Tuesday, May 22, 2018

GATRA: Franklin Area Bus

Ahhh, it's good to be back on a system I know and love! Yeah, you know, I always miss GATRA whenever I'm away from it for a while. It's so charming in its awfulness, and every GATRA route seems to be full of surprises. While the FAB wasn't as crazy as the...you know...it was still really, REALLY bad. Time for a FABulous trip!

The Franklin Line was running shuttle buses the weekend Sam and I rode the FAB, and as anyone who has ever taken it knows, that schedule is P-A-D-D-E-D. We arrived at Franklin quite early, and with nothing much to do, we walked around for a bit before hanging out on a street corner downtown waiting for the bus. Except...the 9:50 departure came and went. We made sure to pick a strategic point where we could see the bus do its deviation into Franklin Station and know when it's coming (because of course, the FAB is a "Give us a Wave!" route, so no stops), but nothing came by. All we saw was a lone dial-a-ride vehicle going the other way.

Well, we had been stuck in Franklin for well over an hour now - it was time to call GATRA and see what the heck was going on. As usual, the "fixed route" extension actually led to the "dial-a-ride" extension, so we had to be redirected. Then, the woman in the fixed route department said that they weren't responsible for the FAB, and we would have to call Kiessling, who runs the route. "Do you have a pen?" she asked before giving me the Kiessling number. Okay, let's call them.

ME: Hi, I have a question about the FAB.
MAN: Okay.
ME: I've been waiting in Franklin for over an hour now and the bus hasn't shown up. Do you know what's up with it?
MAN: Which trip were you waiting for?
ME: The 9:50.
MAN: Oh, it's a 9:10! That's the problem!
ME: No, it's definitely a 9:50. I looked at the schedule.
MAN: No, but we're running a Saturday service today!
ME: I know, it's on the Saturday schedule.
MAN: Oh...yes, I see. Okay, let me call the driver.
[unlistenable hold music]
MAN: She said she came through on time.
ME: Oh, really?
MAN: Oh wait, the normal bus wasn't available today! We had to use one of the dial-a-ride vehicles! Arghhhh, I knew this would be a problem...I'm very sorry. Can you wait for the next trip?
ME: I HATE YOU!

Well, I didn't tell him I hated him, but I was really upset. It had to have been that dial-a-ride bus going the other way, but why was it going the other way? Sure, the FAB route map is a complete failure in cartography that gives absolutely no indication of a road network, but we were using the map on the Transit App! It very clearly showed the bus deviating into the MBTA station and coming to exactly where we were standing! Same with Google Maps! What was going on?

The FAB runs every 80 minutes on Saturdays, so we had lots more time to enjoy Franklin, which is just not a very interesting town, I'm sorry. For this next trip, we decided to wait at Dean College, since there was a crosswalk right there in case the bus was coming from the other direction. Still, the Transit app clearly showed the route serving the college in both directions, so it seemed like we were good.

WAIT, WHAT???
HANG ON, WHAT'S THAT DIAL-A-RIDE BUS THAT JUST PULLED OFF OF THAT SIDE STREET DOWN THE BLOCK? "WE'RE GONNA GET THAT," I SAID TO SAM AS I STARTED TEARING DOWN MAIN STREET, TRYING TO CATCH THIS BUS THAT WAS NOT AT ALL FOLLOWING THE ROUTE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE FOLLOWING. IT'S A GOOD THING EVERYONE DRIVES IN FRANKLIN (PROBABLY BECAUSE NO ONE KNOWS WHERE THE FREAKING FAB GOES), BECAUSE THE BUS WAS STUCK IN TRAFFIC AND WE WERE ABLE TO CATCH UP TO IT!!!!!!!!!!

We paid our fares and sat down in the vehicle, struggling for breath. "Seatbelts please!" the driver yelled from the front. Sigh...okay, sure, seatbelts are now on. Let's finally review this stupid route. I don't know who's wrong about the routing, GATRA or the driver, but that was inexcusable.

WE'RE FINALLY ESCAPING!
We looped around onto Central Street, then we looped onto Emmons Street. We then took a left onto Main Street, running through the Dean College campus before going by the Franklin Public Library, which is apparently the first in America! Next, we reached the Franklin Town Common, making a left onto High Street, then a right onto Union Street.

