Bus service seeks public input on proposed fare hikes in Portland, Falmouth, Westbrook

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PORTLAND — The board of directors of the bus service in Portland, Falmouth and Westbrook has scheduled three public hearings to discuss proposed fare increases.

The Metro board is considering raising the price of a single fare to $1.50 from $1.25; a 10-ride book from $11 to $14; and a monthly pass from $37.50 to $45.

The board’s Finance Committee recommended the fare increases to make up for an expected budget shortfall of between $200,000 and $600,000.

City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, who is president of the board, said Metro expects increases in health insurance and fuel costs. Metro is now reimbursed by the federal government for compressed natural gas fuel, and Donoghue said that funding is questionable for next year.

Also questionable, he said, is the reimbursement Metro gets from MaineCare, which pays for clients’ monthly passes if they use the bus three or more times a month to get to doctor appointments. Finally, Donoghue said, Metro’s allocation of federal funding administered through the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System is likely to be reduced.

The Finance Committee recommendation relies solely on fare increases and does not include service cuts. Donoghue said the board seems to be in agreement on raising single and 10-pass fares, but he said there is some disagreement about raising monthly passes. He said he is not in favor of that rate hike.

“I think it is important we look at service modifications,” Donoghue said. “We have some under-performing routes that could do with less runs.”

A Portland public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in the State of Maine Room at City Hall.

In Falmouth, a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. at Central Fire Station.

A public hearing is scheduled Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Public Safety Building in Westbrook.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net