Friday, January 17, 2014

Transit Tales: Return of the Shuttle Buses

As you most likely know, the Longfellow Bridge has been closed on the Cambridge-bound side for a while. The work they're doing on it occasionally requires the Red Line to be closed on weekends. And you know what that means - shuttle buses! My father and I had the privilege of riding these buses between Kendall and Park Street one day, and as expected, it wasn't very fun.

Kendall was a madhouse full of people trying to get to the buses. Everyone dashed down Main Street towards the line of vehicles waiting to shuttle people over the bridge. As we went by, I noticed that a makeshift yard had been made on Hayward Street. Everyone crammed onto the buses, but ours wasn't actually that crowded.

The route started out pretty straightforward, and the view from the Longfellow bridge was just as good as it would normally be on the train. Interestingly, though, buses were only using the left side of the bridge. That meant that we were actually driving on the wrong side of the road! At Charles, the driver opened the doors but no one got on or off, then we went on down Cambridge Street, then Tremont. Our bus and all the others stopped a few blocks away from Park Street. Everyone got off, but my father refused. "Whaddaya want?" shouted the driver from up front. My father explained that we were going to Park Street. "This is Pahk Street," said the driver, and he kicked us out.

We assumed that the buses stopped here so that they wouldn't have to loop all the way around the Common to get back to Cambridge Street. We figured that made sense, and walking the extra few blocks was a decent trade-off. However, on the trip back, we found the long line of buses waiting right outside the entrance of the station. The result was a long hellish route in the dark with a bunch of traffic going around the Common. It took absolutely forever, and at Kendall it was raining and everyone had to walk in mud...not the best shuttle bus experience ever.

The large stream of people at Kendall.
The MBTA employees were like shepherds, herding us to the buses.
This is not Park Street!


  1. The shuttle buses are truly awful. They are very poorly run and the failure that is the Kendall-Park St shuttle is the worst of them all. One huge problem is that it uses operators and buses from both Cabot and the Bennett district of the Charlestown garage, which means overlapping inspectors and a massive lack of cooperation.Huge layovers and bunching are another big problem that can also be seen on the Orange Line shuttle between Oak Grove and Sullivan, which I've done myself several times. These kind of operations need to be tightly run and out of a single garage, but there would be so many disputes regarding overtime that it just won't happen.

    1. I agree completely. My issue with the Kendall-Park Street one is that they let us off a few blocks away from the station, even though the buses made the loop around the Common anyway. The journey could be cut by a fair amount if they didn't do that dumb, pointless loop.

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