Sunday, December 3, 2017

MWRTA: 4N (North)

Oh come on, can't this system have one good route? I thought the 4N was perfectly fine when I rode it, but further investigation has revealed that it's almost completely redundant to other routes! ARGH!!!

I was going to get on this bus, but it broke down. Foreshadowing?
We took a few streets to get onto Ring Road, which went along the south side of Shopper's World, then curved to the west side. We continued onto Shopper's World Way, which took us to a deviation to BJ's. From there, we made our way to Cochituate Road, then Calder Road, both going by many suburban businesses with parking lots.

Some random shopping plaza.
We turned onto Worcester Road, otherwise known as - uh-oh - ROUTE 9! Get ready for the onslaught of ugly, sketchy "Route 9 businesses"! Luckily it didn't last too long, as we did a little loop-de-loop onto Concord Street, which took us over the highway.

A weird dead zone in the loop-de-loop.
Concord Street was a mix of everything, including houses, apartment developments, businesses, Framingham District Court, and a National Guard base! It was primarily houses, though, until we turned onto Lincoln Street, passing a few different hospitals, including the large MetroWest Medical Center. We merged onto Union Ave after that, which was mostly houses.

A tragically abandoned shopping plaza.
We turned onto Mount Wayte Ave, then Franklin Street, going back the way we came and revealing that this was all a really long, skinny jog in the route. Franklin Street was houses for a while, then after a small industrial patch, we turned onto Howard Street outside of a small park. This route purports itself to serve the Framingham Station Banana Lot, but it really doesn't - Howard Street is considered to be the "Banana Lot" stop, which is pretty misleading.

Look, you can see the proper Banana Lot over there to the right!
There were some vestiges of downtown Framingham as we turned onto Concord Street, but we had mostly bypassed it. We crossed the Commuter Rail tracks and turned onto Irving Street, passing a bit of retail at first, but it switched to houses quickly. Next, we made our way around onto Blandin Ave and pulled into the Blandin Hub, marking the end of the trip. Oh wait, it's a loop? It takes a different route back to the Natick Mall? DARN IT!

Leaving the hub again.
We went back onto Blandin Ave, crossed the tracks again, and headed up Bishop Street. After some industry and offices, it became a residential neighborhood, complete with a park with a few sports facilities in it. The houses continued as we turned onto Hartford Street.

A badly-paved street.
We went under some telephone wires, but that was about the only break from the constant stream of houses. Finally, we headed onto Speen Street, which went over Route 9 and past a few office buildings. This turned into Natick Mall Road, and thus it led us back to our origin, the Natick Mall!

Good thing the driver let me stay on back to Blandin! Too bad this picture is really out of focus...
MWRTA Route: 4N (North)

Ridership: The ridership data from this route is from when it was combined with the 4S (the MWRTA split them up when its new hub opened), but the MWRTA notes that about 60% of that ridership is on the 4N. That means the route gets about 52 riders per weekday (4 per round trip) and about 28 per Saturday (3.5 per round trip). Ouch!

Pros: I'm pleased to report that this is an MWRTA route that runs consistently every hour. Let's give them a big round of applause!

Cons: The 4N is almost entirely redundant to other MWRTA routes! The western section from the mall to the MetroWest Medical Center parallels the 2 and the 3, and it actually takes a little bit longer on the 4N because of the BJ's deviation (which, incidentally, gets an average of less than one rider per week). The jog up Union Ave and down Franklin Street also parallels the 2/3 and the 7, respectively. The part up Bishop Street is technically independent, but it's only a six minute walk from the 2/3, and then most of Hartford Street to the Natick Mall is with the 10/11. So...why does this route exist, then?

Nearby and Noteworthy: There's nothing that the 4N exclusively serves!

Final Verdict: 3/10
I'll give it a few points for having a consistent schedule and for getting marginal ridership, but that's about it for the 4N. I see no reason why this route shouldn't be eliminated - the extra bus could be used for extra service on the 2/3, which those routes absolutely need. And sure, that would mean that there's more frequent service in one loop direction than the other, but the bus could switch based on the peak direction, and the MWRTA is no stranger to weird schedules that don't make much sense, anyway. There may also be a future for this route if it recombines in the 4S, which we'll explore soon...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

1 comment:

  1. Those tracks you passed over after Framingham station are the rail line known as the Framingham Secondary Rail Line. It is a 21 mile corridor between Framingham and Mansfield Purchased by MASSDOT a few years ago in an attempt to produce regular weekday and weekend Commuter service as a connector between lines. However, some problems came up and MASSDOT only operates the line between Mansfield and Foxboro for Patriots games. The portion of the line between Walpole and Framingham is strictly CSX.
    Also a fun fact, I heard a rumor that MASSDOT was going to purchase the Fitchburg Secondary from CSX, a corridor between Framingham and Ayer Station, as a connector passenger rail network between the two lines. CSX currently uses only a few trains a day on that short line.

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