Ridership on COAST’s fixed route and advance reservation demand response services grew by 7.6%. Despite providing significantly less fixed route service due to ongoing service suspensions, the increase demonstrates that demand is increasing despite reduced service options.
Most recently, COAST’s average weekday fixed route ridership was at its highest level since March 2020. This is a key ridership measure that has thus far continued into the first part of FY23. Over the past year, fixed route ridership grew by 6.6%. The hope is that when service suspensions are lifted (which has slowly been happening through the fall), ridership will grow proportionately, however, COAST says that will take time.
Ridership on COAST’s demand response services, generally targeted to older adults and individuals living with disabilities, grew 21.4% over the previous year, hovering just below pre-pandemic ridership levels. Prior to 2020, these services had been seeing the strongest ridership growth.
COAST’s recently approved FY23 operating budget was developed with the goals of rebuilding its workforce and resuming suspended services. Notably, the budget included wage increases that should significantly increase COAST’s competitiveness in the highly competitive job market for bus operators, including the addition of a second shift pay differential.
“With significant improvements to bus operator wages and benefits, COAST expects to be able to rebuild our workforce on the timeline we have established. We have already seen a significant uptick in applicants through referrals from our own employees,” commented Rad Nichols, COAST Executive Director. “At this point, we are planning on lifting more service suspensions in mid-January as in the last few weeks we have successfully hired and are now training a number of new staff.”
ABOUT COAST: The 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.