The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Why You Should Take the Purple Bus

Alan Wang
Photo of the CityLink bus.

I’m sure you have seen these purple buses operated by CityLink running down Lewiston streets. Have you ever wondered what it feels like to use them? If anyone takes  at all? That’s what I decided to find out.

Many Bates students do bring their cars to campus, partly because Lewiston is not a walkable place to begin with. However, for most international students, driving is not a possibility; this also goes for American students from faraway places like the West Coast. To still provide these students with a way of getting around, Bates runs the Bobcat Express, a shuttle service with hourly departures to numerous destinations like Lisbon Street and Walmart. 

Although Bates wants to run this service like a bus, it essentially is still an on-demand service; you have to tell the driver where you want to go. This is very problematic because a student could ask the driver to go to Hannaford, making the shuttle go in the complete opposite direction of the route, causing delays for students waiting to be picked up from Walmart. Another issue is the messy schedule, and I mean it.

Screenshot of Bobcat Express schedule. (Alan Wang)

If you were able to decipher it, good job; you probably realized that weekday services do not start until 6 PM. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer doing grocery shopping before it’s dark. Coupled with the fact that Bobcat Express is an hourly service, and it never takes me that long to shop with a shopping list, the service is not very useful for me.

CityLink is also an hourly service, but because of its alignment, there is roughly a 30-minute window for shopping at Walmart, which is the perfect amount of time for me. The fare only costs $1.50, and the 6-College Street Line goes to Walmart directly, with only one intermediate stop that is often skipped.

So I decided to take the purple bus. Here’s how it went.

CityLink uses clock-face scheduling, meaning the bus will always come at the same minute every hour, making it exceptionally easy to remember. For Bates, the bus going to Walmart comes at the 19-minute of every hour (see full schedule here). I waited at the bus stop next to Alumni Walk at 2:19, prepared to face delays up to 10 minutes, since that’s what buses usually do… Without a surprise, the bus was 5 minutes late. But I realized after boarding that the delay was probably because the driver was assisting a passenger using a mobility scooter, and I would never complain about that.

I bought my ticket using an App called Token Transit. It was really easy to use and I was glad I could ride the bus without using any cash. After showing the driver my ticket, I sat down and started looking around. There were around 7 other passengers riding with me, not bad for a weekday afternoon. The interior was relatively clean and well maintained. After a quick ride, we arrived at Walmart at 2:30.

Photo of the inside of the CityLink bus.

Since I shop really quickly with a list, it did not take long before I came outside again to wait for the bus. The College Street Line departs Walmart at every top of the hour, but the bus arrived several minutes early at around 2:52. My guess is that Walmart is a resting stop for drivers and there’s extra redundancy in the schedule to offset potential delays. 

My return was extremely smooth. There are three stops at Bates where the bus can drop you off: Page Hall, Alumni Walk, and Frye Street. Simply pull on the yellow cord inside the bus to request a stop, and the driver will let you off.

After I got off, the bus disappeared into the heavy fog with 9 other passengers unable or unwilling to drive. I encourage all students to give these purple buses a try.

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    Steve HoadMar 7, 2024 at 10:22 AM

    Two comments from an alum: 1. When you ride the CityLink bus, you are supporting the public need for a reliable and clean transit system; boosting it is a “yes” vote that is appreciated by all public transit users.
    2. I would debate an early comment in the article about Lewiston’s “walkability”. It is, in fact, much more walkable than the surrounding rural areas and far better than Augusta and other smaller cities here in Maine. Being a place that was built before cars, there are more sidewalks in Lewiston than in some more modern cities in other parts of the country.

    thanks for this article:
    Steve Hoad, Windsor Maine ’72