Mayor Ethan Strimling released the following statement today in response to METRO's press release from earlier today.
"I want to congratulate METRO on their 50th anniversary and for reaching record ridership levels," said Mayor Ethan Strimling. "Reliable and affordable public transportation is critical to Portland's economic and environmental health, and I'd like to thank them for their commitment to expanding and improving service in Portland and the surrounding region. I look forward to another 50 years of great service."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 25, 2017
METRO Marked 50 Year Anniversary with Record Ridership
(PORTLAND, Maine) -- Greater Portland Transit District - METRO, formed in 1966, reached record ridership of 1.81 million in 2016. This shatters the 1.57 million mark reached in 2015, which saw the highest numbers in almost thirty years. 2016 ridership of 1,810,825 is a 15% increase from the 1,568,136 reached in 2015.
Since 2013, METRO has delivered several system improvements and programs to improve transit service and infrastructure. These have included improvements to weekday frequencies, reliability and route improvements, increased Sunday service, new bus shelters, real-time bus arrival information, express bus service to Freeport and Yarmouth and transit pass programs.
“This is an exciting time for public transit in the region. I’ve been a member of the METRO board since 2007, but I have seen the most growth in the system during the last three years,” says METRO Board President John Thompson. “The service expansion to Yarmouth and Freeport and introduction of ‘real time’ transit information creates more transit access for this region than ever before with several more improvements planned for the future, including a major expansion for the communities of Gorham, Portland and Westbrook.”
About the recent ridership gains, METRO’s General Manager, Greg Jordan said, “We’re seeing first hand that people of all ages, incomes and backgrounds are looking for easier ways to live and travel in southern Maine. We recognize there is much more work to do, but METRO will continue striving to improve and innovate the quality and experience of using public transit while expanding its reach and accessibility. We also recognize that bike, pedestrian, ADA and transit supportive development is equally important to building a high-quality transit system, and we are eager to partner with local and state leaders and the development community on this front.”
· On Monday, February 6, 2017, the Brunswick Town Council is expected to vote on an option to join the METRO BREEZ bus service as part of the existing pilot transit project. If approved, the METRO BREEZ bus service would provide express service between Portland, Yarmouth, Freeport and Brunswick and could begin in summer 2017.
· Up to 15 new lighted bus shelters will be installed across the service area in 2017, followed by the installation of real-time bus arrival digital displays at selected bus shelters in 2018-19.
· METRO is working to advance the USM Pass Program and Transit West Service Improvements Project in partnership with the University of Southern Maine (USM), Town of Gorham and the City of Westbrook. This project will 1) establish an unlimited access transit pass program for the approximately 8,000 students enrolled at the University of Southern Maine, 2) expand public transportation to the town of Gorham, 3) connect the Gorham and Portland USM campuses with a limited stop, higher speed transit link that will be fully open to the general public, and 4) improve transit frequency and coverage in the core communities of Portland, South Portland and Westbrook. Pending acquisition of all necessary grant funding, this project is scheduled to launch in August 2018.
· METRO plans to implement an electronic fare collection system in 2018. The system will allow for the use of electronic passes versus paper based passes/tickets. The project may also deploy smart card or mobile fare payment options in subsequent phases.
· Nineteen (19) new replacement buses will be delivered between 2018-2020. These buses will be larger than most buses in METRO’s existing fleet and provide passengers with a more modern transit experience.
· METRO’s partnership with Portland Public Schools launched in September 2015 providing high school students with a transit pass for school transportation and has contributed to boosting ridership with approximately 1300 daily rides (on school days).
· In June of 2016, METRO, along with South Portland Bus Service and Casco Bay Lines, introduced Southern Maine Transit Tracker (SMTTRACKER.COM), featuring a variety of tools for desktop and mobile devices, including trip planning, real time transit info and links to download mobile apps.
· METRO BREEZ express service between Portland, Falmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport launched on June 16, 2016 and features ten roundtrips weekdays and five on Saturdays.
· Baxter Academy, a charter school in Portland, partnered with METRO for the 2016-2017 school year, to provide school transportation for more than 75 of their students travelling to their York Street campus from outside of the local area.
· Additional initiatives in 2016 included the installation of nine new bus shelters along METRO routes, a partnership with Creative Portland offering FREE rides monthly for the First Friday Art Walk, and FREE rides on Election Day.
· At its December 2016 meeting, the METRO Board welcomed two new members, newly elected Portland Councilor Pious Ali and Merrill Barter from Falmouth. John Thompson, of Westbrook, was elected as (2017-2018) METRO Board President.