One of the hardest things to write about is something that is a little too familiar to write about. Since moving here I’ve been in and around Haymarket probably over a 100 times given the number of times I’ve ridden the 426 into town. I know all of the special ins and outs (5th car heading towards Forest Hills for an easy exit!), where to wait on the platform, and more but otherwise Haymarket is a bit unremarkable of a station especially for one that is a transfer point and sees quite a bit of traffic.
The southern transfer point between the Green and Orange Lines, Haymarket in its current form is a product of the early 1970s when the previous three stations using some variation of that name were combined into one by extending and relocating platforms. This move was long overdue and finally created a unified station for the North End and in spite of the then-elevated Central Artery eased access there and building a garage on top of its north entrance has helped spur some traffic. However, the station has not aged well with tons of exposed brick for both parts of the station. Look at this picture of the Green Line at Haymarket in 1980 and not much has changed at least on the Green Line level since. The Orange has seen a little change in terms of columns but not much else.
Oddly enough, the non-station parts of the station have seen renovation within the last decade. The southern entrance on Congress Street was totally redone to accommodate ventilation towers for the I-93 tunnel plus the connecting passageway between Orange Line tracks all got new tiling and lighting. In the case of the passageway, this was somewhat for naught as there is a spot in its ceiling that produces an eternal leak which could have been a minor generator for much of Haymarket’s transfer traffic migrating to North Station after the Superstation opened. However, Haymarket has a lot more going on near it than North Station often does on a regular basis, so…
In addition to serving people bound for the North End, Haymarket is also a hub for connecting bus traffic especially during the week. Though pared down by recent cuts, the north entrance is a terminal for express buses coming from the North Shore while during rush hours and the south entrance entertains the 325/326 to Medford; express buses to Burlington and Woburn are nearby though a bit difficult to find. There is also local bus service as the 92 and 93 stop by the south entrance while the
circus known as the 111 boards from the north entrance bound for Chelsea across the Tobin Bridge. The heavy ridership of the latter and the cut in express service led to the recent swap of busways at Haymarket.
I may be numb and desensitized from all the sprints up and down staircases I’ve made and the walk from the north and south entrances to transfer from buses and time spent inside the Dunkin’ Donuts at the north entrance but Haymarket is a nice, if not slightly outdated and awkward, station.
Rating (1-10): 6 (with 1 of that just for familiarity)
Ridership: Heavily influenced by the nearby North End with a good side of people coming in from Chelsea (the 111 often leaves packed and during rush hour is often in “load and go” mode). Expect to see a lot of Dunkin’ cups and Mike’s Pastry boxes at times depending on tourist demand, suburbanites in town or both. During the week, swarms of commuters from the North Shore also descend here though after the recent purge of express routes it’s less than in the past.
Pros: As dated and unspectacular as the architecture is – the busway area has 80’s architecture reminiscent of Alewife and JFK/UMass – it’s a multi-modal terminal and a connection to one of Boston’s most historic and desirable neighborhoods. Also, it provides a wheelchair-accessible alternative to the currently-inaccessible Government Center and Bowdoin.
Cons: The eternally leaking corridor between Orange Line tracks and the dated décor take a ton away from the good of this station. Though the recent cuts and realignment may have helped, the busways during rush hour often become a massive mess too.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Too much to list: The eponymous produce market is right around the corner on Fridays and Saturdays, the northern end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway is at the station, and the North End has dozens of restaurants and is a hotbed of Italian culture. In 2014, the Boston Public Market will open a year-round building in an area surrounding the southern entrance. There’s also Saus, an establishment that sells Belgian-style frites and the best poutine I’ve had outside Montreal.