Ooh, a new Dial-a-Ride entry! Man, I actually love these, as they give me an opportunity to explore the region a bit more without being tied to fixed buses. Neat! So, what about CATA On Demand? Well…
So, after dialing a ride and paying within the app with my debit card (easy enough), the operator picked me up at Gloucester’s parking lot and started to hightail it through Gloucester. Since noone else dialed a ride, it was a straight shot to my destination, the West Gloucester train station. We hightailed it down Centennial Avenue, turned left to leave the main part of Gloucester, and into rural-ish residential areas. The road was kinda bumpy. However, beyond that, it was a straight shot down Essex Avenue. Yeah, not much to remark. There were dots though, which unfortunately made photography difficult. So, please forgive the poor quality. As for the vehicles themselves, they’re your bogstandard cutaway van with jiggly wheelchair lifts and, actually kinda awkward-to-use seatbelts. Vleugh. The driver was helpful though, and friendly. So, with that, shoutout to CATA for having friendly operators! (yes, I know it’s their job, but still)
The good: Well, given Gloucester’s actually pretty comprehensive bus network around downtown, and how thorough CATA is despite pretty much serving just Gloucester and Rockport full-time, having a supplemental “last mile” option of sorts is actually pretty helpful and nice! And, for what it’s worth, $2 to dial a ride to ANYWHERE in Gloucester is actually…reasonable! (normal bus fares are $1, for context) Personally, I’m in the school of thought where flex and dial-a-ride services should supplement a thorough fixed network, and I think the Gloucester dial-a-ride does that pretty well.
The bad: Well, I didn’t see anything on the bus indicating you can pay cash or with CharlieCards (yes, CATA takes CharlieCards!), but the agency’s fare pages say you can pay with cash on their dial-a-rides. It is also weekday-only! I’m pretty sure if it were a weekend thing as well, it’d see heavy use from tourists!
Nearby points of interest: All of Gloucester!
Overall, I really like this, and while microtransit gets a lot of flack for being used in situations where it doesn’t make sense (e.g. the Stonington HOP, some Flex routes), Gloucester is one place where it benefits on top of having a thorough fixed route network, and with that, I’d have to give it a high rating.