COAST will be resuming their full Saturday service schedule on Routes 1, 33, 40, and 43 in Berwick, Dover, Newington, Portsmouth, and Somersworth starting January 13, 2024. The service reinstatement brings COAST’s fixed route service back to the fully planned service schedule.
“Reinstating our full fixed route services on Saturdays represents an important milestone for COAST, our customers, and the businesses and organizations we support,” said Rad Nichols, COAST Executive Director. “After experiencing significant post-pandemic staffing shortages, we focused additional resources on recruiting and retention. We are now at full staffing levels and once again able to serve those weekend riders who need to get to work, do their weekly shopping, or connect with friends in another community.”
COAST connects people and communities in two primary ways: with fixed route buses that serve eight communities in the Greater Seacoast area; and by providing demand paratransit services to 13 communities in New Hampshire and Maine.
On Tuesday, January 23 COAST will also be offering free rides on any of their regular routes and ADA paratransit services during polling hours to adults on their way to, or returning from, voting in the NH Primary election.
According to the nonprofit’s most recent Annual Impact Report demand and ridership across both their fixed route and demand response services increased in FY23.
“As housing prices on the Seacoast have continued to climb, the distance between economic opportunity and the communities where people can afford to live is increasing. COAST’s fixed route services play a critical role in connecting our Seacoast workforce and the businesses that employ them,” said Nichols.
Over the last fiscal year (October 2022 to September 2023) COAST reported 268,048 customer trips on their fixed route services to and from work, classes, medical services, shopping, and social activities (+10.6% over FY22), avoiding an estimated 1.8 million miles of car travel, and saving 755 tons (1.5 million lbs.) of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere. These trips also represent an estimated savings of $467,000 in avoided gasoline and maintenance expenses for riders.
COAST’s demand response services saw similar gains in FY23. Older adults and individuals living with disabilities took 23,006 trips to work, classes, medical services, shopping, and social activities (+18.4% over FY22). These riders traveled an average of 7.1 miles, totaling 163,500 miles.
“Operating in the second oldest state in the U.S., COAST helps seniors to maintain their independence. By providing transportation options beyond driving, COAST keeps people connected to their communities and the services they rely on for support as they grow older,” noted Nichols.
COAST also operates TripLink, a regional transportation call center that takes trip requests on behalf of COAST, Community Action Partnership of Strafford County, Community Rides, Ready Rides, and Rockingham Nutrition & Meals on Wheels.
TripLink new client registrations were up 26% in FY23, and the number of trips facilitated by the regional call center increased 25.7% to 38,520. Forty-nine percent of the TripLink-facilitated rides traverse multiple communities.
“COAST is an essential service provider and an important partner for social services agencies across the Seacoast,” said Jeff Donald, COAST Regional Mobility Manager. “By providing the transportation link between health, social, and other support services, COAST ensures that everyone can access the opportunities they need to succeed.”
The impact of COAST’s transportation services, as measured by the direct, indirect, and induced effects on spending, as well as the economic impact of access provided by their services, is estimated to have been over $26.4 million in FY23.
COAST is in the planning stages for a new maintenance and administrative facility at its current location in Dover. The project will be funded through a combination of funding from federal, state (including NH CDFA tax credits that are available to businesses who wish to support COAST in exchange for receiving a tax credit), local, and private sources. The City of Dover recently issued a site plan approval and conditional use permit for the project following a review by the Planning Board.
“We are proud of the accomplishments of 2023. However, COAST faces a challenging financial future as we seek to raise the remaining funds needed to construct our new facility while also replacing several federal grants that are ending and affecting our operating budget,” said Nichols. “In the coming year, we are optimistic that the communities COAST serves will recognize the important services we offer their residents by strengthening their financial support of our operations. We are also looking forward to growing our base of support among the business community.”
More information about COAST, its routes, and schedules can be found at www.coastbus.org.