Board recommends linking bus routes Ellicott City and Columbia lines would be connected

September 25, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Public Transportation Board has unanimously recommended a new bus route to connect Ellicott City and Columbia and an increase in the number of bus trips from Kings Contrivance Village Center to The Mall in Columbia.

According to board members, the new Ellicott City route will turn what are now two separate routes -- one taking riders between The Mall in Columbia and the county Government Complex in Ellicott City; the other connecting the Government Complex with various stops in Ellicott City -- into one continuous run.

"We need to do what we can to make sure that a route outside Columbia is viable," said Daniel J. Maletic, the board chairman. "If we can do that and still make improvements to the [Kings Contrivance-mall] route, which is one of our more popular routes, I think that's of great benefit to the system."

Officials of Corridor Transportation Corp., a nonprofit company that manages the county's transportation system, said they were worried about the continued viability of what are known as the Purple and Yellow routes. Ray Ambrose, transit administrator for CTC, said these routes have been drawing a total of about 45 riders a day.

The Yellow route runs between Columbia and Ellicott City, including stops at The Mall in Columbia, Red Branch Indus- trial Park and the Government Complex. The Purple route connects the Government Complex with stops in Ellicott City, including Chatham Mall and the Main Street area.

Although the Purple route now offers more trips than will be available on the combined run, most of the riders use it during the morning and afternoon rush hours, said board member Z. Andrew Farkas.

"I've seen that Purple shuttle during the middle of the day and there's no one on it," he said.

Combining the two routes will reduce the wait on the current Yellow Route to about 90 minutes and can be achieved with no additional cost, Ambrose said.

"Someone who takes the bus from Ellicott City to the mall at 8 [a.m.] doesn't have to wait until 12: 30 [p.m.] to get back home," he said. "I think the change is a good one."

Board member Jeffry Barnett agreed.

"I remember when the shuttle between Ellicott City and Columbia was one of the more healthier routes for ColumBUS," he said, referring to the $1 million-a-year operation that used to be run by Columbia Association. "I have always thought that beefing it up would benefit everyone."

The board also supported adding three trips to the nine daily trips on the route between Kings Contrivance and the mall, which includes stops at the Oakland Mills Village Center and the county's Health Department. It now runs about every 90 minutes six days a week.

The additional trips, which will reduce the wait during the morning and evening rush hours to about 45 minutes, will be subsidized by a $26,000 savings generated when Yellow Transportation Inc. -- which operates the HATS service -- offered to charge the county a less expensive rate than other bidders last June.

Reaction to the proposed changes -- which could begin as early as December after approval by the state Public Service Commission -- was mixed among riders in Columbia yesterday.

"I think that will be better," said Sonya Gordon, who uses the bus to travel from Howard Community College to her job at the Lornwood Child Development Center in Columbia's Owen Brown village. "That way, I won't have to wait 20 minutes between the one that comes to the college and the one that takes me to Owen Brown."

But Julian Edun said officials have been promising more buses for months.

"They said that a long time ago," he said, adding that he has been using the Kings Contrivance-mall route every day for the past year. "It's just lip service."

In a related matter, the board will consider at its Oct. 28 meeting whether to cut HATS West bus service -- operating since March from Lisbon to The Mall in Columbia -- because of low ridership.

Only 230 riders used the West bus service since it began operating March 24, according to a report compiled in June by CTC.

Carl Balser, transportation planning chief for the county Department of Planning and Zoning, warned that a $40,000 grant from the state's Mass Transit Administration to subsidize the service will run out by December.

That prompted some board members, including Maletic, to question if the service can survive.

Pub Date: 9/25/97

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