North Station

Tonight, the Bruins will take to the ice for a (full) season of hockey which hopefully unlike the last one will lead to another Stanley Cup and a banner raising. Of the over 17,000 going to a game, I would venture to guess that two-thirds will walk outside of TD Garden concourse to make their way to North Station. The majority of those will continue outside to the “Superstation” underneath for access to the Green and Orange lines as opposed to the northside commuter rail terminus they passed. This is a story of two stations….or four….or five. Cue the Zombie Nation!

Right off the Garden concourse is the mainline North Station, commuter rail hub for points north (and thanks to the listing nature of the Fitchburg Line, some which are actually WSW such as Belmont and Waltham) and terminal for Amtrak’s Downeaster to Maine. The relatively recent remodel has made the station look pretty modern while actually giving enough space for commuters and event goers to peacefully exist on certain nights. This is quite the improvement over the cramped concourse from the mid-1980s rebuild of North Station, one built without ever thinking it would be attached to an arena with 3500 more seats than its predecessor.

Under North Station and right down the street is the subway station of the same name. The current incarnation of North Station [Under] is one of the crown jewels of the MBTA system with its modern decor and its ingenious cross platform transfer setup between the inbound Green (C and E branches) and Orange Lines and not much effort to get between the two lines going outbound. Given the double duty that it has to do its namesake rail terminal right above and the Garden right behind that – often with both colliding – it does its job well and is probably the most well thought out transfer station on The T, granted it has decades over its competition. In terms of transit/arena access, it isn’t to the level of Madison Square Garden/Penn Station or Forum Centre Bell/Lucien L’Allier ingeniousness, but compared to others it might be seen as enviable. However, it always hasn’t been the case.

Growing up in eastern New York, I was blessed enough to see and use both “original” North Stations, the Causeway Street El station and the old surface station (I also was lucky enough to tour the Original Garden). Seeing the skyline and both Gardens – and for a couple years, seeing both was possible – was a sight that sadly future generations won’t be able to see from that vantage point. However, the cost of the charm and the views and that area being defined by the El had its prices: there was a single staircase for entry and exit, a single token machine, and if you wanted to transfer between lines you had a frustrating barricaded maze which made Haymarket look good. As much as it was functionally obsolete and had to be replaced due to neglect, the last time I rode through on the El several months before it was closed I felt that with it’s demise a bit of Boston would die with it. This isn’t all from the past. The surface station, after a while became a frustrating relic when you just knew that having four terminals was a bit too redundant and my one experience with it was visiting the aforementioned Garden hearing my Mom and Aunt act confused about why there’d be two distinctly different North Stations.

Flash forward to the present. I’ve used the current North Station several times but am impressed about how there was a lot of foresight in expanding it to the size that it is. In contrast to the “Kenmore Krush” after Red Sox games, using North Station after a Bruins or Celtics game is a pleasure as there’s more than enough room to for people to wait for their trains comfortably and safely. The joint platform has semi-intended benefits for the Green Line as it can have two 2-car trains on the platform with plenty of room to spare. Even those headed outbound have a good amount of platform space to sprawl out on. Having dealt with the transfer choke point in DC with the Gallery Place/Verizon Center combo and having done the walk of shame from Core States First Union Wachovia Wells Fargo Center to Pattison AT&T in Philly in a monsoon, North Station looks pretty great in contrast and deserves all the appreciation it can get. Let’s go Bruins!

Station: North Station
Rating (1-10): 8 – a solid 8 for both commuter rail and under.

Pros: The building of the Superstation and the enlarging/semi-segregation of the commuter rail terminal has made what once was a debacle a manageable experience. The Blackhawks won the Cup, but their transit situations (long walks to stations and special buses) are primitive in contrast to Boston and fans I know are envy in what Bostonians have. Also, during the week the station is the terminus of the 4 to downtown and the Waterfront and the Charles River TMA bus to CambridgeSide and Kendall Square.

