Friday, August 10, 2018

RIPTA: 58 (Mineral Spring/North Providence)

We previously reviewed one of RIPTA's only crosstown routes. The 29 was a pure crosstown, darting in and out to serve as many places as possible while cutting across practically every southern RIPTA route. Now, this one is a little different. The 58 is trying to be a crosstown, but it's also trying to be a radial route to Providence. It doesn't work.

 Peeking out from behind a car.
Now, the 58 doesn't actually begin at Kennedy Plaza. It starts south of the plaza, at the Rhode Island Hospital. This is a preliminary step to creating the Downtown Transit Connector, but that's still pretty far off, so it's just...a one seat ride to the hospital at the moment, I guess. The route was "detouring" to the building's front door (although it usually doesn't), and from there, we did a loop to get onto Eddy Street.

A big ol' parking lot.
There was some undeveloped land for a bit after we went under I-95, but then we entered the up-and-coming Jewelry District. We went through another piece of vacant land north of that, then we turned onto Dorrance Street. This took us into downtown Providence proper, and we were soon picking people up at Kennedy Plaza.

When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown.
From the Plaza, it was a left onto Kennedy Street, and we crossed the Woonasquatucket River on this. After doing a very slight deviation to serve Providence Station, we headed out onto Park Row, going over the Moshassuck River. We were now on the East Side as we turned onto North Main Street, passing green space on one side and dense houses on the other.

Crossing a river.
We went over the Moshassuck River a second time when we merged onto Mill Street, passing a few different types of buildings as the wide road split into two when it went under I-95. We passed a post office and went over the Northeast Corridor, then we went by some big box stores before the neighborhood turned to be mostly residential. At Hopkins Square, a triangular-shaped park, we took a left onto Branch Ave, beginning our independent section.

I can see Walmaht!
Branch Ave went under Route 146, then it was mostly residential, but we also went by an old factory converted into shopping...sorta. Our independent section ended when we merged with the 50 on the industrial Douglas Ave. And, just like the 50, we had to do a wonderful deviation into Shaw's via the residential Lubec Street.

Part of the Shaw's shopping complex.
Well, that was a great deviation. We came back onto Douglas Ave afterward, but we left it soon by turning onto Mineral Spring Ave, going independent again. It's worth noting that we took a left on Mineral Spring, as most service does, but on one trip, the route takes a right and just kinda...ends at Route 146. Yeah, I don't know.

Some suburban development.
Mineral Spring Ave was suburban businesses for a while, and in the middle of that is where Saturday service just...kinda ends. Well, weekday trips go on for much longer, but the road became lined with houses instead of retail. At least, that was until Centredale, the downtown of North Providence. Weirdly, though, instead of serving the main street, we instantly used Centredale Bypass to get onto Waterman Ave out of the center. Oh well...better than deviating?

At least we got to see a few Centredale businesses.
Waterman Ave was a little weird. There was reasonable density along it, but it tapered off almost immediately past the road, devolving into woods within two blocks or less on either side. Entering Smithfield, we came up alongside a huge old factory, turned onto Esmond Street, and crossed the Woonasquatucket River.

A typical street out here.
Esmond Street consisted of more houses until it entered the woods for a little while. We left the forest by turning onto Putnam Pike, a road full of suburban businesses. It took us over I-295, and right after that, we pulled into our final stop: Smithfield Crossing, one of the more upscale strip malls in the RIPTA service area. Exciting.

Starting the trip back. Once again, a car blocks the bus.
RIPTA Route: 58 (Mineral Spring/North Providence)

Ridership: The ridership on the 58 is most certainly low. There was just one single person who took the bus on one of its independent sections - everyone else could've used a different bus. That means that it's basically just a whatever-comes-first situation, and the 58 is infrequent enough that it's often not going to be the one that comes first.

Pros: I appreciate any efforts to create crosstown services in Rhode Island, because there aren't enough of them. The 58 tries its best.

Cons: Unfortunately, that's not good enough. The 58 is trying to be a radial route into Providence at the same time, and all that ends up doing is making it circuitous and duplicative of other routes. It doesn't help that it only runs every hour, Monday through Saturday, especially when the routes it's paralleling are much more frequent.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Hey, Smithfield Crossings did actually seem like a nice mall. The bus only goes there on weekdays, though!

Final Verdict: 3/10
I don't see much value in the 58 as it currently stands. Instead of this pseudo crosstown service, why not have a real crosstown service? I think it would be great to have a route running down Mineral Spring Ave from Pawtucket to North Providence, and then on to Smithfield Crossing. That way, the 73 could also be eliminated and its resources could go somewhere else. Maybe something like this, although it might be worth it to, say, deviate into Shaw's along the way. Just a thought.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
I'm sad to announce that the MBTA Jamboree is cancelled. We just didn't get enough responses to be able to make it work. Thanks to everyone who filled out the survey, and hopefully we'll be able to do something like it another time.

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