Typically, one expects MBTA buses to have a certain…level of courtesy. For example, you assume the drivers will have a certain level of safety protocol. You also assume that schedules will be reasonably sensible. And you expect the bus radio to be firmly set in the “off” position. Well…this isn’t the MBTA. Although subsidized by the authority, the long 716 route is run by Joseph’s Transportation, and it’s…different.

Case in point…

The little minibus didn’t have any MBTA signage at all. In fact, it was basically just an advertisement for Joseph’s Transportation! The whole bus was extolling the virtues of using the company for private events or whatever. Yeah, thanks, Joseph’s, I’ll be sure to keep you in mind when I need a ride to my “Bachelor/ette Party”.

Gosh, they make it seem like Joseph’s is the best company ever…

On the inside, it was a pretty typical minibus. The seats had seat belts, and for the sake of safety, I buckled mine up. There was a wheelchair lift in the back, and up front the way they collected fares was with a little plastic cup that you put your money in. Not very high tech, is it?

The back of the bus with the wheelchair lift.

Now, I’d just like to take a few moments to talk about the lovely driver of this route. First of all, there was the bad rap music he was playing over the radio. But okay, I could get over that, since it wasn’t too loud and a lot of these minibus routes have drivers that play music, anyway. However, there was also the fact that our driver was loudly talking on the phone the whole time. Boy, I sure love putting my trust into a bus driver who’s not even paying attention to the road!

What’s that I see up front? Why, I do believe it’s our driver on the phone. That’s right, I have photographic evidence!

Anyway, it’s finally time to talk about the route itself. We looped around to River Street, but bypassed Mattapan Square by turning south onto Blue Hills Parkway. After a bit of woods, we merged onto Blue Hill Ave, which was lined with fairly dense houses. As we got further south, the houses got further apart.

A side street.

Eventually, it got to the point where there would be little patches of forest in between each house. At one point, we went by Curry College, and though it’s advertised as an important stop on the schedule, no one got on or off. Well, to be honest, no one got on or off, anyway. We were basically just speeding down Blue Hill Ave without a care in the world.

The sign was on the other side of the bus, so that’s why it’s a bit weirdly zoomed in.

After that, we were running alongside the Blue Hills Reservation, so there were sometimes stretches of just trees beside the road. We passed the parking lot for the Mass Audubon Trailside Museum at the reservation, then a ski area with fake snow. It was just forest after that, and in the process, the street became Washington Street and we entered Canton.

I’m impressed that they created so much snow. It was rather cold that day, admittedly.

Then all of a sudden, it got pitty. The road grew much wider, and there were gas stations, fast food restaurants, and parking lots everywhere. We then crossed over I-93 at a big cloverleaf interchange, and luckily, things were back to normal on the other side with a narrower road and more houses. I would like to point out that we were supposed to make a deviation onto Royall Street before crossing the highway, but for some reason, we didn’t.

A big field…thing.

We went by a golf course, then upon reaching a convenience store, the street merged off to the right. It was residential once more, and the houses were slightly denser now than they were before. They were occasionally broken by municipal buildings or churches, however, and at one point, we passed through a cemetery.

A side street.

After a little while, we passed the Canton High School and the Museum of American Bird Art in quick succession. From there, we were coming into Canton Center, or at least the outskirts of it. There were lots of businesses along the street, but they still had parking lots outside. We also went by the Canton Center Commuter Rail station, which I have yet to visit and review. Someday I’ll have to come back…

Crossing a small river.

After going over a river, we entered Canton Center proper, which seemed pretty nice. Varied businesses lined the side of the street, and it seemed pretty walkable. Of course, we soon left the center and it was back to houses. They continued up until we were suddenly surrounded by parking lots. Here, we turned into the biggest one, and after some navigating around cars, we arrived at the Cobbs Corner Shopping Mall. It wasn’t a very interesting place…

The driver got mad at me when I took this. Look, I’ll stop taking pictures when you stop talking on the phone, okay?

Route: 716 (Contracted Bus: Cobbs Corner – Mattapan Station via Canton Center)

Ridership: Well, my ride had a whole four people on it in total. But perhaps the bus’s overall ridership is better? Let’s see, it averages out to…89 people per day. Yeah, okay, we’re not really talking about high numbers here.

Pros: Well, it has to be said that the 716 definitely serves a long distance. However, is there a lot to serve along that distance? Not really – aside from Canton Center and Cobbs Corner, there isn’t much to draw ridership along the route. Thus, the 716’s schedule is infrequent, running every hour weekdays and Saturdays, with no Sunday service. Still, it’s sensible, and I understand why they would run it so infrequently. Yup, this seems like a pretty good schedule.

Cons: Hang on…it only runs until 12:30 PM on Saturdays? What? Why?! Having it only run in the morning cuts off potential shoppers from getting anything done in the afternoon. Either run full service or no service at all, Joseph’s, because this half-service thing you’ve got going on makes no sense. Another problem that can’t really be helped is the fact that it’s just one bus shuttling back and forth along the route with no layover time, meaning it can easily be late. That said, it would make absolutely no sense to add a second vehicle to the route, considering its ridership, so the lateness will have to do. But you know what can be changed? The drivers. Get ones that don’t talk on the phone.

Nearby and Noteworthy: There’s Canton Center, which seems like a fine place to spend an afternoon. Oh wait, you can’t do that on Saturdays. Okay, well, the 716 also goes right by some important trailheads into the Blue Hills Reservation, which seems like a great place to spend the day hiking. Just don’t go later than noon if you’re doing it on a Saturday, ’cause this bus can’t help you after that!

Final Verdict: 3/10
Look, it has to be said that this route serves a lot. A lot of woods, that is. I guess at best, it can serve as a slower, less crowded alternative to the Stoughton Line, but it would take so much longer. Other than that, aside from some office parks on the Royall Street detour we didn’t take, Cobbs Corner and Canton Center seem like the only major ridership draws. However, this route’s Saturday schedule is just insulting. If anyone knows the reason for the morning-only thing, please let me know, because it just seems ridiculous. Oh, and finally, there’s the whole phone thing. I’m sorry, but that did not make me feel safe at all. At least the route’s scenery is nice…
UPDATE 11/25/17: I have no idea when this happened, but I just discovered it now: A&A Metro took over the contract for this route from Joseph’s, and now uses a minibus with much better route signage. Also, it actually runs all day on Saturdays now!! The route still isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better, and worthy of a score increase to a 5/10.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates