Monday, January 15, 2018

CATA: Yellow Line (City of Beverly Shuttle)

Who knew Beverly had its own circulator route? And who knew it costs a mere 50 cents to ride, or 25 cents for seniors and people with disabilities? It has an 8 dollar monthly pass! Of course, to get where you want to go on the Yellow Line, you have to sit through a lot of deviations...

The bus at its layover point at Beverly City Hall.
The second I stepped on the bus at Beverly Station (where it flew around the corner and I sprinted up to it), I was introduced to a very kind and talkative driver. A melting pot of quips and dad jokes, he made this abysmal ride a lot easier to stomach, and his interactions with the passengers (and their interactions with each other) were interesting to observe. This is one of those routes whose clientele could have their own sitcom based on the nature of their banter.

Coming off of Edwards Street.
We immediately turned onto Railroad Ave, then Rantoul Street, which was lined with multi-story apartment buildings. Next, we turned onto the narrow Edwards Street, then Cabot Street, the main drag of Beverly. It was residential at first with dense houses on both sides, but before we could enter downtown Beverly, we turned onto Central Street. This was a deviation from what the route is supposed to do, and it involved looping through a residential neighborhood (via Lovett and Thorndike Streets) in order to pull up to City Hall from the side and lay over.

This isn't right!
With that out of the way, we could return to the regular route on Cabot Street, which was now lined with the charming buildings and businesses of downtown Beverly. The further we got, though, the more they started to thin out, and eventually it was once again a residential neighborhood. Soon the street curved west and there was suburban retail around a level crossing with the Rockport Line.

A shopping plaza.
We turned onto Colon Street for a block before merging onto Sohier Road. This was only for a deviation to serve Garden City Towers, an apartment building whose parking lot we looped around before returning to Cabot Street. There were more suburban businesses for a bit, but it soon got residential.

A school bus on a residential street.
We turned onto Balch Street and after a level crossing with the Commuter Rail, we passed a few schools and the northern edge of the Cummings Center complex, then we turned onto McKay Street outside of a golf course. The houses were definitely getting more spread out now, although there were some suburban businesses as we looped back around onto Cabot Street.

A busy gas station.
Coming back down Cabot Street, there were some churches, another school, a huge construction site, and more houses. We had another Commuter Rail level crossing before joining up with an earlier part of the route for a block. Once again we left Cabot Street, though, this time on Herrick Street, which led us past the huge Beverly High School and some more dense houses.

Oh boy, deviation time!
After a few housing developments, we headed into the huge Beverly Hospital. Once that deviation was completed, we came back onto Herrick Street for a bit before turning onto Brimbal Ave. This street was a whole lot of suburban houses, and they continued as we turned onto Essex Street (although Essex had a few weird office parks, too).

Turning onto the foggy Brimbal Ave.
It started to get more woodsy, and just before the road went over Route 128, we turned into the Centerville Woods Complex. This was basically just a series of apartment buildings, and we looped around them before coming back onto Essex and...going back the way we came for quite a while. Oh boy, it was all a deviation!

Coming out of the complex.
Finally, outside of a pond, we continued to new territory again. After going by a small shopping plaza, we passed Montserrat Station and its awful mini-high platforms, then it got residential along Essex Street. After a while of going past dense houses, we looped around a small apartment development...then it turned out that all that had been a deviation, too!

Inside the Cedar Street Apartments.
So we went all the way back up to Montserrat and turned onto Colon Street. This took us past the Beverly Council on Aging (for some reason we didn't deviate!) and a few industrial buildings, as well as a whole bunch of houses. There were some suburban businesses when we turned onto Cabot Street yet again, but it was only for a block to get over the Commuter Rail - once we had done that, we turned onto Rantoul Street.

This is, incidentally, our third time at this intersection.
This was a mix of suburban business and houses, and they continued as we turned onto Eliott Street, which had level crossings with both the Newburyport and Rockport Lines. Once that was done, we had a double-deviation: first, we went into the Cummings Center complex, which the MBTA 451 also does, funnily enough; after that, we headed across the street to deviate into a Stop & Shop.

