Okay, that’s kind of a lie, though…the 1 goes as far as the Walmart in North Adams. It’s technically in North Adams, but it’s pretty darn far from anything else in the city. But this is the BRTA’s only link from the northern part of its system to Pittsfield, so we’re stuck on it.
We headed out from the Intermodal Center on North Street, running through downtown Pittsfield before turning onto the lower-density Tyler Street. There were a lot of businesses along here, most with little parking lots; dense houses lined the side streets. We eventually merged onto Dalton Ave, which gained a median as it ran through a leafy residential area.
I’m not quite sure why, but we suddenly turned onto Plastics Ave, a street pretty much exclusively meant to serve some giant factories. Maybe it attracts industrial workers. We then took a left onto Merrill Road, which led us back up toward the street we had been on before; we ended up at a cluster of malls that a ton of BRTA routes serve, each with a different routing through the complex. The 1 is the only one that doesn’t deviate into any of the plazas, running straight through on Cheshire Road (albeit with street stops). We arrived here three minutes early, so we had to wait outside of Stop & Shop.
It was residential as we left the mall complex on Cheshire Road, but a curtain of forest separated those neighborhoods from industrial facilities further up the road. As we entered Lanesborough, it was time to deviate into the Berkshire Mall, which is now entirely closed except for a Target and a Regal Cinemas. We were four minutes early, so we had to sit here and wait.
We were pretty much in the woods north of the mall, with only the occasional auto-oriented business showing up. A few churches and houses marked the village of Berkshire, but we sped straight through, entering Cheshire and going by a farm market. The road ran alongside the Cheshire Reservoir before entering Cheshire Center, where we turned onto Church Street.
This downtown was pretty much all residential, plus a few churches, some municipal buildings, and a post office. We turned onto School Street, crossing the Appalachian Trail, then we used Richardson Street to get back onto State Road, the main road. Continuing north, there were sparse houses and lots and lots of woods.
Soon after we entered Adams, dense houses lined the road. We crossed the Hoosac River, which was running in a canal at this point, and pretty soon we were in Adams Center (a surprisingly big town center, considering that North Adams tends to get all the attention). The bus did a brief jog to serve more of the downtown, which didn’t have the beautiful architecture of a lot of charming Berkshire towns (with a few exceptions), but it was a nice collection of casual restaurants and a few shops.
The built-up part of Adams continued for a while north, with lots of houses along the main drag, Columbia Road, and some businesses too. One interesting stretch of (likely factory-built) rowhouses lasted for a few blocks. The constant stream of houses and retail ended about half a mile down the road from the North Adams Walmart, the last stop on our trip.
BRTA Route: 1 (North Adams/Pittsfield)
Ridership: This is the BRTA’s busiest route by a long shot, getting about 426 average weekday riders and 332 average Saturday riders in August 2017. My trip only got 7 people, but it was probably an outlier.
Pros: This is the northern spine of the BRTA, and it performs that function pretty well. It offers hourly service on weekdays and Saturdays, plus some extra night trips on weekdays. While I wish the route went further into North Adams (see “Cons”), at least there’s a timed transfer to a shuttle route, the 34, at Walmart.
Cons: Cheshire Center is only served by every other bus during midday periods, which means it only gets service every two hours – why not just skip it entirely? There’s not much there, and it’s all within walking distance of the main road. The Adams Center jog has more along it, but skipping that would also save time while still leaving everything within an easy walk from the route. Also, if my trip was any indication, buses seem to run early on the 1 and be forced to wait. So what you do is take the running time saved from skipping the two town center jogs and removing some padding and extend the darn route to North Adams proper! Ending it at Walmart and making people transfer to a slow shuttle is ridiculous.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Of the town centers served directly by the 1, Adams is the better of the two, but it doesn’t seem to offer quite as much as other towns in the Berkshires, like the ones served by the 2 and 21. If you like dead malls, though, the Berkshire Mall might be worth a trip…although I’m not sure if you can actually see the parts of it beyond the Target and Regal Cinemas.
Final Verdict: 6/10
The 1 is a fine route with good bones, but it could stand to be streamlined and expanded. I think it could be accomplished cost-neutral by shaving off the town center deviations (heck, maybe even get rid of the Berkshire Mall one, since I doubt that’s attracting too much ridership anymore) and removing some padding. Some passengers would have to walk a few minutes to get to the bus, but everyone would still be served, and the 1 could add the dense downtown North Adams to its list of places it connects to Pittsfield.
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