Workers in the business district surrounding Baltimore-Washington International Airport need shuttle buses from public bus and rail stations to their jobs, especially by 1991 when light rail comes to Anne Arundel County.
That's the feeling of a transportation management group that took the first step Friday toward starting a shuttle system for the 10-square-mile area.
The Greater BWI Commuter Transportation Center will study the need for shuttle service and ways to finance and start it, said Nancy Van Winter, the center's executive director. The public/private association acts as a liaison between employers and government agencies in solving local transportation problems.
Most of the center's 32 corporate members, who represent 75 percent of the area's work force, have no doubt that the BWI area's employment explosion more than justifies starting a shuttle, Van Winter said.
Five years ago, 45,000 people worked in the area bounded by the Howard County line, Route 32 and Interstate 97/Route 3. Government planners and area businesses considered starting a shuttle then, but decided it wouldn't get enough use. Since then, the work force has doubled, with an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 employees working at 400 companies.
"Our organization decided that since there was so much growth in the area and so many new transportation improvements, the time is right to look at this again," Van Winter said.
Employees often have no choice other than to drive to work because they can't get to their offices from Mass Transit Administration buses, which run from Columbia to Fort Meade, or from the Amtrak/MARC trains at the airport. A local shuttle would offer commuters options and help reduce traffic by getting more cars off the road, Van Winter said.
Once the county gets light rail -- a main line from Baltimore to Dorsey Road in 1992 and a spur to the airport in 1993 -- such a service will be essential, she said.
A shuttle also could connect with park and ride lots and circulate among airport-area office buildings, helping to decrease lunch-hour traffic and parking congestion, Van Winter said.
"People could get out during the day, get something to eat or go to the dry cleaners," she said.
The transportation center has turned to one of its members, the Baltimore Regional Council of Governments, to do the six-month study. Van Winter appointed a 15-member task force, made up of employers and state transportation and county planning officials, to advise the regional council.
During the first meeting Friday, researchers and task force members set their course for the next six months. They will review existing shuttle services at some hotels and major companies, needs of area commuters and ways to expand current services and routes. Additionally, they'll study operating costs, labor and insurance requirements and sources of financing.
Van Winter had no estimates on a shuttle system's cost, which would vary depending on who runs it, she said.
The service could be operated jointly by businesses running shuttles now, by area developers or employers, or through government grants.
Now, some of the 13 BWI area hotels pick up guests from the airport with minivans, while some of the larger employers, such as Westinghouse and the National Security Agency, shuttle their employees from building to building on-site.