Sam and I barely made the 42! We ran and ran and ran and we couldn’t find a stop, so we just kept going down Southbridge Street until finally, we came across the strangest bus stop in Worcester:


Goodness, the 558 is longer than I thought! Yeah, I have no idea why there’s an MBTA stop sign way out in Worcester, but this is where we got our bus. It was time to begin the 42’s journey down to Webster, which is at the Connecticut border. Oh yeah, it’s a long-distance route.

Here it is!

We were in an industrial area for a bit, but it morphed into houses and suburban businesses after we went under a railroad bridge. Our next bridge to duck under was I-290, and the road briefly split into one-way sections – we zoomed around the interchange with the highway. On the other side, it was once again industrial for the most part.

For lease!

We entered Auburn, but the industry continued as the quality of the road itself deteriorated. There was a stretch where it felt woodsy, but we soon burst out into a land of suburban businesses and the Auburn High School. We deviated into the Auburn Mall for a bit, then we came back onto Southbridge Street, still lined with suburban businesses.

Some stuff beyond the mall parking lot…

In a mess of highway interchanges, we went under I-90, I-290, and an interchange going to I-90. There was more suburban retail all the while, including as we turned onto Route 20, although it was still called Southbridge Street. We had been running with the 29, another long-distance route, this whole time, but we finally split off from it by turning onto Main Street next to a Walmart.

This looks nice!

Now in Oxford, we entered our first real residential area. However, the neighborhoods were all on side roads, while we just zoomed past them on Main Street. There was a short section with a post office, a field, and a fire station, but it was a lot less charming than that all sounds. From there, it was more or less back to being all houses, but there were a few sections of woods as well.

A side road.

We passed the Oxford Middle School and some businesses, but it was primarily, yes, still houses. They started to get denser, though, and Main Street became more walkable and charming. This culminated in Oxford Center, which was…really anticlimactic. It was just a burst of a few buildings and businesses.

South of the center.

There were more charming dense houses afterward, but as we got further from the center, the charm was gone. We went under a single railroad track, and the buildings along the road from there were a mix of everything. The street became Worcester Road as we entered Webster, and soon after that we passed a small shopping plaza named after the town.

Some houses on a parallel road.

After two cemeteries, we reached some suburban businesses and turned onto East Main Street. This was a mix of more retail and dense houses, with a bit of an industrial flair as we turned onto South Main Street. This led us into Webster Center, where we used Davis Street to loop around to the final stop of the route.

“Beautiful” Webster Center.

Now, of course WRTA has it’s “YOU CAN’T RIDE AROUND” policy, and this route runs every two hours…so Sam and I now had two hours to spend in Webster Center. We passed the time by:

  • Visiting the Providence and Worcester Railfan Club Museum, which consisted of two traincars that could not be interacted with in any way
  • Walking into nearby Dudley, just to enter a new town we’ve never heard of
  • Traversing the length of the famous “Webster Riverwalk,” which took approximately two minutes
  • Eating some surprisingly good pizza at a place called Northeast Pizza, which may very well not exist anymore because it doesn’t have Webster on its list of locations.
The Riverwalk in its entirety.
The trip we took back was the 7:50, and there’s something very special about this trip: the last inbound on Saturdays only is an express to Worcester. This is the only express trip on the 42, barring an outbound one at 5:25 on weekdays that isn’t on the highway for as long. Needless to say, we were excited.
The bus we got from Worcester.

 The beginning of the ride was just retreading our steps down South and East Main Streets. Rather than going up to Worcester Road, though, we continued a little further to enter an interchange with I-395! The driver turned off the lights, and the only scenery from the highway was pure woods. It was AWESOME.

“Express.” BAM!

Once the highway became I-290, we could see a few buildings in the Auburn Mall complex beyond the trees. It was woods again from there, basically all the way until we took Exit 11 onto good ol’ Southbridge Street. We went through that industrial area where we originally got on the outbound bus, then it was a right onto the wide Francis J. McGrath Boulevard. This led us to the Central Hub, ending a 25-minute trip that would have taken an hour if it had been a local run.

Nothing but the harsh glow of the orange sign…

WRTA Route: 42 (Union Station Hub – Oxford – Webster via Southbridge Street and Route 12)

Ridership: The 42’s overall ridership is lower than the averages, getting a total of 268 people per weekday and 118 per Saturday. However, considering that it has so few trips, the 42’s ridership is actually decent – it gets around 22 weekday passengers per hour, meaning about that many per one-way trip. On Saturdays, the average is 16, but it still shows that the route is important to a sizable amount of people per trip. The express ride only got one other person, but then again, I was surprised it got anyone at all!
Pros: This is a really useful long-distance route! Webster seems like it has a large population that relies on the bus, and the 42 is the one transit connection from there to Worcester. Also, the express trip on Saturdays is amazing!
Cons: Every two hours?? Wow, that’s a real bummer if you miss one. I understand the reasoning for having the route be so infrequent (it’s long), but that’s an awful frequency. Also, considering that something like two out of the eighteen people on my ride got off at Oxford, I wonder if more Webster express trips are warranted. That would allow for more frequent service down there, and it seems like that town needs it more than Oxford does.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Well, assuming it exists, there’s Northeast Pizza! And the two-minute Webster Riverwalk! Yeah, Webster isn’t too exciting…
Final Verdict: 6/10
How could a route that comes every two hours get higher than a 6? The 42 is very important, but that kind of frequency is really bad. Maybe other trips get more people in Oxford, but if the ridership there really is as low as it looked like, maybe trips running in the “peak” direction could run express to Auburn Mall. That would allow for 90-minute service, which still isn’t great, but it’s better than every two hours!

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