Metro bus driver Paulino Castillo navigates traffic in Portland on Monday. Castillo was driving people from downtown Portland to a location on Forest Avenue where filming took place for a video to promote an often-flouted 2019 law that requires drivers to yield to transit buses. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

One of Paulino Castillo’s top concerns as a bus driver for the Greater Portland Metro is getting riders to their destinations on time.

So he worries when other motorists don’t let him reenter traffic after picking up or dropping off passengers, even though it’s required under Maine’s 4-year-old but little known yield-to-bus law. The small delays can add up.

“It’s frustrating when they don’t let us in,” Castillo said. “Each time it happens, it puts us a little more behind.”

To improve compliance with the 2019 legislation, Greater Portland Metro and the Greater Portland Council of Governments are making a video emphasizing the law that will start running later this month on various local media.

Production of the video began Monday in a Metro bus parked along Forest Avenue in Portland, where a videographer filmed Castillo and a busload of passenger advocates performing a humorous script.

Maine is among a handful of states, including Washington, New Jersey and Colorado, that have passed similar laws that aim to help transit buses reenter traffic quickly, stay on schedule and encourage ridership.


“The more efficient our transit service is, the more people will use it as an alternative to driving,” said Denise Beck, marketing manager for Greater Portland Metro.

In 2021, GPCOG adopted a plan called Transit Tomorrow to make public transportation more efficient and easier to use by improving the availability, coverage and convenience of the existing network in the Portland region. The plan calls for improving public transportation reliability and affordability to rival driving a car. Keeping the buses on time is part of that strategy.

Under the Maine law, drivers traveling up to 35 mph must yield the right of way to transit buses heading in the same direction. Transit buses are those operated or contracted by the state, a municipality or other political subdivision to transport members of the public. It doesn’t include school buses.

Riders are filmed as they participate in a public service announcement to promote an often-flouted 2019 law that requires drivers to yield to transit buses. The riders are all advocates for public transportation and were selected by the Greater Portland Council of Governments to be in the video. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

However, the law only applies if there’s a lighted “yield” sign on left rear of a transit bus and the bus driver has activated a turn signal to reenter traffic. The legislation passed in 2019 included no penalty information; penalties that may apply now are unclear.

Since 2020, the Metro has installed triangular lighted signs on most – but not all – of its buses, Beck said. The signs are illuminated in yellow or red lights whenever a transit bus is reentering traffic.

Beck said some drivers are unfamiliar with the law and don’t know what to do when they’re behind a stopped transit bus.


“Should they wait? Should they go ahead and pass the bus?” Beck said. “The yield-to-bus light helps the bus operator safely reenter the flow of traffic.”

The yield signs and the video are being paid for with a $32,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

Modeled after a Danish TV commercial about a bus agency, the 60-second video will have an over-dramatic vibe, with a frustrated driver, impatient passengers and a young girl in a passing vehicle who warns her mother, “Mom, the yellow light is flashing!”

Lighted yield-to-bus signs have been installed on Portland Metro buses to warn other drivers to let transit buses re-enter traffic after picking up or dropping off passengers. The triangular signs feature either yellow or red lights. Photo courtesy Portland Metro

The bus driver and passengers are ecstatic and celebrate. “Yield to bus!” the passengers shout at the camera.

Mom and daughter are all smiles and Mom pumps her fist in the air. “Obey the law,” the little girl says.

“The idea is to make it funny so people see that it’s a simple thing to do,” said Tom Bell, GPCOG’s communications director. “If you see a transit bus with a lighted yield sign, let the bus reenter traffic.”

Greater Portland Metro is the largest public transit agency in Maine, providing bus service to Brunswick, Falmouth, Freeport, Gorham, Portland, South Portland, Westbrook and Yarmouth.

Karen Perry, 81, is one of the passenger advocates who performed in the public service announcement video. A regular Metro rider, she hopes viewers take the announcement seriously so it has a positive impact.

“I think it could make the Metro quicker,” Perry said. “People have to be able to count on the bus schedule, especially if they work or take classes or have medical appointments.”

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