Schedules have been released! It’s Better Bus Part 2! We’ve got some brand-new routes; we’ve got some cut routes; and we’ve got a myriad of little schedule changes in between the big ones that don’t really matter but that I still have to talk about anyway! Let’s go! These changes will come into effect on December 22nd. Also, changes marked with a * will be ones that were marketed under Better Bus.

SL1: The Silver Line Waterfront routes have all experienced a rejiggering of headways, improving service at some times and lowering it at others. It’s never a difference of more than two minutes – for the SL1, times that benefit are weekday middays, Saturday mornings, and Sundays; times that lose out are weeknights and Saturday afternoons.

SL2: All buses will now circle the Design Center in the outbound direction, finally reducing this really confusing route to just one variant. Also, headway adjustments: winners are morning rush and losers are weekday afternoons, evening rush, weeknights, and Saturdays (that last one offering a horrible 16-minute headway – oof). That’s a lot of losers.

SL3: Looks like headways are down across the board on weekdays, but weekends get minor improvements. Of particular note, Saturday afternoon service goes from every 15 minutes to every 12!

SLW: This runt of the Silver Line Waterfront service will be running every 6 minutes at rush hour instead of every 8.

SL4: Okay, this route is getting ridiculous. Aside from weeknights, mid-mornings on weekdays, and the evening rush, which improve slightly, this route is seeing some service cuts that make it that much less useful. Every 16 minutes (“or less”) on Sundays? Every 17 minutes (“or less”) on Saturday afternoons? There’s now a brief period around when school lets out on weekdays that the route runs every 18 minutes! Bus rapid transit indeed…

SL5: Saturdays get a small boost, but all other times stay the same or get a small cut.

7: Saturday night service will be every 40 minutes instead of every 50.

8: A school trip was eliminated.

14: Some time shifts on weekdays bring a little bit more sense to the route’s departure times. However, perhaps in an effort to simplify the route (or maybe because the trip was so short that it didn’t get any ridership), every short-turn trip from Dudley to Heath Street has been eliminated. This means the loss of one trip on weeknights and a few on Saturday mornings (with the latter being replaced by a new round trip on the full route). A pretty sensible small change.

19: We don’t get the crazy full-time-to-Ruggles idea originally floated in the Better Bus proposals, but we do get a couple of tiny morning rush time shifts and a departure time change for the route’s two school trips from Townsend and Warren.

21: The 21 continues to be the poster child for the idea that hey, the MBTA can improve service! This route’s weekday service just keeps getting better, with slightly more frequent morning rush service and a night schedule that goes from every 30 minutes to every 20! The same success just can’t be had on weekends, though, where despite two new trips on Saturdays, one new trip on Sundays, and time shifts across the board, the service remains awful.

23: Some tiny changes to school trips.

24: Minor time shifts, most notably heading outbound from Mattapan.

26: Aw, this is like finding a little cherry in your Christmas stocking: one new trip has been added on Saturday nights, with closer headways to accommodate.

28: Wow, this is a wake-up call to the fact that early-morning service on the 28 is kinda bad. Throughout the 5 AM hour, weekday service will now be every 10 minutes instead of every 20, and Saturday service will be every 20 minutes instead of every 25! Weeknight service remains every 15 minutes until 10 PM now (previously 9 PM), although weekend night service takes a tiny hit, going from every 17 minutes to every 20.

29: Weekday outbound night service loses a trip; a previously non-school afternoon trip from Ruggles will now be school days only; and Saturday inbound times get shifted a bit.

31: Oh thank goodness, this route can return to the 10/10 score it rightfully deserves. Saturday night service will now be every 20 minutes instead of every 30, and Sunday service goes from every 21 minutes (UGH) to its rightful headway of every 20. Weeknights get a tiny cut and Sunday service is still a bit rough near the tail end of service, but I think this route has faithfully returned to its former glory.

32: A few school trips are lost or shifted, and there are some small running time changes at rush hour. Sunday service increases from every 15 minutes to every 12, though – nice!

*34/34E: Oh my gosh, we’ve finally made it to an actual Better Bus change…and it’s one that has evolved (?) a lot since it was originally proposed. We were going to see new service to Legacy Place, the elimination of the Walpole Street variant on the 34E, and even a combination of the two numbers to eliminate all that confusion. But none of those ended up happening – we do at least get 34 service to Dedham Mall in lieu of the 34E, saving a ton of deviation time on the latter.

What does this mean for service? Not a ton, actually, but it’s coordinated decently to be every 15-ish minutes on the combined section on weekdays (well…going outbound, anyway – inbound is often messy). Weekends are all over the place, aside from some nice reverse-peak every-20-minute coordination on Sundays.

