HAMPDEN, Maine — Town leaders want to save $28,000 by cutting the Community Connector’s Saturday bus runs, but residents and others who depend on public transportation say the benefit is worth the expense.
The Hampden Town Council is scheduled to decide whether to discontinue the Saturday bus service during its 7 p.m. Monday meeting.
“The reason I ride the bus is because I’m legally blind. I cannot drive,” Mayo Road resident Lori Lathrop said after taking her seat on the bus Saturday morning. “I never thought I’d lose my driver’s license at age 45.”
“I wouldn’t do anything,” said Hampden resident Stephen King, who rides the bus daily. “I don’t work. I’m on disability. If I had to take a cab to the grocery or laundrymat, it would cost me $5 each way. I like to go to the Brewer Walmart. That would cost me about $30 one way.”
“I feel it’s very necessary,” said Joyce Rankin, who petitioned to get Saturday service in town several years ago.
“I take the bus everyday, and I take it home a lot of the time,” said Keith Howard, who lives on Main Road and was riding the bus to work at Shaw’s.
“I’m technically off, but they asked me to come in for a couple hours to help out,” Ron Barnard of Brewer, who works at the Circle K in Hampden, said after getting on the bus at Pickering Square in downtown Bangor. “If I had to take a cab, it wouldn’t make sense.”
“I would hate to see it go,” bus driver Tiffany Curtis said while seated behind the wheel of the Hampden bus on Saturday morning at Pickering Square. “It’s not a huge crowd like during the week, but it’s used. It would definitely be missed.”
On average, the Saturday bus runs in Hampden pick up between 95 and 105 fares throughout the day, compared with the weekday average of about 170 fares, Laurie Linscott, bus superintendent, said Friday.
Town councilors voted in June to put back the $28,000 they cut from the budget, “However, they could not take a vote on whether to keep it or discontinue it until after the comment period and hearing held by the city of Bangor,” Town Manager Sue Lessard said Friday.
The rules require the city of Bangor to hold a hearing if five or more written comments are received, which occurred and prompted last week’s Community Connector public hearing, she said. The results of the hearing were provided to Hampden.
“The final decision rests with the town of Hampden,” Lessard said.
Linscott said Friday that it is not yet clear how the Bangor portion of the Hampden run would be served if Hampden councilors opt not to fund it.
Should that occur, the last Hampden Saturday run would take place Aug. 30, she said. The next step for the Community Connector likely would be to determine how it can continue to serve riders from the Hampden line to the hub, which included Shaw’s supermarket, and passing Hollywood Casino, the Cross Insurance Center, Bass Park, Manna Inc. and Beal College.
“I want it kept,” Lathrop said. “I ride it two to three Saturdays a month. A lot of times it’s shopping, but sometimes it’s to get prescriptions that I’m suppose to pick up on Saturday or Sunday.”
Hampden resident Angela Rankin, who depends on the Saturday bus to get to work at the Brewer Walmart, along with Howard and King suggested town councilors consider reducing the number of Saturday trips before eliminating the service altogether.
“Most everybody has to work in the morning and get off in the afternoon, so it would work,” King said. “It would be better than no bus at all.”
BDN reporter Dawn Gagnon contributed to this story.