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December 28, 2018

Bangor looks into improving its Community Connector bus system

Courtesy / City of Bangor
Courtesy / City of Bangor
A transit study of Bangor’s Community Connector bus system will identify opportunities for improvements.

The Bangor City Council this week authorized a $99,966 contract for a transit study of its Community Connector bus system.

According to city documents, the study stems from a desire from the community for enhanced services and an increase in regulatory burden. The purpose of the study is to ensure that the city continues to operate a high-quality service that meets the needs of residents and the region. The study will evaluate the current overall system design and operations, and identify opportunities for improvements and/or system design changes, in order to create a framework for short-range and long-range strategic planning aimed at improving the transit experience and manage and operate the system efficiently.

In 2013, the state relinquished oversight authority of the Community Connector, making the city the direct recipient of federal funds for the system. Around the same time, the Community Connector experienced transition of long-time management staff, according to city documents.

After receiving five bids on the contract, the council voted to contract Stantec Inc., an international professional services company in the design and consulting industry, headquartered in Edmonton, Canada, to conduct the study.

According to city documents, "In addition to reviewing historical data, analyzing routes/times, and interviewing staff and drivers, Stantec will gather information pertinent to the future of the Bangor area transit through a boots on the ground approach, including riding the bus."

In September, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded close to $5.1 million to Bangor and the Maine Department of Transportation for public transit upgrades. Of that amount, Bangor will receive $2.89 million to make upgrades to its Community Connector Public Transport system through the purchase of 33 replacement buses, technological advancements and construction of a new facility to replace an outdated bus depot.

Various expansions and improvements of public bus transportation systems throughout the state have become an important tool in addressing workforce transportation issues. Maine — largely rural, spread out and sparsely populated — has long had a complicated relationship with public transportation, which is seen by many as a heavily subsidized social service. But the state's workforce shortage, coupled with a different view of public transportation by both millennials and boomers, is changing that.

"Transportation is the backbone for the economy," Kristina Egan, executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, told Mainebiz in October. "And getting people where they need to go is vital."

The Community Connector provides service in Bangor, Brewer, Veazie, Orono, Old Town and Hampden.

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