Expecting another hit to budget, Bangor bus system proposing fare increases

Community Connector bus in downtown Bangor in August.
Linda Coan O'Kresik
Community Connector bus in downtown Bangor in August. Buy Photo
Posted Jan. 27, 2014, at 1:23 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor’s bus system is proposing fare increases in hopes of softening the blow of a projected $150,000-$175,000 loss of revenue.

“As we come into next [fiscal] year’s budget, we know we’re going to have some challenges and we want to be ahead of it to some degree,” Assistant City Manager Bob Farrar said Monday. “We have begun the process by posting the [rate] proposal, and then there’s a comment period and, depending on the number of comments received, there can be a public hearing.”

Anyone who would like weigh in on the Community Connector fare increases may do so by contacting Laurie Linscott, interim bus superintendent, by phone at 992-4672; by email at laurie.linscott@bangormaine.gov; or by mail at 281 Maine Ave., Bangor 04401.

The public comment period ends at 4 p.m., Feb. 10. If the city receives a lot of input, it may decide to hold a public hearing to give residents a chance to air their thoughts or concerns.

Rates for a single cash fare would increase from $1.25 to $1.50; half-price cash fare (for children under 12 riding with an adult) from 60 cents to 75 cents; a five-ride strip of tickets from $5 to $7; and a monthly student pass from $20 to $25.

A monthly pass would still cost $45. UMaine, Husson, Eastern Maine Community College and New England School of Communications students with identification cards and children under 5 would still ride for free.

The fare hikes, if approved, would become effective July 1. The City Council would need to give the go-ahead as well.

The proposed increases would put Bangor’s bus services in line with Portland and Lewiston public transit, which have the same rates for single fares and passes, Farrar said. Lewiston’s monthly passes are only $32, but most other rates are the same.

Because of recent changes to MaineCare, some Mainers have lost the coverage that paid for their transportation. Many of those people may not be able to pay for bus transportation on their own. Farrar said Bangor projects $150,000-$175,000 in lost revenue because of those changes.

Last budget season, the city directed Community Connector to cut $20,000 from its budget as part of a series of across-the-board cuts aimed at reducing the tax increase facing Bangor residents. Community Connector proposed eliminating the Odlin Road route, which was the least traveled and happened to cost $20,000. A community effort eventually saved the route for the remainder of the year.

Community Connector’s budgeted expenses for Bangor routes this fiscal year is about $1.7 million, the city’s finance director has said. Its revenues are about $1.3 million raised through advertising, fares and federal and state grants. The City of Bangor covers the remaining gap of about $400,000.

As the city eyes the budget for the next fiscal year, Community Connector will face new challenges in balancing its budget.

“The fare increase itself won’t generate huge amounts of money,” Farrar said, adding that the city doesn’t expect the increases to come close to offsetting the projected $150,000-plus revenue loss.

“We’ll be taking a look at everything we do,” he said.

 

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