If you’ve ever been to Haymarket, you may know quite well the huge walled shelter with a “North Shore Buses” sign on top facing the inner busway, away from the ruckus known as the 111. A weekday-only visitor, they have their audience of people commuting in with some people headed for points north who are bound for Lynn or Salem and don’t want to pay high Commuter Rail fares. I’d be willing to bet that there have been scores of tourists or locals who wondered “What goes on on those routes?”
Currently, I live in a corner of Saugus that’s a teeny bit isolated from transit. The closest route to my house, the 426, is one of “those routes” whisking people between Lynn, Saugus, and Revere to Haymarket during the week and to Wonderland (as the 426W) on weekends and major holidays. Heading inbound from Central Square-Lynn station, it goes around Lynn Common and makes its way into the Austin Square neighborhood before crossing into Saugus and working its way through the heart of Saugus’s eastern half including Cliftondale Square and Linden Square on the Revere/Malden line. After the rotary where Squire Road/MA 60 meets US 1, it has a FAST express run into Boston via the Tobin Bridge where buses can reach the speed limit easily. The express run alone is worth the $2.80 as if this being the “quickest way” to Boston wasn’t enough. Along the way, the 426 is coordinated most of the time to transfer with the 430 at Cliftondale Square and with the 108 and 429 at Linden Square, however that isn’t all.
The 426 is a route that suffers from whatever the bus version of multiple personality disorder is. What is described above is the “base” service that runs weekdays, but there are THREE variants of the routes that run and some other odd mediocrities. Pay attention, there may be a quiz after this:
- Route 426W provides weekend service to Wonderland instead of Haymarket and also has three inbound (but no outbound) trips in AM rush plus a late-night inbound trip. If the Doomsday cuts are to pass, the 426W would become base service.
- Route 426/439 are three interlined PM rush trips that continue on from Lynn to Nahant. During these times.
- Route 426/455 is a combination of the 426 and 455 to Salem that has a few runs in PM rush and also provides weekday evening service via the Callahan and Sumner tunnels.
On top of this, there is some unnecessary complicating in exactly where the buses terminate. Central Square, the Commuter Rail Busway (Central Square plus a loop), and the Lynn MBTA Garage are all listed in the schedule and the weekday 426W has a different stop than the weekend 426W. Any newcomer to the area could find this confusing; I know I did and nearly once paid for it by missing a commuter rail train and another time by having to go from one end of Wonderland to the other.
My own experiences on this route vary based on time of day (but what route doesn’t!). Go on this bus during or near rush hour dressed up and it’ll be easy to blend in given the number of people who use the 426 to head to work. Do the same during midday when ridership is more local and you may stick out like a sore thumb. My first ever ride on the 426 was exactly this, complete with the confusion of where it’d end and the fact that I learned the hard way that you can’t get CharlieCard fare you loaded online activated on a bus. North Shore buses are worth the ride if you can get to one!
Line: 426 (Haymarket-Central Square via Cliftondale) Rating (1-10): 7
Ridership: Rush hour ridership runs the gamut of all demographic groups with each run having bunches of regulars; on the 426/439 runs it’s similar to being a “Commuter Club” among the Nahant commuters and the regular 426 runs have their run of regulars as my regular rides to and from work have the same 10-15 people on both. Also during these times the number of people getting off on the local portion of the route is very small. Middays and weekends are another story as there’s decent local ridership.
Pros: As the base 426, it links many areas in northern Revere, southern Malden, and Saugus to downtown. As the 426W, at least it’ll get you to Wonderland. The fast ride on Route 1 is more than worth the fare and even the Wonderland runs go through too many rotaries. Though I haven’t (yet) ridden the 439 portion, I know the ride out to Nahant is very scenic.
Cons: If the MBTA could afford it, midday service could be beefed up a little outside hourly. Trying to fill time due to missing a bus is never fun even in a walkable city like Boston. Adding in some extra service for locals, either with 426W’s alternating with 426’s or with a 108/426 combo from Malden Center, would help stimulate ridership on the “local” portions.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Kane’s Donuts. If you haven’t been there already, go! Especially if you like huge donuts, unique varieties (Peanut Butter & Jelly, Maple Bacon, and more!) and coffee rolls the size of your head.
If donuts aren’t your calling, I recommend Spuds on the Lynn-Saugus line. Very good seafood and offbeat dishes that I swear came up in a chef’s dream such as Buffalo Chicken Alfredo. If not that, too many sub/roast beef shops along the route; I recommend Mike’s Place for sentimental reasons. Just don’t play 20 Questions when ordering there.