YARMOUTH — After two years of planning, the Greater Portland Transit District bus route from Portland to Freeport is in service.
The METRO BREEZ launched June 16 with ceremonies in Freeport and Yarmouth.
The pilot, three-year express service will initially run from Portland to Freeport, with stops in Falmouth and Yarmouth. There will be nine trips each weekday and five on Saturdays. The service will only stop in Falmouth three times each day.
METRO General Manager Greg Jordan said Brunswick may be added to the service by next summer, with discussions taking place over the next year. METRO had extended the offer to Brunswick in 2014, but the Town Council and Town Manager had concerns about the cost.
Town administrators and elected officials from Freeport, Yarmouth, and Falmouth spoke at the June 16 ceremonies, as did METRO board President Ed Suslovic.
“Today we expose the lie in the Maine myth that ‘you can’t get there from here,'” Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper said. “This new service is the vehicle in which each of us can get there from here.”
Tupper said the service offers benefits to many people, including those who can’t drive and elderly people who want to continue living in their towns and homes. He said the service benefits everyone because of the positive effect it will have on the environment.
Yarmouth Town Councilor David Craig said the service offers many opportunities for residents in Yarmouth, and for people who want to visit the town. He said it will hopefully bring a lot of Portland residents to the annual Yarmouth Clam Festival.
Craig the service should be good for local businesses and help spur economic development.
“It’s a great fit for what Yarmouth has been trying to do and it fits with the priorities of the (Town) Council,” he said.
Freeport Town Council Chairwoman Melanie Sachs also said the initiative will have a positive impact.
“This will be great not only for the environment, but great for the community,” she said. “The more options you can bring into your community, the more every resident will benefit.”
Sachs said the Freeport Town Council has “heard loud and clear” that residents want the service and are excited about it. Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph said although there were some initial concerns, residents are happy about it now.
“A lot of people’s attitudes changed from ‘this might not work’ to ‘wow, the METRO staff is really addressing our concerns,'” Joseph said.
Plans for the bus service underwent many changes involving schedules, placement of bus shelters, and locations of bus stops.
The stops in Freeport are the L.L. Bean corporate headquarters on Casco Street, Town Hall, and on Main Street in front of the L.L. Bean flagship store.
There will be four stops in Yarmouth: at the Interstate 295 commuter parking lots at Exit 15 and Exit 17, Town Hall on Main Street, and the Hannaford complex on Route 1.
Falmouth stops will be at the Falmouth Shopping Center and on Route 1 near the intersection with Clearwater Drive and Fundy Road, but only during off-peak hours.
A round-trip ticket between Portland and Freeport will cost $6. There will also be 10-ride passes and monthly passes, which Jordan said will be available for purchase at town halls, libraries and at METRO’s Portland office.
Jordan said he and METRO are happy with the service.
“It’s great to see it come together after 2 1/2 years of planning and community work,” he said.
Joseph said he hopes the bus service is just the beginning of collaborating on projects with other towns.
“This is an example of a shared service we can provide and it’s something we need to continue to do in the future,” he said.
Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph, right, praises the work of the METRO staff and board, including President Ed Suslovic, left, at the June 16 launch of bus service from Portland to Freeport.
The new METRO BREEZ bus service will go from Freeport to Portland with stops in Yarmouth and Falmouth.