So…funny story, I actually have ridden a big chunk of the CCRTA. But, er, all the pictures are on my other computer. Which is back at school. So for now, we’ll have to cover the one CCRTA route for which I have photos, and this one is…well, it’s a doozy. You’ve read the title. This is genuinely a bus that goes from Cape Cod…to Boston. We’re travelling over a hundred miles in a minibus!
So how did this come about? Well, my family was going to Truro for the weekend to stay with some friends. And sure, I could’ve, you know, driven down with my parents like normal…but this was the perfect opportunity to take a ride on the Boston Hospital shuttle! I could take it all the way to Wellfleet, have my parents pick me up on their drive, and we’d be just one town over from Truro! Plus this meant that I could review the whole thing without having to worry about how the heck I’d get back home from the end of the line.
The service runs five days a week, serving various towns on the Cape before heading up to Boston and dropping off at a variety of hospitals. Similar to the MART Boston Shuttle, the arrival times are totally unrealistic, but this one treats it less like an actual timetable and admits that the times are “approximate”, so it feels less inaccurate – after all, the stops are by request, so it’s not going to be doing them all. I wanted to get picked up at Tufts Medical Center, since I was interning at the T at the time and Tufts is in walking distance of the office. So…now I had to call the CCRTA to make my request…oh no.
I dialed the number (open Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM) and prepared for the worst. And…well, it actually turned out to be quite possibly the least intrusive call I’ve ever done for one of these routes! The woman on the other end was very nice, and all she needed was my origin, destination, name, and phone number. That’s it! GATRA, take some notes!
The boarding process could’ve gone better, though. I was told that the bus would be showing up at Tufts at 2:45 – knowing how sketchy these call-in services can be, I arrived 20 minutes early just in case. I had asked to be picked up at the Floating Hospital for Children, so I was waiting near where the Silver Line stops, constantly looking around to see if a CCRTA minibus had arrived. When 2:45 rolled around, I started getting nervous.
Just out of curiosity, I tried crossing to the median of the street for a better vantage point…and I saw the CCRTA minibus parked way down near the South Building of Tufts. C’mon, that’s not the children’s hospital! Oh well, I sped-walk over there and told the driver my name. He said he was going to leave soon if I hadn’t come, so…good thing I crossed the street. “Wanna buckle up?” he rhetorically asked as I got on, sitting behind a person already on the bus. Yeah, yeah, gimme a sec to settle in – I’m gonna be on this thing for three and a half hours, I want to be comfortable!
Before heading on our merry way, we had to deviate up to several other hospitals in the Mass General complex. For those of you familiar with Boston, you know that that is a significant deviation. For those of you familiar with Boston traffic, you know that that is a long deviation. Well, every journey has to start somewhere…and for us, it was a left onto Stuart Street and a right onto Park Plaza, which became Charles Street as it cut through the Boston Common and the Public Garden.
We turned onto Beacon Street at the edge of the common, running past the lovely brick apartments along here (including that ridiculously narrow 12-story one that sticks out like a sore thumb in what I think is an endearing way!). At the gold-domed Massachusetts State House, we swung a left on Bowdoin Street, a narrow road squashed between the State House and a line of apartments and businesses. The road widened to four lanes after the Capitol, though, and we soon hit the wide brutalist wasteland of Cambridge Street.
We were on Cambridge Street for a very short amount of time before we took a right onto Staniford Street. To get to our first MGH stop, we made a turn onto the very narrow and very twisty O’Connell Way. Two people got on here, whom the driver greeted by name; one of the passengers said we were “right on time”, that time being 3:05. The website claims the bus leaves Boston by 3 PM, but…I dunno, I guess schedules are out the window here.
Our next stop was the Wang Center, which was just a few streets away. The driver announced he was going to go to the bathroom here, heading out of the bus with the doors open a smidge. During that time, a new passenger arrived and squeezed through the partially-open doors. “Oh no, I didn’t open the door all the way!” the driver exclaimed upon coming back and seeing our new rider, whom he also addressed by name. “Did you make it through okay?”
“Alright, let’s go to Cape Cod!” the driver announced. “Hopefully the traffic isn’t too bad. Should we listen to the traffic report?” The traffic report!! The bus was awash with the nostalgically grainy sounds of WBZ NewsRadio 1030 and its “Traffic and Weather Together” segment – although let’s all admit it was way better when they called it “Traffic on the Threes”, which is a significantly catchier title. Meanwhile the bus made its way back onto Cambridge Street, running past Government Center and City Hall.
