Bus Rapid Transit could take a bite out of congestion – but who knows?

Our regional governance and transportation bodies approved – just three months ago – a plan to move forward with a bus rapid transit solution to increase mobility and connectivity from Gorham to Portland.

Could it help alleviate congestion? Yes!

Is it viable with a highway also serving the route? Maybe not, and it seems no one is trying to figure this out.

Map of proposed Gorham-Portland enhanced bus service. Source: GPCOG

BRT is an enhanced bus service, which, when successful, attracts riders from cars and getting people to their destinations faster and more comfortably than traditional busses. When it works, some people who would otherwise drive take the bus.

The Portland Area Comprehensive Transit System (PACTS) and the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) handed over delivery of the ownership of the project to Greater Portland METRO in January. BRT cost estimates start at a fraction of the cost of a highway, and are at most half of its capital costs, according to the regional long-term public transit improvement plan.

Also, critically, BRT could start operating sooner a highway, and if BRT does not work well, it can be undone. If we scar our towns and farms with highways, they will never come back.

Could the much cheaper, faster to implement, and reversible bus rapid transit service through Westbrook and Gorham ease congestion in that direction? We don’t know. But we can only guess. The turnpike plan seems to be plowing ahead for Smiling Hill Farm and Red Brook without paying any attention to the alternatives for cleaner, lower-impact solutions that are moving forward in parallel.

We risk making a terrible, costly, irreversible mistake with the Gorham “Connector”. Let’s try the greener, fiscally prudent and gentler alternatives instead.