The 1 p.m. Southbound Metro BREEZ waits for passengers at the stop in front of Brunswick Station in this 2018 file photo. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Town councilors voted last week to keep the Metro BREEZ bus service permanently by joining the Greater Portland Transit District’s METRO as a member community. That move still depends on pending legislation that would include Brunswick in the Portland Area Transportation System. 

The Metro BREEZ bus service launched in June 2016 as a three-year pilot connecting Freeport, Yarmouth, Falmouth and Portland. In August 2017 the service extended to Brunswick, and stops in Falmouth have since been eliminated, with Falmouth on an alternate route, Assistant Town Manager Ryan Leighton told the town council in a June memo.  

The BREEZ stops at Maine Street by School Street, Maine Street by Everett Street, Bath Road by Bowdoin College and Station Avenue by the train station and town hall, Leighton said. It also stops at L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport. 

Leighton said Wednesday that nothing is expected to change for riders. 

The only caveat to the agreement is that legislation is needed to amend the current statute that defines Metro and its membership. As it stands, Brunswick is not included in the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, a federal metropolitan planning organization that coordinates transportation planning and investment decisions with the state, municipalities and public transportation partners, according to its website. The area extends as far south as Arundel, but only as far north as Freeport. 

Legislation is proposed to include Brunswick in the system. If it is not passed, “Brunswick and the Metro would need to revisit a contractual relationship to continue to the BREEZ service,” according to meeting documents, but “Metro has assurances that the bill will be considered in the upcoming legislative session.” 

Councilors voted in June to extend Brunswick’s Metro BREEZ service for an additional six months (through Dec. 31, as Metro operates on a January to December fiscal year),  a decision which cost the town roughly $48,000, included in the 2020 budget. Continuing the service and joining as a member community is expected to cost nearly $78,000 for 2021. 

Officials from Freeport and Yarmouth have voted to become members already and both communities will also have a $78,000 share. 

Ridership has exceeded original estimates in the two years that Brunswick has participated, according to Metro officials. From July 2018 to June 2019in Brunswick there were 18,747 boardings and 12,929 “alightings,” or people getting off the bus.

“It’s been great,” Eldridge said, “levels of ridership have really increased.” 

 

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