AUBURN — The Twin Cities’ bus service operator may have a line on three replacement buses for the dwindling Citylink fleet.

Phil Nadeau, chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee, said representatives from Western Maine Transportation Services checked out the buses Friday. They belong to another New England transit agency that may be willing to sell to the LATC and the state of Maine.

“They are older buses, and Western Maine spoke to the operators,” Nadeau said. “They saw them (Friday) morning and the initial reports are very good. These buses could be real possibilities.”

Citylink has 10 buses in its fleet. Two 2002 Thomas/SLF buses were removed from service permanently in September because of problems with rust and corrosion. Four Bluebird buses are out of service awaiting parts.

Citylink reduced service last week, going from one-hour round-trips on most routes to two hours, due to the lack of working buses.

“These three buses could really fill a lot of holes,” he said. “They could replace the SLFs we had to take out of service and give us one additional bus to use as a spare.”

Nadeau and other members of the LATC are scheduled to discuss problems with the Citylink fleet with members of Lewiston and Auburn City Councils Tuesday at a joint meeting.

That meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Lewiston City Council chambers.

“This has been a task to get to this place,” Nadeau said. “We have had to fall back on a number of resources. And that is not normal. This is not the normal way of doing business when you own a bus, it should not be like this.”

A state audit performed in April and May found 17 violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in the fleet managed by Western Maine Transportation Services. They including nine violations for failing to keep appropriate maintenance records and eight for problems with anti-lock brake systems and speedometers.

The violations occurred with Western Maine’s own fleet of 25 ADA and on-demand buses.

The state review included a list of changes Western Maine was required to make. Those involved removing vehicles in need of state inspections from service, hosting safety seminars for Western Maine drivers and maintenance staff, and keeping better records for all vehicles maintained by Western Maine. In addition to Citylink, the company manages the fleet for Sugarloaf’s Mountain Explorer. It also operates its own on-demand ADA accessible fleet.

The transit committee hired a national bus expert to review the Citylink fleet and Western Maine Transportation’s maintenance practices. That study was initially scheduled to be released at the end of October, but Nadeau said it’s been pushed back into mid-November.

“He just didn’t anticipate finding the number of problems he found with all aspects of these buses we have, the low floor Thomas/SLFs and the Bluebirds,” Nadeau said.

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