One of the more prolific advertisers on MBTA buses and trains is CambridgeSide Galleria, the closest large shopping mall to the Boston city limits. CambridgeSide and I have a bit of a history – my first exposure to Cambridge as a kid came cooling my heels in the then-new mall – and in my earlier years as a tourist going here was a big deal. Any multi-day Boston trip involved my Mom and I going to the Museum of Science, lunch and browsing at CambridgeSide, then a walk back to Science Park. However, this isn’t one bit about Science Park or the “recommended” station of Lechmere. This is about the “other” closest station to CambridgeSide: Community College on the Orange Line.
Opened in 1975 as the first part of the Haymarket North relocation of the Orange Line, Community College was build mainly to serve Bunker Hill Community College and the neighborhoods of Charlestown to its East as well as the Bunker Hill Monument a half-mile away. However, outside of this Community College is probably the most inhospitable station in the MBTA system given its overall surroundings. Covered by Interstate 93, it is hemmed in by Boston Engine terminal to its north, Boston Sand & Gravel to its south, and a no-mans land to its west. It also has the dubious distinction of being the only Orange Line station (and one of only a few stations period) to have no bus connections. Yet with all of these deterrents, it isn’t the least used station on the Orange Line.
My past experience with Community College came during my junior year of college in the quaint days of the early 2000’s, my first semester away from home, when my alma mater (go Great Danes!) did a bus trip to Boston. Having free reign of the city for the first time, I decided that going into “uncharted territory” and walking around a new stop would be fun. For some reason, I picked Community College and wasn’t fully shocked to see myself be the only person to get . After two minutes, I gave up and began doing the miserable half-mile walk on the Gilmore Bridge towards Cambidge and, ergo, CambridgeSide. I should mention that this was on a windy and unseasonably cold November day, the sort where the weather report is a complete understatement though the solace of possibly having been caught in the background on some NECN file footage was nice.
Flash forward to the present day. Even on a weekday when classes are in session, Community College is still somewhat lightly used and though there are a few small local businesses and a Ninety Nine has opened within sight of the station, there still are no real generators that’d bring someone there. Though geography seems to dictate part of this, I think those in Charlestown may like it this way.
Station: Community College Rating (1-10): 4
Ridership: If classes are in session, mainly BHCC students and some locals. If the weather is pleasant, some people bound for CambridgeSide who don’t want to deal with the E branch. Even though it’s the closest station to Bunker Hill, next to no tour books mention this.
Pros: Affordable higher education next to accessible mass transit is always a good thing. So is giving transit access to a heavily working class area and to two large in-town industrial areas. Otherwise…
Cons: The overall inhospitably of the area is a big turnoff especially on colder days. A good solution may be to infill the “no-man’s land” between the Orange Line (and 93) and O’Brien Highway with mixed use development. It’d stimulate usage of the station with new residents and the base of people there during workdays even tossing those across the Charles.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Well, there’s the Monument. Besides, as freezing as I was the view from the Gilmore Bridge of the Boston skyline was worth the walk to be honest.