Before my recent review of Alewife, I had to find some way to get from my job near Sullivan Square to the Red Line. From there there I had a few choices – CT2 to Kendall, 91 to Central, 86 to Harvard, and the 89 or 90 to Davis. And as if on cue, all were late the day I had to take them and it came to the point of choosing between an 89 with no AC and a layover or a 90 halfway through its run. I chose the latter, but did I choose wisely?
While the 89 was about to begin a new run, the 90 was about one-thirds full from the start of its run at Wellington and (unlike the 89) had its AC blasting and the route north of Sullivan is mainly a connector to Assembly Square. After getting out of the maze that is Sullivan Square, I eventually ended up on Broadway in Somerville which was totally new territory for me, an area full of small neighborhood shops and some residences which saw some people getting on; at this point, the 90 supplements the 89 that I could’ve taken. The two streets split at Cross Street which is solely residential and has all of the markings of a neighborhood that’s dipping its toes in the lake known as gentrification. At this point, the 90 started to hit a very bad string of stop light luck as it hit just about every single red for the rest of the route. If I was riding just because, this would be a sudden distraction but on a day when I had a place to be it was a bit frustrating.
The waiting came to a head at Cross Street’s end at an awkward three-way intersection with McGrath Highway/MA 28 and Highland Avenue with the Fitchburg Line running underneath. From Cross Street, the 90 needs to swerve across two lanes of 28 onto the two turn lane that is the approach to Highland. The combination of overall traffic and the light cycles made getting out of this intersection an ordeal that nearly took five minutes on top of the delays this run already had. Getting onto Highland was actually met with some applause as hard as that could be to believe.
Regardless of what you want to call it, the intersection from heck serves as a dividing line from the gritter eastern half of Somerville and its more gentrified western half and the 90 then transitioned to a typical suburb of houses and apartment buildings with some businesses. In a way, it reminded me of a further-along version of my former neighborhood in Washington, DC and going through it I thought that if it didn’t clash with my wife’s commute, it’d be a great place to consider living in. Then again, I am a bit of a sucker for old fashioned suburbs…
The 90 eventually meets its end going through the back busway of Davis alongside the 87 and 88, bypassing the core of Davis Square. I’ll leave what happened next for another review.
Route: 90 (Wellington-Davis via Sullivan Square & Assembly Square). Rating (1-10): 5
Ridership: Nobody who was on when I got on at Sullivan got off which tells me that a lot of the ridership north of Sullivan is either price sensitive from Wellington to eastern Somerville or is coming from Assembly Square. A decent amount of people got off on Cross Street while just about everyone boarding on Highland Avenue was bound for Davis. A good generator on the western half is the pair of Somerville City Hall and the Somerville Public Library.
Pros: It’s a somewhat crucial link between halves of Somerville which is more true given how civic boundaries and the Mystic River isolate Assembly Square from the rest of town. I would not be shocked to guess that a good chunk of the 90’s ridership north of Sullivan are people heading there both to shop and to work. It’s also good for a bus hub like Wellington to have a connection to the Red Line.
Cons: This route can use some heavy headway adjustment as the route could honestly support more than a consistent 40 minutes from rush to rush (65 minutes at night) and 70 minutes on weekends. The Sunday span of service, starting after 10:00 AM and ending before 6:00 PM, is to be honest pretty sad.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Vinny’s at Night is a unique restaurant with a catch: It’s tucked behind a convenience store; this is much better than it sounds from everything I’ve heard. Closer to Davis Square, one of the few retail outlets of Maine bakery When Pigs Fly can be found on Highland Ave.
And in other news…: Bus diversions on the northern Orange Line start next weekend (June 9th, 2012) in preparation of the construction and opening of Assembly Square station; next weekend trains will run Sullivan-Forest Hills.