The Metro Breeze is still making daily but less than normal trips from Brunswick to Portland in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Darcie Moore/The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Use of public transportation in the Midcoast is down as more workers are being asked to stay at home to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Denise Beck, marketing director for Greater Portland Metro which operates the Metro Breeze, said its service has seen an overall 60% drop in ridership. Still, their bus services continues for these essential employees who need to get to work and others with critical needs.

The Metro Breeze is offering seven trips from Brunswick to Portland every day but Sunday, using a new schedule. That schedule roughly halves the number of rides to Portland but adds an early trip so people can be in Portland before 7 a.m.

Bus fare has also been suspended so riders don’t have to handle money, and an April 1 fare increase was postponed.

“We are monitoring what our service is,” Beck said. “We think it’s important to keep running and we’re going to run as long as we can and I think doing a reduced schedule right now makes sense.”

Similarly, the Brunswick Explorer is running a single bus instead of two but increasing service by an hour. The eastbound bus will leave from Mallard Pond Appartments on the even hours starting at 8 a.m. and the westbound bus will leave Sweetser on Bath Road on the odd hours starting at 9 a.m. The final bus leaves Sweetser at 5 p.m.

That should be the schedule at least until April 3 according to Craig Zurhorst, a spokesman for Western Maine Transportation Services which operates Brunswick Explorer.

The Lisbon Connection traveling from Lisbon Falls to Lewiston is suspending the first morning trip and final evening trip until April 3.

“I think the fact that we and most of the transportation providers are continuing some kind of service acknowledging the fact that people rely on public transit to get to the grocery stores and pharmacies, which are essential services,” he said.

He stressed to riders to make sure they know the destination they are traveling to is open before getting on the bus.

Brunswick Taxi has also seen the virus outbreak cut ridership by at least 60%. President Dale King said it’s the worst he’s seen business since he started it in 1991. He’s running four or five taxis instead of 10 as trips to the airport has dropped and local businesses and Bowdoin College have closed.

The taxi service is still taking older residents to Mid Coast Hospital or the pharmacy and even shuttling food or prescriptions for people who don’t want to go out.

“I’d like people to know that we’re still out there plugging away and if anyone needs a ride, give us a call,” he said.

Though Brunwick’s visitor center is closed, the Amtrak Downeaster is still making two round trips a day between Brunswick and Boston and all the stops in between according to Patricia Quinn, the executive director of Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

Ridership is down to between 70 and 120 riders a day so the rail authority has suspended three of its trips out of Brunswick. Riders can go right to the train platform and give their name if they have reservations or tickets.

This plan could change as things continue to evolve, Quinn said Tuesday.

“We’re doing our best to stay as current as we can to provide the best service we can,” she said.

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