Middleborough-Taunton Connector

Nope, I’m not riding this one. I refuse to. If what Miles has written about this is to go by, I’m not even gonna attempt to ride this.

That’s it.

Yup, that’s it. Just the Bloom Terminal in Taunton, and the Middleborough Council on Aging. How bad is it? Well, let’s see. It’s a straight shot between the two towns, three times a day, three days a week. Uh, no. I think I’ll pass on that. It also says there’s no connections, but that’s clearly a load of dookie, since it not only gets close to the Middleborough MBTA station, it also ends at the Bloom Terminal in Taunton! What?!

The routing

Now apparently, if Miles’ experience from 2018 is to go by, it’s a call-in reservation system, but there’s nothing on the GATRA website to suggest it. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they just harvested a Dial-a-Ride van for this route. And, if the GATRA website is full of crap (which I doubt) and it is a call-in service with no info (again, which I doubt, since I don’t think GATRA would go that low), then one could plausibly end up with a similar experience to Miles when he rode it. But, overall, it looks like it’s since become a normal-ish GATRA route, and as such probably isn’t that painful, right?

The good: These two cities need to be connected together!!! Why, exactly, is there nothing else between them?!

The bad: They give this thing (seemingly) no time. Maybe the schedule is padded, but there’s no layover time each way.

Nearby points of interest: Taunton, a senior center in Middleborough. Yeah, there isn’t much.

Overall, it can’t be that bad, right? Just how much can they have bungled it up? Besides, it seems more normal now on paper than when Miles wrote his entry on it. Huh, well crap, guess I gotta ride this now.

Rating: 5/10

Yeah, the 5/10 is a tentative score, until I actually get around to riding this thing.

Attleboro ITC (GATRA/MBTA)

Alrighty! So, this one ended up being a bit more interesting than I expected. Is there anything particularly special about Attleboro? Well….

The parking

The platforms are staggered, as a start. Furthermore, the mini-highs (oh my, so surprising!) are on the faaaaaar end of each platform. There’s also a station building on either side, however the one on the southbound side is owned by a private business, and the northbound building is only open between 5 and 11 AM, per Google. A small amount of parking can also be found over here.

See ya!
Oh god…
A bit out of date, but technically right.
GATRA Dial a Ride!

Then there’s the GATRA waiting area. Oh god. I am not even mentally prepared to tell y’all of the trouble I experienced with trying to document this particular part of Attleboro. However, since duty calls, here we go. The station building is small, and sometimes houses bus schedules in brochure form for GATRA. Today, it only had the 15. There’s also a GATRA ticket machine which wasn’t working when I went in. But, it gets worse. There were also a bunch of teenagers inside. Normally this wouldn’t be of note, however it gets even worse. They were smoking. Not just smoking tobacco. No. They were full-on HOTBOXING THE WHOLE FREAKIN’ ROOM WITH SMOKE FROM A BLUNT! I REPEAT, THEY WERE HOTBOXING THE BUILDING BY SMOKING WAY TOO MUCH FREAKIN’ WEED! AND I INHALED SOME OF THE SMOKE WHEN I NOTICED THEM SMOKING, WHICH WAS TOO LATE! I genuinely never thought getting high would be a byproduct of my escapades. I’m honest to God here. But, no. I get around to reviewing Attleboro and I invariably check the GATRA waiting area, ONLY TO DISCOVER FAR TOO LATE THEY WERE SMOKING THE FUCKING DEVIL’S LETTUCE, GIVING ME A MARIJUANA HIGH! IT MAY AS WELL HAVE BEEN SNOOP DOGG DOING HIS THING WITH THE MJ, AND I WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE! And for those wondering, yes, that meant I did my first GATRA post while higher than the Johnston landfill last night.

Oh dear God

Of course, I snitched on them behind their back to the Dial a Ride driver who was complaining, to which he suggested I flagged down an officer. Bus schedules are also posted on one of the poles outside, however it’s only for the Attleboro GATRA routes. And yes, the station is accessible by virtue of accessible buses and ramps up to the platforms and mini-high. As another fun tidbit, this also used to be an Amtrak stop a long time ago.

To the other side!
Northbound with the station buildings
A T.F. Green/Wickford-style countdown clock – but in red?! And yes, there’s only one.
GATRA schedules!
The MBTA sign

The good: It’s centrally located in downtown Attleboro! It’s also got electrified sidings?! Okay, okay, rant time. WHY THE HOLY NAME OF MICHAEL DUKAKIS CAN’T THE T RUN ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVES DOWN TO PROVIDENCE?!

Anyways, before I dig further. It’s also one of the two GATRA hubs (the other will be covered in due time), and the fact there’s TOD nearby is good.

The bad: My main gripe? The mini-highs and the sole countdown sign. Also, the non-working ticket machine in the GATRA waiting area. Yikes.

