Yes, this is the end of our BRTA adventures for now. I know there are two night routes I still have to do, but they’re near-impossible unless I can find a place to stay out there, so for now, we’re gonna be taking the 21X back out into the hinterlands to finish our journeys in Western MA!
The 21X serves two roles: it provides a quick way for buses on the regular 21 to return to the garage in Pittsfield, and it also runs a few rush hour trips for commuters. Our trip, the only one in the latter category that runs in the evening, started right in downtown Pittsfield, heading down the main drag with exactly zero other people on board. North Street became South Street, fittingly, and the road quickly morphed its way into suburbia.
A golf course marked our transition from suburbia to woods, at least for a stretch; further down the road, there’s a random assortment of suburban businesses to contend with. Luckily, unlike the local route that runs along here, the 2, we didn’t have to deviate into any of them! Instead, the surroundings got a lot more forested as we travelled through Lenox, but a few housing developments, restaurants, and hotels popped out of the trees on occasion.
It’s at this point that the route reaches a split: some trips serve Lenox Center, and others don’t. Despite taking a route that’s about as direct as the 2 (minus the 2’s relatively short deviations), the 21X is apparently 13 minutes faster than its local cousin. At any rate, we merged onto Main Street to serve beautiful downtown Lenox and the charming houses and inns around it, but we split off from the 2 by turning onto Kemble Street.
Aside from a few Lenox cultural attractions (some theatres, some fancy hotels, a mansion), this street was woods, and those trees continued when we turned onto the much wider Route 7. There was, however, a nice break for a bit where got some lovely open fields, punctuated by evenly-spaced trees set up along the road. Some big bucolic houses were spread around as we re-entered the forest, crossing under I-90 without an interchange.
The transition from nothingness to Stockbridge Center was abrupt. It pretty much happened right when we merged into Main Street, which was lined with houses and eventually retail housed in charming buildings. There was a connection to the 21 here, but we left that route again by continuing on Route 7, which made a left turn onto South Street. Once again the transition between civilization and not-civilization was quick, and there were some lovely views as we blasted our way through the countryside and woods. Also, in the middle of all of that was a trio of schools all together: high, middle, and elementary.
We merged back with the 21 eventually, with just a little more rural running to go before the “sprawl”, as it were, surrounding Great Barrington Center. The road was lined with businesses with parking lots, houses, and hotels, but we didn’t truly enter Great Barrington’s downtown until we turned onto Main Street. South of the charming center, a similar type of “sprawl” from the north end of town led us to the Great Barrington Big Y, where we both started this journey in the morning and were ending it now.
BRTA Route: 21X (Pittsfield/Great Barrington)
Ridership: Alright, given the number of trips this thing has on a daily basis, combined with the number of people on my ride (0), I’m pleasantly surprised with the route’s daily ridership: around 26 people! I mean, given that the route only has seven trips per day, with at least four of those being deadheads that probably wouldn’t get a lot of people, that’s not an awful amount per trip! Well, for a rural system, anyway.
Pros: Great Barrington definitely needs a direct connection to Pittsfield, and this is the only route on the system that does it. It’s fast and it’s pretty straight, what more do you need?
Cons: Well, frequency would be nice. This thing only runs a few times a day, and the deadhead trips seem like they’re too early or too late to be particularly useful. So you’re stuck with the rush hour ones that are primarily geared toward Pittsfield commuters. I am wondering if my trip was a fluke, since zero people on an evening rush trip seems, uhh, weird!
Nearby and Noteworthy: Well, this is another good opportunity to say that all the major towns in Berkshire County south of Pittsfield are awesome! This route serves Lenox, Stockbridge, and Great Barrington, and their town centers are all fantastic.
Final Verdict: 4/10
This is a tough one to gauge. I mean, I get the appeal of running the lengthy 2-to-21 combo all day rather than doing a direct trip – the former is almost certainly more productive and it serves more. But on the other hand, could increasing service on the 21X drive more demand between Great Barrington and Pittsfield? I would imagine it could!
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