Passengers wait at the bus terminal in Pickering Square in downtown Bangor. Credit: Gabor Degre

We recently learned that the Community Connector received a federal grant of $1.29 million to construct a new transit center in downtown Bangor. This is fantastic news, but it has also revived the debate over whether the bus hub should remain in Pickering Square. This is a debate that needs to end in order for us to make real progress.

The bottom line is this: The city of Bangor has paid for not one, but two studies of our transit system now, and both of them have told us that Pickering Square is the optimal location for the hub. How much more information do we need to make this decision?

The first study was done in 2014 at a cost of $70,000. It considered 16 potential bus hub options, and determined that Pickering Square remained the most “available, affordable and viable” location. This study also made suggestions for improving routes within the bus system, none of which was acted upon. Then, in 2018, without explaining why the previous study had not been implemented, the Bangor City Council opted to spend $100,000 on a second study.

This new study looked at the entirety of our bus system (hub included) and laid out a comprehensive plan for improvements. For this project, the city hired Stantec, an international consulting company with a huge range of transit planning experience. Stantec’s final report concluded that “Pickering Square remains the most optimal spot for all routes to converge in the service area.”

They also suggested improving the square to make it more inviting for transit users as well as the general public. With this new federal grant, Bangor can do just that.

I think we all agree that Pickering Square is currently an eyesore, in need of a serious makeover. But there is a small group of people claiming that the bus hub has to go in order for that to happen, and this simply is not true. We can have a beautified Pickering Square with a great bus hub right there.

Moving a transit hub is not like rearranging furniture. The hub is the center of a complex network of routes designed to sync up with one another at specific times. Relocating that hub will mean that certain routes within the system will become more difficult and time-consuming to use.

The primary reasons people ride the bus are work, school and shopping. All of these are economic drivers, not only for those of us using the bus, but also for our community as a whole. We should be making the bus easier to use, not harder. A brand-new hub in Pickering Square will be a great step in that direction.

For far too long, improving our bus system has been delayed because of the insistence of a few that the bus should leave Pickering Square. As an organizer for Transportation For All (a group organized by the local nonprofit Food AND Medicine, which advocates for improvements to our bus system), and as a bus rider myself, I’ve spoken to many other bus riders who tell me they have been made to feel that their city is ashamed of them, that people don’t want to have to look at them. Although I don’t believe that this is the intention of those who are pushing to move the hub, that has nevertheless been the effect.

Enough is enough. We have the information that we need, and that we spent a great deal of time, effort and money to obtain. It’s time to put the bus hub debate to rest and move forward together to create a beautiful, functional Pickering Square that we can all enjoy.

Darcy Cooke is an organizer for Transportation for All and a bus rider.