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Falmouth votes to continue Portland bus service

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Falmouth votes to continue Portland bus service

FALMOUTH — The banner atop the No. 7 METRO bus from Portland to Falmouth reminded residents to vote on Tuesday.

And they listened.

Voters turned out in large numbers to support the bus, with 5,289 voting to maintain the service and 2,223 voting for its demise.

“It looks like this issue is settled once and for all,” said Lisa Agnew, spokeswoman for the Friends of the Falmouth Flyer.

The bus route was established in 2004 and has survived two Town Council votes  on whether to kill the $117,000 annual expense.

Local Question 1 ended up on the ballot after a successful petition drive by resident Michael Doyle in June. Doyle, who ran the campaign to end the bus, said he does not oppose the bus service, but felt residents deserved the opportunity to vote on the expense to the town.

Doyle said Tuesday that while he doesn't agree with the town's decision, at least residents had the opportunity to vote.

“I am really happy, honestly, that the whole town got a chance to vote on it,” he said. “I would hope that everyone who voted to support the bus would at least ride it once a week. If they had we wouldn't have had the referendum.”

A major point of contention was daily ridership.

In 2011, METRO recorded 79,000 rides, a number that has steadily grown every year, according to the Greater Portland Transit District.

Bus proponents maintain the service is necessary to Falmouth's economy, because 19 businesses, including Goodwill and Skillins' Greenhouse, have employees who rely on the bus to get to work.

Ending the service would have had an effect not only Falmouth residents, the only ones with the opportunity to vote on the issue, but also Portland residents, who catch the bus on Veranda Street and ride it into either downtown Portland or Falmouth.

According to Steve Kirby, senior director of finance, systems and new technology for METRO, if voters had voted to remove the service, the Portland stops the Falmouth Flyer makes would have been eliminated and patrons would have to take the No. 6 bus, which services Washington Avenue.

With the support of the voters, Agnew said the bus service will continue to serve those who need it.

“The bus is going to continue to grow and become an even more important contributor to our community and to our local economy,” she said.

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