MTA asked to drop commuter bus project Yowan had suggested service to Owings Mills

October 08, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Mass transit in Westminster is dead -- again.

Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan has asked the state to drop the matter, five months after he sparked controversy, and an unexpected election challenge, by merely suggesting commuter service to the Owings Mills Metro Station.

In an Oct. 1 letter to the Mass Transit Administration's Office of Planning and Programming, the mayor wrote:

"It became apparent to me that local support did not exist for this project at this time. Therefore, I ask that MTA take no further action to initiate MTA-funded bus service between Westminster and Owings Mills."

Yowan made his suggestion May 1 at a joint meeting of the city and county planning commissions.

Noting the number of lone commuters, he said buses to and from the Metro station at Owings Mills would reduce congestion on Route 140. Buses would be readily available, he said, but train service might be years away in the MTA's Maryland Rail Commuter service master plan for 2015.

During the summer, city and MTA planners looked at the possibility of a shuttle service with four trips in the morning and four in the evening to be operated by Carroll Transit System with two 12-passenger vans. The private, nonprofit group now provides service to the poor, disabled and elderly.

A letter from MTA planners in July said the yearly cost would have been $31,200, with the state providing $23,400 from its "new starts" program, which is intended to promote new service.

Although the mayor's interest brought that response from the MTA, Anthony Brown, the MTA's communications director, noted at the time that the agency had studied the idea of service to Westminster in 1994 and dropped it a year later because of local opposition.

The state generally requires that fares cover 50 percent of operating expenses, but flexibility is allowed as a system attempts to gain riders, Brown said.

New starts funding is granted on a competitive basis for two years, based on the need for service in an area, and is evaluated after 18 months to determine whether the service should continue.

Yowan, who was re-elected May 12, said he was surprised that his idea was denounced in calls from all over the county -- some of which he characterized as racist. He said he also received calls from citizens who want bus service.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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