2017-12-14 / Editorial

Shuttlebus network is always improving

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

Ridership on the Shuttlebus-Zoom system has been growing strongly as the number of routes has expanded. Schedule times have been simplified to be consistent across all seven days, and more late nights have been added for those who work evenings. As fewer want to drive on their own, more students are riding. You can get help with routes, schedules and transfers by calling 282-5408.

Tucked away at their headquarters on Pomerleau Street in Biddeford near the YMCA, the Shuttlebus-Zoom team is managing all this growth and activity. I spoke to Director Al Schutz and Mobility Manager Perian Carpenter to get the latest news and updates.

The most popular year-round run by number of riders is probably the Zoom Turnpike Express, which is the high speed commuter bus from the Biddeford and Saco Park and Ride locations to Portland and back. This route is popular with business people who work in Portland and staff at Maine Medical Center, who have a little more of a relaxing morning and avoid battling for parking in Portland.

However, Shuttlebus-Zoom also provides local service across Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach, including a route for University of New England students. These buses head out from the Saco Transportation Center (which doubles as the Downeaster Amtrak Station). Routes include the Biddeford shops at Five Points and Biddeford Crossing, as well as Southern Maine Health Care. Another bus heads to the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce, where you can transfer to the Portland Intercity Service to Scarborough and Portland, which runs every hour. Transfers are free within the system. This service is great for those who work at the Maine Mall or other area businesses. The last bus leaves the mall at 9:30 p.m. This service also provides a connection to the Greyhound in Portland.

Shuttlebus-Zoom also operates the Old Orchard Beach Trolley System, which runs during summer throughout Old Orchard Beach and Camp Ellis. It is very popular with families and tourists, and in recent years has roughly tripled in ridership.

The team has also developed the “Transit Angel Project.” This project promotes local mobility by offering businesses and organizations the option to purchase bus passes and donate them to a charity of their choice. If you are interested in doing something nice for the community at the holidays, this is an excellent option. Passes can feature a business logo. You can also keep some bus passes at your company’s office to hand out to those in need. The team at Shuttlebus-Zoom is on a mission to strengthen transportation accessibility one wish at a time.

The most frequently asked question is, “Are the buses running?” Although some storms will inevitably prevent the buses from running, and traffic incidents can cause unavoidable delays, with the new seven-day schedule, the buses are running almost every day. You can follow the Shuttlebus-Zoom on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

New routes are always being considered. The Maine Department of Transportation has hired a consulting firm to assist with a Sanford to Biddeford run, now in development. This will open more transit opportunities as well as service the new consolidated courthouse in Biddeford once it opens. This new route will be developed in coordination with York County Community Action.

Director Al Schutz, who was hired from a transit company in New York and is president of the Maine Transit Association, continues to be forward looking. He envisions continued growth, including the possible addition of more efficient electric buses, and further additions of new routes that tie into other regional transit systems. Cellphone tracking of buses is also being discussed. All of these improvements would be great for the area. Schutz has also been proactive in developing mutually beneficial public-private partnerships, such as those with Hannaford, Market Basket, Martins Point, SMHC and Wal-Mart, which have helped expand the route. Martins Point Health Care in Biddeford has purchased passes, which they make available to patients. Hannaford also offers one free bus pass for every $25 purchased – ask a person at the register.

Drivers would like you to know that it is important to clearly signal the approaching bus, particularly in bad weather when visibility is challenging, to ensure they don’t miss you. All buses are wheelchair accessible and feature bike racks.

Many regular ShuttleBus-Zoom bus riders speak of the friendly drivers and getting to know their fellow bus riders as an enjoyable part of their day. We are fortunate to have the growing, forward-thinking Shuttlebus-Zoom Team network here in our community. If you have questions, feel free to contact Perian either by email or phone for more information or to set up a speaking engagement about the Transit Angel Project. Contact her at pcarpenter@shuttlebus-zoom.com or call 282-5408. See you at the bus stop!

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is an Independent State Representative serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste Commission. Marty hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show. Find it on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, and sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/repgrohman.

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