More than a year after carrying its last commuter, the Plymouth & Brockton regional bus service announced Wednesday that its flagship route between Cape Cod and Boston will resume on May 14.
Plymouth & Brockton has spent months trying to figure out when to get back on the road — unsure whether riders would return if service came back, but with no way to know for sure until it did. But with vaccination rates increasing steadily and the prospect of a return to office commuting growing more plausible, the company decided it was time to set aside the chicken-or-the-egg-style questions and get on the road.
“We kind of felt that we need to take the lead about bringing people back,” said Plymouth & Brockton owner and chief executive Win Sargent. “We’ll have three roundtrips [a day] to start. But we’re looking to our ridership, and ... we’re going to monitor the daily ridership” to determine how many trips to run.
Sargent bought the more-than-a-century-old company in 2019, and had only been in charge for about nine months before shutting service down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Plymouth & Brockton had also just begun introducing a new fleet of vehicles, which Sargent said will comprise the entire fleet when service resumes.
Despite receiving more than $1 million in federal aid through the Paycheck Protection loan program approved by Congress, Plymouth & Brockton has essentially forfeited business in its backyard throughout the pandemic. Springfield-based Peter Pan Bus Lines resumed its service between Boston and the Cape months ago.
Winthrop defended the decision to not run service as financially prudent, saying Plymouth & Brockton will now be well-positioned to keep operating even if ridership remains low.
The company’s main route runs between Hyannis and Logan International Airport, with stops along the South Shore and at South Station, and is geared both at commuters and tourists. Before the pandemic, it counted 50,000 monthly riders during summer, its peak season.
But transportation planners are unsure what travel patterns will look like in the coming months, even if the pandemic subsides. Especially unclear is the future of the nine-to-five commute into Boston, for workers who may have opportunities and interest to keep working from home regularly.