Catch 22 on bus route 210

December 18, 1992

On bus route 210, the express bus that runs between Annapolis and Baltimore, state transportation officials are in a Catch 22.

The route was introduced in the mid-'80s to serve the burgeoning number of white-collar professionals living in eastern Anne Arundel County and commuting to jobs in Baltimore.

By operating bus lines such as the No. 210, the Mass Transit Administration appeals to a white-collar audience that otherwise might never try mass transit.

What makes the No. 210 attractive is that it's fast and doesn't make many stops; it moves between downtown and the capital city nearly as quickly as you could by car.

Precisely because it doesn't have a lot of stops, however, it serves a limited audience. So when the cash-strapped MTA looked for routes to shave that don't carry their weight at the fare box, the 210 ended up on the short list.

In cutting costs in the short run, however, the MTA shouldn't cut its own throat.

Just as businesses ranging from the Orioles to this newspaper have attempted to broaden their appeal to the burgeoning suburbs, the publicly financed transportation department shouldn't dismiss that market for its growth potential, either.

By reducing the 210's trips by 50 or 60 percent and shifting drop-off points far from the downtown office cluster, the state could forfeit a market that seems likely to grow with dependable service. As the federal Clean Air Act eventually forces large companies to encourage their employees to car pool or take mass transit, demand will increase for white-collar routes such as the No. 210.

In reviewing letters and testimony it received in a half-dozen hearings earlier this month to decide which routes to cut throughout the region, the MTA should try to spare enough of No. 210 to keep it viable.

If it forces professionals to leave work before 5 p.m. to catch the last bus out of downtown, for instance, the route will quickly become a sure loser.

That said, however, we must add this: If it comes down to paring the straight-shot, white-collar routes or the circuitous, lengthy blue-collar routes such as the No. 14, which also serves the Annapolis-Baltimore corridor, the MTA has little choice but to trim the white-collar routes.

The state can't balance its budget woes on workers who have fewer options to begin with.

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