About to head into the Cummings Center.
We returned to Eliott Street, going right alongside the Bass River, as well as some businesses and the Beverly School for the Deaf. After those places, it got residential - we were just sailing past a bunch of houses. Finally, we entered Danvers very briefly to serve a few businesses. Right after we crossed the border, it was a left on Bridge Street and we headed right back into Beverly.

Hi, Danvers! Bye, Danvers!
It was mostly residential along Bridge Street too, but there was the occasional business that came up. Finally, we went over the street's namesake: a bridge crossing the Bass River. It was pretty industrial on the other side, but there were some businesses and apartments when we made our way over to Rantoul Street via River Street and Federal Street. Finally, we turned onto Broadway, taking us back to Beverly Station where we had started.

The minibus continuing its never-ending loop.
Okay...here's the thing. At one point on the trip, the driver told me I should try taking the route's Saturday morning variation. He said it's really scenic and an awesome ride. I didn't think I would take him up it...except then I did. Well, why not?

Okay, wow, wasn't expecting that.
On Saturday mornings, the shuttle takes an almost completely different route, including three express sections and a bunch more deviations. Also...apparently it uses a full-sized bus????? This is because it doesn't go over the Bridge Street bridge on the Saturday variant, so a driver can take a proper bus if they want to. Not only was the bus on my Saturday a full-sized vehicle, but it was one of the CATA's newest ones, and it was really nice inside.

It's so weird being on a minibus route in...this.
The start of the Saturday route is similar to the weekday one. We made our way around to Cabot Street via Edwards Street, and this time we didn't do the unofficial City Hall deviation. Instead of going up to Garden City Towers, we went right onto Eliott Street. Again, we performed the double-deviation of Cummings Center and Stop & Shop, then we went out past the many houses of Eliott Street.

Inside the Cummings Center.
Here's where things got different: we turned onto County Way suddenly, which was a side street lined with houses. At the end of that, we turned onto Bridge Street, but in the direction of Danvers - were we looping around back to Eliott Street to avoid using the bridge? Well, we did turn onto Eliott again...but we took it further into Danvers. Alright, that's unexpected.

A field, I guess?
It continued to be mostly residential, but there was a proper farm on one side street, so we were leaving civilization to some degree. And then, out of nowhere, we whizzed onto Route 128. That's right, it was the first of three express sections, and it was weird. I mean, sure, my first-ever CATA review (and my first RTA review, no less), coincidentally of a different Yellow Line service, had a lengthy express section, but that was different. This is a deviatory loop-de-loop; that was a designated express service.

Of all the exits to take, we do the weird sideways one!
We were only on the highway for a bit, getting off at the next exit. This took us onto Trask Lane, a curvy road lined exclusively with random apartment developments. It became Manor Road, and we looped around at the last development on it, Apple Village. And from there, it was straight back up to the highway! Express section number 2!

Inside one of the developments.
Once again, it was just for one exit, and we got off at the next one, 20. This led us onto Dodge Street, which we used to deviate into a Shaw's (although there were plenty of other businesses in its plaza too). We went the other way down Dodge Street from there, going under the highway and arriving at an intersection with suburban businesses. Once we merged onto County Way, then McKay Street, we were back on the weekday route, except we were travelling down it the wrong way.

Another turn.
We turned onto Balch Street next, going by the north side of the Cummings Center, then we briefly headed down Cabot Street before turning onto Herrick Street. This took us past the Beverly High School, then we deviated into the Beverly Hospital - this was all stuff the weekday route does, too. We made our way over to Brimbal Ave and turned onto Essex Street, which was all previously charted territory.

Looking down Herrick Street.
We took Essex Street up to the Centerville Woods Complex, which the weekday route also serves. However, whereas on weekdays the buses go back down Essex Street, on Saturdays - and keep in mind, this is Saturday mornings only - there's another express section! That's right, we went back onto Route 128, although it was once again just one exit.

Going down the highway.
Of all the towns to have a bus route, we actually entered Wenham for a short stretch. It didn't last long, though - once we got off at Exit 17 and went down Hart Street, we were back in Beverly. This was a twisty street than ran through the woods past some pretty sparse houses.

