The Kennebec Commuter has few gripes about our fair capital city. We have a beautiful spa at the Senator Inn, decent retail and when one gets right down to it, it never takes more than 20 minutes to drive anywhere in Augusta.
Of course, most columnists have at least one gripe (usually used as column fodder). Ours? The lack of public transportation in Augusta.
All kinds of transportation and travel news and press releases come across this writer’s desk on a daily basis. Most of them are crumpled up and tossed because they hardly ever pertain to Augusta.
An e-mail we received a few weeks ago doesn’t completely satisfy that gripe, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
The folks at GoMaine, a Portland-based organization that is trying to expand car and vanpooling all over the state, has added three new vanpooling routes, two of which affect the capital city.
The routes are for commuters who drive between Augusta and Lewiston, Newport and Augusta, and Portland and Lewiston.
We got the scoop from Carey Kish, director of GoMaine.
“There’s no question that the demand is there,” Kish said. “It’s been identified through studies and anecdotal evidence. There’s demand all over the state for vanpooling.”>/p>
The three new routes join 14 existing vanpooling routes all over Maine. GoMaine’s existing vanpooling service accommodates 255 people, and there are dozens of others on waiting lists. Kish projects another 10 vanpooling routes for commuters will be added throughout Maine by the end of the year (a second route from Augusta to anywhere would be nice…hint hint)
“Here we’ve created a system that’s flexible,” Kish said. “It can meet the different needs of riders as necessary.”>/p>
How does it work? A group of 12 people who work within reasonable distance of each other, as well as live, can form a group and register with GoMaine for a van. GoMaine provides the van and the group does the rest: Sets a schedule to leave in the mornings and evenings, designates a park and ride location to meet every morning, and even determines who will drive that day.
“Our vanpool groups are very autonomous,” Kish said.
Of course, you can’t get something for nothing, but after noticing gas prices are tipping the $4 mark, people seem to have no problem shelling out a little green to subscribe to the service on a monthly basis. Rider fees pay for the gasoline, van insurance, EZ Pass account and overall maintenance.
Prices vary depending on the route you select. From Lewiston to Augusta is $87, Newport to Augusta is $120, and Portland to Lewiston is $90.
Considering we’ve spent almost $100 on gas in the past 10 days, sounds like a bargain to us.
Although most of the routes are already full, there are still a few available seats, and vehicles for lease for small groups, Kish said. Interested parties can register for a route by logging on to www.gomaine.org
Follow Meghan Malloy’s commuter blog and track the cheapest gasoline prices in town daily at www.kjonline.com