A shuttle from Fitchburg to Worcester? Wow, okay, that sounds kinda useful! The idea of an “intercity crosstown” route, as it were, is pretty cool and a good way of encouraging suburban growth. High praise? Yes indeed. Too high? Absolutely – the Worcester Shuttle is not a route to be taken seriously.

The bus at the Intermodal Center (note the lack of signage).

So what’s the deal with this route? Well, it’s mainly meant for veterans, seniors, or people with disabilities, but it’s also open to the general public. The way it works, the route has several “guaranteed stops” in Fitchburg, Leominster, and Worcester that – as you would expect – every trip stops at. The other stops are at hospitals, and they operate on a request basis. If no one wants to go there, the bus ain’t stoppin’.


Okay, first of all, let’s analyze this schedule. Now, I’m not gonna mention the fact that it only runs three times a day, but rather, we’re looking at the logistical side of this. Notice that the route is given five minutes to travel from the Fitchburg Intermodal Transit Center to the Leominster Senior Center. Umm…that’s a 12 minute drive…by car…without traffic! So since the bus is already 7 minutes late when it gets to Leominster, it’ll have an even harder time getting to Worcester on time, even without making the “non-guaranteed” request stops along the way! And the trip back is even worse! So basically, it’s impossible for the Worcester Shuttle to be on time. Great…

Not the best interior shot I’ve ever taken…

But you think that’s crazy? How about the boarding procedure?? My friend Nathan and I (having confirmed with the driver that the bus was indeed the Worcester Shuttle – it had no signage and wasn’t stopped in the actual busway) boarded the vehicle, and instantly started getting interrogated!
“Last name?”
“First initial?”
“Union Station.”
*driver writes furiously on clipboard* “That’ll be 10 dollars.”
Okay, well, after that annoying process (repeated for Nathan), we were finally ready to leave…10 minutes late.

Going over the Commuter Rail tracks.

We headed down Main Street, then turned onto Water Street, going over the Commuter Rail tracks and descending past Central Valley Plaza. However, we soon ascended again, over a river and onto higher ground. The street was lined with a mixture of dense houses, apartments, and industrial-looking businesses.

I love that bridge!

Eventually we started to come down a hill again, going by an abandoned Halloween-themed store. The road became a mix of houses and industrial buildings once more, along with the occasional sketchy-looking business. The street widened for an intersection with Wanoosnoc Road (fantastic name), and after that there was a short all-residential stretch.

Wooo, an auto shop!

As we entered Leominster, the street became North Main Street and the surroundings became more industrial, and other businesses showed up, too. There were even houses here and there, mixed in with everything else. The road grew way wider when we crossed over Route 2, then it narrowed slightly as we passed Water Tower Plaza and a big hospital.

Going over Route 2.

We had been following the 2 this whole time, but we left that route as we merged onto Washington Street. This was a purely residential neighborhood, right up until we turned onto West Street and arrived at the Leominster Senior Center. There was a proper shelter here (the stop is also served by the 8), but no one waiting.

A side street in Leominster.

Well, I guess it was time to leave and head to Worcester! Right? RIGHT? Ha, nope! The driver filled out another piece of paperwork when we arrived, but then we were just doing nothing, even once he had finished! Keep in mind that Nathan and I had a connection to make in Worcester, so we needed to be on time. Waiting here at the Senior Center for seemingly no reason was not helping.

Coming into downtown Leominster.

Finally, finally, FINALLY we left, continuing down West Street and arriving at Monument Square, the “downtown” of Leominster. The street became Mechanic Street, and we crossed over a railroad track as we left Monument Square. There was a short industrial section, then after a cathedral, it was a mix of houses and apartments.

That’s an impressive cathedral!

As we left the neighborhood, the street widened with a median and became the Leominster Connector. We ran through pretty open land, crossed over a river, and then merged onto I-190, heading south towards Worcester! I had never been on 190 before, which made it all the more interesting to be there on a minibus.

A random highway view…

There isn’t much to write home about with the scenery, though. It was, uh, basically just woods. It wasn’t until we entered Worcester that it became interesting, with a cool panoramic view of some industrial buildings, and later on some houses and some malls.

The latter view.

The highway merged into I-290, which continued at ground level past more industrial buildings. We took the next exit, 18, which brought us onto Lincoln Street. The wide road curved past a variety of buildings before becoming Major Taylor Boulevard. As we came into downtown Worcester, the bus turned onto Thomas Street, then the tiny Commercial Street (essentially an alley).

Downtown Worcester.

Next, we turned onto Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, and finally onto Main Street, arriving at the stop for the Worcester District Court. Looked like no one was getting on or off, so it was time to continue towards Union Station! Right? RIGHT?

A parking lot with some apartments above it, as seen from the unmoving bus.
No…we continued to sit there. It got to the point where Nathan and I had to ask the driver when we would be getting to Union Station. “‘Bout 25 minutes,” the driver responded. WHAT?? “Yeah, well, I have to stay at each stop for five minutes, so…” That was all we needed to hear. “We’ll walk, thanks.” I said as we walked toward the door. “Are you sure the bus won’t be faster?” the driver asked as we were leaving. YEAH, PRETTY SURE ANYTHING IS FASTER THAN THIS AWFUL BUS! We made it to Union Station on foot in about 10 minutes.
MART Route: Worcester Shuttle
Ridership: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Just Nathan and me on our trip, obviously. Apparently the route averages 4 riders per round-trip, so…12 people per day. About 3000 people per year. Now isn’t that sad…there are many MBTA routes that get that many people in a day.
Pros: The concept is decent, I’ll give it that. A bus route from Fitchburg to Worcester could legitimately get people.

Cons: TOO BAD THIS WAS ONE OF THE WORST BUS EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE. Okay, first of all, the boarding procedure is so ridiculous! Why the heck do passengers have to give their information? Why does the driver have to fill out paperwork? Why does the vehicle have no signage? Why does it not just board in the main busway? But noooooo, that’s not the main problem! IT IS LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR THIS BUS TO BE ON TIME. THE FACT THAT IT HAS TO WAIT FOR FIVE MINUTES AT EVERY STOP, COUPLED WITH THE IMPOSSIBLE SCHEDULE, MEANS THAT YOU’D BETTER GIVE YOURSELF A BUNCH OF EXTRA TIME TO BE LATE! WHAT KIND OF HORRIBLE ROUTE IS THIS????

Nearby and Noteworthy: Fitchburg and Worcester, but there’s not much point in riding this if you live in the Boston area. Mostly because it SUCKS.

Final Verdict: 1/10
It’s one thing to run a route with completely ridiculous boarding requirements, no signage, and long wait times at each stop. But to run a route that’s guaranteed to be late is just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen! Argh, it just infuriates me that someone scheduled this and expected it to work! But why complain when I can fix the solution? I present to you a REALISTIC schedule for the route (the stops with asterisks are “guaranteed stops”):

Compare it to the official schedule at the beginning of the post – quite a lot longer, isn’t it? Admittedly, this schedule assumes that the bus makes every non-guaranteed stop, which isn’t likely to happen; without stopping at any of them, like on my trip, I would peg the arrival at the Worcester Courthouse to be at about 4:20 – slightly earlier than when we got in, actually. My trip couldn’t even beat the “realistic” schedule!!! But yeah, the point is that the current schedule is ridiculous, and honestly, this whole route is ridiculous. I guess it has to stay around for political reasons (presumably), but man, it’s SO BAD! Ech…

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