Beachmont

Let’s be honest: Life’s gotten a bit too busy and strained to devote energy and finances to finding places to go and stuff to ride as of late. I could rant about the Boston job market being a tough nut to crack, or I can actually provide relevant content. The latter always wins out, so today we’ll be taking a trip to Revere’s southeastern parts, namely Beachmont.

Beachmont is the southernmost of Revere’s three Blue Line stations, not that far from the Boston line. As one of a handful of remaining elevate stations, the character of the neighborhood can be summed up from a view on the train; look east and you see a couple of liquor stores, an Italian bakery reflecting the area’s past, and a Mexican restaurant reflecting some elements of its present…and a lot of houses in the distance. Look west and you see some roofs, the northern boundary of Suffolk Downs and its stables, and an abandoned Shaw’s which closed a few years back. Par for the course for the area. Descend to street level and on the surface, it’s much of the same. One of said roofs is a roast beef restaurant and wedged between the other side of the station facing the intersection of Winthrop Avenue and Bennington Street is the requisite Dunkin’ Donuts, one of the ones closer to the station proper. Near the station is a parking lot which serves as a bit of a concession for the limited parking down the street at Suffolk Downs or the lack of parking at Revere Beach. Otherwise, to the east residential, to the west, horses. However, Beachmont has one other attraction: Itself.

Of the relatively recent rehab jobs on the Blue Line, pending what happens at Orient Heights, Beachmont was the best job. From the usage of the “history” tiles depicting a BRB&L locomotive, an 0500, and an 0600 which are also present at Revere Beach, to the roominess of the lobby relative to its usage, to the fact there are two countdown displays instead of one so the next four trains entering the station can be displayed, the MBTA seemed to take extra care of Beachmont. While there are exploding tiles outside, the fact some tiles were never laid and persons wrote in the concrete is a nice, local touch. It may not have the glassy “suburban picnic pavilion” canopies that Orient Heights is getting and it hasn’t been turned into Alewife Jr. as Wonderland has, but Beachmont is still a station worth visiting even if it is for itself.

Station: Beachmont 
Rating (1-10): 7

Ridership: Heavily locals in the neighborhoods to the east and those parking in the lot. Some Suffolk Downs workers may find this to be an easier way to get to work, especially those whom work in the stables. A little further lies the back entrance into the Suffolk Downs big box complex (Target/Stop & Shop) for this is a quicker/cheaper/more frequent way of access for many though a bit of a hike. There is one bus that stops here, the 119 which loops through the Beachmont neighborhood and works its way across town to Linden Square and Northgate Shopping Center.

Pros: Elevated stations have a certain charm and it’s a shame Boston has hated them so much. While a lot of the decor repeats itself in nearby stations, the fact it’s elevated makes it extra special, especially the sounds from above at street level. Head into Beachmont and you’ll find a nice, picturesque neighborhood of which this station is a great perk. However…

Cons: Neighborhood stations often have a downside of being heavily local to the point of there being no “there” there. Some of what Beachmont goes through repeats itself with the Wollastons and Savin Hills of the system as well as some of the lesser-used Green Line surface stops and that sometimes makes finding pluses a stretch. That said…

Nearby and Noteworthy: That “Italian Bakery” mentioned earlier is Toretta’s, a long-established establishment with really good pastries and ice cream. One of those “roofs” visible from the train is Beachmont Roast Beef, a typical North Shore roast beef and sub joint with good food for cheap with slightly-outdated decor and the sort of place one should go if seeking roast beef (as opposed to the overrated Kelly’s) Both of these are worth the trip!

A Case of Line Bias

The last two months have been pure heck because of the home stretch of grad school. With papers and projects eating up my time, I haven’t had much time to ride new routes or visit new stations. But after what happened yesterday, I feel compelled to post.

For an early birthday present, my wife got me tickets to yesterday’s Sox/Yankees game in which the Sox won for the first time in my six visits there. Usually from my front door to Fenway on the weekend takes about 50-60 minutes if driving to a station (Wonderland or Wellington). Here’s what happened:

2:10pm: Leave home to drive to Wonderland, about a 10 minute or so trip.
2:20pm: Arrive at Wonderland to see that my grad school-fried brain somehow didn’t check the weekend advisories to see that the Blue Line was being bustituted north of Airport this weekend. Options are to take said shuttle bus or drive to Wellington.
2:25pm: We choose the latter and run into traffic on Route 16.
2:45pm: Arrive Wellington. By the time we get to the platform, a train is approaching.
3:00pm: Arrive North Station to catch a C across the platform. A small crowd already formed.
3:10pm: Upstairs four trains went through but only one comes downstairs to head outbound, that being an E.
3:15pm: A C finally shows up. 2 Type 8’s, the lead car having total door failure. A crowd that could’ve easily have had standee loads in a 3-car train rams into one car as they try to find the problem.
3:23pm (or so): C finally leaves North Station after uncoupling the problematic front car.
3:45pm: Get off at Kenmore and deal with the pregame swarm of fans.
4:00pm: Finally get into Fenway after enduring a bag line and wondering how Stop Handgun Violence can call certain people out without violating libel laws. Miss the top of the first because we were starving/thirsty but we did get to boo A-Rod. Hard.

