Bring Public Transit to Cape Elizabeth Now!
Bring Public Transit to Cape Elizabeth Now!
Why this petition matters
The Town of Cape Elizabeth is a community of 9,500 residents located in southern Maine. Our town has a lot to offer to residents, but one thing that it does not offer and is urgently needed is public transit service.
It is my belief that mobility is a human right. If you do not own a car, cannot drive, or prefer not to drive and live within the Town, you are unnecessarily denied this right. The Town has a lack of job opportunities within it, with most residents working in the neighboring cities of South Portland and Portland. Most of these residents are upper-middle-class, own cars, and do not care at all about people who do not have the option to just get in their cars and go. It is also my belief that public transit is a basic public and municipal service, much like water, sewer, and fire protection, and should be provided to all on an equal basis, regardless of what town or zip code you live in.
As a low-income young person whose family cannot afford an additional car living here, often my only option to get out of town for work, recreation, or anything else is walking 2 miles up Route 77 just into the neighboring city of South Portland, where their city-operated public bus service is available. That adds unnecessary inconvenience and delay to get anywhere within a reasonable amount of time. Not to mention in the winter, where cold temperatures make the walk almost unbearable.
Every time someone proposes transit service for Cape Elizabeth, our Town Council and Manager usually ignore it without much thought. They’ll say “it costs too much” or “there wouldn’t be enough ridership.” Many residents would also most likely oppose such a proposal, as they would probably recite misguided beliefs about public transit and its benefits, such as “we don’t want crime and drugs here” or “Public transit wouldn’t benefit the Town”.
In reality, public transit heavily benefits the Town and its residents. First of all, the Town is not “too small” for public transit. Many similarly-sized and even smaller Maine towns and cities have fixed-route public transit service. Yarmouth, Freeport, Hampden, Brewer, Orono, Old Town, and Old Orchard Beach are all examples. Yarmouth and Freeport have seen great success in particular with the Metro Breez project. Second of all, public transit does not “cost too much.” I estimate the cost to the Town to be around $50-85K annually to subsidize bus service, based on informal analysis of comparable local contributions, the entity providing the service, and the solution selected. Besides, it is my belief that putting a price tag on basic mobility for residents of the Town adds insult to injury for those residents who lack other options.
I believe the Town should partner with the Greater Portland Council of Governments/PACTS and the Greater Portland Transit District (“Metro”) to explore a solution to this issue, and preferably come to a conclusion and/or get service running within 1 year at most. This is an urgent issue that needs an urgent solution.
Just to give you an introduction on what Metro is and what they do in case you’re unaware, the Greater Portland Transit District (Metro) is a special purpose transit district that is classified as a quasi-municipal corporation under Maine State Law. It provides bus service to the cities of Portland and Westbrook and the towns of Falmouth, Freeport, Yarmouth and Brunswick. Metro’s service is funded by each member municipality using a formula based on the revenue mileage driven in each city/town. Metro was created in 1966 by the Maine Legislature. Cape Elizabeth was previously a member, but left the district in 1978 for unknown reasons.
I have been a user of Metro’s buses for several years and can personally attest to their growth as an organization, as well as their commitment to very innovative solutions not typically pursued by such a small agency, such as the ability to pay with your phone and fare capping. They truly provide world-class transit service that rivals some larger regions. Partnering with Metro on transit service for the Town would mean we would get to take part in these innovations. Microtransit could be a possible solution and a possible alternative to fixed route transit. Microtransit is a solution where a bus would be on standby during specified hours and rides would be requested via a mobile app or by calling the Metro office. Microtransit is provided within a certain geographic area. In our case the geographic area would probably be anywhere within the Town, plus two or three additional locations located near the Mill Creek area of South Portland and Downtown Portland. Microtransit is more flexible and lower cost than traditional bus service. It would serve the needs of all residents on an equal basis. In fact, Metro is currently proposing to introduce microtransit in certain parts of Falmouth to replace traditional fixed route bus service. We would be on the cutting edge of transit innovation if such a service were offered here.
Metro could also seek other funding sources to reduce the fiscal impact to the Town.
(Photo credit: https://gpmetro.org/264/Working-at-METRO)