MA: New Downtown Lawrence Bus Starts Rolling Tomorrow

June 30--LAWRENCE -- From Lawrence, you can take a bus to just about anywhere in the Merrimack Valley. But there was never a bus that just took people around downtown Lawrence.

This officially changes tomorrow, July 1.

A new shuttle, Bus 85, will run on weekdays and Saturdays, giving people a lift through downtown Lawrence. The new route takes residents from some of the more densely populated neighborhoods and into the main commercial districts of Broadway and Essex Street.

Bus 85, operated by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, stops in the Arlington Neighborhood along three of the poorest census tracks in the state, noted Mayor Daniel Rivera and Abel Vargas, the city's business development director.

The shuttle set off on a maiden, promotional voyage on Thursday starting at the Lawrence Senior Center at 155 Haverhill St.

Martha Velez, senior center director, was thrilled to see the shuttle pull up out front and was happy to jump aboard.

Those aboard cheered after the bus pulled away and made its first stop at Lawrence and Park streets.

The bus stops near three pharmacies and commercial areas downtown, a big plus for seniors, Velez noted. And the price is good -- 60 cents to board the bus.

Children under 5 accompanied by an adult can ride the bus for free. And while the bus has designated stops -- the driver will stop for anyone who flags them down along the route.

Rivera said the shuttle bus is part of an ongoing plan to boost the city's downtown economy. "We need to get people places downtown," he said. "If they need to shop, go see a doctor or if they want to go have fun at our famous senior center."

"I think this is a valuable service," he said.

The new shuttle won praise from District B City Councilor Estela Reyes, who said the shuttle is a "flexible and affordable" way for residents to travel downtown.

For now, just one shuttle bus will run through downtown Lawrence. If the need increases, the MVRTA may add a second downtown shuttle, Vargas said.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

Lawrence Downtown Shuttle (Bus 85) weekday route

Shuttle runs every half hour from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Shuttle route every half hour: Lawrence Senior Center on Haverhill Street to Lawrence and Park streets followed by stop at Broadway and Manchester streets. From there the shuttle makes stops at Broadway and Essex streets, then Essex at Union Street and returns to the senior center on Haverhill Street.

The shuttle will also stop along the route for anyone who flags the driver down.

Cash fares are $1.25 for adults and 60 cents for senior citizen, disabled person or student. Children ages 5 and under riding with an adult are free.

Note: Bus fares are cheaper with purchase of Tap or Ride cards, which can be purchased at Buckley Transportation Center in Lawrence. For more information and bus routes, check out mvrta.com.

Lawrence Downtown Shuttle (Bus 85) weekday route

Shuttle runs every half hour from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Shuttle route every half hour: Lawrence Senior Center on Haverhill Street to Lawrence and Park streets followed by stop at Broadway and Manchester streets. From there the shuttle makes stops at Broadway and Essex streets, then Essex at Union Street and returns to the senior center on Haverhill Street.

The shuttle will also stop along the route for anyone who flags the driver down.

Cash fares are $1.25 for adults and 60 cents for senior citizen, disabled person or student. Children ages 5 and under riding with an adult are free.

Note: Bus fares are cheaper with purchase of Tap or Ride cards, which can be purchased at Buckley Transportation Center in Lawrence. For more information and bus routes, check out mvrta.com.

Copyright 2014 - The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

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