Yes! Finally! My actual last Key Bus Route to review! It’s a good one, too. I was originally holding off on the 73 because I wanted to wait until it switched back to trackless trolleys, but honestly, that’s not gonna happen anytime soon. Thus, I shan’t dilly-dally any more! Let’s take a ride on the quick and serene 73!

A non-blurry picture in the Harvard busway? This is a miracle! Too bad this wasn’t actually the bus I rode…

The 73 boards in the Harvard Lower Busway, which could be confusing to newcomers, but signage points this out pretty well. Something that is confusing to newcomers, however, is the fare system. Despite the fact that it doesn’t use trackless trolleys with left-hand doors anymore, the 73 still has passengers pay when they leave. It’s a bit odd, but it does speed up boarding at Harvard.

The bus I took. This picture looks surprisingly okay…

We popped out of the tunnel onto Mount Auburn Street on the edge of Harvard Square, and for the moment the road was lined with multi-story buildings. After the first stop outside a post office, though, it got much more leafy and quiet. We passed by a cute business block, but the street was mostly lined with dense houses.

A shot of the Charles River from my ride back.

Once we reached Memorial Drive, we ran parallel to it for a bit, with a nice park between us and the river. I was focusing on that side since it was quite scenic, but on the other side of the street, there was a big condominium. As Memorial Drive curved away from us, we went by another apartment building, then the huge Mount Auburn Hospital.

A residential side street.

Mount Auburn Street curved a bit as it had an intersection with the massive Fresh Pond Parkway. After crossing that, the Mount Auburn Cemetery was on one side while houses, apartments, and a small pediatrics office were on the other. There were businesses at the intersection with Aberdeen Ave, including a big Star Market that got its own stop announcement.

Ahh…I love that median on Aberdeen Ave.

We split off of the 71 after the miniscule Mount Auburn Bridge, where we merged onto Belmont Street. There were small businesses for a bit, then it became lined with dense houses. However, the street soon became this lovely mix of houses interspersed with really cute business blocks. It was so nice!

Another street lined with houses.

Eventually, one side of the street became occupied by a golf course while the other side featured bigger houses. There was a small bus loop at Benton Square, where certain 73 trips begin. It’s also worth noting that this part of Belmont Street is up on a hill, and going inbound, there’s a great view of Boston for a few seconds.

I was experimenting with shots out the front of the bus on this ride.

The street was now called Trapelo Road, and it went by lots of businesses at Cushing Square soon after the bus loop. We also passed an apartment building, then the street became lined with houses and started heading back down the hill. Eventually, though, it once more became that great mix of houses and small businesses.

Another frontwards shot.

Soon the surroundings became entirely retail, and here we turned onto Church Street, entering Waverley Square. I got off, paying as I did so, and then the bus did a short loop via Lexington Street and returned to Trapelo Road. After picking up a few more people at a stop on the loop, the bus started back towards Harvard.

The bus at Waverley Square.

Route: 73 (Waverley Square – Harvard Station via Trapelo Road)

Ridership: The 73 is a Key Bus Route, so of course it gets high ridership, However, it’s generally on the lower end of the Key Bus Route spectrum, with 6,424 riders per weekday, 3,207 riders per Saturday, and 1,974 riders per Sunday (it does get more ridership than its 71 companion, though). Despite its more serene nature on weekends, the 73 can get packed during rush hour – even my trip around 3:30 got a good 30 passengers heading out of Harvard, though it can get to be much more as the evening progresses.

Pros: Ah, there’s so much to love about this route. For one thing, its schedule is great. To accommodate its rush hour crowds, the 73 runs as often as every 5 minutes during those times. Otherwise, it goes every 15 minutes during the day and on Saturdays, every 20 minutes on Sundays, and every 25 minutes at night. These are all perfectly timed based on the route’s ridership. Additionally, it’s a lovely ride through some great neighborhoods, and the route itself is quick, straight, and serves a large chunk of West Cambridge, Watertown, and Belmont. Finally, the strange exit fare system is neither a pro nor a con, so I’m just gonna mention it here to make the “pros” section longer because this is such a great route.

Cons: No trackless trolleys, unfortunately, but that has advantages and drawbacks all on its own. However, the 73 does have a bit of a bunching problem, although I will say that that’s very hard to avoid with every 5 minute service. Besides, it’s nothing compared to the 1 or the 77, neither of which run as frequently as the 73! Finally, I know that Aria A. suggested that the 73 gets merged with the 72 because of its redundancy with the 71, although I personally disagree there. Honestly, the Mount Auburn Street corridor in Cambridge is a very busy one with the hospital being a major ridership draw – it would lose a lot of service with the merger, plus it would lengthen the ride for 73 passengers. Merging the 72 and the 75, on the other hand? Yeah, that should happen.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I don’t know any specific places the route goes by, but they all look so interesting! The 73 passes so many small businesses along its route, running the gamut from restaurants and little stores to even a tiny movie theater!

Final Verdict: 10/10
Okay, as you may know, 10s are rare occurrences on this blog. Let me explain my reasoning: the 73 is the best run Key Bus Route on the system. It operates very frequently during rush hours to accommodate the unavoidable crowding, and still has a great schedule other times, contributing to its higher ridership. And yet this is also one of the most serene bus routes on the MBTA, both because of the lovely neighborhoods it runs through and the fact that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a seat outside of rush hour. Frequent service, good ridership, and tranquility? It’s like the 71, except it runs more often (though I do love the 71, too)! And sure, it may experience a bit of bunching here and there, but only on weekdays during its times with really close headways. Seriously, this is hands down the best Key Bus Route, and one of the best regular bus routes, on the MBTA. If it ever switches back to trackless trolleys, it might as well be an 11!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates