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Jul 6, 2015 12:00 AM

Cuts to Seacoast bus service impacting NH jobs, shopping


DOVER - The elimination of service stops along Coast bus service's Route 7 may be having a domino effect on support of local businesses and personal job opportunities.

The service dramatically cut multiple stops in Portsmouth, Newington, Greenland and Stratham due to lesser funding and support from the respective towns.

As a result, Coast says that in addition to the route cuts they have been forced to decrease operations to 4 days per week.

“With any time you do a change like this, it takes a bit of time for people to re-find the service," said Executive Director Rad Nichols. "It’s a pretty significant change.”

The changes went into effect last Monday, June 29. Since then, business has dropped more than 50 percent, Nichols said.

Route 7 - which used to travel from Newington to Exeter with stops in Portsmouth, Greenland, Stratham and Newmarket - will now only stop in 3 towns.

“We’re running now between Newmarket, Stratham and Exeter," said Nichols. “That is the big difference between what we were proposing back in late March and early April, which was that we’d have no service at all.”

While Coast says it is still possible to reach many now non-served communities by connecting to buses on UNH's Wildcat Transit at no extra charge, customer say that the extra time may not be something they're willing to compromise.

The geographical size of the route has shrunken by a long-shot, and so has their patience.

"I don't think it's right," said Leslie Caswell, who has been taking the bus with her husband, Thomas, for years.

The couple has visual problems, and are not able to drive to a pet store they support in Exeter. Following the cuts, the couple made the decision to bring their business closer to home to another store in Portsmouth.

“We’re going to try to find something closer to here," said Thomas Caswell.

Fellow rider Phil Dickens, who takes a Coast bus daily to his job at Hannaford in Portsmouth, said he used to pick up extra shifts at the company's Exeter store.

But the latest cuts to the route would force Dickens to switch over to two extra buses, taking nearly 2 additional hours than it used to get to work.

The time, he says, isn't worth it.

“One less opportunity to get extra hours if it comes up," Dickens said. "Only because - I can't get out there."

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