The Commuter Rail is always quicker than the bus, there’s no doubt about that. But this is the first time the Commuter Rail is also cheaper than the bus. Yes, it costs $2.10 to get to West Medford on the Commuter Rail from North Station, a quick walk from Haymarket, and it costs $3.65 to take an express bus from the latter. How could this strange occurrence happen? By way of the 326, it would seem.
|The bus approaching Haymarket.
The fact that it runs rush hour only is its downfall. Like the 352, there’s pretty much guaranteed traffic on I-93 during these times, so this bus moves slowly. We got onto the highway ramp almost immediately after leaving Haymarket, and it was nice and speedy until we actually merged onto the highway. Then there was traffic all the way until Exit 32, where we got off.
|It’s identical to that 352 picture, except it’s sunny, daytime, and less blurry.
We went around a big rotary and onto Salem Street. We then went past Medford City Hall and into Medford Square, where there were a lot of cute businesses. In the outskirts of the square, on High Street, there was a church and a library, and then houses. Winthrop Circle was just another rotary, with a small office building nearby.
We stayed on High Street here, but some trips turn onto Winthrop Street. High Street was residential all the way to West Medford Station. There were some small businesses here and it seemed like a nice neighborhood, but it went back to houses when we turned onto Playstead Road. We went by a large field, and then a larger graveyard. The driver dropped me off at the intersection with Winthrop Street which, for all intents and purposes, was the middle of nowhere (no offense to anyone who lives there).
|The bus was “out of service” in West Medford, so here’s another picture at Haymarket.
Route: 326 (West Medford – Haymarket Station via Playstead Road, High Street, Medford, and I-93)
Ridership: Brace yourself: a whole 11 people. It’s more than the 5, but that’s still not a lot by any means. Most of them seemed to be shoppers coming from downtown. They got off at various points along the route, but a fair amount got off at West Medford Station. I was the only one who went all the way to the end. Maybe it increases further into the evening rush; I took the 4:12 bus.
Pros: If you’re looking for a fast (ish) ride to Medford Square – not West Medford – then the 326 is a reasonable choice. But only if it’s rush hour.
Cons: Like I said, it’s rush hour only. And it’s not that fast, given the traffic on I-93, but it’s better than local alternatives. But if you’re going anywhere near West Medford, this bus becomes completely useless because, as I said at the beginning, the Commuter Rail is both faster and cheaper. And it runs during the day! And on weekends! Sure, it’s every two hours during the latter, but that’s better than what the 326 provides: nothing.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Both Medford Square and West Medford seemed nice neighborhoods, but I don’t know any specific businesses.
Final Verdict: 4/10
It’s all right if you’re going to Medford Square, but if you’re heading towards the West Medford area, this isn’t the bus for you. Just take the Commuter Rail! It’s faster, cheaper, and runs during the day and on weekends. And it’s not like you’re usually going to have the option, since the 326 is rush hours only…
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
It’s been a day since the last post! However, I am going up to Burlington, Vermont for the next two days. I don’t know if I’ll take a unique bus route up there, but here’s my previous post about the bus system in Burlington.