Cambridge Street became Tremont Street and we crawled in traffic along the Boston Common. There was some real deja vu when we took a left onto Stuart Street, over a half hour since the last time we had traversed it. We were actually going somewhere now, though: Stuart Street became Kneeland Street as we entered Chinatown, and heading onto Lincoln Street, our bus finally made its way onto an on-ramp for I-93. Finally on our way!
We were in the HOV lane (woo!), so we were able to speed past the normal traffic as the highway twisted through the industrial Newmarket area. The excitement was short-lived, though: reaching Dorchester and its view of the rainbow gas tank, even the HOV lane got congested. It was a slow crawl through the residential neighborhoods of Neponset, the marshes south of there, and the tunnel beneath East Milton Square. But hey, at least we were finally out of Boston!
Moving into the more suburban neighborhoods of Quincy, we only had a few more exits to go before ours. Traffic actually cleared up for a bit through this final stretch, but just before we pulled off onto Exit 7, it started to pick up again on the main highway – luckily we didn’t have to deal with it! It is at this point that I took a photo of myself holding up three fingers for some reason. Like…I know where we are, I don’t know why I felt the need to remind myself that this is where the section on Route 3 begins!
But yes, Route 3, the highway to the Cape and the bane of everyone’s existence. Luckily it was cooperating today: we made it through Braintree, our last stint of proper civilization for a while, no problem. After Braintree, while there were certainly patches of development around the highway, we sure as heck couldn’t see it. As far as we were concerned, it was just the woods.
I-93 really keeps things interesting, since you’re going through so many various areas and development patterns, plus the highway has some twists and elevation changes. Route 3, though…every single time I drive to the Cape, I always remark on how much of a slog it is. It’s just all forest, with really very little else! And at least Route 24 (also a woodsy highway) is kinda noteworthy in the fact that it’s straight as an arrow – Route 3 curves often enough that not even its lack of curves can be a defining feature.
One amusing thing was the “parking area” in Norwell – I always find it funny when these amenity-less “rest stops” are just slapped onto the side of the road. And Route 3 is such a short distance from end to end that I can’t imagine truck drivers needing to sleep there or anything – it feels like it’s just a location where you pee in the woods! Still, the exits on Route 3 are pretty far apart, and since they’re numbered sequentially instead of by the mile (for now, at least…), progress feels slow.
We entered the impossibly huge town of Plymouth, where while the exits do get closer, the scenery doesn’t change much besides the occasional glimpse of a shopping plaza. A well-placed rest stop at Exit 5 seems like a good place to camp out if bridge traffic is backed up this far, but luckily it was still smooth sailing for us. The scenery went back to being, yes, woods for our final push towards the Cape, though.
We were incredibly lucky – despite the snag earlier on I-93, I guess that was more evening rush traffic from Boston than traffic heading for the Cape! We were able to cross the Sagamore Bridge at full speed, no problem. Once we got over the Cape Cod Canal, Route 3 turned into Route 6 and made its way through the splurge of development on the other side of the bridge, including a fake Dutch windmill. Why not?
Of course, after the initial excitement of finally being on the Cape proper, Route 6 enters…the woods. Yeah, once we left the vicinity of the bridge, it was pretty much just back to what we had been seeing before. Pulling off the highway at Exit 6 in Barnstable, we made a deviation into a park and ride facility served by the main intercity buses that run to the Cape. There wasn’t much in view besides a Burger King and a gas station, but two out of the four other passengers left the bus here.
Those passengers weren’t the only ones to leave the bus here, though: the driver also stepped out of the bus and got on the phone. We hung out for five minutes as he talked outside before getting back on, announcing that his daughter was having a baby! Not the kind of thing I was expecting to hear on the CCRTA Boston Hospital shuttle, but hey, fantastic news!!
Because this review is vying for the record of “most uses of the word ‘woods’ in a Miles in Transit post”, we did indeed re-enter the woods once we got back onto the highway. Besides a rest stop and maybe the occasional series of buildings hidden behind trees, there wasn’t much to see. We passed through Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, and Brewster without much action besides crossing a small bay in Dennis. Also in Dennis, the highway shrunk to one lane in each direction, which can be a real bottleneck in the summer, but our traffic luck continued!
