Lakes Region Explorer adds Saturday service
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — A familiar sight along Route 302 from Windham to Bridgton and all the areas in between, the Lakes Region Explorer is now on the road on Saturday, too.
As of July 1, the regional bus service added Saturday to its weekday schedule, according to the Regional Transportation Program (RTP) Director Jack Deberadinis.
“We are starting a Saturday service,” Deberadinis said.
Prior to July 1, the bus service was offered only Monday through Friday. The bus goes into Portland, where people can use their transfer ticket to ride any of the Portland lines. RTP established the bus service in 2014.
“We have placards in the bus that give the times of the Saturday service. We think that is an important part of the service and it will generate more riders,” Deberadinis said.
“We had 8,800 boarding this year. We can expect 10,000 or more, especially with the Saturday service,” he said. “It is building and we will get to where we need to be.”
For some people in the communities along the bus route, there was some concern about the status of the bus. That was after Naples nixed the bus budget during the annual town meeting in early June. Some people wondered if the bus would no longer stop in Naples.
Some folks would be surprised to hear that the Lakes Region Explorer is expanding, instead of cutting back.
Naples’ decision to not fund the bus service this year will not impact the scheduled stops in the town, Deberadinis said.
“We will continue the three stops in Naples,” he said.
“This is a regional service, not just a service for a particular town,” he said. “The idea is that folks get on in each town. Individuals get on the bus and come into the communities for recreation and tourism.”
The Naples stops will continue as scheduled and the bus will still use the American Legion Post 155 parking lot, he said.
“First of all we respect the town’s decision to not fund the bus,” Deberadinis said. “We appreciate that there were a number of individuals who voted for the bus.”
“I do want to point out that Naples American Legion has been very generous and helpful to the bus service. They provide the winter home. They have an area to park the bus overnight and they plow the area. It is a distinct benefit to park in that area that is plowed out everytime it snows,” Deberadinis said.
“It is not like we don’t get any support from Naples. From the beginning, the American Legion has been supportive and provided the bus with a place to park. There is a true value in having that,” he said.
Another question community members have asked is if the other towns will have to pay more to cover Naples’ share.
“Will we ask other towns to cover funding? Absolutely not. The other four towns have made their decision. We asked for a certain amount from each town. The fact that Naples won’t fund it this year won’t affect any other towns,” he said.
More importantly, the regional bus service relies more on federal government funding than it does the money from the towns it serves. In other words, most of the money comes from the federal government.
“All public transportation is dependent on government subsidies. Our fiscal year is October through September. It just happens to coincide with the federal government’s fiscal year,” he said.
“The key piece of funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration (FAA.) They are late this year announcing the allotment they will make,” he said.
He stressed that the Explorer will continue to make the three stops in Naples and not bypass the town.
“We hope to talk to the new administration [in Naples] this coming year and ask them to fund it next year,” he said. “We think it is best to wait for a new town manager.”
For more information and copies of the bus schedule, go to Lakes Region Explorer’s Facebook page.