New Hampshire is allocating $7.5 million in federal aid to three private bus companies so they can resume line service, mainly between New Hampshire and Boston.
Gov. Chris Sununu approved the request from the state’s Department of Transportation to allocate $3.5 million to C&J Bus Service in Portsmouth, $2 million to Concord Coach Lines and $2 million to Dartmouth Coach in Lebanon, according to InDepthNH.org.
The three private companies traditionally carry 1.5 million passengers annually between New Hampshire and Boston — for work, medical services and recreational travel — and are considered a critical component of the transportation system in New Hampshire.
Business, but not as usual
Unlike public systems, C&J, Concord and Dartmouth receive few subsidies and operate on revenue from passenger tickets. Concord Coach receives some state subsidies for providing service to rural areas. State officials have said demand is growing for bus service to Boston as the economy reopens across New Hampshire and Massachusetts. But ridership is expected to be substantially less than it was before the pandemic hit in March, the publication reported.
The buses will have to be modified for social distancing, reducing the number of riders, which means the companies will continue to lose money into next year.
Concord Coach Lines will resume bus service throughout the Northeast, beginning Aug. 16. The regional bus service has not operated since March 27, after a former passenger tested positive for the coronavirus, reported Bangor Daily News.
“We are back in operation because we believe we can do so safely,” Benjamin Blunt, Concord vice president, said in a statement. “Safety has always been our primary concern, but now that must include health safety, and we’ve instituted strict protocols and new measures with that specific mandate in mind.”
Blunt said the company is installing plexiglass shields at ticket counters, gates and around headrests on buses, instituting systematic sanitation at terminals and on buses, using electrostatic foggers to spray buses, deploying “contactless” ticketing and requiring passengers to wear face coverings, the publication reported.
The $7.5 million in CARES Act money approved for the bus companies is coming from $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act money New Hampshire was allocated. So far, about $250 million remains, and what the state doesn’t spend by the end of the year must be returned to federal coffers.