2018-11-08 / Front Page

County transportation issues: Bus routes, rides for seniors

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK – The Maine Department of Transportation held a public meeting at Kennebunk Town Hall to get input from York County residents as to how they think public transportation can be improved.

Mary Ann Hayes of the Maine Department of Transportation mediated the Nov. 1 meeting. Bob Currie from York County Community Action Program and Al Schultz from Shuttlebus-Zoom also participated.

Hayes shared concerns that had been brought to the meetings by both residents and officials, adding that at the end of the meeting, there would be a vote to determine which points would be prioritized when the Maine Department of Transportation makes an official plan for public transportation in York County during the next few months.

Hayes brought up lack of routes between towns, lack of technology available to track and plan bus trips, lack of qualified drivers and funding for improvements. Also being considered is the implementation of ride sharing options, such a ZipCars and bicycle stations.

Prior to the vote, the 25 residents gathered were able to share some of concerns they believed should be added to the list of priorities.

Paul Weiss of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition expressed concerned over the lack of focus on the environmentally friendly option of furthering rail travel. He said there should be more of a focus on how the DOT will move forward considering the reality of climate change.

“We’re not thinking big enough,” Weiss said. “Climate change is going to be upon us before we know it. We need to be ready.”

A common refrain throughout the meeting was the concern for seniors left without transportation. Of those was Duffy Gold, who was there to represent the people of Shapleigh and the state’s Lakes Region. Where she lives, there is no access to public transportation, something she feels needs to be remedied as soon as possible. Gold said people are put in a position that if they need to go to a doctor’s appointment, they need to rely on neighbors and relatives.

Wanda Heath of Kennebunk talked about her experiences driving her daughter to the bus stop every day. She asked why there is still no train station in Kennebunk and said she was frustrated that the town isn’t prioritizing the station.

“Every day while I drive I see a man, who must be about 70, who rides his bike every day to the bus station. This is an older man. He should not, under any circumstances, have to rely on a bike to get public transportation,” Heath said. “The town has been aware of this for a while. In 2014 we voted for a train station. What are we waiting for?”

Jean Saunders of Age Friendly Saco spoke about research she’s done to try and find transportation options for area seniors. She mentioned programs that are offered in other parts of the country that could be implemented by the state, such as Go Go Grandparent, which uses ride-sharing to get seniors from one to place to another. She thinks it’s time for there to be more options for seniors, most of whom, can no longer drive.

“We need to find a solution for the seniors in our community,” Saunders said, which was met with applause from the audience.

Voting was done using a handheld device passed out to all meeting participants. Members of the meeting could look at a projected screen for options and then select the number of the option desired to indicate what they thought was the highest priority, providing data in real time. Of those topics voted on were replacing aging fleets of buses, updating technology and the expansion of bus routes. Votes as a top priority was adding a general purpose bus route between Biddeford, Saco, Scarborough and Portland, and adding service between Kennebunk and Wells.

Hayes encouraged those who still had comments to send them to the Maine Department of Transportation. The next meeting has not been scheduled.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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