Kenmore Observations

Sooner or later, anyone who lives in Allston-Brighton has to spend a lot of time in Kenmore Square. Three branches of the Green Line and several bus routes, most importantly the 57 and its variant 57A, converge there. 

The train station consists of four tracks around two center platforms. An elevator to the surface provides accessibility, while escalators provide convenience. On the second level there are tunnels under the street allowing for pedestrian access across Commonwealth Avenue without having to wait for cars. This is especially important for getting people to Fenway Park and back during baseball season. On the surface, there’s a three berth busway with an area for parking the buses when not in use. There’s also an arcing glass half-roof over the station’s entrances and exits and the bus berths. 

The 57, which is the most frequent and heavily-ridden bus serving the station, is scheduled to leave every 10 minutes for most of the day, eventually increasing to 15 and 20 minutes as the night gets later. Thanks to heavy traffic and long dwell times, actual frequencies can be very different — at rush hour it’s not uncommon for the buses to depart five or ten minutes late. 

As a result there’s a lot of waiting around. 

Like many MBTA stations, there’s not a lot to do during this waiting. There are usually a decent number of places to sit, however. But the worst thing is that the bus station is exposed to the elements and is in a location that gets quite windy during the winter. Fixing this would not only be simple, but actually improve the station’s efficiency.

Instead of a weird, post-modern glass thing that doesn’t protect anyone from the elements, Kenmore could have an actual headhouse. The headhouse could be like some Bus Rapid Transit stations by being part of the fare control area with gates at the berths to allow all-door boarding. This would greatly reduce bus dwell times and provide a place for customers out of the wind, rain, cold, snow or heat.  

Future decision-makers should realize that just because a given design looks good on paper or comes from a leading architectural firm like DiMella Shaffer, they still need to be evaluated against real-world conditions and the experiences of the people using the shelter every day. 

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