Sunday, May 8, 2016

GATRA: Scituate Loop (SLOOP)

Hmm...I feel like going to Scituate today. But alas, Greenbush isn't anywhere near the town center, Scituate Harbor. Maybe there's an alternative way of getting there? Here, I'll use my trusty friend, Google Maps, to find out.


Okay, well, I guess I give up. Thanks for reading, everybody!

Oh wait! What's this on the GATRA website? A bus with a great, easy-to-remember name that runs every half hour, seven days a week, with a loop around Scituate? Huh! Wish Google had thought to inform me about that! That's right, we're looking at the grossly underrated SLOOP today!

The bus at Greenbush.
There's a confusing bit on the schedule where some trips serve Greenbush Station directly and others don't. The 2:07 trip was scheduled to serve the station, but due to a lack of signage, I decided to wait just west of it, on the New Driftway. Turns out the bus did actually serve the parking lot, and then stopped for me as I flagged it down (the SLOOP will stop anywhere for passengers).

Oh, minibuses...
The inside was as generic as any minibus, loud wheelchair lift and all. However, I did have this exchange with the driver when I got on:
ME: How much is the fare?
DRIVER: 1 dollar.
ME: I read on the website that students only have to pay 50 cents.
DRIVER: Yeah, sure, whatever.
I guess that's 50 cents for me, then? It was a strange conversation.

A blurry store.
We headed down the New Driftway for a bit before going around a rotary onto Country Way. There was a nice lakeside view on one side, and after a few businesses, the road became lined with small houses. Everything had the vibe of a seaside town, and it was lovely.

A side street.
After passing a few farms, the houses started to get denser. On weekdays, buses head left onto First Parish Road, making a deviation to serve Scituate Town Hall, as well as the High School. Since it was a weekend, though, we turned right instead,

Oh my gosh...that is a castle.
We passed a school, then turned onto Central Park Drive, which paralleled a field. We looped around a parking lot for another school, and as we headed along the other side of the field on Branch Ave, I realized that we had passed a castle! Well, maybe it's technically a "tower", but who cares? Just look at it in the picture! It's amazing!

Another park.
Returning to First Parish Road, the houses were pretty spread out for the most part. As is prone to happen near train tracks, there were a few industrial buildings near a level crossing with the Greenbush Line. We merged onto Common Street, and after some more houses, we made the final deviation of the trip, but it was a time-consuming one.

Crossing over the Greenbush Line.
The deviation involved serving Wheeler Park, a housing development with an interesting penny-farthing bike for a logo. Still, we had to go around these slow loops in order to serve the whole development, and though it only took about two minutes, it felt very unnecessary. Returning to Common Street, we made a sharp turn around onto Stockbridge Road, going by a cemetery.

Inside Wheeler Park.
We then turned onto the residential Brook Street, which went by the Scituate Senior Center. From there, we crossed over Front Street. Circling around a parking lot with a great harbor view, we went around the backs of businesses and reached the main Scituate Harbor stop, right outside of a movie theater.

The bus at the harbor.
A few shots of the town, because it's lovely.
After hanging out in Scituate for a few hours, I got on the last bus - 5:30 - in order to finish the (s)loop. We headed out to Front Street, going down the main drag for a bit. We pulled into the Village Market, serving no one, and then merged back onto Front Street, which became Kent Street. I really regret not sitting on the left side of the bus along this section - the right side was just houses, while the left side had some really great marsh views.

Because taking pictures across the bus always works...
We went by some houses and some developments when the marsh ended, then a huge golf course occupied one side of the street. The road became the Driftway, and soon a familiar giant parking lot showed up on the right. I pulled the stop request cord, and the bus stopped outside of Greenbush, since this trip didn't directly serve the station. It then headed off to complete its final loop of the day.

