Welcome back to the LRTA! I gotta say, we’ve got a pretty good route here with the 7. Could this be the best route on the system? Maybe!
We began, like all LRTA routes (well, except that which must not be named), at the Kennedy Center. From there, we meandered our way onto Thorndike Street, sailing through an underpass and over the Pawtucket Canal. Thorndike became Dutton, paralleling a canal with apartments and converted factories on the other side. Once Dutton Street ended, we turned onto Merrimack Street, passing Lowell City Hall and a library. The main part of downtown Lowell was in the other direction, though, so this was mostly apartments with a few businesses here and there.
There were more parking lots after we crossed a small canal, and the brick buildings became shingled triple-deckers. The street turned into University Ave when we went on a long bridge over the Merrimack River, and indeed, we were in UMass Lowell’s campus on the other side. While the campus heads north along the river, though, we stayed on University Ave, which quickly became residential.
We very nearly entered Dracut, but we turned onto Old Meadow Road to stay in Lowell. The houses had more space between them now, although they slowly got dense again as we turned onto Mammoth Road, then Woodward Ave. The street got pretty narrow, and our next street, Brookside Street, was even more so. Varnum Ave was a main road, though, but before we could get very far, we had to deviate to Lowell General Hospital, which was up on a hill.
Back on Varnum Ave, it was lots and lots of suburban houses…plus a few small apartment developments here and there that probably drive most of the 7’s ridership at this point. We passed a few businesses at the intersection with Totman Road and an nursing home a little later. A few bigger apartment developments and a farm showed up as we continued, but it was still mostly houses. At the very end of the route, we entered Tyngsborough and pulled over at the entrance to the Greater Lowell Technical High School. Oh, and a nearby house had chickens in its yard!
LRTA Route: LRTA: 7 (Pawtucketville/UMass Lowell North)
Ridership: The route commands a respectable 687 people per weekday, giving it the highest weekday ridership on the whole system. Saturday ridership is significantly lower at just 161 daily riders, but it is still the third-highest on the system.
Pros: The 7 serves a huge part of Lowell all to itself, which I think contributes to its high ridership. It has a fantastic weekday schedule with half-hourly service all day, from 6 AM to 7:30 PM (plus an additional trip at 9 PM). Saturday service drops to every hour, but that’s not horrible for an RTA, I guess. Finally, the route stays in Lowell for nearly the whole time, making it quite possibly the longest LRTA ride you can do while still paying the vastly cheaper “city” fare!
Cons: No Sunday service is sad. I know none of LRTA has Sunday service, but this is one of their routes that would really benefit from it. Also, all LRTA maps show the route as deviating to other parts of UMass via Aiken Street, but Google Maps, the scheduled times, and, er, my ride show that this isn’t true. Please change your maps, LRTA!
Nearby and Noteworthy: The Hawk Valley Farm looks like a great nature reserve, and it’s right along the route.
Final Verdict: 8/10
I looked through all my old LRTA reviews to see how they all stack up. Apparently I’ve given this system a lot of 8s! Geez, Miles, the system isn’t that good. But yes, the 7 does well and truly deserve an 8. The inconsistent maps are annoying, and I feel wary about giving any route without Sunday service anything higher than an 8, but this is a great route otherwise. Best on the LRTA? It just might be!
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Hey Jack Kerouak had a lot to say about Varnum Ave. I love the way you very nearly entered Dracut!