Six new public transit buses boasting a snazzy new logo will take to the roads of central Maine next week.
The Kennebec Explorer, the revamped public transit system operated by the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, will offer new bus service between Waterville and Augusta and expand existing service to MaineGeneral Medical Center campuses in both cities, the University of Maine at Augusta and Kennebec Valley Community College.
The service launches Feb. 7, said Jim Wood, business manager for KVCAP’s transportation program.
With assistance from the Maine Department of Transportation, the new routes and logo mirror comparable Explorer programs that have taken root in other Maine regions — including Mount Desert Island, the Bethel area and the southern Maine coast.
“This is building on that whole theme,” Wood said. “It’s just going to make it much easier for people to get around central Maine on the Explorer system.”
The Kennebec Explorer is the product of two years of planning for new stops, new routes, new service areas and a new logo that uses a peregrine falcon to identify it.
KVCAP had initially anticipated a 2010 launch but funds and other variables didn’t line up until now, Wood said.
Long-term funding from the federal government is still uncertain, he added.
KVCAP obtained the six new Explorer buses with the help of the Department of Transportation. The buses are midsize public buses — larger than the vans KVCAP currently uses — that are handicap accessible and carry enhanced radio communications for drivers.
“We’re excited about it,” Wood said. “We solicited a lot of public input through a variety of forums as we developed it.”
KVCAP plans to cover operating costs through fares — $1 for travel within a town, $1.25 for travel between two towns and $3 for travel between Waterville and Augusta — and through contributions from a number of organizations and businesses located along the routes.
Key supporters include MaineGeneral, UMA, Molina Health Care and a number of other Augusta and Waterville businesses. The new transit routes include increased service to those locations as a result.
MaineGeneral’s Alfond Cancer Center, which is also the site of a new regional hospital, is a stop on the Explorer’s Augusta-Waterville route.
“We want to lay the groundwork now for people getting to the new medical center,” Wood said. “It also provides immediate access to (MaineGeneral’s Harold Alfond) cancer center.”
In downtown Augusta, the Explorer system will offer a commuter shuttle that can ease a parking situation that sometimes gets crowded. That shuttle will cost riders 50 cents.
“This will allow them convenient service to get people from their place of business to their cars,” Wood said.
The newly launched Explorer system will also increase the frequency of bus stops on routes that run between downtown Augusta and UMA, and downtown Augusta and various destinations on the city’s east side.
“I think most people in the city will find it’s a lot more convenient,” Wood said.
Wood said plans for a formal launch event are in the works, though a date has yet to be announced.
Copyright (c) 2011, Kennebec Journal, Augusta, Maine
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