The bus going on its way.
GATRA Route: Scituate Loop (SLOOP)

Ridership: On my trip? ZERO. ZIP. ZILCH. NO ONE BUT ME. Okay, yes, it was a Sunday, but really? I think there were about 8 dollars in the fare box, so I guess that means that 8 people rode the bus that Sunday! Wow! That means half the loops ran completely empty! Unfortunately, I can't find any ridership information aside from this Facebook post from the Town of Scituate: in July 2015, the first month of operation for the SLOOP, the route only got 578 riders, or about 19 people per day. The GATRA even offered free service on the SLOOP for half the month to encourage ridership, but it seems like that didn't do much.

Pros: Okay, as a route, the SLOOP is great! For one thing, it connects the Commuter Rail to Scituate Harbor, which is awesome! And sure, because of its loop nature, it takes longer to get from the station to Scituate than the other way around, but that's okay! It's a really nice ride that's generally quick and on time (and it turns out the deviations, at least the Wheeler Park one, do typically get ridership). Plus, its schedule is amazing, especially for the GATRA. Every half hour service, seven days a week is such a good schedule, and it's borderline frequent enough that you could just wing it and still not have to wait too long.

Cons: There's just one problem: no one knows that this bus exists. Firstly, there is no signage whatsoever along the whole route. How is anyone supposed to know that there's a bus when there isn't any information about it along its route? There need to be SLOOP signs at least at Greenbush and at the main stop in Scituate Harbor, if not at other stops, too. Secondly, there's the fact that the route has no presence on Google Maps, which is extremely important. The absence of information in Google's navigation system means that virtually everyone will opt to drive instead - there's no chance they'll come across the route while poking around the GATRA website like I did. Finally, the GATRA could get some advertising with the MBTA. This is less crucial than the other two, but if there can be some sort of advertised coordination between the Greenbush Line and the SLOOP, it will increase ridership for both! Once they establish basic signage and Google information, this is a great next step.

Nearby and Noteworthy: See, this is the other thing about the SLOOP - it links Greenbush Station to such an interesting and cultural town! Scituate Harbor is absolutely beautiful, with amazing views, as well as lots of charming businesses. The movie theater I mentioned before is incredibly cute and local, and it's connected to an ice cream shop! What more could you ask for? Oh, and did I mention that the SLOOP goes by a freakin' castle (among other historical landmarks)???

Final Verdict: 6/10 (but the route itself is a 9)
Look, the SLOOP is a really, really good route. It has great service despite only using one bus, and it serves so much of Scituate. The fact that it connects Greenbush to civilization is a huge plus all on its own. But...how is anyone supposed to know that this service exists? It sends a pain through my heart that such a great route is being operated but no one knows to take advantage of it! The SLOOP needs signage and Google information stat, and some sort of coordination with the MBTA soon after. Imagine if Greenbush Line schedules contained a note saying that you can connect with the SLOOP to get to Scituate Harbor - both services could increase ridership! Even a note on the Greenbush station page would help. The point I'm trying to make is that GATRA is running this route so well, but they need to get information out there in order to maximize its potential.

UPDATE 1/7/17: Ohhhhhhh, boy, did they really screw this one up. I loved this route. I really loved it. But they just HAD to go and add North Scituate to it, didn't they? Now the SLOOP has a gigantic 20 minute deviation there! Wow, that won't hinder people at all travelling around the one-way loop! And how did that affect the schedule? Yeah, so long, half-hour service - now it's every hour. And it's not even consistent! 12:40, 1:35, 2:30, 3:40, 4:45...what are these departure times? Yeah, let's just go ahead and lower that score to a 2/10. I'm so mad...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

1 comment:

  1. The loop deviations serve Wheeler Park, a senior citizens' housing complex and Central Park, another one, plus the Town Library (if it stops there). It can help the seniors get to the Senior Center on Brook Street as well as the Harbor. And the extension to North Scituate serves a third senior citizens' housing complex, Lincoln Park (named after Mordechai Lincoln, Abe's ancestor). Well they should have made it a two-way loop then.

    Jess' sayin'

    ReplyDelete

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