The 11 is scheduled to leave Wachusett Station at 7:45 AM. The first Fitchburg Line train of the day is scheduled to arrive at Wachusett Station at 7:45 AM. Well, obviously, that transfer didn’t work out. Time for Plan B: walk to Great Wolf Lodge from Wachusett.
Now, anyone who has ever been to the Wachusett area knows that this is easier said than done. Authority Drive, the street that goes from the station out to the main road, is completely sidewalkless, and at the time I did this, there was a ton of snow on the ground to contend with. Yes, I know, my backlog of reviews is huge.
At least the main street, Princeton Road, had a sidewalk. Without crosswalks. And without shoveling. The snowy trudge across an interchange with Route 2 was a long and arduous one, but at the end of it was the entrance to Great Wolf Lodge! Of course, the lodge was up on a hill, so the road leading to it was long, winding, and unshoveled. Sighhhh…
|We’re almost there! I see the bus!|
As I was walking up, the bus zoomed past me on its way to the lodge. I was hoping to see where it would go, but it ducked behind a hill. And by the time I got to the huge Great Wolf Lodge complex, I realized it would be a little harder than anticipated to find this stop.
I started with the most plain-looking building I could see, since that seemed like a likely place to put a bus stop. I mean, I wasn’t about to touch the one with the water slides ducking in and out of it. What was this place anyway? Stepping into the plain building, I entered a dark arcade. All of the lights were off. All of the games were off. It was eerie.
There was clearly no one here whom I could ask for help, so I followed the signs leading to the “Grand Hall.” The next room had hokey music and sound effects playing from various different themed areas. Again, it was practically empty, aside from one mother hurrying her two kids down the hallway. “Is this fairy land?” she asked her daughter. “I think this one is fairy land.”
At the entrance to the next room was a sign saying “WRISTBANDS ONLY.” I didn’t have a wristband, but I had to catch this bus, so I pushed open the door and walked through the area as quickly as possible. It was a huge pool complex with slides, diving boards, and very hot temperatures.
Finally, the next room was the Grand Hall. It was a typical hotel lobby, overrun with families and screaming kids running around. I came up to the front desk to ask for help. “Hi, do you know where the bus stops?” I asked. The woman looked confused and turned to her colleague. “Do we have a bus? I don’t think we have a bus.” Uh-oh…
“Why are you here? What’s your room number?” the woman asked. Alright, let’s just explain the situation. “I write a blog about public transportation and I’m only here because I’m trying to ride every MART route, so I want to get the bus back to Fitchburg.” She looked very confused, but she finally had a realization. “Oh, you want the MART! That’s for employees…it picks up in the back of the building. Go around and it should be there. I can’t promise they’ll let you on, but you can try…”
That wasn’t promising, but we were getting somewhere. I walked around to the back of the building, where some people were pushing a cart of food towards a loading dock. “Excuse me,” I called out. “Does the bus board back here?” “Oh, you mean the MART bus thing?” one of them replied. “Yeah, it boards at the end there, I think. Do you know the times?” I told him I knew there was one coming, thanked him, and stood there at the end of the parking lot. And sure enough…
|The photo is blurry, but Hallelujah!|
ALRIGHT, finally on the bus! Time to escape this place! We twisted our way down Great Wolf Drive, taking us back out to Princeton Road. We took this over Route 2, and on the other side, it was a mix of houses and industrial buildings. After curving under the Commuter Rail tracks, the road got woodsy before coming to Waites Corner, the terminus of the 5.
|Some houses at Waites Corner.|
From here on out, the route parallels the 5 directly, so it actually becomes “limited stop,” with only a few places where you can pick up the bus. It doesn’t really matter because I doubt many people are boarding this thing to begin with, but whatever. Limited stops. So we headed up Westminster Street with the 5, which had a forested section next to the Whitman River after Waites Corner before coming back into a mostly industrial area.
|This is pretty typical scenery.|
The road became River Street eventually, but it was still just a bunch of industrial buildings with houses on the side streets. We went under the Commuter Rail again, then we went around a rotary and…went under the Commuter Rail again. What was it like on the other side? Yup…still industrial.
We went over the Nashua River once, then again, and after the second time, we merged onto Main Street. This led us to Fitchburg Upper Common, a park with…businesses around it! Yay! Unfortunately, we couldn’t travel through downtown Fitchburg on Main Street because Main Street is one-way, so we had to go down Boulder Drive instead. It was, yes, industrial. Finally, we came back onto Main Street and pulled into the Fitchburg Intermodal Center.
|Shh…I’m stalking the bus.|
MART Route: 11 (Intermodal – Great Wolf Lodge)
Ridership: My trip got exactly zero people, but that’s because I was going in the reverse-peak direction. The driver said that trips in the peak direction get a decent amount of people, and interestingly, riders apparently transfer from the Gardner Shuttle! I’m not really sure how they do that since the Gardner Shuttle arrives at Wachusett at 7:50 and the 11 leaves it at 7:45, but we’ll get to that…
Pros: This is a good way for Great Wolf Lodge employees to get to work. The route is peak hours only, which makes sense, and I’m assuming the trips time with shifts at the Lodge.
Cons: The evening rush trips time well with both the Gardner Shuttle and the Commuter Rail, but the ones in the morning rush should be shifted ahead about 5-10 minutes so they actually time with things! Also, this doesn’t have to be for employees only, does it? If it timed with trains, this would be a great way of getting to Great Wolf Lodge, and it seems like it’s a big destination for families.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Great Wolf Lodge, of course! Too bad you can’t actually get there from the train, but you could always do the treacherous walk from Wachusett.
Final Verdict: 6/10
I’m gonna assume the timing between the Gardner Shuttle and the 11 works somehow, even though on paper it doesn’t, but the driver said people do transfer between them. Still, the morning times should be shifted ahead to time with trains, and then the route could capture more employees, and even better, guests of the lodge! As it stands, the 11 is just a decent commuter route.
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