Cons: Outside of some minor wear and tear (chipped tiles), putting 145′ of Green Line train on a 400′ platform during middays and nights makes sometimes getting on or off a challenge. On the outbound platform, the first car stop is far from the staircases/escalators while inbound there sometimes is a mad dash for a car. And yet it isn’t as bad as the Shady Grove-bound platform at Gallery Place in DC…

Nearby and Noteworthy: There are many, many places to either watch a game if you can’t get tickets or to go before/after a game if you do have tickets. My recommendation is The Fours, sponsor of trivia on Bruins games on NESN among others.

Oak Grove

Two weeks ago, assorted circumstances brought me out to Oak Grove. It wasn’t my first time – I had used it right after I moved – but this time gives a chance to do a review which goes a bit off-topic.

As part-time work barely pays the bills, I’ve been looking for work and took a chance on a temp-to-perm assignment just north of Oak Grove and the Malden/Melrose line. Coming off the train, I saw the current state of chaos of the platform which has reduced the station to a one-track operation as the other side is being refurbished. While this was long overdue, the original mid 1970s platform was starting to break off and rot away, it does create some aggravation in the station. In terms of overall design, it’s the end of the Haymarket North extension and can be described best as “Malden Center in a depression” – the two have an identical setup but Oak Grove’s sunken while Malden has more of an “end of the line” feeling than Oak Grove ever will which might double its depression.

Heading upstairs, there are two ways to go: Turn left and you’ll be at Oak Grove’s parking lot, a busway for the 131, 136, and 137 buses, and its very rarely used Commuter Rail platform which only is in use when the Orange Line is down or in emergencies and Winter Street. Turn right from there and walk across the town line you end up with the growing community of apartments near outer stations wooing people with rents which are high for the area but low versus the core of Boston. For people headed north, there is a very long tangent which ends up becoming Banks Place in Melrose, meeting Main Street next to Hunt’s Photo & Video and continuing into the picture-perfect experience which is Melrose. However, this job wasn’t at Hunts.

Turn right and you end up on Washington Street where there is a street stop for the 132 bound for Melrose’s west side and Stoneham. It’s a mix of residential and industrial and on the right side of the street you can see the operations of Oak Grove Yard and see the wearing-apart roofs of the 01200’s while in the station. We’ll walk, we’ll go in for an interview, we’ll ace the interview then walk back and smell the obvious smell of hot dogs from the vendor just past fare control.

Flash forward a few days. Do the actual job. Realize that there’s nothing near there to get lunch but that’s more than okay. Finish the work only to find that this was a test, you failed because you didn’t think of doing it their way (which they knew you were rusty on), walk down Washington Street. Once you get within sight of the platforms, get a call.

“The client just didn’t see you as a fit and is ending the assignment.”

Before I finish this review: I know I’m an outsider. I know I’m male and applying for fields that are female-heavy (administrative, HR, and nonprofit). But how is it that someone with a Masters can’t even get a viable chance in this town is aggravating. I need full-time work and the money but I think the fact that my resume shows I’m not from here is hurting me. If anyone wants to help, please drop me a line because I can really use a job or support or whatever since though we’re in a recession, my circle of friends (almost all not here) sure as heck aren’t feeling it.

Get back to Oak Grove and get my old job back. Then wait 45 minutes for a 136/137 to come with a huge crowd waiting for it. Though they had one of the loaner RTS’s they got from Charlestown, I don’t get why these problems happen out of Fellsway more than others, it was awkward and shows that a) commuter rail fares may be too high or b) Melrose, Wakefield, and Reading could use better bus service rather than the current setup of one bus every 30 minutes combined in rush. Great towns but they can use a bit more in the means of transit. You then realize that unless you’re headed into town and Wellington won’t do, who knows when you’ll next be back to Oak Grove.

Station: Oak Grove
Rating (1-10): 5

Ridership: A good mix of demographics and by modes coming in. The lot is always largely full though not congested by Alewife or Quincy Adams standards and like the former there is enough bicycle ridership that it recently gained a bike cage. The four bus routes serving the station get healthy ridership and there is a decent amount of pedestrian ridership as well especially since new apartments (and soon condominiums) have been built across the town line to take advantage of both Oak Grove and of Melrose’s schools.

