A Greater GATRA

March 25, 2022

In addition to the MBTA, 15 regional transit authorities (RTAs) provide transit service across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Most of them have a straight-forward service area, usually based around one of Massachusetts' smaller cities such as Worcester (WRTA), Pittsfield (BRTA), or Lowell (LRTA). And then there's the Greater Attleboro-Taunton Regional Transit Authority, more commonly known as GATRA (what happened to the second T, I don't know).

GATRA bases its operations in Attleboro, Taunton, and Plymouth, and provides service to many other towns in the vicinity of Attleboro and Taunton. The service area reaches extreme limits in Scituate, Wareham, and Medway. As it is an RTA, the services provided aren't really the greatest. But GATRA is also known for some utterly terrible routes in its operations (I have to do separate posts for these odder routes soon). Part of the problem is that GATRA is just absolutely massive. Routes are everywhere and the whole network isn't connected very well at all.

I'm going to mention now that GATRA also operates microtransit services in parts of Plymouth, Pembroke, Mansfield, Foxboro, Wrentham, and Franklin. I'm not going to touch the microtransit portion of GATRA in this post, but I will acknowledge that it exists. It's called GATRA GO (which stands for GATRA GATRA On Demand).

Well then, this post is called "A Greater GATRA", so its time to revamp this whole system. And how will I overcome this massive system? By splitting it. That's right, I'm going to shrink the size of GATRA, and turn over some routes to other RTAs. It's also helpful to mention here that all routes would get service hours expanded to see regular service every day, likely 7 am to 7 pm (and beyond for some routes).

I'm starting easy with the Wareham-New Bedford Connection. This route runs 4 round trips daily between New Bedford and Wareham. This route should be handed over to the SRTA (which stands for Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, makes sense due to where this route serves). Also, the schedule for this route is currently hosted on the SRTA website... just sayin'.

Next are the 3 "Link" routes in the Wareham area (oddly numbered Link 1, Link 2, and Link 4. There must have been a Link 3 at some point). All routes serve destinations within Wareham, and Link 4 continues up to connect to other GATRA services in Middleboro. These should be handed over to the CCRTA and better integrated with Cape Cod transit services.

The last of the splits require me to create a whole new transit authority. Tentatively called South Shore Transit (SST), this agency will take over all GATRA services in the vicinity of Plymouth. These routes are the Mayflower Link, Manomet / Cedarville Deviated Link, Freedom Link, Liberty Link, Wareham-Plymouth Connection, SAIL, and SLOOP. The Mayflower Link and Manomet / Cedarville Link can be combined into one route running south from Plymouth Center towards Cedarville. The Freedom Link and Liberty Link loops can be eliminated and the Wareham-Plymouth Connection can be re-routed to serve those stops. SAIL, connecting Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury, and a shopping plaza in Pembroke, can be combined with the SLOOP, a loop route around downtown Scituate, to create a long Scituate to Plymouth route. The Pembroke shopping plaza deviation can stay, as it is an RTA and they all love mall deviations.

The Middleborough-Taunton Connection, connecting the two places in the name, is an interesting route. I'm going to do a post on it in the future, but believe me when I say it's wack. I don't really want to eliminate it, so I'm going to create a new Taunton to Plymouth route along that exact same corridor serving those same stops. Think of it as an extended Middleborough-Taunton Connection. It can either be operated by GATRA or SST, I don't really care. SST would be better, as they would already operate the connection from Plymouth to Wareham. Also incorporate the Downtown Middleborough Shuttle as well with this route.

As I progress westward, I eventually hit the Attleboro and Taunton local buses. From what I can tell, the local routes in Taunton don't miss anything that's super important (but I don't live in Taunton at all so I could be missing something big). Route 18 connecting both Attleboro and Taunton looks like it does a good job (I haven't looked at any schedules for these by the way) and has a stop in downtown Norton by Wheaton College.

I wish I could say the same about the Attleboro routes. They do run on major roads with things to visit and important places to serve along them. But some of the routings, I don't know. The 16, serving the South Attleboro Market Basket (and train station) via North Seekonk. Even if the South Attleboro train station reopens, I don't think the 16 is the right route to serve. The station already sees RIPTA bus service, and the Market Basket might be better off with service to other parts of Attleboro, connecting with the 11 and 24. Also why the hell does the 16 go all the way to Bishop Feehan High School (maybe students coming from the south?), as both the 10 and 14 run on roads right near it. Speaking of the 14, why not extend it to Plainridge Park Casino? It currently ends at some housing development in Plainville. Maybe they just don't want drunk gamblers on board (but it is better than drunk gamblers driving on their own).

That leaves one route left, the Medway T Shuttle. This route connects Medway with the Norfolk train station 5 miles away. However, the Franklin train station is only 4 miles from the same point in Medway. Reroute the shuttle to serve Franklin, and possibly extend it all the way to Attleboro. It would also bring regular bus service to Dean College.

I'm still not done yet, as fares are really wack on GATRA. If you're riding within Attleboro, Taunton, or Plymouth, it is $1.50 per ride with a free transfer within the same town. The other routes, however, have completely different fares and depend on which route it is. Just give us a flat fare for any fixed route, please.

I tried creating a map to explain all these changes, but it just got too complicated at some point in the process.

Hint hint - This post is a prequel to a much larger project of mine (and someone else). Stay tuned!