City works to expand bus service to Outer Hammond Street

Bangor Area Transportation buses at the Pickering Square bus station.
Bangor Area Transportation buses at the Pickering Square bus station.
Posted April 12, 2011, at 7:57 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — An area of the city that historically has been overlooked by the BAT Community Connector bus service could see a new route by later this year.

City councilors last fall asked BAT Manager Joe McNeil to come up with an action plan to add service to Outer Hammond Street by way of Odlin Road.

The bus now stops at the end of Hammond Street at the intersection of Maine Avenue, forcing riders to walk along busy Odlin Road to reach the businesses and services on Outer Hammond.

Councilors have long felt there was a great demand for service there and have been increasingly worried about the safety of pedestrians walking on a busy road that has no sidewalk.

As with most things, though, any change would come down to cost.

McNeil presented a plan to councilors on Tuesday that outlines Monday-Friday service, mainly in the morning hours, to Outer Hammond Street at an added annual cost of about $46,000, much lower than initial estimates.

Bus fares will cover about $32,000 of that cost, he said, and businesses and nonprofits in the area have expressed a willingness to subsidize some of the cost. They include the Ranger Inn and Discovery House, the largest of Bangor’s three methadone treatment facilities.

Any cost to the city would be minimal, McNeil said.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that an action plan has been put in place,” said Councilor Cary Weston, who pushed hard for the increased service. “This is something that has been desired for many years.”

Councilors agreed Monday that the city has an obligation as the service center of eastern Maine to provide bus service to its residents.

Contingent on adding the new route is the delivery of buses from the Maine Department of Transportation to the city of Bangor. The buses, which will be donated, were given to Maine by a bus system in Yonkers, N.Y., and although they are used, they still have a lot of miles in them, McNeil said. Delivery of those buses could take place within three months.

Last year, as part of the city’s budget discussion, councilors approved a fare increase from $1 to $1.25 to further offset growing operating losses. The city also considered discontinuing bus service on holidays and some weekend days in an effort to save money, but councilors decided against that idea.

The last route added by the BAT was the “Mallhopper” in 2007. It has since become one of the most popular routes and is one of the reasons BAT ridership has increased steadily in the last several years.

The BAT is a fixed-route public transit system operated by the city of Bangor for some of the communities of Greater Bangor, including Bangor, Brewer, Veazie, Orono, Old Town, Hampden and the University of Maine.

The system offers nine separate bus routes that run every hour or every half-hour Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Some routes offer Saturday service.

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