FALMOUTH — After a schedule change took effect two weeks ago, the Friends of the Falmouth Flyer ramped up effort to try to get people to ride the bus.

The citizen group is trying to increase ridership by developing neighborhood bus-stop centered groups and by offering discounts for those who “shop and ride.”

The bus-stop groups meet at the stops and then travel to a variety of locations together, from children’s story hour at the Portland Public Library, to catching the sunset at Maine Audubon.

“It’s a vibrant neighborhood group. We’ve even been organizing (group) rides for people to go out to dinner together,” said Annie Finch, who is heading up some of the community organizing. She and a group of Foreside riders all recently rode the bus to dinner at Veranda Thai in Portland.

Finch said the recent addition of several mid-day stops in the Foreside area has increased the group’s ability to organize events.

In addition to riding together, Friends of the Falmouth Flyer are encouraging retailers to sponsor the Bus ‘N Buy program, where bus riders can bring in their tickets and, if they purchase something, receive a stamp for a free bus transfer to get them home.

The businesses purchase the transfer stamps at a discounted rate from METRO. A number of local businesses have already signed on, Finch said.

“The benefits (of the bus) are many,” she said. “People are spending money in town. The bus is a drawing point. It distinguishes us from other nearby communities.”

With the approach of what is projected to be a very difficult budget year, Friends of the Falmouth Flyer expects to have to fight to keep the bus running. Falmouth’s METRO contract costs just over $100,000 per year and is up for renewal next year.

 Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]

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