I hold SRTA to a reasonably high regard in my head. I think it’s one of the better RTAs in Massachusetts. That said…the North End Shuttle is a disaster.
The route begins at Fieldstone Marketplace, then it deviates to a Stop & Shop across the street. My plan was to get on at the Stop & Shop and get off at Fieldstone (after traversing the whole loop), so I would technically be “going somewhere”. So, we headed up Tarkin Hill Road, which was mostly residential except for businesses at the intersection with Ashley Boulevard (connection to the 4) and at Lunds Corner (connection to the 2). This was the somewhat useful part of the route, where it runs as a crosstown in north New Bedford, but it’s still not serving anything further than a five-minute walk from other routes.
We turned onto Acushnet Ave at Lund’s Corner, and it quickly became houses again. The street eventually led us to a merge with Ashley Boulevard, where we met up with the 4’s terminus at Trucchi’s. Like the 4, we didn’t deviate into that sacred institution, so we stayed on Acushnet Ave, entering uncharted territory. The big question, though: do these not-particularly-dense suburban houses really need bus service?
Eventually we got a few things of substance. There were a few scattered businesses later on, as well as a small hospital. I would’ve thought a hospital deviation would be a good place to turn around, but no…the bus goes a little further to this dirt patch at the New Bedford/Freetown border and awkwardly loops around there. Okay…
We went back a ways but turned away from the outbound route onto Braley Road. We went by an elementary school and went under a highway, then we turned onto Phillips Road. There were some apartments, but other than that, one side of the street was suburban houses and the other side was…woods. That was more or less it until we crossed that highway again, and the road became Church Street. We passed a few sets of apartments within an eight-minute walk from the 4, there was a brief industrial bit before some more houses, and then we turned onto Tarklin Hill Road to reach Fieldstone Marketplace again.
SRTA Route: North End Shuttle
Ridership: Oh, you know. 54 people per day. Lowest ridership on all of SRTA. Nice.
Pros: It serves a few places of interest, although aside from that hospital way up on the northern end of the route and a few of the apartment complexes, most of it is within walking distance of other buses.
Cons: Remembering that most of the route’s attractions are within walking distance of better, more frequent routes, the North End Shuttle’s 9-to-5, every 40 minute schedule looks pretty lame in comparison. Then again, the route really doesn’t serve much, so why should it run more frequently? Or…why should it run at all? Something the SRTA really should make more clear is that this route interlines with the 8 to New Bedford. That information might make this loopy stub look a little more appealing!
Nearby and Noteworthy: On the independent section? Really, nothing. If you want to say you’ve taken a bus to Freetown, this is the route for you.
Final Verdict: 2/10
This route is definitely useful for a few people, but very few people. To me, the North End Shuttle feels like a political statement of “Look, we serve all of New Bedford!” even though there really isn’t much to serve in the northern extremities of town. SRTA can do better than this.
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