Print posts are back! Er…kind of. As you probably know, I’ve exclusively been making YouTube videos for the past 3 months or so, and it’s been a ton of fun! Lots of people has been watching and the channel has been growing, and that’s been really exciting to see – thank you for sticking with me during this new phase of the blog.
But there’s been something missing…I miss the thrill of crossing bus routes and train stations off a list. I mean, this blog was built on doing bus and station reviews, and I feel like I’ve been neglecting that by doing videos full-time. So I decided to try something new: a combination of videos and print posts. What you see below is a short scripted review video, followed by the script itself that I wrote up. It’s a new type of video content for me, but I really enjoyed making it and I’m excited to share it with you all! I was thinking that these videos would not replace typical Wednesday uploads – those will still be the regular fun adventure ones (although I missed this Wednesday because of a family trip, and I’m really sorry about that). And to keep the channel from getting too cluttered, the videos will be released as unlisted, accessible only from the blog, but I’ll keep a playlist of these video reviews on the channel too.
My guinea pig for this experiment is the Newton Connection RailBus, a route that pretty much everyone agrees was a bad idea and will likely be eliminated soon. You know, a good way to test the waters on this type of thing. So, to recap, the video will feature the same script as the text below, but with visual content (obviously). If you’re only looking for a review, though, you can just read the text. I dunno, we’ll see how this goes! Please give me feedback, because this is very much an experiment and I want to know if it works. Would you rather see the old style of print posts? Is the video more engaging than just a print post? Should I do a mix of both? Thanks for watching and/or reading, and let me know what you think!
The Newton Connection RailBus is the MBTA’s newest bus route, and it’s…weird. It was created because the three Newton stations on the Worcester Line – Newtonville, West Newton, and Auburndale – only get train service in the peak direction at rush hour. This has been the case for years, but I guess Newton finally decided to (kind of) do something about it. But rather than advocate for funding to build a second platform at each station, instead we got…this thing. The Newton Connection RailBus.
The free route begins at Newton Highlands Station – this is so that people can get to the Newton stations from Boston in the morning rush, and vice versa in the evening. It uses an Academy bus, although surprisingly it’s a transit bus rather than a coach bus! I just wish it had an actual headsign instead of just “Special” on the front, with a little piece of paper taped to the side window saying what the route actually is. The stop at Newton Highlands is shared with the 59, but the bus just sort of awkwardly blocks it while it lays over. Thank goodness there don’t seem to be any schedule clashes.
From Newton Highlands, the route takes the same path as the 59, running mostly past suburban homes – you do get some businesses here and there, though, along with passing Newton City Hall and North High School. After stopping at Newtonville, the bus turns left onto Washington Street, making a stop at West Newton before using Auburn Street to get to Auburndale. The bus makes its way to Riverside from there – since the route would’ve gone by that station anyway, I guess planners thought it warranted a deviation, but the stop itself serves no real purpose given what the route is trying to achieve. Finally, we pass through the Lower Falls commercial area before using the small and residential Glen Road to get to Wellesley Farms Station.
The RailBus runs to Wellesley Farms so that people can get from the Newton Stations to outbound destinations on the Worcester Line, and of course vice versa in the evening. This transfer is awful, though – the bus drops you off on the inbound platform, and because the Worcester Line switches tracks in the evening rush (thanks to the single platforms at the Newton stations, ironically), passengers have to cross over in both directions. Crossing platforms at Wellesley Farms is rough, too: the one other passenger I saw use this bus had trouble with the stairs and took the entire seven-minute transfer time to make it to the outbound side. From Wellesley Farms, the bus travels out of service back to Newton Highlands; this route is reversed in the evening rush.
Ridership: Like I said, I only saw one other person use it. Of course, I rode on the first day, but it’s not like this thing is super well-advertised, and I doubt many people are going in the reverse peak direction from the Newton stations anyway.
Pros: I guess any reverse peak service is better than none. Plus, it’s free! For what it’s worth, the route runs a reasonable rush hour-only schedule, with an hourly service that connects to most reverse peak trains.
Cons: There’s just no escaping how stupid this thing is. First of all, the schedule is super padded, so there are long waits along the ride, especially at Newtonville and West Newton. This will change as traffic increases, but for now, it’s super annoying. The transfer at Wellesley Farms is also a complete mess, especially given how long it takes to cross to the other side at that station. It’s also funny that there are still plenty of trains that don’t stop at these stations, but you know, that’s not the peak so we don’t care about those people.
Final Verdict: The MBTA needs a plan to add a second platform to each Newton station, and they don’t have one. Spending the money to charter buses from Academy for this route is not the answer; this is a slapdash solution to a big problem. This bus represents a reluctance to invest in these stations – is it really so much to ask that Newton, a city of 88,000 people, gets bidirectional Commuter Rail service? The RailBus is pretty bad, too. 2/10
First! At least make it a half decent bus route. Something comparable to the 39, or the 57 with predictable schedules and maybe some amenities like E ink displays for the time being (they can be changed for commuter rail at some point)
Temporary doesn’t mean half decent. It would mean the T should make something worthwhile for the time being…
I like the new format, and yeah the Newton stations really do need a second platform
Thank you! Agreed.
It’s good to see print reviews again! I wish that Wellesley would receive a proper bus route
I think 1 reason there’s no movement toward building outbound platforms is that the current inbound sides are not ADA compliant. Huge reconstruction may be the only option.
I think this should become a legitimate bus route with a number and a page and an actual schedule that doesn’t have to intersect with the commuter rail trips…
Maybe I’m wrong.
Nice to see you are doing print reviews again!
Also: Would you be interested if I did a guest post of a bus route using google street view? I was thinking of doing a guest post on the RIPTA Quonset Express, since it wouldn’t be easy for you to ride it and I have a decent idea of traffic patterns in RI. I would do an entire analisis and everything, but wouldn’t actually ride the route.
Oh and by the way, I also like this video format thing! I don’t necessarily prefer either formats, both are interesting and engaging!
actually, now that I think about this, I might prefer this method! It’s all about what YOU prefer, though.
Thanks Cedric! You can send in a guest post with Street View if you want – I’ll end up riding the Quonset Express at some point anyway, but it’s always fun to have a second opinion!
I submitted a guest post on the 10x btw, I hope you like it! You don’t have to publish it if you don’t want to.
I might do the Qx too, if I have time.
Thanks for posting this. I didn’t know about this until I used the MBTA Rail app. With all the money and ego, the town of Newton has, it is a shame that they have their 3 commuter stops in this poor condition. The bus seems to be a cheap partial solution to the problem.