Elderly, disabled riders save their bus stop

Posted on August 14, 2008. Filed under: MEDIA, METRO, METRO RIDERS |

Elderly, disabled riders save their bus stop

The city drops its plan to scrap a downtown bus route after residents at 100 State Street oppose it.

http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=204642&ac=PHnws

By ELBERT AULL, Staff Writer
 
August 14, 2008
 

City officials recently proposed the first major redesign of Portland’s bus routes in more than three decades, part of an effort to make them more efficient in a time of rising fuel prices and increased interest in public transportation.

But their initial plan came under fire from residents of 100 State Street, who would have lost the bus stop in front of their building as part of the sweeping redesign.

City officials on Wednesday said they will present a different proposal — one that would allow that bus stop to remain — during a meeting at the elderly housing complex this afternoon.

The presentation will come two days after Beatrice Cormier of Portland submitted a petition to city officials urging them not to close the State Street stop.

“Just because I’ve got a walker doesn’t mean I’m going to be stuck in the house,” said Cormier, 77, who lives at 100 State Street and often rides the bus to do errands.

She now boards the bus on its No. 8 route, which stops in front of the complex as it zig-zags through the city’s peninsula.

Last month, the Greater Portland Transit District floated the idea of a route change that would have moved the bus stop about a block away — to the corner of State and Danforth streets. City officials said the realignment would straighten out the No. 8 route and make it faster.

Residents said the switch would make getting to the bus difficult during the winter, and said the trek downhill on State Street would be treacherous with a walker, cane or wheelchair.

A number of other bus riders attending public hearings on the redesign over the past month also argued against changes to the No. 8 line, city officials said.

David Redlefsen said the response convinced him to dump the proposal. Most of the participants at hearings, including residents of 100 State Street, have been loyal customers for years, and city officials felt it was better to devise another plan than to alienate them, said Redlefsen, general manager of the bus service.

The new proposal seeks a compromise between the bus line’s need to serve its base customers and its leadership’s desire to expand, he said.

Metro has two buses on the current No. 8 route that run on a half-hour schedule. The latest proposal keeps one of the buses on the existing route and reassigns the other to an alternate “Peninsula Loop.”

The loop would take riders from the Hannaford Supermarket on Forest Avenue to the city’s rail and interstate bus depot on Thompson’s Point. It would head to the Casco Bay Ferry, around the Eastern Promenade and back to Forest Avenue for a stop at the University of Southern Maine, city officials said.

They have yet to release a drawing of the proposed route.

Splitting up the buses will double wait times at bus stops to one hour, Redlefsen said.

Councilor Kevin Donoghue, chairman of the transit study committee, said he believes Metro will still be able to attract new customers, despite the longer waits.

“I think this will be better than the status quo,” said Donoghue, who is also a member of Metro’s board of directors.

The transit district is also considering a plan to merge the city’s No. 1 and No. 5 bus routes, which would take riders from Munjoy Hill to the Maine Mall in South Portland.

The route realignment would need approval from both the City Council and Metro’s board of directors. Redlefsen said that the approval could come this fall and that the changes could take effect as early as December.

Donoghue, Redlefsen and City Councilor David Marshall, who represents the West End, will present the modified No. 8 bus route proposal during a 1 p.m. meeting today at 100 State Street.

Staff Writer Elbert Aull can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

eaull@pressherald.com

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