Bridgton-to-Portland bus run develops flat tire

The Bridgton Transportation Authority is saddened to report that the Lakes Region Bus will not be connecting Bridgton to Portland anytime before July 1, 2015, and perhaps not even then.
A start date for the bus leaving Bridgton, on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, had been decided upon, but during a conversation with Jack DeBeradinis, RTP’s executive director, earlier this week, there can be no interim service from Bridgton.
Among the several points DeBeradinis made during a candid chat with George Bradt, BTA secretary, the most significant is that, “RTP will not put itself in a position of providing a bus service only to cancel it a few months later. That would be unfair to Bridgton residents.”
“Rather than do that, let’s aim to start service from Bridgton in early July once RTP has received $50,000 from the five towns along the bus route,” DeBeradinis said. “This insures that no one will be disappointed.”
DeBeradinis also said that, “That the real cost extending the bus service from Naples to Bridgton is $1,417 per month or $17,000 per year.”
“For the past two months, the BTA has been working toward raising $5,000 which would cover the cost of extending the bus to Bridgton for the six months, ending on June 31, 2015,” said Bradt. “We’re at about $3,000 with more donations expected before year-end, and perhaps additions in early 2015.”
The Lakes Region Bus was slated to begin its Portland to Bridgton run in early July, but the initiative was pulled by RTP at the last moment citing lack of funds.
To restart the Bridgton to Portland connection, the BTA has been talking with Dan Goodman at RTP since October when he said the service would cost $10,000 annually.
“A second round of devastating news from RTP in just six months,” said a rather piqued Catherine Samuels, BTA president. “Knowing these two important facts months ago would have saved everyone involved trouble and heartbreak.”
Vigorous efforts to get DeBeradinis to see the current situation from a Bridgtonian’s point of view were steadfastly and repeatedly rebuffed, Bradt said.
“We’re completely baffled at this sudden turn of events,” said Bradt. “Bridgton plans may have been dealt a fatal blow when Dan Goodwin, RTP’s Community Outreach director, quit his post for another local transportation job in late November.”
Contributions made by check to the BTA will be returned to the donors in the very near future. The cash donations raised will be donated to the Bridgton Community Center.
The Future
During the last conversation with DeBeradinis on Dec. 2, he reaffirmed RTP’s interest in the Bridgton hub, as well as saying, “That RTP will keep the bus running from Naples to Portland through June, 2015.”
DeBeradinis made it very clear to Bradt that after June, “Funding the Lakes Region Bus must come from the five towns serviced by the bus. Once that funding is secure, RTP will also contribute a significant amount to keep the Route 302 service going.”
DeBeradinis plans to inform the town managers along the route of these facts before year’s end.
Both Zoe Miller, the Lakes Region representative from Opportunity Alliance, and Catherine Samuels, BTA president, have expressed interest in forming a group of concerned citizens along the vital 302 corridor to raise the funds needed to continue the LRB service.
The Bridgton Transportation Authority’s Facebook page and updates to The Bridgton News will track fundraising efforts over the next six months.
Talking Transit
Three members of the BTA are committed to continuing the conversation about the importance of public transportation in general, and to Bridgton residents in particular.
“There are many people who can’t drive a car,” said Sally Chappell. “Some don’t have a car, others don’t have a license, while still others are disabled. A majority of people don’t understand how expensive cars are.”
The group has already taped one episode of “Talking Transit,” and is making plans for further 20-minute episodes, courtesy of Lakes Region Television.
Catherine Samuels notes, “This opportunity is going to become increasingly important as the 302 towns rally to meet the collective fundraising goal.”
About the LRB
Portland-based Regional Transportation Program offers free rides from home to various medical appointments throughout Cumberland County. RTP has been offering para-transportation for 35 years, and has a current budget of about $6 million.
The Lakes Region Bus, connecting Naples to Portland, began operations a year ago. The LRB makes four round trips daily, Monday through Friday. The bus terminal is the VFW parking lot a short distance off Route 302 on Route 11 in Naples. The METRO terminal on Elm Street in downtown Portland is the other terminal for the LRB.
The LRB has 20 seats plus the capacity for two wheelchairs. Nine passengers can stand. The fare from Naples to Portland is $2 for seniors and students, $3 for everyone else.
It is estimated that a regular commuter from Bridgton to Portland could save $6,000 by taking the bus to work.

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