The other passengers were getting off at the Orleans stop, which is located at the Shaw’s, not to be confused with the Stop and Shop down the road, which is also a major CCRTA interchange. We headed off of Route 6 at Exit 12, making our way into Skaket Corners, the plaza that contains the Shaw’s. The remaining riders got off here to get into their cars, and now that there was just one person left on the bus (me), the driver turned on the radio as we set off for Wellfleet.
Rather than returning immediately to the highway, we took the local road 6A to get back there at a later point. It certainly had its moments of charm – at times it was a leafy two-lane road running past home businesses made out of Cape Cod wood – but it also had moments where it was wider, with shopping plazas and retail with huge parking lots right out front. At one point, in the midst of a section of the latter category, a random rustic windmill showed up on the side of the road. It actually is a historical site, having been built in 1720, but it unintentionally ends up feeling a bit kitschy given its surroundings.
Soon after the windmill, we hit the big rotary that marks the point where Route 6 goes from being a highway to becoming a regular road. It returns to four lanes at this point, and the wide road moves quickly past the homes situated along it (well, assuming no traffic, of which there was luckily very little). We whizzed through Eastham Center, which was pretty much just a few municipal buildings, a supermarket, and a common with our third windmill of the trip.
As the road headed further north along the forearm of the Cape, businesses started to show up more often – the most common sights were hotels and motels of varying quality, and a variety of takeout seafood restaurants and ice cream places. The Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre was a unique and welcome place to pass by. But it was pretty much just an onslaught of those kinds of businesses (plus some insanely gaudy souvenir shops), interspersed with more residential sections (and a nice marsh view), until we finally reached the place we were heading for: the Wellfleet Dunkin’ Donuts, the final stop on this insane hospital shuttle. I got out and walked to my parents’ waiting car as the bus pulled away.
CCRTA Route: Boston Hospital
Ridership: Getting around 3,000 riders in 2014, that averages to around 12.5 people per day. Which…look, I’m not saying this thing isn’t insanely expensive to run, but that’s seriously not bad! Six people in a minibus making the round trip trek from Cape Cod to Boston every day is impressive! Plus, it’s not like Cape Cod is this hospital-less wasteland – there is only one major hospital, in Hyannis, but I imagine it would still take a lot to schlep up to Boston for an appointment. Certainly the driver knew everyone’s names, but I’m curious how regular the ridership is on this route.
Pros: Um, FIFTEEN BUCKS for a trip from Boston to Wellfleet??? That’s a no-brainer. Unfortunately every bus that runs that far up the Cape isn’t running right now so I can’t check fares, but fifteen bucks is definitely a lot cheaper (Peter Pan to Hyannis is $19). Also…you know which bus is still running that far? THE CCRTA BOSTON HOSPITAL SHUTTLE! (Miles in Transit does not endorse spontaneous pandemic trips to the Cape) It’s also just a useful shuttle for people, and it seems to inexplicably get ridership! And the call-in process is so easy – usually it makes for such a barrier to ride these things, but here the process is so simple. I think this is a case where it makes sense to have to call in, too, given how long of a distance this thing travels.
Cons: A way to book online would still be really nice, as easy as the call is. Other than that, the section where you’re running around Boston serving the various hospitals is a little annoying – if you’re willing to take this from anywhere, MGH is the place to go, since that appears to be the last stop it serves before heading on its way to the Cape. Also, from the CCRTA’s perspective, I’m sure this thing is insanely expensive to run, but hey, it does get riders!
Nearby and Noteworthy: I mean, nearly the entire Cape is at your fingertips here! I’m partial to Wellfleet myself (the charming downtown is about a twenty-minute walk from the Dunkin’ Donuts stop), but if you like the suburban sprawl of the Inner Cape…I mean, that’s an option too.
Final Verdict: 7/10
Oftentimes I like to think like the transit agency on this blog. How much does the route cost to operate? Is ridership optimized? Stuff like that. But here…nah, man, it’s a 15-buck journey to WELLFLEET! How could I not give it a good score? Let me book this thing online and you’ve got yourself a near-perfect route, even if it is probably costing the CCRTA a small fortune to run!
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Miles, when you get around to the buses on the Islands, can we expect a review of the ferries as well?
A Boston hospital shuttle gets a good score? Good job, CCRTA
Keep up the great posts!
(Also is this bus the reason for the pause in daily posts?)
Birthday post, yay!
Boston Commons > Public Garden
Miles, still around? Are you alright? It’s been a long time without a post.
Tonight!! I know, it’s been a while…I’ve been swamped 🙁
The “fake Dutch windmill” is actually a Christmas Tree Shop.