Community Groups, City Leaders to hold Halloween Celebration launching 2nd Annual Ride the Bus! Month
October 31st event first in series to celebrate Community Connector during November 2016
Bangor, ME– Riders of the Community Connector bus system, members of the group Transportation for All, and local elected officials will gather from 3-5pm on Halloween at Pickering Square in Bangor for a family-oriented celebration. Transportation For All will hold a press conference at 10:00AM on the 31st, also at Pickering Square, to announce the event. The 3:00PM event will feature free barbecue food and sweet treats, a costume contest for both children and adults, and speakers discussing efforts to grow ridership and expand service on the Community Connector. It is the first in a series of events throughout November encouraging people to ride the bus, including a Free Fare Day on Election Day (Tuesday, November 8) when rides on all Community Connector routes will be free of charge.
Ride The Bus! Month, an initiative launched by Transportation for All and supported by the City of Bangor, aims to raise awareness of the Community Connector among people who have not considered it before, and to increase ridership so that the system can even better meet the needs of community members. Speakers at Monday’s event will celebrate efforts underway to improve the transit system, including investments in the bus fleet and the launch of a regional task force to look into expansions and improvements.
Other Ride The Bus! Month events include a guided outing to Mt. Hope Cemetery on Thursday, Nov. 3 (meet 11:15am at Pickering Square) sponsored by the Bangor Y’s senior group Second Wind; a “Faith Ride” to the Bangor polling place on Tuesday, November 8 (meet 9:45am at 120 Park St.) sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor, and two group bus rides to Ohio St. Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, Nov. 9, (meeting 1:30 and 3:00pm at Pickering Square) sponsored by Food AND Medicine.
Transportation for All (TFA), which brings together bus riders, drivers and supporters to expand and promote public transportation in Greater Bangor, is a partnership of several local organizations: Food AND Medicine, Power In Community Alliances, Faith Linking in Action, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 714. TFA originated from a year-long listening process undertaken by Faith Linking in Action, a group of Bangor-area congregations, which identified transportation as a key obstacle to accessing good jobs. The group’s top priority is expanding bus service into evening hours, so that riders would be able to access a wider range of jobs and services.
TFA members speaking at Monday’s event will discuss why the bus system is important in their lives. Kim Meyerdierks of Bangor, a leader in Transportation For All, says “With routes covering so many great locations all over Bangor and surrounding communities, I can travel just about anywhere without the use of a car! It’s consistent, convenient, friendly and economical! Because I’m so grateful for the Community Connector, I volunteer with Transportation For All to promote, improve and encourage the use of public transit in Greater Bangor.”
As part of Ride The Bus! Month, public libraries in Bangor, Brewer, Orono and Old Town have agreed to help share information and answer questions about the bus system for new riders. “A Transportation For All representative recently came to a library staff meeting to talk about the bus system. This is useful and important information. I can now help people find the time and route they need to get to work– or even to the grocery store on Saturday, when the buses don’t all run as often,” says Alexis M. Dixon, Circulation Desk Clerk at Orono Public Library. In addition, bus riders in Transportation for All will volunteer to be available by appointment as Bus Ambassadors. Individuals who would like 1-1 support in learning how to use the Community Connector can schedule an appointment with a Bus Ambassador by calling Organizer Martin Chartrand at (207) 989-5850. You can expect to hear back from an Ambassador within 2-4 days.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 714, which represents Community Connector drivers, are working closely with their passengers in this effort. Sue Warner, the union’s Bangor Steward, says: “Six days a week, 52 weeks a year, we make sure the Community Connector runs so our City can run. Expanding and improving the system to even better serve passengers is an important goal of ATU Local #714. We look forward to serving you during Ride the Bus! Month, and we are eager to keep working with faith and community groups in Transportation for All and with the city to grow ridership and strengthen public transit.”
Other bus riders similarly express an appreciation for the Community Connector and encourage the general public and elected officials to support the system. Karen Marysdaughter of Bangor says “I love riding the bus! It is convenient, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly. As I get older, I feel more secure knowing that when driving is no longer an option for me, I’ll still be able to get out and about.”
Hank Garfield, a bus rider, writer and creator of the blog Slower Traffic, which covers car-free transportation, says “If it is to succeed, public transportation must have the support of the general public. People who never ride the bus need to know that the service still benefits them, by reducing traffic and parking problems. Our business leaders and representatives in city government need to find the money to make sensible but steady improvements to Bangor’s bus system so that more people will use it.”
Many local elected officials agree on the importance of the Community Connector. City Council member Sarah Nichols, who is the Council’s representative on the transit task force, says “I am excited to work with Transportation For All and the Community Connector on Ride the Bus! Month. Over a year ago, I ran and was elected to the City Council on the issue of expanding our public transit system–most importantly, extending service into the evening hours. This past Spring, we were able to put over half a million dollars into the bus system. To keep up the momentum, we launched the task force to take a hard look at the Community Connector system and create a plan to make it even stronger over the next 10-20 years. This is important for the many low-income workers and seniors who do not have private transportation, and also to making sure Bangor remains one of the front-running communities in our state. We cannot grow economically if we don’t have a strong public transit system.”
Bangor Mayor Sean Faircloth adds “Our City and region do best when everybody has the ability to access jobs, medical services, education, and recreation and to participate in local government meetings and community events. This is why I am pleased to work with Transportation For All on our second annual Ride the Bus! Month. The Community Connector is critical to getting the people of our region where they need to go. This November, we will be celebrating that service and encouraging all of our neighbors to give the bus a try.”
Geoff Gratwick, State Senator for Bangor and Hermon, who will judge the costume contest at Monday’s celebration, comments “Maintaining and expanding the bus service for all the working people in our area is of the utmost importance. It supports our economy, our community, and the livelihood of all of us who live here. Let’s keep the wheels turning!”