BANGOR, Maine — Bangor’s Community Connector bus service will be expanding — and not just with the acquisition of five buses.

The number of routes the now 19-bus fleet services — and the amount of potential advertising revenue it can generate — is also increasing, by one.
There are currently seven routes, covering 103 miles of roadway.

The new route will extend weekday bus service out Hammond Street Extension to Hildreth Street from University College on Odlin Road. The buses will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an expected start date of Monday, April 2.

“That’s something Councilor Cary Weston and I have wanted to do for years,” City Councilor Patricia Blanchette told Bangor Community Connector Superintendent Joe McNeil this week.

McNeil said he has wanted to do it for years, too, but was waiting for the buses to service the route. He said he also will have to hire one or two more drivers.

The color schemes on the five new buses may cause passengers to do a double take before boarding. The former New York-based Westchester County Public Works and Transportation Department buses are all white with permanent blue and yellow reflective stripes. But McNeil said some red paint should help, and he attended the Bangor City Council’s government operations committee meeting Tuesday to get its blessing for the $2,500 paint job.

Councilors — only three (James Gallant, Charlie Longo and Blanchette) of the five committee members were present — initially balked at the request. McNeil then explained that the cost would be covered under the Community Connector budget and that painting the bus “noses” — below the windshields — red would not only bring them more in line with the red, black and gray “BAT” color scheme on the rest of the fleet. It would also help visually impaired riders waiting for rides better identify the buses. The request was then approved, with Blanchette casting the opposing vote.

The Orion buses, ranging in years from 2002 to 2008 and in mileage from 175,000 to 200,000, were initially offered at $25,000 to $50,000 each. Bangor wound up getting them for free.

The buses are designed to last for 500,000 miles.

“They were in the position where they had to liquidate due to excess surplus and federal regulations,” McNeil explained. “There were 11 30-footers and three 40-footers, but we were only interested in 30s because our system won’t allow that big a bus for turning radius purposes.”

While Bangor had to pay for new tires, plus the cost to send drivers to get the buses and drive them home, each came with a full tank of gas.

That will slightly offset the cost of the paint job, but at $450 per gallon, the paint is more expensive than the gasoline.

“I don’t know why, but red is the most expensive color,” McNeil said.

McNeil has another way to offset expenses, as he is projecting $89,000 in net ad revenue this year from bus signage — $37,800 of which will come from a full-wrap advertising package in which ads for one company cover any of four buses. There is also another potential ad revenue stream in the form of the installation of signs covering one complete side of a bus.