Looking down Beaver Street.
The road became Daniel McCahill Street for a block before becoming Oak Street as we passed the Franklin Council on Aging, strangely without deviating - it only goes in there on weekdays. Maybe the COA is closed on Saturdays, in which case that was a very smart move to not make it deviate then! We then passed the huge Franklin Middle and High Schools before turning onto Panther Way, which...yup, Franklin High School's sports teams are the Panthers.

Yay!
We turned onto Veterans Memorial Drive, which took us to our deviation target, Eaton Place, which is only served in one direction that changes based on the trip. From there, we were supposed to go back to Oak Street, but we abandoned the written route again by continuing down Panther Way. We reached West Central Street and turned onto that, going by a bunch of suburban businesses.

WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE.
We deviated into Village Plaza, a big ol' shopping plaza where weekday service terminates. However, there was a big reason I wanted to take this route on a Saturday: it has a huge extension to a few other shopping plazas all the way in Bellingham! So what did we do after the Village Plaza deviation? Oh, just hopped on I-495 for an express section!

Looking out over Village Plaza's vast parking lot.
It only lasted for one exit and the scenery consisted entirely of forest, but it was a nice break from the slow-moving deviation-filled route from before. We got off at Exit 18 and headed down into a rather high-end shopping plaza (the timepoint was called "Whole Foods/Old Navy"). The craziest part? We picked someone up!

Get yer motor runnin', head out on the highway...
"I'm going to Walmart," the old lady who got on said. From that plaza (leaving three minutes early), we drove across the street to another plaza with Market Basket and...Walmart. "Thank you very much," the lady said as she got up. "Should I pay?" "You don't have to," the driver responded, "Paying is just a donation." UMMMMMMMMMM...okay, you know what, let's just gloss over that and let this lady get on with her extensive transit-based shopping trip.

Coming into Walmaht.
It was here that we decided to wait the five minutes needed to get back on schedule, then we came back onto the highway to go back. A funny quirk was that on our way to the ramp, we came very close to the third shopping plaza in this cluster, which is served by a different GATRA route: the rush hour-only Bellingham North Shuttle. So if you wanted to take that out in the evening rush on a Friday and stay overnight, you could transfer to the FAB the next day!

Ah! Ignore the ad!
We came back to Village Plaza, which I just realized is only about a mile away from Forge Park Station. Anyway, it turns out that this is where they give the route its main layover time, so we had to sit here...for ten minutes. At least we got music variety - the driver was obsessively changing the radio station, singing along when it was a song she liked.

Back here again...
Okay, maybe now we would take the right route back. Let's see...it's supposed to go via Tri-County Drive, and- nope, okay, guess we're taking Pond Street instead. Geez, Louise! This was mostly residential save for a few office buildings, and at least it wasn't as big of a detour as before - the "real" route joined us only about 30 seconds later.

Again...WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!
It was all residential up Pond Street, and the houses continued when we turned onto Oak Street. We eventually passed the schools again and ended up back at Franklin Town Common. We made our way back onto Main Street via High Street, and again we went through Dean College's campus. However, the bus doesn't "serve" downtown going southbound, so we skipped it, turning right onto Emmons Street.

Go Bulldogs!
We went down Central Street for a block before turning onto Union Street at a cemetery. These houses were much denser than before, and there was some retail on the south side of the single Franklin Line track. We turned onto the residential Arlington Street, and then it was a flurry of twists and turns: Wachusett Street, North Park Street, West Park Street, Central Park Terrace, and King Street.

These turns were meant to serve some apartment developments like this one.
There were some suburban businesses as we crossed East Central Street, including Horace Mann Plaza, which is literally a shopping plaza built on the man's birthplace! Come on, that's awful! The bus only serves that in the other direction, though - we went down Chestnut Street, then we turned onto Glen Meadow Road to serve the speed bump-filled Glen Meadows Apartments.

