Commuter bus service to Baltimore at risk

August 09, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The only commuter bus service from Carroll County to Baltimore might be discontinued.

But the president of the Manchester charter company that operates it says he's interested in working with the county to develop a van shuttle service to the Owings Mills Metro Station.

Bill Rohrbaugh, of Bill Rohrbaugh's Charter Service Inc., told the county commissioners Thursday that because of low ridership he's considering eliminating his Westminster-to-Eldersburg-to-Baltimore commuter route because of low ridership -- unless the service is subsidized.

He asked the commissioners to consider asking the Maryland Department of Transportation for a mass transit subsidy.

"I'm paying people to ride with me," Mr. Rohrbaugh said about his service's operating losses, which totaled about $175,000 in 1991. Mr. Rohrbaugh operates other travel services that help subsidize the losing venture.

"I don't think it's a good situation. I don't know if it's worth pursuing," said Mr. Rohrbaugh of the commuter route.

"If I get paid for it, I'm willing to keep it on."

Mr. Rohrbaugh said he averages only about 10 riders on his 90-minute morning trip to Baltimore, and 20 to 25 riders on six daily runs between Carroll, Baltimore and Gettysburg, Pa.

The routes generate about $87 per day in fares, which doesn't cover expenses for a driver, he said.

The service operates under an agreement with the state Public Service Commission.

A public hearing would be required before the routes could be terminated.

Until about four years ago, Mr. Rohrbaugh ran two daily commuter coaches, averaging 35 riders, from Westminster down route 140 to Baltimore. The opening of the Owings Mills subway and the completion of Interstate 795 led to a dramatic decrease in ridership and forced the elimination of the routes, he said.

Even if fares were reduced through a subsidy, Mr. Rohrbaugh said he doesn't envision ridership increasing much because it still would be more convenient for commuters to drive to the subway station, or to Baltimore.

County transportation planner Rob Yingling suggested that a van shuttle service would help meet the needs of the county's large commuter population and comply with the federal Clean Air Act, which emphasizes reduced vehicle trips to work.

"I'd like to get a pilot program started to see if it's feasible," said Mr. Yingling.

Mr. Rohrbaugh said he's "interested in anything that involves moving people." However, such a service would have to be subsidized, he said.

Commissioner President Donald I. Dell suggested that the shuttle could run to and from the subway station during rush hours, and at other times run other routes in Carroll.

But now the private, non-profit agencies that provide transportation services for county residents -- largely for the disabled, the elderly and others who are homebound -- are not well-coordinated, Mr. Dell said.

A consultant recommended two years ago that the county should hire a coordinator for transportation services, but the position has not been created, Mr. Yingling said.

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