Passengers on the No. 77 bus seek more consistent service

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

October 18, 1993

Just because you take the bus to work doesn't mean someone else sits in the driver's seat.

That doesn't make much sense, does it? OK, let's put this a different way.

Bus passengers deserve respect.

That's better. But it still doesn't capture the lesson Intrepid Commuter recently learned with the help of a group of bus riders from the Randallstown area.

Unhappy with the No. 77 that runs from University of Maryland Baltimore County to the Old Court Metro Station, Leo W. Burroughs Jr., Sabina Johnson and several others decided to do something about it.

They took their complaints to the Mass Transit Administration, circulated a petition to demonstrate their solidarity, and lobbied top MTA officials and the Intrepid Commuter. The group was upset that the bus was perpetually late -- up to a half-hour at times.

Worse, bus drivers wouldn't always stop for people who wanted to get on board.

How could such a thing happen? Rolling Road is designated by the MTA as a "flag stop" area. That means there aren't standard MTA bus stops. Rather, riders need only raise their hands and signal drivers anywhere along that section of the route. The driver is supposed to pull over and pick them up.

Flag stops are an old-fashioned approach to bus service and have generally been phased out by the MTA. As a result, replacement drivers on the No. 77 often didn't know that they were supposed to pull over when signaled. "These are stops that are understood to be stops," Mr. Burroughs said. "The drivers know it. We know. But sometimes relief drivers don't know it."

Todd Spangler, an MTA spokesman, acknowledged that there have been delays on the No. 77, and that some drivers have failed to respond to flag stops. The complaints made by Mr. Burroughs and others are bringing changes.

On Tuesday, three more buses were added to the route, a 7:41 a.m. bus from Old Court, and 2:10 p.m. and 2:50 p.m. buses from UMBC. Supervisors are being reminded to tell drivers about the flag stops.

Thus, the lesson to be learned is that very often it's the squeaky wheel that gets oiled. And Intrepid is always happy to help supply the lubricant.

Rockville or Bust: Anybody have room?

Denise Graves wants to find Rockville.

She knows it's in Montgomery County. She works there. Trouble is, she doesn't have a good way to get to Rockville on a daily basis.

"Are you aware of any commuter van service between suburban Baltimore and Rockville?" She writes. "There are many travelers venturing as I do to Montgomery County by day and Baltimore by night. Any insight would be appreciated."

Intrepid Commuter spent a considerable amount of time pondering this one and came up with the following answer: No.

Sadly, we don't know of a van service, nor does the MTA or the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority which runs D.C.'s mass transit systems. But it doesn't mean all is lost.

The MTA offers a ride-sharing service to hook up commuters with similar trips to and from work.

Free of charge, you can call them and provide pertinent information about where you live, where you work and what time you travel.

They'll run the records through a computer and match you with other commuters who have called them with similar needs. For more information, call the MTA at 410-859-POOL or 1-800-492-3757.

Doe, a deer in the roooaaad

ZZTC

It's October. Do you know where your deer are?

Unfortunately, there's a greater chance than normal they could be in the middle of the road. Thanks to an inquiry from reader Curt Dobbs, we learned that deer are most active in October, November, March and April.

Mr. Dobbs wrote to us after seeing a deer standing -- would you believe it? -- by a deer-crossing sign (those yellow diamond-shaped jobs with a silhouette of a deer that you see around so many wooded areas).

That incident got him to wondering.

"What is the proper course of action to take when you see a deer-crossing sign?" Mr. Dobbs writes. "Are binoculars useful?"

State Highway Administration spokeswoman Liz Kalinowski says you should use "extra caution" at deer crossings.

The signs are posted in areas of significant deer population as identified by historic patterns and advice from the Department of Natural Resources.

"We also advise people not to use high beams in those areas since they can freeze or blind the animals," she said. "We're even testing some roadside reflectors that disperse light from approaching cars to deter animals from approaching the road."

She doesn't recommend binoculars, incidentally, unless you're a passenger.

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