From planes and trains to automobiles – and ferries and busses too – Maine’s public transit has it all. Thanks to Maine’s unique geography and snowy winters, the success of Greater Portland’s communities depends on its interconnected systems, which provide accessible transportation across the state.

“Maine gets rural quick outside of Portland and people need us and rely on us,” said Mike Tremblay, Director of Transit Development for Greater Portland Metro.

The systems Mainers rely on include the Casco Bay Lines ferry service, Amtrak’s Downeaster line, Portland International Jetport airport access, new micro-transit options for rural residents, and three fixed-route bus systems transporting students, tourists, and workers alike. Each of these transportation systems are connected by Greater Portland Metro’s expansive bus system.

Greater Portland Metro’s most successful routes are those that improve residents’ access to their day-to-day needs. Local routes such as Route 2, Route 4, and Route 5 connect Portland to nearby communities, including Westbrook and South Portland, and major shopping and employment centers like the Maine Mall and Rock Row. A peninsula circulator, the Route 8, connects a range of key housing, shopping, and intermodal connections on Portland’s peninsula, as well as direct access to Maine Medical Center. The BREEZ, and express service, connects suburban towns to the heart of Portland and to the regional bus and train network, plus, tourists can use it to access the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport. Metro also partners with educational institutions to reduce the need for private automobiles and “big yellow school buses”; the Husky Line that transports students and faculty between campuses of the University of Southern Maine, while Route 9 connects high school students from homes to schools throughout Portland. While they serve different needs, each of these routes keep Portland businesses and communities accessible and thriving.

“Greater Portland Metro takes care to make connections to ferry and regional rail and bus services. We understand that, for those who cannot or do not wish to drive a personal vehicle, fast, frequent, and reliable local transit service is the best way to connect between these services,” said Tremblay.

Portland’s robust, innovative public transportation system is made possible by continued public transportation funding. Maine has been a leader in leveraging federal funding to foster innovation. They directed funding from the CARES Act to continue service and keep drivers in seats during the pandemic; they have grown their fleets and electrified buses through grants from the Department of Transportation; and they have leveraged American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for improved service span and frequency, technology improvements to move buses faster, and improve inaccessible bus stops, in addition to a seven-month fare sale which is running through September 2023.

With this latest funding, Greater Portland Metro is developing a new micro-transit pilot program to expand service to lower-density areas in 2024. This new system, designed specifically for rural residents, will not only help reach new riders, but will make the existing Route 7 fixed-route service more efficient by reallocating time in low-ridership areas to the major corridor along US Route 1 into Portland.

With consistent funding and continued innovation, Maine’s public transportation systems will continue to work together to expand access for customers and makes communities – from small islands to big cities – thrive for years to come.

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