Oh my gosh, what the heck were they thinking with this route and all its inbound-only deviations? “YOU get an inbound-only deviation, and YOU get an inbound-only deviation. EVERYBODY GETS INBOUND-ONLY DEVIATIONS!!!!!!!!” Needless to say, the outbound 4 trip to Hinsdale, a town I had never heard of before this, was much faster than the eventual inbound.
We didn’t have any time to experience Hinsdale because the bus just turned right around when we got out there. There isn’t much to it, though – it’s just a collection of a few buildings with a post office, one restaurant, a bank, and a library that Wikipedia tells me is “a rare early example of French Tudor style imported to North America.” Neat!
We made our way onto Route 8 from downtown, a road which quickly devolved into woods with a few occasional houses as it paralleled the Lake Shore Limited train tracks. The road entered Dalton along this section, and we soon entered civilization: houses showed up along the road, and we passed a middle school and a few scattered, basic businesses. Now, according to the BRTA’s data on Google Maps, the 4 now takes a different inbound deviation from what it did when I rode in summer 2018 (oof, daily reminder of how behind I am), but I’m going to tell you about the one it did on my ride – they’re both meant to serve the same thing.
We stayed on Route 8 up until downtown Dalton, which began with some businesses and an abandoned factory along a river. After that block, we turned up onto North Street, making our first deviation, whose purpose seemed to be to get closer to a small apartment complex. Other than that, it was almost all houses along here, and we used the tiny Franklin and Pleasant Streets to get back to Route 8.
Coming back on the main road, there were a couple of gas stations, a few businesses, and a post office before some municipal buildings showed up further down. Our second deviation involved several more residential streets: it was a loop involving Curtis Ave, High Street, and Park Ave that was meant to serve another small apartment complex. Coming down Park, we passed a school and a cemetery, and the return to Route 8 brought us past houses and forests.
We passed an apartment development, and then it was time to enter the mess of malls in northeastern Pittsfield. First we deviated into Berkshire Crossing, a series of strip malls, then we used Merrill Road to serve some more retail with giant parking lots. This took us into an industrial area, where we turned onto Plastics Ave and went by a few factories.
Unlike the 1, which from here travels straight to the Intermodal Transit Center via Dalton Ave, the 4 has some more deviating to do. We curved our way up to the Rose Manor apartment complex, which we actually went into and looped around this time. This is an inbound-only deviation according to the horrendously outdated route map, but apparently outbound buses do now serve it. We headed toward the ITC on the residential Elberon Ave, a block away from the 1’s routing.
As Elberon turned into Springfield, the houses got closer together. We ran along the huge Springside Park before turning onto North Street outside of the Berkshire Medical Center. There were businesses along here, and as we got closer to downtown Pittsfield, the buildings got taller and denser. Finally, we turned into the ITC.
BRTA Route: 4 (Pittsfield/Dalton/Hinsdale)
Ridership: It’s the fourth busiest on the system, with 184 riders per weekday and 90 per Saturday. Given the steep drop from weekday to Saturday, I wonder how much of this route’s ridership is people commuting on weekdays from Hinsdale and Dalton into Pittsfield, whether it be to retail jobs, industrial jobs on Plastics Ave, or…office jobs? Does Pittsfield have any? Probably not many…
Pros: I guess as far as connecting Dalton and Hinsdale to Pittsfield goes, the 4 does about as well as it can do. The route runs hourly on weekdays, a standard schedule.
Cons: Huh, another reason Saturday ridership is so low could be the fact that it’s every two hours. Hmm. It’s also odd how on weekdays, the departure time randomly shifts from being on the :05 to the :20 in the middle of the day. Why? Even if it’s for a lunch break or something, does the BRTA not have enough employees to have someone swing on and allow for consistent departure times? Also, I have to talk about the inbound deviations: while I think that they’re a necessary evil in order to serve the more transit-oriented locations in Dalton, it’s also incredibly inconvenient that they’re inbound only. It probably has to be that way for scheduling purposes, but it’s still annoying for outbound passengers trying to go to those locations – perhaps a (shudder) AM/PM setup would work better, where the deviations become outbound only after noon. Finally, it feels redundant to have this route run a block away from the 1 on its inner portion; if the BRTA wanted to streamline things, they could extend the 16 to Hinsdale and cut the 4 entirely, but Rose Manor would lose service, and for all I know, maybe the houses a block away generate decent ridership anyway.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Neither Dalton nor Hinsdale had downtowns that felt particularly worth visiting, but Dalton is home to the Crane Museum of Papermaking – sounds neat!
Final Verdict: 4/10
This feels like a route that’s confined to never get above maybe a 6. It has so many necessary evils, from needing to serve the apartments in Dalton somehow, to needing some way to get from the mall area into downtown Pittsfield, even if it requires running a block away from the 1. As you can tell from the long Cons section, I think there is plenty of room for improvement here, but even at its best, the 4 will never be a 10/10 route.
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