Coronavirus outbreak restrictions torpedo travel in Maine

All aspects of transportation in Maine – planes, trains, automobiles, and buses — are seeing dramatic downturns in traffic, with corresponding revenue losses.None is more profound or visible than the absence of travelers at the Portland International Jetport.“We’re down 93 percent on our passenger volumes,” said Jetport Director Paul Bradbury in an interview on Tuesday, the same rate of decline airports are seeing nationally. “Having 330,000 square feet of empty terminal is not a place any of us want to be.”Jetport ticket counters are practically empty as the daily trek of 6,000 passengers through the terminal has trickled to 500. Today, a Southwest 737 took off without fewer than 10 passengers on board. Seven passengers waited for a midday American flight to Philadelphia on a 50-seat plane. Bradbury said Jetport revenue, primarily from federal taxes on tickets, airline landing fees, and terminal parking, is down 75-percent, a loss of $1.6 million dollars in March.“This is unprecedented,” said Bradbury, who has led the airport since 2008. “February of 2020 was an all-time record February for us.”Though the Jetport is owned by the city of Portland, Bradbury said its downturn should not burden residents. The airport has $22 million, a normal year’s worth of revenue, in reserve, and expects to receive $11 million from its share of the $10 billion Congress in coronavirus emergency aid appropriated for airports. None of the Jetport’s 55 employees have been laid off, though some are working remotely.“Travel will take some time to recover,” Bradbury said.Maine ridership on Amtrak’s “Downeaster” train service, which previously offered five daily round trips between Brunswick and Boston, is down 88 percent. Now offering only two round trips a day, Amtrak carried 2,500 passengers along the route during the last two weeks of March, when it would typically carry 21,000, said Patricia Quinn, Executive Director, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.“It was so empty going and coming back,” said Michael O’Reagan, one of three passengers exiting the 11:40 a.m. Amtrak train that arrived in Portland on Tuesday. “It was wicked airy.”Nationally, year-over-year, Amtrak’s daily ridership is down 96 percent, and future bookings are down 95 percent, said rail service spokesman Jason Abrams.Buses belonging to Concord Coach Lines, which share the Thompson’s Point terminal with Amtrak, are idle.The New Hampshire-based company, with routes through New England and down to New York City, suspended all service on Saturday “until further notice.” Vehicle traffic is down almost 50 percent along the Maine Turnpike, from Kittery to Augusta, according to data provided to WMTW by the Maine Turnpike Authority. The Falmouth spur, where I-95 and I-295 connect, is seeing the biggest slowdown, but with commuter traffic coming to a halt due to “stay-at-home” orders, all nine Greater Portland exits have seen steep drops in traffic during the past two weeks, said MTA spokeswoman Erin Courtney.Turnpike traffic had spiked upward four-and-half percent in the first two weeks of the month, compared to last March, but sank following the declaration of civil emergency in the middle of the month.Toll revenue is not down at the same rate as traffic, because commercial trucks carrying essential goods pay higher tolls than passenger cars, Courtney said. Still, last Friday, when traffic was down by half, toll revenue was down 40 percent.

All aspects of transportation in Maine – planes, trains, automobiles, and buses — are seeing dramatic downturns in traffic, with corresponding revenue losses.

None is more profound or visible than the absence of travelers at the Portland International Jetport.

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“We’re down 93 percent on our passenger volumes,” said Jetport Director Paul Bradbury in an interview on Tuesday, the same rate of decline airports are seeing nationally. “Having 330,000 square feet of empty terminal is not a place any of us want to be.”

Jetport ticket counters are practically empty as the daily trek of 6,000 passengers through the terminal has trickled to 500.

Today, a Southwest 737 took off without fewer than 10 passengers on board. Seven passengers waited for a midday American flight to Philadelphia on a 50-seat plane.

Bradbury said Jetport revenue, primarily from federal taxes on tickets, airline landing fees, and terminal parking, is down 75-percent, a loss of $1.6 million dollars in March.

“This is unprecedented,” said Bradbury, who has led the airport since 2008. “February of 2020 was an all-time record February for us.”

Though the Jetport is owned by the city of Portland, Bradbury said its downturn should not burden residents.

The airport has $22 million, a normal year’s worth of revenue, in reserve, and expects to receive $11 million from its share of the $10 billion Congress in coronavirus emergency aid appropriated for airports. None of the Jetport’s 55 employees have been laid off, though some are working remotely.

“Travel will take some time to recover,” Bradbury said.

Maine ridership on Amtrak’s “Downeaster” train service, which previously offered five daily round trips between Brunswick and Boston, is down 88 percent.

Now offering only two round trips a day, Amtrak carried 2,500 passengers along the route during the last two weeks of March, when it would typically carry 21,000, said Patricia Quinn, Executive Director, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

“It was so empty going and coming back,” said Michael O’Reagan, one of three passengers exiting the 11:40 a.m. Amtrak train that arrived in Portland on Tuesday. “It was wicked airy.”

Nationally, year-over-year, Amtrak’s daily ridership is down 96 percent, and future bookings are down 95 percent, said rail service spokesman Jason Abrams.

Buses belonging to Concord Coach Lines, which share the Thompson’s Point terminal with Amtrak, are idle.

The New Hampshire-based company, with routes through New England and down to New York City, suspended all service on Saturday “until further notice.”

Vehicle traffic is down almost 50 percent along the Maine Turnpike, from Kittery to Augusta, according to data provided to WMTW by the Maine Turnpike Authority.

The Falmouth spur, where I-95 and I-295 connect, is seeing the biggest slowdown, but with commuter traffic coming to a halt due to “stay-at-home” orders, all nine Greater Portland exits have seen steep drops in traffic during the past two weeks, said MTA spokeswoman Erin Courtney.

Turnpike traffic had spiked upward four-and-half percent in the first two weeks of the month, compared to last March, but sank following the declaration of civil emergency in the middle of the month.

Toll revenue is not down at the same rate as traffic, because commercial trucks carrying essential goods pay higher tolls than passenger cars, Courtney said.

Still, last Friday, when traffic was down by half, toll revenue was down 40 percent.