How best to describe MDOT's commuter plan? Ridiculous.

“We’ve created sprawl through poor planning, both transportation and land use, and we’re going to follow that up by creating a subsidized commuter system to chase those same commuters on a free highway. That sounds ridiculous to me.”

Androscoggin County Commissioner Jonathan LaBonte is absolutely correct. It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous.

The Maine Department of Transportation has spent the past 18 months studying commuter patterns north of Portland, anticipating applying for Federal Transit Authority Small Starts grant funding as part of the so-called Portland North commuter project. The conclusion of that study is that there are more commuters and, therefore, greater need to establish rail or commuter bus lines between Portland and Brunswick and not between Portland and Lewiston.

Should it surprise anyone that there are more commuters between Brunswick and Portland? That population is better able to afford private transportation. But, according to members of Visible Community, there are over 3,000 households in L-A without cars, the highest percent of residences without personal transportation in Maine. Many simply cannot afford to buy cars, gas and tolls to commute.

Counting existing commuters to justify expanding commuter lines is flawed logic because it ignores would-be commuters who are trapped elsewhere without public transportation.

The people of Lewiston and Auburn have proven eager bus passengers, with CityLink Bus System use increasing 89 percent between 2002 and 2008 after the system made adjustments in bus routes within the Twin Cities. There is no reason to think the same pattern wouldn’t emerge if the options to travel between L-A and Portland were improved. But that’s not MDOT’s end goal.

No matter what option is chosen — rail or bus line — the commuter line will be heavily subsidized, so MDOT is leaning toward the option in which travelers will be most likely to pay the fare.

So, the Portland North project is not about serving the public as much as it is about paying the bill. That’s not a bad consideration, but it’s being made without also considering the possibility that should a commuter line open between Portland and Lewiston that the people here would be equally willing to pay. The line doesn’t exist now, so it’s supposition, but if there’s any place that needs public transportation more than another, it’s a place with the largest population of non-driving residents in the state.

But, as MDOT points out, the federal government does not consider economic development and community building when passing out money for transit projects. Only confirmation of existing commuter traffic. That’s ridiculous, too.

If MDOT goes with the bus line, it is considering the creation of a rapid-transit regional bus system traveling along breakdown lanes on either Interstate 95 between Portland and Auburn, or on Interstate 295 from Portland to Brunswick. That's not just ridiculous. It’s daft.

Unless MDOT is going to establish stops to pick up passengers along the sides of these highways, rapid-transit in the breakdown lanes makes absolutely no sense. These buses can ride along in the travel lane in the established traffic pattern. Anything else would be confusing for motorists, and would limit the critical use of breakdown lanes for vehicles to … break down.

The point, we hope, of expanding the commuter line is to improve transportation. If that’s the case, the fact that some 3,000 individuals in the Twin Cities aren’t commuting to Portland because they don’t have personal vehicles must be part of the equation to seek improvements.

In focusing expanded commuter lines along Maine’s coast, MDOT will simply be adding options for a population that already has a lot of options, a lot more means and that will service the wealthiest people in Maine. How’s that for ridiculous?

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

A shorter ride?

I truly doubt it.  Are you factoring in stops all the way?   A bus could leave downtown L/A, make a stop near the at the park-n-ride in Auburn,  a stop at the Jetport (about 30 minutes), another stop at the rail/bus site in Portland (10 minutes from the Jetport) and another stop or two, or three in downtown Portland, and return.  Far more efficient than a rail.

 's picture

how do you say gasoline in

how do you say gasoline in Samolian.? =DHS

 's picture

downtown..

1st.... Scottie I agree..it's like a different place,French and Irish morals and work ethics are out the door....the government and unions have driven factories and industry from our cities ,state and country..they think a train will reduce the poverty level? 2nd ...driving into the city, for what? a few bank head quarters....offices , parking cost 2 bucks in the garage for 1/2 hr or hour appointments..3rd ----people living downtown don't want to increase they're wages by working in Portland, they'd loose financial aid...people in Portland  wouldn't use the train so they could live in cheaper housing in L/A

 's picture

Depressed...

I have to agree with your comment that the longer people live here the less positive their outlook.  I have lived here almost all of my 39 years and I think this city has a very bleak future.  Welfare and the poor downtown area will always bring this city down, and I really cannot see that changing.  The welfare cycle continues and grows with each generation.  I have heard about the downtown revitalization it seems like forever.  I still have no desire to stroll downtown and 'enjoy' the area.  How about Kennedy Park?  I haven't stepped foot on that grass since I was a kid at one of the festivals there and I can honestly say I have absolutely no desire to do so anytime soon.  So what exactly is attractive about downtown Lewiston?

 's picture

scottie scottie scottie..

"So what exactly is attractive about downtown Lewiston?"

 

It's not only about "exactly what is".. but also about what could be. Let's put the last 30 years behind us where they belong and look forward.

 's picture

potvin

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I feel like I've been hearing how great the downtown can be all my life.  I'll believe it when I see it...

 's picture

alright

Fair enough. Time for us to get to work then.

 's picture

Why not a Concord Trailways bus route instead?

It would be less expensive,  could provide more routes, and more stops than a train.

 

 's picture

build it and they will come..

Isn't that what we spend half of our monday's doing thinkingman?? Have patience, have optimism, have an IPA and sit back on the Gritty's deck and see the vast potential we have in front of us.

 's picture

use buses

how about... just simple thing like a bus...with stops in new gloster and gray.. it doesn't say that 3000 people want to travel to Portland..just that they don't have cars

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