Friday, November 10, 2017

PVTA: 38 (Mount Holyoke/Hampshire/Amherst/UMass)

One of the great things about the Amherst area is the Five-College Consortium, allowing students to take classes in five great colleges, all in relatively close proximity to each other. One of the most important connectors between them is the 38, which serves four of the five! That's awesome!

The bus coming into Haigis Mall.
We left Haigis Mall at UMass and headed down Massachusetts Ave to North Pleasant Street. This took us past some final UMass buildings, around a park, and into Amherst Center, where there were businesses everywhere. We continued south from there on South Pleasant Street, but we didn't get too far before looping around the Amherst Town Common in order to serve Amherst College.

Looking out over the common.
We returned to South Pleasant Street, which became mostly residential as we left Amherst Center. Eventually it became West Street, but it was still almost entirely houses, aside from a few businesses at the intersection with Pomeroy Lane. At a certain point, the trees and houses gave way to fields and farms, signifying that we were close to Hampshire College.

Here we are!
We headed into the college, running on a windy road through the fields. We made a little deviation to serve a main building, then we continued our leisurely path through the campus. After looping around the Eric Carle Museum, we turned onto Bay Road, passed Atkins Farms, and came back onto West Street.

A few more Hampshire buildings.
As we continued south through the Holyoke Range, the scenery could only be described as woodsy and hilly. We passed some place called The Notch and its accompanying visitor's center, then we had a brief section in Granby, where houses started to show up again. The road was now called Amherst Road, and as we entered South Hadley, we started to see some more woods and fields.

I have no idea where I took this, but trees!
The road curved west, then made a sharp turn south and became Woodbridge Street. There were houses for a bit before we came into downtown South Hadley, where there were some nice businesses and a common. Normally the route would turn right into Mount Holyoke College here, but there was a detour, so we headed down to Morgan Street and used that to make a small loop to the stop at Mead Hall.

The bus looking tall and mighty at Mount Holyoke.
PVTA Route: 38 (Mount Holyoke/Hampshire/Amherst/UMass)

Ridership: It's lower than I was expecting, but the route gets about 790 people per day. My trip had about 25 people, with a decent split between those going to Hampshire College and those going to Mount Holyoke College.

Pros: This is a crucial route for the Five College Consortium, connecting four out of the five schools. It's fast, too, running straight as an arrow down mostly woodsy roads when it's not deviating to serve colleges. Finally, it has a good schedule for the ridership it gets: weekday service is every half hour, Saturday service is every 40 minutes, and Sunday service is every 80 minutes.

Cons: Things get a little complex when it comes to school breaks, with different schedules pertaining to very specific, sometimes random times. For example, there's an "End of December" schedule that operates only from December 26th-29th! Also, it really doesn't seem necessary for the route to deviate into Amherst College, since it's so close to the main road, but I guess it's not that big of a deal.

Nearby and Noteworthy: UMass, Amherst College, Hampshire College, or Mount Holyoke College...take your pick!

Final Verdict: 8/10
This is a really solid route. It's straight, it's direct, it's frequent when it has the most ridership, and it gets a good amount of people. Just keep in mind that on December 26th-29th, the 38 only operates five trips per day. DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YA!!!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

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