This article originally appeared in the July 2019 edition of Senior Scope. Article, photo and video by Seth Thomas.
Boarding a bus can be intimidating for those who have never taken public transportation before. The Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA), the City of New Bedford and Coastline recently co-hosted an event at the Buttonwood Senior Center where people were given the opportunity to board a bus and ask questions. The event was part of New Bedford’s Age-Friendly Initiative.
Senior Scope spoke with Angela Constantino, the Senior Transportation Planner and Mobility Manager with SRPEDD, to help readers get to their destination. Constantino recommends getting a Senior CharlieCard before taking the bus. You can load money onto the card ahead of time, making your trip faster and easier.
CharlieCards are available at the New Bedford and Fall River Bus Terminals, located at 134 Elm Street in New Bedford and 118 4th Street in Fall River, and at the SRTA Administration Office located at 700 Pleasant St. in New Bedford. Be sure to bring an ID with proof of age.
Senior Scope: What’s the first step for someone who has never taken the bus before?
Angela Constantino: First of all, it’s locating a bus stop and knowing where to stand. In the SRTA region, we’re lucky because there are bus stop signs. You can get information about what route goes to what stop by checking out the system map and route schedules. (Visit srtabus.com/new-bedford for maps and info.)
SS: Can I board the bus with cash, or do I need a Senior CharlieCard?
AC: You either need a CharlieCard or exact change (75 cents for those age 60+). If you’re going to pay with cash, you need an ID to show the driver that you’re a senior. You get a five-cent discount when you use a CharlieCard. With a senior discount and a CharlieCard, your fare will be 70 cents.
SS: How do you use the card?
AC: When you first see the fare box inside the bus, there’s a credit card-sized orange target on the lower right-hand corner of the fare box. You hold your Charlie Card over the orange target for a second, and it will take money off the card.
SS: What’s next?
AC: Once you’re on the bus, find a seat. People who are new should keep an eye on their surroundings. There are yellow cords that run along both sides of the bus. When you want to get off, pull the cord.
SS: When you pull the cord, will the bus come to a stop, or do you have to wait for the next bus stop to get off the bus?
AC: You have to wait for the next bus stop.
SS: What should I do if I get on the bus and I feel totally lost?
AC: You can ask the bus driver questions. But you can also go on the smartphone app Google Maps, which offers transit directions. You can enter your starting location and ending location, and choose ‘transit’ as your mode of travel. It will give you directions and tell you what route to get on.
SS: So that means the first time you get on the bus, you could bring up Google Maps on your phone and follow right along?
AC: Yes, you could. And it will tell you how much your trip will cost. It will tell you when to get on and off the bus. If your destination requires a transfer, it will tell you which route will take you to the terminal and what route to get on after that.
SS: What other resources are available?
AC: You can always call the administration office at 508-999-5211. The bus terminal has a ticket window where you can get CharlieCards, and they can also help with directions. The SRTA Facebook page is a great place for service alerts, like detours and new routes. (On Facebook, search for @SRTABUS.)
SS: Is there any other helpful information people should know?
AC: There are two more things people should know: there is a Boston Hospital shuttle. It runs one day a week from Fall River and one day a week from New Bedford. Moreinformation is available on the SRTA website and seniors can book a trip through the New Bedford COA. Those with a disability that are registered with SRTA to use demand response can book a trip through SRTA. There’s also a resource called Massachusetts RideMatch, which is an online transportation directory. You enter in any address to any address, and it will give you public and private options for transportation. (Visit massridematch.org by clicking here.)