AUBURN — Valerie Winston is not a happy lady.

This week the 65-year-old New Auburn woman learned that, due to a recent crash that disabled a Citylink bus, she and her son will now have to wait two hours instead of one to catch rides along their routes.

It’s the kind of disruption that can send a person’s daily routine into disarray.

“My son has special needs and he works,” she said. “He has a monthly bus pass but now he has to pay for a taxi just to come home from work. Me, I’m a senior citizen and I have health trouble. I have arthritis in the left leg. Now when I go out to do blood work and everything, I have to spend the whole damn day out because the bus only comes every two hours.”

Temporary Schedule Change by sunjournal on Scribd

Particularly galling, Winston said, is the fact that Lewiston bus routes will not be disrupted at all by the change. Buses there, she said, still come every hour.


“I don’t think that’s fair,” she said. “I mean we pay taxes over here, right?”

To his credit, Lawrence Allen, transit program manager for Citylink, gets it. The fact that this change will likely linger into mid-summer is rough news for people who rely on the buses.

“When we issue service alerts in the evening or early morning hours telling folks that service won’t be available on their routes on rare occasions, I think folks understand,” he said on Thursday. “When they see something every day or every few days, it’s disheartening — to them and to us. It’s hard to plan for work or groceries or medical appointments if you don’t have consistency in your ability to get around.  We have not had consistency for a while and this most recent accident pushed the likelihood of regular full service right off the table.

“Nobody takes our transit responsibilities lightly,” Allen said. “We know what a necessity this service provides.”

Citylink buses wait for passengers to board in January at the bus station on Bates Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

Since the start of the year, Citylink bus service locally has been plagued by service interruptions caused by a combination of mechanical issues and staffing shortages due to illness.

On Wednesday, the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, which oversees transportation in Lewiston and Auburn, announced the news that Auburn bus routes 4, 5 and 9 will be modified as a result of the bus shortage. The notice went like this:


“Due to a vehicle crashing into our bus, rendering it out of service, Citylink is forced to reduce service weekdays until a repair or replacement can be put in place. We do not have enough vehicles in service to fully operate the schedules during weekdays. We are working as quickly as possible to rectify the situation but patrons should be prepared for a lengthy service modification.

“We have two new buses on order but they are not scheduled to be manufactured until July so likely in service mid- to late-August,” the notice continues. “The route modifications are not ideal, however they do allow for EVERY route to receive regular service.  Some routes are every hour, some are every two hours.”

The affected routes are:

• Route 4 is New Auburn and services both cities and both bus stations.
• Route 5 is Minot Avenue and serves Auburn as the second leg of Downtown Shuttle.
• Route 9 is Downtown Shuttle and services both cities and both bus stations.

According to Allen, Citylink is trying to make the best of a bad situation, but a lot of factors are working against them. There are maintenance issues and supply chain issues, exacerbated by the recently damaged bus. In recent months, Citylink has experienced a kind of perfect storm of setbacks.

“A fleet of nine experiencing three bus losses in a year and a half is unheard of,” he said. “Add supply chain issues effecting the maintenance and repair of the buses that remain and you have a system short on resources trying to keep everyone serviced — some way, somehow.”


Citylink was originally told it would be December before they could get two new buses added to their fleet. That has since been pushed up to July or August, which means it will still be five or six months of less-than-ideal bus schedules.

“We have little faith, at least for the time being, that we will have a full compliment of buses to provide ‘normal service’ where every route gets service at least one time per hour,” Allen said. “With this modification, we can cover three routes with one bus over the course of two hours. It also allows us to serve EVERY route, so no rider is completely without transit service.”

Allen and his team have been working with outside groups in hopes of remedying the situation as best they can.

“I have to say that Western Maine Transportation Services has been going out of their way to keep service going,” he said. “Even when we don’t have a bus, they were offering on-demand service to the Minot Avenue riders that needed it. They have some regulars that use the bus for a way to work and they were able to make sure those folks got where they needed to be.”

Citylink is also working with the Maine Department of Transportation in hopes of further supplementing its fleet.

“As things progress, like always, I’ll be getting the word out as fast as I can to everyone that depends on us,” Allen said.

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