Pros: For an end of the line station, it’s tranquil. Not overblown like Alewife, not an out-of-town magnet like Riverside or Braintree, no traffic nightmares like how Wonderland and Forest Hills can get (though the beach gives Wonderland the edge there. In contrast to Ashmont, it’s more suburban and of course there are no PCC’s.

Cons: Outside of the current renovation, here’s a big deal: Neither Malden or Melrose has road signs on Main Street at Winter or Banks pointing to people that in fact a train station exists here. The first time I actually used Oak Grove, my wife and I got lost and ended up at Malden Center because of the lack of signage and were only saved by my then-phone’s GPS. Maybe they seriously want it to be tranquil.

An Idea: Make Oak Grove commuter rail an actual station. Put it in Zone 1, make it pickup-only outbound/dropoff-only inbound. Maybe set up a flat fare for ridership heading between Wyoming Hill and Reading. This would provide a good alternative for often spotty 136/137 service and if priced at even $2.50 one-way would be with transfer a bit cheaper than the status quo.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Yes, there are much more accessible Hunt’s at Kenmore Square and Harvard Square. But this one is bigger than both of those combined so for the serious photographer, this is here. Seriously, this is all I’ve got since otherwise people go here to go home.

Back Bay

Growing up and visiting Boston once or twice a year, I’d almost always drive into town via the MassPike and we’d pass by the assorted sites of Boston. Under and around BU, right by Fenway, under the Pru, then right past Back Bay[/South End] with its mixture of commuter rail tracks with the Orange Line wedged between. Passing Back Bay meant that I had made it to Boston and at this point the last challenge myself and whomever I was traveling with had was finding parking or a place to get off our tour bus. Heading home, it was one last taste of seeing MBTA action, B at BU West or a Framingham/Worcester Line train after a successful trip.

That said, lately I’ve ended up at Back Bay quite a bit for engagements in the area, being a quick commuter rail ride from South Station is part of why, so now is the time to review one of the more key T stations out there. The current incarnation of Back Bay is the northernmost/easternmost station on the Southwest Corridor alignment carrying the Orange Line alongside Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and serves as a major transfer point of sorts connecting the Orange Line to the Framingham/Worcester, Providence/Stoughton, Franklin/Forge Park, and Needham commuter rail lines, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional, Acela Express, and Lake Shore Limited lines, plus the 10 and 39 buses as well as connections between each other. Also, the Orange Line makes this the simplest connection between the Northeast Corridor lines and the Downeaster at North Station. In theory, Back Bay should be an important station but in actuality it’s quite a bit worse for the wear.

Walk into Back Bay and save for LED signs and vending machines you’ll feel like you were transported back into the 80s given the decor. Though there has been some upkeep, there are parts that look like they’ve barely seen changes in the 26 years since the current incarnation’s opening. Entering the station, it forks into three different forks, which going from south to north are as follows.

1: Tracks 1-3 have two high level platforms and serve Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor trains and southbound commuter rail service. These platforms are visible from the MassPike and are partially exposed to the outdoors with the ends closest to the station enclosed. Your biggest risk here is running into hoards of commuters especially as the exits are at the far south/west end of the platform.

2: The two tracks of the Orange Line which are located one story underneath the main concourse in a shallow tunnel. Typical Southwest Corridor setup, not much to see here, exit at the north/east end of the platform.

3: Tracks 5 and 7 which carry the Framingham/Worcester Line and the Lake Shore Limited. Unlike the two others, these tracks have mostly low-level platforms with a mini-high at the way end at which point the platform extends into a tunnel and has a very odd feeling. In fact, it may be the most unusual if not creepy part of the MBTA/MBCR system and I’ll let regular reader and fan @BostonUrbEx explain.

