One of the two Brunswick Link buses. Courtesy of Western Maine Transportation Services

Brunswick’s public transportation system will be getting a makeover and assigned to a new route early next month.

On Dec. 1, the Brunswick Explorer will officially be rebranded to the Brunswick Link.

The new route for the bus system will be on a fixed schedule, as opposed to the current system where the bus is on approximately scheduled stops and is able to travel up to three-quarters of a mile off route to pick up individuals with disabilities. To continue picking up those with disabilities, the new fixed route will have a reservation service through the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The new route consists of 27 stop locations throughout most all areas Brunswick, with 44 stops per run. One run is 26 miles and takes 1 hour and 42 minutes to complete. There will be 11 full runs per day, Monday through Friday.

Two buses will operate the route, with the first full run departing from Brunswick Station at 6:45 a.m. and the last full run beginning at 4:45 p.m. Additional morning and evening express runs will also provide connection to the METRO BREEZ bus service that goes to and from Portland.

The transit study to look at Brunswick’s bus system was launched in 2020.

“What we found was that the Brunswick Explorer flex system, where it was allowed to go off route to take care of people who couldn’t get to stops, really had been outgrown,” said Community Relations Director Craig Zurhorst of Western Maine Transportation Services, the company that operates the bus system.

The Brunswick Explorer was launched in 2010, and at the time the town had a population of 20,279, according to Zurhorst. Since then, Zurhorst said, the town has seen significant business growth as well as a population increase to 21,756 people in 2020 — a 7.3% increase from 2010.

The total cost of the study was just over $81,500. About $65,000 was paid for by Maine Department of Transportation through federal funds, and the remainder was paid for by the town.

“When you look the priorities about what we were trying to do, I think the main ones were we wanted to serve the Landing on every trip, we wanted to improve the frequency and the reliability and then we wanted to connect up with our regional transit services,” said Brunswick Economic Development Director Sally Costello.

The current route is primarily design for older, retired populations, Costello said, however, the transit study showed that the population using the bus the most was commuters. The new route reflects that, Costello said, as it caters more to the commuter population and also gives ridership the potential to increase.

In the timeframe of Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 in 2017, 2018 and 2019 annual ridership for the Brunswick Explorer was at 20,731, 22,963 and 22,985, respectively. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership dropped to 12,188.

Stacy Frizzle-Edgerton, the executive director of the teen and senior community center People Plus, said that the new route stands to benefit the organization due to a new 5 p.m. pick up stop.

“The rerouting of the new bus system is going to tremendously impact the People Plus center because it expands the number of stops here,” said Frizzle-Edgerton. “It very positively impacts our teen center program because there are kids who had to stop coming because they couldn’t get home and they use the bus system.”

Rota Knott, the executive director of Tedford Housing, said that the Brunswick-based emergency housing organization is also pleased by the new route design, which she said would give guests easy access to transportation from the proposed facility on Thomas Point Road.

“The ADA Demand Response curb-to-curb service is a wonderful feature for our guests who have mobility challenges. We will be able to contact Brunswick Link and request pick-up at our emergency housing building for qualifying guests. That is a particularly important service for many of our guests, who have disabilities that make it difficult for them to walk to or wait at one of the fixed route bus stops,” Knott wrote in an email.

Operating costs for the Brunswick Explorer during the 2019 fiscal year was just under $315,000, according to the transit study. The service is funded primarily through a combination of federal, state and local funds.

Due to an industry backlog, new buses will not be available for at least a year, according to a release from Western Maine Transportation Services. Two low-floor buses with front wheelchair ramps will be used in the meantime.

The new route will be reevaluated six months after it is launched. Tickets cost $5 for an unlimited day pass, and $2 for those aged 12 through 65. Riders with disabilities, those over 65, and children with an adult aged five through 12 ride for $1. For more information, visit brunswicklink.com.


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