Forecaster Forum: Further confessions of a Falmouth 'choice' bus rider

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One of my favorite things about Falmouth is that residents benefit from Metro’s Falmouth Flyer bus service, and spring is one of my favorite times for riding the Flyer.

Two years ago, I wrote a Forecaster Forum about how the simple experience of adding several bus trips on the Flyer into my weekly schedule enhanced my life. Since then, riding the bus has become even better, as more of my neighbors who live off of Route 1 and on the Town Landing and Oceanview loops have learned the schedule and started to ride the Flyer through our tree-filled town.

The Flyer is the perfect way to commute into Portland, of course, but it’s also a great way to get to know Falmouth itself. In weather like this, what could be better?

In the past, if I had a simple group of Falmouth errands to do on a spring day – making copies at Staples, returning an item to Radio Shack, making a deposit at my bank, and picking up a book at Falmouth Memorial Library – I would feel I had no choice but to use the car, even though I’d much prefer a nice walk to sitting in traffic, would rather chat with neighbors and meet other Falmouth residents between errands than drive alone, and would rather breathe fresh air than use a costly (and polluting) machine to travel a few hundred yards.

But now I do have a choice. I have learned how to ride the Flyer. Now that I know how the schedule works, how to remember to bring my 10-ride bus pass, canvas tote bags for my errands, and a watch so I can keep track of the return time, what used to be dull, routine errands have become fun walking adventures.

It’s fun to go with kids or friends (kids love bus rides). And if I’m alone, I know I will get to breathe fresh air; relax on the ride by reading, using my smartphone, or talking with neighbors; explore new local businesses, and encounter surprising pleasures such as the smell of sweet white roses drooping over the sidewalk on the way from Route 1 to Falmouth Memorial Library.

The Flyer helps Falmouth be a much more walkable town – far more walkable than I’d ever realized. When you’re on foot rather than in the car, you understand how much of the landscaping around Route 1 is thoughtful, pedestrian-friendly, and charming. I especially like the little path between the pink rugosas in front of Leavitt & Sons, and the very nice crosswalk from there across Route 1 (with a button so you can easily stop any traffic).

There’s no traffic at all during one of my favorite family trips, the “bagel run” to Bernie’s on the 6:55 a.m. bus from Town Landing and home on the 7:45 that stops just across from Bernie’s. Walking past businesses encourages far more exploration, and I have discovered businesses I would never have entered if the Flyer hadn’t stopped nearby, including Bernie’s, Zeus’ Closet, and Falmouth Physical Therapy.

Riding the Flyer leaves me feeling connected to neighbors and local businesses, more open to the beauty of destinations such as Maine Audubon and Mackworth Island, and full of real appreciation for living in Falmouth. Freed of total dependence on my car, I find myself feeling more active, youthful, and spontaneous. Each time I ride, I feel gratitude and excitement at how good daily life in our town can be. My favorite new expression is “Thank you, Falmouth Flyer.”

The Flyer is an invaluable service for commuters to Portland, and for the many in our community who don’t drive: seniors, younger teens, and those without cars. But as a “choice” rider, I can attest that residents who own cars can also benefit in profound ways from the Flyer bus service – while saving money, helping the planet and the community, and building a stronger town. Make the Flyer a habit this spring and see how it will enrich your life.

Falmouth resident Annie Finch is a poet and writer.