“[The westbound platform is]  the strangest place on the T that I’ve ever been, I think. Not only that but some homeless man chased me away when I was looking westward into the dark tunnel, and I had a little flashlight on me in my bag so I was using that, then he came out from behind some concrete walls and just stood there grumbling, I was freaked out and tried to casually make my way off and then he followed me, stopping every time I looked back.” 

All Aboard for Framingham, Worcester, Springfield...Albany-Rensselaer...Chicago!

All Aboard for Framingham, Worcester, Springfield…Albany-Rensselaer…Chicago!

Toss all of this in with a ton of diesel smoke, enough for some to call Back Bay a “lung cancer chamber” and for public health officials to ask those with lung conditions to avoid it, and you have Boston’s third major rail station. The smoke is at its worst on the westbound platform as it’s mainly enclosed and the mini-high is at the way end. I’d hate to see someone needing to use it with lung or pulmonary problems to have to go through torture just to ride a train.

The concourse itself can use some improvement as it has a couple small stores and and two Dunkin’ Donuts and not much else outside its ticket windows. Its two exits show a good contrast of how life is on the other side of the tracks/Pike, exit onto Dartmouth Street and you have the heart of the Back Bay plus the 10 to City Point in South Boston.  Exit onto Columbus Ave and you have the up and coming South End, the terminus of the 39, and the two rush hour round trips on the 170 to Dudley and Waltham. There’s more to do on the Dartmouth Street side but the Columbus Ave side has phantom exits, track views, and a sign salvaged from the prior Back Bay. There also is a convoluted tunnel which connects Back Bay to the Prudential Center (and Prudential station) which comes in handy when rain or navigating pedestrian-hostile intersections are in the way. Choose your adventure.

Station: Back Bay[/South End]
Rating (1-10): 4 (5 for the outside architecture and Orange Line, 4 for the NEC platforms, 0 for the westbound platform)

Ridership: A good mix of commuters and residents with the former heading more onto Dartmouth Street and the latter more onto Columbus Ave. The collection of nearby offices makes this a key stop on the Commuter Rail and often at rush hour the platforms are packed. Amtrak gets a decent amount of ridership and being in the neighborhood one day when the Lake Shore Limited comes in I saw 30 people board for points west.

Pros: It’s the main rail connection to the South End and is a very good bypass for when the mainline of the Green Line is snarled. The outdoor architecture is a bit akin to a urban version of Alewife. It also is a good connection to suburban and inter-city transport.

Cons: This station should come with a Surgeon’s General warning and westbound passengers should be given respirators if not oxygen masks. Besides that, improve some of the lighting on the Orange Line/southbound platforms and a LOT of lighting on the westbound platform and put in a better ventilation system and that rating would go fast. As with the rest of the Southwest Corridor, Back Bay answers a question that wasn’t asked a clearly as the answer warranted.

Ruggles & Northeastern (a twofer!)

Picture it: Several months ago. Your webmaster is in a tug of war with Northeastern because, well, they lost his transcripts needed for enrollment in a grad program and my last option was to hand-deliver the transcripts. At this time, I was seriously in a commuting rut which I actually wrote about so I had decided to kill two birds with one stone by knocking off two stations in one trip. Two blocks separates Ruggles from Northeastern and the former can be seen in the distance from the latter. However, the two seem like totally different beasts.

A creation of the Southwest Corridor, Ruggles is a station that ties the Orange Line, Commuter Rail (Providence/Stoughton, Franklin and Needham lines), and many local buses together bringing passengers from points south and west. This was apparent during rush hour as I saw a mass of people get off of a Forest Hills-bound train, most bound for buses or the commuter rail even with a redundant transfer two stops north at Back Bay. The three parts of the station, are tied into a long concourse which runs as a pedestrian continuation of Forsyth Street towards Tremont Street that also includes a Dunkin’ Donuts and a good-sized mini-mart plus has hot dog and Jamaican beef patty carts during lunch hours. In terms of overall footprint, Ruggles is probably the largest station in the MBTA system which doesn’t have some sort of parking element and it may dwarf some stations with some parking (Oak Grove comes to mind as one).

