Argh, I completely screwed up my LRTA scheduling and ended up not being able to finish the system! I made it onto the 5, but alas, that left me with not enough time to do a run on the 4. This was all almost a year ago (daily reminder that I am very behind schedule), and I still have yet to return to Lowell to tackle the 4. Guess this’ll be my last LRTA post for a while…
At least for this one, I don’t have to talk about going up Thorndike Street, because the 5 has a pretty strange start to its route. We left the Kennedy Center and looped our way around onto Hale Street, which went over the Commuter Rail tracks. Next, we used Cambridge Street to get onto Chelmsford Street, which had pretty industrial scenery on one side but narrow side streets with houses and apartments on the other. We actually looped to an entrance to the Kennedy Center’s (er…”Gallagher Terminal’s”) parking lot, and here, we turned onto Westford Street.
Westford Street was a hodgepodge of dense houses and apartments, many with different architectural styles. There was some retail around the intersection with Pine Street, and from then on out, the houses were punctuated by businesses every now and again. Soon after a park, we reached a bit where, bizarrely, the outbound route (and only the outbound route) turns onto Pine Street, then Princeton Boulevard. This was just a suburban neighborhood, but we did go by a few apartments and a Market Basket when we turned onto Wood Street. If only this intersection wasn’t a four-minute walk from the inbound 5, as well as already directly served by the 17…
So we used Wood Street to rejoin the inbound route back on Westford Street, but wait, it was time for another outbound-only deviation! We took Carl Street to get to Technology Drive, which, as the name suggests, led us through an office park. The bus turned onto Research Place, taking us past an apartment complex and some niche medical buildings, then we hit a cul-de-sac and looped back around to return to Westford Street. It was just one final stretch of suburban businesses galore before we pulled into Drum Hill Plaza, the end of the route.
LRTA Route: 5 (Westford Street/Drum Hill)
Ridership: The route gets 573 riders per weekday and 166 per Saturday, which seems fine, until you remember that this route is really short. Yeah, this thing is super productive for an RTA, with an impressively low $2.19 per passenger subsidy (the LRTA average is $5.54). That makes it the best performing route on the system!
Pros: At 12-16 minutes in length, this thing is tiny, and that works in its favor. It provides a mostly direct service down an important street and serves a place where people want to go (Drum Hill Plaza). They run this thing frequently on weekdays, too, with service every half hour from 6 AM until almost 9 PM. Saturday service is okay for what it is, too – it’s every hour from 8 AM to 6 PM. Plus, come summer, the 5 (along with many other LRTA routes) will get Sunday service, which will run every hour from 10 to 5.
Cons: The outbound-only deviations are annoying. I don’t hate the industrial park one, since it does serve places that are kinda far from the main road, but I could do without the Princeton Boulevard one – all it really does is make the route more complicated.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Eh…Walmart? Hannaford? Not much.
Final Verdict: 7/10
I feel I’ve inflated my LRTA scores by giving too many routes 8s. This one is generally quite good, but I really don’t like Princeton Boulevard, and I’m not gonna give it the same score as the superior 7. Still, I like the 5 overall, and I think without the Princeton Boulevard deviation, it would easily get an 8. What a shame; what a shame; what a shame.
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