Light rail rolls into Arundel

April 09, 1993

The Baltimore light-rail system's entry into Anne Arundel County got off to a good start on Monday: one in every three passengers using the line to get to the Orioles season opener at Camden Yards embarked from stations along the southern alignment, mostly in Anne Arundel County. This is no surprise.

Many communities along the newly opened three-mile southern extension are neighborhoods which were served by the Baltimore & Annapolis commuter trains until they ceased in 1950. Particularly the older residents along the line know the convenience and value of public transportation. Now it is for younger generations to see for themselves that commuting by train for both work and leisure makes sense.

Such a learning experience may take time before it shows results because people have forgotten to think in terms of public transportation.

Anne Arundel County's new bus line connecting Meade Village and Pioneer City with Harundale Mall is a good example. Operated under a $27,437 federal grant, this "Access to Jobs" bus line enables area residents to connect with the Mass Transit Administration network at a cost of $1.35, instead of a $6 cab ride. But when the new service began Monday, these buses ran virtually empty.

If ridership does not start building, the line's future will be in danger, grant or no grant. That would be a tragedy, considering all the planning that went into this effort over the past two years.

In contrast to the shaky bus line opening, the light-rail line has good prospects. They improve after the line is extended to Cromwell Station, at I-97 and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, this summer. But in both cases, people who may never have used public transportation will need time to familiarize themselves with the idea of mass transit.

Nor is public transportation for everyone. Even in the most ideal circumstances taking a bus or a train inconveniences users, who have to be mindful of schedules and have to find ways to reach the stops. On the positive side, public transit rides are a bargain and relaxing. And it helps remove congestion -- and a considerable number of polluting vehicles -- from the highways.

Public transportation is one of those things that rarely is viable as a straight business proposition. That's why governments are often involved in running these routes. Like many other things in life, relying on public transportation is mainly a habit. We recommend you try it.

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