Nearby points of interest: Well, you got most of GATRA at your fingertips, along with downtown Attleboro. There’s also the Capron Zoo nearby. I’m not very familiar with Attleboro though, beyond South Attl and the zoo, however.

Transit connections: GATRA (10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18), Commuter Rail (Providence Line)

Overall, it’s an interesting little place. And, given the nature of this blog, this place is gonna end up becoming a recurring theme due to it being the GATRA hub of the area. And apparently, if you want to get high without buying weed, just go into the GATRA waiting area while there’s a bunch of teenagers being idiots hotboxing the place.

Rating: 7/10

12 (Attleboro/S. Attleboro/Pawtucket)

Oh god. No, no, anything but GATRA. But, duty calls I guess. So, why not start with an easy route? At the Attleboro ITC, I’m waiting for the bus, either the 12 or the 16 (whichever first), and it happens the 12 came first. Let’s dig into it.

A change card

I fed the farebox my $2, begetting a $0.50 change card. From here, it was off to the races as we started traversing through downtown Attleboro, leaving the MBTA station. We took a left down Rte. 123, flying past peoples’ houses and the Capron Zoo. We would then take a right to remain on Rte. 123, passing by much of the same, with a lot of woodlands mixed in. Oh, we also passed under the interstate. A common theme, with everyone who got on/off at a stop other than the ITC, was that there are no bus stop signs indicating it’s a bus stop. Allow me to explain.

See ya, Attleboro!
A side street
Capron Park & the zoo!
An apartment complex
No express today!
Apparently this was a bus stop.

So, how does GATRA work? Well, most transit agencies generally operate on a policy where they’ll only stop at designated locations (usually denoted by the existence of a sign or shelter). Some agencies that follow this policy are RIPTA, the MBTA, and CTtransit. However, some agencies (like GATRA, and a few others I’m going to be covering on this site) operate on a “flag” policy. This essentially means that unless you’re in an explicit “no stop zone” or it’s otherwise unsafe to stop (for instance, in the middle of a freeway interchange), the bus driver will pull over to pick you up if you flag the bus down. Getting off differs just a little, where fixed-stop agencies will stop at the next designated stop, flag stop agencies will pull over at the nearest safe location. This is, in general, how one can end up in a situation where there’s unofficially a bus stop outside their house’s front door, or outside their business where they might not want one.

The American Legion hall

Eventually, we kept going down Newport Ave., until we took two turns onto Rte. 1, and made a deviation. What’s the deviation, you might ask? Well, would you believe it if I said there’s a HOSPITAL in South Attleboro?! Yeah, I didn’t even know such a place existed. Nevertheless, we deviated, and then did another half-deviation into the Stop & Shop plaza (barely), got a few people, and then kept going down Washington Street. Eventually, though, we crossed under I-95 again, crossed over the Northeast Corridor, and we’re in Rhode Island on a GATRA bus?! Wait, we’re on a non-RIPTA bus in RIPTA territory. That’s cursed. Nevertheless, the bus took a right down Roosevelt Avenue and a left down George Bennett, where I pulled the cord. Finally, we were at one of two RIPTA-GATRA transfer points, and at the end of the 12.

Hearth & Kettle used to be here, and to be real, it sucked.
Woah woah, WHAT is that plaza name?!
Another side street
Oh my, more shops
haha, cars…
what a nice little lake
Can’t go express here!
Yes, these tracks are in fact active.
I’ve genuinely never seen a GATRA bus in Rhode Island until today (save for that one rogue Dial a Ride van)

The good: It serves a lot, and is a pretty good replacement to the 24! Yes, this route largely used to be the 24, but it’s better with weekend service and whatnot. It serves places where people would want to go, and in general I haven’t had any bad luck here.

The bad: This one’s gonna be a recurring theme with GATRA (and most other Massachusetts RTAs). Why, in the holy name of Hell, is there no Sunday service?! And why does Saturday service end so early?!

Nearby points of interest: Pawtucket is your entry gate to RIPTA here. You also have the businesses lining Route 1 in South Attleboro, but I don’t think it’s a very walkable area. On the flip side, however, you DO have the Capron Zoo, along with Attleboro Station.

Overall, it’s not a bad start to what’ll potentially be a very dicey can of worms. As a first impression to GATRA, it really isn’t a painful route. My biggest issue here, is that service ends so early (4pm for the last outbound on Saturday?!) and nothing at all on Sundays. Nevertheless, relatively, it’s good.

Rating: 7/10

Mansfield (MBTA)

Ooh, Mansfield! It’s oftentimes said that getting a video of the Acela here is a rite of passage for essentially New England-based railfan. Besides, have you really lived until you’ve seen the Acela at 150mph?

The station as I was crossing to the other side
There’s the train from up Chauncy Street
The station building at North Common. It was closed, though.

