The T's secret bus routes

Ari Ofsevit introduces us to several bus routes that run only very early in the morning and which aren't really readily identifiable on schedules or anything, unless you look really, really hard.

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not readily identifiable?

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Really? Not so.

Here's a clip of the 117's schedule. With the "notes" at the bottom.

IMAGE(https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1515/25935251831_b8d2873566.jpg)

You just have to read the schedule. Just because the T doesn't do cart wheels advertising these routes doesn't mean they are hidden.

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It's still confusing

I found the linked post helpful. I didn't know about the direct 5:10am connection from Haymarket to Terminal C and I wouldn't have thought to look at the #117 schedule unless someone pointed it out.

It wouldn't hurt the T to create a webpage highlighting services offered between 2am and 6am.

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OK

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I guess I've known about these for years and years.. I think I knew about these because long before the days of real time tracking I used to carry paper schedules around with me. They've just always been there for me.

But that's beside the point. The point is these routes are not hidden. They are on every schedule. It's not like other transit agencies, for example like MARTA in Atlanta which have a series of bus routes that are for service workers only. They do not appear on their website or paper schedules. You have to be "in the know" to know that they exist. That's a hidden route.

PS - the MBTA trip planner will recommend these routes also if your time table is set correctly (i.e. departure time is before 5:15). Even the real time trackers will have these routes show up 20 minutes before the route starts (so in the case of the 117, it appears on the tracker at 4:05a) So again, not exactly hidden.

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Agreed

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I ride these early morning routes several times a year. I often have to head into the city to do maintenance work before 6am, so these routes work very well for me.

And I can attest that the 117's are VERY packed. Usually standing room only by the time it gets to Maverick and Haymarket. Very very odd for 4:45am.

Of course the question really is.. are the buses packed because people need to get to work by 6am or are they packed because it is the first bus in the morning? Or rather, if bus service ran all night, would they be as packed as they are today because riders would disperse onto earlier buses instead.

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Is that still the case even

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Is that still the case even now that they run three early morning trips? Sounds like this route would be a good candidate for an even earlier start (or just running it all night from last Blue Line trip until 5 am).

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I used to do the 57->117

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I used to do the 57->117 dance for early morning airport runs. Then, I switched over to 57->Hynes for the Logan Express bus as it is less crowded and has another bus in 20 minutes if you miss the connection.

Will the Back Bay Logan Express continue to exist with the reopening of government center?

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Folks

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going to work. Many light industrial and other si called blue collar or working class jobs, including the so called service sector, start really early AM. Large companies especially generally don't tailor their employee policies and work schedules to fit a large urban environment, and make few if any allowances for the time it takes to get from point A to point B, the severe commuting delays that are commonplace, people taking public transit, etc.

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Ah yes, the Douglas Adams method

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“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

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The 192 is pretty hidden

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The 192 - or at least a huge part of it - seems pretty hidden. I doubt many people would think to look at the 39 schedule for a bus that stops in Roslindale Square. Once you realize that you have to look there, you will see that the Roslindale Square stop is explicitly listed on their online schedule. It also shows up in the interactive street map, although that might be more confusing than not since it shows a bunch of stops that are only part of the route for a single run before 5:00 AM. The times for the portion of the 192 that coincides with the 39 route are shown on the print schedule, but there is no indication that the route originates in Hyde Park that I can find, either on the map or in the notes.

So, maybe this route isn't completely hidden, but it's pretty close.

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The Route 32 schedule shows

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The Route 32 schedule shows it and mentions it goes via Roslindale SQ. (which the regular 32 does not). The MBTA and Google trip planners will also suggest it if you enter an early enough time.

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Speaking of such routes

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I was just told I have to meet a furniture vendor at my job at 5:30am. Looks like I will be on the that 117 tomorrow morning :-)

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Love this note

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d - Leaves Haymarket Station 7 minutes earlier than time shown.

Would it really be that difficult to post the correct departure time instead?

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If you look at the actual

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If you look at the actual schedule, it is showing the route leaves Maverick at 5:44 AM.

Since there is no column for Haymarket, it is letting you know that the bus originates at Haymarket at 5:37 AM.

It is actually a semi-logical as only ~3/50 buses for the whole day leave from Haymarket, so adding a column just for those buses would waste a lot of space.

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A few things

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1. Who looks at a paper schedule anymore?