35: Lots of time shifts: they don’t seem to make a ton of difference on weekdays or Saturdays, besides making for a nicer-looking evening rush and revealing some all-over-the-place headways on Saturdays. Sundays get a boost, though, with a new 40-minute headway instead of hourly.

*36: The Better Bus elimination of the Charles River Loop (which didn’t even fully do it – some early-morning and school trips will still go there) frankly does very little to change service: the schedules are all pretty much the same, with time shifts that don’t do much to make them any easier to follow. I mean, it’s great that the VA Hospital gets more service now, but you can’t say (indeed, the T doesn’t) that eliminating a variant has made the route more simple when your weekday schedule still looks like this:

*37: Okay, the elimination of all non-school Corey and LaGrange trips has really helped to make this schedule easier to follow. Time shifts help to keep departures a lot more even than they were before, too. Let’s all say a solemn goodbye, though, to those weird Saturday-morning 37/38 trips – they’ve been eliminated once and for all.

38: …and replaced with regular 38 trips. Sure makes the schedule less confusing!

39: Looks like general headway improvements here! Nothing more than a few minutes, but every little bit counts.

42: Minor time shifts on weekdays and Saturday mornings. Sunday service drops from every 50 minutes to every hour – ostensibly a cut, but at least the schedule will be easier to follow.

45: Weekday time shifts.

50: A few time shifts going inbound on weekday mornings, and the 8:25 PM 40/50 on Saturdays will now leave at 8:30.

51: Time shifts on weekdays and Saturdays.

*52: Better Bus eliminated every alternate routing of the 52. It doesn’t change the schedule beyond some time shifts, but it sure is nice to look at how much cleaner the schedule is now.

*64: Better Bus gave us two changes here, one of which I’m on board with and one of which I’m skeptical of. The good one is the elimination of the Hobart Street jog near Oak Square, which involved tiny streets and really slowed down buses. The one I’ll need convincing on is the all-day (on weekdays) extension to Kendall Square – will there really be a ton of people going from Brighton to Kendall at 11 AM on a Tuesday? And if so, would the Red Line really be so crowded at that time that they couldn’t just transfer at Central? And I was at least excited that the route would supposedly run down Main Street, offering new service on a road that feels like it should have a bus route, but nope, that fell through – it’ll just do Prospect Street to Broadway instead. As expected, this extension results in a drop in weekday frequency, from every 40 minutes to every 45 (the elimination of the Hobart Street jog probably helped keep that service loss to a minimum). If the Kendall Square extension gets ridership, consider me proven wrong – I’m just doubtful.

69: Time shifts, but nothing seems major. There will be a new 1 AM trip from Harvard to Lechmere on weekdays and Saturdays, though.

*70/70A: Okay! The 70A has been completely relegated to a simple loop around Waltham and renumbered to the 61! And all Cedarwood trips outside of rush hour have been cut! Surely, after all these years, the 70 has finally been simplified and fixed!!!! Wait…why are the outbound headways every 15 minutes, except for a 25-minute gap every four trips? Why is the Sunday service every 23 minutes? Why does the night service have a 27-minute gap, followed by a 33-minute gap, followed by a 45-minute gap, followed by a 40-minute gap, followed by a 20-minute gap? Why does the 61 just leave whenever it wants, with no semblance of consistent headway? Okay, I give up, the 70 is unsalvageable. Kill it with fire.

No, but credit where credit is due: rush hour headways on the 70 are really well-coordinated to be every 10 minutes in the peak direction (granted, it’s a route with strong ridership in both directions, but oh well); Saturday service is a fairly reliable every 13-18 minutes for most of the day; and the 61…er…exists. No, I’m sorry, I have nothing good to say about the 61. The schedule is seriously all over the place, ranging from gaps of 25 minutes to gaps of 71. At least the 70 is frequent enough that connections are rarely long in Waltham (not that there’s any effort to coordinate the timings there), but going the other way will be maddening. I can see North Waltham losing riders simply because if your 70 from Cambridge is late, you may be stuck waiting 56 (or 58, or 53, or whatever other strange gap you may encounter) minutes until the next 61.

So…definitely a mixed bag here. The 70 schedule, while still a mess, is the best it’s been since, I dunno, 1942? Sunday service to North Waltham is wonderful. But the 61 is really all over the place, and the fact that the 70 will still be really unreliable may mean a drop in ridership from Cambridge – I certainly would be worried to risk missing my connection.

