I ride the Falmouth Flyer bus. Not because I have to, but because I choose to.
I’m not even a regular morning commuter to Portland. If I were, I’d be riding a lot more, because the bus schedule right now is designed for commuters.
When I first moved here five years ago and saw the blue-and-white bus driving up and down Route 1, I saw it as another reason that Falmouth is a great town. Not only gorgeous, with green trees and lovely homes, but also wise, bold and long-sighted. I was impressed.
But still, I didn’t ride the bus. The schedules seemed complicated, and I never bothered to figure them out. Even when the route expanded to serve the Foreside via Johnson Road and Route 88, stopping at Town Landing Market near my house – at 6:55 and 7:55 in the morning, and for three hours starting at 3:55 p.m. – even though I love buses, I still didn’t ride it. I had received a couple of bus promotions in the mail our first year in Falmouth, but they stopped; I never heard anything about the bus, nobody I knew rode it and I was too busy.
In spite of my laziness and inertia, once I finally got myself into a bus seat on my way to the Portland Public Library, I couldn’t believe how long I had put it off – because I love riding the bus! I had a delightful time, saved gas money, avoided parking hassles and costs, got a little more exercise by walking, eased my conscience about pollution and enjoyed gazing out the window at what is surely one of the most wonderful views on any bus route in North America.
Now we’ve finally figured it out. My husband commutes several times a week; sometimes I park and ride at the Falmouth Shopping Center for the 4:05 p.m. to meet him in Portland after work. I put our middle-schooler and her friends onto the bus for an adventure to Falmouth House of Pizza and the Regal Cinema on their own. On Saturdays, we sometimes take fun family trips on the bus into Portland, and we’ve taken bus trips with groups of families from our neighborhood to Veranda Thai restaurant and Beal’s ice cream, just across from the Washington/Veranda stop.
I keep discovering fun and useful destinations. In Falmouth, I can ride to Skillins, the bank, the dentist, Staples and the library. In Portland, there’s the Nickolodeon Cinema, Micucci’s grocery, and the shopping and cafes on Munjoy Hill, Congress Street and in the Old Port – all just off the bus route – not to mention the Monument Square farmers market, work at USM (a simple transfer), and my kids’ favorite, the Longfellow House Museum. I just bought my first multiple bus pass. I’ve recently discovered that I can put my bike on the bus to ride to Mackworth Island from Route 1 (the bike rack on the front of the bus is super-easy to use, too).
Though Falmouth benefits from riders who need the bus to work at Shaw’s, Wal-Mart, Skillins, Maine Coffee Roasters and other places, the bus is also for “Choice Riders” like me – even if it takes us a while to figure out how to use it.
The Flyer’s ridership has been increasing every year. And more and more of my friends are starting to ride it. But it takes a while. I still understand when my neighbors say: “I love riding buses. I’ll ride it sometime.”
It’s well known that transportation habits can take a while to change. I’ve been there. But I confess: it’s worth the wait.
Annie Finch of Falmouth is a professor at the University of Southern Maine and director of the Stonecoast Master of Fine Arts graduate program.