In contrast, Northeastern is the final surface station before the E line enters the Huntington Ave Subway and is for the most part a run-of-the-mill surface station in a street median. Ten minutes after I got off at Ruggles, the platform was nearly vacant though it started to fill up no doubt due to delays on the E that day. By the time a train came, the train was packed and mercifully platform fare collection was in effect that day since adding us to that train was barely done with six doors of 2 cars open let alone just two. Since this original trip, I’ve gone back a couple of times for other matters, namely one that would’ve made me simultaneously a Northeastern employee as well as being a student. I can say that when class isn’t in session it’s a lot less frenetic and is at times a bit pleasant especially considering the massive size of Ruggles.

Which one is best? It’s up to you and I’ll let you decide. Leave your take in the comments!

Stations: Ruggles (Orange Line) & Northeastern (Green Line – E)
Rating (1-10): 7, this as a combined unit.  

Ridership
Ruggles: Lots of passengers transferring for buses and commuter rail, the latter more often than not Northeastern stakeholders. Given how the E line often can be, Ruggles often can get overrun with Northeastern students wanting a saner ride into town but this primarily is a bus-to-rail transfer point for the South End, Roxbury, and to some degree Jamaica Plain.
Northeastern: Students. Lots of students. Though not as bad as the BU trio on the B Line, when school in session the platform often can be packed, sometimes it can get a bit crazy even Ruggles, Symphony, and Mass Ave all alternatives.

Pros
Ruggles: It gives an alternative to an often-beleaguered trolley line and gives both Northeastern and the South End the transit hub it deserves. Bus traffic here is bound for all corners of Boston.
Northeastern: The University and Huntington Ave were all there first and for an out-of-towner looking solely at a map they’ll gravitate here first and on occasion the stub track just south of Forsyth Street is home to work equipment which can be a treat.

Cons
Ruggles: There is some dinginess around the station but this is often to be expected with newer stations which haven’t seen rehabilitation. There also is the fact that if this was New York or Washington, this would have had a tag for Northeastern years ago.

Northeastern: Where trains stop heading inbound is far from the actual entry point. Often there is a mad dash for a train if one is approaching, often without the best results. Also, being on the E, being on the first train after some delay or disruption is not a pleasant experience for sure.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Ruggles sits on the site of what was the South End Grounds, a trio of ballparks which were the homes of the old Boston Braves. The Northeastern-owned property right on the west side of Huntington Ave, in contrast, was the site of the Huntington Ave Grounds, original home of the Red Sox. Both have markers of their status around the area. 

Haymarket

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.

Station: Haymarket
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.

Sullivan Square

First, before I start I’m proud to say that I was interviewed by WGBH for my take on maps of MBTA stations in Google Maps, If you found your way here from there, drop a comment and let me know what I should go see or how to take The T Adventure to the next level.

Now, let’s go to the northernmost corner of the City of Boston, a stone’s throw from Somerville and a bit of a walk across the Mystic River from Everett. Underneath the towering roadway of Interstate 93 lies a place familiar to me but not so near and dear to my heart: Sullivan Square. It also is a place that is a study of contrasts.

Exiting the station, making a right on the upper level, then turning left onto Cambridge Street will bring you to some up and coming areas of eastern Somerville. Though by no stretch of the imagination modern-day mixed use like Assembly Square up the road, it’s a nice mixture of commercial and residential including a Holiday Inn that opened relatively recently. Bus routes such as the 86, 89, and 91 also serve this area as well as nearby areas of Cambridge. However, this isn’t Sullivan Square proper. Walk down the stairs and you’ll see the exact opposite.

Sullivan Square hasn’t been a “square” since the latter era of the old Charlestown El and today is a lumbering high-speed traffic circle of doom which handles Main Street and the transfer of MA 99 from Rutherford St to Alford St. As can be expected, trying to navigate this circle as a pedestrian can be a bit difficult though veterans (like myself) know what to do. In comparison of the areas on the other side of I-93, this side of the station is mostly industrial with some residences a bit of a walk from the station along the 92 and 93 buses. The pedestrian situation is so risky that the biggest office developments in the area – Hood and the Schrafft Center – operate shuttle buses to their sites from the station. Though I work at one of the two, personally I like the walk, risky or not.

