A Citylink bus stops at the Great Falls Plaza station in Auburn in 2016. A transit study this year could lead to a complete overhaul of the public transportation system in Lewiston-Auburn. Sun Journal file photo

LEWISTON — An ambitious transit study outlined earlier this year will begin with a public survey, transportation officials announced Thursday.

The $100,000 study by the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center could lead to a complete overhaul of the public transportation system in Lewiston-Auburn. Officials have long said the Citylink bus service, as well as public transportation in the neighboring towns of Lisbon and Sabattus, is not effectively meeting the needs of the communities.

In a news release Thursday, Jennifer Williams, transportation director for the center, said the goal of the study is “to design the most effective, efficient transit system for the region starting from the bottom up.”

Citylink has been Lewiston and Auburn’s primary bus service since 1976, with system hubs at Oak Street in Lewiston and Great Falls Plaza in Auburn.

“With the dramatic changes in the area’s population over the last 10 years, they are looking to reexamine that service and develop a plan for both immediate and long-term improvements,” she said of Citylink.

Williams said the first step in the study is to hear from residents, including those who have never used a bus service. The survey is being conducted online via Survey Monkey. It will be available online through mid-December.

“Even if you are not a current Citylink customer, your feedback is essential to understanding what specific improvements we want to make, both short and long term,” she said.

The study will eventually result in recommendations to improve transit convenience, reliability, and accessibility for riders, as well as reduce travel times between destinations and expand service at times and locations where there is the highest demand.

An earlier memo from the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee, which oversees Citylink, said, “At this point in time, we do not feel that the current transit system is functioning as efficiently as it should, in order to meet the transit needs of the area.”

According to the memo, the study will be paid with money from the Federal Highway Administration, Urban Planning and Federal Transit Administration Planning allocated to Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center.

Last year, during budget discussions in Auburn, Citylink’s Marsha Bennett described several issues with the current system, including some 90-minute routes.

Funding for Citylink was restored to previous levels this year, after Auburn partially cut its funding in 2017, which effectively doubled due to matching federal dollars. Following the decision, transportation officials said the move impacted route times and overall service and affected ridership numbers and route miles — figures that play into federal funding levels.

During that same period, ridership steadily decreased from all-time highs in 2015. The trend has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, but according to Williams, “experts are expecting numbers to begin to return to normal sometime next year.”

The study is scheduled to be completed in 2021, with study updates and the final reports available at www.avcog.org, or by clicking here.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.