Wednesday, November 2, 2016

MART: 4 (Fitchburg State University)

I had a lot of expectations for this route, and seemingly none of them were fulfilled. One of the main ones was that I assumed it would cost $1.25 to ride, the typical MART fare. Well, no, turns out it's free! Okay, I certainly can't complain about a free ride. So let's take a look at this short shuttle from Fitchburg Station to FSU, the 4.

A MINIBUS? NOOOOOOOOOO!
Yes, another one of my dashed expectations was that the route would use a full-sized bus. Nope...a minibus just HAD to pull up to that berth, didn't it? Granted, it was a perfectly fine minibus with comfy seats and a fairly unjiggly wheelchair lift, but...it was a minibus.

Going by a bank.
We pulled out of the Fitchburg Intermodal Center and headed up North Street, basically bypassing downtown. It got residential pretty quickly, but we also passed FSU's Recreation Center. And beyond that, we were in full-on college land, with fairly tall university buildings lining the street.

Interesting buildings here!
At one point, the road went under what I can only assume is the FSU dining hall (just based on the fact that that's the name of the stop under the building), which was pretty cool. Also along this section, we passed a full-sized bus going the other way! Yes, apparently the 4 uses two buses, which debunked another one of my expectations - I thought there would only be one.

Passing a parking lot.
Eventually we left the main drag, and it became residential once we passed the McKay Campus School, another FSU building. Next we turned onto John Fitch Highway, and soon after we headed into a parking lot. This took us past a field and then up to the Wallace Civic Center, the last stop on the route.

The shelter at the Civic Center.
However, the stopping procedure at the Civic Center was ridiculous! The bus goes right past the main entrance, but can it stop there? Noooooo, it has to meander through the parking lot and get to a shelter that's really far away from the building! Sure, it's a nice shelter, but letting people off at the front of the building would be nicer!

My friend Nathan and I waited for the full-sized bus to take us back to the station.
MART Route: 4 (Fitchburg State University)

Ridership: The 4 is by far the most-used route on the MART, with over 180,000 riders per year! Of course, most of those riders are concentrated when school is in session, and I only wish the MART gave summer data, as I'm sure it's much lower. Still, due to its nature as a college shuttle, the 4 gets lots of people when school is happening!

Pros: The 4 is incredibly useful for FSU students - it's a free bus that can take you anywhere along North Street (people can flag down the bus anywhere) that comes every few minutes! Who wouldn't want to rely on this thing?

Cons: I question the Saturday and summer service, which is every hour. There are no public ridership statistics for these times, but I can't see that many people using such a tiny route when school isn't in session. Also, the Civic Center stopping situation is terrible.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Need to get to FSU? Well, this is your route! It doesn't really go anywhere else...

Final Verdict: 9/10
It's the freeness that bumps the 4 that extra point up. The fact that it's free means that college students can just hop on the bus anywhere without having to wait too long and go essentially wherever they want on campus! And yes, I know that FSU students ride free on the MART anyway, but...well, making it free for everyone is just a nice thing to do, isn't it?

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

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