Make it easier to commute Mass transit: It shouldn't be so difficult for city residents to get to jobs in suburbs.

March 22, 1996

PERHAPS IN AN earlier era, Columbia would be a child of mass transportation, created as a whistle stop on a rail line or a way station for buses traveling between Baltimore and Washington. But it seems little thought was given to transit needs when the planned town in Howard County came into being 30 years ago. There is some bus service and limited transit to the big cities to the north and south. But what would seem a natural location for a local train or light-rail has none.

So most commuters from Columbia prefer to drive their own cars to work and people in the cities who want to get to jobs in Columbia had better have their own transportation. Bus service from Baltimore and Washington isn't usually available during off-peak, non-rush hour times, which means it may not be there when people need it. They couldn't get to jobs that typically require employees to work shifts either early in the morning or late at night.

The problem, though, is even more acute outside Columbia in the U.S. 1 corridor, where employers desperately need service workers for just such jobs. But they're doing something about it. The BWI Business Partnership is working with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and Howard County to develop car pools and company transportation plans that include free shuttle service between work sites and the Jessup MARC station.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker says the steps are needed to make the "reverse commute" into his county easier. Unfortunately, requested federal funding has not been granted for a Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition project to bus 500 city workers to and from Howard each day. Efforts such as that are needed to complement what the BWI Business Partnership is doing.

Better alternatives should also be found for commuters who add to our air pollution by driving alone from the suburbs. The Mass Transportation Administration, saddled with a legislated requirement that half its costs be recovered through fares, has been afraid to experiment with additional service to lure commuters from their cars. But with more aggressive marketing, even the current inadequate MTA service which could leave a commuter stranded if he works late might see its ridership increase.

Pub Date: 3/22/96

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