MAINE, Maine — Transit drivers around the state who have struggled during the pandemic were recognized Thursday as part of Transit Driver Appreciation Day.
Community Connector Drivers for the City of Bangor were treated to lunch by Humble Restaurant and the organization Food and Medicine as part of the event.
Transit drivers include bus, train, ferry operators, and the maintenance crews who keep them all running to provide transportation to the public.
Donna Loving is a bus driver on the front line. She said it’s been difficult for a lot of drivers to decide if they should continue to drive during the pandemic.
“Right now we have just have a shortage of drivers for various reasons and that’s a nationwide thing," she said. "You’ll find that with school bus drivers, with any kind of drivers. It’s just really a nationwide shortage of that. So, we’re just really down right now. But our national [union] has lost a lot of members due to COVID-19.”
Loving said the city of Bangor has consistently provided bus drivers with the safety equipment they have needed during the pandemic.
In southern Maine, eight transit operators launched a campaign to educate the public about what operators are doing to allow for safe travel during the pandemic.
Organizers said the campaign launches on Transit Drivers Appreciation Day to recognize transit workers' efforts to keep passengers safe during the pandemic.
“Throughout the past year, our operators and our customers have weathered the virus storm together,” said Craig Pendleton, director of external affairs at Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach Transit. “We thank our riders for showing patience and understanding as we slowly yet safely move forward to provide safe, clean, reliable, and affordable local transportation for all.”
The agencies have created a website, TransitTogether.org, that provides information about proven safety protocols that each agency has put in place, as well as information about what the experts say about transit safety. The website also features an interactive map of transit routes in the region.