The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is phasing out bus service to Newmarket due to low ridership.
According to a letter from UNH Transportation Services Manager Beverly Cray to Newmarket Town Manager Steve Fournier, ridership on the route has declined to fewer than nine passengers a run.
In the early 2010s ridership peaked until the recent student housing boom in Durham, which drastically reduced the number of students relying on the Newmarket line. Even as UNH cut service to only three runs a day due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the university spends over $90,000 per year running the line.
“Given the past six years of precipitous drops in ridership, and the current financial challenges facing the University, the University can no longer justify the significant costs associated with this service,” Cray wrote.
Newmarket Town Manager Steve Fournier expressed his disappointment in UNH Transit’s decision.
“It was a great way to lessen the impact of motor vehicles on the road as well as encourage people that they did not need a car on campus. In return, it allowed the UNH community to explore Newmarket,” said Fournier.
Based on a PowerPoint provided by UNH Transit, passenger trips on the Newmarket bus are down 44% between 2017 and 2019. In contrast, Portsmouth ridership is down 30%, Dover is down 6%, and the Campus Connector which serves the UNH campus has seen a decline in ridership of about 11%.
UNH transit established a baseline benchmark of 14 passengers per run as a threshold of service. Newmarket service has fallen below that benchmark for the past two pre-COVID benchmark periods.
Despite these cuts, Fournier hopes UNH will continue to work with Newmarket and reconsider its decision.
“I would hope that UNH would work with us over the next year to see if there is a way to save this important service,” said Fournier.
In addition to eliminating service to Newmarket, UNH Transit is planning to eliminate Sunday service from the Dover line as well. UNH will continue to offer routes to Portsmouth and Dover at service levels targeted at community demand.
UNH Transit encourages anyone with questions or concerns to reach out to Beverly Cray during the public comment period, which concludes on May 6.
Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.