Watertown’s newest public transportation option made a special run on Wednesday to show Town officials and residents what it is like to ride the Watertown Connector Pleasant Street Shuttle.
The Watertown Connector began running on Pleasant Street the day after Labor Day, and has given more than 150 rides on the route that goes down the westside corridor, to Watertown Square and on to Harvard Square. The shuttle makes four runs in the morning and four in the afternoon and evening.
Rides are free for residents of apartment complexes and employees of businesses that contribute to the Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA). The general public can get on for $1 a ride. Fares are available for purchase on the app, or at the Town Clerk’s office in Town Hall, 149 Main St.
With 32 cushioned seats, the shuttle starts on one end at the Watertown Mews apartments (across from the former Russo’s site), and within minutes it makes stops at two other apartment complexes — Aver and Water Mills — on the way to the Watertown Square Delta.
The vehicle goes around the Delta to let off and pick up passengers at the same spot where the MBTA buses do so. The shuttle driver noted that some people get off at the Delta to walk over to the 57 bus.
From Watertown Square, the shuttle heads directly up Mt. Auburn Street to Harvard Square, near the Red Line station. On Wednesday’s trip, the Pleasant Street shuttle passed a 71 bus on the way to its final destination.
The pick up spot in Harvard Square is on Bennett Street, across from the Charles Hotel. A passenger boarded at the stop, bound for his job at the Riverworks. He recently started working at Markforged, and said he relies on public transportation on his commute from Beacon Hill because he does not own a car. He has found the Watertown Connector a faster alternative to the MBTA.
An hour after leaving the Watertown Mews, the shuttle pulled back into the apartment complex’s driveway.
The shuttle should be attractive to residents of the Mews, said Stephanie Man, sales and marketing associate for the complex.
“When I am going on tours with prospective residents (the shuttle) is definitely something of interest to them,” Man said. “The other closest transportation (the bus on Main Street), is about a mile away.”
Work to start the Pleasant Street shuttle has lasted for more than 7 years, if not longer, said Bridger McGaw, president of the Watertown TMA who also works at athenahealth. He said the service helps with economic development in town as well as reducing emissions by reducing the number of drivers on the road.
“As we look to new ways to innovate and create sustainable services that open doors to economic development, it will take more public-private partnerships — more collaborations across town borders and with the private sector and the Commonwealth to drive on the economic opportunities we all want for our families, children, and communities,” McGaw said. “I am hopeful about what the Town of Watertown is committing to with this shuttle service and opportunities for future growth.”
Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said there were multiple reasons why it took so long for the shuttle to become a reality, including getting enough partners to fund and use the shuttle, as well as a big unforeseen one.
“Part of the delay was that we wanted to give the shuttle the best chance for success and not launch prematurely,” Magoon said. “And then we had to delay it because of the pandemic. A time when everyone is staying home is not a time to start a shuttle to and from work.”
So far, the shuttle has given 159 rides, said Kevin Bernier, program manager with the shuttle operator, WeDriveU. In September, the Pleasant Street shuttle gave 103 rides.
“We anticipate there will be additional growth as time goes on,” Bernier said.
WeDriveU also operates the Watertown Connector’s Arsenal Street shuttle, but that service is not open to the general public.
Watertown Transportation Planner Laura Wiener said if the shuttle proves successful, the service may be expanded, possibly into neighboring communities.
“Newton is a member of the Watertown TMA,” said Wiener, who added that there are a couple of residential projects being built in Nonantum, plus the new biotech labs being built on Galen Street in Watertown.
Schedules and more information about the Watertown Connector and the Watertown TMA are available at watertowntma.org.