PORTLAND, Maine — Four southern Maine bus services are cutting services and suspending fares indefinitely starting Friday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move, made in concert, is being taken to eliminate handling of cash and paper bus passes between drivers and riders, maximizing social distancing.
Executives and trustees of Greater Portland Metro, Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Transit, South Portland Bus Service, and the Regional Transportation Program announced the move after meetings on Wednesday.
Some bus lines are also implementing service reductions, beginning Friday, for an indefinite period.
All metro routes will operate on a Saturday schedule except for Sundays, when they will operate normally. The Elm Street Pulse and Valley Street offices are to be closed.
BSOOB Transit’s local routes and Portland Intercity connector will run Monday through Saturday and end at 6:30 p.m. There will be no service on Sundays. Zoom Turnpike Express service to Portland’s peninsula will remain unchanged. The Saco transportation center will be closed to the public until further notice.
The South Portland Bus Service will maintain regular weekday bus service provided there are sufficient drivers to operate the service. RTP is currently operating its demand-and-response
service at a substantially reduced level.
All agencies are encouraging riders to use public transit only when absolutely necessary and never when sick.
“The region’s public transit agencies are working very hard to maintain transit service so people can travel for the most critical needs including grocery shopping, pharmacy visits, non-emergency medical needs, critical job access, and to assist family members.” Metro General Manager Greg Jordan said. “We are asking riders to help Maine and the country slow the spread of COVID-19, and avoid using public transit when sick and for unnecessary trips.”
Metro buses are also getting cleaned more often in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Until this week, buses were disinfected each night when they came out of service. Now, drivers are giving all high-contact areas a wipe-down at midday as well. This includes handrails, pull cords and seat backs.
“Anything we know people are going to touch,” said Denise Beck, director of marketing and community outreach.
Drivers are taking the change in stride, said Metro Transportation Manager Tom Ridge.
“There’s so much uncertainty but they’re still able to come in and do their jobs professionally,” Ridge said.
Greater Portland Metro connects the communities of Brunswick, Falmouth, Freeport, Portland, South Portland, Westbrook, and Yarmouth with connections to other local and regional transit systems. The Metro provided more than 1.85 million rides in 2017. It has roots going back to Portland’s first horse-drawn street cars in 1860.