Otherwise, as with Community College and Malden Center, Sullivan Square is a typical Haymarket North station with dated architecture but with the wrinkle of outbound trains opening doors on both sides. It also is a key bus hub, largely for areas sans rail transit,with several MBTA routes connecting plus shuttles to Manchester Airport and the MVRTA’s express bus to Haverhill and Methuen.

Station: Sullivan Square. Rating (1-10): 5

Pros: Someone has to be the hub for a ton of areas without rail transit and with Wellington this station is the “home” for much of Everett.. That and the somewhat interesting areas west of the station are a plus. I’ll toss in a bonus point for being near my job and the donut stand (also at Wellington) I swear sources their donuts from Kane’s in Saugus.

Cons: The fact that it’s a hub it’s good. The fact that unless you know the area it appears desolate is a downside especially at night to some. I know the 60’s when this were planned were a different time but in hindsight the station could’ve been planned a bit better.

Nearby and Noteworthy: The aforementioned Schrafft Center has a waterfront trail on the perimeter of their property from which there are great views of the Tobin Bridge, ocean freighters docked across the Mystic, and more. Also, at night (and visible from trains) the historic Schrafft tower is lit up and is a underrated Boston landmark.

93 (Downtown-Sullivan via Bunker Hill)

Each weekday morning, I commute from eastern Saugus to Charlestown with the bulk of the travel taking place on the 426. After getting off, possibly getting coffee (the Dunkin’ Donuts at Haymarket isn’t that bad) and getting my copy of Metro, I decide “bus or rail”. 95% of the time, I choose “bus” and most of the time I end up on the 93.

While waiting, I wonder what will happen. Will I get a bus that will go through the Navy Yard? Will I be on the run that’s already full of kids going off to school, many having come on the route from the subway? As I settle in, one thing’s for sure: the ride is a heckuva lot better than the Orange Line. (Re-)crossing the Charlestown Bridge which carried the old El the 93 technically replaced, it goes through the redone City Square area before (sometimes) seeing the history seeping out of the Navy Yard area before going through   the largely residential heart of Charlestown, straddling the line between gritty and gentrified that Bunker Hill Street is. I get off near its end before it takes a circuitous route into Sullivan Square station and head off for another day of work having passed such living landmarks as the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument as if they were just anything.

The 93 may not have the glitz of some other routes but it serves its purpose of connecting the eastern half of Charlestown to downtown Boston and it does it well with some history on the side. And in all honesty, isn’t that what bus routes should do?

Next up: The 93’s split personality, the 92!

Route: 93 (Downtown-Sullivan via Bunker Hill). Rating (1-10): 7

Ridership: Outside of the inevitable people heading to and from Charlestown, the route has a decent amount of tourists between those heading from hotels in the City Square/Navy Yard area to downtown and  of other tourists wanting to visit the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument. I guess it’s time to share the story of a good friend (and hopeful future Boston resident) that falls into the former.

Pros: Besides what’s already been mentioned, it’s a scenic alternative to the Orange Line and the fact that it’s one of the lucky few local routes that runs downtown is a plus. Save for Sundays, it runs at headways of 20 minutes or less around the clock to as often as every 7 in rush hour which for a non-key route is good.

Cons: Compared to the other six days of the week, Sunday service runs at 40 minutes headways with one bus operating the entire route. Though much of the route north of the Charles isn’t that far from alternatives, the contrast on paper is a bit stark.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Besides the ship and the tall thing of stone I’ve mentioned, there’s the northern half of the Freedom Trail as overly touristy as that sounds. Heck, the entire area is a good walk even with moderate hills. For my requisite food recommendation, Max & Dylan’s in City Square.