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Green Route Poised to Grow; Advance Transit Wants to Add Bus

  • Advance Transit's Green Line pulls away from its Maynard Street stop in Hanover Tuesday, October 29, 2013. The bus service may add a second bus to the Green Line, making stops every half hour instead of every hour. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Advance Transit's Green Line pulls away from its Maynard Street stop in Hanover Tuesday, October 29, 2013. The bus service may add a second bus to the Green Line, making stops every half hour instead of every hour.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Purchase photo reprints »

  • Roy Daigle, left, and Tesha Thibodeau, right, both of Wilder, Vt. wait for the Advance Transit Green Line on Maynard Street in Hanover Tuesday, October 29, 2013. Daigle said that a second bus on the line would save him time and comfort in the winter because for the connecting bus.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Roy Daigle, left, and Tesha Thibodeau, right, both of Wilder, Vt. wait for the Advance Transit Green Line on Maynard Street in Hanover Tuesday, October 29, 2013. Daigle said that a second bus on the line would save him time and comfort in the winter because for the connecting bus.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Advance Transit's Green Line pulls away from its Maynard Street stop in Hanover Tuesday, October 29, 2013. The bus service may add a second bus to the Green Line, making stops every half hour instead of every hour. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Roy Daigle, left, and Tesha Thibodeau, right, both of Wilder, Vt. wait for the Advance Transit Green Line on Maynard Street in Hanover Tuesday, October 29, 2013. Daigle said that a second bus on the line would save him time and comfort in the winter because for the connecting bus.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Hartford — Advance Transit officials have proposed adding a second bus to the Green Route to increase the frequency of service from hourly to every 30 minutes for the route’s 235 daily riders.

Executive Director Van Chesnut said the expansion would improve connections with the other four main Advance Transit bus routes and allow the system to accommodate more riders per hour.

“It’s a very busy route, and with just once-an-hour service, it’s still carrying 60,000 passenger trips per year,” Chesnut said.

The Green Route primarily runs along Route 5, connecting Norwich, Wilder, Hartford Village and White River Junction with West Lebanon and Hanover. About one-third of the riders are commuting to work at Dartmouth College. The route also brings riders to the Upper Valley Haven food shelf and shelter — the busiest stop — and connects passengers to other buses that serve the Route 12A shopping plazas and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Paige Lewis, of Wilder, said adding a second bus to the Green Route would cut in half the time it normally takes her to run errands.

“I am in favor of that,” Lewis said, while waiting in line to board the bus near Hartford High School on Route 5.

She said it takes her three to four hours to purchase groceries in New Hampshire because the timing of connections.

“People would have more stops, would be able to run errands quicker and it would contribute to the community,” Lewis said of the expansion.

A second bus operating sixty hours per week would cost about $220,000 for the first year. The proposed expansion also would bring hourly service to Hartford Village, which currently receives sporadic service throughout the day.

Chesnut said if awarded, a federal grant would cover 80 percent of the operating costs for at least three years.

The other 20 percent would come from the six municipalities Advance Transit serves, institutional partners, donors and sponsors, annual appeals, and ads placed on the buses.

For Hartford’s 2014-15 budget cycle, for example, Chesnut said Advance Transit will seek voter approval for $45,000, the amount it was awarded last year. In a separate request, Advanced Transit will seek an additional $40,000 from Hartford for the expansion, contingent upon receiving federal funding.

The amount of money Advance Transit asks for from each municipality is based “loosely” on ridership in each community.

The expansion project doesn’t need funding approval from each municipality to go forward, but if it isn’t awarded federal funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality New Starts Funding program, the project would be delayed.

Chesnut presented the project Tuesday night to the Hartford Selectboard, which endorsed it.

Selectman F.X. Flinn asked whether or not Vermont Transit officials had considered charging riders “a quarter or 50 cents” to increase revenues and leverage the expansion.

Chesnut said there is a detailed report in the works that specifically looks at the outcome of charging a fee for service. In brief, he said the amount of money that would be generated “doesn’t add up to much” and would drive riders away, which is not ideal. In addition, he said many of the sponsors who help fund bus services might stop sending contributions if a fare is charged.

As a hybrid, Chesnut said Advance Transit is in the middle of figuring out a safe way to set up a drop box, for example, on the buses for contributions.

Hartford Selectboard Chairman Chuck Wooster said on Friday that increasing services will make it easier for Hartford residents to get around and possibly eliminate the need for families to have multiple vehicles.

“It’s critical for the economic development of the town,” Wooster said. “The service needs to be frequent enough that people can depend on it to go shopping, and once it becomes dependable enough, then people can think about not owning a second car.”

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said she is in favor of expanding the Green Route’s service.

“I know my board would entertain looking to beef up our Advanced Transit contribution to support this enhanced level of service on a critical Upper Valley route,” Griffin wrote in an email on Tuesday. In the 2013-14 budget cycle, Hanover contributed $97,971 to the route system.

Every five years, Chesnut said Advance Transit reviews existing services and looks at where adjustments can be made . The most recent plan, completed in 2012, found that Advance Transit should focus on the core service area and improving existing routes. Expanding the Green Route rose to the top of a “laundry list of things.

“We are really trying to build up that core and then overtime we hope to be able to continue to expand to other areas,” Chesnut said, adding future expansions might include nighttime and weekend hours .

“If we spread ourselves too thin we won’t be effective,” Chesnut said. “(But) we are working on a scale that’s having a difference in terms of air quality impacts, traffic and parking. We are lucky that we are able to do that.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

CORRECTION

Advance Transit officials want to add a second bus to its Green Route to increase the frequency of service from hourly to every 30 minutes. An earlier version of this story was unclear on that point.