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Bangor to stop Saturday bus service amid driver shortage

The temporary stop of bus service goes into effect June 18 and applies to the fixed route and ADA paratransit service, per a city release.

BANGOR, Maine — As we continue to hear about workforce shortages across the country, the public transportation industry is no exception. Now, one community in Maine is being forced to cut back on service because of it.

Starting June 18, Bangor's Community Connector bus service will temporarily halt service on Saturdays due to a shortage of drivers. 

The temporary stop of Saturday service goes into effect Saturday, June 18, and applies to the fixed route and ADA paratransit service, according to a release on the City of Bangor’s website

Laurie Linscott, superintendent of the Community Connector operations, said they've been finding it very difficult to hire drivers. 

"I am on year 22, soon to be 23, and this is the worst I've ever seen it," Linscott said.

Linscott said they're down 11 drivers, and they would need 39 total to be fully staffed. She said this decision was a last resort after experiencing a shortage that has become increasingly worse during the pandemic.

Linscott added that another piece contributing to the shortage is a lack of instructors teaching Commercial Driver's License, or CDL, courses in Maine.

This cancellation of service will affect many riders who rely on the Community Connector buses to get around, like Kendra Hart, who said she uses the connector every day.

"I don't have transportation at this point, and I'll only be able to be in town Monday through Friday," Hart said.

Hart said she's in the process of looking for jobs right now, and not having access to transportation Saturdays may be a barrier. 

Cameron Robbins, a student in Greater Bangor, said he uses the bus system three to four times per week.

"It would affect my financial plans cause I can use the bus for free cause I'm a student so I'll have to start paying money for Ubers mostly," Robbins said.

Robbins said he relies on public transit because he can't afford a car. But he said he's more concerned about some of the other people that this change in service may affect.

"I think it'll affect more people who are financially in poverty, people who need the rides to get to like homeless shelters or like places for food," Robbins said.

“We understand this change to the bus service will negatively impact some riders and want everyone to know that we did not reach this decision lightly,” Assistant City Manager Courtney O’Donnell said. “We are taking active steps in an effort to ensure the change is temporary and hope that this notice provides riders enough time to make alternative arrangements.” 

Per the release, the bus service has the lowest amount of riders Saturday, and this temporary service stop will help drivers best service the community Monday through Friday.

In the meantime, Linscott said they're pulling out all the stops when it comes to recruiting. 

"I'm hoping it's temporary and I'm hoping that we can really open Saturdays back up sooner rather than later," Linscott said.

Linscott said they're working on addressing the CDL instructor shortage by offering a course at the end of June to any drivers looking to get certified to teach. 

She asked that anyone interested in shadowing a driver or learning more about how to get certified should give the Community Connector department a call. 

If you're interested in applying to be a driver, click here

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