After yet another year of near record ridership on the Greater Seacoast’s regional transit system, COAST is announcing very select service changes and fare increases to offset strained municipal budgets and increasing operating costs.
The proposed service changes only affect “Dover FastTrans” Routes 33 & 34-35. Fare increases are proposed to be limited to Dover FastTrans Route 33 and the Portsmouth-Pease Trolley Routes 40 and 41.
COAST is announcing a proposal to reduce service currently operating as "Dover FastTrans" Routes 33 and 34-35. There is also a proposed fare increase on Route 33 and the Portsmouth-Pease Trolley Routes 40 and 41 from 50 cents per trip to $1.50. The service and fare changes are a result of increasing operating costs and strained municipal budgets supporting COAST services.
Proposed Service Changes
Due to a very tight municipal budget in the City of Dover, COAST must consider reducing service operated on the FastTrans network of routes. The Route 34-35 FastTrans Commuter Connector, a limited-run service that was created last year in place of two previously operated routes, is proposed to be eliminated entirely, based on its low ridership compared to the expense of operation.
Additionally, some limited runs of Route 33 are proposed to be suspended, also due to lack of operating funds. The runs slated for elimination on Route 33, which has operated hourly from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. since its creation in 2008, experience the lowest average ridership. These runs are the 11:05 a.m., 12:05 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 6:35 p.m.
These reductions in service are necessary in order for COAST to operate within the budget for FastTrans.
FastTrans is supported financially by rider fares, local subsidy from project partners, and Federal Transit Administration funding. The service is a partnership between COAST, the City of Dover, and Strafford County. Recently, the Dover Housing Authority also stepped in to provide additional financial support, ensuring that the majority of the Route 33 service would remain in operation.
Proposed Fare Increases
In order to better support operating expenses on both Route 33 as well as the Portsmouth-Pease Trolley system, COAST must propose a fare increase to $1.50, matching the base fare for all other regular COAST routes. No other routes will experience a fare increase at this time. The fares on FastTrans and Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation the Trolleys have been handled differently from other routes in the past because those routes were funded directly by the project partners, independent of the regional routes 1, 2, 6 and 7. In the past the project partners sponsoring these routes were able to subsidize their operations at a level that made charging a lower fare feasible.
The increase in the base cash fare for Route 33 would also include the elimination of the 50 cent surcharge on that route for any on-call stops. No other route has a surcharge for on-call stops.
COAST tickets, multi-ride punch cards and monthly passes will remain at their current rates as their face value is set based on COAST’s base cash fare of $1.50.
Upcoming Public Hearings and Proposed Timeline
To provide more details, answer questions, and accept comments on the proposal, COAST will hold the following public hearings:
- July 23 at 10 a.m. at the Portsmouth Library
- July 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Portsmouth Library
- July 24 at 11 a.m. at Dover City Hall
- July 24 at 5:30 p.m. at Dover City Hall
Additional information on these proposed service adjustments can be accessed by visiting COAST’s website.
COAST invites public comments on the change through Aug. 8. The COAST Board of Directors will take final action on the proposal during the August meeting. The proposed changes in service and fares, if approved, would begin on Sept. 30th.