PRESQUE ISLE – The PI Loop has completed its first two weeks of service in The Star City and organizers are very happy with ridership numbers. The service, which launched on Oct. 15, saw 55 riders that first day and over 600 riders in the first two weeks.
“These numbers exceeded our initial projections and we only see ridership increasing as the word gets out and the temperatures drop.” said Going Places co-chair, Jamie Chandler. S“The community including riders, sponsors, partners and volunteers all see the value of the service and are grateful that this resource is now available in our community.”
The PI Loop is a first-of-its kind fixed bus route system with 16 stops strategically places throughout Presque Isle. Each stop is designed to help members of the community connect with housing, work, education, healthcare, social services and retail locations throughout Presque Isle. The technology on the bus captures the data indicating that the stop on Carmichael Street is the busiest loop stop and has already seen 100 riders in this two-week window. The stops at Walmart, the Sargent Family Community Center and County Federal Union/Key Bank/Hampton Inn are also very busy bus stops for riders.
The PI Loop has received financial support from several local businesses, civic organizations and individuals and contributions continue to come in to support the project. Katahdin Trust Company was recently named the Presenting Sponsor and in addition to the sponsorship, they have also provided volunteers to serve the project from the inception. More recently two new sponsors have been named, showing their support for the project and our community. Northern Light AG Hospital has been named as the Economic Vitality Sponsor and Save A Lot as the Community Support Sponsor.
Northern Light AR Gould Hospital has been named the Economic Vitality Sponsor and has been a partner of the Network from the beginning.
“Transportation has been an on-going challenge in the region, both for our patients and for some employees. Having access to a low-cost public transportation option is a great resource for the area, and we are proud to be a part of this effort. Collaborations such as this are the only way to make inroads on some of our region’s challenges,” said Greg LaFrancois, president of Northern Light AR Gould Hospital.
Save A Lot, recently named the Community Support Sponsor , was eager to learn more about the project as they also recognize the challenges for families as they try to access resources in the community.
Kevin Kinney, owner of Save A Lot, said, “People would often say to me that they would shop at Save-A-Lot more if it was closer to them or they could get here. Now they can get here easily on the PI Loop bus. I know shoppers are already benefiting from it. There is a bus stop right across the road from Save-A-Lot. It has been great watching people getting on and off these last couple of weeks. It will be great to see a shelter there; I know fundraising efforts for that portion are ongoing. That is the next key piece in this project.”
The first two weeks for the PI Loop were offered to riders at no charge. This was to allow riders time to learn about the new service and for organizers time to iron out any wrinkles. Starting Nov. 1, a regular fare for the bus, which consists of a one-on and one-off, will cost riders $1.75. A round trip fare is $3.50. Discounted fares are available based on eligibility criteria. The lower rates will be offered to individuals 18 years and under, 60 years and older, persons with mobility disabilities, and active military and veterans and spouses with military ID. Children five years of age and under will ride for free with a parent or guardian.
Regular and frequent users of the service will also have the opportunity to purchase either a Go Pass or Go Card. The Go Pass features two options: a 31-day and a seven-day. Both offer unlimited ridership for the designated period. The Go Card allows riders to load (and reload) funds with a declining balance when scanned each time the user boards the bus.
Riders will be able to purchase fares using cash (exact change only), credit card or EBT on the bus. Go Passes and Go Cards can be purchased at kiosks at Aroostook Regional Transportation System (ARTS), ACAP or the Presque Isle Housing Authority office and also from one’s own computer or mobile device. These kiosks were strategically placed to assist riders with creating their accounts, purchasing fares, Go Cards and Go Passes.
Advertising opportunities for local businesses and organizations in the bus interior will be made available to interested entities in the coming weeks. This will be another way for businesses to advertise their services while supporting this community project.
The first four months of service for The PI Loop are considered the pilot phase. Any adjustments will be made moving forward based on ridership and feedback from consumers during this period. In addition, an area-wide transportation feasibility study will be conducted by a private consulting firm working with the Going Places Network and ARTS during this initial period.
The pilot phase and feasibility study will provide Going Places members valuable data to make any future adjustments to the route, bus stop locations and operating hours of the service. That information will help assess where best to place bus shelter structures, which will be installed in 2020. The shelters will shield people waiting for the bus from the elements and serve as an income source with advertising options available on the units.
About Going Places
The Going Places Network is a collaborative group of multiple community representatives seeking solutions to challenges the community of Presque Isle faces. The network, formed through an initiative supported with grant funding by the Maine Community Foundation, selected transportation as the priority of their initial work and set a goal to develop and implement a fixed-route bus system in the City of Presque Isle called The PI Loop. Collaborators in the Going Places Network include Aroostook Area Agency on Aging, Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Aroostook Council for Healthy Families, Aroostook County Action Program, Aroostook Regional Transportation System, City of Presque Isle, Katahdin Trust Company, MSAD #1, Northern Light Health, Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle Housing Authority, Public Health Nursing, United Way of Aroostook, and parents/grandparents/guardians of children under the age of 5.