February 3, 2011

Forecast freezes bus companies

Andy McLavey plows around abandoned cars at Boston Express bus depot Wednesday.
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- It’s a rare storm that grounds the daily Boston Express commuter bus line — which apparently qualifies Wednesday’s storm as rare.
“It’s only the second time in five years that I’ve been working for bus companies that I’ve seen it happen, and the first time was three weeks ago, on Jan. 12,” said Boston Express General Manager Ben Blunt, who was about the only one left hang­
ing around the Exit 5 bus terminal yesterday. 

After watching on radar as the roaring two-day storm rallied its second wind Tuesday evening and rolled up the East Coast, Blunt decided to mount a preemptive strike, alerting commuters arriving back from Boston that there would be no bus service Wednesday due to the storm. 
“We had a chance to interact with our customers and many of them told us they had already planned not to go into work (Wednesday), so that helped. Then we just tried to get the word out through our website,” Blunt said. 
Normally the terminal is jammed with early-morning commuters, most of whom ride to Boston or to the Logan Airport from one of five bus stations along I-93, accounting for about 650 daily riders, Blunt said. In addition to the two Londonderry stops, including a second one off Exit 4, there are also depots in Manchester, Nashua and Salem. 
As it turned out, Stormzilla: The Sequel was a little overblown, said Blunt. 
“We have so much hype over storms up here, and so I think people had already heard so much about the second storm that they had decided they weren’t going to go out in it,” Blunt said. “I actually thought it would last longer.” 
He said the storm also stymied other local bus lines, including Concord Coach, Concord Trailways and C&J, a Seacoast bus line that will be launching a daily run from UNH Durham to New York City at the end of this month. 
Another residual effect of the storm: More than 50 cars were abandoned overnight, not including the rows of cars under several layers of snow in the long-term parking lot. Blunt figured the vehicles stranded in the daily lot likely belonged to people who drove in Tuesday and decided to stay overnight in Boston rather than travel again in back-to-back storms, or else they were long-term parkers taking advantage of the closer parking spaces reserved for the daily commuters. 
Either way, the random configuration of snowed-in cars peppering the lot yesterday made Andy McLavey’s job that much more challenging. 
“I’m used to it by now,” said McLavey, who yesterday was doing his best to plow around the snow-topped cars as he moved mounds of snow to make way for tomorrow’s travelers. 
“It’s just how it is after a storm,” McLavey said. “I don’t mind.” 

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