One of many speed bumps.
Finally, we hooked a left onto East Central Street and pulled into...BIG Y!!!!! Oh boy, gettin' some PVTA flashbacks!!! Also waiting here was...THE ACTUAL FAB BUS!!!!!! Yes, it had a FAB livery and everything! I mean, too bad its headsign wasn't working, but points for trying!

See ya!
GATRA Route: Franklin Area Bus

Ridership: *breathe*...*sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh*...33 people per day. 3.5 per hour. It costs GATRA $22.37 per passenger to run the route. My full round trip only got the one person doing her big shopping day. Yeah, so not a lot of people use this.

Pros: Franklin's a big-ish town. I guess it's nice that it has a bus route...

Cons: But Franklin's also a car-oriented town, and it shows in the way this route has to go loopy-looping around to serve everything. Of course, who cares about the route, because I guess that doesn't get followed! Regardless of whether the streets the driver took were more efficient or not (oftentimes they were), if the line is on the map, you follow that line. It doesn't matter that the Oak Street/Pine Street jog was all houses that will likely never generate ridership - you still have to serve them just in case. And just look at Sam and I downtown! We had no idea that the bus would travel the way it did because that was not the route that GATRA told us it would take! And the phone people were super unhelpful too...

But okay, let's also talk about the route itself and why it's bad. Not only are there weird one-directional deviations (downtown in particular), but how about that frequency? The Saturday schedule is just flat-out infrequent at every 80 minutes, and though that makes sense because of the route extension (which at least seems to get people), the route might get more time than it needs. I imagine that could be easily cut down to every 75 minutes.

HOWEVER, the funniest and strangest thing about the FAB is its weekday headway. I will never ever understand this: every 61 minutes. Every. 61. Minutes. And keep in mind, this is with ten minutes of layover at Village Plaza! Can that not just be nine minutes of layover? Is it really so imperative that buses get that extra 60 seconds of break time? I mean, COME ON! EVERY 61 FREAKING MINUTES?!??!?!?!?!?!?

Nearby and Noteworthy: I linked it already, but the first public library in America is pretty darn cool. Who knew Franklin had that as a claim to fame?

Final Verdict: 1/10
This is just yet another GATRA route that makes absolutely no sense. The routing itself seems to be up to interpretation, barely anyone rides it, and...EVERY 61 MINUTES WHY!?!?!?!?!?!?!? There just can't be a valid reason for why the route has to run like that! That has to be one of the stupidest headways I've ever seen, and that alone makes this route awful. Couple on everything else and, yup, we've got a 1.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Join us on a Race to Chelsea!

Do you want to be in a Miles on the MBTA video? Do you want to see if the SL3 is actually the fastest way to Chelsea? Do you want to meet me and a bunch of other fans of the blog as we race there and back? We're going to be staging a race using five different routes to get from Park Street to Bellingham Square and back on June 8th, meeting at 4:15 PM at Park Street. Other people there whom you may recognize from some of our videos will be Sam, Nathan, Josh, Jaret, and Jordan. For more information and to sign up, please fill out this form. Due to space constraints, we won't be able to invite everyone who applies.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

MART: Athol/Orange Link

Yes! We're finally leaving Athol! We're on our way home! Let's just wait at the Athol ITC and get the lovely Athol/Orange Link, and...oh God, what is that...

TRUCK MINIBUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm just gonna come out and say it: this was the second-worst transit vehicle I've ever been on (here's the first). It was noisy, the suspension was nonexistent, the roof was like tinfoil, water came streaming into the bus from all directions, the wheelchair was insanely jiggly, and the whole thing smelled like cigarettes. IT. WAS. UNBEARABLE. Nathan put it best: "Every bump is like losing a part of my sanity that I can't get back." Exactly.

EW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'll be clear that Nathan, Sam, and I didn't get this route from the beginning. It actually starts at Hannaford on the border with Orange, then it makes its way from there to Athol via an Ocean State Job Lot deviation. We boarded at the Athol ITC for three reasons: 1) The Athol/Orange Shuttle (the loopy one - these names are confusing!) already more or less covers the route from Hannaford to Athol; 2) If we had actually started at Hannaford, it would've required waiting an hour and a half there; and 3) WE DIDN'T HAVE TO STAY ON THE TRUCK MINIBUS AS LONG IF WE GOT ON AT THE ITC.

