The Downeaster is asking tourists traveling to popular Maine destinations to ditch the car and try the train.
On Wednesday, the Downeaster launched the Discover Maine Rail Pass, a cheap, multitrip ticket between six stations in southern Maine.
Most of the stations are within walking distance to a downtown or an attraction, making the train a viable alternative to driving, Downeaster Marketing Director Natalie Bogart said in an interview
“We’ve seen ridership grow in general; the lion’s share of that are people riding to and from Boston, but we have seen intermittent travel grow, too,” she said.
The $19 Discover Maine Rail Pass is good for 10 one-way trips over a seven-day period – $1.90 a ride. The pass covers trips to and from Wells, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Freeport and Brunswick.
The Downeaster has five round-trips a day between Portland and Boston’s North Station, three of which extend to Freeport and Brunswick. There often are empty seats on the Maine legs of the trip, and the rail service decided that a pass that allows in-state passengers to hop on and off could generate more revenue, Bogart said.
“There is space in the Maine stations; that is why we priced this pass at a low introductory rate to develop demand for intrastate travel,” she said. “At the start of any given run, there is capacity available, it is a way to fill a seat or resell a seat.”
Ridership on the Downeaster has broken records in eight of the past 12 months and revenue records have been set in 10 of the past 12 months, Bogart said. About 548,000 people rode the train in the past year and generated $9.9 million in revenue, 15 percent more than the previous year, she said.
The Downeaster hopes the Discover Maine Rail Pass appeals to tourists who are in Maine for a week or more who might want to go shopping in Freeport, spend a day in Portland or head to the beach. Almost all of the train stations are within a short walking distance of restaurants, shops and attractions, Bogart said.
The Portland station is a city bus hub and a short taxi ride to downtown, and Thompson’s Point, the growing entertainment and cultural venue, is right around the corner.
The station in Wells is harder to reach without a car, but a trolley runs to the town and beach during the summer, Bogart said.
“We really tried to develop a product to provide an extra level of flexibility (that) tourists in general are looking for,” she said. “All you have to do is show up and board the train.”