This is the complete and utter wrong type of route to run as a flex. “Where you going?” the driver asked when Sam and I got on the 282 at its Walmart timepoint. “Sayles Ave,” I responded. “Where the 9x stops.” “I don’t know where that is,” the driver responded. “Just hit the button when you want to get off. It’s just like a big bus.” Okay…but then why is it a flex?
|It actually pulls into Walmart, unlike the 54, which stops on the road next to it.|
We headed out from Walmart onto Route 146A, which merged into Route 146. We did a u-turn to get onto 146 North, and from here, we had an express section (believe it or not), running through the woods on this highway. We eventually took an exit, making a left onto School Street after the ramp.
|A view from the highway.|
Considering what we had been going through on the highway, this area we were passing through now could be classified as “dense.” I mean, the houses were kinda close together, and there were actually a few businesses here and there. We even passed a few big apartment complexes, so that’s pretty significant. One of them was in an old factory, and this was one of the attractions of “North Smithfield Center,” the others being a town green, a church, a post office, and even a few businesses.
|The church in North Smithfield.|
Continuing onto Main Street, the dense houses near the center started to thin out, but we did also go by another apartment complex before coming up to some suburban businesses at the intersection with Victory Highway. We turned onto this, speeding past some homes and then a bunch of woods, entering the geographically huge town of Burrillville in the process. We soon turned onto Old Nasonville Road, which passed through a small residential neighborhood, and then it was a left back onto Victory Highway, but it was less of a “highway” at this point and more just a regular road.
|Darn this rain, making these pictures awful!|
Victory Highway was fairly industrial at this point, although there was some retail here and there, too. We maneuvered on Douglas Turnpike for a bit, only to continue down Victory Highway, which was forest before we spilled out into Nasonville, a small neighborhood with some reasonably dense houses and a post office. After going over the Branch River, the road went back to woods.
|I think this is the Branch River? Truth be told, I’ve kinda lost track among these blurry pictures.|
Our next point of interest was the Burrillville Police Department, and there were some legitimately dense houses after that. We went over the Clear River, then we turned onto Central Street just north of a post office and a “Country Store.” The houses got sparser along here, but it didn’t feel like the middle of nowhere – they weren’t far enough for that.
|Some houses that are pretty close together.|
We came into a place called Harrisville, and this was our biggest downtown yet, with a ton of houses, some big apartment buildings, some businesses. and even a theater. We actually deviated to the town’s library, because…we were picking someone up! Of course, he would’ve had to call in at least the day before to schedule this trip, which is not at all optimal, but yes, we were getting a passenger.
|Outside of the library.|
We came out of the library and turned onto Chapel Street, which left Harrisville and changed to far-apart houses again. Going through a cemetery, we came out next to an apartment building, then there were some dense businesses as we came down what was now called Pascoag Main Street. We turned onto Bridge Street, which did in fact go onto a bridge over a river, then we turned onto Sayles Ave…in the opposite direction of the 9x stop! Uh-oh…
The driver turned around. “You gotta get off,” she said. “I’m going to the hospital to take a break, and I can’t bring you with me.” “But we wanted to go the other way down Sayles Ave,” I said. “Well, you shoulda hit the button,” the driver responded, and with that, we were out in the insane downpour. Time for a miserable walk back to town…
RIPTA Route: 282 (Pascoag/Slatersville Flex)
Ridership: Just the one guy. And honestly, I can’t see many people using some of the scheduled stops on this thing (we’ll get to that), so the only use for the 282 is if you call in a day in advance. Because everyone wants to do that.
Pros: I’m gonna go on a limb and say that Burrillville is the most densely-populated part of Rhode Island that doesn’t have any all-day transit service. Yes, there is the 9x, which has one semi-midday trip, but for all intents and purposes, this area has nothing. So, in that sense, this route plays a big role in providing baseline transit service to Burrillville, but…
Cons: This is just bad. Obviously, most people are going to be calling 24 hours in advance to ride this, but let’s just see why the three scheduled timepoints don’t work either. The one at Sayles Ave (the real Sayles Ave, where the 9x stops) is the least egregious, since it does at least time with the 9x, but it’s completely useless for commuting, since it times only with the latest morning rush trip and the earliest evening rush trip. I guess most of the zone duplicates the 9x, though, so it doesn’t matter anyway.
The next timepoint is the hospital that the driver was talking about. It’s this small medical center in the middle of the woods way outside the Flex Zone, but that’s a useless timepoint, too! The first time the bus stops there is 8:45, but you can’t actually get up there with that, because the route itself starts at 8:45. That means you have to wait for the 2:40 timepoint, and then you’re stuck up there until 5:10.
Finally, there’s the Walmart timepoint. Based on the map, Walmart isn’t in the Flex Zone either, so you can only get to it during its scheduled times, of which there are two: 11:00 and 1:40. So…two hours and forty minutes at Walmart. I feel like even the most rabid shopaholic couldn’t spend that much time at a Walmart. So anyway, yeah…you basically have to call in 24 hours in advance to use this route for anything. It doesn’t help that this long, skinny Flex Zone probably doesn’t translate well to zippy service when you want it:
Nearby and Noteworthy: As an outsider, I kinda just wanted to leave these depressing-looking micro-towns. Sorry!
Final Verdict: 2/10
Okay, it’s time for that classic game of “Turn the Flex Route into a Fixed Route”!
I basically tried to create a route that serves as much as possible without having to snake or deviate too much. I omitted the hospital because it’s really far, and the people who are going there could likely use paratransit anyway. So, with that in mind, we end up with a route that operates every 90 minutes. It’s not optimal, but a fixed route running that often is still so much better than a Flex route where you have to call in a day in advance…at least in my opinion. Also, 90 minutes is an actually reasonable amount of time to spend at Walmart!
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