BANGOR, Maine — A meeting held Wednesday to gather public comment on a proposal to pull the plug on the Community Connector bus runs to Hampden on Saturdays drew few riders to Bangor City Hall.
The discussion was prompted by a proposal by Hampden Town Council members to do away with the Saturday bus service as a way to save the town $28,000 a year. In addition to serving Hampden residents, the Hampden route also serves part of Bangor, from the Bangor-Hampden town line to the bus transfer hub at Pickering Square.
Several residents have told town officials they depend on the bus to travel to work, to shop and for other activities.
A public comment process was required before a decision could be made, and Wednesday’s meeting was part of that process.
The four people who attended and shared their views, however, were in favor of finding some way to preserve a semblance of the Saturday service.
During the meeting, Hampden resident Angela Rankin said she depends on the Saturday service.
“I use the bus on Saturdays to get to work,” she said.
Rankin lives on Main Road North in Hampden and takes the bus to get to her job in Brewer. She said if the weekend service is eliminated, her transportation cost for Saturdays would increase by $60 per month.
Rankin said the cost could be reduced by reducing the number of runs.
“I think that would be a better option to reduce the cost — to reduce the runs instead of cutting it completely,” she said.
Her mother, Joyce Rankin, said she conducted an informal survey and compiled a list of nearly a dozen people who also use the Hampden bus to get to work on Saturdays. Joyce Rankin’s suggestions for saving the weekend service included Saturday-only passes for Hampden route users, using a smaller vehicle such as a van or minibus and business sponsorships.
Many businesses along the Hampden bus route benefit from riders, she said, citing Shaw’s, the Cross Insurance Center, Hollywood Casino, Subway and McDonald’s as a few examples. She added that Saturday service is important to people staying at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, Manna’s shelter for women and children, the Freese’s Building, Maliseet Gardens and the Bangor House.
Bangor resident Hank Garfield, who uses the Hampden bus route to get to his boat at Hamlin’s Marina, said the bus should be seen as an investment in the local economy rather than “a sort of subsidized service.” He agreed business sponsorships made sense, noting area universities and colleges already do that for their students and staff.
“They all realize that every time somebody does not use a car to get there, that’s one less parking space they have to pay for,” he said. “Every time somebody uses the Community Connector instead of a car, that’s one less parking space a business has to provide and one less piece of car infrastructure the city has to provide.”
Hampden resident Marjorie Lawrence said she sees the bus as “an excellent service.” She said she would rather see bus runs increase “because ecologically it’s much better for people to use a bus than have all these hundreds of cars using up limited gas.”
Though buses to Hampden aren’t as full as others, Lawrence said, the service is still useful.
“It’s partly for working people, partly for people who are going shopping, partly just for quality of life. So I plead with you, if there’s anything you can do. Could you run every second hour on Saturday instead of every hour? That would be an acceptable compromise. I hope you can work out something,” she said.
Also on hand were Hampden Town Council members Thomas Brann and William Shakespeare and resident Terry McAvoy, a regular presence at Hampden council and committee meetings.
Though they didn’t speak during the meeting, McAvoy did debate the merits of the Saturday bus service outside council chambers afterwards. As he saw it, Hampden taxpayers should not need to subsidize a service that takes consumers out of town to spend their money elsewhere.
If the decision is made to eliminate Saturday service, the last Saturday runs in Hampden would take place Aug. 30, Bus Superintendent Laurie Linscott said Wednesday. Riders will be apprised of any changes through public notices posted at the bus hub, in the buses themselves and on the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System’s website at www.bactsmpo.org.