LIVERMORE — A pilot commuter bus service between Farmington and Lewiston-Auburn will begin the last week in March, a Western Maine Transportation official told selectmen Monday evening.

Craig Zurhorst, community relations director for WMTS Inc., said the new route was noted in a 2017 comprehensive transit feasibility study as being the highest priority for needed and desired public transit services in the region.

According to an information sheet Zurhorst provided, the pilot will begin as a Monday-through-Friday service with at least three round trips each day. The schedule will favor workers and students while still providing service for those with shopping, health care appointments or other destinations. Possible connections include Concord Coach and Greyhound.

Work on the schedule, distance-tiered fares and other details are being finalized.

WMTS will seek sponsorship and other funding for the service but is waiting for word on the amount of additional local match needed to make the service sustainable.

Service stops would ideally include parking, shelter, access to restrooms and assurance of year-round maintenance.

 

Craig Zurhorst, community relations director for Western Maine Transportation Services Inc., shares details Monday night of a pilot commuter service between Farmington and Lewiston-Auburn. The Monday-through-Friday service, offering at least three round trips a day, is scheduled to begin the last week of March. (Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Pam Harnden) Picasa

“We want to maximize the amount of service available. We have to follow federal guidelines,” Zurhorst said. “We can’t have a (stop) any closer than five miles. If we do, that takes us to a different, more expensive model that isn’t sustainable yet. Stops could include Farmington, Wilton, Jay or Livermore Falls, and Livermore.

“We’re very excited about this. We wanted to open dialogue with the town, ask for support in finding applicable stops,” Zurhorst said.

“We’re getting much more regular ridership on weekly runs. There’s an informal stop at Brettun’s Variety store,” Zurhorst said. “We’re not assuming that will be a regular stop.”

WMTS began a commuter run to Sugarloaf last year to support its need for employees. The third-year target for ridership projections was exceeded within two months, according to the 2017 transit study.

Selectperson Tom Gould asked if WMTS was looking at more than one stop between Farmington and Lewiston-Auburn.

Zurhorst said Wilton, Jay or Livermore Falls, Livermore and Turner all have potential for service. Stops would be more flexible in Farmington, with possible stops at the University of Maine at Farmington and another location. Central Maine Community College and Great Falls Plaza, both in Auburn, are viable stops.

“We’re looking to get people to their ultimate destination,” Zurhorst said. “We like to say, ‘What we do is fundamentally simple, moving people. How we do it isn’t always easy.'”

For more information, visit the WMTS website www.wmtsbus.org.

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