BRATTLEBORO — Bus service in town is returning to pre-pandemic schedules starting Aug. 2 thanks to some new bus drivers taking the wheel.
“Brattleboro has always been a priority for us in terms of service and staffing,” Moover CEO Randy Schoonmaker said. “So as we come out of the pandemic, we wanted to restore the successful system we had before the pandemic.”
In March 2020, the Moover started running a two-bus system in Brattleboro rather than its regular three-bus system in response to COVID-19. Schoonmaker said changes to Moover busing service in other regions also were made at the same time.
The group provides fare-free bus service in Windham and Windsor counties.
Blue Line stops that paused during the pandemic included the Brattleboro Music Center, Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family, Living Memorial Park, Cotton Mill, Groundworks Collaborative on South Main Street, Omega Optical, Exit 1 Industrial Park, and Guilford Country Store. Those stops will return next month.
Schoonmaker said that back in 2019, the Moover spent 18 months working with a consultant and conducting public outreach to redesign Brattleboro routes. They’re now known as the Red Line, White Line and Blue Line.
“When we introduced that,” Schoonmaker said, “it worked really, really well and it seemed to fit everybody.”
The Moover had one schedule for all routes in Brattleboro on Monday through Friday.
On Saturday, the Red and White lines were on an abbreviated schedule with the White Line picking up most of the Blue Line’s stops.
Reduced service on Saturdays always had been part of the plan, Schoonmaker said.
“When COVID came along, we went down to the Saturday schedule only — just two buses,” he said.
Ridership went down and his group was short staffed but the Saturday schedule still covered almost every stop in town, Schoonmaker said. Recently, his group recruited enough drivers to staff all three lines.
“We’re still very short on drivers but the few new ones we have we wanted to give to Brattleboro first,” Schoonmaker said.
From July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, the Moover recorded 17,541 rides on the White Line, 26,401 on the Red Line and 13,482 on the Blue Line. From July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, there were 16,108 on the White Line and 31,106 on the Red Line. That’s a reduction of 10,210 rides.
Schoonmaker said his group hopes people feel safe and ridership goes up. The Moover is launching an advertising campaign and issuing a new brochure.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation also is promoting bus service with a new program called Return to Ride.
Drivers and riders on all Moover buses will still be required to wear face masks until Sept. 13 as all public transit is governed by the United States Department of Transportation and the Transportation Security Administration, which is mandating masks until then.
The Moover buses will continue to be disinfected regularly, Schoonmaker said.
“It’s safe to ride the buses,” he said. “We’re looking forward to everyone coming back and riding with us again.”
The Moover said signs, ads, rider handouts and new schedule brochures will be distributed shortly, and the new schedules will be posted soon on moover.com. The Moover can be reached at 1-888-869-6287.