Island Explorer ridership down sharply 



BAR HARBOR — Ridership on the Island Explorer buses was down significantly in the first five-plus weeks of service, which started June 23. 

The fare-free bus system set a record for ridership in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The buses didn’t run at all in 2020 and on only half of the normal number of routes in 2021. 

The Island Explorer has largely resumed its traditional level of service this year, but so far, the number of riders is lower than in the years before COVID. In 2019, the buses carried 243,414 passengers from June 23 through July 31. 

During the same 39-day period this year, the preliminary passenger count was 150,353. That is a drop of 38 percent. 

Paul Murphy, executive director of Downeast Transportation, which operates the Island Explorer bus system, said there could be several reasons for the decline in ridership so far. 

“We are running a few fewer hours than we were in 2019; we are not running as late at night,” he said. “So that would at least partially explain why we are not fully back to 2019 levels.” 

Murphy also noted that, through June, the estimated number of visits to Acadia National Park was off from last year, which was a record setter. (The estimated number of visits to Acadia in July has not yet been reported.) And Murphy said his sense is that downtown Bar Harbor hasn’t been as busy this summer as it was last year or even three years ago. 

“This season seems more relaxed,” he said. 

The Island Explorer buses carry passengers through Acadia and its neighboring communities through Oct. 10, with reduced service starting Aug. 23. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

Latest posts by Dick Broom (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.