A church.
We headed down School Street, a mostly residential road, then we turned onto Main Street. We passed Uptown Common, a small...common, with some retail clustered around it, then a few minutes later, we deviated into the Athol Hospital. Main Street became Templeton Road from there, and it was forest until we suddenly pulled into a modern shopping complex to serve a Market Basket.

In the shopping center.
Continuing east, we finally finally FINALLY left Athol, entering Phillipston. It was all woods as we curved our way under Route 2. There were a few random suburban businesses here and there, then some houses and a fire station later on. At an interchange with Route 2 (where we went under the highway again), there was a major route timepoint: the...uh...King Phillip Restaurant. Huh.

Trees, trees, trees.
We entered Templeton on the other side of Route 2, and it was...yeah, I mean, basically more woods. Turning onto Patriots Road, it was  just houses on occasion and that's it. We went under Route 2 again and it started to get a little "denser," with some more houses and a cemetery. Soon, we arrived at Templeton Center, which consisted of a common, a church, a few businesses, a post office, and this actually cool-looking museum. Strangely, the bus did a jog onto South Road, about 50 feet from Patriots Road, to make its stop. You don't really serve anything extra by pulling off for a 50-foot jog...

A gazebo in Templeton Center.
It felt at least a little like civilization beyond Templeton Center; there were at least some houses along Patriots Road. We crossed Route 2 for what would be the final time, going over it this time, and on the other side was East Templeton Center. Strangely, this center was somewhat dense and actually had a decent amount of businesses. Templeton Town Hall was even located here!

Now that is an awesome paint job.
We merged onto Gardner Road, which was still tons of forest, but there were a few industrial buildings here and there. The street became Parker Street when we entered...UGH...Gardner. After going over a railroad track, it suddenly got really dense, with houses and apartments lining the road.

Talk about a change in scenery!
We had to do a deviation to the Gardner Highrise apartment building via Waterford, Church, and Marquette Streets - that was annoying. Just before hitting downtown Gardner, we turned onto Nichols Street then made a right onto City Hall Ave, serving, yes, Gardner City Hall. And though it would've been fantastic if the horrible truck minibus ride was over, this route goes further to the Gardner MWCC Campus. More time on a truck minibus...yay...

A side street in downtown Gardner.
We could now enter downtown Gardner after serving City Hall, so we headed up Main Street and ran past all the, er, lovely retail of Gardner. It became Central Street and we soon left the center, running past houses, old industrial buildings, and churches. We used a rotary to get around onto Woodland Ave, which was lined with houses until the Heywood Hospital. Soon after that, we turned onto the MWCC driveway, and...oh my gosh, the ride was over. THE TRUCK MINIBUS RIDE WAS OVER! NOT ONLY THAT, BUT THIS IS THE LAST REVIEW I'LL EVER HAVE TO DO IN GARDNER!!!!!! LET'S CELEBRATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EW! EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW!!!!!!
MART Route: Athol/Orange Link

Ridership: Wow, this route's ridership has gone down quite a lot over time. In 2014, the route got 25,522 people per year, or around 105 per day. That's gone down to 13,883 people in 2017, equalling about 58 people per day. Ouch! Granted, in 2014, the route went all the way out to Orange, so maybe eliminating that section lost riders? I'm not sure if it's enough to cut the people in half, though. Our trip, incidentally, got one other person.

Pros: This route is direct and highly necessary. It gets a lot of usage from students commuting to MWCC from Athol, but it's also just a really important link - it's Athol's one connection towards Boston (eventually). Using one bus, the route runs every 90 minutes weekdays only, which makes sense - we're not exactly in the city here.

Cons: OH, YOU MEAN OTHER THAN THE HORRIBLE EXCUSE OF A VEHICLE THAT THAT LEAKY, DISGUSTING, NOISY TRASHBUCKET TRUCK MINIBUS WAS??!?!?!?!??! Well, it just doesn't get a lot of people, and I don't quite know why that is. Perhaps ridership would increase if buses were extended to Orange Center, but they would have to run every two hours if that happened, which isn't optimal.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Take your pick: a depressing big city (Gardner) or a depressing small town (Athol). I'll take Athol, personally - at least it has trees and stuff.