Thankfully it was a good game and the trip home took an hour and change from ballpak seat to car seat even considering the Kenmore Krush. However, it shows there is line bias very much alive at the MBTA.

While the Blue Line was bustituted, the Red Line’s shuttle for the Longfellow Bridge work was postponed for the weekend. I know Camberville/the northwest suburbs/the Route 2/3 corriors lack the stigma some have on Revere/the North Shore/the Route 1(A) corridors but it’s the same weekend with the same pair of baseball games and the same UFC event at the Garden. Why should one line be exempt but another shouldn’t?

At the same time, for a line that is supposed to have weekend headways of 10 minutes, the C’s failure to show for as long as it did was unacceptable. I could find no clue of there being some sort of delays or congestion heading towards North Station so everyone was in the dark especially as trains came in regularly upstairs. I know money is a concern but how hard could it be to run a few ballpark specials from Lechmere to Kenmore or even fully out to Cleveland Circle before Sox games? As for the problematic car, I hope this was an isolated incident though it came at the worst possible time.

Yesterday was a day in which the MBTA looked like WMATA. You’re too good to be like WMATA, T.

Bowdoin

Some of you may have been wondering why the last month and a half has been silent here at (T)he Adventure. There are two big reasons why:

1: At the end of June, my wonderful job had a bunch of end of FY12 cuts which included me. They made the decision AFTER I spent $110 on an Inner Express pass. This also leads into…

2: I’ve started grad school which has made wanting to write about my travels a little hard. I’ve been traveling just that putting words to screen has been hard with greater concerns.

That said, the one upside to not working is being able to get content for the future and the huge perk save for the street-running portion of the E branch of the Green Line is Bowdoin, an enigma wrapped in a riddle under the guise of a subway station. Bowdoin is so special, it gets nights and weekends off! It also has a confusing name for non- locals; as a kid I pronounced this “Bow-doin” not knowing about the silent “O”.

If you’re coming from the North, Bowdoin can be a bit of a challenge to find. It’s lone entrance and (T) globe face southbound and are in fact easier to see from outside Government Center one station away. The entrance itself is a brutalist shaft that is easy to mistake from something else given the surroundings on the east side of Cambridge Street. Going underground, save for the CharlieCard machines and the new faregates Bowdoin looks much as it did in the 70’s and even in comparision to Government Center it looks very drab and dated and lacks fun artifacts like the Scollay signs or the PCC/LRV murals.

The actual platform is Bowdoin’s saving grace. A product of a different time, it is an island that from the faregates gets wider in part because a turning loop is right past the station. It also is uneven in terms of length with the inbound side being about 50′ feet shorter than the Outbound side and unable to platform an entire 6 -car train. As a result, this is the one place the “open door” buttons on newer Blue Line trains can be used and with OPTO now standard it might be a good idea to have these be standard from here on out for future Red and Orange Line stock.

Plans are being made to close Bowdoin when Government Center is renovated with a new entrance being built between there and Bowdoin. A byproduct of this would hopefully be an extention under Cambridge Street to a new terminal under Charles/MGH connecting it to the Red Line. Frankly, that would be a better terminal than the current part-time timewarp of tentitiveness. Still, go see Bowdoin while you can!

Station: Bowdoin
Rating (1-10): 4

Ridership: I’ve used Bowdoin twice, recently I boarded with five other people (all of whom tourists) and the other time it was three others. Most riders work in the area with a smattering Blue Line riders headed towards the MGH complex.

Pros: The general…uniqueness of the station. And maybe some of the timewarp aspects.

Cons: Why did they just stop here decades ago? They should’ve just tunneled beyond Joy Street (across from the Whole Foods) and have had a Charles superstation ready 80
years sooner.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Calling Bowdoin truly pointless would be an insult to The Red Hat which has been around since the heyday of Bowdoin Square. Everything else is either somewhat closer to Park Street (see The 21st Amendment and 122 Bowdoin Street, where JFK lived before becoming president), Government Center or Charles/MGH. Otherwise, it’s slim pickings outside of the Department of Labor and half their offices are closer to Haymarket.