HINSDALE, N.H. -- Residents are looking forward to an expansion of Connecticut River Transit bus services to Brattleboro, Vt., that will include five pick-up times throughout each day.
Officials at CRT, a non-profit organization that took over the Beeline bus route in November 2010, have met with the people of Brattleboro and Hinsdale to learn how to improve service. Fifteen people showed up at the Millstream Community Center on Thursday evening to hear from CRT Executive Director Mary Habig and Operations Manager Brian Waterman and Southwest Region Planning Commission Principal Planner JB Mack. Town Administrator Jill Collins, State Reps. Bill Butynski, Lucy McVitty Weber and Tara Sad and Democratic nominee Paul Berch were also in attendance.
Waterman said N.H. Gov. John Lynch's Executive Council will meet on Wednesday and if it approves $18,500 for funding, the expanded bus service will likely begin on Wednesday, Oct. 3. Mack, however, later said the funding will actually be $15,500.
"It'll get you to the transit center in Brattleboro ... anywhere in Brattleboro you can transfer to any of the mobile buses. So you'll pay $1 to get over there and ask the driver for a transfer slip and get to wherever you want to go," Waterman told the crowd. "(It'll) be in Hinsdale five times a day, which really isn't a lot of service, but we won't leave you stuck in Brattleboro all day. It's not like you've got be over there at 8 (a.m.) and
The five pick-up times will be 6:20 a.m., 9 a.m., 12:23 p.m., 4:12 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. The two definite stops at this time are by the Wal-Mart and at the park near the Millstream Community Center.
The $15,500 contributed through the state must be matched by Hinsdale. Townspeople approved raising and appropriating the money by adopting Article 15 of the town warrant during Town Meeting in March.
Resident Greta Coderre attended the meeting to ask if the bus service will accommodate those living in Rolling Hills, a village for the elderly in Hinsdale. She was told the bus will likely stop near or within Rolling Hills.
Mack, who has been working with CRT to facilitate the whole process, told everyone at the meeting to let other people know about the bus service. Though it's not a use-it-or-lose-it sort of thing, CRT really needs to see good ridership levels to continue the service, he said.
"Putting together this service was not very easy, I can tell you. ... The best advertising is word of mouth. So please tell everybody," Mack said. "It's important that people are using it."
Habig chimed in and said it is very difficult to change schedules, even if it is desired.
"There needs to be a huge demand. We can't just start changing schedules because somebody doesn't like this time and would rather have this time," she said. "There's got to be a demand for that."
Habig also said there will be a paratransit service for individuals whose physical disabilities don't permit them to get to a bus stop. She said a one-day reservation is required for every trip. The fare is $2, she said.
All the buses are wheelchair-accessible and will have a spot in the front for two or three bicycles, Habig said.
When someone asked how drivers will know when to stop, the CRT officials said anyone waiting needs only to gesture to the drivers, who will stop as long as it is safe to do so.
A woman asked if any kiosks will be set up to shelter waiting riders from inclement weather. While CRT will not provide any such kiosks, Habig said that could be a great project for any workshop looking to do some community service.
Habig also said she has worked in Vermont for two-and-a-half years and service has just once been canceled due to poor weather conditions.
After most people had left, Butynski said the bus service will also be valuable to young people that utilize the Windham Regional Career Center and other programs in Brattleboro.
The meeting was very a light-hearted and low-key one, filled with laughter, clever jokes and friendly conversations.
"It's a lively bunch here," Habig said with a smile after the meeting.
Collins agreed and said a lot of questions were answered.
"I liked it. It was a lot of fun," she said. "I think it's very important to the downtown because we have a lot of low- or moderate-income people in the downtown area. People who don't have transportation, it gives them the opportunity to be able to not have to wait to get a volunteer to take them to go grocery shopping.
"They can pay a dollar, get on the bus, do what they need to do and get back here," she continued.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.