The Citylink bus route, left, would change to a type of on demand service outlined at right.

LEWISTON — Big changes in store for the Lewiston-Auburn transit system will be unveiled during a virtual public meeting next week.

The meeting, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, will announce the results of a comprehensive transit study conducted last year, which used public surveys and analyzed current bus routes and ridership to form a series of recommendations.

While a news release from the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center, which conducted the study, said many of the details would be presented during the meeting, the recommendations include eliminating some sparsely used routes in favor of an on-demand model.

The goal of the $100,000 study was to redesign the entire system into the most convenient and efficient model possible. 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.

Auburn City Councilor Tim MacLeod, who serves on the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee, said the proposal calls for many routes, particularly in Auburn, to be scaled down and replaced with a “demand response zone.” That would mean an individual calls for a ride to their destination instead of taking a bus along a predetermined route.

He said the study found that some routes would only see single-digit riders per week, meaning buses would sometimes make several round trips with no one on board.

MacLeod said if ultimately approved, it could be a “great starting point to pilot the on-demand service.”

The plan would also increase the frequency of service for the most-used routes, he said, meaning that wait times at bus stops would decrease.

According to the news release, an online survey of area residents late in 2020 received nearly 500 responses, “providing early feedback on which service improvements would be most helpful and rating the level of satisfaction from riders.”

The release said none of the proposed changes have been finalized and that survey results will also be available at the meeting.

Broadly, the recommendations include:

• Increasing the frequency of service along the most-used bus routes in the core areas of Lewiston and Auburn.

• Adding a third transfer location at Walmart, with more trips between both the Lewiston and Auburn hubs and Walmart.

• Adding “more robust” demand response service outside the city centers to increase access to transit.

• Streamlining service “by converting minimally used stretches at the end of bus routes to demand response service.”

Jennifer Williams, Transportation Division/Metropolitan Planning Organization director at Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments/Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center, said there is always a challenge in trying to balance more frequent bus service with a larger service area.

However, she said, “this proposal increases service to the places people travel to most often, and it also ensures that people who tend to need rides less often will still be accommodated. We are excited to hear people’s opinions about the proposed changes.”

Throughout the study, Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center and Citylink have been working with an advisory committee to provide guidance, and will be formally presenting the proposal to the committee later in April.

More details and maps of the proposed changes will be available during the meeting, as well as on either the Citylink or Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center websites after the public meeting.

A final survey will be available immediately after the meeting for people who want to comment in an online format, and will be available for two weeks.

Those interested in attending the virtual meeting may preregister for the meeting or click here at 6 p.m. on April 7.

Those interested in attending the virtual meeting at 6 p.m. April 7 may register at https://tinyurl.com/txkh2833.

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