Object to "migration" of USM’s mission, seek end to Metro shuttle plan
MEDIA CONTACT: WiseTransitME@gmail.com
(Portland, Maine) An alliance of taxpaying Maine bus companies has written to James Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System, asking that “the University of Southern Maine suspend its pursuit, in league with Metro, of an expanded ‘regional transportation network.’” (LINK to letter HERE)
Joe Cyr, the owner of Old Town’s Cyr Bus Lines and a member of Taxpayers for Wise Transit Spending (TWTS), wrote to Page last month requesting a meeting, and asserting that USM’s migration into developing regional public transit policy is an inappropriate departure from its original and proper purpose of educating college students.
“We suggest that USM should adhere strictly to its mission,” Cyr wrote. “Further, we suggest that in dedicating itself to students, the university should maintain or improve transportation options for its students, not degrade them.”
A proposal by USM and Metro will end the current non-stop USM shuttle. The new plan adds stops between the Gorham and Portland campuses, thus lengthening the commute for students. Also, taxpaying providers say they’re confused by another major change. A service that had been exclusive to USM students will now be open to the general public.
“For as long as I can remember, USM has vigorously opposed having the general public ride along with students, citing serious safety concerns,” said Gregg Isherwood, owner of Custom Coach & Limousine. “The obvious question is, what led to the about face? Did students and their parents have any say in this policy reversal?”
The taxpaying bus companies also object to the cost of what USM and Metro have proposed. The current USM shuttle, provided via a public/private partnership, uses three buses to provide safe, efficient and punctual transportation. A taxpaying company provides the buses, and the service costs an estimated $390,000 per year. Metro’s plan would end the public/private partnership, and force taxpayers to foot the bill for eight new buses, with a price tag of more than $4 million. It will also cost $2 million annually to operate the proposed “Husky Line,” so just in the first year the cost to operate the new service would be an estimated $6 million. Metro claims nearly 85% of the ridership on the “Husky Line” will come from USM, yet the university will only pay 22% of the cost.
“We’re trying to alert taxpayers to the implications of Metro’s voracious appetite for more tax dollars,” said Lana Sawyer,” a TWTS member and owner of VIP Tour & Charter Bus Company. “My company does not have the contract for the USM shuttle, our competitor does. But an important principle is at stake here. The taxpayers’ money should be spent very frugally. In this case, Metro’s spending spree is buying a gold-plated solution to a problem that doesn’t even exist.”
Taxpayers for Wise Transit Spending (www.WiseTransitME.org) is an alliance of Bus and Motorcoach companies based in the state of Maine. Its members are decades-old family businesses, and each pays significant local, state and federal taxes. The alliance has the strong support of the American Bus Association, the United Motorcoach Association, the New England Bus Association and the Business Coalition for Fair Competition.