PRESQUE ISLE – A first-of-its-kind fixed route bus service in northern Maine will connect riders to housing, work, education, healthcare, social services and retail locations throughout Presque Isle when the service launches on October 15, 2019. At a press conference today, leaders with the Going Places Network announced details for The PI Loop, including the route, location of bus stops throughout the Star City, technology features and ridership fares.
To introduce the new service and encourage community members to use it, Going Places officials announced the first two weeks of the service will be offered at no charge to riders. The bus will run seven days a week, Monday through Saturday 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The initial bus scheduled released today will be effective October 15 through October 31, as officials assess ridership needs and make any adjustments for a schedule that will be released effective November 1.
The bus will travel around Presque Isle making stops at 16 locations that run from the University of Maine at Presque Isle on the south end of the city to the Aroostook Centre Mall on the north end. On the western side of the community, the bus will make three stops in the Skyway Industrial Park and include Northern Light A. R. Gould Memorial Hospital as a stop on the eastern side.
“The PI Loop will revolutionize access to resources in our community by giving riders a safe, affordable, convenient, Wi-Fi enabled bus system that will help people get where they need to be each day,” said LeRae Kinney of SAD 1, who along with Jamie Chandler of ACAP, co-chair the Going Places Transportation Network, which has spent the past several months getting the project off the ground.
In sharing the details of The PI Loop, both Kinney and Chandler noted that the new bus service is an economic development initiative with many benefits intended for the ridership, including customers of all ages and ability, and the community at large. The two group leaders shared that the work of the Going Places Network is focused on creating a positive impact on public transportation in the region, connecting community members in an inclusive way, and maximizing the collective impact, input and energy of numerous stakeholders.
“The PI Loop will provide several pathways and opportunities for residents, and visitors alike, who will have access to a dependable, reliable and affordable public transportation option that will change the face of our community and provide equal access and opportunity to everyone,” said Chandler.
Going Places Network members include more than a dozen non-profit organizations, government agencies and businesses. Engagement in getting The PI Loop off the ground has expanded to include a number of other community leaders and members of the Presque Isle Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, which have adopted The PI Loop as their joint community project this year.
Aroostook Regional Transportation System (ARTS), a member of the Going Places Network, will provide the service beginning October 15 in a brand new 36-seat, fully accessible, metro style passenger bus recently purchased with a donation by philanthropist Mary Smith.
A regular fare for the bus, which consists of a one-on, one-off, will cost riders $1.75. A roundtrip fare is $3.50. Discounted fares are available based on eligibility criteria. The lower rates will be offered to individuals 18 years and under, 60 years and older, persons with mobility disabilities, and active military and veterans and spouses with military ID. Children five years of age and under will ride for free with a parent or guardian.
Regular and frequent users of the service will also have the opportunity to purchase either a Go Pass or Go Card. The Go Pass features two options: a 31-day and a seven-day. Both offer unlimited ridership for the designated period. The Go Card allows riders to load (and reload) funds with a declining balance when scanned each time the user boards the bus.
“These fares are comparable to other transit systems,” said John Duncan, interim executive director for ARTS. “We wanted to make it as convenient and accessible as possible for community members to ride The PI Loop. This service is available and open to everyone. We hope to see you on The PI Loop!”
Riders will be able to purchase fares using cash (exact change only), credit card or EBT on the bus. Go Passes and Go Cards can be purchased at kiosks at ARTS, ACAP or the Presque Isle Housing Authority office, and also from one’s own computer or mobile device. The kiosks were strategically placed to assist riders with creating their accounts, purchasing fares, Go Cards and Go Passes.
Access to the service is further enhanced electronically with a specially-designed mobile phone app and website that will allow community members to pay for The PI Loop fares on-line, to track the bus and see its location in real time using GPS technology, and receive any alerts. A County-based firm, Sweden Street of Caribou, is building the technology to support Presque Isle’s new public transportation initiative.
“We are working to make it easy for riders to plan their trips on the new bus. We aim to create an online user experience that is intuitive and easy to use. Expect the PI Loop application to be on par with or better than apps you may be accustomed to when travelling around the country or internationally,” said Steve Wimmer of Sweden Street Software and Consulting. “The project has provided an incredible opportunity to take advantage of modern technologies and the cloud to create a web site and mobile app for Aroostook County residents, and visitors to the area, to use to ride the bus.”
Presque Isle City officials, including City Manager Martin Puckett and members of the City Council, have been involved in the Going Places Network meetings and planning for the coming launch of The PI Loop. Improving access to public transportation options in the Star City has been among Puckett’s goals since he first became city manager.
“I am very excited to see the PI Loop service start in the Star City. The collaboration has led to an innovative transit service that is not only a first in Aroostook County but in the State of Maine. The new service will meet the transportation needs of a wide range of the population,” said Puckett.
In the coming weeks, the Going Places Network will announce two additional significant sponsors, who along with recently announced presenting sponsor Katahdin Trust, will be among the three major initial supporters recognized with signage on the bus exterior. The PI Loop bus will also be rolling into Presque Isle with its newly designed wrap prior to an inaugural special run of the bus for media and community supporters on October 1.
Advertising opportunities for local businesses and organizations in the bus interior will be made available to interested entities in the coming month.
The first four months of service for The PI Loop are considered the pilot phase. Any adjustments will be made moving forward based on ridership and feedback from consumers during this period. In addition, an area-wide transportation feasibility study will be conducted by a private consulting firm working with the Going Places Network and ARTS during this initial period.
The pilot phase and feasibility study will provide Going Places members valuable data to make any future adjustments to the route, bus stop locations and operating hours of the service. That information will help assess where best to place bus shelter structures, which will be installed in 2020. The shelters will shield people waiting for the bus from the elements and serve as an income source with advertising options available on the units.