So getting off the station, one can immediately see where most of the parking is. It’s a large field of parking essentially, and it was full to the brim. There’s even a grass lot that, from what I’ve heard, some people get creative with and use as a makeshift parking lot. However, I didn’t notice. But parking here is $4 a day. If you’re driving here, be mindful where you park since the lots along Mansfield Ave. and Winthrop Ave. require a residence permit. The station building itself looks nice, however it’s only open during the morning rush. This also happens to be where all the station amenities are. At minimum, it’d be nice if it were open all day, even if just for ticket sales, as it looks to be a nice area to wait during inclement weather.

The building.

The platforms are also quite nice, being brand spankin’ new. However….it’s only low-level, with a mini-high for accessibility. For a station that was largely rebuilt during the last 4 years, that’s all they could’ve done? I mean for crying out loud, Kingston (RI) had a rebuild in 2016-2017, AND they were able to add a third track for futureproofing for a potential MBTA or Shore Line East extension, all while also installing full-length high platforms. But here? All you get is a stinkin’ mini-high.

Looking down the platform towards Attleboro
And towards Sharon!

Now, enough of me ranting. The mini-highs, while they feel a little jank, are nice. They’re all also on the Providence/Wickford end of the track. Meanwhile, you have relatively modern station signage, between the LCD signs that say “Welcome to Mansfield” and the train approaching warning, and the new MBTA countdown signs, which I think are in more recently renovated stations. I’m not sure on that, but I’ve mainly seen them here, in Sharon, Porter Square, Readville, and Back Bay. Not so much in Wickford or T.F. Green. Hell, I don’t even think Attleboro has them. At least you have a decent amount of benches and a wastebin on either side.

The other side
Finally, some Helvetica Bold!!!
A closeup of the northbound mini-high. What does the yellow sign mean, anyways?

So, as I said earlier, to cross over you have to walk the sidewalk along Chauncy Street. This, normally, isn’t bad. However, there’s also the fact that the sidewalk isn’t very wide, and it can be a bit annoying in the height department if you’re tall like I am. But if you’re driving here, just remember to park on the correct side of the road, as there’s payment machines on both sides of the tracks.

Chauncy Street!

Remember how I mentioned it’s a rite of passage for railfans to film here? That’s because the Acela goes 150 miles an hour here. Yup. One of the few spots where it can go max speed. Kingston is another popular spot, and I think it gets close at T.F. Green and Wickford (don’t quote me though).

Hey look, an EMD F40PH-C3! Nice.
Another Acela

You’ll also see a number of Regionals here, usually at max speed. Unfortunately though, you probably won’t see an express MBTA train, as their express sections typically end at Sharon.

…morse code?!
The MBTA should invest in a couple of ACS64s for the Providence Line.
So long, Mansfield.

The good: It’s a decent park & ride station! Sure, parking isn’t free like at Wickford, but this is actually somewhere where people are willing to pay to park. And besides, it’s up there in the busiest stations outside Boston proper. #3 to be precise (for daily boardings), if we exclude fare zone 1A. #s 1 and 2 are Salem and Providence, respectively.

The bad: Two major complaints. 1, why is there no GATRA? I mean, yeah the 14o technically serves the station, but as far as I can find it’s like the 140 only existed on a map and not in practice. GATRA website? Nope, no schedule despite being on the system map. Google? Nope. So, why does GATRA advertise a route that doesn’t exist? Hell, why is there a bus stop sign if no buses even use the damn thing?! What kind of drugs is GATRA on, for crying out loud?! You want a bus that serves Mansfield Station, how about…you know what, never mind. It’s GATRA we’re talking and they probably can’t do jack shit right. Oh yeah, when I went to the 140’s page for this review, it 404’d on me. Gee, thanks GATRA. Forget I ranted completely about the 140. While I still stand that the 140 shouldn’t be on the official system map on the schedules page (it 404s), there IS, however, GATRA GO. GATRA GO is basically Flex, but with the added benefit of being on-demand. Complaint #2, and this is waaaay less serious than the GATRA complaint (which, tbf, is on GATRA more than it is on the town of Mansfield or the T), is that the station building should be open in a minimal manner after the morning rush. Maybe just have a ticket person at the ticket desk? Or, for those who reverse commute, reopen the cafe in the evening rush?

Nearby points of interest: If you’re willing to walk a little, you have the town of Mansfield!

Transit connections: MBTA Commuter Rail (Providence/Stoughton Line), GATRA GO Connect

Overall, it’s not a terrible station. It’s quite nice, actually. However, I have to give it a major strike for GATRA being on drugs with regards to what would be the only bus connection (once again, forget I ranted about GATRA, as I found out GATRA GO exists and is on-demand). It’s also a bummer that the station building is only open in the morning rush, but it’d be better if it were open (even if minimally) all day. It’s also nice how they rebuilt the otherwise decrepit station, though it still peeves me that it only has a mini-high platform.

Rating: 7.5/10
Original rating: 7/10