Thursday, April 13, 2017

MART: Gardner - Wachusett Commuter Shuttle

Poor ol' Gardner is a really isolated city for transit, and there's no easy way of getting from there to Boston...well, until Wachusett Station opened, that is! And sure, that station still uses the "drive and park" mindset that all modern Commuter Rail stations have, but the MART decided to give people an alternate way of getting there. The Gardner - Wachusett Commuter Shuttle times with trains and is a super quick trip...it's just too bad that nobody uses it.

The bus at the "Gardner ITC."
After a rather late departure from the ITC, we turned onto Main Street, going by mostly industrial buildings. Eventually we merged into what can only be described as a gigantic rotary with a Hannaford in the middle. Main Street curved northward at the rotary, but we soon turned off of it, onto Willow Street.

Hello, Hannaford!
Next, we turned onto the residential Connors Street, which took us up to the Gardner City Hall shelter. We picked up one passenger, then turned onto City Hall Ave for a block before coming back onto Main Street. The businesses of downtown Gardner stuck around for a bit, but things got a lot more parking lot-heavy as we continued south.

The view from City Hall.
We got to that Hannaford rotary again, this time going down Timpany Boulevard. We went under some train tracks, then reached another rotary, merging around to an exit ramp that took us onto Route 2. Time for the express section!

Some random businesses.
We were just sailing through the woods for a while with, uh, not much scenery to really talk about. At one point in Westminster, there were a few huge office parks in view, so that's something? Things got more interesting once the Intercity/MWCC route joined us near a huge pond.

The best highway picture I could get, offering a "view" of Gardner.
There was a road that ran right alongside Route 2 for a bit, playing host to a housing development and some random businesses. Pretty soon after that, we left the highway at Exit 28, which took us to Princeton Road. After crossing Route 2 on a bridge, we made our way into the Wachusett Station parking lot, ending the route at a nice shelter.

Two shots of the bus at Wachusett.
MART Route: Gardner - Wachusett Commuter Shuttle

Ridership: Oh man, it's so bad...one other person going in towards Wachusett, and no one waiting to go back - and going back was the peak direction! I mean, okay, the trip going back was timed with the 3:30 train from North Station, so maybe the route gets more people later in the evening rush? It's so new that there isn't actual ridership data yet.

Pros: I love this route so much. This is just the perfect way of getting from Boston to Gardner - it's actually somewhat comparable to driving, taking only a few minutes longer when rush hour traffic is accounted for. Every trip on this route times perfectly with a train, and it nabs a decent amount of them, even getting a few midday trains! The route itself is also really fast, getting passengers from downtown Gardner to Wachusett in 15 minutes!

Cons: Why, oh why does nobody use it? Maybe my trip was a fluke? Maybe more people use it later in the rush? Please tell me people use this! I love it so much!

Nearby and Noteworthy: If you want to get to Gardner, this is your bus. Why would you want to go to Gardner? I dunno...

Final Verdict: 4/10 (but the route itself is a 9)
Please leave a comment if my trip was a fluke and this thing actually gets decent ridership! I really really like this route, and it's absolutely perfect for Gardner commuters. If it does indeed get no one, then I think there's a good solution to get people: put the route on the Fitchburg Line timetable. I'm not sure if the T would want to do this or not, but I'm sure if they showed that there's a bus directly to Gardner, and they showed when it leaves, ridership would increase both for this route and for Wachusett Station! Just sayin'...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

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