*71/73: The 71 and 73 are being reverted to their pre-Harvard Busway construction schedules, meaning some minor changes in headway, sometimes more frequent and sometimes less. Most notably, Sunday service on both routes will go from every 20 minutes to every 17. Also, because of the 72’s conversion to peak-only, peak direction-only service (more on that in a sec), the 71 will gain some reverse-peak short-turn trips from Harvard Square to Aberdeen Ave. It definitely won’t be confusing how those trips will go to Aberdeen, a place where the regular 71/73 don’t actually stop. It also won’t be confusing that inbound short-turns will end at Eliot Street @ Bennett Street, rather than the Harvard Busway. And the 71/73 corridor definitely needs more reverse-peak service, what with its empty reverse peak buses running every two seconds. Yeah, I’m not super keen on this…more service is great, but it might be better to just run these trips out of service.

*72/74/75/78: Okay, I think this one wins the Better Bus Project. If you’re looking for an MBTA corridor where improved service is desperately needed, this really ain’t it. But if you’re looking for the corridor that, as a result of a Better Bus change, has seen the greatest improvement, here it is. I guess the optics on that may be questionable, but let’s see what these changes are anyway…

So the 72 has been relegated to peak-only service while the 75 has been shifted to Huron Ave to serve it at all other times (as a result of this, the former 72/75 designation will be eliminated). This fairly minor change (only the 72’s tiny portion on Aberdeen Ave will be eliminated, which has no place that’s more than a five-minute walk from the nearest stop), combined with the removal of the 74’s Bright Road jog, has resulted in a huge frequency increase for the 74/75 to Belmont. On a corridor where service used to be every 60-70 minutes on each route (for a combined 30-35 minute frequency), coordinated buses will now run every 15 minutes to Belmont, six days a week. On weeknights, it’ll be at least every 20 until 11:30 PM! That is insane! Saturday nights and Sundays remain on the every 40-45 minute schedule that exists now, but the service improvement on weekdays and Saturdays is unheard of. Now the MBTA just has to do an improvement like that for a corridor that actually, um, gets decent ridership!

But maybe (hopefully) the service improvement will get more Belmont people to ride the bus. On a system where bus resources are so limited, this kind of “let’s provide frequent service to the wealthy suburbs and hope people use it!” mentality seems ill-advised, but like I said, this change wins the Better Bus Project as far as sheer improvement goes. Oh, also, the 78’s schedule has been changed (headways are similar to before, if slightly improved) to supposedly coordinate better with the 74 on Concord Ave – it works okay on weekdays, but on Saturdays there’s no attempt at all.

77: The 77 returns to its normal, non-Harvard Busway construction schedule, meaning some minor headway improvements. Also: 77As are back! Rejoice!

80: Some time shifts at night, but no change in the number of trips. On weekdays, buses will leave at more rational times.

83: Noooooo, the convenient hourly weeknight schedule that I had memorized is no more! It’ll be every 50 minutes now. Ditto for Sundays, which had previously (bizarrely) been every 62 minutes.

86: It seems like the MBTA’s goal with the often busy 86 is to squeeze the schedule out for all it’s worth, clockface headways be darned. Weekdays just get time shifts, but they manage to wriggle out some extra trips on weekends by scrunching up the departure times.

87: Some squeezing, some stretching, and a general disregard for a clean schedule. Weekday and Saturday nights gain a trip and weekday middays see slightly improved service (with the loss of nice 30-minute headways, replaced with a bus every, uh, 28-30 minutes), but the morning rush has to be stretched a bit, resulting in the loss of a few trips. Time shifts occur at all other times, too.

88: A similar boat as the 87: lots of time shifts, some stretching in both rushes, and a general loss of clockface.

89: The morning rush loses a bit of service, probably for timekeeping reasons, but I’m seeing a general effort to better coordinate the Clarendon Hill trips in the peak direction – headways during those times are more even now. Lots of time shifts in the midday in what seems like general stretching to keep buses on time.

93: The first outbound trip on weekdays will leave at 5:10 AM instead of 5:03.

96: Just changes in the arrival times at Harvard to reflect the reopening of the bus tunnel, as well as running time changes to weekend morning outbound trips. Also, the last trip on weekdays will be scheduled to leave ten minutes later.

116/117: Some minor time shifts here and there. Most 117 Haymarket trips will now run in service to or from West Lynn Garage, though, which is kinda nice.

120: They’ve squeezed out another trip in the morning rush and also added a school day short-turn from Orient Heights to Maverick. The last trip of the night will leave a few minutes earlier.

