Harpswell ponders public bus route

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HARPSWELL — Selectmen are considering a new public transit route that would connect residents on the town’s three peninsulas to services and amenities in neighboring Brunswick.

Town officials and Coastal Trans, the company that runs the Brunswick Explorer, met at the town office Tuesday for preliminary discussions about the bus service.

There is no firm proposal yet, but selectmen intend to discuss the issue again on Dec. 18.

On Tuesday, Jim Huff, the company’s transportation director, outlined a draft route that would run from Mitchell Field on Harpswell Neck to Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, with stops on Orr’s Island, Great Island and Cundy’s Harbor.

From Cook’s Corner, riders could connect to other parts of Brunswick through the Brunswick Explorer.

Route design is complicated by the fact that Harpswell has a limited number of appropriate stops, Huff said.

The preliminary route he charted, with all available stops, would take 55 minutes, Huff added. Ideally, the town should aim for a 45-minute route to allow time for people to get on and off, he said.

Further discussion is needed on the number of stops, as well as how frequently the service would operate, but the town could choose one day-long service per week or two shorter half-day services, Huff suggested.

While Coastal Trans’ services receive substantial state and federal funding, it requires a 40 percent local match that would work out to a $20-per-hour cost for Harpswell, Huff said.

Riders would also be required to pay a fare; the Brunswick Explorer costs $1 per trip. 

Selectmen were receptive to the preliminary proposal, noting that some residents have asked for public transportation.

“I’ve had positive feedback,” to the idea, Chairman Rick Daniel said.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane noted that it would be difficult to gauge how many residents would actually use the service, and suggested trying it on a trial basis. 

Board members asked Huff to return with a formal service proposal for their Dec. 18 meeting.

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.