Not too long ago I took the second journey in the series I’m calling my Busman’s Holiday . My husband and I drove up to Norwich, Vermont, to stay at the Norwich Inn, which we had been wanting to do ever since we learned they brew their own ale. We had a lovely dinner in their dining room, then stayed overnight in a beautifully decorated and comfortable room.
The next morning, we spoiled ourselves with the stuffed French toast then walked (waddled?) next door to catch the Advance Transit bus to Hanover, New Hampshire. While waiting for the next Brown Route bus, we chatted with Michael, a frequent Advance Transit rider who was bringing his bicycle along. I asked him what he thought of the service, and he said it was “awesome . . . free, reliable . . . what more could you ask?” When the bus arrived, we hopped on and he popped his bike into the rack on the front of the bus. It was just seconds before he was on the bus with us, the bike rack being so simple to use.
Five minutes later we were let off in front of the Hanover Inn. From there we strolled around the Dartmouth campus, enjoying the warm summer day.
At about ten minutes to eleven we hopped the Green Route bus for an eleven o’clock appointment at Advance Transit headquarters in Wilder, Vermont. There we met with Van Chesnut, Executive Director, who gave us a tour. The modern AT facility is on its way to LEED Silver Certification with advanced features such as solar panels for electricity generation, a system for capturing rain and snow melt for washing buses, and the ability to turn used motor oil into heat. The solar panels tie in to the electricity grid and excess power purchased by the utility generates $10,000 a year in revenue for Advance Transit.
Advance Transit has 31 vehicles in its fleet, including some hybrid buses on the Blue Route and Red Route.
We also received a demonstration of the bike racks used on the buses because there’s one mounted on the ground in front of the facility that employees who bike to work can use. The mechanism pivots to a horizontal position and the bike owner just pops the bicycle into the cradle, where it sits securely.
After lunch back in Hanover, we took a Blue Route bus to Lebanon and took a stroll around the town, enjoying the architecture and the beautiful green. I hadn’t realized that the town hall is also the Lebanon Opera House.
On our way there our bus traveled through the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. This bus route is heavily used by employees and patients.
Since the bus is free, it’s quick for people to get on and off. We saw a wide variety of people using the bus, including families, employees and college students. Mike, the bicycle and bus commuter we met in Norwich, told us it’s faster to take the bus between the med school at Dartmouth and the research facilities at the hospital campus because bus service is frequent and finding a parking spot takes a long time. The college and the hospital both contribute substantially to the operating costs of the service. Other major supporters include Mascoma Savings Bank and Hypertherm.
We found the buses clean and comfortable, and the drivers friendly. It was fun exploring the area by bus.
Everyone we spoke with told us how vital the service is to the region. The only complaint we heard is that there is no Saturday service. Van Chesnut told us this is because there isn’t enough funding to expand the schedule. If additional operating support could be found, AT would love to run on Saturdays. As a response to community needs, AT started a new evening service along the corridor between Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon, which started running Monday, September 16th.
Next trip: to Boston via Boston Express.