’s enclosed but still out in the open. Leading to the mezzanine, the one good thing about it is that it offers a fairly good view of the Boston skyline.

Of course, there’s that big fence in the way, but there’s not much you can do about that.

Now the platform(s) itself isn’t much. Its architecture is very bland: ugly white roof, grey floor, and out-of-place metal pillars. It does have some convenient wastebaskets scattered around, but really, they don’t have much use. What’s more, the station’s right next to a big, ugly, loud highway, a big parking lot, and an industrial wasteland to the north. All the more reason to wait in the mezzanine.

A guy seems to have gotten into the picture,

Although you sort of forget it even exists, there is also Commuter Rail service here. The Greenbush, Middleborough/Lakeville, and Kingston/Plymouth lines all stop here at a platform parallel to the Red Line tracks, though how often? On weekdays, most trains simply bypass the platform, something I witnessed firsthand. Of course, it’s pretty useless if you’re heading inbound, but if you live in the area outbound service is probably convenient.

Fairly generic for a Commuter Rail platform.

In terms of bus service, this station isn’t very noteworthy. There are only four MBTA buses serving this station: the 5, which has inconsistent service here and has a terrible schedule anyway; the 8, which has a decent schedule; the 16, which only serves this station during rush hour; and the 41, which also has a decent schedule. There is also shuttle service from here to UMASS.

Being served by only four buses, you’d expect the busway to be very simple. But actually, based on what I’ve seen, it’s unnecessarily complicated. Are two lanes really necessary for only four buses? Or is one lane entirely meant for UMASS buses? Leave a comment if you’re more familiar with the setup.

An aerial view of the busway, from the big staircase. Seems there’s only a lone shelter if you’re catching a bus from the middle area.
I don’t like running pictures together, but I wanted to include this one. Peekaboo!

Station: JFK/UMASS

Ridership: This is definitely a student-heavy station. A lot of people use the shuttle bus from UMASS to get here. Also, being the station before the Ashmont and Braintree branches split (well, technically – I think they should do the same extra platform treatment on Savin Hill as well), there are probably a few people who do a quick transfer here.

Pros: I really liked the mezzanine. And that store had a really cool name.

Cons: First of all, the platforms are as annoying as they are ugly. Having a train coming on the wrong one must be really, really annoying. Second, Commuter Rail service here is pretty bad, with trains just bypassing the station most of the time. And finally, the bus situation is absolutely terrible. It’s got a bad busway, plus it’s only served by four buses.

Nearby and Noteworthy: The JFK Library is only a free bus ride away. I had a lot of fun visiting with my school. Even if you can’t go, their website has some amazing interactive exhibits to check out.

Final Verdict: 4/10
There are a lot of bad things about this station, but the mezzanine gives it extra points. It’s nice and airy, and it has that amazing store which I’m sure has fairly sub par food, but its name is fantastic. Everything else about the station, however, is terrible. The platforms are ugly and inefficient (though there’s not much you can do about that), most Commuter Rail trains zoom right by, and bus service is terrible. The most frequent bus serving the station is the UMASS shuttle! But then again, I suppose that’s why UMASS is in the station name.

Latest MBTA News: MBTA bus service is running on a Saturday schedule for President’s day. Yes, I know I’m late. Insanely late. Like, this news doesn’t even matter anymore late.