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November 4, 2019

Presque Isle bus service off to a strong start

In its initial runs, Presque Isle’s first regular, fixed-route bus service has surpassed ridership goals.

Courtesy / Going Places
The PI Loop launched Oct. 15 in Presque Isle, and already has carried hundreds of riders.

The PI Loop, which launched Oct. 15, carried 55 passengers that day and a total of over 600 in a two-week period of free service, according to a news release Monday.

“These numbers exceeded our initial projections and we only see ridership increasing as the word gets out and the temperatures drop,” said Jamie Chandler, co-chair of the Going Places Network.

Going Places is a coalition of the Aroostook County Action Program, other nonprofit and civic groups, businesses and government agencies, which organized the PI Loop and announced it in July. It's operated by the Aroostook Regional Transportation System.

The bus route includes 16 stops throughout Presque Isle, situated to help passengers reach commercial areas, housing, schools, health care facilities, retail stores and other destinations.

A stop on Carmichael Street is the busiest one so far, according to the release. Also popular have been stops at Walmart, at the Sargent Family Community Center and near County Federal Credit Union, Key Bank and the Hampton Inn.

Several local businesses have signed on as sponsors of the bus service, including Katahdin Trust Co., Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital and supermarket Save a Lot.

“People would often say to me that they would shop at Save a Lot more if it was closer to them or they could get here. Now they can get here easily on the PI Loop bus,” said Save a Lot owner Kevin Kinney in the release. “I know shoppers are already benefiting from it.”

Greg LaFrancois, A.R. Gould Hospital president, added: “Transportation has been an ongoing challenge in the region, both for our patients and for some employees. Having access to a low-cost public transportation option is a great resource for the area, and we are proud to be a part of this effort.”

PI Loop passengers ride aboard a “metro-style,” 36-passenger bus, purchased along with other infrastructure through a $270,000 gift from Presque Isle native and philanthropist Mary Smith.

With the no-charge period expired, the PI Loop on Friday began charging its regular fare of $1.75, with round-trips costing $3.50. Discounts are available for students, seniors, people with disabilities, military personnel and veterans. Children under 5 can ride for free, and weekly and monthly passes are available.

The first four months of service for the PI Loop are a pilot phase, and schedules may be tweaked after that time based on rider feedback.

Lack of transportation services was cited as the top concern of the nearly 1,000 Aroostook County residents who participated in a recent ACAP community study — ranking even ahead of substance abuse. Previously, ARTS provided limited bus service to and around Presque Isle, but the trips required reservations.

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