Harpswell 1 stop away from public transit service

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HARPSWELL — Geography and population have long made it hard to provide public transportation in town.

But that could soon change, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said.

The Board of Selectmen is moving forward on a draft agreement with Rockland-based nonprofit Coastal Trans to provide bus service starting later this month.

Coastal Trans, which also operates the Brunswick Explorer, would run two Harpswell routes one day a week, connecting Harpswell to Brunswick.

The east-side route would leave from Mitchell Field at three times and make stops at places like the Grange Hall, the Town Office, and the Harpswell Community School before stopping at Cook’s Corner. Service returning from Cook’s Corner would also run three times, and the first and last runs would also service Maine Street Station in Brunswick.

A Cundy’s Harbor route would also run three times, making a loop from Cook’s Corner and stopping at Holbrook’s General Store and Cundy’s Harbor Community Church.

The day of the week that bus service would be provided has not been set, but town is looking at either Tuesday or Wednesday, according to Eiane.

“To my knowledge … this would be the first regularly-scheduled route,” in Harpswell, she said.

Coastal Trans draws federal and state funding for its service, but requires a 40 percent local match from the town. Harpswell appropriated $9,000 for the match at Town Meeting in March.

The town funds, in two six-month installments, are a prepayment for service; actual costs will be tracked and any unused funds will be reimbursed, according to the draft agreement.

Bus riders would also be required to pay a fare. In Brunswick, Coastal Trans charges $1 for its Explorer service.

“I think this bus route could be quite meaningful to a number of (senior citizens),” Selectman Elinor Multer said.

“My experience tells me that an idea such as this may take two or more years to catch on and I would hate to see it cut off prematurely,” if ridership numbers are initially low, she said.

Eiane said the goal is to start service before Memorial Day weekend, possibly on Tuesday, May 19.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.