Provincetown News and Information

Flex Route bus from Harwich to Provincetown running - Does anyone care?

Published: Sun June 04, 2006
By: Straight Dope in Provincetown > Open To The Public
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Following years of anticipation and months of planning, year-round public transportation became a reality yesterday with the launch of FlexRoute bus service operating between Harwich and Provincetown.

Under the direction of Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, buses are running every half hour, seven days a week from 6 a.m. to about 10 p.m. through Labor Day. After then, hourly service is planned.

Twelve new buses with clean-burning engines, purchased for $3.4 million by Cape Cod National Seashore, are being used.

Flex is running along a defined route between Harwich Port and Provincetown (serving Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and Brewster) but also goes up to three-quarters of a mile off its route to pick up and discharge passengers who have made a reservation at least two hours ahead of time.
Passengers going to and from Provincetown change between Flex and the Shuttle at Dutra’s Market on Route 6A in North Truro through the middle of October. When the Shuttle stops operating for the season, Flex buses will run directly to/from MacMillan Pier in Provincetown.
$1 a ride or less
A Flex ride costs $1, no matter the distance traveled, 50 cents for passengers 60 and older, and people with disabilities. An off-route ride costs another $1, 50 cents for seniors and people with disabilities.
The RTA is offering riders a 20-ride pass at 25 percent off, starting July 1. The agency also is selling a monthly pass for all routes, good for unlimited travel, for $35, half price for seniors and people with disabilities.
To entice people to try Flex, the RTA has announced that rides are free for the first week of service, through June 7.
In addition to passenger fares, Flex operations will be underwritten by state and federal grants and financial support from the seven towns it serves.

Flexible schedule

Because Flex must serve regular-route passengers and an unknown number of those traveling off-route, a “flexible” schedule is being used.
There are 18 bus stops in all, broken down into eight “main stops” and 11 “in-between stops.” Flex always serves the main stops, usually within five minutes of schedule either way. It stops at in-between stops when a passenger is waiting or asks to be dropped off.
Because of the elastic nature of the schedule, the bus’s arrival at and departure from in-between stops will vary. The RTA is advising passengers to arrive at in-between stops early, ideally at the time shown for the previous main stop.

Lower/Outer Cape passengers traveling to/from Hyannis can transfer with Plymouth & Brockton coaches along the Flex route and to/from the H20 Breeze bus in Orleans and Harwich Port.
The entire Flex fleet is accessible via fold-out ramp to people with disabilities and others with limited mobility. The front of the bus also “kneels” close to the ground, making boarding easy for all. There are bike racks on all buses but capacity is limited.

Waiting benches, lamp posts and posted schedules will be installed at stops over the next few weeks. Once the popularity of stops is determined, shelters will be placed at key ones.
Some 50,000 Flex schedules, with timetables and maps, have been printed and distributed throughout the Lower/Outer Cape. There is also a comprehensive new informational web site, .
How to arrange an off-route pickup
Plan ahead. If you are not close to a stop, be sure your starting point or destination is within three quarters of a mile of the usual Flex route. Please check a map in the schedule or online at  If you’re not sure, call RTA Customer Service at 800-352-7155. Keep in mind there is an extra $1 charge for off-route trips, 50 cents for seniors and people with disabilities.
Make off-route reservations at least two hours before a scheduled pick-up. For best results, make your reservationa day or two in advance since these trips will be confirmed on a first-called, first-served basis. Call RTA Customer Service at 800 352-7155 to let the RTA know your exact location and/or destination. Off-route trips are limited to ensure that reliable bus service is available to all passengers.
Because the Flex bus may not be able to travel on or turn around on some Cape roads, you may be asked to get on or off a short distance from your preferred location. Please be there at least five minutes early. If you’re late, the bus will not wait.
If you plan to make the same off-route trip regularly, you may be able to place a standing order up to two weeks in advance, subject to availability of the bus. Be sure to schedule these with RTA Customer Service at 800-352-7155. To cancel an off-route trip or standing order, contact RTA Customer Service at 800-352-7155at least two hours before the scheduled trip.

There’s one official Park & Ride lot, at Exit 10 off Route 6 in Harwich. Several municipal lots are available at Flex stops including one in Harwich Port behind the chamber of commerce headquarters building, at Eastham Town Hall and at Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham. Other lots may become available in the near future. Passengers are urged not to park on private property.


On Sun June 04, 2006, Straight Dope wrote:

"Twelve new buses with clean-burning engines, purchased for $3.4 million by Cape Cod National Seashore, are being used.”

Can anyone tell me why the Cape Cod National Seashore would spend this kind of money on this type of service?

Also, at a $1 a ride, FlexRoute is a money loser from day one. Who is subsidising this and how many months (or years) of low ridership will it take before someone says enough is enough?

It would probably be cheaper to give the regular riders free taxi rides to and from their desinations than to pay for 12 buses year round.

Yikes, I can feel the money levitating out of my pocket now!

On Mon March 05, 2007, Peter Whitlock wrote:

Hi Steve,

I took the Flex bus three to five times a week from June through October 2006 from Eastham to Provincetown and back.

Running Cape Cod’s only biodiesel-using tour boat business, Viking Princess Harbor Cruises of Provincetown, I was doubly proud to reduce as close to zero as possible the environmental impact of my commute.

What I liked most was taking my bike.  I didn’t like having to wait for the Shuttle in North Truro so I brought my bike to ride from there to MacMillan Pier.  I have a rear view mirror on my handlebar so that if I saw the Shuttle coming before I got to where Bradford Street starts, then I would stop and flag it down.  If I didn’t, then I kept my free transfer ticket as a souvenir and very much enjoyed the extra morning ride.

I continued using the Flex once a week through the winter with a once a week commute I’ve been doing to Yarmouth.  I ride my bike to Orleans and take the Hyannis to Orleans Breeze bus to a stop in Yarmouth where I have another 1/2 mile or so to ride.  When I get back to Orleans, it’s usually quite dark, and I prefer to ride the Flex from Orleans to Eastham.  This worked out so well that I finally bought one of the $15 passes for 20 rides.  I’ve been amazed to see the Flex still doing okay on some trips for ridership on its more limited winter schedule, and I think it’s really starting to catch on.

Besides, every car we keep off the road as a result of a Flex trip is a net reduction in the carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.  At this point, every single thing we can do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is very valuable.

I like the Journal, and I hope to make more contributions in the future.  Thanks for setting it up,


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