Rockland area bus service eyed

Posted July 18, 2012, at 4:04 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A group working toward creating a public transportation system hopes to seek bids this fall for a comprehensive study that could lead to regularly scheduled bus service.

The public transit group held its latest meeting Tuesday at Rockland City Hall.

Lee Karker, who is executive director of Coastal Trans, said that the current feeling among the group is that the bus service would serve Rockland, Thomaston, Camden and Rockport.

The group is working on developing specifications to seek requests for proposals for a public transportation study. If all goes well, Karker said, the requests would go out in September and the study would be conducted during the winter and completed by spring.

“We’re trying to find out what is a workable transit system,” Karker said.

He said the study would be the easy part while implementing the system would be more challenging, particularly in a rural area such as this. He said a public transportation system was created in the Brunswick area but it had local support from large institutions such as Bowdoin College, Mid Coast Hospital, the Brunswick Housing Authority and the city of Brunswick.

Karker said he believes it will take financial support from local communities for a public transportation system to work in Knox County.

The transportation director said the general consensus from meetings is that Rockland appears to be the area with the greatest need and potential for success of such a system. The community has the greatest population, residents with varying incomes who do not drive, and several senior citizen apartment complexes who would benefit from public transportation.

The group of municipal and social service officials have been meeting since October.

Some participants have indicated that the bus route should cover the stretch from Route 1 in Thomaston where the new Walmart is to be constructed this year north to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, also on Route 1.

Some of the islands of Penobscot Bay also could benefit from that route since the Maine State Ferry Terminal in Rockland is along that stretch. The terminal serves Vinalhaven, North Haven and Matinicus.

Once or twice a week trips to the peninsulas also have been considered.

Karker said the study the group hopes will be done this winter would answer questions about what route would work best.

The group is scheduled to next meet Aug. 7 at city hall at which time a representative of the Maine Department of Transportation will be present.

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