The operators of Shuttlebus Zoom will outline proposed changes, including a fare-capping system, rewards program and fare increase at a series of upcoming public meetings in Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach. Journal Tribune file photo

A change in how Shuttlebus Zoom riders pay for their trips, a fare increase, a new rewards program that offers incentives and a regional fare policy are up for discussion during public meetings in Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach starting Monday Dec. 9.

Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit plans to introduce new payment options that will allow riders to pay fares using either a mobile app or a re-loadable smart card.

The changes are similar to those announced by Greater Portland Metro in May. Metro officials told the Portland Press Herald that their program was due to roll out sometime in 2020.

Base fares for Shuttlebus Zoom are proposed to increase to $2 from $1.50. Transit officials said they recognize many riders live on limited incomes, but that the fare increase is necessary to keep pace with operational costs.

“The increase is timed to coincide with the introduction of new fare payment technology and the ‘fare capping rewards program’ approach to help improve the affordability of using transit and the overall equity of our fare pricing,” said the agency’s spokesman Craig Pendleton.

Pendleton said the new fare activates a 90-minute pass, and riders can take unlimited trips within that time frame.


“When you tap in, you have 90 minutes. If you had to go to grocery store and (a pharmacy) you could probably do that on one charge,” Pendleton said.

He said the last fare increase, in 2017, affected multi-ride passes for Portland’s intercity buses, but not local routes.

He said there are benefits that come with the smart cards.

“If you take 15 round trips in a month, the rest of the rides are free,” Pendleton said. “And we have people having bus rides every single day.”

Both the proposed mobile app and the smart card can be linked to an account that riders can fund from bank accounts, credit cards, or pre-paid debit cards. Riders without access to banking would be able to load cash onto a smart card at the Transit customer service office at the Saco Transportation Center or at proposed municipal and designated retail outlets across the region. Riders using a mobile app or smart card would be required to scan their card or phones when they board the bus.

Pendleton said BSOOB Transit mobility manager Perian Carpenter has been visiting various locations, like senior housing complexes, adult education classes, and meeting with new Mainers, explaining how the proposed system will work and showing people how to use smart cards.


Transit officials outlined some additional facets of the proposed program:

• When paying fares by mobile app or smart card, full fare local riders would not pay more than $6 per day and $60 per month. Riders eligible to pay reduced fares would not pay more than $3 per day and $30 per month for local service. Upon hitting daily and monthly fare caps, the rider rewards program is activated and all rides thereafter are free.

• The fare capping rewards program is a pay-as-you-go approach that allows all riders equal access to discounts based on their transit use, allowing lower income riders who cannot afford the upfront cost of a 10-ride ticket or monthly pass access to the same discounting as higher income riders. The new automated fare payment options allows riders to pay only for what they use.

• Cash will continue to be accepted on all buses, but paper transfers would no longer be offered.

• Students and veterans will be added to the list of those who qualify for reduced fares.

Riders, businesses, social service agencies and the general public are invited to the public meetings. The first is set for Monday, Dec. 9 at the Saco Transportation Center, 138 Main St.; on Dec 10, there’s a meeting at the Old Orchard Beach Town Hall, 1 Portland Ave.; and one on Dec. 12, in the community room at McArthur Public Library, 270 Main St., Biddeford. All meetings are from 6 to 7 p.m.

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