The 505 is just another commuter bus that runs on the Mass Pike. This one is special, though, in that it’s an “outer express bus”. That’s right, an extra $1.60 gives you a slightly longer express section! This is admittedly the fastest bus route from downtown to Central Square, Waltham, but not by much. Well, let’s take a look.
|The bus downtown.|
I got on at the Beach Street stop, so the bus was already kinda full. From there, we headed right onto the highway, going past tallish buildings on either side. We went through the Copley Square tunnel, then passed Fenway Park. After the highway went elevated for a bit, the surroundings started to become more suburban.
But this being an outer express, we zoomed right past Newton Corner. Going by Newtonville Station, the highway went under a Star Market, then we passed West Newton Station. Taking the next exit, we looped around the highway and made our way to Washington Street.
The surroundings were mostly houses, and people were actually getting off along this section. It got much more leafy when we turned onto Commonwealth Avenue, the very same street that goes back to Boston. It had a tree-lined median, which was nice.
After we crossed over the highway, there were some businesses on one side of the street. We then turned onto Lexington Street, joining the 558. On this street, it was back to leafy houses. Once we entered Waltham, though, the street became Moody Street and was lined with businesses. After crossing the Charles River, I got off the bus at Carter Street, letting it go on to make a loop around Waltham Common.
|The bus in Waltham.|
Route: 505 (EXPRESS BUS Central Square, Waltham – Downtown via Moody Street and Mass Turnpike)
Ridership: There were about 30 people on my bus, all of whom got on downtown. I was expecting most people to go all the way to Central Square, but there were actually quite a few that got off before that along the residential section. Considering the fact that it’s rush hours only, the 505 gets decent overall ridership, with just over a thousand riders per weekday.
Pros: This is the fastest bus route from Boston to Central Square, Waltham. Besides that, it also serves some evidently busy residential neighborhoods along the way that give it more ridership. Its schedule within rush hour is good too – every 10 minutes in the morning and every 15 in the evening. Due to its “commuter bus” nature, I think it makes sense that it only runs during rush hour.
Cons: The price, really. If you’re willing to spend $5.25 for an outer express ride, why not spring for the extra dollar and take the Commuter Rail? Sure, it may not run as often, but consider the time savings! The 5:00 PM 505 takes 57 minutes to get to Central Square. The Commuter Rail? Under 20. Yeah, I know the bus leaves from downtown while the Commuter Rail leaves from North Station, but even with the added time of taking the subway there, it’s still faster.
Nearby and Noteworthy: This bus is almost all express, so I have to resort to my default of “Central Square has some businesses that could be interesting.”
Final Verdict: 5/10
Ehh, it’s good for what it’s worth. Honestly, if this bus had an inner express fare, it would be worth it. I mean, going back to the whole “leaving Boston at 5 PM” thing, the 554 has an inner express fare, and want to know how long that takes? An hour and two minutes. Remember, the 505 takes 57. That’s an extra $1.60 for a five minute time difference. I get if you’re going to those residential areas on the 505, but if you’re heading to Central Square, go for speed with the Commuter Rail or cheapness with the 553/554.
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I usually take the commuter rail from Waltham but the 505 (and its sister express buses) are a closer walk, and run every ten or so minutes at rush hour, vs. the train, which has 8:00, 8:25 and 9:26 options. When I do take the 505, most of the ridership is from Auburndale, not from by Moody Street. The main stream against the bus vs. the train is variability: if the Pike is moving, it's a quick 25-to-30-minute ride to South Station. If the Pike's backed up, it can be 50 minutes. The train's run-time is generally more consistent. The 505 is a good backup though if the train's delayed or if you miss it, and was a lifesaver this winter with the pathetic train service. Plus your zone 2 commuter rail pass will get you on the 505.
I wasn't aware of the zone 2 commuter rail pass crossover! I am one of the Auburndale folks taking this bus to work every day – like you said, we're near the auburndale stop but that train only leaves once an hour on weekdays vs. the 505's every 15 minutes or so. The price is a bit annoying but for convenience's sake, the 505 is a pretty good option.