Final Verdict: 5/10
It's too bad this route gets so few people, because I think it's a rather good one. Athol needs that connection to the outside world because it's such an isolated place, and I wish more people would take advantage of this direct trip to Gardner. Maybe it's because it's only every hour and a half. Maybe it's because it doesn't go to Orange. Or MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE IT WAS USING THE WORST BUS EVER ARAHGEHAEIEOMKLMGMGAELMLKMG!!!!! Okay, I'll stop...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

MART: Athol/Orange Shuttle 1/2 (Counterclockwise/Clockwise)

Man, this route is out there! It officially gets to a point where it's closer to the New York border than it is to Boston. Interestingly, this far-out land has had a bus route for a while; this deviation-filled loopy-loop used to be operated by a company called Community Transit before MART took it over. It's funny, MART is treated like some bloodthirsty multinational corporation out here, even though it's actually a tiny RTA in the grand scheme of things. We're definitely not in Kansas anymore! So, let's take a look at this crazy route out here in almost-western Mass.

Well...what other kind of bus would it have used?
Nathan, Sam, and I caused a revolution in the town of Athol: we brought in the fabled CharlieCard. As it turned out, the bus was equipped with a CharlieCard reader, but the driver said he had never ever used it before. It was very exciting to be quite possibly the first people on this route ever to use a CharlieCard, and the driver was super impressed by the "technology."

This side paper said "Shuttle 1" while a paper on the dash said "Shuttle 2"! We were on the 2, for the record.
Like most MART in-town shuttles, this one consists of a loop that has separate "routes" running clockwise and counterclockwise. This is by far the longest one MART runs, with each circuit taking a full hour and a half! The crazy length of the trip was exemplified when someone was about to board here at the Athol ITC. "Do you go to Market Basket?" the person asked. "Eventually," the driver responded. The passenger ended up waiting for the other bus.

We're off!
We left the Athol ITC on Traverse Street, running past a few businesses on the outskirts of downtown. We soon turned onto Carbon Street, taking us under some train tracks, then we turned onto Hapgood Street on the other side. The scenery consisted of houses at first, but once the street became South Athol Road, it passed a few industrial buildings. Also, this whole time, the driver was regaling us with fascinating stories about his childhood and the history of Athol. "None of this was here when I was a kid," he said.

Woods.
As we came close to the Millers River, where a huge canoe race happens annually, we entered the forest. It was basically all trees everywhere, but once we turned onto Partridgeville Road, houses started to show up more often. "My dad built that house," the driver said as we passed one of them. He also told us about how he knew everybody in the area. "And I mean everybody," he said.

I like that wooden fence!
We went by a few apartment developments, then we turned onto Daniel Shays Highway. The driver had another story: "See that house on the corner? Everyone in the neighborhood thought the two women who lived in there were witches. My friends and I were the only ones brave enough to go there on Halloween, and we always got all their candy! They turned out to be the nicest ladies..."

Don't pass!
We deviated into Quabbin Valley Healthcare, a small clinic, then we came back a ways down Daniel Shays Highway. Next up was a right on East River Street, running through some forest before coming out into a clearing for Orange Municipal Airport - we were now in that town. The airport was on one side of the road, while the other side had a trailer park.

Pine Crest Apartments are this way.
We went by the Pine Crest Apartments, the Orange Police Department, and a solar farm all at once, then we briefly came up to the Millers River again. It was a residential neighborhood here, but we also went by a park and some old industrial buildings. We entered the neighborhood further by turning onto Hayden Street, and this was almost all residential.

Houses on a side street.
It turned out that we were in here for a deviation to the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School. Interesting choice to have the bus deviate there all day, but okay. We headed back up through the neighborhood on South Main Street, which not only had the houses from before, but also some retail, a few churches, and a post office.

There's a lot of character in this old church.
We were almost in Orange Center, but first we had to do a deviation onto West River Street, which was lined with houses. It curved its way up into sparser neighborhoods, eventually culminating with the West River Health Center. After that deviation had been completed, we went all the way back to South Main Street and used it to cross the Millers River.

