Lewiston-Auburn’s bus service is being spread thin due to needed maintenance on the buses. The cities’ Citylink bus system is now running on just four buses for seven of nine routes. This story got me thinking about public transportation. I’m speaking to those who live in Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn (L/A), Portland or really any other smaller city. Have you ever ridden a city bus to get from one place to another either out of necessity or convenience?

I’m often asked “what is a difference from where I grew up and where I live now?” I’m asked that question by both new friends and old friends alike. There are a few differences but the focus here is about city public transit.

When I was young I either walked or took a bus to get where I needed to go when I was going alone. You reading this may think I was a scrub by what I’m saying, maybe it was true where I didn’t own car as a teen or in my very early 20s? I remember when I first moved to Bangor I started doing the same thing, walking or taking the bus on occasion. The difference in Bangor was and I see now, just in my opinion seems to be a stigma attached to people walking city streets alone without being obvious they're doing it for exercise or taking a bus or even taking a cab from A to B that they’re people who lost their license or deadbeats. On the contrary, most of the riders I met in Bangor back in 1995, were low wage earners, some disabled and people who didn’t have access to a car because their boyfriend or girlfriend was using it at the time.

To be fair every time I see a bus rolling through L/A it’s either empty or close to it. I like the idea of using city buses as a convenience tool if for no other reason. Again this is just me, but I think to make a city bus system work there needs to be a change in perception of the people who ride the bus, a branding of sorts. Better routes and some that go slightly out of town, frequency and marketing would help too.

I know Bangor, L/A and Portland aren’t metros of 300,000 or so people where everyone, rich and poor ride the bus but I think it’s an option that if it was used by more. Buses certainly aren’t sustainable when they drive around town with two or three people riding.

So I say to the bus system in L/A, I know probably the service runs at a loss but this is a vital piece of the twin cities and the mechanical needs have to be addressed so those who depend on the service for going to work, doctors appointments, etc. can do so without too much hassle. Lastly, I think a good city transit system helps build community, friendships and conversation among the townsfolk.