HAVERHILL – Life doesn’t end at 7pm, and thanks to a boost in state funding from the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Healey, MeVa’s buses won’t either. Starting on September 5, MeVa’s six highest ridership routes will be running two hours later into the evening.
MeVa bus rider and Elevated Thought Development Strategist Sara Morin was effusive about the later service: “I’m really excited about later night buses,” she said, noting that “it’s a great option not just for me, but for students taking classes at Northern Essex, workers getting off their shifts at the plazas, and anyone who needs a safe way to get home.”
Lawrence Mayor Brian A. DePeña is a big fan of the extended service, stating: “Giving good quality services to our residents, especially in terms of transportation with extended service until 9:00 pm, is a sign that we are taking our city on the right path. Thank you MeVa for thinking about our City of Lawrence.”
The routes that will be running later are the #1, which connects Lawrence with Haverhill via the Loop, the #2, which connects Lawrence with Andover via South Broadway, the #9, which connects Lawrence with North Andover via Phillips Street, the #10, which connects Lawrence with Methuen via Broadway, the #13, which connects Haverhill with Plaistow NH via Main Street and North Avenue, and the #24, which connects Lawrence with Lowell via Route 110. Buses will depart from MeVa’s Transportation Centers at Buckley and Washington Square at 8 and 9pm, returning by 10pm.
MeVa Transit is one of 15 Regional Transit Authorities or RTAs across Massachusetts, which together serve the majority of communities in the state. For the past six years RTAs had been level funded in the state budget, which had prevented MeVa and other transit authorities from expanding service to meet the needs of the communities they service. That changed on August 9, when Governor Healey signed the $55.98 billion 2024 state budget, including an $56 million increase in funding for RTAs. With the added dollars, Massachusetts RTAs finally have the resources to deliver a baseline of service that brings transit equity to areas outside Boston and Route 128.
MeVa Chief Communications Officer Niorka Mendez noted that “for a long time riders and community groups have been asking us for later evening service and we’ve been listening. We are thrilled to be able to put this new funding to work to provide the service our community needs and deserves.”
MeVa did not waste any time putting these new dollars to work for the region. Thanks to a lot of hard work and creativity by MeVa’s human resources team, the agency has been able to buck a national trend and successfully recruit and retain a full staff of professional drivers. As a result, MeVa was able to immediately utilize these new dollars to extend service in an unprecedented four weeks.
While the extended hours are a great first step, MeVa readily acknowledges that there is still more work to be done to ensure riders have access to high quality public transportation. In addition to later service hours, riders have also been asking for Sunday service, which MeVa anticipates being able to begin in January, 2024
About MeVa Transit:
MeVa Transit is the regional transportation agency for 16 communities along the Merrimack River from Andover to the seacoast. MeVa Transit runs fixed service buses and paratransit vans (mini MeVa) with service hubs in Lawrence, Haverhill, and Amesbury. In March of 2022, the MeVa board voted to go fare-free systemwide in a move to encourage ridership and alleviate some of the financial burden shouldered by residents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to free-fares, MeVa rebranded all their vans and buses, doubled service on Lawrence-based routes, extended service into Groveland, and optimized routing to improve efficiency. Since going fare free, fixed route bus ridership through March 2023 has increased 226.1% and has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 4.5 percentage points. On the paratransit side, March 2023 ridership has increased 175.3% and has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 9.7 percentage points. For routes, schedules, and more information about MeVa Transit bus services, visit www.mevatransit.com.