Take the bus! Western Maine Transportation Services may expand routes

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OXFORD COUNTY — Western Maine Transportation Services wants to improve its service – providing transportation to the public.

“We’re looking forward to analyzing the results of the survey so we can make our services more relevant to more people,” said Craig Zurhorst, community relations director of Western Maine Transportation Services Inc. in Auburn.

WMTS has launched an online survey that will be available through Monday, May 8, to learn how it may be able to improve transportation throughout its service area, which includes Oxford, Androscoggin and Franklin counties and the towns of Brunswick and Topsham.

WMTS not only takes riders to medical appointments but can take them to and from work, pharmacies, shopping, hair and personal care appointments, libraries, visits with family and friends, food pantries, and meal and warming centers.

All this is available to seniors 60 or older, the disabled, Medicare assisted and children 5-11 for $1.50 one way or for others only $3 one way for rides 25 miles or less. Children younger than 5 ride free. A small additional fee is charged for longer rides.The pickups are limited availability based on  schedule.

The service is available to the public.

In a statement released last week, WMTS officials said the need and desire for additional public transportation is growing. In response, WMTS has launched the survey to learn what the public wants to improve service.

“We’re seeking input from as many people in our service area as we can reach, whether they use currently-available public transportation or not. This survey is about determining real-world needs so WMTS can work to offer relevant rural and urban public transportation options for everyone’s benefit,” Sandy Buchanan, general manager of WMTS, said in the statement.

Buchanan said WMTS currently operates bus and van services centered around population centers throughout its service area, as well as Lewiston-Auburn’s citylink buses, the Lisbon Connection commuter bus, the Brunswick Explorer bus and the Mountain Explorer and Sugarloaf Explorer seasonal bus services.

The survey asks why people do, or don’t, use public transportation, and if they do, where and when they use it. There are questions about what changes, additions and improvements riders would like to have made to fill crucial gaps in transportation services, including rural-rural and rural-urban connections.

The survey is available online at www.wmtsbus.org.  Anyone needing a printed version of the survey should call WMTS at 800-393-9335, ext. 208.

Buchanan continued, “We hear every day that the region needs more transportation options to ease the stress of commuting to work, to allow people to access educational opportunities, and get to everything from essential services like grocery shopping, to going to the movies and, of course, going to healthcare appointments, without having to use a personal vehicle.

“Even in our service area,” she continued, “we are aware of how the number of people who don’t drive due to economic, age or medical reasons, or just out of personal preference, is growing. These individuals span all age and socio-economic groups and also include tourists. This survey is the public’s chance to tell us what their transportation needs are.”

Oxford County rides

Currently, WMTS has Monday-Friday daytime bus service in Oxford County as follows:

River Valley

Rumford — to River Valley Crossing and Swift River Park;

Mexico — to Orchard Street, lower Back Kingdom Road and Region 9 Adult Education;

Dixfield — advance-request service to Elsmore Dixfield Family Medicine and Hall Hill Road.

Oxford Hills

Norway — to Water Street;

Paris — to Brett Hill Road, lower Paris Hill and Maine Veterans’ Home;

Oxford — to Walmart.

Weekly Lewiston/Auburn Trips

Farmington; Wednesday and Friday
Rumford: Wednesday
Norway: Tuesday
The weekly route  between Lewiston/Auburn include service to the Lewiston VA Clinic. Those wishing a ride or more information should call for reservations, details and additional stop locations.

Boundaries described are approximate and are for reference.

Anyone who needs a ride should call 800-393-9335, 24 hours in advance for reservations or for more information.

The survey is part of a study funded by the Maine Department of Transportation as part of the department’s goal of improving transit in Maine.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net