Harford's Bus Ride toward Clean Air

January 25, 1993

Harford County is considering a new public bus line that would link Aberdeen and Edgewood, along the bustling business corridor of U.S. 40. The aim would be to carry workers to and from their employment, as well as linking the two towns.

So far, however, most of the businesses and industries located along U.S. 40 have been less than enthusiastic about the need for the service. A survey taken by the county's Department of Planning and Zoning two years ago found that a majority of employers were not interested in any type of public transportation; about 80 percent felt buses would make no difference in attracting employees or in getting them to work on time.

The federal Clean Air Act may change all that, however. By 1997, employers of at least 100 workers in Harford County (and other ozone-polluted areas in the U.S.) must significantly cut their worker commuter mileage. If they don't, the county and state will lose federal transportation funds.

With some 200 employers along that corridor, plus the huge Aberdeen Proving Ground complex, there's a lot of private auto traffic -- and auto-caused pollution -- that could be reduced by public transportation.

Car-pooling and staggered work hours for commuters are two ways of helping to reduce single-auto commuter traffic. Harford is looking at creating exclusive high-occupancy-vehicle lanes (for car-poolers) along Interstate 95.

But public transportation will certainly play a major role in meeting the clean air goals for employers. Harford is applying for state and federal grants to develop the project, and to build a greater awareness of the benefits among U.S. 40 employers.

One bus route between the two towns, with lots of intermediate stops and detours into housing centers, may be impractical, officials concede. A shorter route linking Edgewood with Riverside industrial areas might be preferable. (For now, the sprawl of Aberdeen Proving Ground worksites would make bus service to the post impractical.)

Public hearings on the proposal were held this month, prompting limited interest: one problem is that workers with the most need for bus service don't have transportation to get to the meetings.

Creating a bus schedule to effectively serve commuting workers is exceptionally difficult. And one 30-passenger bus is not going to have a great impact. But it is an important start, if Harford is to get its air pollution cleanup program in gear.

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