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'Demand Response' Bus Services Seeing Sharpest Return in Ridership in Manchester

While some Manchester-area residents have returned to riding public buses, ridership is still far below pre-pandemic levels.

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Ryan Renauld-Smith, the assistant director at the Manchester Transit Authority, says the types of services that are returning fastest are “demand response” services, like trips from the home to the grocery store or hair salon. While they’re not quite to pre-pandemic levels, the transit authority has seen a significant increase.

While Renauld-Smith says it’s a more expensive service to operate, he’s happy to see customers returning.

About a year ago, Renauld-Smith says, they had around 300 passengers per month for demand response services, which reach areas outside of Manchester like New Boston, Derry, and Salem. That’s now increased to over 12,000.

Demand has been slower to return for the city’s fixed routes, operating at around 50 percent of pre-COVID levels.

While the agency is operating all of its core services, a few night routes haven’t returned to normal operations.

Renauld-Smith says, fortunately, operations assistance funds through the CARES Act have helped fill budget gaps left by depressed ridership. Their biggest challenge right now, he says, is finding drivers. He says they’re especially low on school bus drivers, a challenge that school districts are also facing.

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