"The region's public transportation system will be integral in the post-pandemic economic recovery, and this funding will enable us to rebuild customer demand after the pandemic," said Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Matthew Sturgis, who chairs the transportation committee at the Greater Portland Council of Governments.
"The funds will help essential workers continue to get to their jobs by maintaining existing transit services. The funds will also support a modern and enhanced system through technology, planning, communications and public engagement, said Chris Chop, Transportation Director at GPCOG. “We expect these collective investments to support and even strengthen transit in the post-pandemic era."
GPCOG coordinates transportation planning and investment decisions with the state, municipalities and public transportation partners.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last March by Congress provides $25 billion nationwide to help the nation’s public transportation systems respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds will go to seven transit agencies — Greater Portland Transit District, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Casco Bay Island Transit District, Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit, York County Community Action Corporation, the Regional Transportation Program, and the City of South Portland Bus Service. Concord Coach Lines has also received some funds to support its Portland to Boston operations.
Of the $11.1 million allocated today, $9.1 million will be used to replace lost transit agency revenues; $1 million is dedicated to cleaning, sanitation and communications; and $1.1 million will be spent on projects to help recover ridership and improve transit system resiliency.
These project funds will be used to improve the customer experience by exploring opportunities for increasing strategic partnerships, coordination and integration in the region's transit network; improving access and safety for older adults, people with disabilities and people of color; conducting studies for potential rapid transit corridors; funding transit signal priority projects in Portland and South Portland; and purchasing automatic passenger counters for transit vehicles.
Public transportation in Southern Maine has received $53 million in total through CARES, with $32.6 million allocated across three phases. More than $20 million remains to be distributed.