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Island Explorer bus service may resume on Mount Desert Island in 2021

Downeast Transportation, Inc. couldn't run the Island Explorer bus service on Mount Desert Island in 2020 because of coronavirus concerns.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — The summer of 2020 on Mount Desert Island was abnormal for a number of reasons -- one of them being the absence of the Island Explorer bus. It didn't run last season because of the coronavirus pandemic, but officials say they are working to change that in 2021.

Paul Murphy is the executive director of Downeast Transportation, Inc. He says no decisions are "cast in stone" at this point -- but he and his team are working to find a way to bring this transportation system back this year. 

Some ways to do that include reducing the capacity of busses. While each bus normally holds 43 people, Murphy says that number would be limited to 12 passengers, with every other row of seats left vacant. To make up for fewer seats, busses would run more frequently (with about 10 minutes of headway) on three routes: the Park Look Road route; a route between the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and Jordan Pond House; and a route between the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and the village green. 

RELATED: Downeast bus extends service suspension after more employees test positive for COVID-19

Murphy says the bus system is important because it helps with traffic congestion and parking in Bar Harbor and the park.

"When Island Explorer doesn't run, there's a lot of right lane parking," Murphy told NEWS CENTER Maine on the phone about parking challenges in Acadia National Park. "A lot of people...ignore parking signage and abuse the resource in order to park their car."

RELATED: Bus systems in Maine to receive millions in new funding

Murphy says his team is "anxious" the get the Island Explorer back on the road safely. 

If all goes as planned, it should begin running per the normal annual schedule -- on Mount Desert Island from June 23 through Indigenous People's Day weekend and at Schoodic Point starting Memorial Day weekend.

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