Summer is ending. Kids are going back to school and the B branch will be a mess full of college students. And I’m at the moment slated to take two sets of two six-week courses for grad school while looking for an job and an apartment of our own. As a result, I’m taking a small break from heavy riding to focus on rerailing my life. That said, I needed a way to go out with a fun review.
That said, one ride on the 73 (review coming soon!) got me to Waverly Square in Belmont, adoptive home of a former Massachusetts Governor who may or may not become 45th President of the United States. This review isn’t about the 73 or the nearby Fitchburg Line station: It’s about the 554. Yes, it’s time for more Inner Express Fun!
The 554 begins at Waverly Square and works its way down Lexington Street to the Belmont/Watertown Line to Belmont Street going through a largely residental area. Crossing into Waltham, it crosses over the Fitchburg Line where you can look left and see the very station you just left. Transitioning onto Beaver Street it passes by the Girl Scouts’ Camp Cedar Hill and the Bentley University campus and most of its athletic facilities.
Eventually, the 554 turns onto the desirable Moody Street corridor, north of the Charles running with the more frequent 70A and running by a bunch of small businesses. After looping through Central Square and passing by Waltham Commuter Rail, it crosses the Charles and continues through the trendier part of Moody Street with its express sister, the 553 which terminates at Brandeis/Roberts. Shortly after crossing into Newton, it turns onto River Street which itself turns into Elm Street.
At the corner of Elm and Washington, passing by the interestingly named Keltic Krust and West Newton station, the 554 begins to run on Washington Street. Which parallels the Framingham/Worcester Line. Which itself parallels the MassPike. Sitting on the right side of a bus will give an interesting viewpoint especially if a train is passing. Like most 500-series routes, the last stop before the Pike is Newton Corner and its roundabout loop to get to or from the highway. After that it’s the usual 500-series sights (see the 504, but in reverse) before getting off at Exit 24 and hitting three downtown stops before the last stop in the Financial District, however on this ride all 12 passengers got off at the first stop, two blocks from Chinatown and South Station. In inauspicious ride to an route rarely traveled.
Route: 554 (Waverley Sq-Downtown Boston EXPRESS)
Rating (1-10): 6
Ridership: The 12 passengers above was the maximum amount for a mid-afternoon run. Of the four passengers who got on at Waverley, three lasted towards the end with a few others getting on around Bentley and the rest along Moody Street. Given the time of day and the competition – 73 to Red Line takes less time, is more frequent, and cheaper – this is understandable since it exists more as a Belmont/Waltham connection first then as an express.
Pros: It serves as an intersuburban connection that happens to go into town. The Washington Street part of the route is also interesting especially after having seen it from the Pike many times.
Cons: The 554’s weekend service (Saturdays only to Newton Corner) was a victim of the recent service cuts. If you’re not a Bentley student, this is a downside even though under 200 riders on average were affected as of 2010. That and it’s semi-pointless to ride the 554 the entire way unless a single-seat ride is a must.
Nearby and Noteworthy: You know those random Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that taunt people from the Pike? I’d put them behind Bison County. Any place that does barbecue in New England is a place worth visiting. In fact, Waltham has a ton of good restaurants, picking one was not an easy task.