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Portland Metro Planning Extensive Route Changes

The proposed peninsula route.

The Greater Portland Metro bus system is considering the most extensive changes to its route structure in more than 30 years.

Metro officials will hold online sessions Tuesday to begin soliciting public feedback about its plans.

The changes will mostly affect bus service in Portland’s downtown. General Manager Greg Jordan says the impetus for the changes is to “create a more effective and desirable circulator for people to use to get around the peninsula with more frequency, more stops, more access to destinations.”

Metro currently has route No. 8 that loops around the peninsula. But as Jordan points out, that route “is pretty limited in where it goes. The frequency and hours of service are not great. And it is a one-directional route which makes it sort of hard to use for a lot of people.”

The proposed circulator route would stop at both Portland hospitals, make a first-ever run down Commercial Street, skirt the Bayside neighborhood and connect to the intercity bus and train station on Thompson’s Point.

Metro would eliminate route No. 1, which traverses Congress Street. Instead, several other routes would be extended, and their timing coordinated, to provide more frequent service in the Congress Street corridor from Washington Avenue to the transportation center on Thompson’s Point. Jordan says there could be a bus as often as once every 7 minutes.

Portland’s eastern waterfront, which has seen development of large new corporate offices, would also get more frequent bus service under the plan.

Jordan says it is likely that implementing the changes will require more money to expand the bus fleet and improve service frequency. He says figuring the precise cost, and how to pay for it, will be done early next year. The actual service changes wouldn’t happen until the second half of 2022.

If implemented, it would be the most extensive redrawing of Metro’s route map since the mid-1980’s. Then, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland pulled out of the transit district and the end of federal operating subsidies forced Metro to cut its remaining service roughly in half.