It’s the Saturday before Halloween. We’re riding a bus route around a college campus in the late evening. Oh boy, this should be fun…

Thanks for being slow!

Hot of the heels of our Evening Van trip, Jaret, Nathan, and I needed to get back to civilization from our random location in Allston. “We could do the 1636’er!” Nathan proclaimed. “WOAH!” I shouted. He checked the tracker and saw that a bus was on its way to Mather House. With this information, the three of us started sprinting, getting over the North Harvard Street Bridge and along Memorial Drive – I was yelling “Shout,” by the Isley Brothers at the top of my lungs for some reason. We thought we were goners, but it turned out the driver of the bus was really slow. We were able to catch up with it at Mather House and board! And none of that was anywhere near the craziest part of the night…

The calm before the storm.

As the bus waited at Mather House, people steadily streamed in, some wearing Halloween costumes. They were fairly normal here, with a lot of one-piece furry suits. There were some standees as we left, turning onto Banks Street in order to serve Peabody Terrace (although the schedule claims the bus serves Peabody Terrace before Mather House – that’s wrong). No one got on here, and the bus had to shift in reverse to get out of the dead-end loop. All the lights went out when it did that, leading to a chorus of “Ooooh”‘s from the passengers.

Oh, of course there had to be some sort of image plastered on the outside of the bus. Great. Enjoy the dots in every picture!

The marvel of the lights being off ended when we shifted back into forward gear and went the other way down Banks Street. It was residential, but once we turned onto Mount Auburn Street, it was much denser and there were many more businesses. We looped around onto Mass Ave next, passing tons of retail and apartments as we came into Harvard Square.

I think this is at the Lamont Library?

As we went alongside Harvard Yard and arrived at the Holyoke Gate stop, I looked out and saw a huge crowd of people. What was going on? Oh no…they were all passengers for this bus! People crammed into the vehicle without any consideration for personal space, and it was a proper crush load – passengers were far ahead of the white line in the front that isn’t supposed to be crossed. Also, the costumes in this crowd were getting crazier: one guy was a shirtless fireman, while there were some scantily clad women who didn’t seem to be dressed as anything at all!

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!

We continued around Harvard Yard, going by Harvard Station and tons of Harvard Square businesses. As we were curving around onto Garden Street, the driver made a sudden stop for a red light and a collective scream arose from the passengers as the crowd surged forward. Some people fell over!

Well, let’s just keep going, then…
We made it onto Garden Street, going along the Cambridge Common, while apartments and historic churches lined the other side of the road. With so many people on board a single vehicle, there’s bound to be perspiration, and this was no exception – it was fogging up the windows. I needed a clear window for pictures, but considering where the condensation was coming from, I wiped it off with my sleeve. Some people, though, decided to create little designs in it. They ranged from names to hearts, and surprisingly, there were no phallic symbols of any kind! I suppose those smart Harvard students are above that kind of thing, and I approve!
Beautiful artwork.
There was a brief residential section, but then we arrived at the Quad. Looping around into it via Linnaean Street, a ton of people got out here, making the vehicle at least a little less stuffy. We had a layover here, which allowed us to witness the happenings outside. It looks like there’s a party here at the Quad, everything is normal…woah, okay, now people are fighting to keep each other from getting onto the bus? Is this a joke? Okay, wow, that beer bottle did in fact just break into a million pieces on the ground from the fight. Alright, then, no one step on that!
The Quad looks so calm in this picture…
After that mess, we came back down Garden Street to Mass Ave, heading north on it this time. We picked up a ton more people at the Garden Street stop, so the bus was almost as crowded as before, with just as much chatter. At one point we were all treated to a rousing chorus of Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” from some girls in the back, who sang the song’s most profane line with as much gusto as possible.
I have no idea where this is, but I feel like I should.
We turned onto Everett Street, then Oxford Street, leading us to the stop across from the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Nearly the entire bus, including the three of us, got off here, and it was clear why: there was a massive line for another party in some building. Also, can I just say that I have never appreciated fresh air as much as I did this evening? The bus continued along its route back to Mather House like a Mather Express would go, and I was so happy to see it leave.
We have been on this bus for too long!
Harvard Shuttle Route: 1636’er (Quad – Peabody Terrace – Mather House via Memorial Hall)
Ridership: Too many people to count. I mean, there were two separate parts on the route where the bus was crush loaded, so I feel like we carried at least a hundred people on the trip! It was like a tavern – everyone was talkative and every time someone got on, there were shouts from various groups who knew the person. I’m sure Halloween made this night a special case, but crowding on this route is still a norm on Saturday nights.
Pros: For what it’s worth, they run this route very well. It’s weekends only, and it runs every 20 minutes from 4:30 PM until around midnight – pretty frequent! It serves most of the Harvard campus and does all the typical deviations that the normal routes do.
Cons: There are caveats to both of those pros. First, the route is scheduled to have both of its buses go on break at the same time, leading to as much as an hour and fifteen minute gap in service from 7:30 to around 9! Why couldn’t the breaks be staggered so that less service is lost? I hate to think of how packed the bus must get just after the break! Speaking of crowding, that is definitely a problem for the 1636’er, and the route could absolutely stand to be more frequent. How could that be achieved? Well, for starters, let’s eliminate the Peabody Terrace deviation! It takes up a bunch of time, and not a soul used it on my trip! Seriously, that could save over five minutes of scheduled travel time, and if a layover were cut down somewhere (if possible), service could be reduced to every fifteen minutes.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Tons of parties, apparently. Parties with some very crazy people.
Final Verdict: 7/10
Okay, it probably sounded like I was gonna give this route a 4, didn’t it? Well…the thing is, despite its problems, the 1636’er is a good service. It’s frequent, it runs reliably from what I saw, and it connects the Harvard campus in a relatively efficient way. Yes, the driver breaks should be staggered and Peabody Terrace seems to be completely pointless, but they’re not route-destroying problems. Even the crowding isn’t that big of a deal when you think about it – most passengers on this route are travelling for very short distances, so they don’t have to deal with it for that long.
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