South Portland is adding Saturday evening bus service on Route 21 starting July 1. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND  The city bus service will start providing Saturday night service on one route beginning July 1.

The service’s two other routes will have time added to inbound trips to accommodate increased traffic and avoid delays. 

The bus schedule for Route 21 , which travels from Willard Square and Southern Maine Community College to downtown Portland, will have almost twice as many rides available on Saturday. The last bus from Portland will leave at 11:05 p.m., as opposed to 6:30 p.m.

Riders board a South Portland bus heading to Portland. In addition to later runs on Route 21 on Saturday nights this summer, two routes will have time added to inbound trips. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

 Richard Sargent, South Portland Bus Service operations supervisor, said the change in service on Route 21 stems from a suggestion by City Councilor Katherine Lewis, who wanted residents to be able to visit Portland on weekends without having to worry about leaving early. 

“The extended hours give them time to see a movie in town, enjoy the night out, and come home later if they want to,” he said. “We’re running this until Oct. 30 in a trial period to see how often people utilize the service.” 

The outbound trip for Route 24A, which serves the Maine Mall via Main Street and downtown Portland, will have a slight adjustment to outbound trips. The biggest adjustments were made to inbound trips to Portland, with 10-15 minutes added to buses after 1 p.m.

Route 24B, which travels to the Maine Mall via the Community Center, will have a similar extension in hours.

“We wanted to make it easier for buses to get back into town,” Sargent said. “We added so much more time so when they leave Portland, they have more time to get to the mall, more time to do the loop around, and the driver has the ability to sit at the mall for 10 minutes if necessary, instead of having to rush back knowing they’ll be met with heavy traffic delays.” 

The bus service has also been under pressure to upgrade its bus fare technology after Greater Portland METRO announced a fare increase in February. Fares for seniors and the disabled who are unwilling or unable to get a smartcard would pay double, which would violate federal law if left unaddressed. 

Sargent said there is still a lot to be worked on before any definite changes are made. He said the Bus Service Citizens Advisory Committee, formed in March, has been working with closely with METRO. 

Arthur Handman, director of the bus service, said “we hope to work on some formalized agreement between all bus parties in Maine regarding how we’ll handle transfers and other bus matters in the future.” 

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