Welcome to CTAA’s latest blog series, providing updates from our state and tribal delegates on the state of transit. This blog series comes to us from New Hampshire, where Rad Nichols (Executive Director of the Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation) serves as the state delegate.
1. Please briefly describe the state of public transit in New Hampshire right now
Perseverance! New Hampshire is known for our Yankee ingenuity and ability to manage unexpected challenges with fewer resources. Many of the systems across the state continued operating throughout the pandemic, albeit at reduced levels in the early stages, and are now carrying between 50 percent to nearly 100 percent of previous ridership. The reality of operating during the pandemic, being vigilant about incorporating new protocols and applying sound safety measures has become much more routine, and customers that continue to ride have largely adapted as well.
The services that seem to be hardest hit across the state are volunteer driver programs. The volunteers that are critical to providing these essential rides are largely also of higher risk for COVID-19 due to their age and/or medical conditions.
As the state is standing up new higher volume vaccination centers providers are attempting to work with those making siting decisions to consider how public transit can help deliver those needing the vaccine to these sites. We stand ready and want to be an active part of the solution.
2. What are the biggest challenges currently facing New Hampshire?
The perennial challenge for systems in New Hampshire is raising non-USDOT matching funds to leverage available FTA funds.
Other challenges include growing demands to expand services, beyond what is typically “coverage” level service models, particularly given FTA funding levels not keeping pace with inflation year over year.
Finally, we have at least one small urban system and potentially a rural system that may be wrapped into the Boston UZA, with all the ramifications that are associated with operating within a large urban area going forward.
For the first time in approximately a decade the FY20-21 State budget had provided for general fund revenues to support public transit operations ($200K annually). Unfortunately, these funds were frozen for the second year of the biennial budget, because of the pandemic and reduced revenues coming in to the state.
3. What are some uplifting and positive things happening right now?
As a result of the pandemic there has been much more communication between public transit providers across the state, sharing insights and solutions, which presumably will continue well beyond the current situation.
The fact that the FY20-21 biennial state budget had funds to support public transit operations and capital match needs was a huge success. That when announced, the governor’s FY22-23 biennial budget retained that funding, is another success.
The latest version of the 10 Year Transportation Plan for the state also contained a provision to flex up to $2M of USDOT funds to public transit to expand services, fund regional mobility managers, and support current operations. The NHDOT has asked the state transit association to provide input into how those funds may be distributed, resulting in a very productive dialogue.
Over the past year urban and rural providers have also held regularly scheduled meetings with the DOT Commissioner and her staff to help improve communications and better understandings of the challenges we all face. This has been an incredibly important new communication channel as we all must work more cohesively to achieve our mutual goals and missions.
At the Federal level we have an excellent and deepening working relationship with our Congressional Representatives and US Senators. Regular and open communications have been appreciated and well received.
4. Anything else you’d like CTAA members to know?
New Hampshire is a beautiful state to visit when you feel comfortable traveling again. We have incredible mountains, forests, lakes, quaint New England towns and villages, sandy beaches, and incredible restaurants to all explore. When you visit, please make sure to reach out if you need information on any local treasures, or if you would like a tour of any of our systems. We can’t wait to see you!
The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.