Commuters in the state-run van pool have asked the Maine Department of Transportation for a year-long extension of the service, which is scheduled to end in May.

The riders also hope to get the attention of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee by attending its meeting today, when transportation officials plan to give a presentation about why the service is ending.

The Department of Transportation informed 225 van pool riders late last month that it has decided to end the service because it won’t have the federal funding needed to replace its aging vehicles.

Sue Moreau, passenger services manager for the transportation department, has said the state owns 27 vans, which have a useful life of about five years. Each van costs $40,000 to $45,000, and no vans have been replaced since 2008, she has said.

Most commuters who use the van pool service are state workers who go to Augusta. Other routes include Portland to Lewiston, Augusta to Portland, and Van Buren to Limestone

Go Maine, the state-funded program that oversees the van pool and other commuter services, has offered to help commuters find van rides through Michigan-based VPSI Inc., a business that says it can offer a comparable service.

But riders who have looked into using VPSI say it could cost significantly more money, and it requires one of the riders to take on the burden of leasing the van.

“It’s really completely different,” said Bob Stein, who has been commuting from Portland to Augusta in a van pool for the past six years.

On Wednesday, Stein sent a letter to Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt, signed by more than 100 van pool riders, saying they were “dismayed and stunned” by the announcement that the service was ending so abruptly, and by the department’s failure to contact riders before making that decision.

“We are sure you regret this oversight and hope you agree it should be rectified,” the letter says.

The letter proposes a year-long extension to give the transportation department time to work with riders and explore more possibilities for keeping the program going, such as raising fees or finding other funding.

Spokesman Ted Talbot said the department had been planning to increase its fees for the service by 25 to 30 percent before it decided to end it.

Stein said he got a response to the letter Wednesday from Moreau, who said the commissioner had asked her to meet with riders to talk about the transition to using VPSI.

He said he hopes legislators will help the riders get more than that from the transportation department.

Nina Fisher, the department’s legislative liaison, said it’s possible for lawmakers to introduce legislation to keep the program going, but it’s late in the session to do that and she doesn’t think it’s likely.

Fisher said there’s no public comment period scheduled during the Transportation Committee’s meeting, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. today. “We’re simply briefing them on what we’re doing,” she said.

Stein said he doesn’t expect many riders to attend the meeting, but at least a few will be there to answer any questions that committee members may have.

“Honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said, “but we’ll be there.”

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

[email protected]