Mansfield Crossing is a popular weekend shopping destination for many people on campus because it has retailers such as L.L. Bean, Best Buy and Kohl’s. It is one of the few accessible shopping spots in the surrounding area, the next closest being Target in Easton the Emerald Square Mall in Attleboro, and the Wrentham Outlets.
As of this past fall, the Mansfield Crossing shopping center has been accessible to students by the GATRA bus. According to the Director of Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership (SAIL), Andrea Holden, “students would always tell us they wanted to go more places… the only obvious place was [Mansfield Crossing].”
Since Mansfield Crossing opened in 2007, the SAIL office has been pushing for a means of transportation there, and the GATRA seemed to be an obvious solution. The original purpose of the GATRA Wheaton stop was to efficiently get students to and from the train station in Mansfield. GATRA serves 28 communities in the Greater Attleboro-Taunton region, and the SAIL office pays for free student fares and for the extra time slots that can be seen on the schedule.
Over the past few years, the SAIL office ran into some complications when trying to incorporate a stop at Mansfield Crossing. However, the problem they ran into did not come from GATRA, but from the town of Mansfield.
GATRA has a contract with the town of Norton that allows it to stop at places like Roche Brothers on its way to the train station. Mansfield does not pay into the GATRA system, and originally saw no benefit in allowing the bus to stop at Mansfield Crossing. Over the last few years, their opinion has changed, largely due to continued advocacy from GATRA and Wheaton.
When the stop was put in place last semester, Wheaton emphasized that GATRA’s main purpose was still to get students from Wheaton to the Mansfield train station. Therefore, scheduling changes needed to be implemented along with the new route, which inevitably led to a bumpy start.
After a week or so of troubleshooting, most of the timing issues were fixed and many students were able to enjoy the newly created free public transportation to the shopping center. This arrangement has made it easier for students to take advantage of discounts offered at the Crossing, and SAIL is hoping to lobby for even more discounts in the future.
Being able to go shopping off-campus with no transportation fees gives students a new, guilt-free option for weekends and light weekdays and will possibly lead to different ideas about school-funded transportation.