I gotta say, a suburban, rich town like Acton (median household income $133,532) is one of the last places I would expect to see an awful minibus shuttle! I mean, why does Acton get an hourly service, while Webster (a place where people actually use the bus) just gets the every-two-hours 42? On the flip side, the 42 actually takes you somewhere, while Cross-Acton Transit, or CAT…well, we’ll get into that.
|Wow, two whole minibuses!|
So apparently, South Acton Station in the morning rush is a huge multimodal hub! There are TransAction Corporate Shuttles buses coming in from satellite parking lots, some more from Maynard, and Nathan and I even saw MART and LRTA dial-a-ride vehicles. We were concerned with one bus and one bus only, though, and it was the weirdest-looking of the lot…
|Well hello there!|
Well, as strange as it looks, this was actually a decent minibus. It didn’t exist on the route’s tracker at all, but…well, the bus itself was nice. It felt like a “luxury” minibus, with red seats and a smell like someone’s grandmother’s house. The one strange thing was the absense of a wheelchair lift – was this thing accessible??? At least the vehicle was still jiggly, thus covering for the jiggliness of the absent lift.
|Lifestyles of the rich and famous right here!|
So what is the CAT? It’s a deviation-filled semi-loop-but-not-really thing that just meanders its way around Acton. Our trip was one of two morning runs from South Acton that doesn’t require calling Dispatch “in advanced,” leaving the station at 8:43. Also, incidentally, one can call Dispatch 24 hours “in advanced” to request the bus to deviate. There’s no specific distance from the fixed route you can go, it’s just a matter of seeing if they can “accomodate” your request. Huh…also-also, there are a lot of typos on this schedule!
|Talk about a sharp turn!|
We left the station’s parking lot, hung a left onto Central Street, then made an immediate right onto Prospect Street. There were big, beautiful houses along here, which I suppose is standard for Acton. We saw some suburban businesses as we merged with Main Street, but it went back to large homes until we deviated into a…Kmart. Oh boy, it’s gonna be one of these routes, huh?
We came back onto Main Street, going by more suburban retail before crossing over Route 2. After passing the Acton Animal Hospital and Police Department, it was residential again until…Acton Center, I guess? I mean, it had the Town Hall, Green, and Library, but there wasn’t much else aside from a fire station and a pizza joint.
|Looking across the common.|
There were some office buildings further down Main Street, then it was pure forest until we got two gas stations and a shopping plaza as we turned onto Great Road. From here, there was a multitude of housing developments, as well as a few businesses with parking lots along the road. The one that the CAT decided to deviate into was on Sachem Way, and the housing development seemed to be called McManus Village. Unfortunately, this particular trip gets ten extra minutes than the others, and so we sat here for that amount of time.
|This does actually seem like a good place to deviate to. Too bad nobody got on.|
We returned to Great Road long enough to cross over a tiny creek, then we turned onto Nonset Path. This took us into the Nagog Woods complex, a rather nice apartment development that’s so big that it gets its own postal code. It was interesting to note that on the schedule, the timepoint was for the “postal kiosk.” What we didn’t realize was that that’s literal – the bus actually deviated to directly serve the postal kiosk, located on a tiny driveway fifty feet from the main road. All together now…SIGH!!!!
We came back to Great Road, which was now running alongside the beautiful Lake Nagog. We turned onto Nagog Park next, passing the by-request-only Nagog Mall (lots of Nagogs around here) and then a ton of office buildings. Next, it was a left onto Avalon Drive, which snaked us up to Avalon Acton, another nice-looking apartment development. This was technically the “end” of the route, but guess what! There are a ton of inbound-only deviations coming back! YAY!!!!
|In the middle of Avalon Acton.|
We made our way back down to Great Road, but this time, we skipped the deviation to Nagog Woods. Instead, it was straight down Great Road, which hosted a few other random apartment developments before the outbound route rejoined us. We skipped the Sachem Way deviation, but luckily we had a new one at “Great Road Condominiums (front entrance mailboxes).” What does that mean? It meant that we served the development’s mailboxes, which are less than 200 feet from the main road, and saves residents exactly one minute of walking. Come on, either go all the way into the development or put the stop on the main street. Go big or go home!
|GREAT, GLAD WE SERVED THESE.|
If you remember from our outbound trip, we had gone from Main Street onto Great Road, but the inbound route stays on Great Road for a bit. It took us over Nashoba Brook and under a bike path, then there were some office buildings and suburban businesses. The one we were concerned with was Gould’s Plaza, which gets a deviation (on the inbound route only, of course), and…someone got on!!!!!!!!!
|Coming into the plaza.|
We headed down the woodsy Brook Street back onto Main, where we rejoined the outbound route. We got to do an interesting deviation in Acton Center, though: this person who got on wanted to go to the library, which is request-only! Oho, how exciting! It was little more than just pulling into the library parking lot and leaving again, but…request-only!
|Coming out of the deviation.|
We ran down Main Street like we had before for a while, but things changed once we crossed Route 2 – it was time for another one-directional deviation, this time into “Acton Plaza 1 & 2,” otherwise known as Roche Bros. and some other unimportant stores. But from here to South Acton Station, the inbound route goes a completely different way that serves a bunch of new stuff! Yes, we were now going west down Massachusetts Ave.
|Within the Roche Brothers lot.|
It turned to houses quickly, but after a stretch of forest that took us over Fort Pond Brook, we came to our first proper “downtown” of the trip! This was West Acton, and though there wasn’t much to it, it had a few charming buildings and businesses. We crossed the Commuter Rail tracks, then we turned onto Windsor Ave, a narrow residential street.
|A twisty shot of West Acton.|
We were supposed to deviate into an apartment development called Windsor Green, but for some reason, we didn’t do it. Wow, for such a deviation-happy route, that’s weird! Windsor Ave merged into Central Street, a twisty road that was mostly residential. It led us back to the station, where we could finally leave the grandma’s house minibus!
|The bus…from above.|
Route: Cross-Acton Transit
Ridership: Well, as you know, our round trip got approximately…one person. Our driver told us that over the course of a typical day, the route gets about 10-15 passengers, meaning…about one person per round trip. Alright, well, I guess the math checks out there…the ridership sucks!
Pros: Acton gets a bus! That’s…nice?
Cons: It’s just one of those routes, you know? There are way too many deviations that only happen in one direction, the route has “commuter” trips that are useless because the route only runs from 8:33 to 5:43 at South Acton Station (not to mention that the 5:43 trip only times with the train that arrives at 5:07 and just misses the one that gets in at 5:54), and in classic small-town minibus form, there’s a two-hour gap in the schedule for a lunch break! Also, hardly anyone uses it.
Nearby and Noteworthy: West Acton was kind of a funky place. It has some restaurants, neat shops, and the Silver Unicorn Bookstore, which sounds incredible.
Final Verdict: 1/10
Hey, if Acton wants to keep this thing around, it can. They might want to serve some of the deviations in both directions to make the route actually useful, but I doubt they have any sort of plan to do that. Oh well…have fun with your 10-15 passengers per day, CAT!
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