LAWRENCE, MA – For the first time in the history of the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA), all Lawrence-based bus routes will operate every 30 minutes, all day long, starting September 6, 2022. Historically, MVRTA buses in Lawrence only ran every 30 minutes during peak hours, with hourly service at all other times.
For many riders, this proved to be confusing, as they were unsure when buses were running every half hour and when they were running hourly. Keeping a consistent 30-minute service all day long not only makes the schedule easier to understand, it also better reflects the reality that riders need the bus throughout the day and are not likely operating on a banker’s 9-5 schedule.
Since July, all service was only running hourly except for routes #1 and #41, due to a national driver shortage. Thanks to an aggressive recruitment campaign and a top salary of $27.61/hour, MVRTA has been able to overcome the driver shortage and add new operators over the summer who will be deployed in September. Buses will operate every half hour out of the Buckley Transportation Center on Common Street from 5:00 AM until 7:00 PM on weekdays. Saturday service will continue to run hourly from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM.
With this service improvement, people living, working, or visiting Lawrence, Methuen, Haverhill, Andover, and North Andover will have more flexibility when using public transportation. MVRTA Communications Director Niorka Mendez noted that “Adding more frequency will not only make our system more reliable, it will also improve the rider experience. Riders will no longer need to check the schedule to make sure they don’t miss the bus and wait for an hour for the next bus—they will know that the bus will show up every half hour.”
Rider Ana Salinas added that “Having the half hour pulse extended for longer hours helps with my time management and makes it that much easier and faster to get around.”
In planning this change, MVRTA worked closely with Lawrence Mayor Brian De Peña, who was very enthusiastic about the improved schedule, noting that the more frequent service will be a great benefit for area businesses: “I applaud the decision that MVRTA made to provide a more efficient and faster bus service in our city. This determination will definitely have a positive impact in our community by making our transportation system even more reliable.”
The new schedule is part of a larger campaign to make MVRTA service more responsive to riders’ travel needs and be more visible and accessible. Back in March, all MVRTA buses went fare free, resulting in a 71.48% ridership increase. Starting in April, MVRA began optimizing routings, starting with routes 35, 36 and 37, by making routes simpler and more direct. As Administrator Noah Berger observed, “the 37 bus used to literally travel in a figure eight, which meant that in many instances, you couldn’t return to where you initially got on the bus. And since travel times are decreased, we are better respecting our passengers’ time.”
MVRTA will also be introducing bus stop signs and, through a grant from MassDOT’s Shared Streets Program, bus shelters, which will remove the intimidation of waiting for a bus. Finally, later this fall, MVRTA will introduce a new colorful bus design and logo that will add to the visibility and attractiveness of riding system. ◊