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The Convenience of Watertown: a Contrarian View

Though I like the fact that Watertown is close to Boston, I don't find the town to be convenient, either to going in town or to traveling elsewhere in the metro area.

Convenience is relative. Whenever I hear an ad touting the "convenient location" of the establishment being advertised, I have to chuckle. I think of  a "convenient location" as a place that is quick and easy to get to, and I assume a place advertised as "convenient" is probably located near a highway. Though a store might be right along a major thoroughfare, if it's 50 miles from my home, it is not convenient to me.

I've often heard Watertown residents cite its convenience as one of the reasons they like living here. I assume they are referring to the town's proximity to Boston and access to public transportation and roads that go into the city. They may also like the Mass Pike being a quick ride from their homes. But though I like the fact that Watertown is close to Boston, I don't find the town to be convenient, either to going in town or to traveling elsewhere in the metro area.

Because both the Pike and Storrow Drive provide direct routes into the city, we have easy access to Boston by car, but the volume of traffic and the cost and difficulty of parking often preclude driving into the city. Fortunately, you can take public transportation from Watertown to downtown Boston, but unfortunately all routes involve buses. I've lived both in Porter Square and outside Davis Square, and I found those areas to be extremely convenient because I could walk or take a quick ride to a subway station, then go directly to my urban destination. I find that a bus added to the route, as it is in Watertown, causes much inconvenience, involving both comfort and timeliness.

Since the buses travel on streets full of traffic, the ride is much slower than the ride on the subway, with its dedicated tracks. The bus also makes more stops. Because of these factors, a bus commute is longer than a commute on the subway. On several Watertown routes, buses are scheduled to leave every 15 minutes or so on weekdays, with trips a bit more frequent during rush hour and less so later at night. On weekends, the buses travel less frequently. And no matter what the schedule, buses have a habit of being late.

Subway stations are not exactly comfortable environments, but at least most of them are indoors. Waiting for the bus involves standing outside, often with no shelter, for long periods of time. For a good part of the year here in New England, that is not very pleasant. It's no fun to stand around for a long time when it's really cold, extremely hot, raining, snowing, windy. And of course, my bus stop is on the cold side of the street

The 73 bus on Belmont Street runs more frequently than the 71 on Mt. Auburn Street, which of course is the line that I take. There have been many occasions when I've been waiting for the bus at the Harvard Square station, and several 73s – up to six – have come through before one 71! The last time that happened to me, when the 71 finally arrived, it seemed like two busloads of passengers were packed into one bus, which made for a cramped, unpleasant, and very slow ride. When I finally got off the bus, of course there was a nearly empty 71 bus coming along behind.

I find Watertown even less convenient when it comes to going places beyond the Boston area. The Mass Pike is the only highway that is close to Watertown, and its disadvantages include the costs in both money (the tolls) and time (the line of traffic that often backs up at the toll booths). You can reach locations west of town via the Pike, or you can head east on the Pike and drive through Boston to go south via the Southeast Expressway. (The latter is a long and arduous ride in lots of traffic.)

Route 128 is one of the main travel routes in the Metro Boston area, and Watertown seems to be close to the center point in the land that the highway loops around. If I have to go somewhere that is located on Rte. 128 in Waltham, I ignore directions that cite which exit to take from the highway because it's easier to just drive through Waltham to get there. You can take the Pike or Route 2 to 128, but neither are quick trips from home. Other highways in the state are even further away.

So as I said at the beginning, convenience is relative. I don't consider Watertown to be convenient, but your mileage may vary.

Renee Hirschberg January 19, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Great article Marian...although I will respectfully disagree. I moved to Watertown from Florida, and could not be happier with where I landed. I work in Boston, and only have to drive exactly 12 minutes to work. On the days I choose to take the bus, it is a 45 minute ride on the 57 bus. Not too shabby! In regards to living near a subway station, it is really only convenient if where you are traveling is on your line. For instance, to get to BC from Porter Square is horrendous and visa versa. But to get to either from Watertown (if you are driving) is a zip! I guess the key is whether or not you are solely reliant on a car or public transportation. I think if you like to have both at your disposal, Watertown could not be more convenient.
Marian Ferro January 19, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Hi Renee, Thank you for your reply. I'm glad you liked my article, and it's great to see someone disagree respectfully, which tends to be a rarity today. We all have our own opinions on the convenience of a place, depending on where we have to go and how we are going to get there, which is why I said convenience is relative. Thank you for telling me why you find Watertown convenient. People always say they think it's convenient, but they never tell me why. You're absolutely right about getting to BC. It's very easy from Watertown by car. But it would take a long time if you had to rely on the T. Fortunately, when I lived In the Porter and Davis Square areas, I worked near South Station so the red line was the correct subway route for me.
Marian Ferro January 19, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Mr. (or Ms.) Wall Smart, In regards to your most recent reply, even if an iPhone is available at $99, there is still the recurring expense of the service. I have no need to re-examine my spending priorities because my spending is limited to required living expenses. Aside from a bit of freelance work, I do not have a job right now. With 5 unemployed for every job opening, I have not had steady work since getting laid off from my last job. I thought jade was green.
Marc January 20, 2012 at 11:34 PM
I still say if you need to get in the city often explore the idea of car-pooling...Or, take a cab if it's only an occasional trip during the colder months...nobody wants to wait in the cold...Although, I don't understand why they don't put bus shelters with doors on them which can protect one from the sun, wind, and cold (to a degree) while they wait... Sidenotes: If we don't say "respectfully", it doesn't mean we disrespect you or your ideas... And yes, Jade has six natural colors: green, lavender, red, yellow, white and black. •Green is the most traditional and expensive color for jade. The green color varies from pale or yellowish green to Granny Smith apple green, its best color. in its finest green color it bears a close resemblance to an emerald. •Lavender jade can be quite dark - almost deep plum-purple, or be quite light and pale. •Red jade color range is from a lemon-yellow through beige to orange-brown to the best color: a pure red-brown. Today, red jade is often heated to increase 'redness'. This process, while permanent, impairs translucence and reduces the value of the jade. •Yellow jade is the most affordable jade. And most of the yellow jade in the market today is real. •White jade, or "pure" jade, can be found in a chalky, opaque white to a translucent gray-white. A good polish is essential. •Black jade is usually nephrite and, in its finer qualities, is glassy black. Surface flecks are common and usually acceptable.
Marian Ferro January 22, 2012 at 07:11 AM
Marc, I don't currently have to get into the city that often; I was mainly writing from past experience. I have thought about car-pooling in the past, but it's not always possible to find other people whose needs match up with yours. Regarding "respectfully," I realize that but I just thought it was nice for someone to say that and I wanted to acknowledge it. I've spent too much time on the Internet and I find that many people online seem to only be there to give others a hard time. Disrespect is rampant online, and most people who disagree on message boards and such go out of their way to be nasty. I'm not intimating that anyone is being disrespectful here, but I just thought I'd acknowledge her words. That's very interesting about jade. I did not know that. I thought that all jade was green. That's the only color I've seen, and jade is always spoken of as being green. Thank you for that information..

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