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Nashua's CityBus shares success story

NASHUA — The Nashua Transit System is providing more rides than ever, with its bus ridership increasing substantially in the last six years.

This past year, the Nashua Transit System, referred to as CityBus, provided 537,000 rides, according to Mark Sousa, director of transportation for Nashua. When he started the position in 2007, about 375,000 rides were provided, said Sousa.

“We are up considerably as far as ridership goes,” Sousa told the aldermanic Budget Review Committee this week while analyzing his department’s proposed $413,000 transit budget. Up to 60 percent of the funding used to operate the Nashua Transit System is federal money, according to city officials.
CityBus provides the highest amount of rides annually compared to any other municipally operated public transportation system in the state, according to Sousa.

The Nashua Transit System operates seven daytime fixed routes and three evening routes, traveling about 1,870 miles a day and providing rides to thousands of passengers each year.
Sousa contributes some of the increased ridership numbers to the expansion of two major routes — one of the most popular being the Main Dunstable route — which was implemented about two years ago.

“I’ve seen lots and lots of people using the transit system out there,” Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president, said of the Main Dunstable line. McCarthy said he is impressed with the amount of people waiting at the bus stop in that section of the city.
Sousa agree, saying that new route has been incredibly successful.

Kathy Hersh, director of community development, said many residents began using CityBus when gas prices skyrocketed a few years ago. Although fuel costs have leveled out since that time, she said many people remain loyal customers to the city’s public transportation system.
“The ridership has significantly increased,” Hersh told city officials, joking that once you get on the bus, you stay on the bus.

CityBus is in the process of implementing a new software program designed to improve its daily operations. The nearly $140,000 software upgrade is being funded with a federal grant left over from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
Critical information such as whether trips are running on time will be automatically uploaded to the dispatch center under the new software. Other data, including whether senior citizens, veterans or students are using bus passes will also be tracked, eliminating the need for manual data collection.
Sousa said the bus drivers will no longer have to fill out paperwork to log their miles, as the CityBus fleet will be outfitted with electronic tablets that relay data using cellular connections.

About 20 tablets will be used to outfit all of the CityBus vehicles.
“It is much more efficient and much more effective,” he said.

The new software is expected to be fully implemented in about two to three weeks, Sousa said.

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