2. They're online, in some cases. Going from Hyde Park downtown early in the morning? You won't find the schedule on the 32's online schedule table, and from Roslindale, not even the 34's PDF/printed schedule shows the route. Vague notes on schedules are not going to help people figure out where and when the buses run.

3. Most people don't know about these buses. The T makes absolutely no effort to inform people that they run beyond the schedules. They have a marketing department, but lord knows what they do.

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A few answers

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1. Who looks at a paper schedule anymore?

You didn't read what I wrote, I knew about these long before the days of real time tracking because I kept paper schedules in my bag.

Also, you'd be surprised who reads paper schedules. Amazingly enough the racks at Park Street are empty within a week or so of the schedule changing, so someone is taking them.

And as far as online..

2. They're online, in some cases.

Yes and they also have more detail in the online that actually shows the start and end times. More so than the printed schedules. Here's the same 117 schedule but in online form:

IMAGE(https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1505/25941488051_b9c327a268_b.jpg)

See lots of detail there. You don't even need to open the PDF of the printed schedule to see that.

You won't find the schedule on the 32's online schedule table, and from Roslindale, not even the 34's PDF/printed schedule shows the route.

This has been proven wrong by a poster above.

Vague notes on schedules are not going to help people figure out where and when the buses run.

Gee I don't know Ari, looking at a notation next to a time and then looking at the 'notes' below to figure out what it means doesn't seem to hard for people to comprehend. They've been doing these schedules like this for decades, I'm pretty sure they have this system down to a "t" (so to speak). Plus many other transit agencies follow this format of schedule notations. This isn't exactly rocket science here.

And these routes do appear in the trip planner if you set the parameters (time) correctly and that's very helpful to users.

3. Most people don't know about these buses.

That's your opinion. From my point of you, I beg to differ, and so do all the riders who ride those 3 jammed 117's before subway service starts also. So people do know.

The T makes absolutely no effort to inform people that they run beyond the schedules. They have a marketing department, but lord knows what they do.

Why should they? It would be like they putting out a marketing blitz for any bus route. The service has existed for decades, it's not like these routes are anything new at all.

And as far as Marketing, it boils down to this. Do you want them to spend money to fix service OR spend money marketing existing services. Your choice. Sure it's not alot of money to print up signs, but with a transit agency that just increased fares by 10%, I'd like to think money could be better spent elsewhere.

And frankly, outside of a marketing blitz, what more do you want? Do you want CSA's to personally stop every passenger and inform them of such routes. That's just silly. All the information is avaliable online in either trip planning, online schedules, or downloadable PDF "print" schedules. What more do you want?

Like I said, there's absolutely nothing new, "secret" or "hidden" about these routes. It's existed for decades. All you did was regurgitate something that many riders have known for years.

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Not an opinion

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3. Most people don't know about these buses.

That's your opinion.

Nope, not an opinion. That's a fact that's either true or false. Either most MBTA riders are aware of these early morning bus routes, or they don't. There's no opinion there.

From my point of you, I beg to differ, and so do all the riders who ride those 3 jammed 117's before subway service starts also. So people do know.

Obviously some people know (those in-the-know), but the point is the vast majority of MBTA riders don't know. I'd wager even money that if you surveyed everyone who rode the MBTA more than 15 times a month, you'd find that less than 1% knew about these routes.

Like I said, there's absolutely nothing new

He never claimed it was new. In fact he pointed out that these routes have been around since the 60s and talked about their history. The whole point was that there was this thing that had been around that the vast majority of people weren't aware of.

"secret" or "hidden" about these routes

It's definitely hidden. Do they have these bus numbers printed on every bus stop sign that these routes stop at? I've never seen a 192 on a bus stop sign. If I wanted information about the 192, how would I know to check the schedule for the 39 bus?

All you did was regurgitate something that many riders have known for years.

Just because you knew about it doesn't mean most people knew about it. You don't have to be bitter just because other people are now learning about these routes. And in a city, "many people" does not equal "most people", or even a significant fraction of people.

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all I will say

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Because I don't want to get into another lengthy conversation about this with someone, I'm going to make two points.

I'd wager even money that if you surveyed everyone who rode the MBTA more than 15 times a month, you'd find that less than 1% knew about these routes.

But many people DO know about these routes already. If you need to be somewhere before the start of rail service, you're going to figure out how to get there. That is how I figured out these buses existed almost 10 years ago. That is also how many of the service workers know.. because they NEED to know to get to their job.

Nope, not an opinion.

