Freeport concern about bus-stop ads adds wrinkle to METRO planning

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FREEPORT — The Town Council on Tuesday decided to wait until October to finalize an agreement on METRO bus service to Portland.

Councilors on Tuesday said they are satisfied about everything in the plan, except bus shelter advertisements. The councilors said they’re not sure if they want bus shelters at the stops, and if they do, they’re not sure if they want advertising on them.

METRO first proposed the bus route, which would also stop in Falmouth and Yarmouth, in June 2014. Over the past year, METRO has worked with the towns to modify bus schedules, fees, and stops.

Although METRO originally intended to start running the buses this summer under a three-year pilot program, the start has been pushed back to summer 2016.

Whether Freeport will have bus shelters is up to the council, as is whether or not advertising will be allowed on the shelters. Councilors couldn’t reach a consensus on what they wanted, and asked METRO General Manager Greg Jordan to provide more information before they finalize the agreement.

METRO’s general rule regarding bus shelter ads is if a town or city doesn’t want the advertising, it must pay the agency $1,000 to cover what it would have made in revenue. The money is used to clean and maintain the shelters.

Councilor Kristina Egan said she is concerned the town wouldn’t have control over the ads and that ads for cigarettes or alcohol may be placed. Jordan said METRO doesn’t allow ads for tobacco products or any ads containing offensive images or materials. He said he was unsure if ads for alcohol are permitted.

Other councilors said ads for large companies would take attention away from Freeport businesses. Some asked if it would be possible for the shelters to only have ads for local businesses; Jordan said he will find out and get back to them.

Councilor Jim Hendricks suggested that if the council chooses not to have ads that the town work out an agreement with METRO to avoid the $1,000 bill. He asked Jordan if the town could maintain its own bus stops and not have to pay METRO. Jordan said that would be possible and could be negotiated.

Jordan also discussed the four possible bus stops METRO wants to have in town. They would be at or near the Freeport Community Library, at 10 Library Drive; the L.L. Bean Flagship store on Main Street; the L.L. Bean corporate headquarters, at 15 Casco St,; and the Shaw’s shopping complex, at 200 Lower Main St.

Four stops have also been chosen in Yarmouth: at the Interstate 295 commuter parking lots at Exits 15 and 17, in the village, and at the Hannaford complex on Route 1. The Yarmouth Town Council was scheduled to discuss and possibly finalize its agreement with METRO on Thursday night, Sept. 17.

Council Chairwoman Melanie Sachs, who is on the traffic and parking committee, said she has some concerns about the location of the Freeport stops and how they will affect traffic. Jordan said he wants feedback from the committee, and METRO will not finalize stop locations without the panel’s input.

The decision to table the discussion was unanimous.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.