LEWISTON — Western Maine Transportation Services has added three new commuter runs in the past six weeks and more are expected as soon as it has the buses, Craig Zurhorst told the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of 
Commerce on Thursday.

On Dec. 1, Mountain Express commuter routes started from Lewiston-Auburn to Sunday River in Newry and from Dixfield-Mexico-Rumford to Sunday River.

On Dec. 17, the new Sugarloaf Express commuter route started from Stratton to Sugarloaf. That was spurred by the launch last winter of a Farmington to Sugarloaf run.

“That was incredibly successful,” Zurhorst, WMTS community relations director, told the breakfast crowd at the Ramada Inn. “We obtained our third-year ridership projections before the end of the season.”

He said many of the new routes were in response to a 2017 transit study. Planned for the future are:

• Commuter service from Lewiston-Auburn to Brunswick;

• Commuter service from Farmington to Lewiston-Auburn, eventually adding a spur up to Rumford to meet the bus bound for L-A; and

• A look at commuter services from Sabattus, Greene, Mechanic Falls and Poland to L-A.

“We’ll also be adding weekend and evening service as we’re able,” Zurhorst said. “We understand people want to go shopping after work and they may be able to get home on the bus, but they still can’t get out to do what they need to do after-hours.”

WMTS’s services had 450,000 riders last year. Demand for non-medical-related rides was up as more young people decide to forgo cars and more older people are looking to drive less, he said.

Speaking to business owners in the room, Zurhorst said he hoped they would consider reaching out to WMTS when they want to expand operations but know parking is a problem and when they need to recruit employees who have limited access to transportation. WMTS also offers a subscription service to employers to get workers to work and home in Lewiston-Auburn outside of Citylink’s operating hours.

“We are very, very optimistic about what we see is coming,” he said. “We’re here to serve people. Yes, we want the riders, but more importantly, we want to serve the people who want to ride.”

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