Light Rail's Southern Comfort ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

April 09, 1993

The light-rail system's entry into Anne Arundel County got off to a good start: One of every three passengers who rode the system on Monday, the day of the Orioles' season opener, embarked from stations along the southern corridor, mostly in Anne Arundel.

This welcome news should come as no great surprise. Many of the communities along the newly opened three-mile southern extension were served by the Baltimore & Annapolis commuter trains until they ceased operation in 1950. Older residents living along the rail line know the value of public transportation. Now it is time for the younger people to learn that commuting makes eminent sense.

Such a learning experience may take some time, because people have simply forgotten to think in terms of public transportation.

A good example of that, also from Anne Arundel County, involves the new bus line that links Meade Village and Pioneer City with the Harundale Mall. Operated with a federal grant of about $27,000, the "Access to Jobs" commuter bus enables residents to connect with the Mass Transit Administration network at a cost of $1.35 for ticket and transfer, instead of a $6 cab ride. When service began Monday, though, buses ran virtually empty, presumably due to lack of publicity. If ridership does not start to ,, increase, the line's future will be in danger, grant or no grant. That would be a shame.

In contrast to the shaky bus line opening, the light-rail has good ridership prospects, which should brighten even more after the line is extended this summer to Cromwell Station, at Interstate 97 and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.

With both bus and light rail, though, people who have hardly or never used public transit will need time to become familiar with it.

Public transportation is not for everyone. Even in ideal circumstances, it inconveniences users, who must be mindful of schedules and must find ways of getting to the stops.

On the positive side, public transit rides are a bargain. Considerable further savings can be realized by those who will find their household may not really need a second or third car. Like many other things in life, relying on public transportation is .. mainly a habit.

We recommend you try it.

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