The Mass Transit Administration's first-time agreement with a private parking lot company has gotten off to a slow start.
The MTA in September began offering parkers on a private lot, Fallsway Park'N'Ride, transportation from the lot near the Guilford Avenue exit of the Jones Falls Expressway to downtown Baltimore. However, customers hardly use the bus service, said Tom Corcoran, manager of the parking lot.
"The people who have been parking [in this area] for years still walk," Corcoran said. "The majority of new people take the bus."
"It takes a while for the convenience and cost savings [to customers] to filter down," said Helen Dale, manager of public relations at MTA. "We expect that the new bus line will grow and the number of customers increase."
The MTA, in an agreement with Edison Parking Corp., created a new bus line specifically for the park and ride customers.
The Fallsway Park 'N' Ride is the first private/public parking lot in the Baltimore area.
Dale said MTA may consider other such agreements in the future and create new bus lines to those areas.
"We would be willing to discuss it with other private companies but we don't take the initiative," she said.
Brian Collins, vice president for contract administration at Edison, said the company investigated using private transportation companies but found MTA to be more reliable.
"We had to provide a service that's quick and efficient and fairly easy for customers," he said.
Joe Fitzgerald, one of the six bus drivers for new bus line, No. 70, said on average he picks up six to eight passengers during rush hour. Fitzgerald, who works that line from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. said he has seen an increase in the number of passengers since September.
"As the weather changes and it gets darker or we get a bit of rainy weather, it will start to pick up," said Fitzgerald.
"It's great," said Teresa Fischer, one of the bus passengers. "You don't have to walk those blocks to the parking lot".
Fischer who works at Prime, an employee assistant program on Charles Street, said she is one of four other people in her office who use the bus service to the lot. It's safer riding than walking, she said.
Fischer said she also doesn't mind paying the 25 cents for the ride.
"It's better than a dollar, which I understand is regular fare, so its a lot cheaper," she said.
Edison subsidizes the regular dollar fare MTA charges. Using a daily parking ticket or a monthly ID card, customers of the Edison parking lot pay the reduced fare.
The bus travels from the lot on Fallsway and stops on Guilford Avenue, St. Paul Street, N. Charles Street and Centre Street. The park and ride bus service operates from 7 a.m. through 8 p.m. weekdays and picks up passengers every 5 minutes during rush hours.
Edison brought the Fallsway area land from CSX in December 1989 and has since converted the land into four parking lots. The 8 1/2 -acre lot provides 1,350 parking spaces.
Despite the low usage of the system, Collins said the corporation has not given up on the park and ride system.
"We are not going to change the concept any time soon," he said.
Corcoran said his parking lot helps reduce the flow of traffic in the downtown area by at least 1,500 cars a day.
"We see it as a new innovative way to cut parking costs and save on the inconvenience of congestion downtown," Dale said. "It is really a public service."