PORTLAND — Local residents say they’re fed up with the adult bus tours of the Old Port and Arts District.
The adult bus tours of the city have been something of a long-standing legend among locals. Tall tales of bass-thumping buses, illuminated with a cacophony of strobe lights and disco balls, have circle through the rumor mills for years.
But the issue was thrust to the forefront recently when a grandmother reportedly told police she had seen a man “getting off” the bus, denoted with “XXX Service” header, in broad daylight.
“I think it is absolutely deplorable that a vehicle meant for public transit is being used covertly as some sort of shag-wagon,” said Gertrude Goodness, who is originally from England.
A transit official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the city began offering adult tours about 15 years ago. The official said the tours were needed so the transit service could offset operating costs at a time when no body was riding public transit.
“If you remember, the economy was going bang-busters in the mid-1990’s,” the official said. “Nobody was riding the bus. Everyone was buying cars and SUVs faster than they were being put on the market.”
The bus tours were originally promoted through word-of-mouth. During the early years, the campaign produced a small – but loyal – clientele.
That all changed, however, with the advent of Craigslist, a free online advertising site similar to the classified section of the local paper. After an ad was placed on Craigslist, business quadrupled within the first month.
Sources say that city administrators and elected officials have known of the adult bus tours for years, but kept quiet because the city was making so much money.
“We’re practically minting money,” said one city official, who could not be named. “The city has actually been diverting buses from their normal routes to keep up with demand!”
As more buses are being used for private tours, long-time bus users say they’re tired of waiting for hours on end at bus stops for a ride home and to the office. Transients, meanwhile, said they are simply tired, because they now have fewer places to take naps and urinate.
“It’s a nightmare,” said a disheveled, odoriferous man holding a cardboard sign that read “You’re going to Hell. Spare a dime? God bless.”
Goodness said she is not only concerned about the adult tours themselves, but that they are increasingly being offered in the middle of the afternoon, when men, women and children roam the streets.
Although city officials said they have started painting the entire outside of the bus to reduce visibility from the outside-in, Goodness said the effort is not enough to mask the unpleasant musky smell of the deviant adult transit.
“How do you expect me to feel comfortable on a bus, not knowing what sort of scallywag has been fornicating in it the night before,” she said. “It’s despicable.”