Monday, August 29, 2016

GATRA: 18 (Attleboro/Norton/Taunton)

Look who's baaaaaaaaack! I'm sorry, guys, I just couldn't resist a ride on the good ol' GATRA! Today we're looking at a crucial route on their system, one that connects its two biggest bus hubs, serving a busy college in the middle: the 18. Now, with such a big responsibility, you would think the 18 would make sense as a bus route. Oh wait, this is the GATRA. Of course it doesn't make sense!

What a great MiDi bus! No, seriously, these are awesome.
The first thing to note is that the 18 has a completely separate fare system from any other GATRA routes! Why? I'm honestly not sure. Transfers aren't accepted from other routes (which is odd, considering it connects GATRA's two biggest bus hubs), and the fares are zone-based: $2.00 from Attleboro to Taunton, $1.50 between two towns, and $1.00 within one town.

Some buildings in Attleboro.
From the Attleboro Transit Center, we made our way onto Mill Street, going under the Commuter Rail tracks. We then turned onto Union Street, passing buildings of various heights and states. Next, we turned onto Park Street, in order to deviate to serve the Sturdy Hospital. At the hospital, we looped around onto Emory Street, passing houses to get back to where we were before.

A mostly residential neighborhood.
We turned again onto Union Street, which became wider and industrial/parking lot-filled for a bit. The bus was supposed to deviate to serve Bristol Community College, but for some reason, we didn't, just staying on Union Street (which became Pleasant Street). Eventually, Pleasant Street became almost solely residential, with even the occasional spurts of forest.

A piece of the industrial section.
Aside from the houses, we also passed a church and a post office, and went under some telephone wires. As we entered Norton, the street became Old Colony Road, and was lined with businesses and industrial buildings. Next, it turned into West Main Street, and as we came alongside Chartley Pond, "Chartley Corners" was considered a major stop. There didn't seem to be anything special about it...

A side street.
It was residential again from there, both with regular houses, and the occasional development that branched off from the street. However, it didn't last long, for after going by a middle school and a cemetery, the industry came back. It basically kept going all the way until "downtown" Norton, which is basically just Wheaton College and a few historical buildings. Here, we turned onto Taunton Ave, bypassing the stop within the college for the 140.

The view of a water tower just before arriving at Wheaton College.
Taunton Ave soon became just woods for a bit, but then we got a spurt of houses again. It was basically a mixture between those types of scenery for a while, with the forest sections being surprisingly scenic. The road became Short Street (an odd name, as it's rather long), with residences appearing pretty intermittently and spaced-out.

A twisty side street.
The street's name changed twice within a few seconds of each other: first to Norton Street, then to Worcester Street as we entered Taunton. There were consistent houses on either side now, which continued as the street name changed again, this time to Alfred Lord Boulevard, and Tremont Street soon after. We crossed over a small river, then went by the "major" stop of Norton Ave - it was literally the exact same scenery as everywhere else.

Looking down Norton Ave.
We passed a trailer park, but the rest of Tremont Street was just regular ol' houses. It stayed that way until we reached a mall (not deviating to serve it, luckily), then crossed over a railroad track. From there, we turned onto Oak Street, and arrived at the Bloom Bus Terminal right after.

The bus at the Bloom terminal.
GATRA Route: 18 (Attleboro/Norton/Taunton)

Ridership: The 18 is GATRA's sixth-busiest route on weekdays, with an average of 150 riders. Of course, that equates to a whole six people per trip, so...well, that's not the best. On Saturdays, though, the 18 drops to being GATRA's sixth-least busiest route, with less than 40 riders! How many per trip is that? Less than four. So yeah, the 18 isn't a particularly high-performing route.

Pros: The actual route of the 18 is very good, connecting Attleboro and Taunton up, as well as Wheaton College and Norton in the middle. GATRA's not very good about connecting its hubs up, so the 18 is nice to see.

Cons: But it has many...many problems. Let's see...there's no denying that the rush hour schedule is frequent, but it's also intermittent. For example, there are Attleboro departures at 2:30, 3:40, 3:55, and 5:15. So we have a 70 minute gap, a 15 minute gap, and then another 70 minute gap. That 3:55 trip is probably nice - I'll bet it's always empty! And yet the Saturday schedule is even stranger; all but one AM trip run from Taunton to Attleboro, and all but one PM trip run from Attleboro to Taunton, with no midday service. Number 1: why is Saturday service run like a rush-hour only route?? And number 2, does that mean that one bus heads out to Attleboro, then deadheads back to Taunton, then runs out to Attleboro again? Come on, just run it in revenue service going back, too! Finally, what's the deal with the 18's fare system? I guess I understand the zone fares, but it's really annoying that the 18 doesn't offer transfers. It's basically its own little system - you can't even get 30-day passes for it! So yeah, sorry, Taunton to Attleboro commuters...I hope you have enough small change for your daily rides on this strange, strange route.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Along the middle section of the route, there isn't really much of interest aside from Wheaton College (which is easier to get to by taking the 140, anyway). Of course, the 18's termini are major cities, and this is one of two ways of getting to Taunton by public transportation (and the other will be discussed in a later post).

Final Verdict: 5/10
Man, I dunno...this is a quirky route - and not in a good way. The 18 could theoretically provide a solid and consistent connection between Attleboro, Norton, and Taunton, but its strange fare system (no transfers!) and scheduling make it fall flat. This is a good bus in theory, but in practice...ech!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

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