EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 24, 2013

Bus service to Salisbury Beach going strong

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SALISBURY — Two years ago, there was no public transit option to and from Salisbury. Today, there are two successful bus runs that service the town and its beach.

The newest addition to Salisbury’s public transportation service, the 83 bus, is a summer route offered by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority. The 83 bus has brought beachgoers twice a day from Lawrence to Hampton Beach and back since 1983 . In the past, Salisbury hadn’t opted to be part of the route, but this year that changed, according to MVRTA administrator Joseph Constanzo, and the 83 bus now stops at Salisbury Beach before heading to Hampton.

The 83 bus allows residents from Lawrence and Methuen, as well as those from Haverhill, Merrimac and Amesbury, to catch one of two buses to the beach each morning and return on either of two afternoon buses. They cost $2 per person per leg to and from Lawrence to Salisbury Beach, and $3 to Hampton. Discount fares are available for senior citizens, children ages 6 to 12, and those with approved handicap ID, bringing the price down to $1 per leg to Salisbury Beach and $1.50 to Hampton Beach.

Leaving Lawrence at 8:15 a.m. and traveling along Route 110 and making its stops along the way, the first bus gets to Salisbury Beach by 9:30 a.m. and to Hampton 10 minutes later.

The second bus leaves Lawrence at 10:45 a.m. and gets to Salisbury Beach by noon and Hampton by 1:10 p.m. Riders can head home from Salisbury at either 2 or 4:30 p.m., with the bus leaving Hampton Beach 10 minutes prior, getting back at 3:15 or 5:45 p.m., respectively.

The seasonal beach run is popular, Constanzo said, especially on hot summer days.

“Ridership is weather-related and on a rainy day like (Tuesday), there’ll only be a few people on it,” Constanzo said. “But all last week during the warm weather we had full buses of 40 to 45 (passengers). We send out a second bus (to accommodate demand) some days.”

Ridership on Salisbury’s daily MVRTA route, the 51/54 bus, has climbed since late June of 2011 when it expanded its route to Salisbury. According to Salisbury Planning Director Lisa Pearson, the latest figures indicate ridership has increased about 100 percent in less than two years.

Running every 70 minutes, this route starts in Haverhill as the 51 bus, Constanzo said, gets to Amesbury, where the number on the bus changes to 54, then proceeds through and stopping in Newburyport, Salisbury and the beach. The cost for a single ride is $1.25, Constanzo said, but most who take the bus daily buy a monthly pass and ride as often as they like.

The ridership gets a bump up in the summer when beachgoers get on board, as the bus visits Salisbury Beach throughout the day. But year ‘round, the bus provides public transport for those heading out to work, shopping, medical or other appointments, or connecting to other public transit systems, like the Newburyport commuter rail.

With the cost of gas and parking going up continually, and for those without reliable personal or carpooling travel options, the 51/54 bus works for many in Salisbury.

“We’ve talked to people on the bus and they’ve said they were happy with the route,” Constanzo said. “The Salisbury, Newburyport, Amesbury to Haverhill route provides a regional commuting possibility now that didn’t exist before. And ridership is growing steadily.”

To get the complete 83 beach bus schedule, visit: http://www.mvrta.com/Our-Services/Fixed-Routes---Schedules/All-Routes-Listed/Salisbury-Beach-Hampton-Beach.aspx.