The BREEZ commuter bus runs between Portland and Brunswick, with stops in Yarmouth and Freeport. The Yarmouth Town Council is deciding whether to continue the service. Gregory Rec / Portland Press Herald

YARMOUTH — A commuter bus that runs between Portland, Yarmouth and points north has been “very successful,” according to Greater Portland Metro, which operates the public transit service.

Now the Town Council is considering whether to continue funding – a decision that could determine whether the service survives.

A three-year pilot project is coming to an end, and keeping the Metro BREEZ rolling will cost the town nearly $78,000 annually starting in fiscal year 2021. A vote on the funding is expected at the council’s Aug. 15 meeting.

At an Aug. 1 workshop, Town Manager Nat Tupper told councilors annual BREEZ ridership is hovering around 16,000, and it has increased every year over the past three years.

If the council decides not to continue funding, he said, service would cease Dec. 31 and the decision would likely affect other communities on the route, including Freeport and Brunswick.

Brunswick’s Town Council voted in June to extend BREEZ service through December, at a cost of approximately $48,000. It could cost the town almost $78,000 by 2021 if it elects to join the Metro service permanently.

Denise Beck, Metro director of marketing, this week said the BREEZ service between Portland and Brunswick “has exceeded expectations by more than 40%. It is often necessary to use larger buses on the route to accommodate our passengers. It’s been very successful.”

She also said service to Yarmouth, in particular, is “very successful and popular.”

There are three BREEZ stops in Yarmouth; the busiest is in front of Town Hall on Main Street, Beck said. The other two stops are the Exit 15 Park & Ride lot off Interstate 295 and the Hannaford grocery store on Route 1.

Following last week’s workshop, Tupper said the Town Council initially supported the pilot project three years ago for several reasons, including easing highway congestion, public interest and demand, and reduction of sprawl. The BREEZ remains the only public bus service in town.

The goal of the BREEZ is to be an express service, Beck said, adding it’s a convenient and affordable means of public transportation that allows riders to avoid driving to work, dealing with traffic, and paying for parking.

During the trial period the service has been paid for with a combination of federal grants and matching funds from Yarmouth, Freeport and Brunswick, Beck said. She said the assessment of nearly $78,000 to each community to continue the commuter bus would help cover operational costs and some of the overhead costs incurred by Metro.

“The service has been very successful; it’s exceeding expectations and providing a valuable connection between these communities,” Beck said. “The success of this route shows that people in this region will use public transit if it’s convenient and affordable.”

Tupper this week said he hopes councilors will continue the funding.


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