Coming off of Route 128.
Around the time we went by a cemetery, the dwellings started to get closer together. We turned onto Hale Street where the pattern continued, and finally, we went by the beautiful village of Beverly Farms! We didn't go down its main drag, though, continuing down Hale and crossing the Commuter Rail tracks at, yes, Prides Crossing Station. Told you it had a bus connection!

Going over the tracks.
After the station it became woods and sparse houses again until we hit Endicott College. This part was awesome: there were college buildings everywhere, and we even came up to the water for a few short moments. It was a fantastic view!

Wowie!
Although we sadly curved inland, Endicott College buildings continued for a little while longer before we suddenly entered a residential neighborhood. Hale Street twisted its way past lots of dense houses which continued as we turned onto Corning Street. This took us to good ol' Montserrat Station, where we turned onto Essex Street, joining the weekday route again.

About to head onto Essex Street.
It wasn't for long, though - after deviating into the Cedar Street Apartments, the route would normally go back up Essex to Montserrat, but we actually continued the way we were going. It was entirely residential until the Beverly Public Library, where we turned onto Dane Street. This took us back to Cabot Street, and now we went up to Garden City Towers. It's so weird how on weekdays that's one of the first deviations while on Saturdays it's one of the last!

Coming out of Garden City.
It was the home stretch. We headed down Rantoul Street, passing a mix of businesses and dense houses. As we got further south, there started to be more retail in the mix, and everything was getting closer together. Finally, we turned onto Broadway and pulled up at the Commuter Rail station. Wow, I made this review way longer than it had to be!

It's still weird that you're a full-sized bus!
CATA Route: Yellow Line (City of Beverly Shuttle)

Ridership: The route is the fourth-busiest one on the CATA, except...wow, I've reviewed some CATA routes before but I don't think I ever realized how few people use this system. So yes, the fourth-busiest route on the whole system gets about 60 people per weekday and around 40 per Saturday. Ouch.

Pros: The best thing about this route is the fares. I mean, my gosh, the majority of this route's riders are seniors, and they only have to pay a quarter! I don't know who would get a monthly pass for this, but if you want to, they're only 8 bucks! So yes, the fares, those are very good. Also, the weekday schedule is hourly, which is fine.

Cons: Before I talk about the route itself, let me just run some numbers by you. This route has the lowest productivity on the CATA, with 6.1 passengers per weekday revenue hour (so per trip, basically, since this route has hourly headways) and 4.4 per Saturday revenue hour. Because of the incredibly low fares, the route has a subsidy of $26.06 per passenger on weekdays and $36.10 per passenger on Saturdays. GEEZ LOUISE, the City of Beverly had better give CATA bucket loads of money for making it keep the fares so low!

And now we get to the route itself. The crazy, insane, loopy route itself, that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. How is a one-way loop expected to be useful and efficient for people to use? Why do there have to be so many crazy deviations? Why is the Saturday service completely different, and even more different for the first three trips? Why do the first three Saturday trips even bother to go out to Beverly Farms and Endicott College when from what I saw, those sections don't get a soul? Why is there an "early morning" weekday trip at 6:45 (that takes a completely different route, I might add), presumably for commuters, when the last trip from the station is at 3:52 PM? SIGH.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I would argue that this route doesn't serve much of note that's not already accessible from the Commuter Rail. I mean, with five stops in the town, it already has great coverage, and they serve the most interesting parts of the city.

Final Verdict: 3/10
This route sucks. As I've made clear, there are so many things about it that make absolutely no sense, and I think CATA is aware of this. They say in their Transit Plan, and I quote, "Cannot change service per contract with City of Beverly, but a split route with bidirectional service would better serve the city's needs." It's like they know what a better route would be, and they might even have a plan for what they want to do, and yet they can't do anything. They're contractually obligated to run this horrible, horrible service. CATA, I am so sorry.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Here's another T blog called Alex to a T, about a kid and his mom visiting all the stations on the subway in alphabetical order! It's well-written and interesting, and I recommend you give it a look.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if the T will sell off the 451 route to this service?

    ReplyDelete

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