After nearly two years of planning and outreach with riders, community members and financial stakeholders, COAST's redesigned public transit system launches on Monday, June 29.
Ultimately, the new system was designed to reflect the region's changing travel patterns, and to adapt to COAST's new financial reality. Rad Nichols, COAST Executive Director, remarked, "We recognized a change in where people wanted to travel to and from, as well as the days and hours during which they work and shop, and we knew we'd be working with a diminished overall budget. To determine how our services would best meet our passengers' and communities' needs, we initiated a comprehensive analysis of COAST's operations in the summer of 2018."
After many months of extensive analysis, design and redesign, outreach, and consideration of feedback received, this past winter COAST announced it had arrived at its new service design. The schedule and/or route traveled of all of COAST's current bus routes will be affected. Additionally, there are several new bus routes that will be introduced. More information about the new system and schedules can be found on COAST's website www.coastbus.org.
Cornerstone features of the new system offer the following benefits:
- Creates separate local routes from routes making regional connections
- Significantly reduces travel times for many of the longest trips (by more than 50%)
- Improves timely connections between routes, making regional travel easier
- Provides hourly frequencies on most routes
- Uses clockface schedules (bus coming to the same stop, at the same time after the hour, every hour) on most routes
- Significantly enhances Saturday service levels
- Extends service coverage to identified areas
- Maintains the current daily span of service to the maximum extent practicable
- Provides greater flexibility to operate routes only when sufficient demand exists
- Makes better use of downtime and bus movements to maximize revenue service
- Represents an overall cost reduction to operate
After also reviewing the fare structure, no changes were proposed to the base cash fare to ride the system ($1.50). There will continue to be options for purchasing discounted fare media, such as bundled tickets and monthly passes.
As a cost saving measure, two new no-service holidays will be recognized by COAST: Christmas Eve and Martin Luther King Jr./Civil Rights Day. These two holidays were chosen based on their traditionally lower ridership numbers.
COAST is currently operating at just below its full-service levels because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April 1 and May 10, it had completely suspended all fixed route operations due to a lack of availability of personal protective equipment, and concerns for their employees' and passengers' safety due to the increased presence of the virus in the region. On May 11 COAST began what has been a three-phase resumption to services. Currently average weekday fixed route ridership is 45% of pre-pandemic levels and has been on a very positive growth trend each week since service was resumed. Compared with national trends for public transit ridership under current conditions, COAST is doing quite well.
"We are committed to our mission to champion and provide customer-focused public transportation with a commitment to excellence in safety and service," stated Mr. Nichols. "The pandemic has been a significant challenge for our operation to overcome, and just as we were preparing for the launch of our new system. It has been a tremendously difficult spring on all fronts, but our staff has been incredible, and we are ready for next Monday."
Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation (COAST) has provided public transit service to the Seacoast New Hampshire region since 1982. COAST is a non-profit agency, operating a regional public transit system that relies primarily on federal and local government support to operate. COAST is governed by a board of directors representing the communities served, two regional planning commissions, and many local and state agencies. COAST's vision is to be an innovative leader in providing a broad range of public transportation services, connecting, and coordinating a robust network of transportation options for everyone.