Monday, May 13, 2013

RTP to launch Portland-to-Naples Bus Service by Elizabeth Richards

Public Transportation will soon be available from Naples to Portland.  In July, Regional Transportation Program (RTP) plans to launch a new passenger bus service between the two communities, with stops in Raymond and Windham. 

This isn’t the first time there has been service along this route, but the past service, in the 1980s, did not have the ridership required to keep it going, says Daniel Goodman, customer and community relations coordinator for RTP.  Although that service failed, there have been studies conducted for at least the past decade on the need for service to the Lakes Region, Goodman said.  Some of these studies have been used to develop proposed stops and schedules.  RTP also wants to also have community feedback on these issues to find the best stops, said Goodman.  

In order to assess the needs of the community, a survey is being conducted to solicit feedback from area residents.  Zoe Miller, coalition director for the Lakes Region HMP, a program of the Opportunity Alliance, has been working with RTP, as well as Cumberland County government, to collect information.  “We are trying to figure out how can we get as much citizen input as possible so that RTP can go into it hearing from the community,” she said. 

Miller said the goal is to have the service be as accessible as possible from the beginning.  The survey could also show who is most likely to use the service, which will assist in promoting the bus, Miller said.  For instance, if it shows that people will use it to attempt to save money on gas, they can reach out more to employers and commuter networks.

State Representative Jane Pringle from Windham took the survey, and is encouraging as many Windham residents as possible to also do so.  “The good thing about the survey is it gives people an opportunity to share if there is something outside what they see in that option.”

The survey also offers a little insight into the tentative plans, she said, including the times of runs, which look as though they could be convenient for commuters.  “If I were a commuter and I didn’t want to have to drive and park, and I had pretty regular work hours, it looks as though it would be a great way to take some of the traffic off 302,” she said. 

Goodman said the goal of the service is to meet the needs of all residents of the Lakes Region, from those who don’t have cars to multiple car families, who want improved access to all of the towns on 302.  “Our hope is we’ll get people who choose to ride.”  The bus will have space for bicycles and luggage, as well as wireless internet access. 

Miller adds, “There’s an opportunity here for helping the local economy and boosting tourism.”  This includes reaching out to folks from the Portland end who might grab their bike and head to Sebago Lake State Park, she said. 

Miller is excited because she thinks that transportation options are important, and play a big role in cutting down on pollution and encouraging people to get more active, thus improving community health.  “A lot of people think rural living means relying on their car,” she said.  However, she adds, there are many examples around the country where public transit is really working, both helping people to save money and be healthier.

The new service is different from other services that RTP offers.  It will operate on a regular schedule, and is open to the general public. The operations side is federally funded through funds from the FTA. There are no income guidelines in order to use the service.  “It’s important for people to know that it’s open for everyone,” said Goodman.  The service will begin early in the morning and have late evening runs as well.  Goodman adds that the stops will be at private locations, and “This wouldn’t be happening without the support of a lot of local businesses.”

The details of the scheduling, stops and fares are not yet finalized, but RTP’s goal is to launch the service on July 1, said Goodman.  The survey is available online at .  Anyone who responds can opt to be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to Hannaford Supermarkets. The survey closes Sunday, May 12 at midnight. 

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