Yes it is a matter of opinion. Unless you or someone else gets out there and surveys all the T riders to ask them if they knew about this service and come back with some hard numbers. It's still just a matter of opinion.

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Wow, I hit quite a nerve

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First of all, take a look at the 57 schedule and let me know if it definitively stops in Brighton. Because honestly I can't tell from that.

Second, I got the following from the T, by email:

Greetings. The MBTA received the following customer feedback this morning, which referenced your blog post. I can’t vouch for what he says are errors in your post, but I thought you might be interested to hear it.

Issue Reported by the customer:

Customer called to say that there is a website called amateurplanner.blogspot.com that gives a list of all the early morning bus trip . The problem is the blog is not giving out correct information. mainly on the 57 to boston and rts 117 leaving haymarket and the 109 . He would like to know if mbta could create a separate schedule in the packets for the early morning bus trip , He states that everyone does not know how to read the schedules and that’s why there is little ridership. This would stop independent bloggers from giving out incorrect information.

That is incoherent nonsense, yet they are sending it to me so I can … not fix the information that I have in my post which is not incorrect. I've posted a lot of stuff about the T and this is the first time someone has ever reached out to me.

Third, what's your beef? You may know about these buses, and the people who ride them know about them, but I guarantee you that most people don't. We just cut late night service and here I am trying to highlight a service that the T does provide, and you're basically shitting all over it saying that I shouldn't be telling anyone and the T shouldn't be telling anyone. My point is that the T doesn't make any effort to tell anyone when they should have a webpage and map with this information. That's basically free. Yet they don't do it.

Let me also point out that the post I put up this morning is well past 3000 views, making it the 6th-most viewed post of more than 200, and by far the fastest to attain 3000 page views (it should be in the top 3 by this time tomorrow). So obviously there is some interest in this topic!

Maybe you have some bizarre vested interest in people not knowing about this, but if the T won't tell people about it, I will.

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Ari O

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I actually had a much longer reply written with lots of points I wanted to make to you. But I'm going to drop it and leave you with the last section of that un-published post.

Third, what's your beef?

I've quoted that line because there's two answers. The one I gave in the unpublished post which was applicable to this thread at hand, and another one.

But, I'm not going to say it publicly because it is beyond the scope of this thread and frankly, it is none else's business except yours and mine.

However, I will say that both of us seem to have a passion for transit. And both of us seem to have alot of knowledge about the T, how it works, and how to make it better. We both, very often, speak very passionately about that. This is why we often spar about stuff. We're just two very passionate transit people. And this is actually a very good thing because without conversation and debate, there is no exchange of ideas.

To an outsider and to many of the readers of this thread, it may seem like we should be working together and not fighting about it.

I know I haven't exactly been cordial.. and bordering on jackass-ish. And I recognize that. But truthfully, I'm not really like this in person.. my writing style (and debating style) on here just comes across as being a dick.

I know you are a busy person, just as much as I am, but maybe.. just maybe.. we should meet up and continue this discussion and other transit-related topics offline. I'm willing to listen and learn and set aside whatever differences I have (and yes, I have a few), providing you are willing to do the same and come with an open mind. Maybe we can learn something from each other, and work together.

(and yes I know you're involved with transit groups, but I'm talking more about an one on one jam session about transit over coffee)

If you are willing, you know where to find me. I promise you, it will be worth the time and effort for both of us.

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Ah, the Route 117-0...

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The number of times I had counted 70-75 pax aboard the bus (former 4:33A inbound trip) as we departed Maverick for Haymarket; on the good mornings we only left a dozen people behind.

A friend and I were able to get an additional trip a few years ago in hopes of splitting the load better. The 4:25A and 4:35A inbound Route 117-0 arrangement worked well for a short time; but if you build it into the timetable the ridership will come.

Thankfully, a new trip was added a few months ago (4:25A inbound from Revere Firehouse) which seems to help. And no more sprinting from the Haymarket Busway to the Congress Street stop to make 90-second connections with the 191, 192, and 193!

Regarding marketing: Is it really that hard to just publish a special Sunrise timetable?

AND CAN THE BUSES ACTUALLY BE SIGNED UP FOR THEIR ROUTES!!!???

Frank's voice tells you when the doors open that the bus is "Route 192 with service to Haymarket" and yet the sign says "39 HAYMARKET" "39 VIA FOREST HILLS"...

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51

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I was fascinated to recently notice that the 51 (Cleveland Circle to Forest Hills) travels to Union Square, Allston twice in the morning and from Allston once in the afternoon (weekdays only). The times suggest this is related to some kind of school schedule. Too bad it isn't a more frequent route.

