There have been too many openings this week! First the new Orange Line cars, and now, after a year and a half of Yankee shuttles, Wollaston has finally reopened. If you don’t feel like reading the whole post, I’ll just say that it’s a great station and a huge improvement over the old one. For those who want more information, read on!
Throughout the MBTA’s cannibalization of the South Shore parking lots, Wollaston has always remained open. But because you can now get a train from here instead of having to ride a coach bus shuttle, the T has raised the rates – a fairly reasonable $6 a day, with a $3 discounted rate on weekends and a $105 monthly pass. The lot has a hefty 403 spaces, with good sidewalks and foliage throughout. The access road interestingly features a bike lane that even loops around the drop-off area, perfect for dropping off your tandem bicycle friend!
Or if you’re like most normal people, you’ll probably be parking your bike. Like the old station, the new Wollaston features a Pedal & Park with plenty of space for cycles (100 spots), but it’s not open yet. The “Tap Charlie Card [sic] here” sign just points to nothing at the moment! A few people just parked their bikes next to the chain-link fence surrounding the facility. Once it opens up, you’ll be able to park in there for up to 14 days at a time!
The drop-off area is super well-stocked with benches. There are a few sheltered ones and a few out in the open, but it seems like you’ll generally have a place to sit while you’re waiting to be picked up. The station entrances from here use fancy automatic sliding doors!
While the parking lot side of the station feels pretty suburban, the Newport Ave entrance is right next to a block of businesses. The doors were propped open when I was here, but there was a door-open button in case they end up closed. There was a ramp here for accessibility, but they’re on a side of the entrance that’s currently useless thanks to the roadwork on Newport Ave, which requires you to head back to the inaccessible side to get anywhere. At least it seems like they’ve tried to flood-proof the area more than the old station…thank goodness.
Oh, but Wollaston has bus connections over here! Yes, you can connect to the rather infrequent 211, and the practically nonexistent 217. For such limited connections, I guess I would expect the stops to be less-than-great, but they really are bad. Getting to them requires walking a few blocks down Newport Ave, which goes up a hill, and both of the stops are signs. One of them only announces the Wollaston Shuttle (which was just a sticker over the usual “no parking” bus stop sign), while the other only has the 217. Yikes.
But back to the good stuff. Both of the entrances lead into Wollaston’s huge mezzanine, which runs underneath the elevated Red Line platform. The number of faregates is impressive, and four fare machines is suitable, especially when there’s a second set of them that we’ll get to. This is big and spacious, easily capable of handling rush hour traffic. It also has plenty of drainage in case of flooding. There is one minor design flaw, though…
So, there’s just this random exit door in the middle of one of the fare lines. It’s nice for emergencies, of course, but…it’s just this weird door that connects to nothing. It’s not high enough to touch the ceiling, and it’s not wide enough to touch the faregates. It kinda feels like it came from the Monsters Inc door factory or something. And of course, if you’re skinny enough, you can in fact slip through. Might want to do something about that.
This main mezzanine is by far the most efficient way to get to the train. Since it’s right under the platform, you can go straight up there from either of the entrances. Note, though, that only one of them has an elevator, and the other is just stairs – it could be a good idea to have signage reflecting that. All of the elevators at Wollaston are glass and fast and beautiful!
The second mezzanine is right by the parking lot entrance and it’s a lot smaller…as it should be, which we’ll discuss soon. This is where the station’s customer service booth is, cleverly placed between fare control and the outside world. Unfortunately, accessing it from outside of fare control requires climbing a set of stairs. Someone in a wheelchair could maybe tap on the window from the ramp that wraps around the booth, but hopefully whichever agent occupies it is willing to get up and help if that situation comes up.
Once you enter the station at this mezzanine, you get a couple of extra goodies under the stairs. Firstly (and just barely visible in the photo above) is a water fountain, and I was so happy to see it. Not only is it a water fountain in a T station, but it’s a bottle-filling water fountain in a T station! And it had already dispensed the equivalent of 91 plastic bottles! The water pressure was high, making it hard to drink from, but still – there are not enough water fountains on the T. This was amazing to see.
And we also have bathrooms here! It’s a single stall each for men and women, but be careful: they don’t lock. Use them at your own risk, or bring a friend to keep watch. While the bathrooms were fairly clean, a bit of strange liquid on the floor and the paper towel dispensers having their contents on top of them instead of inside made me think that their quality will degrade quickly. The women’s room had a dispenser for feminine products, but it was empty and probably will remain empty the vast majority of the time (also, I should note that this reporting came from my female friend, not me – my station sleuthing isn’t that crazy).
But why did I call this mezzanine inferior to the other one? Because it’s so much more annoying to get to the train this way! You have to climb stairs or ride the elevator (or use an escalator – the only ones in the station are here) up to a bridge, cross the inbound track, and go down again to get to the platform. I think people will very quickly realize that this is a much longer path, and it’ll end up being much less used than the other one. Still, it does provide redundant elevators to the main one, and I think that’s a big reason why they built this bridge in the first place.
Wollaston’s platform is just gorgeous. It’s super bright when it’s dark outside thanks to the piercing LED lights, and there’s always plenty of space to wait. Plenty of seating space is offered, from an enclosed waiting area at one end of the platform to benches perched underneath the almost entirely sheltered platform. A currently-unused inspector’s booth sits near the south end. Sure, there are a few signage quirks, like some bugs on the LED screens that are being worked out, a single MBTA map with more faded colors than all the others, and bus connections maps that don’t show the 211’s alternate routing on Sundays that doesn’t actually serve Wollaston (that’s also being fixed), but aside from those small things, this platform is near-flawless.
Ridership: I’m sure it’ll go up now that the shuttle’s gone! When last we checked in with our good pal Wolly, it was one of the lower-ridership stops on the T and among the lowest on the Red Line, with 4,624 daily riders. That was back in 2013, though – I’m sure a lot has changed in six years, and the newness of the station could draw in new people. I don’t think it’ll ever be more than a local neighborhood stop, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Pros: Oh man, where to start? The beautiful building? The spacious platforms with lots of amenities? The spotless mezzanine that flows fantastically? The bottle-filling water fountain? There is so much to love here!
Cons: All small complaints: a few passenger information bugs, the inaccessible-outside-of-fare-control CSA booth, the bad bus stops, and (of course) the bathrooms’ inability to lock. I’m also not a fan of that bridge since it’s a way longer route than the main way, but it does exist for a reason, so I can’t be too upset about it. If the main elevator breaks down, people can still use the bridge ones.
Nearby and Noteworthy: There’s a huge Asian community around Wollaston, so you can expect to find a lot of great restaurants around here. There are a few on Newport Ave, but the “downtown” for Wollaston is up Beale Ave a little bit. There’s a ton of stuff to eat there, and from many different parts of Asia. Also, shout-out to the original “Nearby and Noteworthy” section from the original review, where all I said was “The beach, I suppose.” This blog has come a long way, folks.
Final Verdict: 9/10
I really didn’t like the old station – it got a 3, and I stand by that. It was ugly, it wasn’t accessible, and it encompassed some of the worst aspects of brutalism. But this new one? This is awesome. I mean, we’ll have to see how it fares during a heavy rain, but I love this place. I know it has flaws, but I also tend to be a lot more scrutinizing with brand new stations – the pros WAY outweigh the cons here. And now the Red Line is fully accessible! Oh wait…the elevators at Central and Andrew are both out of service for long-term repairs. Wellll…we’re getting there. This station is still fantastic.
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