Reliability is key to bus system Howard County: Yellow Transportation must be held accountable if woes persist.

September 17, 1997

RELIABILITY IS one of the pillars of a successful public transportation service. Travelers need to be sure that vehicles will arrive on time, at the right stop, when heading to work, medical appointments or to link up with connecting routes.

Unfortunately, reliable service is becoming a myth for riders of the Howard Area Transit Service (HATS). Some of them filed more than 30 complaints against the bus system in the first eight weeks after Yellow Transportation began operating the suburban network.

Most of the complaints center on buses that arrive late or not at all. One Columbia rider complained in a letter to officials that he has yet to find a bus running on schedule since Yellow Transportation, of Savage, took over the service two months ago.

Complaints of tardiness are bad enough. But dispatchers compounded the errors, according to the letter writer, by displaying a cavalier attitude when asked what went wrong.

The bus service will have a difficult time holding on to customers -- even those who need it -- if it fails to come through for them and, worse, treats them with disregard. Such treatment might fly in Manhattan, but not in Columbia or other Howard communities that could make or break the system.

County officials cannot tolerate such sloppiness from the two companies they have charged with running the service: Corridor Transportation Corp. (CTC), the Laurel-based manager of Howard's public transportation services, and Yellow Transportation. If service does not improve -- and soon -- the county should take steps to terminate its contract with Yellow Transportation. The company signed a five-year contract in June, along with a pact to operate the county's Connect-A-Ride service.

HATS is not the only trouble spot for Yellow Transportation. A paratransit subsidiary of the company, which won a $20 million ++ state contract, has drawn numerous complaints for poor service to disabled riders. The state Board of Public Works vowed it will be watching, too.

CTC and the county are forming a passenger advisory group to remedy the recent HATS problems. This is a good move, but Howard must hold its partners accountable. It will take commitment, not a committee, to cure what ails public transit in Howard.

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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