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Yes, the early morning routes

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Yes, the early morning routes aren't the T's only "secret" bus routes. There are also 3 school routes (97XX) that only run in the afternoon, and several regular bus routes have school deviations that run once or twice to coincide with a school dismissal time. I believe the hub for the school services is Ruggles.

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Route 51-9...

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Those are the Mount Saint Joseph's/Brighton High supplementals. The Route 52 used to have a similar pair of trips (i.e. following the 57 to Brighton Center in the AM; reverse in the afternoon). The FTA has cracked down on oddball supplemental service. Many of the MBTA trips had special route numbers (ex. 9111, 9507, 9860) which eventually were phased out in the 2000s. Now nearly all the trips are officially numbered as variations of "regular" routes (the BLS Route 28 trip is now Route 28-5; BLA supps are 32-9, 34-9, 36-9, etc.). Per federal law all the trips must be listed in public timetables; from 1984 to circa 2009 a special supplemental bus service timetable was published for the public; and was notoriously difficult to obtain. Moreover, because it listed all the trips by the original five- and four-digit route numbers no one could really make sense of it anyways.

My favorite supplemental of all time: the midday Route 171 school trip (fl. 2003)!

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So Secret...

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Good thing no one knows about these buses that are at capacity each day....

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Very interesting.

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Very interesting.

My wife and I were talking about this just about a week ago. I had been working some extra shifts for a couple of weeks and was driving home one morning (I think it was a little after 4 AM) and was very surprised to meet an inbound bus, signed for the 15 route, driving on an appropriate street for the 15, lit up and looking like it had passengers on board.
We couldn't figure it out as it seemed too early for start of service (and with the street it was on, it was not coming from one of the Garages)

As to "keeping it a secret", I'd say "Yeah, sure seems like it"

I've been visiting or living here for 22 years, and had never heard of it. My wife has lived here over 35 years and knows the T quite well, as she can't drive. She never heard of it either.

I'm sorry, but when the extent of "publicizing" this is a few footnoted cross-references that Dan Brown wouldn't follow if an albino monk walked up and gave him a Charlie Card - I think "hidden" and "buried" are spot-on words.

If they wanted to publicize this, they would tag the individual lines in the timetables with some sort of logo - night owl or sunrise or something. They'd also publish a separate timetable with all of these special runs grouped.

Frankly, this sounds like the type of thing where (a) the T wants to or is required to run this special service for some reason (employee shuttling?), and (b) was told by state and/or feds (wherever the money comes from) that they couldn't use publicly-funded vehicles like these for what would amount to private routes and that public trips had to be part of the record (the official, publicly-accessible schedule) somewhere - so they went and did the absolute minimum they needed to do in order to be in compliance.

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Even more such routes

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There are more such routes on several schedules that operate as a school bus supplement. For reasons associated with collective bargaining and conflicts with private carriers (Veolia) that do the school department contracts, they simply add them to existing schedules then add notations regarding the variance.

For example, there is one bus that starts at Louis Pasteur Ave afternoons that takes kids from Latin. That runs as a #39 to Forest Hills then changes its route sign to #32 and keeps going.

There is also a #16 from Forest Hills that changes route at Uphams Corner and diverts to Dudley rather than to Andrew. Always ask as it is not on the sign. Runs about 3-3:15 pm.

In the opposite direction there is a #36 that starts at Catholic Memorial in west Rox and when it gets to Roslindale Sq it changes numbers and route to #30 and goes to to Mattapan.

The early morning route serve to get certain buses and drivers onto routes they will ply the rest of the day, serve a select working group of people that needs those connections, and also in some instances are getting MBTA drivers to where they will pick up their buses.

There is no conscious effort on the part of the T to hide these. These all serve specific needs at the time of days they operate.

Some people just seem to think they need a written notice by postal mail. These are not new. They have been going on for decades.

Hey, maybe people need to know about the Fairmount branch trains that stop at the South Bay yards to pick up and drop off workers that are employed in the rail shops there? If you get the right run you know about this already. It's not a scheduled stop and passengers cannot get on or off either. It's just for workers that are employed there. FWIW - The Lowell Trains on the north side have a similar stop as well.

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Not just Lowell. It's been a

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Not just Lowell. It's been a while, but back when I was taking Newburyport trains daily, they often stopped at the tiny BET platform too.

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Public?

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Those are not public stops, guys.

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