ACADIA NAT’L PARK — The propane-powered, fare-free Island Explorer bus system will begin its 18th season of operations on Mount Desert Island on Thursday, June 23. Downeast Transportation, the nonprofit organization that operates the Island Explorer, is still recruiting and accepting applications for additional bus drivers in anticipation of a very busy season.
The Island Explorer runs eight routes through Acadia National Park and the surrounding communities on Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula. “We’re expecting a really busy summer,” said Paul Murphy, general manager from Downeast Transportation. “Park visitation for the year was up 25 percent at the end of May, and it is only expected to grow because of interest in the Acadia National Park centennial and the centennial of the National Park Service.”
Events and programs for Acadia’s centennial have been planned throughout the summer, and the centennial has received national media coverage.
“We’ve hired more than 70 people this spring, but we could use additional drivers to reduce overtime pressure and to fill in with back-up buses on the busiest days and times,” said Murphy.
While the Island Explorer will allow up to 13 passengers to stand, once that limit is reached, drivers have to ask boarding passengers to wait until the next bus comes through. “We never like to make passengers wait because we want everyone to have a positive experience in the park. We take customer service seriously, and we need additional drivers in order to provide the best service possible.”
Friends of Acadia is funding the lease of three additional buses from Western Maine Transportation Services to add capacity for the Island Explorer this summer.
David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia, praised the Island Explorer as a tremendous asset to the island community. “It reduces automobile congestion and is a convenient way to get around the Island. We’re happy to help the Island Explorer grow, and we hope there are community members out there with appropriate training who might be able to take a shift or two to help out our community bus system.”
The Island Explorer’s schedule is available online at www.exploreacadia.com and can be picked up at area visitor centers. The bus system is supported by Acadia National Park transit fees that are incorporated into the park’s entrance fees, as well as funds from the Maine Department of Transportation, L.L. Bean and Friends of Acadia, area towns, businesses that receive front-door service and passenger donations.
To drive an Island Explorer bus, one must have a Class C commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement. Downeast Transportation trains bus drivers on operations and customer service and is willing to help interested drivers with a Class C driver’s license achieve their passenger endorsement. Downeast Transportation also may be seeking additional drivers for the bicycle express vans, which do not require a commercial driver’s license. Anyone interested can contact Jodi Moore at 667-5796 or [email protected]
Since 1999, the bus system has carried more than six million passengers, reduced automobile trips by more than 2.2 million, eliminated more than 32 tons of smog-causing pollutants and reduced greenhouse gasses by an estimated 21,000 tons.