Guys, this is a one-off. I am not coming back to this ridiculously planned system that uses gas-guzzling, lung cancer-causing hunks of trash to run its routes! But let me back up. Ahem…the Yellow North Line. After the LRTA 20, Nathan and I decided to try out the alternative way of getting back to the ICC. The Yellow North Line is literally parallel to the 20, running between the same places and taking the same route. There’s just one problem…
|What have we gotten ourselves into?|
What is that? Is that a really old school bus designed for elementary school children that is being used on a college shuttle? Oh lord, it is. I cannot even describe how awful these buses are to ride. I mean, the seats are all patched up, the thing is ridiculously loud, and the driver kept coughing, presumably from the horrible fumes of gases being released from the vehicle. Interestingly, though, Lowell’s public schools use beautiful brand new buses. Guys…I think UMass Lowell got its buses from the local public school system…
|I would much rather be in a car than on this bus. Other vehicles on that list include a unicycle, a police car, and a GATRA truck minibus.|
We sputtered our way out of the UMass North busway and headed down Riverside Street. We soon turned onto University Ave, taking us over the Merrimack River. Once on the other side, we made our way to the University Crossing busway on Salem Street. The bus obviously had no stop request button, so the driver slowly opened the doors. “Is anyone getting off here?” he asked. Silence. “Okay…” and the doors slowly closed.
|Crossing the river.|
We made our way onto Merrimack Street, which was lined with a mixture of apartments and businesses with parking lots. It started to get denser once we went over a canal, and eventually we passed Lowell City Hall. After one more canal, the street became lined with the many brick buildings and dense businesses of downtown Lowell. The bus pulled over and the driver opened the doors again. “Is anyone getting off here?” Again, silence. “Okay…”
|Making a turn downtown.|
We turned onto Central Street, going by more businesses and over another canal. It was definitely less of a downtown feeling on the other side, but there was still more retail as we turned onto Hurd Street. This led us to the UMass ICC, which – thank goodness – was the final stop on the route. Time to leave this awful thing!
A quick aside: from here, we looked at the shuttle map and found that we could use a Yellow South Line to get closer to the Commuter Rail station. That route was using a minibus (much more tolerable than the school bus business). We asked the driver if he was going to the station, and he said he didn’t, but he could call dispatch to see if he could get us there. After a quick radio call, he said “Sorry, we don’t serve the station until after 7.” Oh, okay, sure…because 7 PM is really when students are gonna be wanting to go to the station! Also, the route goes within 500 feet of the station anyway! Were we really not capable of walking from there? This system sucks!!!!
|Get out of here already!|
UMass Lowell Shuttle Route: Yellow North Line (Inn and Conference Center (ICC), North, University Crossing, Downtown)
Ridership: There were three people on my trip, while on the return, the bus got no one. Despite the Yellow North Line directly paralleling the 20, everyone chose to ride the 20 instead of this, even though the UMass bus left first. I guess UMass students have as low of a tolerance as I do for awful old school buses!
Pros: It connects UMass North to the ICC, and this time, it’s actually UMass running the route. Better than the 20, I guess…
Cons: The bus. The bus. THE BUS! It is so awful – I can’t even describe how much I never ever want to see, let alone ride, one of these things again. That’s the route’s most glaring problem, but it’s such a deal-breaker! This thing is more toxic than Back Bay Track 1!
Nearby and Noteworthy: Downtown Lowell, but if you wanted to use this to get there from the station, you would have to transfer from the Yellow South Line. After 7. GEEZ, I can’t get over how stupid that is!
Final Verdict: 2/10
I would say this is better than the 20, only because it’s actually operated by UMass. The LRTA should have no business trying to run the exact same route. That being said, I cannot express enough how terrible this bus is! It’s bad enough that I would rather walk the whole route than ride it. I’m sorry, UMass Lowell – clearly, your shuttle situation is miserable…
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Hold it. The bus is more toxic than BACK BAY?!!!
As a student at UML who’s been there since fall 2016, I feel like I can provide some insight into why things are the way they are with this route, and possibly the rest of the system.
So UML is divided into 3 main campuses; North, South, and East, with a few other buildings owned by the university elsewhere in the city, and there are about 6 different routes in the campus shuttle system connecting the campuses and other buildings. Those 6 routes are RED from East to South, BLUE from North to South, ORANGE from North to East, PURPLE from North to the off-campus commuter lot for North Campus majors, YELLOW NORTH between the ICC and North, as Miles reviewed in this post, and YELLOW SOUTH, from the ICC to South Campus. RED, ORANGE, and YELLOW run during night shifts (7pm to 2:30am) connecting East Campus to South, North, and the ICC/Downtown, respectively.
During the day, RED, BLUE, ORANGE, and YELLOW NORTH are run with 40ft buses, some with inward facing seats like a subway car (usually RED & BLUE), others just a wrapped school bus (usually ORANGE & YELLOW NORTH). Everything else is run with minibuses. Students employed by the Transportation Services are able to drive the minibuses, and frequently do, but the 40ft buses have to be contracted out to the company responsible for operating school buses in the city, NRT. The minibuses and inward-facing 40-footers are quite nice in comparison to the wrapped school buses.
The whole reason why LRTA Route 20 exists has everything to do with the campus shuttle system: in 2017, UML sold the apartment complex on East Meadow Lane in Pawtucketville in exchange for buying the Lofts at Perkins Park between the East Campus quad and the Tsongas Center (now known as River Hawk Village), and in response, Transpo tweaked the shuttle routes by eliminating the GREEN LINE NORTH and SOUTH from East Meadow to their respective campus, and adding an East to North route, and since more North Campus majors would be living in the new building than South Campus majors, they decided on running 40ft buses on the new route, designated the ORANGE LINE. Unfortunately, since NRT only has a limited number of buses used for UML, the LRTA steps in with Route 20, which is just a supplementary service to the YELLOW NORTH.
Unfortunately, because of the LRTA’s restrictions, UML’s shuttles aren’t allowed to serve the train station until after 7. It’s ridiculous, I don’t understand it, but whatever; the LRTA lets us ride for free with our ID cards, so it’s not that big of an inconvenience, I guess.
Miles, if you’re reading this, hopefully I provided more context to the insanity you encountered when reviewing this route.
Thank you so much for the information!