Wow, they’ve cut the Logan Expresses back even more since the last time I wrote about one of these (which was…twenty years ago? Something like that). I mean, it makes sense though – right now the only state we Massachusettsans can even visit without quarantining when we come back is Hawaii, and…oh, there is actually a nonstop flight that does that. Geez, that must be miserable, huh? Well, anyway, my point is that very few people are flying right now, but we’re not gonna let that stop us from looking at the Braintree Logan Express!
The Logan Express terminal in Braintree is announced by this big wacky sign that dates back to when the facility was a drive-in theater – you can actually still see one of the screens at the edge of the parking lot. It’s a big lot that costs $7 a day to park in, although given how busy this route got pre-COVID, it seems like it would regularly fill up. The terminal is well-located (for cars at least), situated close to Exit 6 on I-93 – for me, who walked from the South Shore Plaza, it was decidedly not well-located.
As deceptive as the decrepit sign outside is, the terminal itself is actually quite nice. It’s located inside the old concessions building for the drive-in, but it’s been completely redone, with rows of airport seats, a few with outlets. Wastebaskets, recycling bins, a ticket office, and vending machines (including one that makes coffee!) round out the amenities in the main area. I’m also amused by a courtesy phone for a nearby Hyatt – perhaps they run a guest shuttle here? Finally, while the bathrooms themselves are fine, they’re located in an odd back hallway area.
The terminal review was complete, and it was time to hop on the bus! With a bunch of people on board, we pulled out onto Forbes Road, which parallels I-93 and the suburban development surrounding it (office parks, business hotels, and parking lots). We turned onto Granite Street across from the South Shore Plaza, but we spent just a few seconds on this wide road before heading onto the highway ramp to I-93.
The highway swung north at its interchange with Route 3, and it proceeded to run through the suburbia of Quincy, often separated by a layer of trees. I-93 got a bit more up close and personal with the neighborhood in East Milton Square, where it briefly burrowed beneath the commercial center in a short tunnel. Running through a marsh after that, we travelled alongside the Neponset River for a bit, going by a few Red Line stations in the process.
The highway went past the South Bay Center mall as we got closer to Boston, and soon the bus pulled off onto the separate express lane to the airport. With the Boston skyline looming closer, the lane suddenly dipped beneath the elevated highway, running between the two sets of tracks that run into South Station before entering a tunnel. Weirdly, the tunnel ran separately from the directly parallel I-90 tube, so we didn’t properly merge on until I-90’s short outdoor section in the Seaport District. It was definitely short though – we were back underground in the Ted Williams Tunnel in seconds. In classic Logan Express fashion, I wanted to go all the way to Terminal E, so once we came out of the tunnel in the airport, I stayed on until the VERY end.
Route: Braintree Logan Express
Ridership: I was surprised to find out that this is the busiest route on the Logan Express system (740,000 annual riders, or around 2,027 per day), but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it – this is the only Logan Express route that runs south, and the terminal is on the driving route from a bunch of places (Providence, New Bedford, the Cape, etc.). No wonder it’s the busiest one!
Pros: Like the other Logan Express routes, this essentially acts as a shuttle from a parking lot in the suburbs that’s cheaper than going to the airport itself. And since this is the busiest one, it’s arguably doing its job the best! The amenities within the terminal are good for what they are, and pre-pandemic, this thing had some excellent frequencies: every 20 minutes on weekdays and every half hour on weekends, with some really impressive service spans to boot (2 AM to 11 PM inbound!). It’s every hour now, but I’m sure they’ll improve it once people start flying again.
Cons: Why does Framingham, the second busiest Logan Express route, get a big fancy terminal with a massive parking garage when all this one gets is a lot? I’m not usually into adding more parking, but in this case, the service is pretty explicitly designed for car users, and I don’t think the current setup is enough.
Nearby and Noteworthy: You can use the Framingham Express to get to the Natick Mall; I suppose you could use the Braintree Express to get to the South Shore Plaza? Or just, like, the 236 or 238 for much cheaper. There’s not much around the Braintree terminal…
Final Verdict: 7/10
Yeah, I actually think this one is worse than the Framingham one! Even though it gets higher ridership, it doesn’t have the facilities to actually support that ridership – the pandemic would be a great time to close one of the lots and build a garage. Of course, we have no idea what the future looks like, do we? Maybe there’s not going to be a market for a Logan Express even after we get a widespread vaccine. Well…this is why I’m glad I’m in the transit industry rather than the aviation industry!
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