Brunswick could be next stop for Portland-Freeport express bus

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council will decide at its next meeting whether to extend METRO Breez bus service to Brunswick, now that the cost of adding service has declined since the option was proposed more than two years ago.

Councilors at the Nov. 5 meeting also said they have reservations about a proposal from the Teen Center for a second-floor expansion to accommodate increased demand.

After two years of community planning workshops, the Greater Portland Transit District launched the three-year Breez express bus pilot program in June. It provides service from Portland to Freeport, with stops in Falmouth and Yarmouth.

Brunswick was originally asked to join the pilot program, but declined because of the cost.

But that may no longer be the case, as expanded federal grant funding has reduced the cost of extending service, according to METRO General Manager Greg Jordan.

Jordan said estimated services fees that would cost Brunswick about $49,900 for the first year, and about $59,000 for the second, with service expected to begin next June.

The figures take into account operating and capital costs, and overhead for bus stops and shelters, and might fluctuate, depending on the number of stops.

Jordan said the extension to Brunswick would build on Breez’s existing Monday-Saturday regional service, and stop downtown at Brunswick Station, coordinating with the Amtrak Downeaster and service provided by the Brunswick Explorer.

Rider fare is $3, although Jordan said expanded service may cause the bus to move to a zone-based fare, where longer trips might cost closer to $5.

The mid-sized buses seat 18 people and include Wi-Fi, overhead storage, and bike racks.

Based on ridership surveys, Jordan said METRO believes Brunswick riders would benefit most from service to Portland and Freeport, where many people commute to work and like to shop.

The council is expected to take action at its next scheduled meeting on Dec. 19. 

Jordan said if the council approves the proposal, METRO will finalize a schedule in January, order a new bus in April or May, and launch the service next June.

In a move that indicated the council’s interest, Councilor Alison Harris was appointed to serve on a new METRO Breez planning committee, which, the council indicated, will include representatives from local businesses and colleges.

Teen Center

People Plus and Teen Center Executive Director Stacy Frizzle told the council the Teen Center is “bursting at the seams” and she would like to expand the second floor of their Union Street location.

She said that her presentation Monday was to update the Board, and that she would be back at the next meeting to discuss the town-issued letter of intent required to apply for grant funding; because the town owners the center, it would technically be the grant applicant.

But Councilor Jane Millett said she was “leery.” “We have to look at the community as a whole,” she said.

Frizzle countered by emphasizing the importance of the center’s downtown location, which is in close proximity to other town amenities; she said that two-thirds of teens who use the center are within walking distance of their homes and worried about “losing the neighborhood.”

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100, or at cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph, right, praises the work of the METRO staff and board, including President Ed Suslovic, left, at the June 16 launch of Breez bus service from Portland to Freeport.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.