Going over the river.
We finally came into Orange Center, turning onto Water Street. After going by the Orange Fire Department and crossing a single train track, we pulled up on the other side of the street from a decrepit shelter. "Hey Joe!" the driver called to someone sitting in the shelter. "Are you gonna sit there all day?" Joe, looking dazed, slowly nodded his head. "Okay!" said the driver as we pulled away. Also worth noting: this shelter kept its FRTA branding unlike at the Athol ITC, because the FRTA actually comes here! One could travel from Orange to Greenfield if they so wished!

A nice-looking hair place in Orange Center.
We turned onto East Main Street, running down the short and mostly boring main drag of Orange Center, but the street became West Main Street when we crossed the intersection with North Main Street and South Main Street. Gosh, what an intersection! After a brief pullover so the driver could receive a call regarding evening plans (uhh...), it instantly became residential on West Main Street, at least until we deviated into the Orange Innovation Center. Sounds like a cool place!

Of all the places to find an "innovation center," Orange is one of the strangest!
We returned to Orange Center on Main Street, but this time we passed straight through and continued going eastward from there. There were a bunch of dense houses along here, but retail was also mixed in at certain places. Things started to get sparser as we came up alongside the Millers River, then we did a deviation to good ol' Walmart.

FRTA SIGHTING!!!!!
East of Walmart, Main Street became a much smaller road as it curved away into a mostly residential area. We turned onto Brookside Road, going over the train track and passing a big auto shop before the neighborhood turned to houses. Entering Athol once more, we headed over that train track again near a cemetery, then we turned west onto South Main Street. (all these Main Streets are confusing!)

What an interesting place to put a boat shop.
We deviated into Hannaford, where the driver said hi to practically every single person in the parking lot. He wasn't kidding when he said he knew everybody in the area! From there, we came back out and went east down South Main Street. There was a brief section where it was just forest and the occasional homes, but we soon reentered civilization. There were dense houses, some businesses, and an apartment development before we crossed the Millers River.

Some industrial-looking buildings on a side street.
We were almost in Athol Center, but at the last second, we used Freedom Street to deviate into a very depressing Ocean State Job Lot. Now we could come back to Main Street and run through Athol's downtown, which was just like Orange's except bigger and with a few more interesting businesses. Finally, we turned onto School Street and pulled up to the Athol ITC. Were we done???

A view of the ITC.
HA! No! We still had the eastern side of the loop to do! There was still another 40 minutes of minibus fun to be had! Unfortunately, a bridge we were supposed to take was out of commission because of a storm the night before, so we had to take a detour. Thus, we turned around from the ITC and used the Crescent Street bridge to get over the Millers River.

A rather bleak scene.
There were huge old factories along Crescent Street, but once we turned onto Lake Street, we entered a residential neighborhood with dense houses. We turned onto Pequoig Ave, where the homes continued, with the added bonus of a playground! The road curved north to become Pinedale Ave, where the buildings lost some of their density, but it came back once we turned onto Lenox Street.

A little convenience store.
It was a right on Silver Lake Street next, and it was more of the same, give or take a cemetery. We used Chestnut Hill Ave to get over the Millers River, getting a nice view of a gigantic old factory building. Next, we turned onto Main Street, which continued to be mostly residential, but there was a retail-oriented section centered around Uptown Common at the intersection with Chestnut Street.

The old factory and the river.
We deviated into the tiny Athol Hospital, then we returned to Main Street and went by businesses, a fire station, and the Athol High School. Main Street became Templeton Road and went through the woods for a while, but we finally broke out and entered a modern shopping center. Once we were done serving that, it was time to go alllllllll the way back the way we had come...

Going alongside a tiny creek.
Well, not quite: we did get to do an extra deviation coming back. Yes, turning onto Pleasant Street, we ran through a residential neighborhood before looping around at the Athol/Royalston Middle School! Lots of people going there at 1:30, yes indeed!

Nice...
So then it was back to Main Street, and we stayed on that for a while before reaching a new section of the route by heading down School Street. There were dense houses along here, and they continued as we went down Cottage Street, eventually serving an apartment development. We turned onto Harrington Ave, then Sanders Street, and that led us to Carbon Street. We went up Exchange Street, took a right at Main Street, and finally made the final turn to arrive back at the Athol ITC. That ride was SO LONG!!!!!!!!!!

That was truly a slog.
MART Route: Athol/Orange Shuttle 1/2 (Counterclockwise/Clockwise)

Ridership: For such an awful shuttle, it's funny that this thing does get some people. I mean...okay, only around 75 per day, but that's something! I guess it is pretty bad, though, when you realize that that number represents both the 1 and the 2, and each trip takes an hour and a half.

Pros: Athol is a much larger town than I originally thought, and it definitely needs a bus route. I guess that town whose name is oh-so-easy to make fun of is more substantial than we realized! Orange is a lot smaller, but it makes sense to connect the two towns up.

Cons: It's an hour and a half of just endless deviations! It was bad enough having to sit through it on the jiggly minibus, but reliving it again when writing this post was almost just as bad! The 90-minute frequency is awful, too, but man, the one thing on my mind right now is just how crazy the darn route is.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Please just get me out of here. I WANT TO GO HOME!

Final Verdict: 3/10
These routes are long and all over the place, but honestly, I think the residents are completely okay with that. We'll just leave them be, alright? Meanwhile, please get me out of Athol! I'll do anything! I'll even ride a horrible truck minibus! Wait...uh-oh...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

Monday, May 14, 2018

MART: Athol ITC

Oh no, ATHOL has an "intermodal transit center" too? This has to be even worse than the Gardner one, right? Well, right off the bat, I'll say this: the Athol ITC is in an old train station, so it's more "intermodal" than Gardner's transit center is! Plus, the FRTA used to come here, which counts for...something. Maybe.

Hey, this is something!
Well, we've instantly got a better "hub" than the Gardner ITC. Look, it's an actual place to wait! Still, there's no denying this is a lame shelter. Aside from the solar-powered light, the whole thing feels simple, dirty, and outdated - just look at the FRTA logo on the side!

That's pretty cool!
I guess it's worth walking over to where the actual buses are kept. The "yard" here in Athol is actually the old station building, and it's a great old building. I believe this is mostly just used as a parking lot, with buses having to drive to Gardner in order to get serviced and whatnot. Alright, so I guess that concludes our Athol ITC review...

WAIT, YOU CAN ACTUALLY GO IN?????
HANG ON, YOU CAN ACTUALLY ENTER THE ATHOL ITC! AND IT'S NOT A FLUKE LIKE THE GARDNER ONE! THERE ARE SCHEDULES RIGHT WHEN YOU COME IN, AND THEN THERE'S A DOOR THAT HAS A BUTTON THAT CAN BE USED TO OPEN IT AND EVERYTHING! OH MY GOSH, LET'S KEEP GOING!!!!!!

WOW!!!!
Okay, in all seriousness, the place is pretty strange. Everything just feels strewn together: there are different seats, tables, and desks in random places, as well as pure junk lying around. The place is under renovation, so that could be part of it. Still, regardless of how unprofessional it feels, there's no doubt that the Athol ITC has a very charming and homely feeling to it that I like a lot. Also: it's got a bathroom!

Yeah, it's a little all over the place...
MART Station: Athol ITC

Ridership: Probably very few people. I mean, it's Athol. The two routes that serve this hub are all every 90 minutes!

Pros: The actual indoor part of this hub is awesome! It's a little all over the place, but it does have a lot of charm, and it's very welcoming (unlike the Gardner ITC). As for the shelter where you actually wait for the buses, it's...functional.

Cons: It's strange that the indoor section and the shelter are so far apart with no signage. It's only a two minute walk, but I wouldn't be surprised if most people have no idea the building exists!

Nearby and Noteworthy: I dunno. I mean...it's Athol. There's not much here.

Final Verdict: 6/10
The whole place is pretty haphazard, but it has a lot of charm. It's hard not to like all the random paraphernalia thrown around this old train station building! It's really annoying that the building isn't the place where you actually get buses, though, and the signage to the actual bus stop is nonexistent.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
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