Bus service connecting Laconia to Concord to start next month

By ADAM DRAPCHO

Laconia Daily Sun

Published: 11-16-2023 11:36 AM

LACONIA — A commuter bus, designed to connect Laconia to Concord, with several stops in between, is set to debut as early as December.

The bus line is organized by the Community Action Program of Belknap-Merrimack Counties, which already operates a shuttle service in the area for seniors and people with disabilities. The bus route is intended for people who live in Concord or Laconia, and who wish to access employment opportunities somewhere in between, such as in Franklin.

Terri Paige, transportation director for CAP, was at the Laconia City Council meeting on Monday when she received the blessing of the city to establish a stop for the bus downtown in the Church Street lot behind St. Joseph Church and next to the library. She told the council that the service will be offered for no charge, thanks to grant funding.

The bus will also stop at Concord Hospital-Laconia.

Paige said the proposed route came about in response to a study, commissioned by NH DOT, which found sufficient residential density and employment opportunities in the area. One specific example is Watts Technologies, a manufacturer located at the Franklin industrial park, which has many job openings. There are many potential workers in Concord or Laconia, but the cost of driving to Franklin might prohibit them from taking the job.

A secondary use for the route, Paige suggested, could be riders who need to get to a medical appointment.

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The route will be most useful, at least initially, to riders who live in Concord, as the first and last stops of the route will be in the capital city. There’s only one bus for the route, and the current draft of its schedule is to depart from Eagle Square in Concord just before 6 a.m. The last stop of the day, back in Eagle Square, will be at 7:30 p.m.

Along the way, the bus route, known as the “Concord-Laconia Connector,” will make a total of 18 stops. The tentative route plan calls for it to head from Concord through Penacook and Boscawen, stop at the Merrimack County Complex, then stop at the Industrial Park and downtown in Franklin, in Tilton at Market Street, Hobby Lobby and at the Tanger Outlets, then continue with stops at the Belknap Marketplace in Belmont, then in Laconia at Concord Hospital-Laconia and finally at the city lot on Church Street.

Paige said the route will be serviced by two shifts of drivers per day when it launches.

She said information about the bus will be available at concordareatransit.org and on the Facebook page “Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack - CAPBM.”

Welcoming the bus

City Hall officials said the bus should be a benefit to both local residents and businesses.

“With the challenges that all of our communities are seeing with workforce, if the barrier for a company hiring somebody is that person doesn’t have quality transportation, and this helps, then it’s a win-win,” said City Manager Kirk Beattie, adding he was pleased to see support from city council for the route.

Mayor Andrew Hosmer noted there have been attempts at bus routes in the Laconia area previously, and he hoped this attempt would find enough ridership to remain sustainable.

Though the city might not have an established mass transit infrastructure, he said, it certainly has residents who could benefit from a bus.

“I hope people take advantage of it. With the expense of fuel, the expense of purchasing a vehicle, the challenge of getting someone to give you a ride, I think there’s a need out there. I’m appreciative that they included Laconia in this pilot program,” Hosmer said.

Hosmer noted that it’s not only workers who could benefit, but also senior citizens or people with disabilities, who might appreciate the chance to shop or get to medical appointments somewhere along the bus route.

“This is a really good opportunity for them, I’m interested to see how it develops,” Hosmer said.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.