I had originally begun writing a draft about a review for the 57 a couple of months ago and that review would’ve been centered on a trip I took 3.5 years ago. Now that Watertown, for reasons better or worse, has had its day in the global sun, I mulled re-posting that review but instead decided to re-ride the route and rewrite this review.
On my original trip, I got on at Watertown Yard after a ride on the 71, walking across the by-then-narrow Charles from Watertown Square. After the commercial strip from Watertown to Newton Corner, the 57’s route goes through some pretty residential areas until it hits Oak Square in Brighton where it becomes more commerical before reaching Brighton Avenue in Allston and eventually meeting Comm Ave at Packard’s Corner. I ended up bailing at Pleasant Street at the sight of the then-brand-new Raising Cane’s being miffed that they’d be open so north and having never been.
Fast forward to the present and for a launching point I decided to start where I ended years ago and do the trip in reverse. After a few minutes of waiting, the 57 showed up with a half-full load which made its way down Comm Ave from Kenmore, often racing the B in the process. The overlap of the two modes goes for another half-mile before splitting and following its trolley predecessor. Along the Brighton Ave stretch of the 57, you can notice the former center median where the A run and you can wonder “is this really progress replacing trains with a bunch of granite, grass, and the occasional flower?” If you examine the A up until Union Square, I assure you you’ll shake your head at how short-sighted the MBTA was to walk away from a route which still thrived sans rail and that it’d give additional capacity for the BU portion of the route.
As Allston blends into Brighton, the pace slows and you see the quaint streetcar suburb which formed around the now 57 with a quaint main street dotted with restaurants, small shops, and an assortment of dwellings. With the length of the route, you may also wonder how generations before who had the the then-A kept their sanity commuting to and from Boston given the frequent stops. After Oak Square in the heart of Brighton (terminus of the rush-hour 57A short-turn and express bus service), the 57 eventually blends into northern Newton and has more of the same charm with the added liability that they’re the main reason why the A was left to die.
At Newton Corner, the 57 avoids the time-consuming loop the express buses make and continues straight into nearby Watertown. Getting off at Watertown Yard, you see the abandoned track leads still embedded in the pavement and you may mull if the right thing was done with the predecessor of the bus you just rode. Odds are, unless you’re headed to Newtown Centre, Needham, or Dedham, you’re walking across the river to see how great preservation can be.
Route: 57 (Kenmore-Watertown Yard via Brighton Ave)
Rating (1-10): 7
Ridership: The pre-2007 service pattern of limited stop service on Comm Ave (pickup-only outbound, discharge-only inbound) still seems to linger as very few people get on inbound/get off outbound in the shared portion. Those getting on before are bound for western Allston, Brighton, or Watertown and those heading inbound will just stay on until Kenmore. There’s some local ridership too, heavily centered on those in the residential areas or Allston.
Pros: Save for portions of Brighton Avenue where the 64 and 66 also operate, the 57 is the sole bus service for a good swath of Boston and it is a key connector for an area with heavy transit use (Allston) to the rest of the system. The scenery in Brighton and Newton is also quaint New England suburban in all the right ways.
Cons: This used to be a trolley and spent a quarter-century dying on the vine for what? There are so many what-ifs on the history of this route – what if someone made trolleys for the 20+ years between the PCC’s end and the Boeing LRV’s start, what if Dukakis had political will to restore the A – that it could be a post of its own.
Nearby and Noteworthy: On Brighton Avenue, there is the wonderful Sunset Grill and Tap, along with its next door neighbor Patron’s and back on Comm Ave their sister Sunset Cantina. All three have some very off the wall menu items and have alcohol selections. I recommend reading your menu and bringing your wallet and an empty stomach because you will love any of the three.
For the sake of history, the Oak Square Dunkin’ Donuts has many pictures of the former A branch adorning its wall which sets it apart from the several other Dunks on its route.