170: The morning trips will be scheduled to take ten minutes faster.

*201/202: Alright, for those people who keep yelling and screaming that the Better Bus Project is just a series of service cuts disguised as improvements, this one’s for you: it’s literally just a service cut. They’re getting rid of weekend service to North Quincy, allowing them to provide “more consistent 201 service.” What they don’t tell you is that they’re completely cutting the 202 on weekends, reducing every 20-25 minute Saturday service to every…32-34. Oh yeah, real consistent. Sunday headways are unaffected, although everything will be a 201 now. Meanwhile, time shifts aplenty on weekdays, making the schedule way more confusing. Admittedly, these routes get low ridership, so hopefully the cut service has gone toward an improvement somewhere else.

210: Some time shifts on weekday afternoons.

214/216: Please! Stop changing these routes! They keep getting worse! Minor time shifts on weekdays and Sundays don’t matter, but for the love of all that is good and holy, why would you change the Saturday schedule from every 20 minutes to alternating 10-30 minute headways??!?!?!?!?!?? That is so bad!

*220/221/222: The Better Bus changes here involve cutting the little-used Hingham Center loop from most 220 trips (it’ll be rush hour only now) and eliminating the Essex Street variant on the 222. While these cuts serve to simplify the service, the schedule itself is as messy as ever, albeit with lots of time changes – indeed, it actually gets more confusing on Saturdays, with awful coordination in the inbound direction. At least nights and Sundays get coordinated better.

*225: Ooh, this is a really good one. Firstly, and most notably, all Columbian Square trips on the 225 have been replaced by a new route 226 that will go between there and Braintree Station. It’ll run about every half hour at rush hour and every hour middays and Saturdays, dramatically improving service to Columbian Square. Also, I’m just excited that this is legitimately a brand new route (the 61 is basically just a 70A replacement, but the 226 will travel over new streets)! Meanwhile, the 225 has been shaved down to just two variants (thank goodness), and its schedule is so much more beautifully simple than it was before: every 15 minutes at rush hour, every 30 minutes middays and Saturdays, and every hour nights and Sundays. They did a really good job here.

230: Weird time shifts throughout the weekday that make the bus leave at less pleasing times.

236: The weekday midday schedule goes from every hour to every 70 minutes, and the evening rush gets stretched out from every 30 minutes to about every 40. Ouch!

238: Weekday inbound trips will be scheduled to take about 15 minutes longer – they must’ve really been arriving late.

*350: This is likely the most divisive of the Better Bus changes, and for good reason – if a transit agency eliminates the busiest stop on a route, people aren’t going to be happy! Yes, the MBTA is eliminating the stop at the Burlington Mall in order to extend the route to Northwest Park, a “lifestyle center” type place with a Wegmans. While Northwest Park is an area that would greatly benefit from transit service, I worry that the number of people who choose not to take the 350 to the mall anymore will be larger than the number of new riders attracted by the Northwest Park service – the mall really is the 350’s busiest stop besides Alewife. And of course, pedestrian facilities from the route’s new path on Mall Road to the mall itself are nonexistent. Extending the route means that there have been a lot of time shifts, although nothing affects the schedule; in fact, two new inbound trips in the evening rush have been added.

424: The 6:30 AM trip from Eastern and Essex will leave at 6:25 instead.

426: Some time shifts on weekday outbound service in the afternoon.

429: Four night trips, three on weekdays and one on Saturdays, will now omit Newcomb and Garfield Avenues.

435: The 5:45 PM trip on weekdays from Central Square to Peabody Square will be eliminated.

439: All 439 trips will now serve Point of Pines. There are some time shifts in the evening rush.

442: Time shifts at rush hour for more even spacing between buses.

455: Phew, they’ve cleaned up the weekday schedule: we’re much closer to clean half-hour headways now. Also, the last outbound trip on Saturdays will now leave from Wonderland instead of Central Square.

503: Nice! The 503 will get two new outbound trips and one new inbound trip in the evening rush, with associated time shifts to make the remaining headways more even.

And thus concludes the second and final phase of the Better Bus Project. While it has brought us a few great changes (and a few rougher ones), I’m not sure if this has really been the huge revolution it’s been set up to be. Some of the plans have been dramatically stripped back thanks to opposition, and others have been scrapped completely for the same reason. I might have to do another post at some point summing up my thoughts in more detail, because I have a lot of them. At any rate, it’s good to see the MBTA at least dipping its toes into the idea of making substantive changes to the bus network. I just hope a true redesign isn’t afraid to make sweeping changes, because aside from a few outliers, the ones here just weren’t that major.