On August 24, the Metro BREEZ bus began regular commuter service between Brunswick and Portland. With $3 one-way tickets and a stop on Bath Road next to Pickard Theater, Bowdoin faculty and staff are already taking advantage of the new extended service.
The bus schedule is largely geared towards commuters, with established stops in Freeport and Yarmouth.
On weekdays, there are 14 northbound daily trips out of Portland beginning at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 9:05 p.m. Southbound trips leaving from Brunswick start at 6:05 a.m. and end 8:05 p.m.
On Saturdays, trips are less frequent. There are six northbound trips, beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 9:05 p.m. Southbound trips start at 9:15 a.m. and end at 8:05 p.m.
The extension to Brunswick comes one year into a three-year trial period for the bus, which is funded by both local and federal grants. In addition, Bowdoin plans to contribute $10,000 per year.
Sustainability Outreach Coordinator Bethany Taylor, a bus rider herself, praised the positive environmental impact of the extension.
“Anytime you can get people to drive less you’re winning,” she said. “I live in Portland, so I am particularly excited to have public transportation.”
In the first year of the pilot service, the line ran to Yarmouth, Falmouth and Freeport and had around 100 daily riders. According to Metro Director of Marketing Denise Beck, ridership on the line increased around 50 additional daily riders since the recent extension to Brunswick.
In 2015, a faculty and staff transportation survey was commissioned by Senior Lecturer in Physics Karen Topp and Sustainability Coordinator Keisha Payson to help better public transportation for the Bowdoin College and Brunswick communities.
That study revealed that there are potentially “538 regional public transportation riders among the Bowdoin faculty, staff and their households.” As for commuters, the study found that about 9 percent of College employees—or about 75 individuals—lived in Portland.
One of those commuters is Professor of Theater and Dance Sarah Bay-Cheng. She praised the effect of the bus on her productivity.
“It has Wi-Fi,” she said with a smile. “I get all of my email done in the morning on the way in.”
Another one of those riders will soon be Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Meryem Belkaïd, who is moving to Portland from Brunswick this week. Part of her decision was the new bus line extension.
“Now I know that I don’t have to buy a car, which I don’t want to do,” said Belkaïd.
Prior to coming to Maine, she lived in Tunis and Paris and relied on public transportation. For her past two years at Bowdoin, Belkaïd has gotten around by walking, biking or hitching rides with friends.
“I’ve always lived in big cities so I’m not a fan of driving,” she said. “Especially with the snow and everything.”
In Brunswick, bus stops can be found on Maine Street, in front of Rite Aid, at the Brunswick Train Station and on Bath Road next to Pickard Theater. Tickets can be purchased at either the Smith Union Info Desk or the Brunswick Train Station.