BAR HARBOR — Bus company Downeast Transportation is being asked to propose ways to increase service as a possible solution to parking issues in town.
The Town Council made the request at their meeting Tuesday, following a recommendation from the Parking Solutions Task Force earlier this month.
According to an email to the council from task force facilitator Ron Beard, Downeast Transportation received funding from the Maine Department of Transportation to conduct a study “to examine opportunities to better synchronize future Island Explorer service with plans by Acadia National Park, The Jackson Lab and the town of Bar Harbor, including the parking program.”
Tom Crikelair, a planning consultant to Downeast Transportation, found in an early estimate that the current bus schedule reduced demand for downtown parking by “as many as 280 spaces.”
Councilor Matthew Hochman presented Crikelair’s findings in discussion.
“This study could really show a correlation between increased bus services could not create more parking, but alleviate some of the parking problems downtown,” Hochman said.
As subsidies to the bus system mean that Island Explorer passengers pay no fare, it is hoped that increased routes could capture more users.
“I’m really excited to see this happen,” Councilor Gary Friedmann said. “I think this is the kind of research that when publicized to the town, to the citizens, to the voters, what parking revenues could do, in terms of increasing bus services and creating parking spaces, I think this could swing that vote.”
Councilors were skeptical of the cost of additional bus service, but Councilor Erin Early Ward said that they “wouldn’t necessarily” need a new bus, just a longer route.