Metro gears up for bus service to Gorham

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Public bus service will begin Aug. 27 in Gorham.

GORHAM — Metro bus service will soon link Gorham with Westbrook, Portland and the Maine Mall.

As part of an expansion deal between the Greater Portland Transit District and the University of Southern Maine, the public next month can board Metro buses in Gorham Village near Hannaford.

Replacing previous private bus transportation, Metro will shuttle university students on the Husky Line between the university’s campuses in Gorham and Portland through Westbrook with a limited-stop, higher speed bus route.

University students, faculty and staff will ride for free while public riders will pay fares. Riders can transfer to destinations throughout the Metro transit area.

Metro will launch the Husky Line on Monday, Aug. 27. Besides the Gorham campus, there will be two stops in Gorham Village, one inbound to Portland near Hannaford and TD Bank with the other across the street.

“A total of five compressed natural gas buses will operate the Husky Line; four buses are needed for regular weekday service during peak periods. The fifth is a spare,” Metro General Manager Greg Jordan said.

The new Husky Line buses each cost $507,759. Metro in a press release said federal grants paid for 85 percent of the costs with 15 percent generated from fares, advertising, and state and local assistance.

Under a pilot plan, the town of Gorham is kicking in money to make ridership available to the public.

“Gorham is contributing $35,000 per year towards the Husky Line,” Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said.

Town Council Chairman Ben Hartwell doubted that public ridership would justify Gorham’s contribution. “I am hopefully optimistic but realistic in my expectation,” Hartwell said.

The Husky Line buses will travel along Route 25 between Gorham and a hub in Westbrook and continue along Route 25, Rand Road and Brighton Avenue to the Portland campus and downtown Portland.

The opening of the Husky Line will follow the Aug. 26 launch of the Blue Line (Route 3) from Riverton through Prides Corner and into downtown Westbrook enroute to the Maine Mall in South Portland.

Fares on the Husky Line will be $1.50 per one-way ride and 75 cents for seniors and disabled passenger, said Denise Beck, Metro marketing director. TenRide tickets and monthly passes also will be available.

The line will operate seven days a week, with no service on New Year’s Day, Easter, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The daily schedule could be finalized soon but looks now like this:
Monday-Friday service will operate from 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; trips will run every half hour until 6 p.m. and then hourly.

Saturday service will operate hourly between 8 a.m. and 10:30/11p.m.; and Sunday service hourly 8 a.m.- 6:30/7 p.m.

The Metro system provides public transportation to Brunswick, Falmouth, Freeport, South Portland, Westbrook, Yarmouth and, starting next month, Gorham.

“As a community-engaged university we are thrilled to be a part of this effort to strengthen our regional transportation network, but our No. 1 reason for joining this partnership is that it provides our students with tremendous new benefits,” said Robert Stein, USM executive director of public affairs.

Stein listed benefits as including improved on-board Wi-Fi , year-round service, a reduced carbon footprint and easing parking on campuses “if just a small portion of our community begins taking Metro to work.”

There is no dedicated Park & Ride lot in Gorham Village for public bus riders.

“I see the parking as a big issue,” said Blanche Alexander, president of the Lakes Region Seniors Center. She also said it would be difficult for non-drivers to get to the bus stops.

Alexander plans to discuss the bus service at the senior citizens’ next board meeting on Wednesday, July 18.

David and Blanche Alexander of Gorham said they might, after hearing more information, consider using the bus for transportation to medical appointments, farmers’ markets, and Portland International Jetport.

“But, offhand, it seems inconvenient,” David Alexander said.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com