As someone committed to being highly efficient in my use of energy, particularly fossil fuels, I was very excited to hear that Western Maine Transportation has opened three public bus runs daily from Auburn/Lewiston to Topsham to Cook’s Corner, then to Bath and back, stopping in Lisbon and Lewiston before Auburn. I got on the bus at Hannaford’s in Topsham Fair Mall at 12:10 p.m. and was greeted warmly by Wanda, the bus driver, and two other women. We chatted for the 30-minute ride to Auburn Transportation Center on the west side of the falls of the Androscoggin River. The stop is adjacent to Public Housing for Seniors and allows them to shop or go to one of the hospitals in Lewiston. A young woman riding on the bus got off at the Lewiston Bus Center on Bates Street to make connections to Farmington, where she was visiting her boyfriend, a 125-mile ride all on WMT public buses. The other rider returned to her apartment in downtown Lewiston after shopping at Topsham Fair Mall. How convenient, safe and inexpensive! There were even two seat belts on each seat.

I enjoyed looking out at the trees and stores along the way, as Wanda told me the history of the reopened Randy’s restaurant in the middle of Lisbon. Western Maine Transportation is a nonprofit and a good place to work, with health care, dental and retirement benefits, and a competitive wage. They run our Brunswick Link bus, all the city buses of Lewiston, bus routes in the larger Farmington area and a ski bus to Sugar Loaf in Carrabassett Valley in the winter. The Lewiston-to-Bath route was first started at the request of Gagne Foods to get workers from Lewiston to their plant on Wing Parkway in Bath by 8 a.m.

Bus fares range from $2-$5 with free transfers to the Brunswick Link at Rusty’s Irving gas station in Cook’s Corner. So, several residents of Brunswick can ride WMT’s bus to Bath for $3 to attend computer classes at the Adult Education Center on Wing Parkway. Now Brunswick and Bath have a morning, midday and evening bus route, allowing people who live in one city without a car to work in the other city. These new bus routes are necessary for elderly people who aren’t able to drive or people who choose not to have a car to get to shopping, appointments or to visit friends in adjacent towns.

Try out the new Western Maine Transportation buses for a convenient, pleasant ride. The schedule is found at under Schedule/Route Information, then Blue Line Commuter. When more of us ride the bus regularly, Western Maine will be able to add more runs during each day for shoppers and those who have no other means of transportation. Now they offer a 7 a.m. and a 10:54 a.m. leaving Hannaford’s at Topsham Fair Mall for Brunswick Station, Rusty’s and Bath downtown, and a return from Bath to L/A at 7:26 a.m., 11:29 a.m. and 4:44 p.m. You will help lower carbon emissions (since buses use much less gas per person than cars), improve air quality and provide the glue to hold our communities together.

The transportation subgroup of Maine Can’t Wait researched sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Maine and found that transportation is the largest source, causing over 50% of warming emissions. Our large distances between widely scattered towns and urban centers with limited public transportation outside Portland and the popularity of versatile pickup trucks cause high dependence on fossil fuels. The Maine Department of Transportation has staff who work on a ride share for workers called GoMaine, with incentives to track your carpooling miles.

Rush hour traffic to and from Portland and leaving BIW in Bath are now intense. If you are a regular commuter, consider making the effort to find someone in your workplace who lives in your town and start talking to them about ride sharing. This may cause the minor inconvenience of a few extra minutes to pick up another rider and communicate days that you aren’t going directly home from work. The rewards may be a new or deeper friendship and companionship on the drives as well as saving money and avoiding some of the driving.

I was delighted to move from the end of the Phippsburg peninsula to the center of Topsham, where I can walk three-quarters of a mile to get to the Topsham Town Hall or shopping in downtown Brunswick. I have also gotten out an unused bicycle and am learning to ride safely to the Topsham Fair Mall if I need just a few items that I can carry in my backpack.

Other ways we can reduce emissions and save money are to combine errands and make fewer trips to stores. Ask your neighbor if they would like a ride to the market or mall for the period of time you are going there. Perhaps you know a person with limited hearing, eyesight or mobility who would greatly appreciate a ride to town. Western Maine Transportation will go up to one-quarter mile from the Link’s regular bus route to pick up a mobility-limited person who schedules the pickup the previous day. Send the link to the WMT bus schedule to your friends and relatives who would appreciate a ride between Bath, Brunswick, Lewiston, Lisbon, and Topsham. Transfer to the Link from their stop at Rusty’s is free and you can get lunch or a drink there while waiting for the transfer.

Nancy Chandler studied Animal Behavior and Anthropology at Stanford University, then received her master’s in biology education in her home state of North Carolina at U.N.C. Chapel Hill. She is passionate about teaching energy conservation and hopes to get you thinking about how to use energy use efficiently to save both money and reduce greenhouse warming gases.

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