Thursday, September 28, 2017

PVTA: P21E (Springfield/Holyoke I-91 Express)

Taking the route all on its own, the P21E by far the fastest way of getting from Holyoke to Springfield, and it's a massive convenience. However, when you factor in the fact that it uses a Proterra electric bus...well, now we've just got the best route ever, don't we?

OH MY GOSH, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BUS IS AMAZING.
The inside of this thing just feels clean. I've been on it a few times, and even when it does have some litter in it, it still feels so modern and new. And the sounds...I mean, wow. As we left the Holyoke Transportation Center, I was just relishing in the delightful electronic whine emitting from the bus - it was incredible.

This is just amazing!
We headed down Maple Street, passing the backlots of businesses along the main drag one block away. There were some apartments when we got to the Holyoke Public Library, and it was mostly residential from there, aside from a few businesses on street corners. All of a sudden, it grew wide open, and we made our way onto I-391.

Did I mention the Proterra also has a rear window? Awww, yeah!
Now, as I mentioned, I had been enjoying the sounds of the bus up to this point. But when we got onto the highway...oh my God, I couldn't believe it. The pitch kept getting higher...and higher...and higher...WHEN WOULD IT STOP? IT NEVER STOPPED! HIGHER, HIGHER, HIGHER, WE ACCELERATED DOWN THE HIGHWAY AND IT WAS JUST THIS GLORIOUS HARMONY OF THE MOST AMAZING BUS SOUNDS I HAD EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HOW COULD I EVEN FOCUS ON TAKING PICTURES WHEN I WAS ENJOYING THE SOUNDS SO MUCH???
We went over the Connecticut River and a residential area on an elevated structure. After that, though, the view from the highway was pure woods for a while. We went under some telephone wires and I-90, then crossed the Chicopee River.

Nice view!
We ran past some more neighborhoods, then we merged into I-91. The route would now take Exit 11 off the highway, but we'll talk about that service change later. For now, we continued down I-91 until the exit for downtown Springfield, which took us underneath the highway bridge. We turned onto Liberty Street, and that was that - we arrived at Springfield Union Station.

Oh man, it's gross under here!
So that was the P21E in the summer: a direct express route to Union Station. However, the PVTA decided that wasn't enough, so they made the route serve the Baystate Medical Center on the Springfield end. On my return trip to the PVTA last week, one of the routes I rode was the P21E on its new alignment. Let's see what that was like...

Coming onto Chestnut Street.
From Union Station, the route heads up Liberty Street, then turns onto Chestnut Street. It goes over I-291, and after some apartments and a clinic, it becomes mostly residential. Outside of the Baystate Medical Center building, Chestnut Street turns to the left, and finally reaches I-91, where the route can begin its express portion.

Back in the summer, here's the bus charging in Springfield.
PVTA Route: P21E (Springfield/Holyoke I-91 Express)

Ridership: Unfortunately, I can't find any online ridership information about this route, but I've used it a few times, so I can at least tell you about my experiences. I've seen the route get mostly in the 10-20 people range, which isn't bad, but I would love to see it do better - after all, the PVTA wants to get rid of this thing really badly. The only reason it survived the summer service cuts was because they got a grant to keep running it!

Pros: As a route, this is just such a fast way of getting from Springfield to Holyoke. It beats out the P21 by at least 10 minutes (it's hard to judge because of PVTA's earliness syndrome) and the P20 by over half an hour! It's just one bus shuttling back and forth, giving it an hourly schedule, which seems to make sense based on the ridership. Also, speaking of the bus itself, uhhh, you know, it's, uhhhhh, THE BEST THING EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cons: Okay, the Baystate Medical Center deviation isn't that bad, but it definitely slows down the route, even if it's not by a lot. I dunno...I liked when it was just a pure express, but I guess serving the hospital would increase ridership.

Nearby and Noteworthy: This is the fastest way of getting to Holyoke! Because everyone wants to go there...

Final Verdict: 9/10
The P21E is a life-saver for Springfield to Holyoke travellers. Sure, the P21 isn't so bad, but who wants to sit through all of the P20's horrible mall deviations when this fast express route exists? And the bus...oh my gosh, the bus is just SO AMAZING. THE ROUTE IS WORTH RIDING JUST FOR THE BUS!!!!!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

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