March 9, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: The bus to tomorrow
By†Jeff Rapsis

News this week that Concord Trailways is planning an express bus service between Nashua and Boston is a welcome development for this area, for more reasons than you might think.

The service, which wonít start until next winter, would consist of nine daily round-trips from Nashua to Boston. Buses would depart from Nashua at the Exit 8 park-and-ride lot and the Exit 6 welcome center. Theyíd stop in Boston at South Station downtown and then at Logan Airport.

Plans are still being developed, but fares will be in the range of $10 for a one-way trip. For many of the more than 2,000 Nashua residents who commute to work in Boston, thatís a good price.

Not only would it be worth it in terms of savings on gas and vehicle wear and tear and parking, but also in time and peace of mind. Riding a bus or a train to work (instead of driving yourself) means more productivity, through either relaxation or expanding your work day.

Even for non-commuters, a bus service with frequent round trips would be a great way to get into the city for a daytrip, either for business or pleasure. I had to go to an event in Boston last week and it cost $17 just to stow the car in a garage for the evening.

But thereís a larger issue in play here worth pointing out. Too often, mass transit in this part of the world gets looked at in terms of immediate payoff. Will it save travelers money (without loss of convenience) right now? And will the service make money right now?

This is exactly the wrong way to look at mass transit. Instead, we should emphasize its importance to the regionís economic future.

Letís forget buses and trains for a moment and look at highways. In the decades since we completed the Interstate system, commerce has followed its routes and land values have soared along its interchanges. Communities on the interstate have prospered, while those on the back roads have stagnated. Development follows transportation.

This pattern will be equally true for mass transit. In the coming century, communities that establish and maintain good mass transit links will create a basis for smart development, rather than the suburban sprawl model thatís prevailed in this country for the past three generations.

And Nashua, with its proximity to a world-class city, stands in an especially good position to benefit from mass transit. Frequent and regular bus or train service to Boston would be a huge economic development assetóone that will allow the city to tap into all the regionís economic and cultural vitality.

But if we fail to invest in creating a good transit network, and fail to link our community to the outside world, donít be surprised if the lionís share of the regionís economic development goes elsewhere.

Remember, development follows transportation. If Nashua is going to get any kind of smart growth in the decades to come, we need to start building a transportation network that will encourage and support this today.

Comments?†Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com