Monadnock Region Transit System Design Project

Phase One: Can public transit services be improved in the Monadnock Region?

In 2022, SWRPC released the results of the Microtransit Feasibility and Fixed Route Transit Service Plan Design Assistance Study. The study was conducted by transit consultant, Via, on behalf of SWRPC, in partnership with Home Healthcare, Hospice, and Community Services (HCS) and the Monadnock Regional Coordinating Council (MRCC). The purpose was to examine opportunities to improve transit service in Keene and surrounding towns, the eastern Monadnock Region, and high-need areas such as the town of Winchester. The project benefited from a robust public outreach process that included 4 public meetings in Peterborough and Keene and 2 virtual public meetings. Based on feedback from an advisory task force and the general public, the study recommends phasing in updated and new transit services over time.

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The recommended improvements are designed to serve the needs of transit-dependent populations such as individuals with disabilities and older adults who lack transportation access, as well as “choice riders” who choose to use public transit because it is the best alternative for their trip. For the initial phase of improvements–which would replace the public transit services in Keene with a “microtransit” transit system serving the urbanized parts of Keene, Swanzey and Marlborough–Via projected the following system improvements:

  • Better coverage: expanded transit access geographically to 70% more people and 46% more jobs,
  • Better cost efficiency: Increase in daily ridership between 65% and 85% at a cost increase of 19% to 31% more per ride, a net benefit proposition,
  • More convenient ride booking: 10 – 30 minutes before travel, and;
  • More direct and faster rides between origin and destination.

Key to service improvements would be the introduction of microtransit to the Region.

Microtransit offers highly flexible routing and/or scheduling, generally with smaller vehicles, whereby trips are shared with other passengers going in a similar direction. Microtransit providers build dynamic routes ad-hoc so as to match existing ride demand with available vehicles with the aim of extending the efficiency and accessibility of the transit service. Microtransit rides are typically scheduled using smartphones or through call centers.

Phase Two: How can the Region best prepare for an expanding transit system?

As noted above, the Via transit study articulates a regional transit vision that phases in zones and corridors where transit is most likely to succeed in the Region.

Essential to implementing expanded transit services is the identification of a managing entity that will be responsible for managing the service. Currently, HCS directly operates most public transit services in the region which predominantly serve the City of Keene. Managing a new Greater Keene transit service and expanded transit system stretching to other areas of the Region may not be the best fit for HCS operationally or be in alignment with its mission. Whether HCS continues to operate its current transit services, or opts to restrict or stop providing services, it is anticipated another entity will be required to manage the expanded services envisioned in the transit study.

In 2024, SWRPC launched a follow-up project to identify a transit operating model and managing entity to support a more innovative, coordinated and resilient transportation system for Greater Keene and other parts of Southwest New Hampshire.  SWRPC’s hypothesis is that a transit system’s operational and governance model, when designed to optimize functionality, sustainability and other desirable goals, will improve the Region’s opportunity for progress by creating a foundation for success. This project offers a pathway forward to developing a more robust transit system that improves the lives of populations in need of transit as well as “choice riders” seeking alternatives to the single-occupant vehicle. 

SWRPC has completed preliminary research and convened a Transit Advisory Task Force to provide guidance and input during the various stages of the project. Task Force participants, some or all of whom may be partners in building and operating the “next generation” transit system include the City of Keene; Towns of Marlborough, Jaffrey, Swanzey, and Winchester; and Cheshire County. Additional partners that are instrumental to guiding the project, and ultimately providing financial and other supports, include Cheshire Medical Center, Monadnock Community Hospital, Monadnock United Way, Keene Housing Kids Collaborative, HCS, Community Volunteer Transportation Company, Thomas Transportation, Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation, and the NH Departments of Transportation and Health and Human Services.

Transit Advisory Task Force Kick-off Meeting – January 25, 2024

Recording of 1-25-2024 Meeting