Coast Bus Lines – 2010 Award Winner

award_coast

Photo: J. Gittes

The Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation (COAST) has served the seacoast region of New Hampshire and Berwick, Maine since 1981.  In that time, COAST buses have carried over 10 million passengers and traveled over 6.5 million miles. Originally founded as a private non-profit, COAST became an independent public body through a 1985 state statute. COAST’s staff and Board work cooperatively with the communities to establish funding sources, routes and levels of service.

COAST’s current success could be defined by the Chinese proverb hanging in the office of Executive Director Rad Nichols: “Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid of standing still.”

Service Expansions and Concepts– COAST has not been afraid to try new service concepts along with thoughtful expansions to existing services. In 2008 they tried both the Beach Bus from Exeter to Hampton, and also began the successful Fast Trans service in Dover, which now includes three routes. Several minor additions to the existing routes have had a positive impact, such as the Rt 2 northbound bus at Market Square at 4:25pm with an average of 37 boardings – just enough seats for everyone!

Ridership is Up – Between FY99 and FY09 ridership on COAST system has grown 105.8%.  The FY10 ridership through April is 11.8% higher than FY09 and 8.7% higher than COAST’s all-time record year of FY08.

Use of Technology – COAST is using technology to assist operations staff and customers to achieve a more user-friendly and safe service. These include a major website upgrade, Twitter feed, digital radio system with GPS, on-board video surveillance equipment, on-board annunciation system for passengers. Additionally COAST staff worked with UNH Transportation and RPCs to implement Google transit feed and on-line trip planner. All of these actions take the fear out of riding the bus for many riders.

Better Buses and Infrastructure – COAST has been actively upgrading and adding new bus shelters and vehicles, improving their preventative maintenance, energy efficiency measures for their buildings.

Transportation Coordination Initiative – Both on the regional and statewide level COAST staff have taken a leadership role in visioning, planning and implementing coordinated transportation services for human service agencies and ADA riders. Now, COAST is the employer for the Alliance for Community Transportation’s first steps into service implementation. Additionally, COAST is active in statewide transit issues and working with UNH Wildcat Transit and NHDOT and the RPCs.

Great Staff – COAST has created a synergistic and highly productive administrative team, including Jeremy, Jen, and Dianne. From our perspective, they are just great people who are great to work with, besides being dedicated and hard workers.

Ongoing Staff Training – COAST’s commitment to ongoing staff training is critical to their success. COAST is 100% committed to providing the highest level of bus operator training possible. New bus operators regularly comment on how extensive their training is at COAST vs. previous employers. All administrative and senior staff attend the Local Government Center Leadership Training Program, and key staff regularly attend seminars on operations management, system safety, vehicle maintenance and training-the-trainer.

Effective Funding – COAST has thoughtfully worked with local communities to increase their participation on the Board of Directors and funding for local match to federal funds. COAST was the first in our FTA region to submit a successful ARRA grant for new buses, customer service improvements and energy efficiency initiatives. Finally, COAST has been proactive in creating new revenue streams, such as bus shelter and bus advertising and community bus routes.

From COAST:

Rad Nichols, Executive Director

Jon Frederick, Chairman, Board of Directors

Jeremy LaRose, Manager of Operations and Planning

Dianne Smith, Manager of Coordination Planning and Operations

Jennifer Knox, Office Manager