Harpswell town bus service moves forward

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HARPSWELL — Funding for a new public bus route has been added to a preliminary 2015 town budget, as officials begin to work out details about the service. 

The proposed bus route would run from Mitchell Field to Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, making stops on the town’s three peninsulas. The proposal is to operate the route one day a week for nine hours.  

Nearly $9,400 in local funding would be required, in addition to more than $14,000 in state and federal money, to run the service next year.

The bus would be provided by Coastal Trans Inc., the same nonprofit company that runs the Brunswick Explorer service. 

In a presentation to selectmen on Dec. 18, Jim Huff, the company’s transportation director, said there are 13 possible stops along the 39-mile route that would hit Orr’s and Great Island, Cundy’s Harbor and Harpswell Neck.

It is unlikely that all the stops will be included in a final plan, Huff said. 

“There’s no way we could possibly stop at all 13 and keep a reasonable time,” he told selectmen.

The aim is to have a one-hour Harpswell-Brunswick route, including 10-15 minutes of lead time to account for traffic, weather, and loading passengers, Huff said. The buses will be able to hold 12 passengers and two standard-size wheelchairs.

Because of time constraints, the bus will not be able to run to the end of every peninsula and island in town, he added. 

“It’s just too big of an area,” Huff told selectmen. 

Scheduling would be timed so that passengers can get on the Brunswick Explorer at Cook’s Corner to connect to shopping centers and medical facilities in other parts of the town. 

Passengers will still have to pay a fare for each time they take the bus, Huff explained. The Harpswell fare hasn’t been set, but will likely be more than the $1 per-ride charged for the Brunswick Explorer. 

“I think it’s exciting,” selectmen Chairman Rick Daniel said, noting that the new route would connect citizens to services in Brunswick and other parts of Harpswell, but could also bring in visitors.

Selectman Elinor Multer noted that the budget committee has added funding for the service to the town’s 2015 spending plan that selectmen are expected to begin reviewing next month. 

In anticipation of voter approval at Town Meeting next March, selectmen directed Town Administrator Kristi Eiane to begin working out details of the bus route with Huff, including stops, times, and days of service. 

“There’s a possibility that this could become a reality,” Multer said. 

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