The Maine Department of Transportation has selected a Utah contractor to run a two-year pilot commuter bus service between Portland and Lewiston-Auburn starting in early July.

A Concord Coach Lines bus arrives at the Auburn Bus Terminal in the Esplanade in June 2017. Concord Coach announced it would end service between Portland and the Twin Cities this month. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

RTW Management Inc., a transportation company based in Salt Lake City was selected from three bidders on the department’s request for proposals issued in January. RTW will receive $2.8 million for its two-year contract, said Paul Merrill, department spokesman.

The new service is expected to attract some of the hundreds of workers who are traveling that route daily, according to a planning study. A majority of riders are expected to come from the Lewiston-Auburn area, with about one-third originating from the Portland area.

The announcement comes a month after the private bus company Concord Coach Lines announced it would end service between Portland and the Twin Cities in June. Company officials said the state’s plan wasn’t a factor in its decision.

Merrill said a one-way ticket on the new bus will cost $8, which is in line with similar services across New England, the planning study found. But while fares will offset a small portion of operating costs, the department plans to run the pilot using state funds, while exploring options for permanent funding sources if the pilot proves successful.

Concord Coach charged $12 for a one-way ticket between Portland and Auburn.


Working with stakeholders last year, the state transportation department and its consultant, Cambridge Systematics, identified a preferred route that includes stops at Monument Square and the Portland Transportation Center in Portland; Bates College and the Oak Street Bus Station in Lewiston; and the Auburn Transportation Center at Great Falls Plaza and the Park & Ride Lot at Maine Turnpike Exit 75 in Auburn.

The pilot will serve as an indicator of the interest in enhanced public transportation between the Portland and Lewiston-Auburn regions, Merrill said.

The service will include several runs daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekends. The department will work with RTW to identify any variations on the initial route, schedule and stops.

Exactly when the service will start and how passengers will purchase passes or tickets will be announced closer to the startup date, Merrill said.

While the primary goal is to provide dependable daily round-trip transportation for workers, the service will be open to all travelers, including students, tourists, shoppers and people seeking medical care. It will connect to the Amtrak Downeaster and Concord Coach Lines at the Portland Transportation Center and intercity bus routes in Portland.

The service aims to answer increasing demand for public transit between the two largest urban centers in southern Maine, which has been augmented by new arrivals, job opportunities, tourism and Portland workers finding more affordable housing in Lewiston-Auburn.

How many people will use the service remains to be seen. The planning study used StreetLight Data transportation analytics and Census data to estimate the number of travelers in each urban center who might use the service.

Looking at peak weekday morning travel in particular, it identified 662 southbound daily trips and 172 northbound daily trips among travelers more likely to use the service. The study tallied a total of 1,606 southbound trips and 1,537 northbound trips each weekday.

The distance between the first and last stops on the bus route is about 44 miles and will take about 62 minutes, according to the department’s request for proposals.

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