"The Current", operated by Connecticut River Transit, lets passengers on at its stop on Flat Street. (Reformer file photo)
"The Current", operated by Connecticut River Transit, lets passengers on at its stop on Flat Street. (Reformer file photo)
Tuesday January 15, 2013

HINSDALE, N.H. -- Connecticut River Transit hopes to meet with town officials to discuss ways of increasing the unexpectedly low volume of people using its bus services to the downtown area.

CRT operates The Current, a private non-profit public transit provider that offers lost-cost rides to anyone in southeastern Vermont. The Current now brings people over the state line into Hinsdale, making a stop by the Walmart Supercenter before cruising down Main Street. But the organization has seen lower numbers than expected since changes to its bus schedules.

Operations Manager Brian Waterman said though the 25 to 30 people taking The Current to Walmart each day is more than expected, he is disappointed only five to eight are using the ride to get to downtown Hinsdale. He said the preferred number is 15 to 20 per day.

Waterman said Hinsdale cited studies that predicted higher numbers. He said CRT would like to schedule a meeting with Hinsdale officials to see why that was.

The Current charges each individual $1 per ride and also gets funding through the Job Access and Reverse Commute program of New Hampshire as well as other state and federal funds in addition to donations. Waterman said the organization has also recently applied for a Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Waterman believes the low numbers may reflect unpopular departure times or a lack of publicity.

Hinsdale Town Administrator Jill Collins agrees and said she is willing to set up a meeting with CRT. She told the Reformer mass mailings throughout town might elevate some of the marketing problems. CRT Executive Director Mary Habig said a meeting likely will be scheduled within the next month or so. She mentioned the individuals who take the bus services to Walmart on Brattleboro Road consist of both shoppers and employees of the retail giant.

Waterman said ridership throughout Brattleboro, Vt., is up about 10 percent since CRT changed its route. After frustration mounted over its original changes, CRT again altered its route through Brattleboro on Oct. 1, switching from its previous plan of running three separate lines to using the Brattleboro Transportation Center as a hub and asking riders to change buses.

But while the change was made to allow riders to make easy connections, some complained about long waits, and some of the connections did not allow riders to get to, or home from, work during the busy commuting periods. On Oct. 29, the company extended its red line to help people get into West Brattleboro after 5:30 p.m.

CRT also made changes to the bus that goes to World Learning after receiving complaints that the original changes were not meeting the needs and schedules of administrators and students at the college.

Waterman also said Sunday service was eliminated as part of the changes.

According to The Current's website, the organization provides more than 200,000 trips, and channels more than $3 million into the local economy every year.