One of my all-time favourite movies is Field of Dreams. Baseball, hope, traveling back in time, all fun things. It also has a cameo appearance by an MBTA Flyer E800, sparks afire. From the first time I ever saw this movie (out of many), I knew someday I had to ride those weird buses that run on power wires.
Flash forward to 2005. I finally got enough time to take a detour into trackless trolley territory and luckily I go to do it before the E800’s were replaced by the current Neoplan ETB’s. Getting off the Red Line at Harvard, I had one mission: Take the first older trackless I saw and two minutes later, bus 4015 showed up on the 73. It’s a ride I still remember very well.
My outbound ride that day was memorable not for the route but for soaking in a rolling museum piece. The vinyl seats, the very 70’s pattern on the ceiling, the lack of a “Stop Requested” sign on the front of the bus. Did I mention that save one ride on the then-new Silver Line Waterfront this was my first trackless ride and that I feared the bus broke down several times. The trip on Mount Auburn Street and Belmont Steet/Trapelo Road seemed secondary to the experience. Eventually, I got off at Cushing Square to get a bite to eat. About 20 minutes later, I got back on to soak in more of the experience, once again on 4015.
Since then, every trackless ride ended up on the 71, that is until the day I decided to take the 554 and to complete the 73. Completing what I had done seven years earlier, I can finally say that though the 71 has a ton more connection opportunities, the 73 is by far the more interesting route. Going through the more down-to-earth parts of Belmont, the 73 is what might set Belmont apart from other suburbs as it provides a quick and frequent connection to Harvard Square and into town. The backbone of Belmont Street/Trapelo Road is small business and it’s good to see an area where this thrives. That alone is worth the $1.50 fare neverless the fact this one of a few of its kind.
Route: 73 (Waverly Square-Harvard)
Rating (1-10): 9
Ridership: Two-thirds full leaving Harvard with only a slight dip from the split with the 71. Ending at Waverley Square, about 1/3 full. Ridership demographics ran the gamut from poor to rich in a way which any frequent transit line can.
Pros: It’s a trackless trolley. Trackless trollies are rare in this day and age. Did I mention that it also gives part of Belmont a very frequent connection to the Red Line other areas would envy? And this doesn’t even consider that at its terminus there also is commuter rail and an express bus available.
Cons: Aside from North Cambridge Carhouse being closed Saturday nights and Sundays, not much.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Brothers Pizza – the random place I went for lunch years ago – is still around and is still pumping out very good Greek-style pizza. Across the street is a Starbucks inside a former Friendly’s which has made the rounds in cicles of bad architectural conversions.