In comparison to the last route, the 51 is a rather straight connector between Amesbury and Haverhill. It’s also the busiest route based out of Haverhill, despite the fact that it runs more infrequently than the other Haverhill routes. Weird!
|The bus in Amesbury, coming right off of the 54.|
We pulled out of the Costello Transportation Center and headed down Elm Street into Amesbury Center. Like always, it was gorgeous, with diverse small businesses houses in marvelous brick buildings. We turned onto Friend Street and navigated a roundabout onto School Street, where there were some municipal buildings, houses, and a church.
|I couldn’t get any good photos of the Center, so here’s…this.|
We officially left the Center as we headed down the residential Sparhawk Street. Dense houses continued when we turned onto Highland Street, although they were broken at one point by a hospital. We merged onto Haverhill Road, passing a big cemetery, some suburban businesses, and an industrial area.
|Help wanted at Shea, I guess. Apparently they make concrete.|
Eventually the street got more residential, and it was lined with either houses or woods for a while. Businesses started to show up again once we entered Merrimac and it became East Main Street, along with other attractions like a trailer park and a senior center. We came into Merrimac “Square,” a cluster of businesses around a roundabout.
|Traversing the “Square.”|
We continued down West Main Street in the Haverhill-bound direction, but then we made a strange route jog via Locust Street, Middle Street, and School Street. The neighborhoods it served were mostly residential, and the goal of the deviation was to serve Merri Village, a rather small housing development that didn’t feel like it needed the service. We returned to the Square and headed back onto West Main like nothing ever happened.
|A narrow street on the deviation.|
It was mostly houses along here, continuing until there were a few industrial buildings over the Haverhill border. The street was Amesbury Road now, and it was a mix of all different kinds of buildings, including residential, retail, and industrial ones. We eventually went under I-495 and turned onto Elliot Street, beginning another deviation.
Frankly, I didn’t see the point in serving Northern Essex Community College in the summer, but a few people actually got on there, so I guess it was worth it! After looping around the campus, we made our way back to Amesbury Road, which went alongside Kenoza Lake for a bit with an awesome view. We merged onto the residential Kenoza Ave next.
|A field along Amesbury Road.|
The street started to get more urban, with denser houses and apartments and some retail coming in. We went down Main Street for a block, which had some shopping plazas, but it was mostly dense houses again when we turned onto White Street, then Emerson Street. We were almost in Haverhill, but for some strange reason we had to deviate to Winter Street and Welcome Street, only to come right back to Emerson. I have no idea why that was, but once we were back on Emerson, it was only a few blocks until we reached the Washington Square Transit Station.
|The bus enjoying a hearty lunch of passengers.|
MVRTA Route: 51 (Haverhill – Amesbury)
Ridership: Like I said, this is the busiest route based out of Haverhill. Unfortunately, its ridership was at a low in 2015, with 109,127 riders during the year. That means the route got about 300 people per day, which is still pretty good for the number of trips it has. In fact, ridership may have even gone up since then – my ride had 30 people on it!
Pros: The 51 is the gateway to Amesbury and beyond via the 54, offering a quick trip (around half an hour) from Haverhill. It clearly gets a good amount of ridership, but since most of it is concentrated at certain major stops, it allows the route to still move quickly most of the time.
Cons: Because this is interlined with the 54, it has the same annoying headway of every 70 minutes. The really sad thing is that the 51 could be straightened if the Merri Village deviation was eliminated (it doesn’t seem necessary to me), but I don’t think it would improve the time all that much – maybe 5 minutes per round trip. Thus, I think we’re stuck with the 70 minute schedule unless changes are made on the 54.
Nearby and Noteworthy: I would love to spend some time in Amesbury Center, and this is the best way to get there: take the train to Haverhill, pray that the bus times well, and you’ll be in Amesbury in about 30 minutes!
Final Verdict: 7/10
This is better than the 54 because it’s busier and mostly deviation-free, but it’s certainly not perfect. I would absolutely love it if the 51 could get a consistent hourly schedule – unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible unless some major deviations are cut. Of course, by all means cut Merri Village, because it really doesn’t seem all that important.
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