Glendening seeks change in attitude on traffic Suburb-to-suburb buses seen as relief around Baltimore, Washington

May 01, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

If you live in a suburb and work in another suburb, you can't get there from here.

That simple fact of Maryland life was highlighted yesterday morning after Gov. Parris N. Glendening hopped an express bus from Gaithersburg to Bethesda that whisked him and two dozen passengers on a commuter lane past thousands of cars inching along Interstate 270.

Although the major north-south artery is 12 lanes wide through the bulk of the county, it isn't enough to keep rush-hour traffic from backing up, contributing to congestion that makes the Washington area second only to Los Angeles.

"Sixty percent of jobs in the [Washington] metro area are a suburb-to-suburb commute, yet almost every transit line is central city to suburb," said Glendening. "Building more lanes is not going to solve our problems. We have to change some attitudes."

Attitude alteration costs money. In this instance, $400,000 in state aid for the Gaithersburg J9 bus.

But Glendening and others say that providing mass transit links between where Marylanders live and work is the one sure way of taming traffic and improving air quality.

The suburb-to-suburb pattern also is a traffic stopper in the Baltimore area. Almost half of the region's work force commutes from one outlying place to another, rather than in and out of the city. That is a substantial increase from 1970, when it made up about a third of rush-hour traffic.

In parts of Central Maryland, state transportation officials are creating suburban links.

Bus service between White Marsh and Towson is under consideration. Public hearings on the estimated $600,000 project are to be held in early June.

Strong support and ridership projections could have service running by fall, state officials said.

Buses are running from Annapolis and Crofton to the New Carrollton Metro station, Columbia to the Silver Spring Metro station, Kent Island to Annapolis and Hagerstown to Frederick and on to the Shady Grove Metro station.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said suburb-to-suburb mass transit could be expanded to provide service for Montgomery County residents who work at Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland in Prince George's County.

With the cooperation of Virginia transportation officials, service could be extended from Rockville or Gaithersburg to Tysons Corner in Fairfax County, Va., Duncan said.

In Gaithersburg, the J9 express service by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) began on the high occupancy vehicle lane in October with the completion of a transit center next to Lake Forest Mall.

The center provides 300 free parking spaces and serves as a transfer point between regional and local Montgomery County buses.

"The convenience of getting on the bus and using the HOV lane is wonderful," said Nancy Herrera, who rides the route end to end each day. "It's a straight shot to work. And it's easier on my car. I put a half-tank of gas in the car on Monday, and I still have a quarter-tank."

Herrera and others say that before the express bus, they had to drive to the Rockville Metro station, pay for parking and round-trip Metro fare -- an $8 daily expense. Now, the parking is free, and the bus to and from the Bethesda Metro station is $2.20 -- $1.10 each way.

The J9 express carries 400 commuters each day, double the initial ridership. Buses run every 15 minutes from 5: 41 a.m. to 8: 20 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5: 45 p.m.

Glendening said suburb-to-suburb mass transit has another benefit.

"If we said we would give everyone one week's vacation free, we would see a lot of enthusiasm," he said on the bus. "In fact, by carpooling and using HOV lanes, you save about a week's worth of time every year. I'm sure everyone can find a good use for that."

Pub Date: 5/01/98

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