The CATA has a very strange obsession with school trips. For every route on their website, they actually put the school trips for each route first, which can be very confusing – “Why does this bus only run twice a day?” My friend Nathan and I ended up riding one of these school trips, but it ended up being a lot crazier than we expected. Time to ride the Yellow Line!

The bus in Gloucester.

Okay, so let’s talk about the Yellow Line as a route. I’ve mentioned before (in my first non-MBTA review!) that the CATA actually has three Yellow Lines with no relation to each other at all. The one we’re talking about today runs from downtown Gloucester to a neighborhood called Magnolia to the southwest.

Looking to the front of the bus.

The bus was similar to the one on the GATRA 140 (possibly the same vehicle). However, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, the GATRA one was much better designed. That one had felt more like a real bus, with a screen up front and better seats, in my opinion. The CATA vehicle had those…minibus seats, and only a simple “stop request” sign that made THE MOST ANNOYING NOISE WHEN TRIGGERED. Also, instead of putting the fare machine up front, they stuck it to the side a bit, getting rid of a whole seat pair!

Nice view!

From the grand CATA hub of Dunkin’ Donuts, we headed down Main Street, passing the businesses of downtown Gloucester. Eventually the street became Western Ave, and came up along the harbor with a huge median and lots of trees and grass everywhere. However, as this was a school trip, we deviated from the normal route by turning onto Centennial Ave. This took us to a loop in front of the Gloucester High School, where other buses had already congregated.

Lots o’ variety here!

After the five minute trip to the school, we now had to wait…15 minutes?? Yeah, they have the bus get to the school before it even lets out! And since this trip leaves from Gloucester, it actually gets other riders – there were two other people who had gotten on before that had to wait, too! Oh well, after the steady stream of students had gotten on, we left and headed back to Western Ave.

A residential neighborhood near the high school.

We went over a river, then passed the Gloucester World War II Memorial where Western and Essex Aves split. We stayed on Western, which curved around through a residential neighborhood. We passed Stage Fort Park, and the street became more woodsey from there. Turning onto Hesperus Ave, it was now entirely forest for the most part.

A fleeting water view!

We passed the Hammond Castle Museum (which looks beautiful), and soon after the street became Norman Ave. The houses were denser now, as we were in Magnolia Square, almost in Manchester but not quite. We turned onto Fuller Street and made a little loop via Hesperus Ave, Lexington Ave, and Flume Road, passing houses and a few businesses in the process.

Looking down Lexington Ave, the “main drag” of the neighborhood.

Now we headed up Magnolia Ave, which was residential once again. Once we reached Magnolia and Western, Nathan and I assumed the trip would be over – on the schedule, it listed this as the last stop. But wait…we crossed over Western Ave and continued down Magnolia! No normal CATA route does this, not even the regular Yellow Line, which would’ve turned onto Western to get back to Gloucester! Well, things were getting weird…

Where are we???

Our original plan was to walk to West Gloucester from Magnolia and Western, but since the bus was now heading in that direction, we figured we’d roll with it. Magnolia Ave had houses along it for a bit, then after some woods, we went by an industrial park. The street curved a bit more before passing under the Commuter Rail tracks, then we reached the intersection with Essex Ave. Perhaps we’d turn towards Gloucester now? Wait, no, we turned westward – away from Gloucester!

Some rather large houses.

Okay…so now we were heading down Essex Ave in the wrong direction. What the heck was going on? And then…we turned onto Concord Street?? It was this narrow street that went by a school and then under Route 128. “We’re getting further and further from West Gloucester,” Nathan pointed out. But I had to see this strange route through.

Hey, at least there’s a nice view!

It was residential on the other side of 128, although we also passed a variety store. We came up alongside a marsh, then turned onto Atlantic Street. It continued along that marsh, with a few houses on the other side. Finally, we turned onto Castle View Drive, entering a gated community, and the final passengers got out in this development.

Some intersection…or something…

Now the driver turned around and asked us where we were going. “West Gloucester,” we said. “This is West Gloucester,” the driver replied. “Uh…could you take us to the Commuter Rail station if that’s okay?” I asked. He kind of grunted, and then drove us back, but it was obvious he wasn’t happy about it. Oh well, at least we made it to the station…

The bus heading down Essex Ave.

CATA Route: Yellow Line (Gloucester – Magnolia)

Ridership: N-O-T G-O-O-D. It’s the least-used CATA route on weekdays with less than 25 riders, and on Saturdays it gets maybe 10-15 (it’s so low down on the graph I can’t really tell). I will say that this school trip got a good amount of people, though – around 15 in total! So I guess school trips are where most of this route’s ridership are.

Pros: Well, the route does serve…stuff. Like, um, a lot of woods. And some houses. The school trips get people…

Cons: Let’s start with nitpicky stuff and move outward. Firstly, that school trip really should leave Gloucester later – if it has actual riders, too, why make them wait at the school for 15 minutes for no reason? Also, you know all that weird stuff on the school trip that didn’t show up on the Yellow Line schedule? Well, turns out it’s on the Purple Line schedule! What the heck?? Can you not show the full route on one or the other? Sigh. But no, the Yellow Line’s main problem is that it really doesn’t serve…anything. Most of the houses it runs by wouldn’t be using the bus anyway! That’s probably why its schedule is so bad – three trips on weekdays and four on Saturdays. Hey, why the heck does it run more often on Saturdays when less people are using it??

Nearby and Noteworthy: Hammond Castle looks incredible, and I actually really want to visit it myself. However, with the Yellow Line’s schedule, be prepared to spend a lot of time there…

Final Verdict: 2/10
Honestly, I see no reason why this route couldn’t just be eliminated outside of the school trips. They seem to be the only ones that get any ridership! Maybe if the Yellow Line got extended to Manchester, it could get more people, but even that would be mostly forest. Okay, I’ll draw it out, why not?

But yeah, I doubt that would get too much more ridership. The Yellow Line could probably be relegated to school service and I doubt too many people would care…

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