|The 2 at the Natick Mall.|
I boarded the minibus at the Natick Mall, and we looped around onto Flutie Pass. Next, we turned onto Shopper’s World Drive, then Ring Road, serving Shopper’s World – an apt name for a shopping plaza. Ring Road went up along the back of the plaza and we had a stop for Kohl’s, then we waited at the longest red light in the world before turning onto Cochituate Road.
|I was so bored from waiting that I took this weird photo of the light!|
The behemoth suburban shopping plazas around the Natick Mall started to dwindle, eventually becoming boring ol’ Route 9 businesses as we turned onto Concord Street and crossed over that road. There were houses on the other side, but we made some weird turns to get to Arsenal Road. This route jog was, from what I can tell, only to serve a housing development one block from Concord Street.
|Some normal houses.|
There was a base for the National Guard where we turned onto Normandy Road, then Rose Kennedy Lane, which was a…dead end. Oh, another housing development? Alright, alright, great. This section also served MassBay Community College, but I guess that didn’t warrant its own deviation, so we returned to Concord Street.
|Some more houses.|
There was a burst of retail, but then it became a mix between that and more houses. Things started to get denser as we turned onto Lincoln Street, then Pearl Street, and new types of buildings began to show up. We made a lot of one-block runs on narrow local streets, taking us past backlots of downtown Framingham, until we arrived at the Framingham Station Banana Lot.
|Oh, we’re not even near done!|
It was more side streets from there, featuring a pretty industrial atmosphere overall. The route finally stopped its twists and turns and settled on Union Ave, a street with many parking lots along it. After a high school, it turned into houses, staying that way until a college football field and a senior center came in a clump.
|Back to my favorite road!|
Union Street became Main Street, and we soon reached Route 9 again (the ugliest road in the world after Route 1 in Saugus). We were right near Framingham State University, but strangely, we didn’t have to serve it, instead opting for a jog to some businesses on Vernon Street. We took that road around a common and turned onto Edgell Road, which curved around past some houses and under I-90.
|Pretty industrial here!|
It was all residential for quite a while until we got near water street, where a few shopping plazas started to show up. We turned onto Water next, passing the “Nobscot Shopping Center,” otherwise known as the most depressing shopping center on the planet. Almost every retail space was vacant!
There was a library and an elementary school, then Water Street became residential. It was almost all houses as we headed in a southeastern direction until Sudbury Pond. Not only was there a nice view here, but there were also some businesses!
|Okay, “nice” doesn’t mean “amazing,” but it’s something.|
We made our way onto Concord Street, which had a revitalized old factory along it for a bit. After going over a small river, we turned onto A Street, which had a smattering of houses and the gigantic Framingham High School. A Street merged with Concord Street again, and there were more houses after we went under I-90.
|Well, this is a very nicely-landscaped traffic island.|
Eventually the MWRTA planners decided the route was too straight, so we deviated into a Stop & Shop. There was a BJ’s next to it, but a different bus deviates to serve that one, so we made our way down Newbury Street. This became Whittier Street, then Shopper’s World Drive, and we were in the suburban, wide-roaded hellscape surrounding the Natick Mall once again.
|What is this, suburban Florida?|
We went by the big park-and-ride for Logan Express buses to the airport, as well as Shopper’s World again. Luckily we didn’t have to deviate into that plaza, instead turning right onto Flutie Pass. This took us right back to where we started: the Natick Mall. And you thought that loop was long and deviatory? Just wait until the next review!
|I couldn’t get a picture of the 3, so here’s a 2 again.|
MWRTA Routes: 2/3 (Framingham Circuit Clockwise/Counterclockwise)
Ridership: When I said these were the premiere MWRTA routes, I wasn’t lying – the 2 and the 3 are the two busiest lines on the whole network. Together, they get the huge number of: 332 riders per weekday and 165 riders per Saturday. Well, that’s a little anticlimactic! Also, while the weekday ridership is split pretty evenly, the 2 gets way more ridership on Saturdays than the 3. I have no idea why.
Pros: Well, given the number of trips, that ridership data isn’t half-bad! Most of the deviations on my ride got people, and the routes serve a big chunk of the MetroWest’s developed areas. I’m grateful for the fact that clockwise and counterclockwise loops are provided so that people don’t have to suffer through that many deviations to get wherever they’re going.
Cons: It’s the MWRTA, so of course the schedules are crazy! The 2 actually starts out with consistent every-hour service weekday mornings and Saturdays, but at all other times for the 2 and the 3, it’s anyone’s guess as to when they come! Every 65 minutes? Every 80 minutes? Every 71 minutes? These are all headways, and it needlessly complicates these routes. I know that traffic necessitates longer schedule gaps, but there has to be some way of making things at least a little consistent. Also, why do the two routes have to come to the Natick Mall at around the same time? Seems like it would be better if they were staggered to give the illusion of more frequent service.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Lots of malls. Malls, malls, malls. Natick has a lot of malls.
Final Verdict: 5/10
Well, isn’t this sad? These are quite possibly the two most useful routes on the MWRTA and they get a 5. As the ridership gets higher and more people are relying on the routes, the MWRTA schedules become less and less desirable. There are buses with way less consistent headways, but they’re less busy and much straighter; the high ridership and constant deviations of the 2 and 3 drag down the score.
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates