Monday, March 19, 2018

GATRA: Downtown Middleborough Shuttle

I think we've done it: we've hit peak GATRA. This route, the Downtown Middleborough Shuttle, seems to do absolutely everything wrong. For example, it only serves Middleborough Station four times per day: 11:05, 12:50, 3:05, and 4:45. They time with trains, but why these specific times that don't benefit commuters in any way? Huh, I dunno! It's honestly one of the less confusing mysteries of this crazy route...

Here it comes!
Because the bus didn't time with our train, Sam and I walked to Grove Street to flag down the bus. "Where ya goin'?" the driver asked as he used his minibus lever to open the door. "We're going to Trucchi's." I said. "Oh, okay," the driver said. "Just know that it takes a while to get there, I gotta go to a bunch of places first." Oh yeah...he wasn't lying.

Some houses.
We dropped our coins into the non-electronic farebox to get to the dollar fare (because come on, coins are the only true way to pay for a GATRA bus) and sat down. One of the two passengers on board, an old lady with sunglasses, turned around to look at us. "Thank goodness for the bus," she said through a wide toothy smile. "Yup," Sam said. Now she was just staring at us. Grinning. Sizing us up. The other passenger, an old man, turned around. "The local school must be nearby," he said in an aggressive growl. What had we gotten ourselves into? The wheelchair lift jiggled.

A deviation, of course!
We deviated into an ugly, dead shopping center: Middleborough Crossing. The old sunglasses lady finally stopped grinning at us to let the driver know she wanted to get off at Ocean State Job Lot. The old man got out first, and she made her way off the bus mumbling about what she was planning on buying. Awesome, now we had some time alone!

Not too many cars parked here today.
But alas, we would get more passengers as we pulled up to Hannaford. The first was a typical GATRA old lady. The second was a man with big, bulging eyes and a mask over his nose and mouth. He stepped onto the bus with two grocery bags, then he gave us a long, hard stare with those beady eyes. We could hear his deep breaths behind the bright blue hospital mask. At some point he decided we were suitably scared, so he got off the bus to get his other two bags.

Leaving the shopping center.
Hang on, did either of those passengers pay? No, no, they absolutely didn't! And now that I think about it, the farebox was empty when Sam and I put our money in, so sunglasses lady and growl man didn't pay either! Do people just not pay for this route? Gosh, I wonder what the GATRA accountants say about this money-losing mess!

An apartment development behind a laundromat.
We went over the Nemasket River after returning to Grove Street, then it was mostly suburban businesses on the other side. We passed the Middleborough High School (perhaps the "local school" growl man was referring to?), then a few housing developments. Turning onto Wood Street, we then made our way into Middlebury Arms, an apartment development.

Coming into Middlebury Arms.
The road ended with a dead-end. So, we did what any normal bus route would do: reverse into a driveway and three point turn our way back out! Coming back onto Wood Street, we were about seven minutes early, so we pulled over into the route's...uh...layover point? I guess that's the most professional name I can give the patch of dirt next to the road we were sitting in.

Reverse, reverse!
A person in a passing car knew the driver, so they both opened their windows and had a screaming conversation, blocking the traffic on Wood Street. Once the woman left, the driver turned on the radio, which was playing an incomprehensible ad for the South Shore Gutter Monkeys. It was parodying something, but it made absolutely no sense! And then..."Call 911! No, just kidding, call [actual number]." Geez, come on, that's not okay!

An auto shop.
Finally, we pulled out of the dirt patch and headed back the way we came on Grove Street. We went over the Nemasket River again and passed Middleborough Crossing without deviating. Also, the actual radio station came on here: "Welcome to the feel-good station, playing hits from when you were growing up!" Uh-oh...cue the absolute cheesiest 70s and 80s music you've ever heard. "Lonely Boy," by Andrew Gold, anyone?

Okay, that's an awesome town hall!
There were some suburban businesses at Main Street, onto which we turned. It was residential for a bit, but we soon arrived at Middleborough Town Hall, marking the beginning of downtown Middleborough...except we turned onto Webster Street before reaching the thick of things, because we had a deviation to do!

Heading onto Webster Street.
There were dense houses along here, and they continued as we turned onto Benton Street. We then turned onto Spencer Street, taking us down a hill to the Riverview Apartments. Using a roundabout within the development to turn around, we pulled over, and...oh, we're three minutes early, so we have to wait? Sigh...

One of the apartments, with regular houses in the background.
We finally pulled out of there, making our way onto Wareham Street. As it became Center Street, it took us into downtown Middleborough proper, which was a very...lifeless place. Everything about it was bland and dead. We turned onto Oak Street next, going by houses and a small hospital.

Woooooo! Downtown Middleborough!!
We turned onto Maple Ave, then Maddigan Way, which was an apartment development. As we made our way down to Sproat Street, we entered a different apartment development, Nemasket Apartments. From there, we made our way onto Forest Street, although the route was supposed to return on Oak Street. Mask guy got off along here, and it took forever because he had to get his four bags out of the bus, while also staring at us the whole time. I was overjoyed to see him go, and I took solace in the fact that I would never have to be stared at by him ever again.

Coming off of Forest Street.
We turned onto Center Street, and for the first time on the route, we were actually going somewhere without deviating! The road went over some freight and Commuter Rail train tracks, then we were in a mostly residential area. It was all houses, aside from Middleborough's Central Cemetery. As the road made a southerly curve, it became Anderson Ave.

Finally, I was getting deviation withdrawal!
We turned onto North Grove Street in order to serve...gosh, I don't even know. The street just had sparse houses along it. We did a sharp turn around onto Grove Street proper, and there were a few...landscaping businesses there. Is that what GATRA's trying to serve with this jog? There was a section of mostly woods after that, mixed in with a few suburban businesses, including two vape shops, apparently!

A very flashy diner.
Near a State Police station, we passed a scheduled timepoint: Acorn Hill. I guess this is what we were serving? Doesn't look like much to me! There were some suburban businesses as we went through an intersection with Anderson Ave, and then we pulled into Trucchi's. Wait, hang on, we were supposed to go past it to deviate to Southeast Health Center! We're not doing that, huh? Alright, then...last stop, Trucchi's.

Give us a wave!
GATRA Route: Downtown Middleborough Shuttle

Ridership: This route averages 46 riders per weekday, and based on what we saw, not one of them is under 65! The route gets about 5 passengers per hour, and since the route runs every hour, that means every 5 passengers per round trip. Pretty bad...

Pros: Well, I'll say this: people are at least using it. It serves a purpose within the community. Sort of. And the every hour, weekdays only schedule is fine.

Cons: It's sooooooo bad! It does almost everything wrong: it serves the Commuter Rail station at random times, the time given between timepoints changes on certain trips, the route is insanely deviatory, it doesn't go the route it's supposed to go, it costs $15.22 per passenger to run, it's early everywhere so it has to wait, it has a 3.3% farebox recovery ratio, but it's probably more like 0% because the passengers don't pay (and are really creepy), and the route gets just 5 passengers per hour! WHAT DOES THIS THING DO RIGHT???

Nearby and Noteworthy: I have to say, Trucchi's was the most GATRA supermarket I've ever been in. Just like on the bus, there was no one, worker or customer, under 65 in there!

Final Verdict: 1/10
There aren't too many cases where I would say this, but come on - just replace this thing with dial-a-ride service. Everyone who rides it fits the requirements to ride GATRA's dial-a-ride buses, and they'd probably get where they're going a heck of a lot faster than on this route! The one problem is that dial-a-ride fares are $1.25 instead of a dollar, and, presumably, people would actually have to pay it. But I guess if GATRA wants to keep this free loop running around, that's up to them.

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
If you think this route was crazy, just wait until our next GATRA route tomorrow. It blows this one out of the water!!!

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