Wareham-New Bedford bus connection expands to regular weekday service
A bus route connecting the tri-town to Wareham and New Bedford has been such a success that it is now being offered every weekday.
The Wareham-New Bedford Connection, operated jointly by the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) and the Southcoast Regional Transit Authority (SRTA), was launched in February of last year.
Leaders from both transit authorities noted that, for years, they'd been hearing that residents needed to access medical offices and other services in New Bedford. A "black hole" of public transportation in the tri-town, however, made connecting existing services in Wareham and New Bedford a tricky endeavor.
But a $42,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation helped both transit authorities connect the dots.
Buses leave the New Bedford terminal at 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Buses leave East Wareham at Cranberry Plaza at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and 3 and 5 p.m.
The buses travel Route 6 and stop at the intersection of Route 6 and North Street in Mattapoisett, and Route 6 and Route 105 (Front Street) in Marion, before continuing on. Additionally, riders can simply wave at the driver to hop on a bus anywhere along the route.
In addition to the New Bedford Terminal and Cranberry Plaza, the bus stops at the Southcoast Health System in Fairhaven, Shaw’s/Greater New Bedford Health Center in Wareham, and the Wareham Multi-Service Center.
GATRA administrator Frank Gay noted that officials expected that the route would be popular for residents of Wareham and the tri-town for the access to services in the city.
"What we didn't expect," he added, "is that there are a lot of residents from New Bedford coming north."
Gay said he'd seen New Bedford residents traveling with fishing gear during the summer and fall, heading for the beaches and rivers in this area.
Between July of 2017 and January of this year, an average of 136 people per month boarded Wareham-bound buses in new Bedford.
The popularity of the route and high ridership numbers apparently impressed state officials. Initially, two daily round-trips were offered, Monday through Wednesday. The transit authorities recently received a bigger grant, which allowed an expansion of service to Monday through Friday earlier this year.
"The ridership numbers that we submitted to MassDOT convinced them that increasing the grant amount would be a good option," Gay said.
In the tri-town, ridership numbers collected showed that the Whaling City is the destination of choice for Mattapoisett residents. An average of 16 people per month boarded the bus to New Bedford, while an average of five people headed in the direction of Wareham.
Possibly impacting higher ridership is residents' access to Route 6 to catch the bus. Mattapoisett Council on Aging director Jacqueline Coucci and then-director of the Marion Council Aging, Heather Sylvia, discussed implementation of the new bus route with GATRA and SRTA before it was implemented.
"It was a good idea," Coucci said, "but I still had concerns when I was told about it, because the bus only travels along Route 6. People still have to be able to get to Route 6 to flag the bus down."
In Marion, residents tended to head toward Wareham. An average of 17 people per month boarded that bus, while about six people per month rode in the direction of New Bedford.
Expansion in the tri-town is on administrators' radar, however.
Gay said that GATRA and SRTA are exploring potential options. He said he'd like to see a stop near Tabor Academy, though there are no firm plans yet.
"It would be good for the kids, it would be a good stop for people in the village, who can walk there," he explained. "Hopefully, we can work it out to make it happen in the future."
In Wareham, an average of 112 people boarded buses to New Bedford.
"Residents have told me that they were happy to see it introduced, as they can now get to the Social Security office in New Bedford," said Missy Dziczek, director of Wareham's Council on Aging.
Wareham Selectman Alan Slavin, who worked with the state and the transportation authorities for years to see the route come to fruition, said the service has satisfied a real need.
"It's been a great boon for those who lack transportation," he said. "It fills a need for people needing to get to hospital and doctor appointments in Fairhaven, New Bedford, Dartmouth and Fall River, as well as those needing to see doctors at Tobey and Rosebrook in Wareham."
A full-cost fare for the Wareham-New Bedford Connection is $1.50. A reduced rate for senior citizens aged 60 or older, children ages 6-11, disabled riders and Medicare recipients is 75 cents. Children younger than age 6 ride free. Fares can be paid in cash only. Exact change is required.
In Marion, buses heading toward Wareham arrive at 8:06 a.m., 10:06 a.m., 2:36 p.m. and 4:36 p.m. The approximate time buses to New Bedford will reach that corner are 8:40 a.m., 10:50 a.m., 3:20 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.
In Mattapoisett, the Wareham-bound bus will stop at approximately 7:55 a.m., 9:55 a.m., 2:25 p.m. and 4:25 p.m. The bus heading to New Bedford arrives at approximately 9:01 a.m., 11:01 a.m., 3:31 p.m., and 5:31 p.m.
Riders should arrive at least five minutes early.