Visible Community seeks support for expanded bus service

LEWISTON — The Visible Community wants Lewiston-Auburn to improve and expand the CityLink bus service, and it's hoping a petition drive will convince city leaders of the need.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Craig Saddlemire of the Visible Community talks with Jessica Gilliam of Lewiston at the bus station on Oak Street in Lewiston on Thursday. Saddlemire, a downtown Lewiston resident, was gathering petition signatures from Lewiston-Auburn residents who would like to see CityLink bus system improvements. "I resort to the bus for everything that is not within walking distance," Gilliam said. "I wish the bus would run on Saturdays and later in the evenings."


Corinna Williams of the Visible Community lets people know that more than 3,000 households in Lewiston and Auburn do not have cars. Williams helped gather petition signatures Thursday from Lewiston-Auburn residents who would like to see CityLink bus system improvements.

On Thursday, at least 10 members gathered at the Oak Street bus station and rode buses across the Twin Cities to collect signatures backing the most comprehensive and most expensive of three options outlined in a transportation planner's report, released last year.

That option calls for, among other things, 60-minute bus route schedules, service until 9:30 p.m. on some routes and limited service on Saturdays.

Currently, CityLink buses run on 30-minute schedules, which are so tight that they are often late. Buses stop accepting passengers after 5:15 p.m. and do not run on Saturdays. 

The cities pay $130,000 each for the bus service. The most comprehensive option would cost Lewiston and Auburn $247,000 each, according to the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee, which operates the bus system.

Phil Nadeau, Lewiston's deputy city administrator and a member of the transit committee, likes the most comprehensive option. But, he said, it's too expensive right now.

"We're just trying to strike a middle ground between what we think people would love to see and what, hopefully, the councils will say they can afford to spend," Nadeau said.    

The committee's option calls for 60-minute schedules and limited Saturday service but no evening hours. That would cost the cities $176,000 each, plus an additional $56,000 taken from the committee's reserve fund to pay for Saturday service in a one-year trial. The committee will recommend that more modest option when it presents its budget to Lewiston and Auburn city councils in a joint meeting April 12.

But the Visible Community, a grassroots group representing Lewiston's poorest neighborhoods, believes that "middle ground" proposal is not enough for riders. 

"People would like to see vast improvement to the bus system," said Genevieve Lysen, Androscoggin Valley community organizer for the Maine People's Alliance, which helps support the Visible Community.   

According to the group, Lewiston-Auburn has seen ridership more than double between 1997 and 2008, but compared to many other Maine cities, it contributes among the lowest amount.

Citing figures from the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center, which is responsible for planning the greater Lewiston-Auburn's transportation system, the Visible Community said Bangor, Falmouth, Portland, South Portland and Westbrook all contribute more for their bus systems than Lewiston and Auburn each do — in some cases hundreds of thousands more.

And, the group said, citing the transportation planner's report from last year, more than 3,000 Lewiston-Auburn households don't have access to cars, making mass transit even more important.

"We found, in talking to folks about the bus system, that the lack of transportation is a barrier for finding employment," Lysen said.

Before Thursday, the group had collected about 400 signatures in support of the more comprehensive, more expensive plan. It expected many more as members fanned out across the bus route Thursday. Their goal: get enough public support to prove to the city councils that the most comprehensive option is both wanted and needed.

The Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee will present its recommendation to the Lewiston and Auburn city councils on April 12 as part of its proposed budget. The Visible Community said it plans to present its signatures to the councils at the same time. 

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Jeremy Keith Hammond's picture

Thank you @ eeyoresfriend

Thank you for touching on something important that is being missed. Right now our nation (and subsequently L-A) is suffering from a scarcity of compassion. It is intellectually lazy to believe that people who want/need the bus are physically lazy and/or "milking" the system. Do they know that most people who receive food stamps work full time? Do they know that the amount of money spent on the bus system is pennies compared to every other budget? What about those of us who WANT to use the bus, but can't because of inaccessibility. 

Have they considered that people don't ride the bus much because of the ineptitude of the service - rather than a lack of need? Having spent significant time in cities with substantially larger bus systems - it is an extremely cost effective form of transportation for both city and residents. Never mind the drastic, positive effects on the environment. The problem is the bus is not very accessible. I had to ask several people, and finally turn to the internet before I could even figure out how to get on the bus - since most of the "stops" don't have noticeable markers/benches and half the time the buses are en route "out of service." I've also never seen a bus system you have to flag down like a cab in New York City. Not only that, (and I'm speaking from the Auburn side, here) The only residential area that gets significant coverage is New Auburn. I have to walk a mile to my nearest bus stop - and it only passes there about 4 times a day, and doesn't go any where near my place of work. 

People above are right when they say that we don't need our buses - but only because our buses barely function! What made the bus systems work in the other cities I lived in and visited?

1. Expanded routes including more residential areas and other employment hubs - not just stores;

2. Bus stops that make sense. Every where else I've gone bus stops included covered benches and maps with bus schedules so people could navigate without prior knowledge of the system;

3. Add more frequent bus stops and cease allowing buses to be stopped by flaggers. I imagine these would void each other time wise, but make the bus visually accessible with more bench stops mentioned above.

regular van

wouldn't it be cheaper to use  a regular van.. say ford econoline ...I'm just guessing,....


but then  wheelchairs and disability access may be in question

Michael Hobbs's picture


If the city of So. Portland can support its OWN bus services, then Lewiston/Auburn should be able to as well. Yes, So. Portland, Scarbourgh, Falmouth, and Portland also use the Metro. The fact is L/A despite what you guys say is a waste of money, they need it to make it more "friendly" to people. Some type of transit system is needed. No bus system can fully fund its self and if you believe they can then you are nuts, but people keep it around to make the area more friendly for people to move to that area.

Michael Hobbs's picture


Funny that everyone likes to pinpoint the Somali community, but apparently failed to realize those who have been here for decades milking the welfare system. Then again I wouldn't expect anything less from people who are from Maine. Which is why it makes me ashamed to say I am a Mainer.


If the busses are to continue

If the busses are to continue they have to be able to support themselves. I would also question how the figure of 3,000 families without cars was arrived at. Are one person families in assisted living or biarding houses (that provide transportation) counted? Regardless, public transportation should support itself or elsse there is no need of it.

Scott Pare's picture

rider fares

The bus service should be able to support itself with rider fares.  I am guessing though that it is not even close to breaking even.  I see the bus usually empty or maybe with 1 or 2 people in it.  The city should stop supporting the buses and let the cab companies have the extra business.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If the rider fares were

If the rider fares were adjusted high enough to allow the buses to support themselves, the cost to the riders would undoubtedly be prohibitive.

Scott Pare's picture


Which shows that the city bus system is a failure.  Not enough riders to pay for it.  Is it REALLY needed?  The city has cab companies.  The idea of running a bus in circles around the city all day only works if enough people want it and use it.   I would love to see some statistics on how many riders per bus per day.

Joe Gremo's picture

budget shortfalls


PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Support staff?

Support staff?

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

Had to ride a few times with

Had to ride a few times with a student as part of work... it was the same eight or ten people every time. Complain all you want but it's not fair to the taxpayers to fund your rides. Besides, by the looks of the frequent fliers, they could use a good walk.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Whosa gonna pay for all of

Whosa gonna pay for all of dees?


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