Under the rapid transit proposal, buses would travel between Portland and Westbrook every 10 minutes, and every 20 minutes between Westbrook and Gorham.
A woman gets off the bus in front of Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland on Sept. 8, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Officials in Greater Portland are considering a system of rapid transit bus routes for the region.

Under a draft proposal from the Greater Portland Council of Governments, dedicated bus lanes would provide express service through Portland, Westbrook and Gorham more quickly than traditional bus service, with stops along the way.

The preferred route would start at the University of Southern Maine campus in Gorham, travel through downtown Westbrook and stop at the University of Southern Maine campus in Portland before heading down Congress Street and ending near the Eastern Promenade.

The proposal envisions service every 10 minutes between Portland and Westbrook, and 20 minutes between Westbrook and Gorham.

“That’s frequent enough that you’re not relying on a schedule anymore,” said Andrew Clark, transit program manager for council. “You’re no longer planning your day around the bus schedule. You just know you can go out to the station, and the bus will be there in 10 minutes or something like that.”

Clark said service every 10-20 minutes also should lure riders who wouldn’t normally consider taking public transit.

“I think people understand the role that transit can play in making our cities better, its role in reducing congestion, its role in better climate outcomes, better social equity outcomes,” he said.

Greater Portland Metro would operate the proposed route, but the vehicles and stops would have a different look than the service’s existing buses, Clark added.

The proposed routes are still a long way away, Clark said. The cities of Portland, Westbrook and Gorham will need to decide how much road space can be freed up for dedicated bus lanes. The project also will need to secure federal funds for the new bus lanes and battery-powered vehicles.

Officials also eventually envision rapid transit routes to South Portland, Biddeford and Saco, Brunswick and Windham.

The council will host a virtual community meeting to gather more public feedback about the proposal on Thursday.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.