The foundation of the current Casco Bay Island Transit District (Casco Bay Lines) regular-service schedules dates to well over 50 years ago. Since that time, Casco Bay Lines has only made schedule changes in an ad hoc fashion in response to isolated requests. Over time, the system has grown increasingly inefficient, resulting in increased operating expenses and lower customer satisfaction with the existing schedules.
As part of a long-range strategic planning process undertaken by the Casco Bay Lines Board of Directors (Board) between 2015 and 2016, the Board agreed to a number of goals and priorities, one of which was to conduct an analysis of the existing schedules to determine whether new service schedules should be implemented in order to improve both efficiencies and customer satisfaction. The Board developed a Project Overview Statement and a special advisory committee to guide this work. The Schedule Advisory Committee was structured by the Board to include seats for members of the Board, staff and general public representing the islands served by the ferry system.
The Board agreed on goals for any new schedule considered, including that it should improve transportation options for residents, tourists and other visitors, be presented in a manner that is user friendly on paper and online, include a documented process for future schedule changes, improve efficiencies, create schedule uniformity, simplify service and not result in an immediate fare increase. The Board determined that the process of creating the new schedule must consider Collective Bargaining Agreements, fleet composition, existing facilities, preserve all major lines of service and include robust public participation.
In April 2017, Casco Bay Lines issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify a marine transportation consulting firm to conduct the analysis and make a recommendation to the Board. Four firms submitted proposals, two were short listed for interviews and KPFF from Seattle, Washington, was selected. Casco Bay Lines entered into a contract with KPFF in July of 2017 and they immediately began the work of gathering information on ridership, freight, vehicle and financial data, as well as learning about the existing schedule and the current fleet of vessels. The Schedule Advisory Committee met to kick-off the project with a public meeting in July 2017.
Working with KPFF and the Schedule Advisory Committee, Casco Bay Lines issued a public survey to gather stakeholder input anonymously to inform the process. The survey, focused on various aspects of the sailing schedule and ferry usage, was open online from August 24 to September 15, 2017, and was promoted via Casco Bay Lines’ email list, other email lists used on the islands, the Casco Bay Lines website, posters, and an open house at the Terminal on August 29 2017. Paper surveys were also made available. At the survey’s close, there were 640 total responses.
The team then held public meetings on Peaks Island, Little Diamond Island and Great Diamond Island on September 26, 2017, and Long Island, Cliff Island and Chebeague Island on September 27, 2017, to solicit additional input and discuss preliminary analysis of the survey results.
Following a review of all public input and an analysis of existing conditions, KPFF began the work of drafting alternative schedules for the Board’s consideration. KPFF was tasked with realizing the Board’s goal of developing schedules that provide efficient and effective ferry service to meet traveler needs, align with sound operating practices, and are sustainable over time. Schedule development was also informed by operational parameters such as dwell time requirements for freight operations, crew scheduling requirements, and vessel capabilities. In order to ensure that any new schedules would increase service without increasing cost, draft alternative schedules considered sailing times, service hours, vessel usage, crew shift schedules, and fuel use.
A Schedule Advisory Committee meeting was held on May 16, 2018, and a Board meeting on May 17, 2018, for both groups to review findings and potential recommendations as part of initial draft alternative schedules.
The initial draft alternative schedules were then the subject of an additional round of public meetings to provide the public with an opportunity to review, discuss progress and provide additional feedback on potential schedule changes. This second round of public meetings was held on May 23, 2018, at the Terminal, June 5, 2018, on Peaks Island, Little Diamond Island and Great Diamond Island, and June 7, 2018, on Long Island, Cliff Island and Chebeague Island.
Throughout the Schedule Analysis Project, input from the public has been a critical component of the analysis. Utilizing input collected from the survey, public meetings, and outreach directly to staff, the needs of all ferry riders, as expressed through their feedback, have been seriously considered at every juncture in this process to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that new schedules meet the needs of the entire community while understanding it would be virtually impossible to meet the needs of every individual. Following the June 2018 public meetings, KPFF considered input received on their initial drafts and worked with Casco Bay Lines to complete final updates to proposed alternative schedules.
