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Bus companies question Portland Metro-USM deal

BY PETER MCGUIRE

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A coalition of four Maine bus firms has accused Portland Metro of using taxpayer subsidies to undercut private companies interested in providing a university student shuttle service.

Criticism is focused on a deal between Metro and the University of Southern Maine to provide a transit pass program for students and staff. The arrangement is part of Metro’s $4.5 million Transit West project, a major expansion that includes new bus service between Portland and Gorham. It is planned to launch in 2018.

On Tuesday, opponents of the plan unveiled Taxpayers for Wise Transit Spending, a campaign to pressure USM to cancel its contract with Metro and consider student shuttle bids from private companies.

“We are not against public transit at all, but it needs to be practical,” Gregg Isherwood, owner of Custom Coach and Limousine, said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. The company’s six-year shuttle contract with USM ends next year. Bus companies were never asked if they could provide service similar to Metro’s, Isherwood said.

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