METRO bus driver

Greater Portland Metro driver Barbara Montgomery welcomes bus riders aboard, including those traveling to area vaccine providers now highlighted on an interactive map produced by the Greater Portland Council of Governments. Photo courtesy of Greater Portland Metro

People who want to be vaccinated and use mass transportation in southern Maine may now access an online interactive map to find their way to COVID-19 vaccine providers throughout Cumberland and York counties.

It’s part of a campaign, TransitTogether, launched by area transit operators and the Greater Portland Council of Governments to educate the public about what has been done to make bus, train and ferry travel safer during the pandemic.

The goal is to promote more equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and rebuild ridership that has dropped significantly in the last year.

The campaign and the interactive map are featured on a website, transittogether.org, and will be promoted through radio, print and digital media in the coming year, funded with about $160,000 from the federal CARES Act.

Using the interactive map, riders can type in their home address and see transit routes to vaccine providers throughout the region. A menu indicates how to get there, how to make an appointment and whether the provider is open to the general public.

“Lack of transportation is a barrier to many people seeking access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Greg Jordan, executive director of the Greater Portland Metro. “We’re trying to help break down those barriers and make sure there’s equal access to vaccines.”

Public transit operators involved in the campaign are Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach Transit; Casco Bay Lines; Greater Portland Metro; the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority; the Regional Transportation Program; South Portland Bus Service; and York County Community Action Corp. Privately owned Concord Coach Lines is also part of the campaign.

The TransitTogether website also features a video showing the safety protocols implemented by the transit operators to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including mandated mask wearing, contactless payment systems, rider capacity limits, regular vehicle sanitizing and ventilation upgrades.

The eight operators typically provide more than 4 million trips for travelers each year, but their fare revenue has plummeted during the pandemic, said Chris Chop, GPCOG’s transportation director. They hope educating the public about the safety protocols will help rebuild mass transit ridership and promote public health.

“The interactive vaccine map is just one more way TransitTogether is supporting community health while people travel where they need to go,” Chop said.

When the pandemic is over, Chop said, the TransitTogether website will serve as a central information hub for transit users in southern Maine.


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