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Petition forces November vote on Portland-Falmouth bus service

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Petition forces November vote on Portland-Falmouth bus service

FALMOUTH — Voters will decide the fate of the Falmouth Flyer METRO bus service in November.

Resident Michael Doyle's petition to end Falmouth's contract with METRO for bus service between Portland and Falmouth contained enough valid signatures – 872 – to qualify for the ballot in November, the town clerk said Tuesday.

Doyle, who has publicly opposed the bus service since it began in 2004, said he thinks voters should have the chance to vote on the expense.

“I've ridden the bus several times, probably close to a dozen times and I'm usually one of two or three people in Falmouth on the bus at any given time, on any given day,” he said.

Doyle's petition was contested by bus backers earlier this summer. They claimed the man collecting signatures – who Doyle would not identify – was giving people false information about the petition's goal.

“Some of the people who signed that petition were told false information and that's outrageous,” said Lisa Agnew, spokeswoman for the Friends of the Falmouth Flyer. “But there's nothing in the law that requires those signatures to be removed.”

Doyle and the signature collector gathered a total of 1,052 signatures, far more than the required 842.

“Some were invalid because they had already signed, they weren't registered to vote in Falmouth or the signature did not match their registration card,” Town Clerk Ellen Planer said.

According to Steve Kirby, director of finance for METRO, bus ridership has gradually increased year after year since its inception in 2004. In the month of August, 7,149 people rode the bus along the Falmouth route and last year nearly 79,000 rides were recorded.

“It's a successful route,” Agnew said. “The bus provides transportation for employees who couldn't get to work otherwise. It's a great service for very little cost.”

In 2012, bus service cost the town $117,000. Voter approval of the referendum would force Falmouth to end its contract with METRO, effective Dec. 31, 2013, and prevent further financial support for the service, except as required to pay debts.

Supporters and opponents of the bus service will have the opportunity to weigh in on the topic at a public hearing at the Sept. 10 Town Council meeting.

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.