Bangor celebrated the ceremonial grand opening of its new Bangor Area Transit Center in Pickering Square in December 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The city of Bangor will show appreciation for its city bus drivers during a public event Friday at the newly minted transit station in Pickering Square, a day before National Transit Driver Appreciation Day.

The public event, to be held at noon Friday, March 17, will recognize the city’s bus drivers who provide safe, reliable and affordable transportation — an essential service for many Bangor-area residents and visitors — though the city has struggled to fill driver positions in recent years.

The driver appreciation event comes roughly three months after the city marked the grand opening of the downtown bus hub. At the time, the station was heralded as the centerpiece of a years-long project to remodel Pickering Square and give Bangor a convenient downtown central bus station.

Last June, more than a quarter of the bus driver positions in Bangor were vacant, which led the city to temporarily suspend Saturday service on the Community Connector to better staff bus routes during the work week.

The city still has openings for bus drivers, according to its website, but didn’t return requests for comment regarding how many vacant driver positions it has and whether those have altered the bus service schedule or route.

The transit station, which took more than a year to build and cost the city more than $3.5 million, serves as the central hub for the Community Connector, the regional bus system that services Bangor, Brewer, Orono, Hampden, Old Town, Veazie and the University of Maine.  

The transportation hub gives riders an indoor space to wait for the bus, buy tickets and get schedule information as well as a covered outdoor waiting area, public bathrooms and charging stations.

The city’s hope was that the new center would change Bangor’s public transportation culture and encourage more residents and visitors to use the Community Connector system.

The city does not count how many people use the transit center, Bangor Bus Superintendent Laurie Linscott said last month.

Small things like plenty of seating and a warm place to wait has made a big difference in the moods of passengers and the state of the buses, said Jack McKay, director of Food and Medicine, which is co-hosting the event with the city.  

McKay said bus drivers have told him that passengers seem to be happier when leaving a warm, clean transit center compared with when they would wait out in the cold and elements. The buses are also cleaner because people are tracking in less snow and dirt from the streets when they’ve been waiting inside or undercover.

“The drivers also like having their own bathroom and a kitchen with their own eating space,” McKay said.

Aside from the cosmetic and interpersonal impacts the new transit station has had, McKay said the center represents a commitment from the city to support a robust public transportation so many Bangorians count on.

“For hundreds if not thousands of people, a bus system is a fundamental part of living,” McKay said. “It allows you to get food, go shopping, get to your job, go to medical appointments and be with family and friends. Having a robust system allows them to engage with the world in a basic way.”

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...