In the past decade, Carroll County's population has increased from 96,000 residents to 130,000. That's a lot of growth. The number of senior citizens has risen; so has the number of families with young children. Yet the county's public transportation system remains woefully inadequate.
Not only is getting around the county difficult, but no shuttle service exists from Carroll County to the Owings Mills Metro station or Baltimore City, even though more than half the work force living in the county is employed in other jurisdictions.
A consultants' report last year addressed these problems. Its main recommendation was for the county to hire a transportation coordinator. Indeed, before last year's election, the outgoing commissioners approved the recommendation and allocated funds for the job. The new commissioners, trying to cope with recession, do not see transportation as a priority.
That is a regrettably shortsighted view.
Half a dozen private contractors, with some 75 vehicles, are currently providing transport services for various county agencies. While costs have been going up, allocations have diminished. Thus proper coordination of overlapping services is not only needed, it could produce cost-efficiencies and savings that would stretch scarce dollars further.
The largest of those contractors is Carroll Transit System, a private, non-profit company. In recent months, it has expanded beyond its original mission as a transportation service for senior citizens. For the past three months, for example, Carroll Transit has been experimenting with thrice-a-day shuttle service between major apartment complexes and Westminster area shopping centers. It is also investigating the possibility of running vans from central parking lots to cultural events within the county and a shuttle service to the Metro station in Owings Mills.
These are the kinds of initiatives that a growing Carroll County sorely lacks. When county commissioners meet for their budget hearings tomorrow, we urge them to take another look at the county's critical transportation needs.