In March 2019, Casco Bay Lines received a final Schedule/Fleet Analysis reportfrom KPFF. Among other things, the report includes revised alternative schedules which incorporate much of the additional feedback received on the initial drafts.
The revised alternative schedules for Peaks Island and Down Bay achieve the goals set by the Board for any proposed alternative schedules and were adjusted based on public feedback. The proposed alternative schedule for Peaks Island increases the number of sailings serving vehicles, increases the total number of daily sailings, has uniform departure times and represents a slight net operating cost decrease. The proposed alterative schedule for Down Bay increases the number of sailings serving freight, increases the total number of daily sailings, and represents a slight net operating cost decrease. Increased service and decreased costs are accompanied by a number of changes designed to increase customer satisfaction. Specific highlights include:
- Simplified service through a reduction number of seasonal schedule variations. The proposed alternative Peaks Island schedule presents two seasonal schedules for Peaks in place of the existing three and the proposed alternative Down Bay schedule presents three for Down Bay in place of the existing seven.
- A consistent Sunday/Holiday schedule to be used throughout the year for all service.
- Schedule uniformity for Peaks Island with departures from Portland occurring 45 minutes after the hour (3:45, 4:45 etc.) year-round.
- Additional opportunities for transport of commercial freight to the Down Bay islands.
Additionally, several adjustments were made between the revised alternative schedules now being proposed and KPFF’s initial drafts to accommodate for specific feedback Casco Bay Lines received. These changes include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The winter Down Bay alternative schedule was revised to include a 4:15 PM boat in the schedule. Maintaining a 4:15 PM sailing year-round allows for parents on Long and Great Diamond Islands to transit to pick up kids from school as well as an additional commuter service.
- The Down Bay alterative schedule was revised to maintain a noon boat year-round. This was requested to support freight service and appointments on the mainland.
- The Down Bay summer schedule was adjusted to maintain the existing 5:45 PM boat in the schedule. This change was requested by commuters.
Casco Bay Lines will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on these revised proposed alternative schedules before any final recommendations are made and presented to the Schedule Advisory Committee and the Board. Public meetings will be scheduled later in 2019 to collect public feedback.
Public feedback may also be submitted to or Casco Bay Lines Attn: Schedule Project, P.O. Box 4656, Portland, ME, 04112-4656, and all comments sent to this inbox/mailing address will be shared with the Board of Directors prior to their consideration of the proposed alternative schedules.
A vote of the Board is required for final approval and has not been scheduled at this time. The current 2018-2019 schedules will likely remain in effect through the end of 2019, or until the Board approves any new schedule for 2020. All Schedule Advisory Committee and Board of Directors meetings are open to the public and posted on the Casco Bay Lines website. We will continue to share updates on the Schedule Analysis Project in our enewsletter, in the News section on the Casco Bay Lines website, and on our Facebook page so please subscribe/follow these to ensure you receive information as it is updated.
Ultimately, the goal of the Schedule Analysis Project, and the resulting new schedules, is to continue to constantly improve service through purposeful change while also balancing the viability and sustainability of Casco Bay Island Transit District. We serve over one million passengers annually and ask all to consider the complexity of this process and the sheer impossibility of designing a schedule perfectly suited to each individual’s preferences. We are passionate about our mission to serve Casco Bay’s island communities and visitors with year-round passenger, freight and vehicle ferry service and we look forward to doing so for generations to come.
Questions? Send via email to or mail to Casco Bay Lines Attn: Schedule Project, P.O. Box 4656, Portland, ME, 04112-4656. Please Note: while CBITD makes every effort to respond to all questions, we ask for your patience as we may be receiving large volumes.