Welcome, East Rochester!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Residents of East Rochester may have noticed COAST bus stop signs pop up in front of their house or in their neighborhood recently. Not surprisingly, we've received a lot of comments about this new development, so we put together some information to help ease concerns you may have.

The bus stop

COAST locates our bus stops for the best balance of convenience for the surrounding neighborhood, so we generally try to place them near intersecting street corners. On long stretches of road such as Portland Street, we will try to locate a stop about every 1/4 mile as long as there are homes or businesses nearby. 

The first concern many have when new bus service is introduced to a neighborhood is, "I don't like the idea of people waiting in my driveway for the bus." This is a very understandable concern. However, it should be understood that the bus stop serves the people of your neighborhood who are already living there. Having the new bus service in East Rochester is not going to suddenly cause strangers to begin appearing around the neighborhood. As evidence, we present the rest of the COAST bus system, in operation for 30 years in eleven communities throughout southeastern New Hampshire. We have nearly 500 bus stops on our system, most of them in residential neighborhoods just like East Rochester. Any complaints or incidents about people waiting at a COAST bus stop are extremely rare despite the huge number of stops throughout the region. On the rare instance that a complaint about people waiting at a stop is received, COAST staff respond to the issue promptly.

Because our bus system runs on very specific schedules, people are typically waiting at the bus stop for no more than 5 minutes. A bus will pass the stop at scheduled times; passengers who are going to pick up the bus have to be waiting at the stop before the bus comes by. This way, riders can rely on the bus knowing exactly when it will come (as opposed to in a big city where the bus might come "every 10 minutes" instead of at a specific time). The service in East Rochester is scheduled to pick up only four times daily. More information on that below.

How the bus works

Our bus service is designed to get people to work, to shop, the doctor, etc. These are all things that everyone needs, and so the bus is for everyone! Public transit has a long-time stigma of being "for poor people", but that is very far from the case. Many people with suits and briefcases take the bus to their job daily, even if they own a car. Our buses are clean, modern, and well-maintained, and many people are pleasantly surprised the first time they board one. Join the many others who are realizing the public transit is a great way to save money instead of constantly putting gas in your car.

Although bus stops are located approximately every 1/4 mile along the route, the bus does not actually come to a stop at every single location. The bus driver will only stop at a location where someone is standing waiting for the bus, or if someone on board the bus needs to get off. We recognize that some roads in East Rochester may be narrow and quite busy; this is common for probably 90% of the bus stops on the COAST system. The bus generates no notable traffic issues because even if stopping to pick up or let off passengers, the bus is fully stopped for generally about 15 seconds. Wherever a bus stop can be located for the bus to pull completely out of the travel lane onto a paved shoulder, COAST will do so. COAST buses will not pull onto resident's driveways, lawns, or sidewalks.

The bus service specific to East Rochester is an extension of COAST route 2, which connects Rochester with Somersworth, Dover, Newington, and Portsmouth. Although route 2 currently departs Rochester every hour from 6:30am to 8:30pm, the service is about to undergo a major schedule expansion to add more trips to and from Rochester. Only four round trips daily out of that entire schedule will be running through East Rochester. All other runs begin or end at the Lilac Mall, as they have for most of the past three decades. Please see here for complete details on the schedule through East Rochester.

Safety

COAST bus operators are some of the most highly trained commercial drivers in the state of New Hampshire. Our operators go through a rigorous month-long intial training program that is Federally certified for transit operators. We also hold regular required refresher and developmental trainings for all of our staff. COAST is pleased to hold an excellent safety record even as we are operating about 14 buses for up to 16 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Many people are afraid of the dangers of having "the big bus" driving through their neighborhood with kids walking to school or playing in the summer. Our mission is actually to improve the safety on the road by reducing the number of individuals driving their own cars. Local transit buses are one of the most safe modes of transportation and our operators continue to prove that. We are constantly on watch, looking for any signs of kids (and adults!) near the road. You will find that our drivers obey the speed limit, manuever carefully, and drive defensively on every road. The way we see it, if 50 people who would have been driving through your neighborhood start taking the bus, we've just made your street 49 times more safe than it was before.

Contact us!

It's understandable to be concerned about a change to your neighborhood. COAST is committed to being a good neighbor. If you have more concerns, questions, or comments about the planned bus service, please call and speak directly with our manager of operations.

Jeremy LaRose
Manager of Operations and Planning
603-743-5777 extension 101

East Rochester, historically

You might be surprised to learn that the community of East Rochester actually has a rich heritage of public transit service. Originally East Rochester enjoyed trolley (streetcar) service like most cities in New Hampshire in the early 1900s. By the 1930s, the streetcar operators had converted to bus operation which was much more affordable and flexible. COAST has a number of photos of streetcars in East Rochester that we may post on our website in the future. Currently these photos can be seen in the trolley buses that COAST operates primarily in Portsmouth.

Public bus service operated by private businesses continued more or less consistently from the 1930s until the 1980s. At that time the private operators were struggling to stay in business. Nationally, most private bus services, many of which had also taken over from trolley lines, were beginning to fail because the cost to provide service could not be covered through fares that passengers paid. These bus routes eventually transitioned to the Federally and locally-subsidized public transit agencies we have today, including COAST. Unfortunately, bus service to East Rochester was more or less discontinued by the time COAST began operations in 1982. Since then COAST has been receiving regular requests from East Rochester residents to extend service. Until this new schedule expansion, COAST did not have the ability to extend route 2 any further, nor were there any funds to create a separate route. COAST is pleased to be able to pilot this extension which was made possible through an unrelated project. You can read more about that here.