Express commuter bus service proposal OK'd Route would link The Mall in Columbia, Savage MARC station

November 26, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Public Transportation Board unanimously agreed last night to approve a proposal for an express bus route between The Mall in Columbia and the Savage MARC commuter train station.

"This is an exciting thing," board Chairman Daniel J. Maletic said of the proposal. "It's the first service we're adding that doesn't come from a deletion. That's a plus."

The vote was 5-0, with two members absent.

Corridor Transportation Corp., a nonprofit Laurel-based company that manages the county's bus system, plans to seek approval for the proposed route from the Public Service Commission next month.

"We obviously think there's a need out there for this type of service," said Ray Ambrose, CTC transit administrator, adding that the route could begin as early as late January.

"We're anxious to get the program under way," Ambrose said.

The proposed route would offer two round trips during morning and evening rush hours, five days a week, from The Mall in Columbia to the Maryland Rail Commuter station on Dorsey Road in Savage.

The trips would include stops at the park-and-ride lot on Route 32 and at Corridor Industrial Park in Savage.

The state Mass Transit Administration has estimated that about 400 people use the Savage MARC station.

Ambrose said the goal is to attract about 15,000 commuters annually for the proposed route.

He said a crucial element is the Corridor Industrial Park stop, which would allow employers to seek workers from outside Howard who can't afford to buy a car or live in the county.

"For the people who want to work at Corridor, they can get the entry-level jobs that they might not get somewhere else because there's no transportation for them," Ambrose said. "This bus service might be valuable to them."

The proposed route, which is expected to cost more than $60,000, would be paid for through a $35,850 grant from the state as part of the New Starts program, which encourages jurisdictions to create new bus routes. The county would provide a 25 percent match and the remainder would come from the fare box, Ambrose said.

Carl Balser, the county's chief of transportation planning, said the proposed route is intended to attract commuters who do not relish spending a lot of time on buses.

A commuter using the Yellow route has to spend about 90 minutes on a bus to travel from The Mall in Columbia to Ellicott City, Balser said.

The express route would take 20 minutes, Balser said.

"Ninety minutes is often more than what a commuter is willing to spend," Balser said. "Having an express service maximizes the route and makes it viable to the commuter."

Some board members questioned initiating the route, if approved by the PSC, in January, which traditionally has the smallest number of riders because of cold and inclement weather.

Ambrose said he was willing to delay the start, but said he was concerned that the state will impose a deadline for beginning service.

Pub Date: 11/26/97

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