bus to Woods Hole

By Rick Conti

Back in the day, before everyone in the country had their own gas-guzzling vehicle, transportation was a community affair. Buses and trains provided much of our transport service. When we travel as individuals, we miss out on connecting with others and seeing our world. Plus, we waste a lot of fuel. Mind you, I’m not suggesting we deep six all our private vehicles. This is America, after all. I am suggesting, however, that we occasionally consider alternatives.


Train to Boston
Taking a train to Boston is one leg of a “mass transit” journey to Martha’s Vineyard.

Here’s my personal experience doing so. My last trip to the island was mostly car-free. As a result, my travel was mostly care-free. It was also fun and productive. It started with a short drive – a couple of miles – to be dropped off at the nearest train station: commuter rail to North Station in Boston. Relaxing. Nota bene: This is not a trip to be taken without reading material. Fortunately, a book has been sitting in my to-be-read pile for a couple of months. It provided all the entertainment I needed for all my travels as well as my stay on the island. In the first three pages, my eyes welled up once and I laughed out loud once.


When I drive, I usually just scream in anguish or terror. This mode of travel also provides optimal people-watching opportunities. As a writer, nothing feeds my imagination more than observing people and settings, inside and outside the train. Several thoughts were jotted into my writer’s notebook during this leg of my journey.


The connection from North Station to South Station has its challenges but also its opportunities. Out of necessity, I hopped on the Green Line then transferred to the Red Line. On a better day weather-wise, the walk from one station to the other is a mere one and a quarter miles along the new Rose Kennedy Greenway – public art, fountains, park benches, trees, even food vans on the right days. (You paid for the Big Dig; you might as well enjoy it.) I’m still waiting for that long-discussed connection between the two stations. It’s not likely to happen in my lifetime, but I can dream.


South Station is a fascinating place. You can go pretty much anywhere from there and you can meet pretty much any kind of person. Most important for my purposes, it’s where the Peter Pan bus departs, bound for Woods Hole. Look: You either like bus travel or you hate it. There must be some latent royalty in me, because I like being driven around. On this day, the weather was horrendous, so I let the driver worry about it while I continued with my book. The seats were plush enough that I drifted off once or twice. (Not recommended if you are the driver.) The best thing about the bus is that it drops me off steps from the ferry terminal.


I love the ferry. (You can read my previous Ode to the Ferry here.) It, along with the other boat services, is the knothole through which all MV visitors must squeeze through. No bridge. No tunnel. No causeway. We all ride over on the boat. It’s the great leveler. May it live forever. The final piece of the travel puzzle is either a taxi or the terrific MV Transit system to your final destination. If you’re fortunate enough to own a unit at the Edgartown Residence Club, kind sponsors of this blog, you get picked up by a smiling member of their wonderful staff. Now, that’s the way to start a vacation!


Next stop, home away from home. Bottom line: My experiment was a pleasant success and I will do it again whenever I have the chance. Was it the easiest way to travel? Not necessarily, but since when is easiest best? Besides, any route that takes me to the Vineyard is a good one.


Your mileage may vary.

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