Ken Stremsky: Buses & business in the Queen City

MTA bus with bike rack - photo by Will Stewart

Ken Stremsky is frequent MTA rider and has been an active transit advocate online and in the Manchester community for several years.  As the City faces budget difficulties, service cutbacks seem inevitable for the MTA, at least in the short-term.  Ken understands the importance of good public transit in Manchester, and in LivableMHT’s first guest contribution, he offers some practical ideas for helping to improve service and increase ridership:

I use Manchester Transit Authority buses.  If more people are able to save a lot of money on gasoline, they may have more money to spend on restaurants, retail stores, and other businesses.  Reduced bus service may reduce the sales and profits of many businesses.

More green businesses may decide to locate in Manchester if Manchester has better bus service.  More people may use Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in the future if Manchester has better bus service.  The bigger the business tax base is the better able Manchester’s government will be able to pay for schools, libraries, fire department, police department, Manchester Transit Authority, and other things.  The bigger the business tax base is the better able Manchester will be to lower property taxes on business properties and residential properties.

Better bus service will help Manchester’s taxpayers get more value from the many millions of dollars they have spent on Verizon Wireless Arena and the baseball stadium.  Manchester’s taxpayers have spent many millions of dollars on Verizon Wireless Arena via rooms and meals tax revenues.

Many businesses may want to give people who buy monthly passes or ten ride tickets from Manchester Transit Authority discounts to increase ridership and their sales.

Many businesses may want to have donation boxes for Manchester Transit Authority.

Many businesses may want to match employee donations up to a maximum limit the businesses set.

Many restaurants may want to have fundraisers for Manchester Transit Authority.

Ken is right to point out the connection between businesses and public transit.

Most of Manchester was developed before the dominance of the automobile, so parking is often tricky for shoppers, workers and diners–just ask any downtown merchant or office worker.  Locating a business downtown or in any of Manchester’s many, dense, walkable neighborhoods would be less intimidating for proprietors if they knew that most patrons could easily reach them by public transit and without worrying about parking (and driving off if they can’t find any).  People are also more likely to stop into a business they happen upon when walking than driving, and walking through local, city center neighborhoods will be increased through reliable, attractive transit options.

Even businesses outside the city center would benefit from better transit.  Those in the Manchester community who rely on the buses, as well as those who would like to occasionally avoid the hassle of driving (or holiday parking) could more easily catch a ride on an MTA bus to the Mall of New Hampshire or the Bedford Mall, which is currently being redeveloped along one route on the possible chopping block.  On top of that, many workers at the malls and other businesses along South Willow Street and South River Road are transit users; employers and employees could be more flexible with their schedules if service was more frequent and ran later, and routes (and transfers) were more convenient.

Ken mentions a number of worthwhile incentives that businesses may want to consider offering, and that the City might want to suggest or begin a program to coordinate.  Portland, Ore., one of the most transit-friendly cities in the United States, offers a “Ride & Dine” map of restaurants along its streetcar route.  Manchester could consider a similar idea, with businesses paying to be listed on route maps, perhaps along with incentives for costumers using public transit as Ken suggests.  Even more integral to Portland’s transit funding, though, is the private sponsorship of streetcars and stops, themselves.  Again, Manchester could look into a similar sponsorship program for buses and bus shelters in the city.

There are bound to be plenty of other, innovate ideas for funding to supplement the MTA’s budget and improve service on the system going forward.  They should be considered, but the long-term sustainability of public transit in Manchester is likely dependent upon making structural changes in terms of funding, service and so on.  It’s important in any of these considerations, though, to remember that public transit is not just a social service for those who rely on it (though the importance of that role can’t be understated); good public transit is also a tool for greater livability and better communities, as well as economic development.

It may be too late to stave off (hopefully temporary) cutbacks in MTA service for this budget year, but it’s never too early to consider ways to ensure better service and more reliable funding for the future.

This is the first post by a guest contributor on LivableMHT.  LivableMHT seeks the input and contribution of members of the Manchester community, as well as those with insight into livability locally or globally.  If you have information, ideas or thoughts to share, please contact us.


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