AUBURN — A Concord Coach Lines bus service connecting Lewiston and Auburn to Portland, Boston and Logan Airport officially began Monday, and customers were already taking advantage of the two Auburn connections to travel south.

Officials in downtown Auburn, where one of the connections can be made at the Great Falls Transportation Center, were still working out a few kinks on the first day, including additional signs to identify parking. 

Most customers it seemed were already up to speed, being dropped off for the bus, which then connects to the all-new Lewiston-Auburn Transportation Center off Interstate 95. 

For city officials, parking in downtown Auburn, especially surrounding Great Falls Plaza, the Hilton Garden Inn and other downtown locations, is admittedly complicated. There aren’t many long-term parking options, and most meters or spaces are capped at one or two hours, adding to the number of parking ticket calls fielded by Auburn police. 

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte on Monday said the Concord Coach Lines service is significant for the city. He was the lead advocate in getting the service to come to the area. 

The Great Falls Transportation Center, which opened in 2016 as the main hub for the Lewiston-Auburn Citylink bus service, was designed with standards suitable to Concord Coach Lines as well. That means higher standards for maintenance, lighting and cleanliness. 

“Six trips between Portland and Boston — it’s certainly attractive to have that connection,” he said Monday about the addition of the Concord service. 

But, he also said Monday that parking downtown is a “nightmare.” That could prove troublesome for anyone looking to park downtown and take a bus south for an overnight trip or longer, which adds to the appeal of the Exit 75 center. 

A ribbon-cutting was held last week for the Lewiston-Auburn Transportation Center at Exit 75, which was designed to be the main hub for the new Lewiston-Auburn connection. LaBonte said Concord was not going to begin service through the downtown Auburn location until the Exit 75 center opened.

He said Concord wanted to make sure there was a large enough parking area for the majority of customers to leave vehicles. Customers enter through the Park & Ride lot and overnight parking is available. 

The Concord Coach Lines website says parking is available at the Exit 75 hub, but nothing is listed for the downtown Auburn stop.

But, Michael Chaine, support services officer for the Auburn Police Department, said at least six spots will be designated for Concord Coach customers to use for overnight parking downtown, and that signs will be going in soon to mark the spaces. 

The first customers Monday for the Concord service, he said, had been dropped off, seemingly aware or guessing that parking could be difficult. 

The downtown Auburn location, LaBonte said, was seen as more of a place for “downtown connectivity for hospitality and business travelers,” people landing at Logan and coming up to the Hilton Garden Inn, or Bates (College) students landing at Logan and getting to campus. 

It’s used by “folks who may not require long-term parking,” he explained.

The Lewiston-Auburn Transportation Center gives people a long-term parking option that is convenient, he said. 

Chaine said he was with Auburn Public Services crew members Monday at the downtown lot, placing traffic cones and other measures to make sure the area was running smoothly. The Great Falls Transportation Center sits on the back end of the Great Falls Plaza lot, adjacent to the Auburn Housing Authority’s Esplanade apartment building. 

In the large lot, parking is broken up between the apartment units, Hilton Garden Inn event parking and permit day parking. 

LaBonte said roughly two years ago, the City Council gave the initial OK to establish pay-to-park kiosks in the downtown area, with the intention of using them places like the transportation center, but it hasn’t moved ahead.

The city owns a section of the lot immediately surrounding the Great Falls Transportation Center, but also leases a large parking lot space from Platz Associates. Those spaces are used by permit holders, most often for the Androscoggin County Superior Court, Chaine said. 

With the variety of uses, it gets confusing at times for those unfamiliar with the area.

Chaine said the department has been looking at changes to the lot to make it easier for people to park where they should.

The department receives calls from people who were ticketed while parking in the Hilton Garden Inn guest lot, instead of the event parking. Last week, a few calls came in following a senior expo held there. 

A request for comment from the hotel was not returned Monday, but the city says there are 11 signs in use to direct traffic where to park. 

“We do have people park where they’re not supposed to,” said Claire Barclay, Auburn police information assistant. 

Chaine said following the changes, traffic will be directed on the Esplanade side, and the Hilton function parking will have its own closed-off section of the lot. 

According to the city’s website, the large majority of downtown parking is limited to one or two hours. Permits can be purchased, however, for either the Great Falls Plaza lot or the Mechanics Row parking garage at Auburn Hall. 

One-day passes are $5 and monthly passes are $45.

[email protected] 

A Citylink bus, far left, departs from the new Auburn Bus Terminal in the Esplanade on Monday afternoon.

A Concord Coach Line bus leaves the new Auburn Bus Terminal in the Esplanade on Monday afternoon.

A Concord Coach Line bus arrives at the new Auburn Bus Terminal in the Esplanade on Monday afternoon.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: